Home / Reviews / De’Longhi La Specialista Arte review: ideal balance between manual and auto coffee

De’Longhi La Specialista Arte review: ideal balance between manual and auto coffee

An Arte throb for coffee enthusiasts

Coffee enthusiasts ahoy – the De’Longhi La Specialista Arte is a bean to cup coffee machine that toes the line between being automated and manual. The smart all-in-one solution combines a bean grinder, espresso machine and milk frother, packaged in a classically styled, relatively compact body.

The La Specialista Arte sits in the middle of the home coffee machine mix. You’ll pay more for a machine that can automatically froth your milk for you, and you’ll probably pay less for a Nespresso machine or a lower-end option.

On paper, the Arte should fit the bill for someone who wants a bit more control over their coffee than a pod machine. Perhaps someone who already has an entry-level machine, or who uses a coffee grinder and a V60 or Aeropress, but now wants a real, compromise-free Espresso maker at home.

Design: Chrome is where the Arte is

Unboxing the La Specialista Arte and setting it up is a pretty swift process – we just plugged the machine in, took off the plastic, washed out the water container, filled it up with water, beans, and bam – good to go.

In the box, you get the core unit and drip tray, which consists of a base tray, a plastic element that lets you know if the water level is too high, and a metal top-layer grille. The only other loose parts that attach to the machine are the portafilter and tamping guide, the lid for the bean grinder, and the riser to help you make small espresso cups.

In addition to the core machine components, the La Specialista Arte also comes with a tamping mat, so you can easily tamp (flatten) your coffee grounds without wrecking your work surface, two baskets (the bit that collects the coffee and goes in the portafilter) – one single and one double shot, as well as a brush and pin for cleaning the milk frother and espresso drip, and finally, a small milk jug.

The included kit is plenty to get you off the ground, with milk, water and coffee beans being the only elements missing to make a great black or white coffee at home.

It’s also worth noting, the Arte looks great.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

In our kitchen, adding this machine meant we could retire our kettle and our coffee grinder, so actually ended up saving a bit of space while adding a milk frother to the mix. Its classic, chrome coffee shop chic styling also shines, with a number of plastic elements like the grinder dial, sides of the machine and drip tray elevated by the elegant, stainless steel components.

Who it’s for and what does it do?

If you’re thinking about getting the La Specialista Arte, it’s probably because you’re in a similar situation to us: you love coffee and like the idea of grinding your own beans (if you’re not already doing so).

The main control panel is simple to get to grips with, with the most complicated element is the pressure gauge. Even that’s dialled back – there are no numbers, just an optimal zone indicator, so you know if you’re in the right pressure ballpark.

To make a coffee, just fix on the tamping guide (a genius contraption that guides coffee into the filter, and also helps you flatten the coffee), push the portafilter under the grinder and it freshly grinds your beans.

Next, press down (tamp) your coffee, fix the portafilter to the machine, set your temperature – the Arte’s lowest preset temperature is 92ºC – going up in increments of 2º up to 98ºC, pick between espresso or long black, and you’re done.

Coffee and Milk: Latte Arte

Our favourite thing about using the Arte was the degree to which we were able to control the flavour of our coffee by tweaking the method. The grind and dose volume helped us manage the pressure and flavour intensity, while the heat upped and downed the bitterness.

We’ve been drinking a specific whole-bean decaf coffee for a couple of years and thought we knew how to get the best from the beans. When we got it into the Arte though, we were able to make the decaf taste less… decaf?

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

With this extra control we tapped into, we also started drinking more types of drinks on the regular – from lattes to cappuccinos, and espressos to our old faithful, black Americanos.

The milk frother worked well, even with non-dairy milk. While we couldn’t get our inner barista to create actual latte art, we were able to make tasty, silky, airy hot milk and really great tasting white coffees, and the included milk jug was perfect for a one-cup latte or two-cup cappuccino.

If you’ve never made coffee with a manual bean to cup machine, the La Specialista Arte’s instruction manual gets you off the ground, helping you understand all the parameters of the dials, buttons and components of the machine in an easy to use way.

Cleaning: Washed coffee

Before we get onto cleaning the coffee machine itself, let’s start by getting the grounds out of the portafilter after you’ve brewed a coffee.

If you’re familiar with espresso machines, you might already have a knock box – the container you knock coffee grounds into. If you don’t have one, the Arte’s grounds are seriously wedged into the basket. You’ll have to improvise with a thick plastic container, a chopping board with a tea towel on it or something else – but none are as fit for purpose as a dedicated knock box.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Next, onto cleaning the Arte itself, and if you’ve got a dishwasher, you’ll be delighted to know the hardest element to wash – the trays, are dishwasher safe. The machine itself can only be washed with a cloth, soap and water, and the same applies to the water filter.

Descaling is a simple process, and the machine tells you when it needs descaling – around once every month or two in a soft water area, and possibly more frequently in a hard water area. Descaling requires a solution – one pack is included with the Arte, and you can buy more online for around £12 for two rounds of descaling.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Perhaps the main drawback of the La Specialista after two weeks of using it is that with regular wiping down with a cloth, the top tray, which is metal, developed loads of micro scratches. Given how pristine the Arte looks when it’s box-fresh, any tarnish is noticeable up close. In turn, we’d recommend if you have a dishwasher, try using that instead for the trays.

De'Longhi La Specialista Arte review

Verdict

The La Specialista Arte strikes a great balance that steers clear of over-complication.

A machine for enthusiasts who like grinding their own beans and tweaking aspects of their coffee, the Arte is still easy enough to get to grips with, even if you’ve never owned a coffee machine before.

The niggles we had with the Arte were relatively minor. For third-wave light beans which have super fruity, subtle flavours, we wouldn’t have minded a lower temperature setting. The metal draining mat also scratches pretty easily, even from light cleaning with a J-Cloth.

Generally speaking though, the La Specialista Arte helped us get more flavour from our tried and tested beans, delivered a consistent espresso, and was the perfect gadget to help us get our coffee flex on as we experimented with making new milky brews.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

A sleek, premium, easy to use bean to cup machine that makes excellent coffee

Good Stuff

Great looking, classical design

Balance of manual and automated controls

Tamping guide minimises mess

Bad Stuff

Metal drain mat scratches easily

You’ll need a knock box – sold separately

Pressure gauge lacks numbers for real geeks