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DeLonghi has a long history of making espresso machines that are convenient and make great drinks, and the La Specialista line is no different. The three espresso machines in this collection each have an included grinder, customizable sizes for the pre-programmed drinks, brew using pressurized baskets, and come with all the accessories you will need to brew espresso, coffee, and espresso drinks.
Each machine has its own advantages that may make it a good choice for you, and I got the chance to test out all three back to back to figure out what makes each machine unique aside from their prices. Here’s what I found out while testing the La Specialista Arte, Prestigio, and Maestro.
The La Specialista Arte is the most affordable of the La Specialista line of espresso machines. Like all of the machines in this series, it comes with a built-in conical burr grinder with eight grinding settings to choose from and an adjustable knob for determining the size of your dose. Though this is the only machine in the La Specialista line that doesn’t come with a built-in tamper, it does come with a tamping kit to help streamline the tamping process.
You have the choice to make a single or double espresso or Americano, though you can also opt to just make hot water with the La Specialista Arte. Each setting is customizable, so if you want a larger or smaller shot than the default settings, you can change them around. During my tests, I decided to keep to the factory settings for all three machines so that I could have a more accurate comparison between the three La Specialista espresso machines.
I enjoyed using the Arte when I tried it out for this blog. As someone who prefers to look carefully at instruction manuals before starting anything, I really liked how easy the quick start guide made using this machine. It had written instructions as well as illustrations, and it made the entire process very easy from start to finish. DeLonghi includes a guide about how you should be dosing and dialing in depending on the roast of the coffee you use, and though I had to do some dialing in to get my dose just right, the guide provided a great starting point. I ended up at grinder setting 5 with a dose of 18, which is just under what’s recommended for a dark grind.
I loved the included dosing and tamping guide that attaches to the portafilter for the dosing process. It ensures that you don’t lose any of your coffee from the grinder, which means that you’ll have more repeatability since you aren’t losing any of your coffee between the grinder and pulling your shot. It makes tapping the portafilter to even out the grounds less messy as well, which is a great feature.
After dosing with the Arte, you’re supposed to tap to level the grounds, place the portafilter on the included rubber pad, and then tamp with the dosing and tamping guide still attached to the portafilter. However, I found that because the portafilter isn’t completely level while on the rubber stand, I preferred removing the guide for tamping so I could make sure that I was tamping evenly and not at an angle.
Once I was done tamping, I took a look at the line built into each basket that tells you where the perfect fill line is. Since you’re not likely to be weighing out grounds considering the automatic settings for pulling the espresso shot, this allows you to get repeatable results without a scale. If you’re looking to make consistently good espresso quickly in the morning, this is very helpful, and I definitely liked this feature on all of the La Specialista machines.
After tamping and locking in the portafilter, it was time to pull my shots. I brewed all of my espresso using Whole Latte Love's Crema Wave, which is a medium-dark roast with notes of honey and almond. I opted for a double shot, and because I was using a medium-dark roast, I adjusted the temperature to the lowest of the three settings as the guide recommends. Since I was brewing into espresso cups and not a larger mug, I added in the heightening drip tray, which locks in right under the portafilter and won’t move once in place. The shot will pull automatically and stop once the correct amount of water has moved through the machine, which is convenient if you’re moving quickly in the morning and want to do something else while your shot is pulling.
After you’ve pulled your shot, you can turn on the steam function. It will heat up quickly, and you have to open the steam wand in order to let it heat up the rest of the way and start steaming. I recommend putting a mug or bowl under the steam wand while you wait for it to actually start steaming so you can purge the water in the wand before putting your frothing pitcher in position. If you didn’t brew your espresso directly into the mug you’re using, placing the cup under the steam wand while waiting for it to heat up is a good way to heat up your cup so that your drink doesn’t immediately cool down when it’s poured in your cup.
The steam wand itself does a good job of steaming milk, and I was able to make a nice and creamy latte using it. My latte art skills still leave a lot to be desired since I’m new to the world of steaming milk, but I believe that if I was better at it I would be able to make some nice latte art using this steam wand.
Overall, I enjoyed using this machine, and I can imagine that it would be a great addition to any morning where you’re trying to keep things moving and don’t want to manually weigh out your coffee and espresso shots. You will likely still need to take the time to dial in, but the ability to adjust the size of your shots makes it possible to add some customization to this automatic machine, and the included tamping and frothing accessories make this machine great for newbies to the world of espresso.
The next step up in DeLonghi’s line is the La Specialista Prestigio. This machine features the same built-in grinder and automatic brewing ability as the Arte, but with a few upgrades. These upgrades include an LCD screen, a built-in tamping system that allows you to tamp without removing your portafilter from the grinding station, and a dual boiler that allows you to start steaming milk as soon as your shot is done being pulled. You can also brew coffee with this machine, not just espresso.
Like the Arte, the Prestigio comes with an included guide that helps you choose the right dose settings depending on the roast of the coffee you’re using. For this espresso machine, there isn’t a numbered dial like the Arte, so you do have a little bit more guesswork when it comes to getting the right dose setting. In the image below, you can see the setting that I used for the right dose of the medium-dark coffee I was using. To start the grinding process, all you have to do is lock the portafilter in place under the grinding shoot, making the grinding process fully automatic and hands-free.
Though the built-in bean hoppers can hold enough coffee to grind for a few days worth of drinks, it can also be helpful to have a vacuum sealed coffee canister on hand. That way you can just dose out your coffee for one day instead of having beans that have been out for a day or two, meaning a fresher tasting cup of coffee.
The built-in tamper made getting a nice even tamp extremely easy. While the portafilter was still locked in place after grinding, I just brought down the tamping lever twice – once to tamp, and once to hold it down while I removed the portafilter as DeLonghi recommends. It was once again easy to see if I had the proper dose based on the line in the portafilter basket, which is present and easy to find in both the single and double baskets.
Brewing with the Prestigio is simple – all you have to do is select the temperature and drink type and place the portafilter in the machine and you’re ready to brew. I tried out the espresso and coffee settings for this machine, and I enjoyed both. My only note is that if you’re dialing in for coffee, you may want to go for a coarser grind (like setting 6) because my coffee was a bit bitter even though the same settings for espresso pulled great shots.
Another difference between the Prestigio and the Arte is that unlike the removable drip tray that you have to add on the Arte, the Prestigio has a small drip tray that can be folded down if you’re placing an espresso cup under the portafilter. As someone who constantly misplaces things, I found this helpful because there’s no potential for losing the drip tray at any point in the future. I'm also someone that has their espresso setup far away from my trash can in my kitchen, and I found it useful to use DeLonghi's Knock Box while brewing so I could clean as I went and throw my puck out once I was totally done making my drink.
The Prestigio is also taller than the Arte by a few inches, though the clearance is 17.5 inches to the top of the hopper, which means it will fit under most upper cabinets when placed on your countertop. You’ll probably have to pull it out to refill the bean hopper, and since the water tank is placed along the back you’ll almost definitely need to move it out to refill the water.
Steaming milk for this machine was similar to the experience of steaming with the Arte, though with the Prestigio you don’t have to wait for the steam wand to heat up. Instead, you can switch immediately from brewing to steaming, which helps move the process more smoothly and streamline the process of crafting a latte, cappuccino, or flat white in the morning.
Like the Arte, the automation makes the process easier, though it does mean you have less control over customizing your espresso shot. However, with the ability to adjust the size of the shot you’re pulling, the temperature of the shot, and the consistency and amount of your dose, you can still get a good amount of customization.
The Maestro is the most expensive of the La Specialista espresso machines, and with the higher price point you’re getting a multitude of helpful features that can streamline the process of brewing a delicious espresso drink. What really sets the Maestro apart from the other La Specialista machines is the automatic milk frother. The attachable milk carafe will automatically steam your milk and add it to the milk drink of your choice at the right time depending on the setting you choose, though you can still manually steam your milk if you want to.
I will mention that I had a little bit of trouble when this machine was first out of the box. For all of the La Specialista machines you have to do a cycle of just hot water in order to prime the machine, and the Maestro machine I tested out did not want to prime. With the help of a few of my coworkers who are much more experienced with espresso machines than I am, we were able to do a forced prime of the machine and it worked flawlessly from there. From a little bit of research I did (thank you, Google), it looks like this isn’t a common issue for this machine, but I felt it was worth mentioning in my review of this product.
The grinding process was essentially the same as the Prestigio, though the Maestro has a more advanced LED screen that will show you which step of the process you’re in. I used the same settings of a grind level 5 and a dose size of 18 for this machine to pull espresso shots, and I found that it was a good combination for the beans I was using. The built-in tamper worked the same as the Prestigio, and I similarly had a very even, level tamp since the portafilter is locked in place for the tamping process.
After tamping and placing the portafilter in place for brewing, it’s time to choose the drink you want to make as well as the temperature. The Maestro sets itself apart from the Arte and Prestigio with five temperature settings instead of three, so you can have an even more customized beverage in your hand by the end of the brewing process. I used the lowest heat setting since I was using a medium-dark roast, and I found that worked for me. If you have a lighter roast coffee, you’ll want to use a higher temperature, but with a darker roast the coffee has already been exposed to a lot of heat, so you don’t want to add too much heat and burn out the more delicate flavors of the coffee.
The dynamic pre-infusion that’s present in the Prestigio is also present in the Maestro. The dynamic pre-infusion will adjust the length of the pre-infusion process depending on the density of your puck to lessen the chances of channeling and create a more even extraction process. The La Specialista Maestro offers espresso, Americanos, coffee, and hot water like the Prestigio, but the automatic milk settings mean that you can also choose from three milk beverages: a cappuccino, a latte, or a flat white.
To make an espresso drink that has milk added, you’ll have to fill the milk jug, put the lid on, and place the frothing system in place before you start brewing. One thing I really like about using the automatic milk frothing system is that you can choose how much foam you want from three different settings. I went for the middle option, and I got a good amount of foam on the latte I made. The latte was perfectly creamy and tasted absolutely delicious.
I really enjoyed how much the process of making a great latte was streamlined. As someone who’s still trying to get the hang of steaming milk, I love that I could hit one button and get perfectly steamed milk, though if I wanted to try my hand at steaming milk myself I could easily switch from automatic milk steaming to manual with the steam wand. Another nice feature of the automatic milk frothing function is that after each use it prompts you to remember to clean the pitcher. Once you remove your mug, you switch the knob on the back of the lid to the “cleaning” setting, which pushes hot water through the dispenser without touching the milk in the pitcher so that the system is cleaned out. There’s also a cleaning brush designed for the straw attached to the lid of the system to make cleaning easier.
Overall, once I was able to prime the machine, I found the Maestro very easy to use, and the drinks that I made were delicious. If you’re not great at steaming milk or have too much brain fog in the morning to think about whether you’re pouring too much milk into your frothing pitcher, this is a great option. With the ability to customize so many parts of the brewing process, you can get a cup that fits your tastes with a high level of repeatability. This is also a great machine to give as a gift since it's great for espresso brewers at all levels and has so many options for customizing the brew process.
DeLonghi’s La Specialista line offers a mix of control over small details of the brewing process while still offering the simplicity of an automatic machine. With built-in grinders on all three machines, you can streamline the process of dialing in and make sure you’re getting the right consistency and dose of coffee for your espresso or coffee brewing.
The Arte is the lowest cost machine and comes with all the accessories you need as a beginner at-home barista, including a dosing and tamping attachment for your portafilter to make sure you aren’t spilling any coffee during the process of preparing your puck. Though it has the fewest drink options, you can still pull some great espresso shots and steam milk with the machine’s attached wand.
The Prestigio offers a built-in tamper, meaning there’s no chance of spilling any coffee during the dosing and tamping process, so you’ll get an extremely consistent dose for your puck when you use the same dose settings and type of coffee. You have the option to also brew coffee and not just espresso with this machine, so there’s some variety to choose from.
The Maestro offers the most automatic settings, including the same built-in grinder and tamper as the Prestigio as well as an automatic milk frother that lets you craft espresso drinks with milk in them with just one push of a button. If you want delicious lattes, cappuccinos, and flat whites without steaming your own milk, the Maestro makes it easy.
Have you tried out any of the La Specialista machines? Make sure to leave a review on the product page so that everyone can hear about your experience with the machines! Make sure to follow Whole Latte Love on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and sign up for our newsletter to make sure you never miss out on any of our new products or deals!