Face Off: DeLonghi Single Boiler Espresso Machines

Earlier this week, Gail and Kat whet your appetite with an overview of the EC155, BAR32, EC270, EC702, ECO310BK and kMix. Are you still craving more? Wondering about shot performance, steaming functionality and other nuances between these machines? As a newbie to Seattle Coffee Gear, here’s my take on the Delonghi single boilers. Let’s start with the similarities:

Ease of Use: All of the single boilers have the same basic functionality, and are extremely easy to operate. They all use pressurized portafilters and include plastic tampers (all uptamp excluding the kMix).  The EC155 and BAR32 have a dial to power on and select either steam or brew functionality. With the EC270, EC702, ECO310BK and kMix, these were updated to 3 buttons vs the dial. One push (or turn), and you’re good to go!

Shot performance: I used illy Medium Roast Espresso in my testing, and overall shot performance is comparable across these models. I noticed slightly less crema from the EC155, but aroma and shot temperature (130-135 degrees) seemed on par.

Milk Frothing: All of these models come with slightly different panarellos, which make frothing a breeze.  The average time for milk to reach 140 degrees was 45-50 seconds. The panarellos all have limited mobility, and smaller pitchers work best, especially for the EC155 and BAR32.  You won’t get a velvety microfoam from these wands, but there was no difference in foam quality across the board.

Now, on to the differences:

EC155: This has the smallest footprint of the bunch, but with that comes extremely low cup clearance – nothing but a small shot glass will fit under the brew head unless you remove the drip tray. While none of these machines include a solenoid valve, this machine delivered the wettest puck.

Bar 32: The retro styling of this machine is the only thing setting it apart from the EC155, and with that comes slightly higher cup clearance.

EC270: This machine marries the styling of the two previous models – with the studded metal top from the EC155, and the Bar32’s rounded lines. Crossing the $100 threshold gets you a passive cup warmer and a side knob for steam control.

EC702: Stainless steel casing sets this machine apart, and it has the largest footprint of the group. It also delivered the driest puck!

ECO310BK:  If you want rounder lines, a passive cup warmer and a monster drip tray, this is your best bet.

kMix: Its compact design packs a punch with great cup clearance, shorter recovery time between shots and nice build quality. This model also has an upgraded portafilter with rubberized grip.

So, after all this testing, which single boiler would come home with me? It mostly boils down to aesthetics and space. With little counter space to spare, I’m sold on the kMix’s small footprint and cup warmer. For under $200, I’d place my bet on the EC702, but I’m a sucker for stainless and straight lines.