Delonghi PrimaDonna Fully Automatic Coffee Machine Review: A Top-Tier Machine With an Identity Crisis?

Note: At the time of writing, the only PrimaDonna model available in the United States is the PrimaDonna S Automatic Espresso Machine, Cappuccino Maker with LatteCrema System -- ECAM28465M.

Note: At the time of writing, the only PrimaDonna model available in the United States is the PrimaDonna S Automatic Espresso Machine, Cappuccino Maker with LatteCrema System — ECAM28465M.

When I can’t fall asleep at night, I count fully automatic espresso machines … mostly from DeLonghi. The Italians, who have a talent for winning my fully automatic espresso machines tests, are experts at creating a plethora of machine models at various price points. At the entry level, this is a reasonable approach.

In my experience, the more expensive of a machine you look at, the more difficult it is to understand the differences between models. This is especially apparent when it comes to the DeLonghi PrimaDonna series.

High-end luxury espresso machines

DeLonghi PrimaDonna

Definitely recommended. It’s robust and well-thought-out!

Great espresso & milk froth

High-quality manufacturing

Simple & intuitive design

Effective cleaning features

Quiet & smooth running

Water reservoir & bean hopper a bit too lush

Beans are slightly heated by the cup warmer

Just recently, this top-tier fully automatic espresso machine received some new additions. With the introduction of four new versions of the PrimaDonna, there are now more than a dozen machines under the PrimaDonna label. What’s the point of having so many? I have no idea, to be honest. Though it would seem that even DeLonghi notices this is a bit out of control.

Whatever the case may be, being unclear about the differences creates a lot of confusion in understanding the names. Just look at the comments since the first edition of this guide below.

Coffee aficionados have been sitting in front of DeLonghi’s espresso machines for days and weeks now trying to sort out what distinguishes a DeLonghi PrimaDonna XS ETAM 36.366.MB. In today’s world of readily available information, where buyers like to feel informed when making purchase decisions, it makes no sense to complicate things like this.

Still, you’re probably left wondering if a bargain price on a discontinued PrimaDonna Avant model is even worth considering, and how PrimaDonnas, in general, stack up against models from other brands.

The short answer is that it doesn’t really matter which PrimaDonna you choose. Every one of them, no matter what part of the world you live in, can hold their own. You won’t have any problems with any of the PrimaDonnas, so don’t worry about ending up with a paper weight in the shape of an espresso machine.

It’s just that no one really knows how to distinguish between models that well. Compared to the otherwise image-strong DeLonghi range, this crowded series clearly lacks contours and obviously, unique selling points — at least from a marketing standpoint. However, this isn’t due to the machines themselves. They’re all extremely high-quality, versatile and feature-rich.

Still, the proof is in the coffee, as I tested the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Class ECAM 556.75.MS super automatic coffee machine as a representative of the entire series and made a YouTube video about my findings.

Note: This video is in the German language.

In addition, I was able to try out the new PrimaDonna Soul before it even hit the market.

These models also show up in my PrimaDonna Soul Review, App Control and Cleaning videos. So, in my opinion, both DeLonghi models are proof the Italians don’t need to stand on the sidelines in terms of performance or comparative pricing. What they do need to do is some housecleaning when it comes to naming these great machines.

From the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Class to the Elite: The Series at a Glance

CategoryEntry
ManufacturerDeLonghi
NamePrimaDonna
TypeSuper-automatic espresso machine
Removable brew groupYes
Casing MaterialStainless steel
Milk frothing systemAutomatic
DisplayYes (Touch)
AppYes
User profilesYes (Max. 6)
Water tank capacity60 oz
Minimum discharge height3.3 Inches
Maximum discharge height5.6 Inches
GrinderStainless steel cone grinder
Bean container capacity360 g
Two bean compartmentsNo
Grinding13 levels
Coffee grounds trayYes
JugNo
Coffee drinks prepared at the touch of a buttonEspresso, Coffee Long, Doppio+,
Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato or hot milk
Adjustable coffee temperatureYes
Milk (foam) temperature adjustableNo
2-cup functionYes (no milk drinks)
Hot water functionYes
Hot milk functionYes
Obtain milk foam onlyYes
Water filterYes
Weight26 lbs
Dimensions (height x width x depth)18.4 x 10 x 14.1 Inches

*Note: These specifications are from the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Class ECAM 556.75 super-automatic coffee machine.

The biggest issue when it comes to PrimaDonnas is the sheer volume of fully automatic coffee machines that make up the PrimaDonna line. While a few machines have been discontinued since the first version of this DeLonghi PrimaDonna Review, there’s still quite a wide range of available models. Currently there are:

United States

United Kingdom

Germany:

In addition, four new versions of the PrimaDonna have been available since October 2020. The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Avant, on the other hand, probably didn’t find enough fans, nor did the DeLonghi PrimaDonna S Deluxe, as both of these models have been discontinued.

If you were feeling generous, you could simply call the plethora of selection “choices.” Realistically, however, it appears to be kind of random. Yet, we know very well that DeLonghi can absolutely produce unique coffee machines that make sense.

Take the DeLonghi Dinamica line, which has considerably less variations. When I think of Dinamica, I pretty much know which machine is being referred to, and why it’s a price-performance winner in the category of fully automatic coffee machines for around $800-$1,200. (Note: Prices vary from country to country. In the UK, Dinamica prices range from £500-£700, while in the EU, a Dinamica can be purchased for €500-600.)

The DeLonghi Dinamica super-automatic coffee and espresso machine review.

My long-standing, entry-level winner, the DeLonghi ECAM 22.110.B, used to have a lot of homegrown competition within DeLonghi, but it plays virtually no role in promoting this perception, given the superiority of this small, high-performance machine. So, what about the PrimaDonna?

When it comes to the PrimaDonna line, historically, there hasn’t been anything to set these espresso machines apart as unique. So, you have to wonder, what’s the PrimaDonna line offering — besides a different name — that other DeLonghi machines aren’t? What are customers paying for, in other words?

What Can DeLonghi PrimaDonna Espresso Machines Do?

Those who reach for PrimaDonna machines with names like “Elite,” “Class” or “Avant” are looking for luxury in the form of stainless steel and amazing coffee-based drinks. So, a cheap cappuccino from a cheap machine isn’t going to fly! However, the joke with PrimaDonna has been that though the machines look ultra-fancy, they’re more plastic than stainless steel.

At least on the external housing, that is. Inside, everything is sleek and neatly put in its place. The components, like the brew group, all feel high quality. How’s that saying go? It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna fully automatic espresso machine in stainless steel.

Beyond this apparent lack of uniqueness, brilliant features and great attention to design details abound. Whether you’re dealing with a DeLonghi ESAM 6900 Exclusive, an ESAM 6700 Avant, a PrimaDonna Class, a PrimaDonna S Deluxe, or anything else in between, you’re basically always getting:

  • 13-stage cone grinder made of stainless steel
  • High-quality cladding & finish
  • Intuitive operation via a clear display
  • App control*
  • Push-button setting options
  • Small footprint for countertops
  • Quiet & smooth operation
  • Very good espresso & milk froth
  • Multiple beverage options

*Note: The DeLonghi PrimaDonna S ECAM28465M available in the U.S. doesn’t offer communication with the DeLonghi Coffee Link app.

Each of these factors gets special attention in my coffee machine test — and the PrimaDonnas are very good to excellent on each of these points. On the other hand, these points are typical criteria for top-tier machines, and there’s hardly any clear differentiation from other brands and devices in the same price range. As always, the DeLonghi is at least somewhat cheaper, and the features are a bit more modern.

However, this hardly adds up to anything special. If it were up to me, DeLonghi would only offer a handful of machines in each series from now on and give the latest and greatest ones the marketing attention they deserve.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul fully automatic coffee machine -- Arne up close.

In comes the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul, which has finally brought distinctive selling points, a clear focus and, above all, extremely convincing arguments for why to buy one. When I think of the Soul, I immediately know what I’m getting. It lives up to its name and delivers impressive features that take the “soul” of coffee to the next level at the touch of a button.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul: Top-tier Luxury With Purpose

When I reviewed the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul, I called the new development for IFA 2020 a “reality check for the top tier” and “luxury at a reasonable price.” Even visually, the Soul machine moves a bit further away from its counterparts in the PrimaDonna line and quite obviously nestles up against the luxury and quality of the DeLonghi Maestosa.

This not only refers to the large, modern touch display but above all to the important inner workings of the machine. Plus, the PrimaDonna Soul has quite a few advantages over the other models in the PrimaDonna series:

  • Electronic grinder (!)
  • Many operating options from the display to the Coffee Link app
  • Customer favorites like Caffé Americano using a low-pressure method
  • “Bean Adapt Technology”

The electronically controllable grinder, which we admired in the Maestosa last year, no longer costs over $5,000 with the Soul but is around $2,000 cheaper (£1,000), and even less when it goes on sale! Though I believe the Soul has appeared on the scene only because of the Maestosa, with its two grinders and exorbitant price, it simply doesn’t sell that well.

Except for commercial establishments, office spaces or similar venues, no one really needs that much power in their kitchen.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Soul makes fully automated latte macchiato coffee.

As a more “reasonable” consumer-level option, the PrimaDonna Soul is guaranteed to seduce more buyers. This is especially because it delivers strong results through all of its features: great espresso, amazing milk froth from the LatteCrema System, top-notch settings options via the app or display and convenient cleaning functions. The only “shortcoming,” if you will, is the somewhat stupid approach to marketing. It focuses on the practically useless “Bean Adapt Technology” that’s supposed to recognize and adjust to certain coffee beans.

It works, but the intention is not always clear. In my test, the coarseness of the grind wasn’t tweaked, only the amount of grinds and temperature were changed, and we all know that when extraction errors occur, this is where we tend to look first. Be that as it may, I’m still warming up to the function. What’s more important is everything else the Soul machine offers you in terms of abundance. I, for one, am a huge fan.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Class: Still Clearly Defined Class

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Class -- Arne up close.

Though my original DeLonghi PrimaDonna review is just a few years old, the original PrimaDonna Class machine is no longer available in its purest form — at least not on Amazon. There, the machine is only available in white plastic, which may appeal to some people, but not me.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to withhold my test results from you, as I consider this model to be a typical — successful — representation of the entire series. With a discounted price of around £900 in the UK as it’s currently unavailable in the U.S., this model is now below the average price of other models in its “class” — so, it might be worth the investment. Despite the supposed product age, the features read like a wish list for a decent high-end machine:

  • Water reservoir & milk container can be removed from the front 
  • Large touchscreen display, plus connection to the Coffee Link app
  • 13-stage stainless steel cone grinder
  • 3-stage adjustable LatteCrema System
  • Individually programmable milk froth for coffee-based drinks
  • 6 coffee profiles and 3 user profiles (+1 guest profile)
  • Extra clip-on hot water nozzle
  • Active cup warmer

A fully plastic casing is naturally inferior to high-quality stainless steel from the brew group to the housing — which probably explains the current price. That’s why we always order the stainless steel model when several variations are available.

Choosing Your Initial Settings

Whether it’s the Magnifica, ESAM 6708 or PrimaDonna Class, you can always rely on DeLonghi for ultra-light operation, as every Italian machine is more or less self-explanatory. Plus, with a large display, colorful pictures and enjoyable features in the app, it’s really fun.

Similarly, you can — for the most part — rely on the fact that the highly capable grinder, with its typical 13 levels of adjustment, fudges a bit on the ultra-fine setting. Still, the PrimaDonna Class also brings you closer to the perfect cup of espresso.

In addition, you won’t have to do much tweaking to the presets for the beverages themselves. Though, as always, it’s important to adjust the extraction amount for the espresso downward. All settings — except for the coarseness of the grind — can be conveniently controlled via the app.

Its user interface is intuitive and tidy, but the Class shows that the “outdated” Bluetooth connection is still a bit shaky compared to the ones on the Soul or Maestosa. Meaning, you shouldn’t move too far away from the machine with your smartphone. The clickable LatteCrema milk frothing system, with its three levels — “heavy,” “medium” and “light,” as I like to call them — were already a great idea back in the day, and continue to be, for that matter.

Even if the barista in me wants to default to the lightest variation of milk froth available, you get the best results on the medium setting. It seems DeLonghi doesn’t think much of the hype surrounding ceramic disc grinders and instead relies on a stainless steel cone grinder, even for top-tier machines.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna grinder.

I think this brand, in particular, is an excellent example of how the grinder design doesn’t matter — for the most part. You can read more about this in my guide to coffee machines with ceramic grinders, but the most important thing is that this grinder does its job excellently and sounds pleasant despite the allegedly “inferior” quality of the grinder and noisier materials. It also contributes significantly to the quiet overall impression of the Class. On another, albeit annoying note: if you unplug or turn off the main switch, the user profiles you worked so hard on will be deleted. It’s stupid, I know.

Espresso & Milk Froth

To combine espresso and milk froth from a PrimaDonna Class coffee machine into the cappuccino of your dreams, you need to produce a minimum amount of coffee and froth before you can save the whole thing to your profile. However, this production is pleasantly quiet and apparently very clean — no splashes, rumbling or clattering.

The spout is easily adjustable and has a maximum clearance height of 6 inches / 14.2 centimeters, making it without a doubt above the IKEA glass standard. The minimum height of 3.5 inches / 8.4 centimeters is tolerable as well.

When I conducted my test, I chose a fairly dark roast of espresso with a stronger flavor profile. It yielded coffee with a bend toward the quality that comes from a portafilter, so I was pleased with both the temperature and the settings I used to froth the milk.

How to Clean a DeLonghi PrimaDonna

I really like it when a super-automatic espresso machine bluntly reminds you to clean it regularly. On top of that, the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Class automatic coffee maker refuses to trigger another milk froth draw if you haven’t pushed the button to perform an automatic rinse in between.

However, this also can tempt you to just refill the milk instead of cleaning the milk container in between. So, keep that in mind.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna water reservoir.

The front removable water reservoir is very hygienic in design. After all, it’s super easy to remove, rinse and reinsert. As always, it’s best to do this daily. The brew group, drip tray and coffee grounds container should also be part of your machine’s daily cleaning program and are just as intuitive to install and remove.

Oh, by the way, looking inside the grounds container will give you an idea of how dry and compact the coffee pucks are. That’s always a sign of a well-thought-out, well-functioning machine that places value on excellent coffee.

In addition, you’re safe to assume that less grime will settle in the hoses and coils of the machine. Don’t take that to mean you can get away with cleaning less, though. Cleaning is extremely important to the life and health of your DeLonghi espresso machine. The same applies to descaling. So, whether you’re filtering your water or not, it’s necessary.

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna Elite Experience: A Current Class Leader?

If you’re able to figure out the — horribly cluttered — manufacturer’s site, the DeLonghi PrimaDonna Elite is currently the frontrunner of the series. Though I find that a bit funny, as the Elite machines are either no longer available or only available via third-party sellers on Amazon. According to the manufacturer, there are currently four — more or less — different versions to choose from:

  • PrimaDonna Class
  • PrimaDonna Soul
  • PrimaDonna Elite
  • PrimaDonna Exclusive

The Exclusive is said to have the most pros in its favor because of its hot chocolate function (an extra clip-on whisk in the milk container), a tea function (hot water nozzle) and the ability to prepare cold milk froth. In addition, the whisk is a really great thing, as it practically turns the coffee maker into a food processor. I once prepared a demonstration on the Maestosa. Check it out.

Note: This video is in the German language.

Otherwise, it’s a lot like other Elite espresso machines: an app connection, colorful touch display, 13 grinding levels, multiple user profiles, great coffee, etc. If we look at the machine’s declining lack of presence on Amazon though, the Elite is probably on its way out, as is the Class — at least in its current form.

Side note: I know Amazon is not the end-all when it comes to retailers. However, having a presence there is a good measure of how a product is doing. If a manufacturer’s device no longer has representation on Amazon, they either have good reasons (Jura, Nivona …) or the device is on its way out.

Of course, we also know that a supposedly “outdated” fully automatic coffee machine can hardly be described as a piece of junk. Apart from clear innovations like the electronically controllable grinder, there are hardly any worthwhile innovations in the coffee machine world that justify an upgrade. So, if you ever see a bargain price on a past model, you can still take advantage of the sale with peace of mind. That applies to the Elite series, too!

The DeLonghi PrimaDonna S EVO: A Best-Seller in the Market

While there is a lot in common with other models from the PrimaDonna Class, the DeLonghi PrimaDonna S Evo ECAM 510.55.M seems to be a best-seller. That’s because this UK offering has “already” been on the market since 2017, but unlike its brothers is readily available on Amazon.

If I’ve decoded the system right, the “S” stands for “small,” so the dimensions are actually a bit below average for the class, even though all of them are pleasingly compact here anyway. Compared to the larger units, the feature set is also somewhat reduced:

  • Touch display is “only” 2.8 in (the big ones offer up to 4.3 in)
  • “Only” 2 user profiles (instead of up to 6)
  • Smaller water reservoir (by about 15.5 oz / 400 ml)

When I look at what is available here — or not — I don’t find the price totally exorbitant, but I also don’t see a real reason to buy, either. We merely have to look at the mid-range models and theDeLonghi Dinamica, which are available for between $800 and $1,200 (£800 to £1,000).

Within the Dinamica line, there’s pretty much the same tendency to overcrowd the space with models that have little difference between them. I mean, great, this version isn’t app enabled, but that one is. Who really cares about that feature anyway?

DeLonghi PrimaDonna Competitors: A Feature & Price Comparison

If we can already find enough alternatives to most PrimaDonna models within DeLonghi’s product lines, we naturally have to ask how this series compares to products from completely different manufacturers. Maybe then we’ll find what makes each machine unique and worth having.

You may have noticed that many of the insights you find here come from the diligent comments you’ve left me. Thanks for that … and above all, keep up the good work! Your practical experience will help everyone choose the right fully automatic coffee machine for them.

PrimaDonna vs Siemens: The Battle for Most Elegant

When we put the Siemens EQ.9 fully automatic coffee machine (not currently available in the U.S.) up against a PrimaDonna in the field, the two dueled it out fairly evenly. Both machines are high quality, robust, versatile and elegant. However, the DeLonghi scored some extra points with the adjustable milk frothing system and the numerous grinding levels possible.

In addition, many of you have a problem with the beverage temperature from Siemens machines, which is definitely higher with DeLonghis. In general, however, I would agree there is a similar quality between these units — well, as long as we leave out the PrimaDonna Soul.

PrimaDonna vs Jura: The Most Exciting Duel on the Market

Just a few years ago, I never would’ve compared DeLonghi and Jura fully automatic coffee machines. Fast forward to the present day, and the battle between these manufacturers is full-on. After all, both of them are taking the biggest steps forward in terms of design innovations and launching the same ideas in the market practically in unison.

No sooner than we had just started admiring the luxury Maestosa, Jura came around the corner with the slightly grander Jura Z8. So, naturally, with the release of the PrimaDonna Soul, you can expect a “more sensible” version from Jura as well.

The Jura Z8 fully automatic coffee machine latte macchiato cover.

Who’s copying who here? That’s hard to say. All I know is that Jura is extremely high quality, durable and popular. I don’t really want to say anything more about that frustrating nonremovable brew group, though, but it’s definitely part of the package for me.

Functionality-wise, both manufacturers are practically on par, but in terms of coffee quality, Jura is currently unbeatable. Still, when it comes to the price-performance ratio, the winner is once again DeLonghi.

PrimaDonna vs Melitta: Snob vs Family Friend

When the Melitta fully automatic coffee machines are compared to the PrimaDonnas, it becomes quite clear how much DeLonghi relies on its brand image. Take theMelitta Barista TS Smart, for example. It plays in a similar league to the larger and function-loving PrimaDonnas but seems much more accessible and intuitive. However, that only has to do with the appearance and the Melitta brand. Behind the facade, DeLonghi’s supposed snob is more intuitive and user-friendly in some ways. Besides that, the Italians also beat the Melitta by a lot in terms of user experience.

PrimaDonna vs Miele: Not Snobby Enough Yet

If we look at Miele fully automatic machines, the opposite applies when compared with the Melitta. Here, the PrimaDonnas are not snobby enough. Though they do put on an air of aristocracy, the beautiful Miele machines, like the CM 7550, have a more sophisticated air about them.

However, in terms of practical functionality and operation, PrimaDonnas are miles ahead of the Miele — at least when it comes to intuitiveness and variety. Most of the time, you get all of that at a much better price from DeLonghi.

PrimaDonna vs Saeco/Gaggia: A Quiet Consensus

Is it just me, or does no one talk about Saeco anymore? Apart from the fact that the Philips sub-brand is hardly advertised anymore, it’s also generally suspiciously quiet about once-popular machines like the Saeco Xelsis.

A finished latte macchiato made on the Saeco Xelsis -- with Arne.

Aside from the freedom of choice when it comes to frothing milk, the PrimaDonna fully automatic espresso machine line doesn’t really have anything over this silent classic that’s available for $2,000 (£1,350). Although there’s — deliberately — no app control, there are just as many grind levels and setting options. There’s just as much user-friendliness as well.

Which DeLonghi PrimaDonna Espresso Machine Should I Buy?

Let’s get back to the issues at hand. Most of your questions about the PrimaDonna series revolve around comparisons of the model numbers. At least in part, you’re looking for an answer as to what the difference is between a 656.85, a ESAM 6650 or an ESAM 6850.

High-end luxury espresso machines.

Definitely recommended. It’s robust and well-thought-out!

Great espresso & milk froth

High-quality manufacturing

Simple & intuitive design

Effective cleaning features

Quiet & smooth running

Water reservoir & bean hopper a bit too lush

Beans are slightly heated by the cup warmer

Many of you find yourself torn between the Class, Avant or Exclusive or trying to wrap your head around confusing model designations. Truthfully, this mind-boggling question is better left alone because, in general, you can’t go wrong with any DeLonghi PrimaDonna espresso machine out there.

So, it really doesn’t matter what the model number is. It also doesn’t matter how “old” the machine is.

If you ask me about the best DeLonghi PrimaDonna espresso machine for any given year, my answer is the PrimaDonna Soul.It’s not only the latest and greatest but also the most innovative model released; both beautiful and fast. In addition, it extracts flavors from beans well — and the price is more than acceptable for what you get. However, if you find bargains on oldies like an ESAM 6750 or a 556.75, trust the dealer and are in the market for a new machine, you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.

Like I’ve said before, a fully automatic coffee machine is neither a smartphone, a game console nor a TV — you can’t get more coffee-centric than coffee itself.

For the most part, updates in the espresso machine world are only about the look and a few minor control options. Nowhere is this more evident than in the PrimaDonna series. That’s why I can’t wait for the day to come when DeLonghi does some decluttering of their product line. When it does declutter the product line, that’s when people will really take notice of DeLonghi’s machines!

I’m still curious about your experiences: which PrimaDonna models are your favorites? Leave a comment below!

I look forward to your comment

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