Is it possible to have beautiful, freshly made espresso at home without all the fuss? Dr Adam Carr from our Coffee Science & Education Centre puts the new Delonghi Maestosa to the test to see if it delivers on that promise.
Pods or Fresh?
For many people, the best coffee they’ve had at home has been through a pod machine.
Indeed, pods are a great way of effortlessly achieving a consistently decent cup of espresso at home. They have been designed that way: a perfect little microcosm of ready-to-extract-at-perfect-ratioed-coffee, engineered to extract just so.
And, while we believe the best results you can have is with freshly ground & extracted coffee, we also acknowledge the convenience (we even have our own range of coffee pods).
But if coffee is best brewed when freshly ground, why isn’t that the way everyone does it?
Simply put – it’s difficult.
it’s not only a problem for home baristas. Indeed, many professional baristas have difficulty getting the coffee just right. Balancing grind size with extraction time and extraction temperature in an espresso machine is a complex thing. It can change with something as simple as the ambient humidity. Which is why a good barista is so valued.
So, unless you are prepared to go to Barista School (and if you are, kudos, we can help!), the results from a home espresso machine will often be underwhelming.
There is another niche within the at-home coffee machine market whereby machines make coffee directly from freshly ground coffee. They are often referred to as ‘bean-to-cup’ machines, or ‘Superautomatics’.
Superautomatic machines aren’t new. Indeed, you’ve probably seen them before at 7-11, in supermarkets, or perhaps within an office environment. They vary in complexity, but generally, the coffee they produce is… not as good as a barista, and oftentimes worse than a pod machine.
But, like all things, there are some exceptional exceptions (for example, the Eversys Cameo we reviewed previously). We believe we’ve found one for the home:
The Delonghi Maestosa.
The DeLonghi Maestosa is a beautiful new superautomatic machine designed to fresh brew espresso coffee, or your favourite milk drink, at the press of a button.
Setup is simple. After loading the hoppers with coffee (it has two hoppers so you can program for two blends) and the milk reservoir with milk, it was ready to go. I pushed ‘flat white’, and lo, a deliciously textured milk coffee was the result.
So, with no modification to the extraction recipe, the machine appeared to extract our coffees surprisingly well. And, for a $5000 machine, one could argue that it should.
But for us, good isn’t good enough…we’re after exceptional. Graciously, the Maestosa allows for modification of the extraction parameters to ‘dial in’ the coffee appropriately.
We found that modification of brew recipes was relatively simple through the touchscreen. The machine offers the scope to change
- The volume of coffee dosed (i.e. the liquid volume that ends up in your cup)
- The ‘aroma’ – which we determined meant the grind size and dose (giving you a more concentrated coffee)
- The temperature of the drink
- The amount of milk foam (if using the automated ‘Lattecrema’ system).
We tried seven of our coffee blends through the machine and found that 3 coffees interact exceptionally well with the machine. In other words, the quality of the espresso extraction was as good as, or close to the standard we would expect from a professional barista.
But which blend tasted best?
To answer this, we’ve summarized the blend that worked best ‘black’, and the blend that worked best with milk.
For Espresso and Long Black Coffees
In truth, the coffee that found extracted best as espresso in the Maestosa was our medium roast Leaf & Berry blend. It was as though a barista was pulling an espresso straight from one of the best espresso machines out there. Delightful.
We like the standard setup ‘out of the box’ in terms of long black and espresso strength, however if you want the coffee more dilute or concentrated, you can play around with the settings – see our suggested settings at the end of the article.
For Milk-Based Coffees (Latte, Flat White, Cappuccino)
It was our most historic blend, Belaroma No. 5 that cut through the best. This was surprising to me – typically these machines require some robusta content to deliver enough strength through the milk, but not so here. While our Italian-style blend, Tazzina Café (which contains a robusta coffee), did extract well, it was the 100% arabica No. 5 that came out on top.
When it came to milk delivery, there are two options with the Maestosa. You can either use the ‘LatteCrema’ system, which automatically dispenses frothed milk from a reservoir, or the ‘magic wand’, which enables you to manually froth milk in a pitcher.
Being a coffee roaster, we believe the best results are obtained by using the ‘magic wand’ feature – which enables you to pour your own latte art and mix the milk effectively in the espresso.
Having said that, the quality of the ‘LatteCrema’ system is excellent, yielding a good quality and volume of foam, consistent with the desired foam setting. You’ll see from Table 1 (at the end of the article), we recommend the setting ‘1’ for a flat white, which we think is an appropriate level, but your mileage may vary. The only drawback of this system is that the machine pours milk over the espresso, which means that poor mixing of the milk occurs. A simple stir solves this problem.
Other features we Like
There is a coffee pot feature on the Maestosa, where you can make a larger batch of black coffee, suitable for about 8 cups of coffee in a conventional coffee pot. This means the machine can double up as a pseudo filter machine for larger groups.
One of the cool features for the coffee pot feature is that the machine automatically dumps and regrinds fresh coffee up to the desired volume. This keeps the recipe consistent so that you’re not just extracting bitter water over a long period of time.
The coffee bean shaped ice-cube tray included in the box was also a nice touch…
Coffees that are nominally lighter roasts tended not to shine in this machine.
We found that these lighter roasted coffees were overly acidic, which bordered on unpleasant, however this could be fixed by modifying quantity of water. If firmware were updated to lower the calibrated limit for the quantity of water extracted may help correct this in future.
We love the machine. It looks fantastic, and some of our blends extracted beautifully in the machine. The milk function delivers silky smooth milk, whether through the ‘LatteCrema’ system or the steam wand.
With a retail price of around $5000, it’s certainly not for the budget-conscious. In fact, the price puts it up there with the uber-cool La Marzocco Linea Mini. However, if you’re looking for a home machine that brings together convenience & quality, then the Maestosa delivers.
Some Brewing Recommendations
Table 1: Best settings for the blends that extracted exceptionally through the Maestosa. Note that, that settings are nominally 1->5, which correspond to 1 being the lowest ‘level’, and 5 being the highest level.
So, if you were wanting to pair up your favourite coffee drink with the appropriate blend – follow the touch screen and enter these settings, and you’ll be good to go.