DeLonghi EC 685 Portafilter Machine Review 2021: Back to Basics And Beyond

Is this déjà vu? Not quite – even if it was almost exactly three years ago that I last got my hands on a good, solid espresso machine in the bare-basics, entry-level category for under $350 from DeLonghi.

DeLonghi EC685.BK Espressomaschine Ubersicht

Is this déjà vu? Not quite – even if it was almost exactly three years ago that I last got my hands on a good, solid espresso machine in the bare-basics, entry-level category for under $350 from DeLonghi.

Back then, I was pretty enthusiastic about the DeLonghi EC 680 Dedica because it delivered sound functionality at a low price point.

In the interim, DeLonghi have tried to make lemonade out of the lemons it has launched on cheapo portafilter market. No such luck. Not that it’s surpring, since geniune espresso requires quality portafilter machine parts. And it’s real challenge eking quality out of $350.

You can't Argue with that Price

DeLonghi EC 685

Delivers all you can expect for the price.

Compact and affordable

Useful settings

Easy operation

Good espresso and milk froth

For beginners only

The DeLonghi EC685.BK portafilter machine is the direct successor to the 680. And I have to say, you can’t ask for more at that price. It puts in an impressive performance.

But if you already own a 680, there’s no reason to upgrade to the 685. There’s not much to separate the two.

The DeLonghi EC685 at a Glance – Sorting through Colors and Models

When it comes to slapping new, indecipherable model names on what is really the same machine, DeLonghi is the reigning champ. One clue to solving the 685 puzzle lies in the all-important letters following the numbers.

The DeLonghi EC685.M is the “Metallic” look version, while the DeLonghi EC685.BK I reviewed has a “BlacK” casing. If your tastes stretch to the more flamboyant, it’s also available in white and red.

The DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine

For reasons that escape us, prices vary by color. The differences are small and considering how affordable the appliance already is, shouldn’t factor into your decision making.

I went for the black – actually it’s more like slate gray and way slicker than it looks on the product page. You can see this much more clearly in the video, which is unfortunately only available in German.

Difference, what difference? Comparing the DeLonghi EC685 to the EC860

I always do my best to approach a new review as a blank slate – even if I know the predecessor product well. Which is no mean feat considering that the EC685 is practically identical to the EC680.

To spot the biggest difference, look at the milk wand. The 680 originally featured a simple panarello adapter.

The milk wand on the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

This “auto-frother” makes handling the wand easier for froth freshmen. Because it doesn’t matter how deep you dunk the wand or it’s postion in the pitcher. By automatically infusing the milk with just the right proportion of air, you’re assured of microfoam.

On the new 685, this adapter has been given an upgrade. With a single click, you can select the “Cappuccino” setting for milk froth or the “Hot Milk” version without bubbles. It’s a pretty nifty solution because it allows you to create other hot, foam-free beverages.

All the portafilter machine’s other tech specs and accessories, such as portafilters, are exactly the same. At least as far as I can tell. How about you? Found another way of separating the twins?

PDF Operating Instructions for the DeLonghi 685

As a blast from the blog’s past, I’m once again putting the PDF operating instructions for the EC685.BK right at your fingertips. It’s worth taking a look, especially for the initial setup. But with such a simple machine, you can file and forget them after that.

Tech Specs: Made for Beginners with a Capital B

Much like just about every entry-level portafilter machine, the EC685.BK successfully creates a veneer of professionalism around certain features. My absolute favorite bit of BS is the 15 bar pressure spec. Wow, now that’s a head of steam you might think. Imagine what that’ll mean, especially for the milk froth.

CategoryEntry
ManufacturerDeLonghi
NameEC685.BK
TypePortafilter machine with thermoblock
Water tank capacity0.29 gallons
Removable water tankYes
Operation/indicatorsButtons, lights
Pre-infusionNo
Water filterNo
Milk frothing systemSemi-automatic steam wand
Hot water spoutYes
Double espresso optionYes
Casing materialStainless steel
In-the-box accessoriesTamper incl. measuring scoop, 1- & 2-cup double-walled basket, pod basket
Weight9.3 pounds
Dimensions (L x W x H)13 x 5.9 x 12 inches

It comes with a lot of big buts. As is true of super-automatic espresso machines, this figure is the actually the pump’s maximum output. That’s what it can generate in theory. But it’s unlikely to push the needle that far because the rest of the machine isn’t built for it.

Reality check No. 2: To pull a good shot espresso, you need 9 bar at the portafilter. No more, no less. A number of factors – inside and outside the machine – come together to produce that result.

To do that, a dinky espresso machine like the DeLonghi EC685.BK takes massive strain. And pulls a bit of fast one.

Genuine reasons to feel pleased with your purchase include three temperature settings as well as the ability to steplessly (!) adjust cup volume. Not only is this really useful but it’s also super easy to tweak it by tiny fractions of an ounce depending on your choice of beans. Nothing fast and loose about that.

Operating the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine

Box Score: Nifty Extras like Double-Walled Baskets to Boost Pressure

Getting back to those pressure boosting cheats I mentioned. Take a closer look at the portafilter. The baskets are easy enough to switch out and are suitable for single or double shots of espresso.

But what’s with the weird shape and extra-deep handles you get with the DeLonghi EC685, you ask? They look so different to the pro versions because they’re designed to accommodate double-walled baskets.

The inside of a portafilter handle you get with the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

From the top, double-walled baskets aren’t very different from their pro cousins. For comparison, see what you get with the Rancilio Silvia, for instance. But flip them upside down and you’ll see they have very few holes or even just a single one at the base.

The underside of the baskets you get with the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

Even with insifficient pressure at the brew head, double-walled baskets with their minimal holes let you fudge your way to decent extraction and a fairly stable crema. That’s because they “simulate” the necessary pressure after the fact in the portafilter itself.

For those with serious skills, this not only falls far short of pro-barista standards but also savages your chosen beans’ flavor profile. But is that really an issue on a machine of this kind? Nah, not really.

Not when the DeLonghi EC685.BK with its single boiler and thermoblock is hot for your shot in no time. If you’d like to know more about the differences between a single boiler and heat exchanger along as well as a thermoblock’s pros and cons, check out my detailed ultimate guide to espresso machines.

Replacing the Baskets: Good Move, Bad Move?

If you refuse to settle for anything less than the “real” thing, you can get 51-milimeter-diameter replacement baskets on Amazon. But it requires some DIY – and brute force – to modify the portafilter, at least for the double basket.

My humble opinion? Total waste of time on a machine at that price point. All you’re doing is exposing the entry-level machine’s inherent weaknesses when the cheat baskets provide such a good band-aid.

Rather direct those energies into getting yourself a decent tamper with the right diameter. What’s in the box is absolute junk. It is made of pathetically flimsy plastic. To add insult to injury, there’s a measuring scoop stuck to its rear end.

Comparing the tamper from the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine with something more substantial

It went straoight into a dark corner where it won’t see the light of day since it’s completely useless for compressing coffee grounds in a portafilter. When it comes to manual compacting, anything less than solid metal is a of a wuss of a tamper.

Aside from that, the DeLonghi EC685.BK comes with the usual standard equipment – including a compact 0.29-gallon removable water tank and a removable drip tray for coffee and water.

Barista Arne with the water tank from the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

Dialing in the DeLonghi EC685.BK: Six Ways from Sunday

You’ve got to love a machine that makes proper espresso. And that ‘s not all. Compared to a super-automatic espresso machine, you can really dig into the calibrations. Set up or mess up, the machine won’t hold it against you.

With a fully automatic machine, you have to obsessively fine-tune grind size, adjust cup volume and temperature as well as perhaps the coffee dosage. And when you’ve finally hit the sweet spot, there’s no way in hell you’re going through all that again.

Making cappucino with the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

With a machine like the DeLonghi EC685.BK, you can theoretically rejig your settings every other day. No sweat.

Of course, the main reason for that is you have to buy and calibrate a separate grinder. And since a top-notch grinder is key to good coffee, you should literally put your money where your mouth is and spend at least as much on the DeLonghi EC685, if not more.

Get a quality mill from the start and it will still be with you when years down the line – even when you’re are fed up with entry level and finally buy a “real” portafilter machine.

My pick of the grinder brands for newbies was and is Baratza. The Baratza Encore is a useful mill that’s earned it’s stripes.

DeLonghi has also gone out of its way to make it easy to bump things up or down a notch on the key components of the EC685. Which is not to say it’s better than premium portafilter machines, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Temperature Settings

There are three brewing temperature options. I’ve christened them “completely useless,” “useless” and “the only choice.” Even at the hottest setting, the espresso seems lukewarm to me. At least, it approaches the ideal espresso temperature.

Using a thermometer on espresso from the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

Temperature isn’t just a key factor in the cup, it’s also a snapshot of boiler performance and how efficiently an espresso machine’s hoses etc. work as a cooling system. Here, the DeLonghi EC685 can’t hide its true, entry-level colors.

Speaking (and Setting) Volumes

Most portafilter machines – and the DeLonghi EC685 is no different – let you easily tweak and re-tweak the quantity of coffee delivered into your cup. Simply press the shot button and hold it down until you have the right volume. The machine then “saves” this quantity.

As with its predecessor, this works like a charm. Just remember that adding or subtracting a fraction of an ounce of grounds or getting a bit sloppy with the grinding and tamping will throw out the shot volume.

So first check the grinder and your tamping technique before getting sucked into a vicious resetting cycle.

Barista Arne contemplates the tamper in the box with the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine

What's Espresso from the EC685 Like?

Putting aside my temperature tantrums and the fact that you can’t blame the DeLonghi EC685 if your grinder is junk or badly calibrated, expect very drinkable espresso. The crema is superficially clean. Again, the machine puts its diversionary tactics to good use.

A freshly pulled shot from the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine.

You should definitely warm your cups. The (passive) cup warming tray on top of the machine is perfect for the job since it gets surprisingly toasty. Alternatively, use hot water from the steam wand. Just turn the dial on the side.

What's the Milk Froth from the EC685 Like?

Pitcher under steam wand, switch to cappuccino and hey presto milk froth. Well almost. The DeLonghi EC685 is also incredibly beginner-friendly in this respect. By their nature, single boilers require that you know and do a few things pre- and post-frothing.

Frothing milk with the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine

Prepping for Milk Froth

In order to turn the hot water for the extraction into even hotter steam for milk froth, the portafilter has to increase its temperature. This only happens this when you press the steam button. Then you have to sit tight until the lights stop furiously flashing.

Hot water coming out of the steam wand on the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine

Get impatient and turn the dial without allowing the additional heating time and all you’ll get is hot water at brewing temperature. This definitely has its uses and isn’t just an “accidental” this function.

Before dunking the milk wand with its panarello in the pitcher, aim the pre-heated wand over the drip tray to flush it.

This is especially important because a fair squirt of residual water will come out before the steam. And you don’t want that in your milk. Every extra drop of water is going to mess with your microfroam.

All that’s left for you to do is keep a hand on the pitcher to judge when the milk’s temperature is spot on. Yes, a thermometer is always an option, but the finger version is (literally) a good rule of thumb. As soon as it starts (!) getting too hot to handle, switch off the wand.

Freshly frothed milk from the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine

Don’t forget to wipe any milk off the wand immediately afterwards with a clean cloth reserved especially for this purpose. Then, flush once more into the cloth. Hot milk hardens into gunk before you know it.

Black to White and Back: Temperature Surfing

Once the machine has heated up enough to produce steam, it’s difficult to drop the mercury down to optimal espresso temperature. If the boiler is too hot, the DeLonghi EC685 will alert you via the coffee buttons’ furious blinking.

It’s possible to speed up the cooling process by temperature surfing. Briefly release water from the group head by pressing the espresso shot button without inserting a portafilter. Then give it a moment to work its way back up to the correct temperature.

That makes it sound more complicated than it is. What’s really important to remember is that you should never, ever make espresso with the water boiled to create steam.

Cleaning: What Done Already?

When it comes to the dreaded c-word, the DeLonghi EC685.BK is as low maintenance as any other portafilter machine. After each shot, you have to remove the portafilter and knock out the coffee puck. At the same time, you rinse coffee grounds from the shower screen by releasing a shot of water and cleaning with a brush. That’s basically it.

DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine descaler

But don’t neglect the water tank and drip tray. Rinse them daily under running water and dry them well afterwards.

In the hygiene stakes, all espresso machines across the price spectrum score almost always score an A+.

By the way: It doesn’t matter whether your machine is a cheapo cheater or choice producer of the real McCoy, the dishwasher is an absolute no-go for your portafilter handles. Especially when, as is true of the DeLonghi EC685, there are plenty of cheap alloys and plastic in the mix.

Verdict on the DeLonghi EC685.BK: Update or not, it's a Success

I’m happy to report, that as with the 680 before it, it’s hard to knock the DeLonghi EC685.BK espresso machine. For some time now, I’ve had my eye out for positive developments in the portafilter segment at the $350 price point.

You can't Argue with that Price

DeLonghi EC 685

Delivers all you can expect for the price.

Compact and affordable

Useful settings

Easy operation

Good espresso and milk froth

For beginners only

If you ask me whether the DeLonghi EC685 is the best portafilter machine for beginners, my answer is a categorical no. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is actually a successful “tester.” The Rancilio Silvia, for one, is a proper entry-level machine.

In contrast, the DeLonghi model is more of a bargain basement version of the Breville Bambino Plus and other portafilters of the kind that use automation to help even the most fumbling freshman barista find their feet.

Barista Arne with a fresh espresso from the DeLonghi EC685.BK.

Step up a level and there’ll be a lot less hand-holding than with the DeLonghi or Breville. Then again, you probably won’t need or want it anymore. The Delonghi EC685 isn’t intended to be the last word on brewing espresso. By those standards, it’s A-OK.

Any nagging questions or snorts of disagreement? Don’t stew over them, the comments section is ready and waiting.

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