Australia’s strong coffee culture calls for high standards. We’re seeing movement away from capsule machines, especially now that we know the massive environmental harm of throwing away all of those plastic pods. This brings us back to the traditional fresh bean coffee machine, with the latest technological innovations making it easier than ever to enjoy customisable barista-quality coffee with no fuss.
The PrimaDonna Elite from DeLonghi is a premium coffee machine which brings together an astonishing array of features into a simple, smooth, compact interface. We review two models – the ECAM 650.55.MS and the most recently updated ECAM 650.75.MS. The updated model adds a larger screen size, ‘long’ coffee option, energy saving switch, auto shut-off, water filter, stand-by function, exclusive chocolate function with dedicated jug, and automatic cleaning. But we’ll come to that again shortly.
Both machines seamlessly take classic fresh bean coffee into the modern era, with Bluetooth connectivity making it easier than ever to enjoy fresh espresso coffee your way. Here are some of the two machine’s standout features:
The Smart Coffee App offers new beverage ideas, and allows you to custom-build your own personal café recipes based on aroma, milk quantity, coffee quantity, and temperature. You can program up to six user profiles so everyone in the home or office will be able to keep their ‘usual’ on the menu. The fully automatic system keeps your preferences saved so that you can enjoy your perfect beverage at the touch of a button.
The silent grinder means your coffee break isn’t an interruption. If you are interrupted, the thermal carafe keeps the milk at an ideal temperature for longer. DeLonghi’s ‘LatteCrema System’ produces dense milk foam for a smooth, creamy coffee until the very last drop. The latest model also includes a hot chocolate function with its own carafe, to bring that smooth creamy experience to something sweeter.
Keeping your machine clean and fresh is simple, with a removable drip tray included (with level indicator), water reservoir and infuser unit. Cleaning instructions are accessible through the touch-screen interface. The descaling, cleaning and rinsing program is as simple as putting a DeLonghi descaler into the water reservoir and letting the machine run through the process mostly by itself.
The ECAM 650.55.MS
The classic model of this new premium coffee machine doesn’t skip out on the fine details that bring you a high quality cup at the press of a button. Retailing at $3,199, it doesn’t have the extra functions of the updated model, but if you don’t need a machine that makes hot chocolate or drip coffee, then you’re not missing out on too much. This machine sits at the top of the range for DeLonghi’s highly-rated coffee-making appliances with one-touch pre-programmable coffee functions, Bluetooth connectivity, and a new thermal milk carafe.
The ECAM 650.75.MS
This enhanced model has a few extra features that add more to your coffee experience for a slightly higher price at $3,599. Unique to this model is a hot chocolate function with specialised carafe and a ‘long’ coffee function for drinkers of drip-style coffee, plus a water filter to improve the taste of your espresso. The energy saving mode and automatic shut-off timer setting make it easier to be energy-conscious. A larger soft touch screen rounds out the most significant updates to the PrimaDonna Elite.
Pods vs Beans
What happened to the coffee pod? The booming market for coffee pods seems to have left as soon as it arrived. When deciding what kind of coffee machine to choose, should you go for a pod system or back to basics with beans? Here are some pros and cons of each type:
|Convenience||Just pop a pod into your specialist pod coffee machine and wait for your coffee to arrive.||Depending on whether or not your machine has a built-in coffee grinder (the PrimaDonna Elites do), beans need to be ground before being measured into the machine for each serve. This isn’t significantly time consuming, however.|
|Variety||While multiple brands operate with a wide range of styles and flavours, your coffee machine is limited to pod-producing companies. However, as you can buy mix packs it can be easier to keep some variety in your coffee-drinking habits.||You can use any beans you like! This makes it easier to try different blends from different sources. That being said, you’ll need to buy more of each variety if you’d like to keep more than one flavour on hand.|
|Cost||Each serve is vacuum-sealed in a ready-to-use aluminium or plastic pocket. This means a greater cost per cup than beans, but you get a little more convenience and a longer shelf life.||Generally cheaper per unit weight compared to pods. However, if you’re not a frequent coffee drinker or store your beans/grounds incorrectly, you may end up throwing out your savings.|
|Ease of use||Pod machines are consistent but probably don’t produce outstanding results like a well-made barista coffee.||If you’re using a manual machine with little experience or a lower-end automatic, the quality of your end product is unpredictable. With high-end automatic machines, or if you’re skilled with a manual machine, your coffee will likely surpass the quality of a pod machine.|
|Environment||Depending on brand, pods are made out of either aluminium or plastic or a bit of both. Aluminium is a highly energy-intensive material to produce and the small pods are difficult to recycle.||As a natural product, coffee grounds are biodegradable. That means they can go in your garden! If you buy from a company which uses recyclable packaging, you’re creating minimal waste.|
|Cleaning||Pod machines are generally easier to clean, although if you choose one with a milk-frothing accessory this will require more work to avoid internal build-up.||Manual coffee machines can be a little messy as you need to work for your coffee. Fully-automatic machines like the PrimaDonna Elite line are easier to clean.|