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DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio Review: Should Beginners Consider This New Design?

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By: Marko Lazarevic

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DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio, coffee and grinder

The DeLonghi La Specialista was one of the first espresso machines with an auto-tamping feature. But, it also had some serious shortcomings. So, I was excited when DeLonghi redesigned the line-up and introduced the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio.

Here’s my verdict: I liked the milk frother and the dual thermoblocks on the La Specialista Prestigio espresso machine. However, the espresso is not quite as good as the Barista Express, but it comes close. It’s a solid value, but the coffee quality sometimes leaves something to be desired.

I’ll break down the key elements that set the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio apart from other espresso machines. I’ll give you insights into how this machine works so you can decide on the best espresso maker for you.

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio Product Overview

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio highlights:

  • Dual heating system
  • Sensor grinding technology
  • Smart tamping
  • Pre-infusion
  • Three levels of temperature control
  • Built-in grinder with six settings
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7.7
DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio
Design & Functionality7
Espresso Quality6
Ease of Use8.5
Milk Frothing9
Value8

Pros

Dual heating system ensures stable temperature

Automatic tamping

Sensor grinding grinds an optimal dose of coffee grounds for espresso

Cons

Small drip tray

51 mm portafilter creates bitter espresso




DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio Breakdown

Here’s everything about the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio espresso machine.

Espresso Quality

There are plenty of new features on the Prestigio aimed at creating better-quality espresso. Despite these changes, the espresso I brewed was passable but not exceptional. The coffee itself was usually under-extracted and also a little bitter. This comes down to the design and internal components of the La Specialista.

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio brewing espresso

First, La Specialista Prestigio coffee machine uses a dual heating system. This is a great upgrade, as espresso and milk steaming have dedicated thermoblocks. You can switch between brew and steam with hardly any wait time. Moreover, the machine has a quick start that doesn’t require additional heating time (less than 30 seconds). 

Another improvement compared to the original no-frills espresso machine is the filter basket. The original La Specialista only had pressurized (dual wall) baskets. While these baskets are good for beginners, the dual wall basket limits the potential of your espresso.

You could not grind fine enough with the baskets on the old La Specialista 9335 model, which was a huge disappointment. The basket change on the new Prestigio 9355 model is what made me excited to test this model.

While I’m glad to see the non-pressurized baskets on the Prestigio espresso machine, the portafilter size is a problem. DeLonghi machines use a 51mm diameter portafilter, which is a lot smaller than the 58mm used in commercial machines. 

This could use a little more explanation. When the portafilter diameter is smaller, the height is larger to hold the same volume of coffee. That height causes some extraction problems. When you brew that taller, narrower puck, water travels more through the top of the column. This leads to more extraction of the top of the coffee pucks and too little on the bottom, which leads to over-extracted parts and bitter flavors. We discuss portafilter sizes here.

On top of this, the DeLonghi basket is tapered further at the bottom, so it is narrower than 51mm!

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio portafilter baskets
The DeLonghi basket is much narrower and taller

Also, the pressure isn’t strong enough on the new DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio. I noticed the machine would easily clog on finer grind settings. This could be a pressure issue, limited grind settings, or basket size.

Overall, this leads to an under-extracted flavor, where shots lack the brightness and clear flavor notes that you can get on more powerful espresso machines.

Some Tips To Dial In Espresso

I go through more tips to dial in the La Specialista here. In short, it takes a little more creativity than simply “grind finer.”

There are some other nice features that helped the espresso, though. First, Prestigio also dynamically does pre-infusion. This means the coffee machine adds a little water to the ground coffee beans before the full-pressure extraction. The DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio. 

Second, you can change the water temperature on the front of the machine. Unlike the basic La Specialista, which only had two temperature settings, the Prestigio has three, with an intuitive button on the display. Water temperature is an underappreciated input for espresso. I could actually make up a lot of shortcomings by grinding a little coarser, then using a higher water temperature. This change often brought out acidity and clarity in espresso, sometimes.

Overall, that was a theme of my testing with the Prestigio: lots of features that should improve the espresso, but my shots were often muddy or bitter. They could still be enjoyable, especially in a latte or cappuccino. However, they didn’t live up to the quality that I would expect with all the improvements that the Prestigio supposedly makes over previous La Specialista models. 

One thing significantly improved my espresso: a new portafilter and basket. This option from Neoza has more holes and flat sides, which allows you to grind finer and increases the surface area for more extraction. Plus, it’s a bottomless portafilter. You can find it here.

bottomless portafilter and basket for DeLonghi espresso machine
This Neoza portafilter is a needed accessory for the La Specialista

Milk Frothing

The La Specialista Prestigio comes with a professional steam wand. It’s more hands-on than the Pannarello of the old La Specialista, but I really liked this direct steam wand. Overall, it’s a good milk frother with sufficient steam power thanks to the dual heating system. 

The wand can start within seconds, as the La Specialista has a second thermoblock for milk frothing. Also, when you turn it out, you don’t have any issues brewing espresso right after. Meanwhile, single-heating system machines are way too hot to brew espresso after frothing.

The steam was quite powerful and created a nice vortex to aerate the milk. It took about a minute to finish frothing. The wand pushes out a dry steam, which adds 1 oz of water to the milk. I like dry steam, as some steam wands dilute the creaminess of milk with water.

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio steaming milk
a powerful steam wand, but hard to angle

While the wand is long, it lacks mobility. The milk frother barely rotates outward and doesn’t get a 45 angle, which is recommended for milk texturing. 

The steam wand is also easy to clean. It has a plastic interior, which partially insulates the steam wand. I wouldn’t touch the metal with bare hands, but you can easily wipe the wand without milk crusting on the tip.

Grinder And Integrated Tamping

La Specialista Prestigio has an updated grinder with eight settings, compared to six on the original machine. The grinder creates a consistent grind, and you get fluffy grounds with some occasional mild clumping. However, eight settings aren’t enough for espresso. I feel I was stuck at the third setting for pretty much everything. 

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio grinder with hopper

The machine also has auto tamping. It uses “smart grind” technology, which starts grinding immediately when you lock the portafilter into place. Once the Prestigio espresso machine is done grinding, you pull a lever located on the left, and the machine automatically tamps the grounds.

The whole puck creation happens internally, which completely eliminates any chance of a mess. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your tamping technique. 

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio lever

However, auto-tamping means you can’t redistribute the grounds and use a WDT tool to improve the puck for a better flow. That’s the tradeoff for convenience, and this machine is really for those who value ease of use. You can still get a solid espresso in a fraction of the work, after all. 

There is a workaround to do advanced distribution. You should grind, remove the portafilter, do your puck prep, and slightly reinsert it so it’s locked but not all the way in to start grinding. Then tamp. It’s not ideal, but it’s a way to improve espresso.

On the positive side, the grinder signals when it’s empty. You’ll see a lit-up symbol on the control panel so you don’t run out of beans mid-dose. However, a downside is you can’t remove the 250 g bean hopper without spilling out the beans. Only clean the burrs when the hopper is already empty, or you’ll make a mess. 

Design and Build

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio is made of steel with a plastic exterior. The casing, the heating system, and the brew head are all steel, while the portafilter handle is plastic. Most portafilters use a stainless steel handle with a plastic or rubber coating to prevent burns, and I prefer that sturdiness over the Prestigio’s portafilter. Overall, parts of the machine that come into contact with hot water and coffee are steel, which is most important.

The middle of the panel has a pressure gauge as the machine’s centerpiece. Some might consider it outdated, but I liked watching the pressure during the brewing process. Also, the black panels give the machine a more modern look. 

The display is minimal, with a dial to choose ground coffee volumes and buttons for a double dose, starting the brewing process, dispensing hot water, brew temperature, and choosing customized profiles. 

The button labels are confusing, and I included a photo with the original plastic cover, which helps a lot:

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio front panel

The buttons on La Specialista Prestigio are self-explanatory, for the most part. For example, there’s a descale light, steam ready light, no beans light, cleaning light, no water light, etc. Overall, the machine lets you know when you need to take action. But the labeling is confusing, and you will refer to the manual.

The “OK” button starts and stops brewing, and it’s the button you’ll always use. I really wish it said something like “brew” or showed an espresso, rather than the vague “OK” that could mean anything.

You use the coffee temperature button to change the temperature, which is an underrated feature.

The “my” button customizes the drink quantity. To customize, push the “my” button, then manually start and stop a brew with the “ok” button, then press “my” again to set the program. This becomes the default volume dispensed. It’s simple enough, but a display would have been much more intuitive.

While some features make the Prestigio easier to use, others are more complicated to figure out. Taken together, it’s not a difficult machine to use, but it’s not exactly an easy one either.

The left side of the machine features a bean hopper on top of the machine, an integrated grinder, and an automatic tamping arm next to the group head (already covered). The 2 L water tank is located at the back. You’ll make a dozen espressos and lattes before refilling, as the dual heating system uses less water.

The Prestigio has an espresso tray, so you can place shot glasses and small cups closer to the portafiler. The less distance your coffee travels before getting in the cup, the better. It means a hotter drink and less mess. 

There’s also a hot water dispenser if you want to make Americanos. It’s nicely angled, so there’s no need to move the cup. I really liked that the dial on the right automatically dose water after brewing an espresso for either an American or a coffee.

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio dosing water

Finally, one design aspect I didn’t like was the drip tray. It’s too small, and I had to empty it frequently. 

Cleaning And Maintenance

There’s also a descaling button on the far right of the right dial. The icon is highly unintuitive (coffee grounds stuck in a chute?). Regardless, you should descale do as soon as the descaling light turns on. However, it felt like descaling took forever, so plan it for when you’re well caffeinated.

Also, rinse and refill the water tank as needed, empty out the drip tray (which I mentioned needs to be done often), clean filter baskets after each use, and wipe down the exterior to keep it pristine.

Value

La Specialista Prestigio is a decent-quality hybrid machine that can brew an enjoyable shot through a fairly user-friendly process. The automatic tamping and the manual steam wand are its highest selling points and where the value lies for most users.

Its combination of precision temperature control, advanced grinding system, and innovative tamping mechanism ensures consistency between shots, which is admirable, even if the shots themselves aren’t anything extraordinary. The integrated grinder and dual heating system provide great convenience and efficiency.

Overall, the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio offers a solid balance between quality, features, and user-friendliness and is a fair machine for its price.




Who is the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio for?

The DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio espresso machine is best for coffee lovers who want an automated coffee brewing process. It’s a great choice for those new to brewing espresso. If you don’t want to worry about grinding beans, distribution, and proper tamping pressure, this DeLonghi machine is a solid option. 

Alternative Options: Comparing The DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio

Here’s how DeLonghi La Specialista compares to other espresso machines.

DeLonghi La Specialista Arte
DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio
DeLonghi La Specialista Maestro
Product Title
Product Title
DeLonghi La Specialista Arte
DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio
DeLonghi La Specialista Maestro
Dimensions
Dimensions
11.2 x 14.4 x 15.9 in
15 x 14 x 17.5 in
16.5 x 14 x 18.5 in
Automatic tamping
Automatic tamping
No
Yes
Yes
Automatic Milk Frothing
Automatic Milk Frothing
No
No
Yes
Grinder options
Grinder options
8
8
8
Temperature settings
Temperature settings
3
3
5

La Specialista Maestro

DeLonghi La Specialista Maestro

La Specialista Maestro highlights:

  • Extra water temperature settings (five total)
  • Automatic milk frothing
  • Smart tamping
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The original La Specialista coffee machine had two upgrades: the Prestigio and the Maestro. Maestro is the high-end version and the most advanced espresso machine. 

Same as the Prestigio, the Maestro has a Sensor Grinding Technology with eight grind settings, dual thermoblock technology, and smart tamping. The pre-infusion and active temperature control optimize the coffee extraction and ensure you don’t have a sour or bitter espresso.

This espresso machine has an advanced My Latte Art steam wand. The wand has an internal tube that keeps the exterior metal cool to the touch, so you won’t get burned. Plus, it creates a good microfoam texture. You can even choose between two milk froth options: automatic and manual.

Maestro also has the bean adapt technology, which means the espresso machine automatically adjusts the grind and temperature to suit the coffee beans. You need to do this manually with most espresso machines, which means a few wasted shots until you get the settings right.

Finally, the machine has six pre-set recipes. Overall, it’s a more expensive machine for coffee lovers who have some espresso knowledge and want to improve their skills further.

La Specialista Arte

DeLonghi La Specialista Arte

La Specialista Arte highlights:

  • Metal tamper and dosing funnel
  • Dual thermoblock system
  • Eight settings with non-pressurized baskets
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La Specialista Arte (EC9155MB model) is a no-frills version of the Prestigio. It presents a really good value option as it’s one of the least expensive models that has a fully integrated grinder and steam wand.

The main change is the Arte does not have an automatic tamping system. Instead, the grinder doses right into the portafilter, and you must distribute and tamp the grounds. The DeLonghi La Specialista Arte includes a metal tamper and dosing funnel to help you prepare the puck.

I actually don’t mind this change. The manual puck prep is extra time, but you have more control over your espresso shot, as you can now level out the coffee bed and use a WDT tool if needed. The DeLonghi tamper and dosing cup are good quality and easy to use too.

The internals are the same on the Arte, including a dual thermoblock system and proper steam wand. The Arte makes similar espresso as the Prestigio, and the interface is really similar too; there are the same options for one and two-cup dosing and three temperature settings. The grinder also has eight settings with non-pressurized baskets.

Additionally, the Arte is three inches slimmer than the Prestigio without the tamping arm, saving some space. The Arte is a good option for those on more of a budget and who want more control over their espresso with manual puck prep.

Is the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio for You?

DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio is a good choice for a coffee machine, especially if you’re new to making espresso or just don’t want to worry about making coffee pucks. The dual heating system is a major pro; the steam wand makes good milk texture for various drinks, and the automatic tamping streamlines the coffee-making process.

But, if you aren’t sure this is the one for you, DeLonghi has plenty more models. We’ve tried and tested several models from their espresso machine lineup. Check out our round-up of the best DeLonghi espresso machines for more options.

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Marko Lazarevic
Marko is the editor behind Craft Coffee Spot. He tests everything behind the articles and owns a dozen espresso machines and burr grinders, not to mention countless brewing devices (don’t ask where it's all stored). He also roasts coffee on a Behmor2000. He’s been going down the specialty coffee rabbit hole since starting Craft Coffee Spot and has no plan to stop. 
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