De’Longhi recently lent us the PrimaDonna Elite to review for a couple of weeks. It is their top of the range coffee machine which costs a whopping £1500. So is this machine worth the cash or just something reserved for people with more money than sense?
As you would expect, the machine is about as fancy as it gets when it comes to coffee machines, it has bean-to-cup coffee delivery and auto-preparation of milky drinks, cup warmer, and custom-height spout. The most impressive feature, which goes towards justifying the price, is the large LCD display and integration with your smartphone. The PrimaDonna Elite has the largest and easiest to use display of all the machines I have quickly played around with. I recently looked at the even more expensive Jura range of machines in John Lewis, and the LCD interfaces all looked extremely dated compared to the PrimaDonna.
The reason for the fancy display is the range of drinks you can choose and the ability to customise each drink according to your taste. According to my quick count there are 15 different drink options, and for most of them you can adjust the quantity and aroma. The automatic milk dispenser also has 3 options for different frothiness of the warm milk it delivers.
The machine itself is quite large, but not as large as I was expecting. It fit in our kitchen without getting in the way, but you are never putting it away in a cupboard. It does look good though, and its size means it can hold plenty of water, milk and beans, making the whole process simpler.
Some of your choices include espresso, coffee, doppio, cappuccino, espresso macchiato, caffellatte and latte macchiato.
I should probably preface my opinions on the performance with my coffee drinking style. I love coffee, I am a caffeine junky, but I am far from a snob. I generally drink filter coffee or Aeropress, I normally grind my beans, but I also normally get whatever is cheap on Amazon. So I am probably a few levels above an instant coffee drinker, but I am far from an aficionado.
Based on my tastes, I found the PrimaDonna to be excellent, it easily makes superior coffee to a filter machine, and also my shoddy Aeropress skills. It is generally much quicker than either of them too. It also really shines when you start making more flamboyant drinks like a latte macchiato which I would have absolutely no idea where to start. So I found it great to be able to try different coffees, I normally steer away from milky ones as they are a bit calorific and girly for my liking, but I did find myself drinking them quite a lot during my 2 weeks with the machine.
Being able to customise the size and aroma is also great. I like a nice strong coffee, and my girlfriend prefers them weak, so it made my life really easy in this regard.
I loved the machine so much in the first few days that I was genuinely thinking of ways to justify buying it.
Unfortunately, the machine is a little bit let down by the Android App. I get up extremely early in the morning (4.30) and need coffee asap, I was super excited about setting up the machine the night before, so I can wake it up from my bed and start it brewing so it is ready by the time I am down the stairs. The same also applies to when I want a coffee during the day working in my home office, I don’t have the time or patience to be standing around the machine for 5 minutes waiting for my coffee. However, it isn’t as easy as that, it used Bluetooth to connect, not WiFi, and the range is poor. In the spare bedroom which is directly above the kitchen, I could connect to the machine about 60% of the time. Any other room upstairs was just a no go. It wasn’t just the reception that was an issue, just connecting to the machine took a good 30 seconds, so it generally made more sense just to use the LCD than even bother with the App. After a few days the App completely stopped connecting to the machine, but by this point I had pretty much given up with it anyway.
Luckily the LCD display does save the day somewhat. It is really easy to use, it gives you all the instructions you need right on the display and you can alter your drinks however you want. When you use the milk it will auto clean the spout, it tells you when water is low, when the beans need filling, or the grounds need emptying. Ignoring the App, the machine is pretty idiot proof which is excellent.
The other issue I had, which is not really an issue with the machine itself, is that after a few days of drinking frothy coffees, I reverted back to drinking basic coffees. I found I liked their Coffee option the best which is apparently an International version of the Italian espresso: lighter, with a balanced taste and a thin layer of crema. I would then add some warm milk to it, or make it frothy if I was feeling adventurous. Even though I thought the quality of the coffee it made in this case was better than both my Filter and Aeropress, I soon realised it wasn’t worth the extra £1470 compared to either of my current devices. More passionate drinkers may not agree with me, and one thing that really stood out to me was the quality of the crema on the various drinks. It does make a big difference to the coffee, but again, for me, not £1400+ difference.
This is clearly a niche product reserved for the affluent and I suspect true coffee aficionados may turn their nose up at such automation. If you can afford it and do love coffee, but don’t want the hassle of actually making it then then this is an amazing machine. It makes fantastic coffee, is extremely easy to use and seems to be very low maintenance. It is tragically let down by the smart App, it would have been better to not include it at all rather than frustrate people with its poor performance.
Realistically I think something like this could work really well in a small office where people frequently buy take out coffee. 5 people buying Costa once or twice a day could easily make their money back on this machine. For everyone else it would probably make more sense to opt for one of the more affordable Prima Donna machines which can be had for as little as £650, though they are not nearly as fun to use.
If you would like to by the De'Longhi PrimaDonna Elite it is available from John Lewis for £1,499.95