The DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top is a high-end consumer bean-to-cup machine for people willing to spend that bit more for extra coffee and milk options without getting close to the cost and complexity of a pro-level machine.
At £800 it is far from cheap, but provides what is the holy grail for some — perfect flat whites and lattes at the touch of a button. Not spending £3 a day at Starbucks could soon make the expense seem worthwhile for a family. It's an easy-to-maintain and versatile machine whose only real drawbacks beside cost are its fairly slow start-up time and that its wealth of options may daze many to start with.
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The DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top is quite an imposing presence. While not desperately wide, it is both tall and deep, and therefore best-suited to larger, open-plan kitchens where it’s less likely to dominate the work surface.
In our test kitchen, it rather pulls focus like an entitled TV star. Then again, perhaps that’s the point.
There’s a little more to the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top's design than pure form, seen in the ‘leaning’ front and the excess of chrome. Striking it is, but not in the cute style many smaller machines go for. This is an 11kg monolith.
However, its layout is fairly neat, and familiar among bean-to-cup machines. The right side of the lower part is a pull-out 1.8l reservoir whose level is obvious from the side, but invisible from the front, where it merely forms part of the white/cream and chrome 2-tone design.
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Up on the top is a 400g bean intake with a rubber-sealed top to maintain freshness should you not want to drip-feed the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top daily.
You can see one of the machine’s neat extras next to the bean intake: a small chute for pre-ground coffee. It’s sort of nudged into the menu system as an “oh go on, if you must” extra, because naturally bean-to-cup coffee is the main draw of the machine.
The other top attraction is the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top’s Crema system, provided by the 0.6L milk reservoir that plugs into the left side of the machine. For those used to simpler machines, this takes the place of the steam outlet/milk frother, and is key to providing the one-button flat white experience.
For those who want more involved barista-style coffee-making, the milk reservoir can be swapped for a traditional steam/hot water spout. Of course, is that’s what you’ll want 24/7, this probably isn’t the right machine for you.
The milk module offers variable frothiness, with a manual free-moving dial that determines how the stream is passed through the milk as it is dispensed. You can get anything from mildly jiggled milk to the sort of head that’ll give you the classic cappuccino moustache. See our demo coffee images below for more.
This is one of the most conspicuous kinds of coffee customisation you have, but the options are there at every point, hidden in the menu system. The temperature (1-4 settings), water hardness (a filter can be used), coffee strength, milk consistency and coffee size can all be altered.
At the same time, though, they can be ignored. The cappuccino, latte and flat white buttons offer presets that let you forget all these extra depths. And they are, after all, what this specific milk-centric machine is largely about.
As a machine that seems likely to be used in the context of a family, or at least perhaps not a single person living alone in a small flat, we’re happy to see the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top include a cup warmer. The metal area to the front of the machine’s top will hold two large mugs, and while it only gets warm — not hot — it should be enough to keep one drink warm while another’s being made. Alternatively, you can have it serve two cups at once.
Despite looking serious and offering more options than a restaurant menu, the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top is ultimately about longer-term simplicity. And with a coffee machine that means solid self-maintenance.
It gives itself a rinse out on boot-up and on turning itself off, which as standard happens automatically after 30 minutes of being left idle. Just as important, there’s an auto clean setting on the milk reservoir’s control dial, which fires some hot water through the spout.
All you have to worry about yourself is keeping the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top stocked-up with water and beans. And, naturally, you have to clear out its waste 'buckets' every now and then.
The DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top even simplifies this, though. The used coffee pucks and the water tray are part of the same pull-out section, meaning there’s just one part you need to remove when you give the machine a clean-up.
This sort of design style lets you take a very lazy approach to coffee, which many of you will love. However, it’s not as instant as a simpler, more manual espresso machine.
Starting from cold, it took us one minute 47 seconds to make a single coffee. That’s not a long time, but every time the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top is turned on you do need to sit through the cleaning process.
We’re also not entirely sure about the machine’s use of touch sensitive buttons rather than clicky ones. It seems terribly classy and expensive, of course, but it’s quite easy to blearily press the wrong one on a tired morning, not to mention accidentally brush over one when trying to do something else.
The DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top produces excellent coffee from the off, with no plastic-y taste that takes a while to subside, seen in some machines. Our review sample was brand new too, not one that had been hanging around DeLonghi towers in testing for a couple of months.
There’s a nice layer of crema on espressos and short coffees, indicative of the high quality of the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top’s 15-bar pump. But what really matter here are the milk treatments.
How does its Cappuccino preset differ from the Latte and Flat White?
The Cappuccino was the only one that didn’t settle into two distinct layers of coffee and milk, and has the much stronger, less creamy taste that, well, it should have.
The exact definition of a flat white is a point of contention, but here it offers roughly twice the volume of the Latte, with a similar velvety texture and creamy flavour. If anything the flat white is milkier and creamier than the Latte, which seems a rather non-standard approach in the UK.
Quite how voluminous the frothy head of the coffee will be entirely dependent on how you set the froth dial on the milk module. While the lop level is kept within normal bounds, there’s plenty of scope to please those who like their coffees creamy, indulgent and with a big scoop of frothy goop on top.
There’s a good range of strengths on offer when making a custom blend too, from extra mild to extra strong.
The DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top really does get you the coffee quality of a pure espresso machine, while acting as a sort of robot barista, preparing the milk froth. It's this last bit that people who really don't know what they're doing can easily muck up.
The DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top offers the sort of great performance you'd hope of a machine of its weighty cost. It's great. However, we think you only need to spent this much and have a machine take up this much space if you want to approach coffee in quite a lazy way.
That sounds bad, but it's perfectly understandable. Do you want to learn how to perfectly foam up milk when you'll be doing so at 6:30am, occasionally with a stinking hangover? Thought not.
You really do pay for the ease the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top provides. But when it covers maintenance of the coffee and the machine itself, and doesn't involve any expensive coffee pods, it could end up being a good choice in the long run.
It's not cheap, but the DeLonghi Eletta Cappuccino Top gets you great coffees, from espressos to flat whites, with minimal effort on your part.
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