The De’Longhi Maestosa offers convenience, luxury and fine coffee but the price is just too high
- Great array of drink options
- The app provides luxury options
- After some tweaking the coffee produced is impressive
- There’s no milk cooler nor the option to upgrade it
For many people, coffee comes in one of two ways – with milk or without. For true aficionados, however, the right bean, the perfect grind and painstaking attention to detail can be the difference between morning fuel and morning gruel. With the Maestosa, De’Longhi claims it has created the ultimate in bean-to-cup coffee machines – one that can deliver “coffee shop quality” drinks at the touch of a button.
De’Longhi Maestosa review: What you need to know
With a 5in touchscreen, smartphone control, dual hoppers for your beans and the ability to tailor beverages to your exact liking, this is De’Longhi’s definition of a no-compromise bean-to-cup coffee machine.
If you like the idea of having a vast array of milk-based coffee drinks just a button press away – cappuccino, flat white, espresso, latte, mocha and many more – then this could be the machine for you.
In fact, there aren’t many types of coffee this machine can’t make. Fancy a jug of filter coffee? No problem. Stick a jug under the Maestosa’s twin spouts and it’ll whip one up from freshly ground coffee. Fancy an iced coffee? Simple. Pop ice in the MixCarafe, press the button and let the Maestosa do the rest. How about a hot chocolate? Too easy.
De’Longhi Maestosa review: Price and competition
The only catch – and it’s a big one – is the price, which at £2,625 sets the Maestosa up against the very best. At this price, you can choose from any number of high-end bean-to-cup rivals, such as the capable £1,400 Jura S8.
The Jura S8 might only have a single bean hopper but it’s a fully automatic bean-to-cup machine that offers a wide range of milk-based coffee drinks and remote control via a smartphone app. One major plus point over the De’Longhi is that you can upgrade it with a refrigerated milk container from Jura’s Cool Control range (prices range from £190 to £330) so milk stays fresh throughout the day. This is one an upgrade path the Maestosa lacks.
If you’re willing to put a little more effort in, however, then you should consider one of the new breed of manual espresso machines such as the Sage Oracle Touch (£2,000). If you’ve been scared off manual espresso machines, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the Oracle has a semi-automatic twist. You still have to go through the process manually, grinding beans, tamping them down and twisting the portafilter into place, but it guides you through the process with its large touchscreen and – if you want it to – automatically steams the milk to perfection. You still have to create and combine the espresso and milk manually, but the results are markedly superior to any bean to cup machine.
De’Longhi Maestosa review: Design and features
From afar, the De’Longhi Maestosa looks impressive. The combination of chrome, gloss black, glass and plastic gives it a real air of luxury. It’s a pretty big machine by any yardstick but the slick, squared-off design means that it doesn’t seem quite as imposing as its dimensions suggest.
Look closer and the corrugated chrome-coloured plastic does look a little cheap – which is disappointing at this price level. The glass and metal parts also tend to pick up fingerprints and smudges, and when using the steam wand the whole unit has a tendency to become cloudy with condensation. The only way to keep the machine looking pristine is to wipe it clean after each use.
The large 5in colour touchscreen display takes centre stage, and the pair of height-adjustable spouts slide smoothly up and down on the front panel. To the left of these spouts, there’s a connection point for the various accessories. You can click a steam wand into place if you prefer to manually froth milk in a jug, add De’Longhi’s LatteCrema system for automatic milk frothing and one-touch milk-based coffees, or you can attach the MixCarafe for making hot chocolates or iced coffee. (Yes, you do have to manually add ice cubes.)
The twin bean hoppers are found on the top rear of the machine, and each holds up to 290g of beans. The only mild annoyance is that you may need to slide the machine out to fill them if the Maestosa is squeezed under a kitchen cupboard unit.
Press a small button on the side of the front panel and the door swings open. Here, you can access the 2.1-litre water tank and slide out the drip tray and receptacle for the spent coffee grounds. It’s good to get into a habit of cleaning these out daily unless you want mouldy coffee grounds sitting inside the machine, and De’Longhi also recommend that you open the side panel and clean the infuser at least once a month. It also recommends you remove all the various trays and vacuum the insides to remove any stray coffee grounds which may have slipped through the net.
Elsewhere, the Maestosa has a number of other small, significant, features. First, being able to use ground coffee is a convenient touch. The process is a little more fiddly than using beans but the results are fundamentally the same. Second, when the water sensor sees that the tank is running low, you can refill the Maestosa mid-brew using a small funnel that pops out the side. Similarly, you can top up the milk without having to unclip the LatteCrema system. In addition, the app warns you when the beans container and water tank is running low, and alerts you when you need to empty the grounds tray.
De’Longhi Maestosa review: Ease of use
At first, the De’Longhi Maestosa is a tad intimidating. The elegant design means it isn’t immediately obvious where the hoppers are, how to add ground coffee, or where you can top up the water tank. The confusing manual only makes things worse.
However, it doesn’t take too long to get to grips with the machine and its various compartments and, from that point on, using the Maestosa is straightforward. The touchscreen is bright, clear and responds quickly to every prod. Choosing drinks is easy, too, and the pictures of each beverage type are particularly helpful if you don’t quite know your latte from your latte macchiato.
You simply scroll through the options using onscreen arrows and tap the picture to select the drink. Or you can personalise each drink by pressing the plus symbol – and this is where things get interesting.
From this screen you can select a variety of options such as which hopper the beans come from and the desired “aroma”, although this should really be called strength, as it controls how much coffee is used. It’s also possible to set the coffee’s temperature, how much of it you want and how frothy you want your drink to be.
You can also make these choices from the app and saving your preferences to your profile syncs the settings on your phone and the machine. Furthermore, if you tap the ‘my’ button on each drink profile, you can also program exactly how much coffee and milk is dispensed and save the results.
The layout of the app is similar to the onscreen display, which makes it easy to switch from one to the other. To make a drink, press the Prepare button or customise each beverage by clicking on its picture and tweaking the various options. Some types of drinks you can make two of at once and, because the machine can be controlled remotely, you can leave a cup under the spouts at night and “order” a coffee first thing in the morning while you’re lying in bed. Peak luxury in other words.
There’s only one problem here: the LatteCrema system doesn’t chill the milk. This means it isn’t wise to put milk in the container the night before unless you fancy a sour, lumpy cappuccino. And you can’t make drinks using ground coffee remotely either. To do the latter, you need to select ground coffee as the source, add a single measure each time and then make your selection.
Still, despite the lack of built-in chilling, the LatteCrema and MixCarafe systems do work well. The MixCarafe can be used to whisk hot chocolate, and blitz ice for cold brews using various attachments. These recipes can be a little fiddly – and are not always worth the effort considering you can just make a hot chocolate in the microwave – but it’s a nice addition. And the results are really very good indeed.
The LatteCrema system produces perfectly steamed milk every time and provides plenty of control over how much froth you want on your cappuccino. The only issue is that the volume of milk dispensed is determined by time rather than in millilitres. This means very little in context and was the part of the machine that took the most tweaking and experimenting to get right. And, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a shame the system can’t be chilled in someway, given just how much this machine costs.
De’Longhi Maestosa review: Performance
The most important part, however, is the Maestosa’s coffee-making skills and on that front its impressive. Whether it’s ground coffee, cheap supermarket beans or the very finest artisanal roasts, the Maestosa can knock up a high quality cup of coffee with practically zero effort. The milk is well steamed with a reasonably rich, fluffy texture, something that can be hard to create manually, and the results are as good as we’ve tasted from any bean-to-cup machine. The milk isn’t as consistently silky and creamy as is possible with a steam wand on a manual espresso machine but it’s not a million miles off.
If you’re one of those people for whom very good isn’t good enough, however, then we recommend spending some time judiciously tweaking the settings, and this is one of the key strengths of this machine. I spent several hours comparing the results from the Maestosa directly against Sage’s £599 Barista Pro and, as is so often the case with bean-to-cup machines, it took a fair bit of effort to get the Maestosa to produce anywhere near the same depth of flavour and texture, but the effort did pay off in the end.
Given that a top-quality shot of espresso is the bedrock of most milk-based coffees, that’s where I concentrated all our my efforts. At default settings, the Maestosa produced shots that were a touch watery and lacking in strength and body. Dialing the Aroma setting to maximum improved matters considerably and it was easy to work out why: weighing the wet pucks of coffee in the grounds tray showed the machine was using twice the amount of coffee for every shot compared to the minimum Aroma setting.
The shots of espresso still weren’t on a par with the manual machine, however, and further investigation revealed that this was because the Maestosa was simply using too much water. Our selection of beans from Clifton Coffee company recommend around a 2:1 extraction ratio: that is, you’d want to use 18 grams of coffee to make around 36 grams of espresso. Even with the Maestosa’s Aroma setting cranked to maximum and the Quantity setting dialled down to minimum, we estimated it was using around a 3:1 ratio.
Granted, a 3:1 ratio remains the standard ratio for Italian espresso but most of the espresso blends from current UK roasters recommend 2:1 as a starting point. And that’s the point where you’ll get the perfect balance between the coffee’s sour, sweet and bitter notes. If you want the Maestosa to deliver that, then there’s a simple solution: reach for a set of scales and use the machines “my” customisation options to tailor the exact amount of coffee delivered.
I did also wonder whether the lack of flavour was partly because the espresso was being delivered far too quickly – normally a sign of too coarse a grind – so I started to dial down the grind size in the settings menu. It wasn’t until I selected the very finest two grind sizes that the espresso began to come through like thick, flowing honey, and the brewing time went from around 12 seconds to just over 20 – much closer to the ideal time required to draw out all the flavours from the coffee.
The results of all these tweaks? An espresso with a thick crema and a rich, balanced flavour. It was finally getting much closer to the complexity and depth of flavour I was getting from the shots made with the manual machine.
One final word of warning: if you find yourself craving a mug of espresso, then don’t be tempted to crank up the Quantity setting to max and expect great results. In our tests, increasing the espresso Quantity setting above the minimum didn’t increase the amount of ground coffee used – the machine uses around 11g to 12g of coffee for every size of shot whatever setting is used.
Set the Quantity to maximum, for instance, and you’ll get around 120ml of watery, overextracted “espresso”. Pour a dash of milk on top of that and, frankly, you’ve got a drink that’s closer to a filter coffee than an espresso-based drink. If you really, really want (or need) a quadruple espresso hit, then dial the correct settings in and simply make a couple of double shots in a row.
De’Longhi Maestosa review: Verdict
When a coffee machine costs as much as a second-hand car, it needs to do something pretty special to be worthy of recommendation – and while the Maestosa certainly is special, it’s a long way from perfection.
Let’s start with the bad points: there’s no milk cooler, nor the option to upgrade it with one, so you may have to painstakingly clean the carafe several times a day depending on how much coffee you’ll be making.
It’s also a tad disappointing that the coffee quality still isn’t as good as a carefully-tweaked and judiciously-controlled manual machine at less than a third of the price. Sure, the Maestosa gets closer than any we’ve tested (and particularly so once you’ve spent some time fiddling with the settings) but, in an ideal world I’d rather not have to spend that time at all when we’re spending the best part of £3,000.
That said, if you’re one of those people who just love to chop and change between different blends and types of coffee, but really can’t be dealing with the hassle of a manual machine, the Maestosa may just be the machine for you. And yes, just to be clear, I’m confident it’ll knock every major high-street coffee shop chain for six, and even if you’re only using half-decent supermarket coffee beans.
Even if you’re a manual espresso machine convert who just wants an automatic machine that can make a great coffee when haven’t got time for manual hassle, then grab that credit card and a bag of the finest beans you can lay your hands on. You may just come away surprised at what the Maestosa is capable of.