DeLonghi La Specialista vs. Breville Barista Express: Which Do You Buy?
Last Updated: February 2020
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.
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:
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:
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:
- Automatically grinds, doses & tamps the required amount of Coffee for mess Free, barista Quality Espresso
- Programmable hands Free milk texturing with automatic purge; Water tank Capacity : 84 ounce;Voltage: 110 to 120 Volts
- Dual stainless steel boilers & dual Italian pumps with PID; Boilers can be descaled by user; Power:1800 Watts; Not compatible with capsules
- One Touch Americano delivers Water directly into the cup after extraction; 3 preset & 6 customizable settings
- Programmable shot temperature from 190 Degree 205 Degree; Displays in either Degree Fahrenheit or Degree C; over Pressure Valve: This commercial feature limits the 15 bar Italian pump pressure throughout the extraction, preventing bitter flavours in the shot; Bean Hopper Capacity:1/2 pounds
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.