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DeLonghi Gran Dama 6600: Coffee Runs Deeper than Water

Posted: 10/20/07
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I'm Monica. What's Your Name?

DeLonghi Gran Dama 6600I stared at my DeLonghi Gran Dama in amazement. Why wasn’t it turning on? Like some compact deaf-mute R2D2, it just sat there silently, its blue display screen dark and motionless, while I fumed about its untapped espresso power.

Lost in reverie, I suddenly realized I had forgotten to plug it in. Whoops. My Gran Dama flashed into life, and with a deep breath, I took a plunge into its warm waters.

Well, metaphorical warm waters, considering the water tank was empty. However, I wasn’t far off the mark; the Gran Dama has a double boiler system, so I knew it wouldn’t ever be a long wait between brewing and steaming. The stainless steel-lined brew boiler ensures durability and quality.

This machine, I knew, would do anything for me. At only 16.5 x 11.3 x 15, it was powerful and durable, made of stainless steel. With an automatic milk frother, once I set up the machine it would be a matter of minutes until I had ready-made cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos. I pictured myself in the morning, trying to decide between an extra mild, mild, standard, strong, or extra-strong espresso. Preground or not? Highways or local roads on the way to work?

Can We Be Friends?

Blue Digital Display ScreenThe machine was all put together out of the box, which was a nice touch considering I am absent minded enough to forget to plug it in. Underneath the bright blue display screen are two rows of buttons, one for programming, rinse cycle, hot water, and espresso; the other is for making one-touch cappuccinos, lattes, or macchiatos. To the right of those are a column of buttons for drink size and number of cups.

I pulled out the clear plastic 60 oz water tank to fill it. The machine alerts you on the display screen when the water is getting low, or you can look on the right side to check. With the water tank full, the Gran Dama automatically ran a rinse cycle, sending hot water through the pipes to warm them up and rinse them out. You can run a rinse cycle whenever you want, just by pressing the rinse button located on the front of the machine.

As the machine rinsed, I could hear the boiler and pump going to work. It could have been quieter, but I can put up with much, much worse for a great cup of coffee.

Figuring Each Other Out

Programming OptionsBefore I was going to start brewing, I needed to figure out the programming. After I pressed the programming button, the display screen let me know which buttons now stood for ESC, scroll, SET, and OK.

Here’s where you can program the clock, auto start time, auto start on/off, descaling process, coffee temperature, and other options. Once you reach the variable you want, you press the “SET” button to change it.

I would start off by setting the clock. Since it’s always displayed on the screen, you’ll need it set if you plan on using auto on/off times or auto start. As for the other options, like beep on/off and the length of time the appliance remains on, play around and see what you prefer – you can always choose to “reset factory presets” if you change your mind later.

I pressed the “ESC” button to exit programming, and decided to brew. A column of buttons on the front right of the machine lets you choose four preset drinks: a short coffee, two short coffees, a long coffee, and two long coffees. All you have to do is place a cup under the coffee dispenser, and press the button corresponding to your choice. Once the button is pressed, the machine brews automatically. You have the option of programming them differently from their preset options. The coffee spout is adjustable, allowing you to raise and lower it depending on your cup height.

Low-pitch Conical Burr GrinderIt's What I'm Here For

I contemplated how strange it is that a perfectly crafted shot of espresso can be reduced to nothing more than a few tropical beans and some water. No matter what beans you choose, the low-pitch conical burr grinder won’t wake up the whole house. The seven different setting allow you to vary the fineness of the coffee grounds, which in turn allows you to brew milder or stronger coffee.

Even though I’m not a decaf kind of person, I know that sometimes my guests are. The Gran Dama has a bypass doser, allowing me to brew other blends just by placing one level scoop into the bypass doser, and pressing the “OK” button all the way to the right to select “pre-ground.” That same button also gives the options of extra mild, mild, standard, strong, and extra strong when brewing with the beans in the hopper.

The narrow bypass doser, located between the hopper and the cup warmer, holds a coffee scoop for measuring out grounds. The boiler is located underneath the cup warmer, so the cup warmer warms up whenever the boiler is on. Resting your cups here keeps them warm, and helps preserve the temperature of your espresso.

Special Talents

The external automatic milk system ended up being the most convenient and surprising thing about this machine. Three buttons on the machine labeled latte, cappuccino, and Italian macchiato correspond to the amount of steamed and frothed milk you need. The double boiler system switches quickly from steaming to brewing, and espresso and milk are dispensed at the same place so you don't even have to move your cup.

External Automatic Milk SystemThe milk system has a two position switch by the handle. Use position "1" for lattes, and position "2" for cappuccinos and Italian macchiatos The machine will prompt you which position to use when you select a drink button.

You can also make foamed or steamed milk without coffee. Try making hot cocoa from steamed and foamed milk with chocolate syrup; it’s an entirely different universe from the “hot chocolate” made from powder, water, and a microwave.

Once I was finished making drinks, I ran an automatic milk cleaning cycle that didn’t even require dumping out the milk already in the 25 oz container; all I had to do was press the “clean” button and the machine ran hot water through the top tube and spout, flushing out any leftover milk. Then, I put the container back into the refrigerator. To keep the milk tasting fresh, I plan on running the container through the dishwasher or hand washing it when it’s empty.

One thing to watch out for with this milk system is that I had trouble figuring out how to take it apart for when I wanted to refill or clean it. Twist clockwise until you hear it snap open, and then pull up.

Maintaining Our Relationship

The rest of this stainless steel machine is easier to clean than the milk container – although you can’t put the whole thing in the dishwasher. With all the self-monitoring the Gran Dama does, you won’t find yourself spending much time cleaning. Empty the dump box when the machine alerts you by pulling out the drip tray. The front door swings open so you can reach in and take out the brew group and dump box. Rinse out or wipe down the inside of the box; the grounds can be disposed of in a compost pile or your garbage.

The drip tray is also best cleaned with a damp cloth. Its red “level indicator” floats up as the drip tray fills. While the instruction manual claims that when the indicator “starts to become visible” it’s time to empty and clean the drip tray, in reality the indicator is almost always visible, and it can be difficult to tell when exactly it needs to be emptied. Luckily, removing the tray is easy, so I recommend checking it often to prevent any overflow.

Descaling, a process by which you remove the calcium buildup that can form on the brewing components, is an important part of maintaining the Gran Dama. The Gran Dama lets you know when it’s time to descale (probably once every 2 or 3 months), 

Friends at Last

My first interactions with the Gran Dama were filled with awe and nervousness. Could we really be buddies?

I learned that with all of the Gran Dama’s special talents and quirks was something truly reliable, trustworthy, and decent. Whether I’m looking for a single shot of espresso, or an Italian macchiato, the Gran Dama is there for me – no matter what.