If you’ve been looking for a mid-range semi automatic espresso machine for home use, you’ve done right by considering La Specialista by DeLonghi. This machine comes as a direct competitor to the beloved Barista Express by Breville, and is the first of its kind by DeLonghi, a brand that usually excelled in making smaller Espresso machines (like the Dedica) or super automatic espresso machines.
In this post, you’ll read about the features of the DeLonghi La Specialista, how it compares to the Breville Barista Express as well as the more compact choice Dedica espresso machine.
La Specialista Original vs. Prestigio vs Maestro vs Arte – What Are The Differences?
Ever since the release of the La Specialista (featured above), two upgraded models have been added to the line: La Specialista Prestigio and La Specialista Maestro. Let’s have a look at the upgraded models to help you decide which is best for your needs…
Features of La Specialista Espresso Machine
- Built-in coffee grinder with adjustable settings and smart sensor to deliver consistent grind and optimal dose every time.
- Built-in smart tamping station: just as your beans have been filled in the portafilter, pull a lever down for the built in tamper to tamp your coffee perfectly and evenly.
- Active temperature control helps keep your machine’s temperature optimal and stable for espresso extraction and steaming.
- Incredibly fast one second start up time.
- Dual heating system, so you don’t have to wait between coffee extraction and milk frothing.
- Pannarello steam wand style allows you to create professional textured milk for cappuccino or latte without any work on your part. Simply adjust the steam wand to the type of texture you want to create.
- Built-in hot water dispenser for Americanos or tea.
- Pre-set buttons for espresso, americano or coffee. You also have a ‘My’ button to program your own recipe.
- Rinse button rinses the group head and portafilter to heat it or clean it.
- Gauge allows you to see what temperature your machine is operating on and when it has reached optimal temperature.
- 2 liter water reservoir capacity.
- 250gr hopper capacity.
- Includes: 2 filter baskets, dual-wall single and dual-wall double baskets.
- Also includes a stainless steel frothing jug.
Video Review of DeLonghi La Specialista:
La Specialista Prestigio
- FRESHEST COFFEE, EVERY TIME: Integrated burr grinder with two sensors delivers consistent grinding and optimal coffee dose.
- TAMPING WITH EASE AND LESS MESS: Proprietary Smart Tamping Station significantly reduces mess and tamps coffee evenly
- MORE CONTROL OVER EXTRACTION: Explore single wall filter baskets for greater espresso experience
- DYNAMIC PRE-INFUSION: Consistently evenly wet coffee for the right extraction
- 1 SECOND QUICK START: Power the machine on and immediately start grinding
This model is a direct upgrade of the original La Specialista. It has a few upgrades but can make a difference to your experience:
To start, the Prestigio model has 8 grind settings instead of 6. This means you can tweak your grind even more. For this reason, this model does not come with a dual- wall basket for your portafilter since you won’t need it anymore – the single wall basket will be enough.
The second upgrade is the steam wand. The original La Specialista has a semi-automatic steam wand where you just place your milk jug and select the type of foam you want. The Prestigio model has a more professional wand and you’re in total control of how you steam your milk. This type of wand requires some practice until you get things right, but you’ll be happier with the results of this type of steaming that the automatic.
You also have three temperature settings to choose from.
La Specialista Maestro
- Note: 1)Too coarse a grind, too little coffee, or insufficiently tamping the grounds before brewing can all lead to inadequate pressure for a proper brew. 2)It is important to note that the amount of espresso extracted will vary depending on the grind size and amount and reprogramming may be needed when the size and amount are adjusted
- Sensor Grinding Technology Choose one of 8 grinding settings for the coffee beans of your choice and adjust the dose with a precise digital dosing guide.
- Smart Tamping Station No more too loose or too dense doses, the Smart Tamping Station works in harmony with the sensors to ensure perfect pressure and proper doses with less mess.
- Dynamic Pre-Infusion The dynamic pre-infusion process adapts to the density of the coffee dose, and evenly wets the grounds to reach their perfect extraction.
- 5 Temperature Settings Active Temperature Control features 5 infusion profile settings that vary by bean type. Each profile offers its own temperature range to ensure better brew temperatures and flavor infusion.
The Maestro model is the highest upgrade of all La Specialista models. It has several upgrades to enhance your user experience:
- Like the Prestigio model, it has 8 grind settings instead of the original’s 6 settings.
- All La Specialista models have the pressure gauge that displays the pressure level your machine is currently using. However, the Maestro has two additional displays, on the left, you’ll find a digital display that shows you which stage the machine is operating at and the level of dosing. The display on the right allows you to select from preset recipes. It has 6 preset recipes: espresso, Americano, coffee (uses lower pressure), cappuccino and flat white.
- When it comes to steaming milk, you have two options to choose from: a professional steam wand or the LatteCrema system, which is a plug-in automatic frother. When selecting a milk based recipe, the frother will use a preset amount of milk and froth it to match the recipe and automatically dispense it to the cup.
- Maestro has 5 temperature settings to choose from.
La Specialista Arte
- Perfect, Consistent Grinding thanks to inbuilt grinder with 8 precise settings that ensure optimal single or double dose and grind size
- Active Temperature control allows you to select one of 3 temperature settings to match water infusion temperature to beans for optimal extraction
- My LatteArt steam wand is a powerful, commercial-style wand that lets you create picture-perfect latte art
- Ease-Of-Use thanks to specially-designed detachable, dishwasher safe parts that simplify maintenance routines
- Your Favorite Cup lets you enjoy your favorite drink in taller cups while preserving the coffee’s crema
Arte comes as a cost-effective alternative to the Prestegio and Maestro and Original model. It comes with a few less features, but they could be features that you don’t need to begin with, so wouldn’t it be great to give up on a few things to get a better price?
- To start, Arte does not have the integrated smart tamper that other models has. But it does include a tamper, you’ll have to tamp manually, though.
- It has a thermocoil heater, but it’s a single heater machine. What that means for you is that there’s going to be a bit of a wait between extracting espresso and steaming milk.
- It has three temperature settings and active temperature control.
- It has a built-in grinder with 8 grind settings.
- It also has a hot water dispenser.
It comes with a pack of accessories to get you started: milk jug, tamper, dosing funnel, a tamping mat as well as the portafilter with baskets.
What are you giving up on when going for the Arte model?
You’ll get a machine with a single heater. No built-in automatic tamper.
That’s not a bad deal, if you ask me. This is a great pick if you’re someone willing to learn the proper way to tamp and steam milk. These things require a bit of a learning curve but are not hard to learn.
DeLonghi La Specialista vs. Breville Barista Express, How Are They Different?
As I already mentioned, the DeLonghi La Specialista comes as a direct competitor of the popular Barista Express. As the time I write this post, the DeLonghi La Specialista is higher in price than the Barista Express, so there’s a price difference to start with. But performance and features wise, which machine do you choose?
Now, both machines have quite similar features:
Built-in grinder, hot water on demand, temperature gauge, button controls, hands-free grinding directly into portafilter.
So at this point, it would be easier to see what differences these two machines have:
Grind Settings: the Barista Express has 18 grind settings giving you a variety of options when it comes to grinding different coffee beans and how it can turn out. The La Specialista only goes from 1 to 6 in grind settings, so it’s less options when it comes to coffee ground.
Included Filter Baskets: the La Specialista comes with two filter baskets, a single shot dual wall basket and a double shot dual basket. The Barista Express includes four baskets in total, a single and double shot baskets, single and dual walled. Dual wall baskets are usually a better choice for someone who is still not advanced in dosing and extracting espresso, as it controls pressure better.
Steaming Wands: DeLonghi has been known for its Cappuccino system on their espresso machines for a long time. They use pannarello wands that require no work on your part to get the right texture either for cappuccino or latte. You simply have to set a selector and let it do the work. This is a great choice for a beginner or anyone who is not keen on practicing the art of milk texturing. On the other hand, the Barista Express has a more traditional frothing wand, which will require some practice to get the milk to the right texture, so it’s not as straight forward as a pannarello wand, but it is a better choice for someone who wants to learn the professional way of texturing milk.
Built-in Tamper: The DeLonghi La Specialista has a smart tamper. The built-in tamper, smartly located inside the same head where the portafilter goes to collect the coffee grind from the grinder, requires one single pull of a level (located on the side of the machine) to tamp the coffee perfectly. You don’t have to worry about any mess or any uneven tamping, this built-in tamper does it just right, every single time! The Barista Express has a tamper that is magnetically attached to the machine, but tamping is done manually. And just like milk texturing, tamping is an acquired skill.
Pre-sets: La Specialista has three pre set drinks, espresso, coffee and americano. Upon selecting coffee or Americano, hot water is added to your espresso shot (in different volumes according to recipe). Water pours in automatically and you don’t have to even move your mug, as the hot water nozzle is conveniently located right by the portafilter. On the Barista Express, the hot water nozzle is slightly behind the portafilter, so you do have to relocate your mug slightly and you have to manually start the hot water.
Dimensions: La Specialista is slightly larger than the Barista Express. One noticeable difference is the height of the bean hopper on the La Specialista vs. the hopper on the Barista Express. This might be a problem for someone who is limited on space or cabinet height, so do check the dimensions and compare them to your available space.
Should You Buy the DeLonghi La Specialista or Breville Barista Express?
As you can see, there’s really not much difference in these two machines. However, one wins over the other in terms on advancement:
If you want the manual experience, but do not want to work on learning skills like milk texturing, playing with coffee grind or tamping, the La Specialista would make a better choice. Having less grind settings is not necessarily a bad thing, not everyone wants to get experimental with grind fineness. So, initially, you’ll need to try out from a limited number of settings to get your shot right, then you’ll be good to go. The automatic tamping is great, too. You don’t have to worry about an uneven tamp, which leads to a bad shot, or the mess that comes along with tamping. Last but not least, the Pannarello wand makes milk texturing such a breeze.
On the other hand, the Barista Express gives you more room to experiment and practice. If you’re new to semi automatic machines, you’ll most likely need to make a few shots before you get it right. Same goes for tamping and milk texturing. Since it’s somewhat manual, you’ll have to practice until you get things right. So if you feel like you want to acquire some barista skills, and don’t mind the practice and experimenting part of it, you’ll certainly enjoy using the Barista Express.
You can learn more about the Barista Express on the following links:
Comparing DeLonghi La Specialista to Other Breville Machines
Although the Barista Express is the most comparable to the La Specialista, we see a lot of questions about comparing it to other machines by Breville. So here are some more comparisons…
DeLonghi La Specialista vs. Breville Barista Touch:
Now you’ve learned the difference between La Specialista and Barista Express, you can now learn about how it compared to the upgraded version of the barista express, which is the Barista Touch. You can read about the difference between the Barista Express vs. Barista Touch here. But let’s compare it to the La Specialista…
The Barista Touch has a lot of features that the La Specialista lacks that makes it easier for a beginner to make an excellent cup at first try. It has a lot of automated settings that make it a breeze, but it also has many overrides to make you customize your drinks.
The Touch Screen:
This nice touch screen gives you access to so many options to customize your drinks. But to start, you’ll find a lot of preset recipes: espresso, latte, cappuccino, flat white and more. Click on the image of your preferred drink, and choose to either brew to current recipe or customize your own. Things you can customize are: coffee strength, milk temperature and texture as well as volumes.
La Specialista does have three presets: espresso, coffee and americano.
Save your Customization:
The Barista Touch also allows you to save up to 8 customized recipes and name them so you don’t have to play with the settings each time you brew.
Automatic milk temperature and texturing:
The Breville Touch has a great steam wand that does the work for you. It allows you to adjust the milk temperature and texture to suit your taste. You can expect professional micro-foam quality that you can use to create beautiful latte art.
La Specialista vs. Breville Barista Pro
- The Breville Barista Pro delivers third wave specialty coffee at home with a single touch as the built in grinder with dose control delivers the right amount of coffee on demand for maximum flavor.
- Faster heat up time: Innovative ThermoJet heating system achieves the optimum extraction temperature in 3 seconds with the instantaneous transition from espresso to steam. Ready to make your best coffee without the wait.
- Microform milk Texturing: The powerful steam wand performs at the level that allows you to hand texture micro-foam milk that enhances flavor and enables creation of latté art.
- 19-22 Grams dose for full flavor: Achieve a consistent and balanced espresso using the right amount of ground coffee. The 54mm ports-filter with 19-22 grams is the key for full flavor and cafe quality coffee
- Intuitive interface: LCD display with grinding and extracting progress animations. The screen provides you all the precise information you need to make coffee exactly the way you like it every time.
Breville Barista Pro falls somewhere between the Barista Express and Barista Touch. Unlike the Barista Express, the Pro version has a screen that displays information and guides you through every step. However, the screen isn’t as sophisticated as the Breville Barista Touch’s.
The Breville Barista Pro does not have pre-sets and can’t save customized recipes. Also, it doesn’t have automatic milk heating and texturing. So it’s up to par with the La Specialista.
How do they compare, though?
The biggest difference here is the LCD display. This display shows you the progress of the grinding, extraction and all other precise information in animations. This helps you understand exactly what’s happening during the brewing process and makes it easier to take notes for your next brew.
Other than that, the La Specialista excels in features like the automatic tamping, the pre-set drinks and the Pannarello steam wand which makes a better choice for a beginner.
La Specialista vs. Breville Oracle
- The Breville Oracle fully automatic delivers third wave specialty coffee at home using the 4 keys formula; It has a professional Dual Boiler construction that delivers unparalleled temperature control and simultaneous extraction and steaming
- Dose Control Grinding: The integrated precision conical burr grinder automatically grinds, doses and tamps 22 grams of freshly ground coffee, for maximum flavor
- Optimal Water Pressure: The Over Pressure Valve limits the maximum pump pressure throughout extraction, helping prevent bitter flavors; Low pressure pre infusion gradually increases water pressure to gently expand grinds for an even extraction
- Precise Espresso Extraction: Dual stainless steel boilers and heated group head controlled by digital temperature control (PID) delivers water at precisely the right temperature, ensuring optimal espresso extraction
- Automatic Microfoam Milk Texturing: Self-cleaning steam wand, powered by a dedicated boiler, automatically textures milk to your liking and delivers barista quality microfoam that enhances flavor and is essential for creating latte art at home
The Breville Oracle in on another level compared to all previously mentioned machines. However, surprisingly, the La Specialista has two features in common with the Oracle:
First is the automatic tamping, the other is the long black or coffee preset.
So kudos to DeLonghi for including great features in the La Specialista for a relatively affordable price.
Other than that, the Oracle features:
- Automatic milk texturing and temperature settings.
- Dual boilers, so you can extract and steam at the same time.
- LCD display.
- 58mm portafilter.
- Triple heat system with a dedicated steam boiler and dedicated espresso boiler and a heated group head.
If you’d like more detailed information on the Breville Oracle, click here.