What We Like
Compact in size
Great for steaming milk
What We Don't Like
Instructions are complicated and unclear
Tamper is not very useful
For a long time, buying an at-home espresso machine meant making a huge investment. However, times have changed and today, there are many low-cost options on the market. One of these is the DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine. To see how well it performs in making espresso, how easy it is to use and set up, and how involved the cleanup is, we experimented with it by making many espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos.
Design: Conveniently compact, but size impedes on function
Our first impression of the DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine was its plain look. The vessel itself is mainly black with stainless steel accents and not much detail. There are only two knobs—one on the front to control the espresso and steam and one on top to control the amount of steam released. Notable extras included with this machine are the coffee scoop, one small and one large filter for the filter holder, a cappuccino frother for steaming milk, and an attached tamper to pack the coffee grounds down. What we liked most about this design was the hidden spot next to the water tank, where we were able to store the filter we weren’t using. We found that very handy so as not to lose those small pieces.
We thought the cappuccino frother worked well for lattes and cappuccinos.
The machine itself is very small. At 7 x 8.5 x 10.5 inches, it’s great for storing or placing in a nook or on the kitchen counter. However, though its compact size is convenient, it does impede on the overall performance. For instance, the coffee tamper is attached to the machine, which makes it difficult to tamp the ground coffee with the right amount of pressure for good espresso.
We also found that there was little room under the portafilter. We could only fit a small espresso cup in that space, not a full-size mug. When making cappuccinos or lattes, a regular mug would have been ideal so we could’ve frothed our milk first in the mug and then set it under the portafilter to catch the espresso. But because there is no room, there is the extra step of getting an additional cup for the espresso shot and then dumping it into the cup of frothed milk.
Setup Process: Somewhat cumbersome
The setup for this machine is a bit involved and unnecessarily complicated because the included instructions aren’t super clear. For instance, at one point, the manual mentions that a 15-minute preheat is necessary, but right after that, it says to wait 30 minutes. We needed to read through the instructions several times before using to figure out this machine.
Like most espresso machines, the DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine requires the cleaning of all of its parts and running it through before making any espresso. After the cleansing process is complete, the machine was ready to make espresso. To do so, it requires finely ground coffee beans or Easy Serving Espresso pods. We used freshly ground coffee beans. First, we placed the small filter into the filter holder (a large filter for two shots is also included). Then, we added our ground coffee beans (about 7 grams for the small filter and 21 grams for the large filter) to the filter and used the tamper attachment on the machine to pack the grounds into a small puck.
The setup for this machine is a bit involved and unnecessarily complicated because the included instructions aren’t super clear.
We attached the filter holder to the machine and locked it into position by turning it from left to right. We put a small cup under the filter holder to catch the espresso shot. After checking that the “OK” light was on, we turned the front knob to the coffee/hot water-delivering position and let it run until our desired quantity of espresso was obtained. We turned the button to the “0” position to turn it off when we were done.
To use the cappuccino frother, we first filled a cup of cold milk (about 100 grams for one cappuccino). Then, we turned the front knob to the steam position and waited for the green “OK” light to turn on. The machine is now ready to steam or froth milk. We placed our cup of milk under the frother and inserted it into the milk about 5 millimeters deep. Slowly, we rotated the top steam knob from left to right to control how much steam was released. When the milk was doubled in volume, we immersed the frother deeper and continued to heat the milk until it was at our desired temperature. We turned the front knob back to the “0” when we were done.
Performance: Good frother, decent espresso
To make a shot of espresso with the DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine is fairly simple, but it takes some time and energy. As we mentioned, it requires a preheating time of 15 minutes before using, which we found to be pretty long just to make one shot of espresso. There is a way to skip this process, according to the manual, but it’s a bit cumbersome so we didn’t find it very useful.
As for the espresso this machine delivers, it’s pretty average. The tamper has a lot to do with the end result. The espresso grounds must be firmly packed and perfectly even in the filter, which is hard to achieve with the included tamper. Because it’s attached to the machine, it required us to place the filter holder underneath the tamper and push upwards to get a tight packing. Doing it this way made it difficult to put a lot of pressure on the grounds.
The espresso grounds must be firmly packed and perfectly even in the filter, which is hard to achieve with the included tamper.
There’s also the issue of it being a manual machine. That means the machine doesn’t stop automatically when the espresso is finished. Water will keep dispensing until the user moves the front knob to the “0” position. Therefore, we had to figure out how much water and espresso to let through into our cup, which can be difficult to gauge when first using any new espresso machine. There is no recommendation in the manual, so experimentation is necessary.
After several attempts, we figured out how much water and espresso to let through, and we were able to make a decent espresso shot. We rarely were able to achieve a nice crema on top, which is a reddish-brown and flavorful froth that sits on top of the espresso. One positive is that we thought the cappuccino frother worked well for lattes and cappuccinos. It gives the milk a good micro foam, and we were able to adjust it to our preferred level of volume using the steam knob on top.
Ease of Cleaning: Requires regular cleaning
For regular care, there are certain parts of the DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine that must be cleaned out regularly. We found that the cleanup wasn’t too involved and seemed fairly manageable compared to other espresso machines. After finishing up an espresso shot, remove the filter holder and dump out the used coffee grounds. To prevent the filter from falling out of the filter holder with the grounds when emptying, there is a lever on the handle that pushes up to keep the filter in place.
The cappuccino frother, too, must be washed after use, but we found that you must wait several minutes for the steam tube to cool down, as it can get really hot. Once it’s cool, unscrew the cappuccino frother and wash thoroughly with warm water. There are three holes in the frother that can’t be blocked. The manual suggests using a pin to clean out if necessary. Then, take a wet cloth and clean off the steam tube as well. Screw the cappuccino frother cap back on the tube.
The manual recommends doing a deep cleaning of the filter holder after 200 or so espressos as well as cleaning the boiler outlet every 300 espressos. This involves unscrewing the boiler outlet, which is where the filter holder attaches. Additionally, the machine must be descaled every 200 espressos. Descaling is the process of cleaning out mineral build-up that accumulates over time on the heating element.
Price: A small investment for a decent espresso machine
The DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine retails around $100, which is one of the most cost-effective espresso machines out there. For someone looking to experiment with making espresso drinks at home, this is a great place to start since there is little investment.
DeLonghi EC 155 Manual Espresso Machine vs. Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista
The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista, which we also tested, is another inexpensive espresso machine on the market, retailing around $250. Like the DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine, it can make a single or double shot of espresso and froths milk. DeLonghi’s machine, however, is manual, whereas Mr. Coffee’s Cafe Barista is semi-automatic.
This means that it can essentially make the espresso drinks on its own, without much help from the user. It froths the milk, pours it into the serving cup, and then adds the espresso shot to the cup. The DeLonghi Manual Espresso Machine is more ideal for someone who has more interest in learning the art of espresso and can, therefore, figure out how to make a good espresso with manual adjustments. The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista is best for someone who is just interested in making quick and easy at-home espresso beverages. There really isn’t much to it beyond pressing a few buttons.
- Product Name Manual Espresso Machine
- Product Brand DeLonghi
- MPN EC 155
- Price $99.95
- Weight 6.7 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 7 x 8.5 x 10.5 in.
- Maximum Cup Height 66 in.
- Rated Voltage/Frequency (V~Hz) 120~60
- Input Power (Watts) 1,100
- Warranty 1 year, limited