DeLonghi La Specialista Hybrid Espresso Machine Review: Calling The Commited & Creatures Of Habit

After working as a professional barista for many years, Arne Preuss founded Coffeeness.

As recently as last year, I predicted that hybrid machines -- a portafilter and super automatic espresso machine rolled into one -- would be the next big thing. And now I can pat myself on the back for being right! Hence, this DeLonghi La Specialista review.

As recently as last year, I predicted that hybrid machines — a portafilter and super automatic espresso machine rolled into one — would be the next big thing. And now I can pat myself on the back for being right! Hence, this DeLonghi La Specialista review.

Gastroback, a brand available exclusively in Europe, was the first to bring out a hybrid or semi-automatic espresso machine. But Breville soon got in on the act with the Oracle Touch and quickly became the new gold standard in crossover machines.

DeLonghi didn’t drag its feet either and showcased its own hybrid dubbed La Specialista at the 2018 Berlin Consumer Electronics Show (IFA). Back then, there were still a few kinks that needed working out and development work on the demo model was clearly still short of the finish line. As a result, the poor promoter wasn’t able to show me how the coffee comes out of the machine.

The DeLonghi La Specialista hit the shelves in May 2019 and currently goes for about $898.95 on Amazon — way less than the Breville Oracle Touch's asking price of $2,749.99.

DeLonghi asked us if we would like to review the La Specialista and provided us with a machine to do so. Nice, yes, but not a good enough reason for us to compromise our principles. It’s still no-holds-barred testing and absolute honesty about the results all the way. Basically, we are not for sale.

Bottom line? DeLonghi can breathe a sigh of relief. Here at Coffeeness, we think that La Specialista is a successful machine that produces bonafide espresso and outstanding milk froth.

As usual, there’s a “but.” You need to be a bit more clued up — or at least willing to learn — about the various factors that make or break espresso. On a sliding scale, the Delonghi La Specialista consequently sits a lot closer to a portafilter than a super automatic espresso machine.

In other words, a total blast if you’re up for it or a bit of a pain in the butt if you’re always trying out new beans.

Which is why, I’m betting that La Specialista will win more fans among the creatures of habit, who prefer a specific espresso bean or roast than those who are always changing it up.

As for the prosumers, they’ll probably feel DeLonghi has skipped over some of the subtleties. Exactly what those are is coming right up.

high performance hybrid

DeLonghi La Specialista

Wakes you up to the art of good espresso — but makes you work for it.

High-quality, super automatic and espresso-machine combo

Intuitive setting options and functions

Fuss-free, fantastic milk froth

Easy cleaning and operation

Very quiet

A lot of work to fine-tune settings

The DeLonghi La Specialista Espresso Machine at a Glance: Functions, Pros and Cons

With its stainless steel bezel surrounding a black control panel that features retro, yet modern knobs and a traditional pressure gauge as the centerpiece, the Delonghi La Specialista is quite the looker.

The control panel on the DeLonghi La Specialista hybrid espresso machine

Amazon also has the espresso machine red version of the DeLonghi La Specialista right now, which would add a sense of style to any kitchen.

DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine red.

This DeLonghi espresso machine oozes quality, especially as its sturdy 29.7 pounds weight and sizable footprint ensure it sits solidly on any surface.

As with all hybrids, the machine is divided into two workstations. The left is dedicated to grinding beans, compacting and dosing, while the right is where you’ll find the brew head, automatic milk wand and hot water outlet.

With a click, the 8.8-ounce bean hopper slides into and out of position above the stainless steel grinder. This means you can easily access the coffee grinder and give it a thorough clean or ensure all residues are removed when changing beans.

The DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine's bean hopper

When the hopper runs low, a symbol will light up on the black control panel indicating that there are insufficient beans for the next shot. On the hopper itself, you’ll find the six grind levels, which can be adjusted via a large slider during operation.

Grinder settings on the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine's bean hopper

Right from the outset, I was leery of the play on this slider and its less than convincing quality. Spoiler alert: it’s all good. There are no issues with setting grind levels. In fact, the grinder works like a charm. When you set it to level 1, it produces an awesome, espresso-quality grind.

Next stop for the fresh grounds is the “smart tamping station.” The portafilter docks securely into place with a click. Unlike on the Breville Oracle Touch, the grounds are not automatically compacted. You have to pull a lever on the left side of the machine. This is something I’ll get back to in a bit.

Compared to the Breville Oracle Touch’s colorful display with its clear functionality, the control panel on the DeLonghi La Specialista is a far more minimalist affair:

  • Rotary dials for setting coffee volumes and specialties
  • Buttons for a double dose of grounds, rinsing, initiating brewing, hot water and customized profiles

The profiles and coffee drinks are basically nothing more than different settings for the water volumes or for the brew to water espresso ratios.

When crafting your espresso, you can choose the volume from a range starting with the traditional, scant 1 ounce to 3 ounces. The machine is preset to 1.2 ounces. For coffee, more water — between 1.7 and 4 fluid ounces — is shot through the coffee puck. If you want an americano, the machine first brews an espresso and then adds hot water. Since the hot water spout is located directly alongside the brew group, you don’t have to get involved in this process.

While this creates the impression that it doesn’t have the same range of functions as the Breville, the DeLonghi La Specialista simply doesn’t dance around the point of a hybrid machine: and that’s producing a specific type of coffee and then preparing milk froth automatically or with your help. Using the basic beverage options, you can then go on to create just about any coffee specialty anyway.

While Breville holds your hand through the process, DeLonghi simply expects you to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. Proudly placed in the middle of the control panel, the pressure gauge, which is so typical of professional portafilter machines, is literally the centerpiece for this approach.

From what I can tell, the group of users most interested in hybrid machines is likely to regard this as a stylish boondoggle. After all, DeLonghi La Specialista branding and marketing is all about trumpeting how the espresso machine handles all the important stuff — pressure, consistent dosing, temperature etc. — automatically.

The pressure gauge on the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine

The gauge isn’t just a decorative crest; it’s a valuable tool for new home baristas to get a feel for the interaction between grind consistency and coffee dosage. But more on that later.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of DIY coffee making and therefore also of pared-down machines with no more than the essentials. But I suspect that at the end of the day, this is an absolute entry-level portafilter machine with a grinder bolted on so that DeLonghi could jump on the hybrid bandwagon.

All of which doesn’t exactly add up to a watertight sales argument like Breville has. The Oracle Touch is a patient teacher that gradually encourages users to make the transition away from automatic features to exploring and taking control.

Instead, DeLonghi throws you in the deep end from the beginning and expects you to swim — or in this case know how to dial in a coffee grinder and espresso machine, as well as what tricks and tweaks will produce the perfect cup.

A glass of espresso stands on a table covered with a coffee sack

Considering that you’re paying significantly less than for the Breville, many will of course be more willing to open their wallets. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot less in the box. Here’s what you get:

  • Portafilter with single and double basket
  • Stainless steel milk pitcher (very, very handy!)
  • Descaling agent
  • Strips to test water hardness
  • Cleaning brush

No — stable — knock box for banging out the used coffee pucks feels like a real oversight to me. I would also have liked to see a blind portafilter basket because this makes deep cleaning the brew group a whole lot easier.

Since the user manual that came with my machine for review was still a demo version, I can’t say for sure if the final retail version contains all the ins and outs you need. But once you know a few basics — and I’m guessing DeLonghi takes those for granted — you hardly need a manual at all.

DeLonghi La Specialista


Model number


Product category

Hybrid espresso machine

Housing material

Stainless steel

Color options

Black, Metallic, Red

Milk frother

Steam wand

User interface

Buttons and dials


User profiles

Memo function only

Portafilter size

51 mm



Removable water reservoir

Water reservoir capacity

67.6 fl oz / 2.0 l

Number of boilers


Pump pressure

19 bar

Maximum cup height

12.0 in / 30.5 cm


Stainless steel conical burr grinder

Grind adjustment levels


Bean hopper capacity

8.8 oz / 250.0 g

Specialty drinks



Adjustable coffee temperature

Adjustable milk foam temperature

2-cup function

Yes (non-milk drinks only)

Hot water function

Hot milk function

Milk foam only option

Water filter

Power consumption

1450 W


29.7 lb / 13.5 kg


17.5 x 15.0 x 14.5 in
44.5 x 38.1 x 36.8 cm


2 years


Included Accessories: Portafilter and baskets, Milk pitcher, Cleaning supplies, Instruction manual.

Current price on Amazon



Dialing In and Preparation

As soon as you plug in the machine and turn on the main switch, the symbols on the DeLonghi La Specialista’s black panel come to life. These self-explanatory icons remind you, for instance, not to forget to tamp or that the bean hopper is almost empty.

The DeLonghi La Specialista with its milk jug, portafilter handle and cleaning equipment

The water tank is a very generous 84.5 fluid ounces. Although it’s located at the back of the machine, lifting it out from the top is easy. After testing out the machine for this review as well as using it to try out various new espresso beans, the tank was not even half empty.

Before you start dialing in your machine, you should first use hot water to rinse all the main moving parts — the bean hopper, portafilter handle, filter baskets etc.

The coffee bean hopper attached to the grinder on top of the DeLonghi La Specialista

To flush the outlets use the button with the water droplets icon to the left of the OK. Or you can just hit OK, as if pulling a shot. It’s also a good idea to rinse the hot water outlet by pressing the teacup button.

And don’t forget to give the huge knob on the right side of the machine a quick turn to blast the milk wand with steam.


  • High-quality, super automatic and espresso-machine combo
  • Intuitive setting options and functions
  • Fuss-free, fantastic milk froth
  • Easy cleaning and operation
  • Very quiet


  • A lot of work to fine-tune settings

Espresso from La Specialista

It was a serious scorcher on the day I did the testing. So, that’s my excuse for taking so long to figure out how to set the grind dosage. Basically, the dial on the left is divided into two key areas. Grind dosage starts on the right and takes up the lion’s share of the circumference, then comes an icon for tamping without grinding.

For starters, I set the dial to the finest consistency and was baffled when the grinder didn’t kick into action. Major facepalm. The portafilter isn’t a problem here. It’s easy to insert and locked cleanly into place on the first attempt.

After having my little aha moment, I set the grind dosage very low. A peek into the portafilter basket revealed that it looked pretty empty. I could still see the ridges inside the basket. According to my draft instruction manual, that’s not enough, but I went ahead and brewed the espresso anyway.

Unsurprisingly, the pale, thin crema melted away faster than snow in the Bahamas. Bit by bit, I increased the dosage until I hit pay dirt about a third of the way along the scale.

I set the grinder to the finest level right from the outset. Since the result was a fine, even grind, there was no need to change it again. By the way, I used seriously dark, oily beans from a Swiss roaster that really aren’t good for anything aside from dialing in your machine.

To be honest, the weird system for setting dosages on the DeLonghi La Specialista was getting on my nerves. The scale doesn’t have enough graduations and the dial is too clunky to really let you get a feel for how much coffee lands up in your portafilter.

Eventually, I got fed up and hauled out my coffee scale. My aim was to get me closer to the optimal 7 grams — about a quarter of an ounce — of coffee grounds and try to get a handle on the thinking behind the machine. Why does the dosage scale go up so high? After all, there’s a separate button for double shots. Still beats me.

To give DeLonghi credit, the ideal dosage for my dark beans was actually 7 grams. So, hooray for that!

Espresso pouring out of the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine and into a glass

Right from the beginning, I was looking forward to the one-armed bandit tamper. Yes, I’m a child at heart and not ashamed of it. The way it works is that a bunch of springs and mechanisms ensure that the built-in tamper exerts just the right amount of pressure to compact the grounds into a clean, evenly formed puck.

Once again, I was initially a bit disappointed. I gently gave the lever a short pull, only to find that the grounds were compressed but the surface wasn’t flat enough. Pulling the lever a second time made the puck too hard.

Finding the sweet spot in terms of lever-action and holding time is going to take some practice. I’ll definitely suggest that DeLonghi includes some tips on this in the manual rather than claiming that the lever does EVERYTHING perfectly on its own, which just isn’t true.

As far as its no-mess promises go, this DeLonghi espresso machine delivers. When used properly, the smart tamping station works spotlessly. I’ve got coffee particles here, there and everywhere — see the pic below — because I kept taking the portafilter out of dock before tamping to check the dosage.

One aspect of the DeLonghi La Specialista that’s worth making a noise about is its volume because it won’t drown you out. Both the grinder and brewing systems are unbelievably quiet. You’re still aware of them but even when running the thing all day long, I wasn’t even a tiny bit worried about the neighbors complaining.

Once you’re over the grinding hurdle, all you have to do is select your beverage on the rotary dial on the right of the control panel, dock the portafilter below the brew head and hit OK.

Out came the espresso. At the right temperature and in an appropriate volume. Check and check. Admittedly, I ultimately reduced the volume back down to the minimum of 25 milliliters (0.85 fluid ounces). In fact, the espresso was even pretty good with the machine left on its factory settings … after a few warm-up shots of course.

Which is not to say that it tasted good. Blame the beans for that. Talking about our stubborn preferences, it’s time I explained this article’s title.

The way I see it, the DeLonghi La Specialista is an espresso maker for creatures of habit who have their favorite roast or beans and can’t imagine drinking anything else. Because the moment you switch from a dark to a light roast or vice versa, you have to start making your adjustments all over again.

Above all, moving from a dark to a roast light coffee makes it painfully clear that the finest grind setting and dark bean dosage are just all wrong. There’s just too much coffee in the basket. How can you tell? The portafilter won’t fit under the brew head anymore.

A cup of espresso under the spout of the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine.

So, it’s back to tweaking, testing and repeating – especially the dosage. Since getting a handle on the dial is so difficult, both literally and figuratively, it’s a real pain in the butt. By this time, I’d had enough. So, I grabbed the Baratza Sette 270W grinder and set the dial to tamp only.

Sure, not everyone likes three different kinds of beans on any given day. But some do like a change. By the same token, users get into a groove with their machines over time so that they know exactly what to do to get their desired results. But if you’re the impatient type, the DeLonghi La Specialista is definitely not for you.

To finish up, I also did the Ikea glass test. This involves trying to get the standard latte macchiato glass under the spout. In this case, it’s a total fail. You can’t even stand it on the draining rack. But since you have to assemble a latte macchiato from its constituent parts anyway, it doesn’t actually matter.

Milk Froth: A Perfect 10

No ifs, ands or buts, I give the DeLonghi hybrid a perfect 10 for its milk froth. The automatic steam wand puts in a faultless performance. It does everything right. I only partially filled the pitcher with soy milk because I forgot to buy moo juice for the review.

Luckily, I could save myself the trouble. Once you’ve put the wand into the milk and turned the big dial on the right side of the machine, you can sit back and relax. The machine works in a controlled way to quietly whip up microfoam with a lovely, even consistency.

A milky coffee next to the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine's steam wand and pitcher.

To alter the texture, simply cut the steam at any point in the process. For your and science’s sake, I did the “extreme test” — letting the thing just run until the froth reached the lip of the pitcher.

Despite the soy milk handicap and a totally excessive increase in volume, the froth was exactly the right temperature, delectably creamy and incredibly dense.

Thanks to the machine’s twin, independent thermoblocks, there’s no waiting around before the machine is ready to produce steam. In fact, you can theoretically even prepare your milk at the same time as the espresso is brewing. The only reason not to is that then there’s a shortage of space on the drip tray where the pitcher is best positioned.

Don’t forget to wipe the milk wand immediately after removing it from the pitcher and turn the dial to flush so any residues inside the wand are purged.

What more can I add? Well, there is the option to set the frothing wand to just heat the milk. But here I came up against my old nemesis: once again the ring slider around the wand doesn’t lock properly into the setting or just has too much play in it.

Cleaning — Child's Play

Like all semi-automatic espresso machines, this DeLonghi espresso maker is relatively easy to keep spick and span because the coffee grounds never mix with water in the machine’s innards. The upshot is that mold isn’t a concern.

Wet coffee only collects at the brew group shower screen, so that’s the place where you want to stop the biology experiment before it starts. That’s easy enough to do. Just rinse regularly by pressing the water droplet button.

The tube brush that comes in the box is long and flexible enough to scour the shower screen from below and can be inserted into the grinder channels to loosen coffee residues. Just remember to always work on the dry areas first and wet ones afterward. Otherwise, you could introduce moisture into the coffee grinding station. And no good will come of that.

To finish up cleaning the electric coffee grinder, I grabbed the vacuum cleaner. By applying suction from the top, you can get rid of the debris without having to fiddle with the burrs. Although it has a grip, I wasn’t keen to risk my fingers on trying to maneuver it out without the appropriate instructions. So, I left good enough alone.

The clean-up after reviewing the DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine

Where there’s grip, there’s a removable part. Once the manual is finalized, it should provide more details.

All moving parts — from the portafilter, through the water tank, to the bean hopper and drip tray — can be easily removed and cleaned by hand. Yes, by hand. Symbols on all of the plastic parts make it abundantly clear that the dishwasher is a no-go zone.

I don’t think the dishwasher is necessary anyway. With a little bit of old-fashioned elbow grease, you’ll get the machine sparkling from top to bottom.

How to Descale a De'Longhi Coffee Machine

Descaling DeLonghi coffee machines is simple. Pick up some DeLonghi Descaler from Amazon. I mean, it’s hard to argue with a product that has nearly 40k five-star reviews. If you follow the DeLonghi descaling instructions included with the box, you can’t go wrong. Better yet, check out the very clear presentation given in this Delonghi Descaler video from the manufacture. It’s super easy.

DeLonghi La Specialista vs Breville Barista Express

De Longhi La Specialista vs Breville Barista Express

As an update to this article, I’d like to offer a quick comparison of the DeLonghi La Specialista and the Breville Barista Express. I know a lot of aspiring home baristas are weighing the differences between these similarly priced machines, so let’s start there. The DeLonghi La Specialista sells for  $898.95, while the Breville Barista Express is currently available for $0.00.

In my review of the Breville Barista Express, I mention what I said here about how the La Specialista is more like a true portafilter than the espresso machines from Breville. The learning curve is not as steep on the Breville BES870XL, in other words.

The DeLonghi La Specialista also has two boilers and a 1-second quick-start feature that you don’t get with the Breville option. And as you’ve already read, the Delonghi machine has a smart tamping station that tamps coffee grounds without requiring removal of the portafilter.

The offering from Breville has many merits though, including a stainless steel housing with an amazing retro look. If you’re considering the BES870XL, I highly recommend you jump over to my review, where I explain why the Barista Express is one of the best espresso machines for beginners.

Verdict: A Solid Hybrid Machine

When compared directly with the Breville Oracle Touch, the DeLonghi La Specialista is much less in your face. While the Breville machine plays the grade school teacher, watching over your shoulder every step of the way, La Specialista is just there to oversee your final thesis. It’ll check in on you now and then but basically, you’re on your own.

high performance hybrid

DeLonghi La Specialista

Wakes you up to the art of good espresso — but makes you work for it.

High-quality, super automatic and espresso-machine combo

Intuitive setting options and functions

Fuss-free, fantastic milk froth

Easy cleaning and operation

Very quiet

A lot of work to fine-tune settings

The Delonghi La Specialista is much more of a hands-on machine. Which is another way of saying that it requires espresso savvy and patience. Despite the fact that — in theory — semi-automatic espresso machines are directed at more inexperienced home baristas. Pros, on the other hand, would not only be tearing out their hair over how imprecise various settings are but also feel cheated out of certain subtleties.

If you’re patient and happy to get involved, you’ll get a solid hybrid that practically insists you get to grips with the nitty-gritty of coffee. All for a very reasonable price tag.

This no-frills espresso machine does what it’s supposed to — make coffee — and does it well. You can’t complain about the drinks themselves. What’s more, the milk froth is truly excellent, cleaning is a breeze and it more than looks the part.

Just brace yourself for a whole lot more trial and error than with the Breville Oracle Touch. This can be a real blast, as long as you’re not expecting to get the best results with the least amount of effort from the word go.

And because it’s whisper-quiet and basically does everything right, I’ve rated it highly. Do you agree? Are you eyeing De’Longhi La Specialista espresso machine or perhaps have some burning questions? Fire away in the comments!

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