Are you getting excited when preparing your coffee, but sometimes you wish for things to become a bit automatic? Well, there’s a semi-automatic espresso machine at sub-$1000 price point that gives you convenience and that excitement. The De’Longhi La Specialista EC9335M takes out some guesswork when preparing coffee, at the same time, encourages you to be your own barista.
This coffee machine has commercial looks, stainless steel housing, and other nice-to-have features, but still very affordable. Our team is curious too, so we created a thorough review that outlines everything about it.
We know it’s hard to read a thick user’s guide and instruction manuals. So, we get the gist and present only the useful information for you to make a sound decision.
What is DeLonghi La Specialista?
It’s a capable semi-automatic espresso machine that lets you forget about the guesswork in making a coffee. The La Specialista EC9335M has different exciting features for every coffee lover out there, at the price very hard to beat. As a De’Longhi coffee machine, you can expect high-quality craftsmanship, technology, and capacity.
The construction speaks not only of beauty, but of durability and ruggedness. It doesn’t just look like commercial coffee machines, it performs like one. With the dual heating system and the smart grinding technology, the potential of this machine is endless.
- Grinder has two built-in sensors
- Has commercial looks with stainless steel housing
- Machine is quiet during operation
- No mess and waste using the built-in tamper
- Two heating systems for shorter wait time between processes
- Automatic On/Off for the steam wand
- Quite expensive compared to competitors
- Drip tray full indicator doesn’t work well
- Steep learning curve, especially for the milk frothing
Design and Specifications
A nice add-on to any kitchen countertop.
Of course, the design is just a minor consideration if you are looking for a machine that makes great coffee every day. However, if you are keen on the style and whether it fits your kitchen and your countertop, the De’Longhi Specialista EC9335M is a safer choice. It sports a fancy brushed stainless steel body with a professional-looking 250 g bean hopper on top.
It doesn’t take that much space with the overall body dimension of 14.5 × 12.5 × 14 inches. However, you must know that the 2-liter water reservoir is at the back, as with the main switch. You might want to place it somewhere where you can easily refill water and also convenient when you refill the coffee beans.
Its design and looks seem to be heavy-duty and for commercial use. However, this is designed for household use only. If you have one at home, surely, you don’t need to have a trip to the nearest café shop because La Specialista will take care of it for you.
The integrated burr grinder is smart enough to prepare just the right amount of coffee grounds for the kind of coffee drinks that you want to make. It has six different grinds settings (coarse to fine) and the machine lets you know if you need to refill your coffee beans — for continuous coffee preparation.
You won’t go wrong with the built-in smart tamper with a pressure limiter. You won’t even need to remove the filter and tamp it manually. Just use the lever arm to the left of the machine to tamp your coffee — perfect pressure for better extraction.
Yes, just like most semi-automatic espresso machines, you need to insert the filter holder into the brew unit. However, with La Specialista, the process is made easier with the integrated grinder and smart tamper. Simply insert the filter holder from the tamper station to the brew unit, press a button, and wait for a few seconds.
With this espresso machine, you don’t need to wait for so long before you can enjoy your coffee. It only takes 30-40 seconds to heat up from slumber. Thanks to the Thermoblock heating element, you can get a nice hot coffee, plus another heating element for milk frothing.
Aside from making espresso and cappuccino, this coffee maker also makes Caffe Americano or Long Black in seconds. It has a separate hot water spout that automatically dispenses hot water to your cup. Then, through the brew unit, the espresso will follow.
The steam wand is also another great feature wherein you can adjust to FLAT to get steam milk or pull it down to CAPPUCCINO to make professional milk foams. It seems to demand a bit of practice for non-professional baristas, but it’s learnable. It has a knob where you can control the steam and to manually stop the process.
There are a few more buttons and knobs on the front panel. Let’s start from left to right. At the upper left part of the control panel is the ON/STANDBY button.
Right below it, you can see the ground coffee quality knob to adjust the amount of coffee grounds and it also allows you to use pre-ground coffee.
To the right is the x2 button, if you need a double dose of your favorite coffee beverage. The RINSE button allows you to clean the group head. The OK button lets you start brewing and manually stop the process. Note: The machine will automatically stop processing when the default/set volume has been dispensed.
The TEA button will allow you to get hot water through the hot water dispensing spout — such a good feature for making tea and Americano. The MY button allows you to change the volume settings of your favorite drinks.
Towards the rightmost part, you can see a knob that helps you dial the coffee beverage that you want to prepare for the day. Lastly, you can see a big pressure gauge in the middle of the machine’s dashboard. You should see the needle at the optimal level, otherwise, you have to change your coffee dosing.
Features and Functionalities
Going through the features and functions of this machine is very exciting. La Specialista is just amazing with features you only get from coffee makers priced at several thousand dollars. Although it needs a little effort, you won’t regret the espresso or cappuccino that you’ll make with this machine.Amazon product
Burr Grinder + Built-in Tamper — With La Specialista, you can eliminate some hassles in making coffee. Just put the beans, set the grinding level and the quantity of coffee ground you want to use. Additionally, it has a smart tamper station that lets you tamp the coffee at the right pressure — every time.
With the ability to customize the grinding level and adjust the quantity of coffee to be brewed, you can make the perfect cup of coffee every time you need it. Lastly, the integrated burr grinder gives you precise and consistent grinding, with a bean sensor, so you won’t run out of coffee beans.
Dual Heating System — The advantage of having a separate heating element for water and milk steaming is that the operation becomes quicker. Less wait time since you can easily proceed to milk frothing after you extracted your coffee. The result? Enjoying your cup of espresso or cappuccino while it’s still at its best.Amazon product
Advanced Latte System — The most challenging part of being a barista is to get the perfect milk foam for your milk-based beverages. Yet, with the steam wand that comes with this machine, you can easily make milk foam. You can select FLAT or pull it down to get to FOAM.
Choose FLAT if you want to steam milk without getting any foam. On the other hand, position the steam wand to FOAM to get perfect microfoam frothing for your latte or cappuccino. It also comes with a steam dial where you can control the steam that’s coming out of the steam wand.
Dual Heating System — Don’t want to waste any second to wait? No problem. La Specialista has a Thermoblock heating element for extracting coffee and a separate one for steaming milk or frothing.
So, if you want to prepare milk-based coffee, you can steam milk right after you extract your coffee. And, if you want another cup of coffee, just insert the portafilter in the brew head with your beloved coffee grounds and start the brewing process again.
Separate Hot Water Spout — A separate hot water dispensing spout may seem redundant to the steam wand (some steam wand doubles as hot water dispensing spout). However, this will give you hot water without any coffee residue or milk taste. It’s also perfect to automatically add-on water to your Americano or just get hot water for tea or hot chocolate.
1-Second Quick Start — The machine is ready when you are. No more long waits. In 40 seconds from standby or turning on, you are ready to make your first cup of coffee. The machine grinds, tamps, and brews your coffee. Simply enjoy the process and your coffee.
Setup and Operation
The setup is real quick, and the operation too. Out of the box, you need to only re-attach the bean hopper and the drip tray in place. Even though this machine is tested with coffee, it’s better to clean the parts thoroughly and prime it.
Having enough water in the water reservoir is always a must in every coffee machine. For La Specialista, though it has a big water container, you must check it or the machine will tell you to refill.
To start the machine for the first time, simply switch it ON via the main switch at the lower back part of the unit. The TEA icon will light as well as the “No water” light to signify that you need to throw water through. Just place a 100ml container under the hot water spout and the steam wand, then, press the TEA button.
Water will immediately run through and it’ll automatically stop.
Preheat the filter basket and the portafilter by inserting it into the brew head (no coffee grounds yet) and press the RINSE button. Water will come out of the portafilter and the steam wand. Then, after, open the steam dial and let steam one for 10 seconds.
Remember, you can only make great coffee from medium roasted espresso beans or pre-ground coffee. The coffee quality dial (the knob at the left) lets you set the machine to brew pre-ground coffee if you want to enjoy decaf. Likewise, this dial also allows you to set the quantity of coffee grounds you’ll need for your next cup of coffee.
Opposite to the coffee quantity knob is the mode selector for the kind of coffee you want to have. And, if you aren’t satisfied with the strength of your coffee, you can adjust the grinding level to any of the six different grinder settings.
It’s semi-automatic, which means, you can somehow set some of its features according to your liking. Among the things you can set are the coffee temperature, water hardness level, energy-saving, and auto-off.
You can change the default values by pressing the x2 and MY button for three seconds to access the MENU and make certain changes. Complete discussions and procedures are detailed in the user’s manual included in this machine.
Lastly, you can put your cups in the cup warmer on top of the machine next to the bean hopper. Use only a warm cup — you are ready to make your coffee.
Brewing Capacity and Process
The process is made straightforward with the built-in grinder and smart tamper. Now that you know how to operate the machine, making espresso with La Specialista is very easy.
Put beans in the bean hopper and set the grinding level you want. If you want to prepare a single shot espresso, use 1 CUP filter (35ml). For a double shot, you need the 2 CUP (50ml) filter and press the x2 button.Amazon product
Insert the right filter basket into the portafilter and make sure it’ll click into place. You must ensure the right coffee quantity by checking the dial. For the Coffee, 1 CUP is 70ml and 2 CUP is 140ml, while for the long black, 120ml is 1 CUP and 240 ml is the 2 CUP. These are default values that you can easily change to your preferred volume.
After you’ve selected the right filter, insert it into the coffee mill outlet (tamper station). Select the beverage you want to prepare and select the grinding level. (Note: Adjust the grinding level one notch at a time — makes at least five drinks before changing the setting again.)
Grinding automatically starts the moment you latch the filter holder in the CLOSE position and it’ll stop automatically. You can use the tamper lever to tamp the coffee grounds in your filter when the “pressing light” flashes. Once you remove the filter holder, you can see even, perfectly tamped coffee grounds in your filter basket.
Insert the filter basket in the brew unit and hit the OK button. Make sure you have cups below the coffee dispensing spout. If you’re using espresso coffee, you can use the retractable cup grille to avoid spills. The machine automatically stops, but you can interrupt it by pressing the OK button again.
If you’re making milk-based coffee, just prepare your favorite milk and submerge the tip to it. If you want to get steam milk only, select FLAT, but if you want froth, pull down to FOAM. Turn the steam dial towards the steam icon and bring it back to O position when you think the temperature of the milk is enough.
There’s a dedicated hot water spout where you can get hot water for your Americano or hot chocolate. Simply hit the TEA button to start and it’ll turn off automatically.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Since it has an all-metal casing, you can easily wipe spills and stains. Additionally, you can remove the bean hopper, drip tray, and the water reservoir for easy cleaning. The good thing about this machine is the RINSE function, wherein you can run hot water through the brew unit and the steam wand after each use.
Rinse and wipe the filter baskets and filter holder after each use. This is to remove coffee residue to have a fresh coffee cup after cup.
For the steam wand, simply open the steam valve and let the steam come out for a few seconds. You can also remove the rubber steam connection nozzle and use a recommended cleaning tool (usually a pin) to clean the holes.
The mode selector has the DESCALING icon towards the right, which you need to do once the “Descaling light” comes on. Everything about cleaning and proper maintenance of the machine is detailed in the user manual. Make sure to follow the recommended protocol and only use soft damp cloths. No solvents or abrasive detergents, please.
Accessories and Add-ons
All you need to have is your favorite coffee beans or coffee grounds. Everything else is already in the package with the La Specialista. You have the double-spouted filter holder that you can fit in the 1 CUP or 2 CUP filter baskets (also included).
It has a “Total Hardness test” indicator paper so you can set the level in the settings. This is important so the machine can precisely estimate when to descale. It also includes a Descaler.
Of course, it has the power cord, tube brush, milk jug, and water softener filter. The filter only comes in selected models. Make sure to check it or you’ll need to buy a filter to get natural-tasting coffee.
Who is this product for? / Should you buy this?
Though coffee makers need to make coffee, they should also have other useful features that don’t only benefit coffee lovers. Fortunately, De’Longhi La Specialista tries to appeal not just to those who love coffee, but to those who just need hot water at any time.
Thanks to the dedicated hot water spout, you can just get hot water without any coffee or milk residue. A really good add-on for a sub-$1000 espresso machine. The smart tamper is another huge plus, too.
But, do you really need this coffee machine?
With all the pros and features being said, De’Longhi La Specialista EC9335M is a great buy. Although it’s a bit pricier compared to its Breville counterparts, you’ll enjoy its exciting features. The adjustable steam wand is also good to easily get steam milk or microfoam.
Good things always outweigh the bad. In the same manner, the good features of the De’Longhi La Specialista EC9335M semi-automatic espresso machine beat all the drawbacks. So, it’s yours to decide now.
No blurbs. This coffee maker is more than capable for household use. Even though you don’t have lots of choices for pre-programmed coffee, you can still make tons of drinks with it.
The hot water spout and the adjustable steam wand are two great add-ons to make different coffee drink varieties. On top of it all, the excitement of making milk foam and froth is another ingredient of wonderful milk-based drinks.