The DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio vs Breville Barista Express Impress rivalry is a direct head-to-head competition for the best espresso machine with a self-tamping feature. The devil is in the details, and there are a few crucial ones that make the decision on the best machine clear.
My vote goes to the Breville Barista Express Impress because it simply makes better espresso. It also has intelligent dosing which makes it easier to use. However, the Prestigio has a few strong points, namely the better steam wand.
I’ll explain how these two popular coffee machines compare and why exactly I think Breville Express Impress is the better choice. You’ll have all the necessary information to decide on the right espresso machine to fit your coffee-loving lifestyle.
Feature Comparison (Similarities and Differences)
Here’s exactly where the Express Impress and La Specialista Prestigio are similar and different.
Design and Build
Breville Barista Express Impress and DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio have a similar design. These aren’t the most compact coffee machines I used, with dimensions 12.9 x 14.9 x 16.1 in for Breville and 15 x 14.4 x 17.5 in for DeLonghi. Still, you won’t need extra space for a coffee grinder, as they come with an integrated one. Both machines have bean hoppers on the top and 2 L water tanks at the back.
The biggest visual design difference is the black control panel on the DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio. Personally, I think it makes the espresso machine look modern. The espresso machine has a pressure gauge in the center of the control panel, which is handy for keeping an eye on the pressure during brewing. Overall, the machine has a minimalistic control panel with a few buttons and rotary dials you use to choose the coffee volume, grind size, customized profiles, and more.
I have to give a shot out to the espresso tray, which lets you place shot glasses close to the portafilter. This means less mess and hotter coffee, as it travels a shorter difference from the spout to the cup. However, it does interfere with my coffee scale, so you’ll either love it or never use it.
Overall, I prefer the Barista Express Impress design. Not only do I think it looks more modern, as it’s completely made of stainless steel, while the Prestigio is made of stainless steel with plastic elements (like that black control panel).
The espresso machine also has an intuitive design, which is another reason I prefer it. The buttons fit nicely into the design and make it easy to select the filter basket size and the number of shots you want.
The pressure gauge is also the focal point of the design, as it’s located in the middle of the control panel. There are clearly labeled buttons and an LED indicator that provides feedback on your dose amount. More on that now.
The auto-tamping is the most distinct feature of both espresso machines.
The DeLonghi Prestigio uses smart grind technology with time-based dosing. You use a knob to set the grind amount. The espresso machine grinds as soon as you lock the portafilter into place. Once the machine produces freshly ground coffee, you pull a lever on the left, and the machine tamps the coffee grounds.
Essentially, the entire process of creating a puck happens internally. This means no chance of creating a mess and no need to worry about if you’ve tamped well. In fact, I noticed that the Prestigio creates a more even bed compared to the Express Impress.
The tamping works somewhat similarly on the Express Impress. You place the portafilter in the grinder cradle, push a button to start grinding, and then use the tamper lever to tamp the coffee. The espresso machine uses 22 pounds of pressure to tamp freshly ground coffee beans. You press down on the arm, and the tamping piston aligns with the portafilter basket to tamp your coffee.
The integrated tamping system on the Breville Express Impress has dosing control, focusing on the puck’s bed depth after tamping. There’s a row of lights called Dose Level, which gives you feedback on the tamp. If the tamping is right, the machine shows a smiley face. In case it’s not right, the machine sends feedback to itself so it can correct it the next time.
Essentially, the machine teaches itself how much coffee it should grind based on the height of the puck after tamping. It also recalibrates grinding time after changing the grind size, which La Specialista Prestigio doesn’t do.
Here’s where the integrated tamping system falls short on both espresso machines: you can’t use the redistribution technique. For example, WDT is an obligatory part of my espresso prep. I especially use it on my Breville espresso machines, as they tend to create clumpy grounds. However, I can’t use the WDT, levelers, or any other tools because the puck creation happens internally immediately after grinding. The portafilter is locked into the machine from grinding to tamping. I can’t remove the portafilter, redistribute the grounds, and return it to the machine to tamp.
Note: You can use a WDT and distribute on both machines, but it takes some effort. We cover each process in our Breville Barista Express Impress review and DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio review, respectively.
Espresso Performance and Internals
The biggest difference between the machines is the espresso quality, where the Breville Barista Express Impress comes out on top. This included testing of different factors, including a separate grinder and different filter baskets. It’s worth elaborating a little more on what’s happening on the DeLonghi.
DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio is an upgraded version of the original La Specialista model, which should create better-quality espresso. In practice, those improvements don’t stop the Prestigio from producing muddy, unbalanced shots.
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I’ll start with what comes in this model: DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio has a dual heating system, so you can brew and steam milk with almost no wait time. The espresso machine also has three temperature settings you choose between using a button on the front. DeLonghi even gives you a guide for choosing the best temperature with various roast levels.
The machine has automatic pre-infusion, where it wets the ground coffee at low pressure before extraction. This should result in a more consistent extraction with a richer flavor.
Finally, the biggest improvement on the original model is the non-pressurized, single-wall baskets. This means the puck quality depends on the grind and the prep.
However, my main issue with DeLonghi is their basket size — 51 mm. Portafilter size can affect espresso extraction, and I’ve found that I have an easier time getting even extraction with a larger portafilter size.
Moreover, the filter basket on the DeLonghi narrows further. There’s a big taper on the sides, so in reality, it’s even smaller than 51 mm. I found it’s closer to 46 mm. Compared to the 58 mm filter size that commercial machines use, this is a huge difference.
Despite the added features of the Prestigio over the base La Specialista, I was never fully satisfied with my espresso. My shots never tasted well-balanced, and I usually got a bitter taste no matter what I tried. I even ground my shots using a DF64, and the Prestigio still produced an unbalanced flavor. I sometimes had issues with pressure while using the included grinder, so that may be part of the problem.
Overall, too small filter size, low pressure, and a small number of grinder settings all work together to create low-quality shots on the Prestigio.
Breville Barista Express Impress let me brew flavorful shots with velvety smooth crema despite using an older heating system than the Prestigio.
The Barista Express Impress has a 54 mm stainless steel portafilter with both single and dual wall baskets. The machine also has pre-infusion and PID (like DeLonghi), which ensures precise temperature control, optimal water pressure, and even extraction.
A big difference here is we found the Breville Barista Express Impress runs at lower pressure than other espresso machines like the Barista Pro. This makes a big difference in terms of espresso quality.
But the pump is also more powerful and can grind finer than the DeLonghi. This also might be due to the wider basket on the Breville, which gives a wider surface area to extract flavor.
I tested both machines using a standalone grinder to highlight the point. I found that a grind size (using a DF64 grinder) works on Breville but clogs the DeLonghi. Using the same grinder and puck prep, the Express Impress easily outperformed the Prestigio in espresso quality. My shots were more balanced, rich, and flavorful than anything I got from the Prestigio.
Overall, the espresso just turns out a little better with Breville…
Steam Wand And Milk Frothing
Milk frothing is an area in which DeLonghi La Specialista wins. This espresso machine has a professional steam wand instead of a Pannarello. This means the steam wand is more hands-on, and you can practice getting the right technique to produce good milk froth. Plus, thanks to the dual heating system, the machine switches from brewing to steaming in no time.
Overall, the DeLonghi steam wand is powerful, and it is partially insulated. That protects against burns and makes it easy to clean. I also found the Prestigio wand finishes steaming in about 50 seconds, while the Express Impress one needs between 80 to 90 seconds.
That being said, the Prestigio milk frother lacks mobility. You can barely rotate it. I even struggled to get a 45-degree angle, which is the best angle for milk texturing.
On the other hand, the Breville Barista Express Impress needs more time to switch from brewing to steaming because of the older thermocoil heating system. The espresso machine needs about 30 seconds to get good steam going.
Also, it’s less powerful compared to the steam wand on the Prestigio, but it can rotate to 360 degrees. You can get silky microfoam, but you have less control over aeration and texturing than with the Prestigio.
La Specialista Prestigio has a grinder with eight coffee settings. The grinder can create a consistent grind with fluffy grounds. There’s occasional clumping, but nothing alarming. The main issue with this grinder is that eight settings aren’t enough for espresso. I had to use the third setting all the time. When I switched to two, it clogged, and four ran too fast.
On the plus side, the grinder lets you know when it’s empty. There’s a symbol on the control panel that lights up, so you don’t have to worry about running out of coffee in the middle of grinding. The 250 g bean hopper is easily movable, and I could access the conical burrs for easy cleaning.
The Barista Express Impress has a grinder with 25 settings. More settings are always better for espresso, as you can properly dial in. The grinder is stainless steel conical burr, and it consistently creates fine, fluffy coffee grounds. The greater number of settings and improved consistency give the Express Impress a leg up over the Prestigio.
Ease of Use
Even though I like the design of the La Specialista Prestigio control panel, I don’t find it very intuitive. I’d even say it’s confusing.
I had to take a picture with the original plastic wrap, since it does the best job of showing the main functions.
Some of the buttons are self-explanatory, such as the signal lights. This semi-automatic espresso machine lets you know when you need to clean it, refill the water tank, empty the drip tray, etc., which is a plus.
However, I found myself wishing the De Longhi included a display. Only recently did I figure out how to program the shots using the buttons. Overall, the Prestigio isn’t too difficult to use for basic grinding and brewing, but anything beyond that can be confusing to the point of being unusable.
Meanwhile, the Barista Express Impress control panel is a breeze to use. The buttons are clearly labeled, and everything from grinding to brewing and programming was easy to figure out. I’ve already shared how the lights are much simpler
The cleaning and maintenance of the Express Impress, like the Prestigio, is relatively easy. It’s all done using the buttons on the control panel. However, The steam wand can be more difficult to maintain and clean. It’s not very powerful, so purging the want doesn’t always fully clear the wand of leftover milk. If the holes become blocked, you have to disassemble the wand to deep clean it.
One feature that I prefer on the Prestigio is the low-water sensor. Breville lacks this feature. I ran out of water a few times during the brewing on the Breville because I didn’t know the tank was almost empty, which has been annoying.
On the other hand, Breville has a much larger drip tray, and it doesn’t require frequent emptying as the Prestigio does. The Express Impress also has a hidden compartment behind the drip tray, where you can store cleaning tools, etc. This is another feature that makes the use easy, which the Prestigio lacks.
Finally, I liked that the La Specialista Prestigio has an angled water spout. This is great for Americanos, and it’s easy to twist the knob so the machine pours water right after espresso. The spout on the Express Impress is on the side, and it’s annoyingly close to the steam wand. Overall, it’s not as easy to use as the spout on the Prestigio.
Both of these espresso machines are good value for money, but my vote goes to the Barista Express Impress. It’s a great entry-level espresso machine with a durable, stylish design, and most importantly, it makes delicious coffee.
La Specialista Prestigio is also good value if you want a self-tamping espresso machine and a quality steam wand that gives you total control over the milk texture. The shots aren’t anything to write home about, but the machine has a dual heating system and temperature control that provide efficiency and reliability.
Overall, both machines provide a balance between quality and user-friendliness, with the Express Impress producing better shots. Since they’re about the same price, I prefer the Breville because of the higher quality coffee it makes.
Who Is the Barista Express Impress and La Specialista Prestigio for?
Breville Barista Express Impress is best for coffee lovers entering the world of espresso. If you don’t want to learn how to make a puck and want an easy workflow and a machine that makes good espresso, this is a great choice.
It’s the best option for those who don’t want to worry about the most difficult parts of the brewing process but still want a well-balanced, flavorful espresso.
Breville Barista Express Impress Features:
- Assisted tamping
- intelligent dosing
- Integrated stainless steel conical burr grinder with 25 settings
DeLonghi La Specialista Prestigio is the best choice for coffee lovers who haven’t developed a refined palate for espresso. It’s a good starting espresso machine if you don’t want to get a separate grinder worry about grinding beans, tamping pressure, distribution, etc.
The shots aren’t as good as the Breville, but they pair well with milk, and the Prestigio has a great steam wand. Overall, it’s not ideal for coffee drinkers who can immediately tell the difference between a good and bad espresso, but it’s a great choice if you prefer lattes or cappuccinos over plain espresso.
Should You Choose the Barista Express Impress or the La Specialista Prestigio?
I give an advantage to the Barista Express Impress. It has a great tamping system, and I like how the machine improves itself based on previous shots via the puck detection system. It has more grind settings, and the Breville Barista Express delivers better espresso.
You can’t get enough of espresso machines? Neither can we. If you aren’t sure if an espresso machine with auto-tamping is the best choice or simply want to see more options, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our round-up of the best DeLonghi machines and the best Breville machines.