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De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart review: A good bean-to-cup machine for under £500

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Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
449
inc VAT

A stylish, nicely designed bean-to-cup machine for under £500 – but longer coffees aren't the best

Pros 
Good looks and build quality
Makes a decent espresso
Easy to use
Cons 
Default settings need tweaking
Long coffee can be bitter
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De'Longhi Magnifica S Smart now only £349 at John Lewis

This is one of our favourite sensibly priced bean-to-cup machines. It's good value at its £449 RRP, and it's even better value now that the price has tumbled down to £349. If you're after one this Christmas, then is a good time to pick one up.

If you’re wondering how De’Longhi has managed to serve up a “smart” bean-to-cup machine for less than £500, then wonder no longer: the Magnifica S Smart isn’t smart in the modern Wi-Fi connected sense at all.

What it is, however, is a smart buy. Once you’ve added fresh coffee beans and got the settings just so, this is a machine that produces a good – if not magnificent – coffee with a minimum of fuss.

De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart review: What you need to know

The Magnifica S Smart is a standard bean-to-cup coffee machine. Pop coffee beans in the hopper up top, fill the tank with water and it will deliver espresso or longer black coffees at the touch of a button.

Milk frothing is a manual affair but the steam wand is designed for beginners. There’s no expertise required here at all, and even a complete novice can make a serviceable latte or cappuccino with minimal effort.

If you don’t want to take the time to master a manual machine, the Magnifica S Smart is one of the best automatic options under the £500 mark.

De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart review: Price and competition

If you want to spend even less on a bean-to-cup machine, then our go-to option is the Gaggia Naviglio. Retailing at around £329, it’s the cheapest bean-to-cup machine we’d recommend. With a little tweaking, coffee quality is good, even if the design is now showing its age: lumpen looks and plasticky build don’t set the heart racing.


Upgrade to the Magnifica S Smart here, however, and you get a far sturdier and more handsome machine. The strength dial is a really nice touch – it makes it easy for anyone in the household to adjust coffee strength and without needing to digest the user manual beforehand.

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If, however, you want a machine that can serve up a milk-based coffee, cappuccino or latte at the touch of the button, then you’ll need to spend nearer £700. If that’s what you’re after, then you should consider Melitta’s Barista TS Smart. It delivers genuinely smart features thanks to the Melitta Connect app, and serves up hassle-free milk-based coffees on demand.


De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart review: Features and design

Compared to some models we’ve seen at the price, the Magnifica S Smart is a cut above the average. It’s moderately stylish, doesn’t take up too much room on the kitchen counter, and the build quality seals the deal: the water tank, drip tray and grounds bin all slot home with a reassuringly solid feel.

The controls are nice and simple, too. There are buttons for espresso, 2x espresso, coffee and long coffee, and you can adjust the strength of each with the rotary dial in the centre. Crank it to 11 for a stronger morning brew, or dial it down for an afternoon cup — it’s up to you.

Once you've decided, a prod of a button efficiently grinds, brews and delivers coffee to your cup. The manual milk frothing adds a little more effort but the flip side is there’s no carafe or milk delivery system to faff around with and clean.

The bean hopper out back holds 250g of beans – just enough to hold a full bag from most roasters – and you can always resort to ground coffee by pouring a single scoop of coffee into the single-serving chute. The 1.8-litre water tank is big enough for a good few coffees, too, and comes with a water filter in the box. For the money, this machine has everything most people need.

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De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart review: Performance

Straight from the box, the De’Longhi didn’t impress. I added some good-quality medium-roast beans, the Signature blend from Black Cat Coffee, but the first few espressos were watery, bitter and more like small cups of unpleasant filter coffee.

I slowly increased the strength dial turn by turn and pulled a few more espressos just to give the machine a little time to settle in, but that didn’t remedy matters completely – I also had to adjust the grind size a few steps finer.

READ NEXT: The best coffee pod machines you can buy

Thankfully, it’s easy to adjust grind size on this machine: where some rivals require a fiddly tool, the De’Longhi allows you to simply turn the dial with your fingers. The only proviso is that it should only be adjusted when the grinder is running, and the manual advises users to adjust it one step at a time, giving the settings time to bed in.

With that done, the results were much improved. The espresso was still too thin and watery, however, so I used the option to manually adjust how much water the machine uses for each espresso shot. Reducing it a little helped matters immeasurably, and the result was a tasty espresso with a pleasant flavour and texture.

It’s essential to adjust grind size and tweak the strength dial to suit different coffee beans, but it’s easily done once you get the hang of it and, in any case, it’s something you’d need to do on any machine to obtain the best results.

If you’re after a longer coffee, however, then you may not always find the coffee and long coffee presets are to your taste. Where pricier machines pour an espresso (or two) and then add hot water to create a longer coffee, the De’Longhi simply passes more water through the ground coffee. The upshot is that it has a tendency to taste bitter.

For the best results, pouring a single or double espresso separately, then placing the cup under the steam wand and manually using the hot water setting to top it up produces the better results.

READ NEXT: The latest coffee machine deals

Talking of which, the steam wand is a far cry from those found on better manual machines. Instead, it’s designed to be as foolproof as possible. Slide the collar on the wand to “Cappuccino” and all you need to do is pop it into a jug of cold milk and turn it on: the result is hot, frothy milk. You don’t get the deliciously silky microfoam that you can coax out with a proper manual wand – or the automatic milk-frothing options on Sage’s manual espresso machines for that matter – but it’s okay.

If you want hot milk without the froth, you simply slide the collar to the hot milk position, turn on the steam and wait. The results may not be top drawer, but it's consistent and easy to use.

De’Longhi Magnifica S Smart review: Verdict

For under £500, this is as good as bean-to-cup machines get; you'd have to almost double your budget to get significantly better results.

Take a little time to get the settings just so, and the Magnifica S Smart rewards with consistently tasty coffee with the bare minimum of fuss. Factor in the handy strength dial, smart looks and good-quality build, and De’Longhi is onto a winner.

Buy now from John Lewis