De'Longhi Prima Donna S coffee machine review

4 out of 5
£995

For

Fresh coffee, plenty of choice, quick and easy

Against

Milk carafe should have chiller option, it costs more than Starbucks pays in tax

If you are a coffee fan with an addiction, and you're looking for something more than Starbucks or Costa can offer, then De'Longhi believes it has the answer. But can it's top of the range bean-to-cup offering, the Prima Donna S, really be that good? 

Design

The machine itself is rather large, although compared to that hulking metal beast your barista hides behind, it's pretty small. Despite being big, it will comfortably sit on your kitchen counter looking very pretty indeed, and impressing all who worship the wondrous coffee bean. The unit is completely self-contained requiring only power. Water is stored in a large reservoir on the side, and discarded water and coffee in an internal bin that is easy to access. The top reveals a hopper for coffee beans, which you'll pop open from time to time to inhale from with the passion of a parent who has had two hours' sleep and needs a rush of caffeine. 

Espresso please

Load the beans in the hopper, turn the coffee machine on, select espresso coffee, standard coffee, long coffee, extra long coffee, or "my coffee", and the strength you want; extra-mild, mild, standard, strong, extra-strong, or pre-ground, and you're off.

The beans are dragged into the machine, kicking and screaming no doubt, and the Prima Donna whirs into action. Seconds later coffee starts percolating out of the two adjustable nozzles at the front into a cup of your choice.

The whole process takes 37 seconds. It takes longer than that to boil a kettle, so this machine is even saving you valuable coffee drinking time. There is also a plate warmer on the top to keep your cups warm.

Once the beans have been used, the remnants are discarded into the internal bin and that's it. You walk away happy with your amazing-tasting coffee.

Caffelatte and other milks

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous or like your milk, the Prima Donna comes with a milk caddy that sits to the side of the main nozzle, but it doesn't protrude or make the machine more bulky. Frustratingly, the caddy isn't refrigerated, so you'll need to take it off after each use, unless you think cheese goes well with coffee. Happily, it is easily detachable from the machine, so you can plonk it in the fridge in between requirements.

Rather than heat and use all the milk in one hit, the caddy sucks up the milk it needs for the coffee you've requested and nothing more. in addition, there are three foamer settings to  choose from: normal, extra and extra-extra.

Like ordering an espresso, it's simply a case of pressing a button with the type of milky coffee you want- in this case Caffelatte, Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato, or simply frothing a glass of milk, there is also a steamer option. And like the espresso, creating a latte macchiato or cappuccino takes virtually no time at all.

We timed a cappuccino at one minute 10 seconds to brew. We asked Mrs Pocket-lint for her opinion as she was very keen to grab a cup,  andshe told us: "It tastes yummy."

Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning, the Prima Donna S sports an auto-rinse and de-scale feature to help you out. Add that to the way the ground coffee lands in the internal bin, ready to be thrown away, and there is very little effort needed. There is also an auto-clean button to clean the milk carafe.

Verdict

At £1,000 you've really got to love your coffee, and love the ability to experiment with different flavours, different beans, and different grinds of beans too, however once you've invested in buying the machine the running costs are fairly cheap. Bags of coffee aren't expensive and the range on offer is almost limitless - especially compared to the capsule-based machines that offer only a handful of flavours.

This is very much the opposite to the model formulated by the capsule market, where the coffee is sold much like printer ink, keeping the machine cost down, while bleeding you dry on running costs. 

Where the Prima Donna wins is that it is just so easy to use. Turn it on, press a button and you are drinking coffee within a minute. Fabulous.