Whether you prefer a short, intense shot of espresso or a creamy, long latte, there’s nothing better than getting a daily caffeine fix. The best espresso machines ensure you can play barista and enjoy coffee-shop-worthy hot drinks at home at any time – and save yourself money at the same time.
However, even for coffee aficionados, not every coffee will be consistent. This is because once ground coffee has been added to the basket in the portafilter ready for pressurized water to be passed through it needs to be tamped, or pressed down with pressure to ensure it's level. Many espresso machine users find this fiddly, because the portafilter has a spout on the bottom, which dispenses the coffee, and doesn’t sit level on a worktop.
De’longhi is looking to put an end to this problem with its latest coffee maker. The De’Longhi La Specialista Arte, which is priced at £549 / $799.99 and available to buy now, comes with a silicone tamping mat that holds the portafilter level while it’s being tamped, making it far easier to create a consistent, flat ‘puck’ (learn to speak barista - that’s the term for the compressed ground coffee). It also protects your kitchen countertop, so it won’t get scratched or marked if you’re a bit overzealous with your tamping.
The at-home trend
The global pandemic kick-started a trend for making food and drink from scratch, from recipe kits that let you recreate meals from your favorite restaurants at home, to investing in an espresso machine so you could still enjoy a hot drink even though your favorite coffee shop had been shuttered.
That trend looks set to continue, with 65% of Americans saying they plan to continue cooking at home as much as during the pandemic, research by sales and marketing firm Acosta revealed.
According to research from Mr Coffee, almost half of Amercians became ‘quaristas’ - shorthand for ‘quarantine baristas’, the brand’s term for consumers who used the time during lockdown to perfect their own coffee-making skills at home.
Baristas make hundreds of cups of coffee every day, so they’re well versed at creating a level puck that’s free from cracks - which is important, as it ensures that the pressurized water passes through the ground coffee evenly, resulting in a smooth, intense espresso that’s not bitter.
However, the average consumer won’t be making anywhere that number of coffees per day, so won’t be as experienced in creating the perfect puck, leaving them frustrated if the coffee they’ve lovingly brewed is weak or bitter. Anything that can make creating a consistently good coffee easier is a welcome addition to at-home coffee machines.
This isn’t the only part of the coffee-making process that De’Longhi has put some thought into with the La Specialista Arte. The machine also includes a handy funnel, which ensures that filling the portafilter basket with ground coffee from the integrated grinder is far less messy.
There’s a reason why coffee shops have their espresso machines positioned in a way that customers can’t see the coffee being brewed, because the whole process is messy. Ground coffee gets everywhere, and let's face it – no one likes cleaning up as much as they enjoy preparing and drinking a coffee.
You simply place the silicone filter that comes with the De’Longhi La Specialista Arte on top of the portafilter, and slot it into the holder below the grinder. Ground coffee will then be dispensed straight into portafilter without spilling everywhere.
Little touches like these go a long way to making those of us who love making coffee at home really feel like we’re ‘proper’ baristas, taking the mess and frustration out of the process, and leaving us free to concentrate on enjoying the finished product.
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Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.