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.

8 comments for “Face Off: DeLonghi Single Boiler Espresso Machines

  1. Laura
    September 18, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Thank you for your wonderful job in reviewing and providing LOTS of information on coffee expresso machines! I love your videos!!!!

    Yesterday, I bought my first and an inexpensive DeLonghi EC155, however, I think I am not getting the best results of it. I think that the coffee tasted like metallic, and didn’t get a nice foam of the milk (although I think I need more practice). I also think that the sump is not easy to install and also have problem to put it on the middle of the machine. Do you think this issues are related to the functionality of the machine, or due my of practice? Any thoughts? Also, I am using a measurement cup (glass) to steam my milk. Can it affect the quality of the milk form? Can you recommend a coffee machine under $250?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

  2. Laura
    September 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Hi Kat,
    Thak you for your follow up and kind response!

    Unfortunately, I am planning to return the machine. There were some variations in the quality of the coffee, there were times where the coffee was very light (around 6oz or so) and the machine didn’t produce the same quality of the coffee all the timew ;-( It was also a little messy. Do you have any other recommendation for a decent espresso machine under $300?

    • Kat
      September 25, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Laura -

      I’m not clear on your reference to 6oz and lightness – can you explain? That will give me more insight into what you didn’t like about your EC155.

      If you want something more clean and consistent, have you considered a capsule espresso machine? There are models from Nespresso and illy that would fall within your budget. Let me know if you need some suggestions in this regard.

      Kat

      • Laura
        September 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

        What I meant to said is that I don’t get the same quality shots of coffee. There are many times that a single espresso shot produce around 6oz of coffee, which is very flavorless. I know that the machine doesn’t turn off automatically, but it seems it continues making coffee for a little long affecting the body/taste of coffee. I have read the manual and watched several times your videos, but I am also not getting consistent/optimal results of the coffee shots and also with steaming of the milk  I feel that there is always is little mess to clean!  My husband is already tired of hearing my complains, and says that is better to invest more on another machine ! I think he wants to save our marriage 

        Thank you about your recommendation to consider the capsule machine, I haven’t thought about it. However, I am more inclined to the traditional espresso semi-automatic machines. I like the idea of buying strong espresso/ground coffee rather than the capsules.

        THANKS A LOT!
        Laura

        • Kat
          September 26, 2013 at 7:41 am

          Hi Laura,

          You definitely will need to turn the shot off on this machine; for a single shot dosage of 7 – 10 grams, you want to extract around 1 oz / 30ml of water; on a double, your coffee dosage should be around 14 – 18 grams and your shot volume should be around 2 oz / 60ml of water. This machine’s basket is pressurized, so you can’t really dial it in based on timing, rather, you should do so by flavor. Once your shot has reached the 1 oz or 2 oz volume, turn it off — if it tastes a little sour / week, make your grind more fine or tamp your coffee more firmly; if it tastes bitter or too intense, then your coffee is too fine so make it more coarse or lighten up your tamp a bit.

          The milk steaming side of things is generally a little messy, even on the best machines! I’d recommend playing around with it a bit more before making a full decision on whether or not to upgrade; the machine itself can produce great quality, but takes a little practice. This same practice (and more) can apply to other machines, so it’s time well spent :)

          Let me know if you have any other questions — hope this helped!
          Kat

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