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DeLonghi Eletta Explore Review: One core flaw
The Eletta Explore is an expensive feature-packed automatic coffee machine that makes worse-tasting coffee than DeLonghi's more affordable machines.
There are a lot of things I love about the DeLonghi Eletta Explore. The user profiles to save individual coffee preferences are clever, the touchscreen is a slick way to interact with the machine, and cold-frothed milk is a rather unique feature.
There's one big problem though. I don't like how the coffee it makes tastes - and despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to fix it.
How much does the DeLonghi Eletta Explore cost in Australia?
Does the DeLonghi Eletta Explore make good coffee?
Out of the box, my Eletta Explore review unit made coffee that was too hot, and tasted bitter and burnt. I used the same beans I use in my standard coffee machine - the excellent DeLonghi Magnifica S - but the flavour was completely different.
I've tried tweaking settings like grind, temperature, and aroma, but despite my best efforts, the Eletta Explore keeps making bitter coffee. A grind size of one delivered the most drinkable results. This worked well for a few brews, but then the machine would stop midway through making a coffee, dispose of the beans, and tell me it couldn't finish my beverage. Pour one out for my wasted coffee beans.
Setting the temperature to low, aroma to max, and grind to three gave me the most balanced result (where the coffee would finish), but it still doesn't compare to what I get from my Magnifica S. It's a lot more drinkable than the out-of-the-box settings.
This, admittedly, could be a defect with my machine. I've read other reviews of the Eletta Explore and couldn't find anyone complaining about the taste of their coffee. At the same time, I asked DeLonghi about my issues and a spokesperson didn't seem to think it was an issue with the coffee maker itself, and instead recommended I continue tinkering with settings.
Taste is entirely subjective, but out of the box, the Eletta Explore was making objectively bad coffee, spoken as someone who has drunk A LOT of coffee in their life. My partner tipped her cup out immediately. I've used the same beans in a number of different machines and none of the brews had the same kind of astringency I got from the Eletta Explore.
Even if tweaking settings can address this, which honestly, it still hasn't, this shouldn't be necessary. Sure, everyone has their own caffeine preferences, but the initial experience should be good.
And this is a shame, because the Eletta Explore genuinely has some great ideas.
DeLonghi Eletta Explore features
To start, you can create up to four user profiles on the machine, for different people in your household. Each profile can then customise their individual coffee preferences. For example, I can make my espresso strength anxiety-inducing, while my partner's can be more moderate.
You can also customise pour size, but not temperature. Temperature is set as a machine-wide constant.
Similarly, the touchscreen navigation used to for selecting what kind of coffee you want works very well, and is fairly intuitive. Putting features like descaling into a settings menu makes a lot more sense than the esoteric button combinations needed to enable them on touchscreen-less machines.
One of the Eletta Explore's core unique features is a cold frother. In addition to having a jug for frothing warm milk, there's a separate carafe for creating textured milk for cold beverages. You'll still need to fill your cup with ice if you make cold froth to bring down the overall temperature, however. I found cold froth made less of an impact on a drink than hot froth, but it's still nice to have the option.
While the machine says you shouldn't use full cream milk in the cold frother, a DeLonghi spokesperson told me its fine to do so.
The hot froth carafe works pretty well, even if the result isn't quite what you get from steaming milk. It's a great, consistent option if you're in a hurry, however, and the machine seamlessly goes from frothing milk to brewing the coffee.
If you prefer café style steamed milk, there's also a steam wand attachment in the box. Having both options makes the Eletta Explore very versatile. These attachments are all dishwasher safe (except the lids), along with every other removable component the machine comes with.
Other than taste, my only real complaint is the sheer amount of space the Eletta Explore takes up. It's a big lad, with a 39cm width and 45cm depth. If counter space is scarce, the Eletta Explore might not be the best fit.
Is the DeLonghi Eletta Explore worth buying?
At a recommended price of $2,199, the Eletta Explore is an odd place. Even if we assume my review unit has a defect that's burning my coffee, you end up paying a lot of money for conveniences like individual user profiles and features like cold frothing.
The DeLonghi Dinamica Plus has user profiles, but doesn't have cold frothing, and is $500 cheaper at $1,699, for example.
My day-to-day coffee machine, the DeLonghi Magnifica S, is missing most of the bells and whistles, but retails for $849 and can be found even cheaper. While there aren't many options for customising your coffee and you need to manually froth your milk, it's less than half the price of the Eletta Explore. Most importantly, it makes coffee I actually enjoy drinking without adjusting a single setting.
It becomes a question of how much you want a fully automatic coffee machine, and what steps you want it to handle. I don't mind steaming my own milk, but you might not.
At the same time, my experiences with the Eletta Explore make it hard to recommend, simply due to taste. High-tech features aside, a coffee machine - especially one this expensive - should make coffee you enjoy drinking, and you shouldn't have to work for it.
How we review coffee machines
The short answer: by making (and drinking) a lot of coffee. The longer one: We spend some serious time not just using the coffee machines we review, but also thinking about the type of users they're for. We don't just read and regurgitate a spec-sheet. We take stock of what the landscape looks like, and how machines like the Delonghi Magnifica S fit into it.
Even if there are clear differences between home espresso machines like this one and cheaper pod-based options, those differences can be bridged by a thorough assessment of how successful both approaches when it comes to solving the problem of delivering the quality homemade coffee possible with as little effort as possible.
For a full breakdown of our approach to reviewing coffee machines, visit this page.