The Nespresso Lattissima builds in frothy milk
The specific machine I'm reviewing today is the DeLonghi Lattissima EN660, designed for Nespresso by the Italian design house DeLonghi. At a recommended price of £249 this is not a budget product and is aimed squarely at the coffee lover.
Available in two finishes, silver (brushed aluminium) or 'creamy white' with dimensions of approximately 20cm wide by 26cm tall and 34cm deep and a good weight at a full 5Kg.
The design is basically symmetrical split into three roughly equal areas. The central area is where you put your cup or glass and above that is the spout from which your coffee will appear. At the top of this area is a lever that you pull in order to insert a coffee capsule. Press the lever back down and a plunger pushes the capsule forward where it is perforated ready to make your coffee.
What's it do?
The Lattissima can make four basic coffee styles : Espresso (40ml of strong black coffee), Lungo (110ml long black coffee), Cappuccino (110ml coffee with frothy milk topping and finally Latte Macchiato (350ml layered milk, coffee, frothy milk), the latter being my favourite.
Unlike many capsule based coffee machines the Lattissima allows you to use fresh milk to make your cappuccino. A half-litre milk container can be inserted on the left-hand platform. This is easily removed, and stored in the fridge. The container has an extendible nozzle from which frothed milk can add that final touch to your cappuccino or Latte Macchiato. Having tried other machines, I think the option to use fresh milk is a bonus for this product.
Fresh milk is not of course without it's own problems. Although the container can be placed in the fridge, I found that it did not stay fresh for particularly long, not being a sealed unit like a bottle may have something to do with this but I had to clean out rather sour milk on several occasions a couple of days after putting the container in the fridge.
Of course having fresh milk directly in your coffee machine is going to require some cleaning of tubes. The milk container has a 'clean' button on the front. Unfortunately this only appears to work immediately after you've made your coffee - the manual says you should do this after every use. If you forget (as I often did) you can't easily go back and sort it out.
The machine looks fairly simple to use - apart from a mains on-off switch to the rear all controls are to the front of the device. Be warned though - for this product you really need to read the manual before being tempted to launch into your first brew. Our review machine had the manual missing so we were in an ideal position to experiment, and the result left us a little frustrated!
Luckily I managed to lay my hands on a manual. The missing part is 'programming' the Lattissima to know how much liquid you need to fill your cups. This is particularly true for the Latte Macchiato and Lungo. Once you know you have to do it, programming the quantities isn't too difficult - hold in the delivery button for your choice of drink until you have as much as you want then let go.
Water is added to a large concealed chamber at the bottom of the machine that slides out for refilling. If you're using the milk container then you have to remove that to add water. Being stored within the body, you can't tell how much water left. There is a small mechanical float indicator that should show when water is low, but you have to remember to look. This indicator is not visible with the machine on a standard kitchen worktop without bending down to eye-level to see it. Unfortunately there is no automatic cut-off when water reaches a low, it tries to make your coffee anyway and we managed to waste several expensive capsules with a bit of hissing steam and a few drops of water.
There is no water filter option as we've seen on other some machines. If you live in a hard water area, as we do, this means you're going to have to periodically de-scale the machine - not a pleasant task and unless you're particularly organised you won't get round to it when it's needed. My suggestion would be to use a filter water jug to remove lime scale before adding to the Lattissima.
In normal operation the machine consumes 1.3KW of power - the documentation suggests this is continuous until it enters a power-saving mode. The first such mode is after 1 hour - at which point it reduces consumption to around 650W. A further four hours after that it enters its minimal state which reduces consumption by 98% of maximum. I calculate that to be around 26W - not particularly low power! To put that into perspective, the power consumed by this unit before it goes into it's lowest state is enough to keep a 100W light bulb working for 39 hours. You should definitely think about switching off at the wall!
I also had problems with waking the machine from a power-save mode. Regardless of what I did it refused to actually wake up, so most times I ended up switching on and off at the wall.
The Lattissima ideally requires you to use 'proper' cups or glasses, especially when using the milk frother. It really isn't suitable for mugs of what ever size. A pull out tray provides a platform suitable for Espresso measures while with the tray pushed away you can fit the tall Latte Macchiato glasses. A typical mug is mid-way between these. While that isn't a problem for black coffee, the milk frother tends to be very messy when the rim of the glass/cup/mug is not very close to the milk spout.
The top of the Lattissima is flat and gets warm - this provides an ideal place to warm cups before making coffee, and can be used as a storage area.
The Lattissima is part of the Nespresso range of coffee makers, all of which use a standard coffee capsule. The range includes twelve premium blends. Each capsule is colour-coded but apart from the colour look almost identical. The blend name is inscribed in the silver foil top, but you have to get the light just right to read it - and realise it's there. Being colour blind I have to say the colour distinction between Vollutto and Livanto was somewhat lost on me!
There are currently 12 available blends.
Unlike most competitor products the capsules are not available from the local super market. Instead you're generally going to have to order on-line. Nespresso would prefer you to buy from their 'Nespresso Club', although I did find them available on eBay.
The Nespresso club is a members only area of the Nespresso site. You have to register before you're even allowed to look at what's available, which I found somewhat annoying. You're not a full member until you've actually bought something.
The capsules range in price from 23p to 27p, depending on blend. One nice aspect of the shop is that you can buy individual capsules so you can make up your own mix. You can also buy a mixed set of 150 capsules for around £35, which gives you a saving of around £2.
I'm a little disappointed by this machine. At £249 I'd expected a lot, particularly when you can get a Nespresso machine such as the Krups Le Cube is £100 less, and with the range starting with machines at less than £100.
In use I often found myself frustrated that I couldn't get it to come out of power saving mode, or that it only gave me a dribble of coffee because the water container was low and the corresponding bad design of the water indicator. The milk frother - great idea, but messy in use unless you lift your cup to the spout, and even then cleaning wasn't straightforward.
Although it should be easy to use - it isn't. I persevered and got there, although I'm still not quite sure what it's doing at times.
Temperamental springs to mind as a way of describing this machine.
On the plus side it does look very good. The separate real-milk idea is a good first effort, but I'd like to see some improvement. When working the coffee was very good. In short - if price isn't an issue and you like the idea of steam pressurised milk and the convenience of a capsule machine and are willing to work through the teething issues this could be the machine for you.
If the Nespresso system appeals to you (and the coffee is very good) then it's worth considering some of the less expensive units in the range - buy one of those along with a separate milk frother and still have some change.
In the next week or so we'll publish our review of the Le Cube Nespresso machine so you might like to come back and compare the two!
If you'd like to buy this machine, then the price is £240.46, including shipping from Amazon.
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