Delonghi La Specialista Vs Breville Barista Express Review

In a rush? The winner in this showdown is the Breville Barista Express.

Buying a new espresso maker with a built-in grinder?

You probably came across the two most popular models: Delonghi La Specialista and Breville Barista Express.

They’re both great, but which one is better?

To find out the answer, we’ll compare them side by side and discuss each of their features. 

Let’s do that now.

Here’s the Delonghi La Specialista vs Breville Barista Express showdown.

Delonghi La Specialista Vs Breville Barista Express: A Quick Comparison

De'Longhi EC9335R La Specialista Espresso Machine
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
Product
Product
De'Longhi EC9335R La Specialista Espresso Machine
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine
Heater
Heater
Single
Double
Grind Settings
Grind Settings
6
18
Tamping
Tamping
Manual
Integrated
Type of Filter
Type of Filter
Pressurised
Non-pressurised
Steam Wand
Steam Wand
Panarello Style
Classic 
Types of Coffee
Types of Coffee
Espresso, Coffee, Americano
Espresso

Delonghi La Specialista Overview

La Specialista espresso machine is designed for all at-home baristas in making.

This semi automatic espresso machine lets you practice your brewing skills, with a few bells and whistles to make your job a bit easier.

With a heat-up time of a single second, this machine can brew coffee as soon as you turn it on.

And thanks to the dual boiler system, you can brew and steam at the same time, one cup after another. This is especially great if your household members also drink coffee.

La Specialista goes above and beyond to turn everyone into a barista.

From auto-dosing to tamping and frothing, this model’s features allow you to make consistently good espresso each time. And all that without much practice.

This espresso machine allows you to make three types of drinks: espresso, long black, and Americano. Once you pick your favorite, you can save the preference on the machine. Next time, you can make your coffee with a single press of a button.

With the Pannarello wand, you can select the type of foam you want – whether it’s flat or frothy. Then, with very little necessary input from you, the wand makes your desired foam. And, it does it all in less than a minute!

Pros

  • 1-second start allow you to brew coffee as soon as you turn on the machine
  • Dual boiler system allows you to brew and steam simultaneously, so you can make one cup after another
  • The auto tamping station helps you achieve mess-free perfect tamp each time
  • The machine turns off after being idle for a while, saving you energy

Cons

  • Only 6 grind options available
  • Certain parts of the machine are made of flimsy plastic
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Breville Barista Express Overview

Barista Express espresso machine is one of the Breville’s best-selling models, and not without reason. 

The built-in conical burr grinder offers as many as 18 grind options. This means you can really fine-tune your espresso up to your liking. What’s more, the machine grinds just the right amount each time, so there are no leftover grounds.

The simple and straightforward control panel with knobs and buttons makes brewing quick and easy. Each button has a designated icon, so you know exactly what’s for. No need to flip through a manual just to brew coffee.

While simple to use, this Breville espresso machine is designed to let you brew espresso like a real barista. For that reason, it comes with a classic pin-hole wand, like those you find on commercial-grade machines. 

While it requires a bit of practice, this type of steaming wand allows you to create that perfect microfoam for latte art. 

I love the fact that this machine has a designated hot water outlet. You can use this to make an Americano or to preheat cups before filling them with espresso.

With Barista Express espresso machine, maintenance is relatively simple. It features the auto-cleaning program, and the only thing you need to do is run it once the machine sends out a cleaning alert.

Pros

  • With 18 grind options, you can play around with different settings depending on the beans you’re using
  • Pin-hole steam wand allows you to make perfect microfoam
  • Only takes about 30 seconds to heat up after you turn it on
  • The control panel is intuitive and straightforward to use

Cons

  • Since it features a single boiler, you can’t brew coffee and steam milk simultaneously
  • Using a pin-hole wand requires a bit of practice to master
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Delonghi La Specialista Vs Breville Barista Express: Features Compared

At the first glance, these two espresso makers appear to be quite similar. But, there are also some key differences between them. Let’s see how their features compare.

Design and Build Quality

breville barista express black
Source: breville.com

If you put these two machines side by side, you’ll notice they have a rather similar design.

The simple, retro look in brushed steel color gives off that “professional machine” vibe. As for the size, you can barely notice that La Specialista is slightly larger in dimensions.

Both of these espresso makers have a stainless steel body. But on La Specialista, many removable parts, such as the portafilter or the bean hopper, are made of plastic. I guess at some point, you have to expect them to break from too much wear and tear.

On the other hand, the majority of these parts on Barista Express are made of steel, so they’re sturdier and more durable. With proper use, this machine should serve you the same a decade later.

WINNER
Barista Express Breville machine is sturdier and more durable than Delonghi La Specialista.

Grinder

Both models feature a conical burr grinder made of stainless steel. The main difference lies in the number of grind settings available. 

While La Specialista offers only 6 options, Barista Express lets you choose between 18 grind settings. 

Experimenting with different grind sizes allows you to add subtle flavor changes and find what suits you the best. For that reason, the difference between the number of options each model offers really matters.

Both espresso makers feature dose-controlled coffee bean grinding. That means you don’t have to worry about measuring your coffee grounds before brewing.

The espresso machine adds exactly the right amount of coffee grounds into the portafilter every time. That way, you avoid having stale coffee!

La Specialista has one neat feature – the smart tamping station. By simply pulling the lever, you get equally leveled and tamped ground coffee each time. 

With Barista Express, you need to tamp your ground coffee the old-fashioned way – manually. And as it goes with espresso-making, tamping also has a slight learning curve. 

WINNER
With 3 times as many grind settings as the other model, Breville Barista Express gives you more room to experiment with your coffee.

Brewing

brewing coffee on delonghi la specialista machine
Source: delonghi.com

Now, let’s move on to the real thing – brewing. 

La Specialista has a 1-second heat-up time, so it’s ready to brew as soon as you start it up. The machine uses a dual heating system, which allows you to brew espresso and steam milk at the same time. This comes in handy when you’re making coffee for the whole group.

Barista Express has a single Thermocoil boiler, so you can’t do both things simultaneously. What’s more, you have to wait about 30 seconds for the machine to cool down from steaming before you can brew again.

There are two features both of these models have that further assure optimal coffee extraction. These are:

  • Pre-infusion technology – this is a prepping step prior to brewing. The machine soaks coffee grounds inside the portafilter before pressuring the water through them. It ensures water evenly saturates the grounds so that every particle extracts evenly.
  • PID sensor control – it regulates water temperature affected by external factors. Let’s say you open the window next to the machine during a cold winter day. The cold breeze blowing directly into the coffee maker would cool down the water inside, right? Well, this little sensor ensures water remains at a stable temperature.

Since we’re on the subject of brewing, let’s make one thing clear.

La Specialista is a model marketized as a professionally-inspired espresso machine. But it comes with just a 51mm pressurized filter basket. This type of basket has a single hole for water flow, compared to non-pressurized, which are covered in holes. 

What this means is that a pressurized filter basket is designed to make brewing simple and hassle-free. In other words, it’s supposed to give you consistent results, regardless of your brewing skills.

And as it usually goes with such features, a pressurized filter basket is a Jack of all trades, master of none. What that means is that it will give you decent results every time.

But with a non-pressurized filter basket (and a bit of practice) that comes with Barista Express, you can make an exceptionally nice espresso drink. 

WINNER
I’d say it’s a tie. Ultimately, it depends on how much you want to be involved in brewing coffee.

Frothing

Both of these models have a built-in steam wand, although of a different type.

La Specialista features a Panarello-style wand, which has a thick nozzle with several air holes. It’s designed that way to make frothing an easier task. 

Depending on the kind of milk texturing you want, you can move the ring on the wand from “flat”  to “foam.” The ring controls how much air gets into the milk, ultimately affecting the texture of the foam. 

With a Pannarello wand, the only thing you need to do is hold the jug – the machine will do the main part.

Barista Express, on the other hand, comes with a classic pin-hole wand. This is the kind of steam wand professional baristas use to create the perfect foam. 

But like any other professional tool, a pin-hole wand requires a bit of practice and experience to master your frothing skills.

WINNER
Barista Express has a slight edge in this category. A pin-hole wand is simply a better frothing tool in the hands of an experienced barista. But, even if you are a casual coffee drinker, with a bit of practice, you can master the wand.

Ease of Use

a person using delonghi la specialista machine
Source: delonghi.com

These two machines are designed with simplicity in mind. Both models are operated through a simple interface with knobs and buttons. 

Barista Express is one of those espresso makers you can use without ever needing a manual. Each knob or button is properly labeled, so you know exactly what it is for. “Grind amount,” “Filter size,” and “Double shot” can’t be any more intuitive, can they?

Things aren’t so clear with La Specialista. You’ll probably have to keep the manual close to hand for the first brew brews.

For instance, I couldn’t figure out what the “My” button is supposed to do to save my life.

(For the record, this button lets you customize the length of pre-set drink.)

As far as brewing espresso goes, La Specialista does offer some features that make using the machine a bit easier. 

First is the tamping lever that applies the right amount of pressure to coffee grounds, creating an even tamp. And second is the Panarello wand, which requires very little input from you.

WINNER
Between the two, La Specialista is slightly easier to use for someone new to brewing espresso.

Verdict

Competition is tough in this showdown. But I feel like the Barista Express has a slight edge here. Whether you’re a beginner espresso lover or a pro barista, this is the type of machine that will let you make a delicious espresso at home.

Choose Breville Barista Express if:

  • You want a more durable machine
  • You want to practice barista skills at home
  • You want a machine that’s intuitive to use

Choose Delonghi La Specialista if:

  • You want less input into the brewing process
  • You want mess-free tamping
  • You want a machine that starts up instantly

Whether you go for Breville or Delonghi model, you won’t go wrong.

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.