Smeg ECF02 Manual Espresso Coffee Machine review: Smeg upgrades its classic espresso machine

Is it time to add a curvy, colorful coffee appliance to your kitchen counter?

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Smeg ECF02 is undoubtedly an improvement on its predecessor. And those drawn to its retro appearance or unique choice of colors will be getting a pretty good entry-level manual espresso machine to boot. However, wannabe baristas and coffee aficionados will be left wanting more.

Pros

  • +

    Straightforward control panel

  • +

    Adjustable temperature and coffee volume

  • +

    Beginner friendly

Cons

  • -

    Espresso crema could be better

  • -

    Short steam wand

  • -

    Requires some trial and error

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02: One-minute review

The Smeg ECF01 Manual Espresso Machine has held the position of best compact espresso machine in our best coffee machine roundup for some time. So when we heard that the brand had revamped this model and launched the Smeg ECF02, we needed a hands-on review to check out this new-and-improved version.

Its bulbous hourglass figure might not lend itself to being classed as a truly compact espresso machine, but this new model continues to feature Smeg’s signature retro vintage style and is available in six striking color options. Like its predecessor, it has a 15-bar pump; but this model comes with an upgraded steam wand as well as two additional espresso options, so you can choose between four sizes.

Making the perfect espresso is hugely impacted by the quality of coffee, grind size, and your barista skills – and, as such, some patience and trial and error will be required to master the perfect cup. However, some useful customizable settings allow you to adjust the coffee temperature as well as the volume of coffee dispensed.

I managed to make a relatively decent espresso, although there’s room for improvement since it fell short of that made in my usual espresso machine. Having said that, the Smeg ECF02 has a unique aesthetic that will likely be the biggest draw for most people looking to purchase it. 

All-in-all, the majority will enjoy the espresso-based drinks you can create with this machine; but it isn’t one for the devoted espresso fans, for whom there are similarly priced manual espresso machines available that produce a higher quality espresso with a thicker and more robust crema.

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02: Price

  • List price: £349.95
  • Availability: UK only, but will likely come to US/AU soon enough.

The Smeg ECF02 is widely available in the UK from a range of retailers including John Lewis and AO.com, with prices starting at £349.95. Note that the price can vary depending on the finish – for example, a patterned Dolce & Gabbana design will set you back a princely £1,249.95.

In the US and Australia, the Smeg ECF01 has yet to be superseded by this newer revamped model; but a worldwide launch is likely in due course.

In comparison to other basic manual espresso machines, the Smeg ECF02 is on the more expensive side. Arguably, you’re paying a premium for Smeg’s signature 50s retro styling.

  • Value: 3.5 / 5

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02
Type of coffee maker:Manual espresso machine
Skill level:Amateur
Size:13 x 5.9 x 13 in/ 33 x 14.9 x 32.9cm (h x w x d)
Weight: 10.4lbs/ 4.7kg
Water capacity:1 quart/ 1.1 liter
Pump Pressure: 15 bar15 bar
Drinks: Espresso, long espresso, double espresso, long double espresso

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02: Design

  • Striking vintage style design
  • Six colors available
  • Thermoblock heating system

The new Smeg ECF02 sports a bolder, curvier shape than its predecessor. While the brand’s 50s-style design has always elicited a somewhat love-it or hate-it response, the one thing we can say for sure with regards to the ECF02 is that the molded plastic exterior measuring 13 x 5.9 x 13 in/ 33 x 14.9 x 32.9cm (h x w x d) certainly doesn’t make for the most compact espresso machine I’ve reviewed.

A removable water tank sits at the rear of the machine and its huge plastic lid ensures the overall shape is uninterrupted. On the side, there’s an on/off switch and a retro-style lever to dispense steam and hot water. 

The steam wand has been upgraded to a more professional-style wand, but it’s still on the shorter side. In addition to steam, it also dispenses hot water for making tea. But for the price I’m surprised it doesn’t also come with a stainless steel milk jug for frothing milk; this is something you’ll have to purchase separately. 

The portafilter is sturdy and incredibly weighty. It comes with a one-cup filter basket for single espressos, a two-cup filter basket for double espressos, and a paper pod basket that can be used with ESE coffee pods.

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

In contrast to the very robust and well-made portafilter, the tamper – the tool you use to compress the ground coffee into the portafilter – is a lightweight thin plastic. Again, at this price point, I’d have expected better quality. On the plus side, though, there’s a coffee measuring spoon built into the tamper.

There’s space beneath the portafilter for cups up to 3.15in / 8cm. And for those with taller cups, the drip tray is removable, allowing room for cups up to 4.7in / 12cm. If you prefer very long coffees and your cups are bigger than average, then you’re out of luck.

The control buttons sit on the top. There are three main buttons: single espresso, double espresso, and steam. Each button is surrounded by a light ring; pressing the “+” button beneath sees the light surrounding the button turn from white to orange to indicate that it’s been switched to the orange menu function. The single espresso button will now dispense a long single espresso and the double espresso button will now dispense a long double espresso.

Additionally, the buttons can be used in various combinations to adjust settings, such as coffee temperature, coffee volume, and the automatic shut-off time. The lights surrounding them will, at times, flash various sequences to alert you to a fault or the need to descale.

  • Design: 4 / 5

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02: Performance

  • Quick to heat up
  • Quality of drink will depend on your barista skills
  • Daily cleaning is quick and easy

The initial setup isn’t too involved. Some parts of the machine needed cleaning before use, using hot water dispensed out of the steam wand as well as the main portafilter. There’s a water hardness test strip included in the box, following which you can adjust the water hardness setting on the machine, if necessary.

It’s a good idea to make a few trial coffees to familiarize yourself with the amount of ground coffee you need to add, and how firmly it has to be tamped down. This is also your opportunity to decide whether you want to adjust the coffee temperature setting or the coffee volume.

I left the coffee temperature on medium, with the long double espresso the perfect volume for me. As such, I didn’t need to adjust either. Having said that, I followed the instructions in the manual for both and they’re straightforward to change.

When first switched on, the espresso machine takes around 35-40 seconds to heat up. However, the heat-up time is insignificant when you consider that it’s likely to take you longer to measure your ground coffee into the portafilter and tamp it down ready for brewing.

Although there are four different drinks on offer, they’re simply different volumes of espresso. A single espresso takes on average 20 seconds to pour, while a long espresso takes roughly 25 seconds and is approximately 1.5oz/ 43g, as opposed to the smaller 1oz / 30g single espresso.

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

A double espresso of around 1.8oz / 52g takes 30 seconds to pour, while the long double espresso dispensed 3oz / 85g coffee and took 50 seconds. Note, however, that dispensing times vary significantly depending on how firmly you compress the coffee before brewing. 

The coffee temperatures on the medium heat setting dispensed at between 140-170ºF / 60-75ºC. The temperature will vary somewhat and is also affected by the temperature of your cup. And, as I’ve already mentioned, the coffee temperature is adjustable in the settings.

When positioning the portafilter into place, it requires a firm twist. I found that unless I held the coffee machine steady, it was virtually impossible to twist the portafilter into place without the machine moving across the counter due to the force that was required.

Despite using the same coffee, I couldn’t achieve the same quality of thick robust crema as I usually can when making espresso in my normal espresso machine. Having said that, it did create a fairly decent crema; it just wasn’t as long-lasting, rich, and stable as it could be.

I tried out an ESE pod, which is like a paper tea bag filled with compressed coffee. This is your solution if you don’t want to mess around with ground coffee; it’s easy, and mess-free, and the coffee is okay. Arguably, though, if you want this type of coffee then you might be better off with one of the best Nespresso machines.

Pressing the steam button preheats the machine ready to steam milk. The button flashes during the preheat, which takes less than 15 seconds. Once the light is solid, you can place the wand in the jug of milk and pull the steam lever down. 

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

Steaming milk to the correct texture takes practice. While I managed a good foamy cappuccino milk easily, a silkier microfoam took a bit more concentration. The short steam wand can be angled slightly, but its movement is limited in comparison to my regular espresso machine. This makes steaming milk more difficult since the angle of the wand and jug is integral to the process of creating the right texture.

Nevertheless, as an entry-level option, it gets the job done. For people trying to fine-tune the level of foam on a drink, or geeking out on latte art, this steam wand might be disappointing.

After steaming milk, the coffee machine is too hot to brew further espressos, so you either have to cool it down by dispensing hot water, or, as the manual suggests – if you're making several drinks – brew all your espressos before steaming the milk.

Hot water dispenses quickly from the steam wand. All you have to do is turn the steam lever without first pressing the steam button. The freshly dispensed hot water in my cup was around 155ºF/ 70ºC, which is fine for a fruit or herbal tea.

Daily cleaning simply involves rinsing the portafilter, wiping the steam wand, and emptying and rinsing the drip tray. It’s no different from any other manual espresso machine. Periodically, the machine will need a more thorough cleaning, including washing the water tank and rinsing water through the dispensing unit. 

When the orange LED on the steam button flashes, it’s time for a descale. The process is pretty automatic, but you’ll need to have the manual to hand so you can follow the instructions, plus you’ll need a descaling solution to run through the machine.

  • Performance: 4 / 5

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02 report card
AttributeNotesScore
ValueThe price is inflated in comparison to other brands.3.5 / 5
DesignSimple pared-back controls and iconic 50s styling; but it’s let down by the flimsy tamper, lack of milk jug and overly molded plastic exterior.4 / 5
PerformanceMade a pretty decent espresso after some trial and error, but the crema is on the thin side. 4 / 5

Buy it if...

You love the look

There’s no denying that this coffee maker will make a statement in your kitchen. Its playful vintage style will be a talking point, especially if you choose one of the cheery pastel colors.

You don’t mind a bit of trial and error

As with all manual espresso machines, it can take time to learn the correct quantity of coffee and the pressure needed to tamp it down, as well as how to create the perfect milk texture. This isn’t a plug-in-and-play coffee machine.

You want to make espresso-based drinks

If you like barista-style espresso-based drinks, such as a cappuccino, flat white, or indeed a straight espresso, then this simple manual espresso machine is a good starting point. But if you like a giant mug of filter coffee, this isn’t the model for you.

Don't buy it if...

You’re on a budget

If you’re looking for the best value for money, this isn’t the coffee machine for you. By foregoing the Smeg vintage look and opting for a model such as the <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/delonghi-dedica-style-ec685" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">De’Longhi Dedica Style, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck.

You need a truly compact coffee machine

While it isn’t big in comparison to a lot of espresso machines and automatic coffee machines, the ECF02 remains a chunky espresso machine relative to the level of features and functionality on offer.

You’re a serious coffee aficionado

The Smeg ECF02 makes a decent espresso, but at this price point espresso machines such as the <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/breville-bambino-plus" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">Breville Bambino Plus (known as the Sage Bambino Plus in the UK) deliver a finer quality espresso.

Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02: Also consider

If the Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02 is not for you, here a couple of options to consider.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02Breville the Barista Express ImpressDeLonghi Dedica Style EC685
Price:£349.95$899.95 / £729.95 / AU$1,199$349.95/ £199.99/ AU$399
Type of coffee maker:Manual espresso machineAssisted manual espresso machineManual espresso machine
Skill level:Amateur BeginnerBeginner
Programming:Stand-by, water hardness, coffee temperature, pre-brewing profiles25 precision grind settingsTemperature, water hardness, auto shut off time and dose time.
Reservoir size:1 quart / 1.1 liter 2L0.24 gallon / 1.1-liter
Coffee bean capacity:N/A8.8oz / 250gN/A
Pump pressure:15 bar15 bar15 bar
Dimensions:13 x 5.9 x 13 in/ 33 x 14.9 x 32.9cm (h x w x d) 12.9 x 14.9 x 16.1 inches (327 x 378 x 409 mm)2 x 5.9 x 13 inches/ 30.4 x 14.9 x 33cm
Image

Breville the Barista Express Impress
Combining the ideal quantity of ground beans, the precise temperature, optimal water pressure and micro-foam, this makes it easy to achieve great-tasting coffee at home.

Read our full <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/breville-the-barista-express-impress-review" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">Breville the Barista Express Impress review

Image

DeLonghi Dedica Style EC685

This espresso maker has long held its spot as the best budget espresso machine available in our eyes. For its price and small footprint, this espresso maker is excellent.

Read our full <a href="https://www.techradar.com/reviews/delonghi-dedica-style-ec685" data-link-merchant="techradar.com"">DeLonghi Dedica Style EC685 review

The Smeg ECF02 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Smeg Espresso Coffee Machine ECF02

  • I tried every available espresso size
  • I used the steam wand to heat milk and pour hot water
  • I went into the menus to assess how tricky it was to adjust the settings

My usual coffee machine is a manual espresso machine, so I simply switched it out for this one and used it for all my usual coffees. As well as my usual flat white, I also tried making a variety of espresso-based drinks to see how it fared.

I’ve been reviewing kitchen appliances for over 15 years and have reviewed a lot of coffee machines in that time. Three years ago I developed a daily coffee habit, and now have two different artisan ground coffee subscriptions, and coffee machines are one of my favorite appliances to review. My go-to drink is an oat milk flat white; but I love an iced coffee in summer, or a punchy espresso accompanied by a chilled sparkling water.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed December 2023
Helen McCue
Freelance Contributor

Helen is a freelance writer who specializes in kitchen appliances and has written for some of the biggest home-related titles around. She has been reviewing small appliances, including blenders, juicers, and multi-cookers, for more than 8 years,  and also upholsters furniture when she's not testing the latest food tech gadgets.