Having an automatic espresso machine is great. Turn the dial to the type of coffee you want, press a button and out comes the most delicious coffee. Many of the machines also have an app where recipes can be adjusted with the desired amount and strength. Busy parents with young children will love this machine as they rush out the door in the morning with a thermos in hand – and a screaming toddler clinging to each leg.
Intense cold brew, sweet iced coffee or warm, aromatic cappuccino? The new DeLonghi can do it all.
But if you want and are able to spend a little more time on your coffee brewing, you won’t regret investing in a manual machine. Like the La Specialista Maestro EC9865.M. In reality, it’s semi-manual because it has some time-saving automatic features.
La Specialista is the name of De’Longhi’s top range of manual coffee machines. Because you have to be a bit of a specialist, or at least have a little extra interest in making good coffee. But at the end of the day, it’s not that difficult. It’s just a matter of not being intimidated by the coffee filter with the row of handles that need to be moved from one place to another on the machine in the middle of the process. The filter, often called the portafilter, is what makes people stare at you in awe as you grind, turn the handle, move it and reattach it before the delicious coffee flows through and into the cup.
Maestro is the flagship of the range, and a variant has just been launched that can also make Cold Brew. That’s the one we’re reviewing here.
What is Cold Brew?
Cold Brew sounds a lot like cold coffee. Well, it is. But where coffee is usually brewed in the usual way and then cooled down to fridge temperature, Cold Brew is brewed with cold water all the way. It’s a slow process as it often takes hours to get all the good flavors out of the coffee. It should be made from dark espresso beans to get the most and best flavor out of the coffee. In the end, you’re rewarded with a cold coffee that tastes extra round and aromatic, with more than a hint of chocolate.
Record-breaking cold brew
The Cold Brew version of La Specialista Maestro is called EC9865.M and it manages to conjure up a cup of Cold Brew in just 5 minutes! The secret lies in a special brewing technique that De’Longhi won’t fully disclose. But an important part is also the special filter used for the occasion. It is more finely perforated than the hot brew filter and is also sealed with a rubber ring to prevent grounds from getting into the coffee.
Remember ice cubes in the glass and fresh tap water when brewing cold!
Perfectly ground – the way you want it
Set on the machine how finely you want your coffee ground and how much coffee powder you want. If you want large cups, press the X2 button and make sure you use the large filter. There is a smaller filter for single, small portions, but I’ve honestly never used it. I always go for a double espresso or a large Americano or Cappuccino, so I never bother using the small filter. But it’s nice that it is included, and in case you’re wondering: Yes, it also comes with two sizes of filters for Cold Brew, so four filters in total.
Setting the right grind and the desired amount can be tricky. Start with what it says in the instructions, which states that Espresso should have a medium grind. Personally, I like to set it a little finer when grinding my favorite beans: Lavazza Espresso Barista Gran Crema. It makes for a nice, creamy coffee with a rather intense flavor.
I set the volume to 18 out of a total of 30 steps. In my experience, anything above 20 makes it difficult to attach the portafilter under the water outlet. It’s also too strong, so I set it to 18. You’ll still get plenty of flavor, don’t doubt that for a second!
Finally, the temperature can also be adjusted in five steps. Once you’ve set the desired temperature, the machine has so-called active temperature control, which constantly ensures a stable temperature all the way to the cup.
Easy to brew
Once the settings are in place, it’s time to get started. Turn on the machine. Attach the portafilter under the bean grinder. When the filter is locked, grinding will start automatically. When the grinding is complete, remember to pull the tamper handle. Preferably twice to ensure that the coffee powder has been tamped well into the filter. Then release the handle and move the filter to below the water outlet in the center of the machine. Select the desired brew with the wheel on the right side of the front panel and press the OK button.
When the brew is ready, loosen the portafilter, scrape out the coffee grounds with a plastic spoon or the included plastic scoop and you’re ready to enjoy.
As you’ll need different filters for cold and hot brewing, it’s important to choose the right filter before grinding the beans.
Great coffee with the La Specialista Maestro Cold Brew
I have to say that this machine makes really delicious coffee! It gets more layers of flavor out of the beans than even the best machines in last year’s group test of smart automatic coffee machines. I’m discovering a new dimension to the coffee beans I thought I knew so well.
And Cold Brew, which I feared would be flat in taste, is so round and chocolatey in flavor that it’s hard to decide whether I want a hot or cold cup of coffee. So it’s tempting to drink a double cup of Cold Brew first before finishing with an equally double cup of pure, hot enjoyment. So, let’s just say that the caffeine kick makes my body tingle…
There are also three options for brewing with milk: Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato and Flat White. The difference between these lies in the amount of steamed milk and milk foam and the order in which they are added to the cup.
Pour milk into the stylish brushed steel milk container and connect it to the machine. If you select one of the three options, steaming and brewing will happen automatically. The milk froth will be smooth and delicious.
Steaming can also be done manually with a long outlet that goes into the milk container. Make sure to hold the container at an angle and find the right angle so that the milk starts swirling in a circle. This process is much easier with whole milk than with skimmed milk. For this process, choose to brew a regular or double espresso, but use a large cup. For Macchiato, add the milk first, then the coffee. Flat White always needs the milk at the end, while I’ve seen people do it both ways with Cappuccino.
Great coffee – but what are the downsides?
Coffee is truly addictive with this coffee maker. But there are things to consider.
The fact that the machine is manual means you have to be standing by it throughout the brewing process as it involves several steps. This can feel like a burden and busy people often prefer an automatic machine. However, operating a La Specialista is actually not difficult.
The machine is also large. It fits one and a half standard widths, but with the grinder on top, the machine is two centimeters too high to fit below the top cabinet in my kitchen. That’s the standard height plus a ledge underneath, leaving a 45 cm gap between the top of the worktop and the bottom edge of the ledge. I’m hardly the only one with such a solution, which makes the overall height of the machine, 46.5 cm, feel ill-conceived. So be sure to measure if you plan to install it underneath a wall cabinet!
The De’Longhi La Specialista Maestro EC9865.M makes truly amazing coffee! It’s much easier to use than I feared when I started the test and the brewing process is very quick. You just need to grind and press the coffee first. Cold brewing takes more than twice as long as hot brewing, but 5 minutes is still impressively fast.
This is the machine for those who want to spend a little extra time brewing coffee, but without the hassle. It also offers much more control over grind, volume and heat than the automatic machines.
The machine is definitely for specialists, but the investment pays off in the form of exceptionally good coffee.