DeLonghi released the original La Specialista in 2019, making it one of the newest home espresso machines for under $1000.
It has quickly gained popularity, and it's definitely one to consider for your coffee-drinking needs.
In this complete review, I'll cover everything there is to know about the La Specialista. We'll explore features, functions, pros, cons, and my full experience using the DeLonghi coffee machine.
DeLonghi La Specialista Review – My Ratings & Top Features
Because it’s capable of brewing the perfect cup of coffee, I give the La Specialista a 4.5/5.
Like most espresso machines, there’s some room for improvement, but overall, this is a great choice for anyone from a beginner to experienced barista.
Here are some of the advanced features that make this fully automatic espresso machine so special:
Who Should Buy The La Specialista?
Anyone can benefit from owning the La Specialista. This espresso maker is designed for foolproof brewing, making it perfect for beginners.
On the flip side, it allows for some creativity and experimentation, making it just as suitable for seasoned brewers.
So whether you're new to home-brewed coffee or a pro when it comes to making espresso coffee drinks, this DeLonghi machine is for you.
It's not ideal for every budget, though, so keep that in mind if you're only interested in cheaper machines.
Why I Decided To Review The De'Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine
Every barista makes mistakes, myself included.
That’s why I’ve always wanted an automatic espresso machine that takes the guesswork and mistake-making out of brewing coffee, such as the DeLonghi La Specialista.
Even though it reduces the chance of mistakes thanks to internal temperature regulation and pressure sensor technology, it still allows some room for creativity.
I’m all about experimenting with my espresso and latte art, and this machine perfectly allows me to do that.
Here are some specs on how I tested the product:
Cups Brewed Per Day
Level Of Experience Needed
I’m an espresso fanatic on the hunt for a beginner-friendly, foolproof machine that also allows for some creativity in the brewing process.
My home kitchen
Money Saved Per Year
I have saved approximately $900 this year by brewing espresso at home with the La Specialista.
Favorite Drink To Brew
What’s It Like To Brew With The De'Longhi La Specialista
The La Specialista is considered a hybrid coffee maker, meaning it’s an all-in-one machine that requires no extra equipment for brewed coffee or espresso.
After a full month of using it, it’s clear that DeLonghi put a lot of thought and effort into the machine’s convenience factor.
It’s easy to use, and best of all, it grinds, doses, tamps, brews, and froths without much effort on your part.
Below, you can read about my full experience using the La Specialista to better learn if this coffee maker is the one for you.
What's In The Box?
Compared to other machines at this price point, the DeLonghi doesn’t come with all that much. That being said, it does come with everything you need to get started, including:
I’m a big fan of the cleaning/descaling materials provided by the company.
DeLonghi’s descaling agent is one of the best in the industry, as you can tell from the numerous 5-star reviews on Amazon. When you run out, I highly recommend buying this product again.
The pressurized baskets are another nice touch, especially for beginner home baristas.
A pressurized basket is more capable of creating pressure than non-pressurized baskets, so beginners have less chance of error.
If you get past the beginner phase and want to try a non-pressurized portafilter basket, you can easily find one on Amazon.
Just make sure to buy one that fits the La Specialista's 51mm portafilter head.
Grinding My Coffee Beans
The DeLonghi La Specialista features a built-in grinder with six grind settings. The bean hopper has a 250-gram capacity, and the grind size ranges from coarse to fine grind.
I didn't even have to refer to the manual to start grinding beans. Just add your fresh beans to the bean hopper, which is located at the top left of the machine.
Close the lid and adjust the large slider during operation to adjust the grind size.
This grinder is completely automatic. As soon as I locked the portafilter into place, the blades started working their magic.
I suggest using the 1st setting for espresso, which is best for producing fine coffee grounds.
At first, I was skeptical of the grinder. Many machines offer 12+ grind levels, so 6 didn’t sound all that impressive. My worries were put to bed after the first dose of fresh grounds was complete.
It produces the perfect size grind for making coffee espresso, and it’s very easy to operate.
Another nice touch is the grinder signals. The hopper will literally tell you when it’s time to refill by flashing a signal light.
Best of all, the grinder is ultra quiet, so you won’t have to worry about waking up the fam or roommate.
Pulling My First Espresso Shot
It’s time to move on to the most important aspect of any espresso coffee maker… Can it produce quality espresso?
The answer is YES. After just a single cup of espresso, I can honestly say that the DeLonghi produces some of the best coffee I’ve enjoyed at home.
A big reason for that is the machine’s pre-infusion feature, which releases a small amount of water into the coffee puck before the full extraction.
The pre-infusion of coffee grounds pulls out more flavors and aromas, and DeLonghi’s pre-infusion system works like a charm.
Don’t worry - this stage is automatic, so there’s no need to tinker around with the pressure gauge.
Smart tamping is another feature to look forward to if you decide to buy the La Specialista. With this built-in tamper, there’s no need to manually tamp your coffee grounds.
The grinder will dose just the right amount of ground coffee into the portafilter, and you just need to pull the lever located on the left side of the machine to tamp.
Not only does this mean less elbow grease on your part, but also virtually no cleanup.
The last thing that contributes to outstanding espressos is the La Specialista’s ability to regulate temperature.
The machine was designed to brew within the optimal temperature range of 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, and it even displays all of this information on the control panel.
My First Time Frothing Milk
DeLonghi originally patented the frothing Panarello steam wand, so I was super excited to give it a test run.
Well, my test run didn’t disappoint; La Specialista’s Advanced Latte System is unlike anything on the market at this price point.
DeLonghi upgraded the Panarello milk steaming wand with the La Specialista.
It’s much easier to handle than the previous version, and it can be adjusted between two frothing modes - flat for steaming or foam for, you guessed it, foaming.
The steam wand is completely automatic. While manual wands do have their perks, this one takes care of everything and requires no technique whatsoever.
Even professional baristas have sung its praises.
To get started, simply add your choice of milk to the milk jug, place it under the steam wand, and turn the knob.
The wand will start spinning to create a vortex, and you’ll have perfectly frothed milk in less than a minute.
Because this is a dual boiler system, you never have to worry about waiting between brewing and steaming.
One boiler is responsible for brewing espresso, while the other solely supplies the wand with hot water. Once you master the machine, you can even brew and steam simultaneously.
Control & Ease Of Use
As I’ve mentioned, the La Specialista is extremely easy to use. It’s clearly designed for beginners who just want to enjoy their coffee cup without having to put in the work.
The machine’s display may not be fancy, but the upside is that it’s easy to understand.
The control panel is simple and elegant, with rotary dials for selecting volumes and specialties as well as buttons for dosing, rinsing, brewing, and customizing profiles.
There's a bit of a learning curve for figuring out how to customize profiles and coffee drinks, but just play around with the settings, and you'll get the hang of it.
Luckily, it's easy to adjust volume from 1 to 3 ounces using the rotary dial, which is very useful when I'm craving a Lungo coffee.
Thanks to the internal sensor, I don’t even have to dose the coffee myself.
The internal sensor can detect the sizes of both filter baskets, and it will automatically dose the ground coffee based on the filter I’m using.
Look, Feel & Size Of The La Specialista
Like most things made by DeLonghi, the La Specialista is built like a tank. It's mainly constructed from stainless steel, and the control panel is wrapped in a sleek black finish.
It's a nice mix between retro and modern, with a pressure gauge serving as a pretty centerpiece.
Size-wise, this is a fairly hefty machine, but you shouldn't have any trouble fitting it on your countertop.
The dimensions are 12.4" by 14.5" by 17.5", and I could immediately tell that it was built to last due to its 30-pound weight.
The 2.5-liter water tank is larger than most. I don’t love that the water tank is located at the back of the machine, but luckily, it can easily be lifted out of place to be refilled in the sink.
There have been some complaints about the quality of the portafilter head since it has a plastic handle, but there’s a specific reason for that.
Because the portafilter comes in direct contact with the brew head, DeLonghi wanted to ensure that no part of the handle would burn its users, and plastic prevents that from happening.
La Specialista Drink Options
Whether you crave a single cup of coffee, double shots of espresso, or a piping hot Americano, the La Specialista can do it. Here’s a complete list of what this machine is capable of:
I especially love that the Americano-brewing process is completely automated.
Most machines require me to first brew the espresso and then move the cup from the espresso tray over to the hot water spout.
With the La Specialista, the water is directly added after the single or double shot has been brewed.
Cleaning & Descaling
Like most aspects of this espresso machine, I'm impressed with its ease of cleaning.
Even though DeLonghi makes it clear that the parts ARE NOT dishwasher safe, everything is easy to remove for washing by hand.
Before you start brewing, I recommend running all removable parts under hot water, like the bean hopper, portafilter, filter baskets, and espresso tray.
It's also a good idea to flush the group head by hitting the water droplet icon on the machine's interface.
I was initially concerned about ground coffee collecting in the grinder blades, but DeLonghi thought about that, too.
The included cleaning brush is long and flexible, and it’s great for loosening dry coffee grounds as well as residue.
Since there’s no water filtration system built in, you might want to use filtered water in your machine.
When it comes time to descale, just follow the descale instructions in the manual - it’s just a matter of adding the solution and hitting a few buttons.
My Favorite Features Of The La Specialista Coffee Maker
There’s a lot to love about the DeLonghi La Specialista, but my most-loved feature is its ability to brew smooth, rich espresso.
A big reason for this is the machine’s pre-infusion feature, which works to evenly distribute hot water across all of the coffee grounds.
Like any espresso machine at this price point, the La Specialista comes with a built-in grinder. Sure, this may be a standard feature, but it’s still worth mentioning.
So far, I’ve found the machine’s grinder to evenly, precisely grind the espresso beans.
Another standout feature is La Specialista’s advanced latte system. The steam wand makes it easy to choose your ideal level of froth, anywhere from microfoam to rich foam.
There have been some complaints about users not being able to create latte art, but I made a pretty flower in my latte just yesterday!
Because this is a dual boiler machine, the brewing boiler is separate from the steam wand’s boiler.
That means there’s no waiting between brewing and frothing, and you can even do both simultaneously. This isn’t technically a necessary feature, but it’s certainly convenient.
Lastly, DeLonghi provides La Specialista customers with a stellar warranty. Many machines in this price range come with a 1-year policy, but not the La Specialista.
My purchase came with a 2-year warranty, and DeLonghi adds another year to the policy after registering on the website.
My Least Favorite Features Of The De'longhi La Specialista
A great thing about the La Specialista is the ability to choose from a variety of settings and customizations.
However, it can take some time to figure out the right combination and perfect the control panel settings. My advice is to just be patient.
My only other complaint is that I've noticed some dripping from the brew head, even after the brewing process is complete.
Luckily, the drip tray catches all this extra liquid, and it's easy to remove, empty, and replace.
DeLonghi La Specialista Vs Similar Coffee Machines
De'longhi La Specialista Vs Arte Vs Presigio
The Arte is another great espresso machine in the La Specialista line of products.
It’s very similar to the original La Specialista in terms of functionality and cost, but it’s more geared towards experimentation.
To let users create and experiment, the Arte comes with a full barista set to play around with different brewing techniques.
If you want to experiment with tamping, grinding, and more, you should definitely consider the Arte.
Then there’s the Prestigio, which is almost identical to the original La Specialista.
The main difference is that the Prestigio comes with a professional milk steaming wand instead of the Panarello.
This means there’s more of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have more control over your frothed milk.
De'longhi La Specialista Vs Breville Barista Pro
The Breville Barista Pro has an almost identical price tag to the DeLonghi La Specialista.
Thanks to the features of this semi-automatic hybrid machine, it’s a frontrunner in the kitchen appliances industry, just like the La Specialista.
In terms of design, the Breville and DeLonghi are very similar. Both take on a classic, traditional design, and both are built to last.
Overall, though, I prefer the La Specialista for its clever features, like sensor grinding technology, dynamic pre-infusion, and built-in tamping station.
De'longhi La Specialista Vs Breville Barista Express
In my opinion, the Breville Barista Express is the best machine under $1000 for home use.
It has an impressive grinder, it’s built with durable internal components, and the milk frother is ideal for making latte art.
That being said, the DeLonghi is an excellent choice for baristas who value ease of use above all else. Pulling shots is a lot easier, thanks to the integrated tamping system.
But if I had to choose a winner, you'll get more for your money with the Barista Express.
The DeLonghi La Specialista operates using a 19-bar pressure pump. This is higher than the average pressure among home espresso machines, so you can rest easy knowing you’ll achieve proper extraction with every brew.
The DeLonghi La Specialista heats up in about 30 seconds. Once fully heated, the dual boiler system ensures that the ideal temperature will be maintained for both brewing coffee and steaming milk.
Yes, you can easily make hot chocolate with the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine. Either use the hot water spout with your favorite hot chocolate mix or create a frothy, chocolatey beverage using the machine’s frothing wand.
Is The La Specialista Worth Your Money?
When it comes to value for money, very few machines outrank the DeLonghi La Specialista. While it’s not the cheapest espresso machine, your money goes a long way with this coffee maker.
Home baristas interested in a no-frills machine that’s easy to use and produces killer coffee will love the La Specialista espresso machine.
You don’t need any experience or technique with this one, and the classic design looks good on any countertop.
If you can't get over the high-ish price tag, then you might benefit from a semi-automatic coffee maker like the Breville Barista Express or even the super-automatic DeLonghi Magnifica.
De'Longhi La Specialista