When considering the purchase of an espresso coffee maker, it is important to understand the type of machine that will best serve your interests. The espresso machines available in the current market make typically fall under one of two categories of extraction. Brewers either use the pump method or steam method for extraction.
Steam brewers work by heating water in a sealed chamber until it boils to make the steam. Under high pressure water may heat to around 200 degrees to create a pressure of approximately three bars. The steam is then forced through the coffee grounds for extraction. The benefit of such units is that they tend to be less costly. However, steam driven machines are generally incapable of producing good quality crèma, because that requires extraction at much higher pressures. In the end, let’s face it, good espresso is defined by the quality of crèma on top. Also, the high temperature of steam may scald the grinds to produce a drink that has a burnt taste.
The pump machines create high pressure using internal pumps and then force water through the grounds at high pressure for maximum extraction. The extraction in pump machines occurs under higher pressure than steam machines without making the water boil. Additionally the pump machines maintain a consistent pressure during the entire extraction process as opposed to steam machines where the pressure fluctuates. The elevated pressure coupled with ideal water temperature ensures that exceptional quality of crèma is produced yielding a much better tasting drink.
De’ Longhi EC330.S
The De’ Longhi EC330 is a pump driven espresso maker. It extracts coffee under a pressure of fifteen bars, to produce a drink with high end gourmet shop taste. The brewer has a stylish brushed steel finish which gives a very expensive appearance. While it actually geared for making coffee from fresh grounds, it can also accommodate the ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. This is an added benefit for those who don’t want to give up their convenience of enjoying espresso and cappuccinos. The built-in lever for manual frothing combines air, steam and milk for frothing a delicious topping for your favourite drinks.
Additional features include a built-in tamper so the grinds are compressed perfectly every time, there are separate thermostats for steam and coffee, and a warming tray. The extra-large water tank is transparent so it is easy to see when a refill is needed. The brewer is simple to use, requiring a selection from three buttons only-coffee, cappuccino and the on/off switch. The removable drip tray is nice and deep to accommodate larger travel mugs when necessary while the boiler is made from stainless steel to long life.
How the EC330 Works
The unit requires around half an hour to warm up after turning it on, but you can cut this time by running a few shots of water through the system to heat everything nicely. Running the machine is fairly straight forward, it is turned on via a button situated at the top and when it is ready to brew a red light will come on. After each shot is brewed, the light will go off until the machine is ready to brew again, a matter of only a few seconds.
Once the button for brewing is pushed, the pressure builds, and the shot comes through. The user has to decide how long they want their shot to run. Getting that ideal espresso shot of 1.5 ounces of water in 25 to 30 seconds requires some practice. It is possible to let water continue running as long as you desire, but obviously it will make for weaker drink. When you turn the unit off, water will continue to flow until the residual pressure subsides and the flow stops (a few seconds extra). The EC330.S allows the user to have fair amount of control over their shots instead of automating the time function. I especially like this as a purist for pulling shots manually. Remember to run a shot of hot water with no coffee to warm the cup to temperature first, this helps get better temperature control on your coffee.
A point to note is that the De’ Longhi EC330 has a single boiler for preparing the espresso and frothing milk. So it should be remembered that there will be a temperature difference. Hence, when the steam button is pushed, the water needs to be heated more and the machine will indicate when the correct temperature for steaming milk is reached by having an LED light signal with an “O.K.” When this happens, the knob for allowing steam into the wand can be opened. When the frothing/steaming is completed and the steam button is closed, the machine will need a few minutes to go down to the appropriate temperature for brewing coffee. If you run the shot of coffee immediately after steaming milk, the water temperature may be too hot for the grinds and give a burnt taste to your drink. This can be annoying if you regularly make milk based coffee along with espresso. It’s important to remember to pull all of the coffee before using the milk frother. The delay to heat up the boiler for frothing is very quick, but cooling it down passively can feel like an eternity when you need to pull a last cup. With that said, unless you’re hosting company and having to make more than two or four coffees, this will rarely trip you as an inconvenience.
As far as being convenient, the removable 1 liter / 34 ounce clear plastic water tank provides an adequate balance of fresh water refill and cleaning requirements. Cleaning the machine is similar to most similarly sized espresso makers, with the expected removable bottom drip tray. The stainless steel boiler and machine can be safely descaled with general descaling solutions. Dual and single shot filters can be used with traditional coffee grounds, or every growing popular easy serve espresso pods for the no mess coffee drinker. The E330 also has an anti-drip design that works quite well.
Some reviewers have mentioned problems with temperature, however this is probable due to not allowing the machine adequate time to heat up. The instruction manual does say it require around half an hour. Dripping is another common complaint with this unit, again if an empty cup is placed in the cup holder, or just let the water run into the drip tray, it is not a major issue. Finally there is the noise factor, the machine is rather loud.
Generally reviewers feel that for a machine in this price range, it delivers drinks of a quality compatible with much more expensive units. Other reviewers commented that they get good crema around 95% of the time and the frothing wand works well too.