DeLonghi La Specialista vs Breville Barista Express: Which one is Best for You?

So, you’re debating between DeLonghi La Specialista and the Breville Barista Express? Both are popular semi-automatic espresso machines with subtle, but important, differences. I’ve spent time comparing these espresso machines in-depth, even their pressure gauges.

My choice is Breville Barista Express. The Barista Express has a better grinder with 16 settings that allows you to brew better espresso. It also has a better build and design with a powerful steam wand. That being said, the DeLonghi La Specialista is a fine espresso machine. Go for La Specialista if you want an entry-level espresso machine that’s easier to use.

Today I’ll explain all the similarities and differences between these espresso machines. I’ll talk about their design, grinder, milk frothing, and especially espresso quality. I’ll also give a more thorough recommendation on which machine is the winner and who it is best for.

DeLonghi La Specialista vs Breville Barista Express

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Feature Breakdown

Here’s the complete breakdown of each feature these two espresso machines have. I’ll also pronounce the winner in each category. Let’s start the espresso machine showdown!

Design and Build

The design of Breville Barista Express and DeLonghi La Specialista is very similar. Both machines have these features:

  • Removable, rear-mounted 67 oz water reservoir
  • Integrated grinder with 500-gram bean hopper
  • Cup warmer located on top
  • Dedicated hot water outlet
  • Digital temperature control (PID)
  • Pressure gauge
  • Steam wand

One difference is the Breville Barista espresso machine has a tool storage compartment behind the drip tray. This conveniently holds extra portafilters and comes on most Breville machines. The DeLonghi La Specialista doesn’t have this feature.

The DeLonghi La Specialista espresso machine is larger, although not by much. La Specialista’s dimensions are 14.48 x 15 x 17.5 in, and it weighs 29.7 pounds. Barista Express dimensions are 12.5 x 12.6 x 13.1 in, and it’s lighter at 23 pounds. Both will fit under your kitchen cabinets, although you’ll have to slide them both out to reach the water tank, which isn’t ideal.

The Breville Express has a better build quality. It’s made of stainless steel, has fewer plastic parts, and feels more durable, which means it’ll last for years to come. Plus, it’s lighter thanks to the Barista Express’s single heating element, which makes it is easier to move around than the La Specialista.

The DeLonghi La Specialista also has a stainless steel body, but it feels cheaper compared to Breville Barista Express. My main issue with La Specialista’s design is that it has a lot of “plasticky” parts, such as the portafilter handle and the bean hopper.

The DeLonghi La Specialista’s portafilter is an issue. You’ll use the portafilter every day and apply real force to attach it to the brew head. The plastic handle feels too flimsy for this. I would much prefer it if the La Specialista portafilter was made of stainless steel as well.

The La Specialista also seems to have durability issues. The water sensor and rubber seal receive consistent negative reviews. Both parts detach and cause water leaks and prevent the machine from functioning. I haven’t used it long enough to find out, but buyer beware. Meanwhile, Breville is known for its excellent build quality.

Finally, you’ll use dial knobs and buttons to operate these two machines. I preferred the Barista Express user interface. It’s intuitive and has very clearly labeled buttons, such as “grind amount,” “filter size,” “single, double” shot options, and more.

La Specialista’s interface, on the other hand, was much more confusing. It has more dials and buttons than the Express, and they only have vague symbols…which button produces hot water: the water drops or the cup of tea??

The Winner: Barista Breville Express
It has fewer plastic parts, a build that will last longer, and a simple display.

Espresso Performance

How an espresso machine brews espresso is the most important thing. One area where DeLonghi La Specialista and Breville Barista Express differ is the heating system.

The DeLonghi La Specialista uses a dual heating system for brewing and steaming. You won’t have to wait between these two activities.

La Specialista has an extremely fast heat-up time — one second. This means you’ll have your coffee ready in a matter of seconds from the time you power on the machine, grind and tamp the coffee beans.

On the other hand, the Breville Barista Express doesn’t have a dual heating system, but it uses a thermocoil system, which heats in 30 seconds. While this is longer than La Specialista, we are still talking about seconds, so 30 seconds is good. For the latest Breville technology, look at the Breville Barista Pro or Breville Barista Touch, which has a Thermojet with a 3-second heat-up time.

Also, both machines have heating systems that heat the top of the machine. If you leave your mug on top, you’ll get a warmer espresso.

Both of these espresso machines have pre-infusion technology. During pre-infusion, water goes through the coffee grounds at low pressure first, which acts as a coffee bloom for espresso. Then, the machine forces water through the coffee at high pressure. This results in the best extraction and rich espresso flavor.

Another thing that’s in both espresso machines is a PID. The PID sensor controls the water temperature at a stable level, which ensures optimum espresso extraction. You’ll get a flavorful espresso every time you pull a shot.

The Winner: Tie
The DeLonghi La Specialista and Breville Barista Express espresso performance winner is a tie. Both have good heating systems, PID, and pre-infusion for good espresso. While the Breville Barista Express takes longer to heat, it comes with more filter baskets that you’ll actually be able to use.

Ease of Use

The La Specialista has an integrated tamping system with a pressure limiter that beginner baristas will love. This means you don’t have to tamp the coffee manually. Instead, use the handle on the left side of the espresso machine while the portafilter is placed under the grinder. This will automatically put the right amount of pressure onto the coffee puck, and you’ll have a nice, even tamp.

The DeLonghi integrated tamper is important because when your tamp isn’t right, the water will take the path of least resistance. This is known as channeling, where the water will crack inside the puck and not flow properly, which affects extraction.

The DeLonghi tamper will put the ideal amount of force needed for pulling an espresso shot. Also, because the holder is fixed, you’ll get an ideal 90-degree angle. The automatic tamper will help you avoid beginner mistakes, such as inconsistent tamping pressure and a coffee puck that’s not perfectly flat.

Another feature that made La Specialista easy to use is that you can choose between three coffee types: espresso, coffee, and long black. Breville Barista doesn’t have this option.

Also, the DeLonghi La Specialista automatically dispenses hot water after pulling the shot, which makes Americanos easy. That’s not the case with the Breville Barista Express. I had to move the cup and start the water myself. Also, both machines have a hot water spout, so you’ll have hot water for teas.

Finally, DeLonghi La Specialista has water hardness adjustment features. You can program the water hardness into the machine, which means less descaling. There’s also an energy-saving mode for power conservation. Barista Express doesn’t have any of these features.

One part about DeLonghi La Specialista I didn’t like is that I couldn’t take off the bean hopper when it contained beans. I like to experiment, and when I get new beans, I want to try them straight away. This wasn’t possible with La Specialista. Essentially, you’re stuck with whatever beans you put in the hopper, and there’s no way to change them.

DeLonghi included a flip-down shelf for shot glasses, which is supposed to make the use easier, but I didn’t particularly like it. It’s supposed to make pouring an espresso shot more convenient. All it did was make the front of the machine more clunky, and it was difficult to access because of the spout and the steam wand.

The Breville Barista Express doesn’t have many extra bells and whistles. It makes up for this with a simple and elegant display. I already mentioned the straightforward buttons. The one and two-shot buttons are set although you can program the shot volume and water temperature

Home baristas will find it easier to reach a higher espresso quality using the Breville Barista Express display.

One easy to use feature on Breville Barista Express is the dose-controlled grinding. The grinder will deliver the correct amount of freshly ground coffee directly into the portafilter, which makes it easy to get the espresso according to your taste.

For dosing the Breville Barista Express, you set the portafilter under the grinder and the beans dose straight in. It makes a mound of grounds that you have to smooth out, tamp, and load. Often, you’ll spill some grounds in the process. That’s typical for most espresso machines, but it doesn’t happen with the La Specialista.

The Winner: DeLonghi La Specialista
It’s more beginner-friendly and has a wide range of options that make the use easier than the Breville Barista Express.

Our Recommendation: Which Machine is the Winner?

The Breville Barista Express espresso machine is the winner for us. You get more at a lower price point. Most importantly, Breville Express has a grinder with 16 settings, which allows you to dial in the espresso for better flavor.

Also, the Breville Barista Express has a better build and internal components. It will last longer and operate more consistently. Overall, this is an excellent espresso machine to start and grow your barista skills.

The Breville Barista Express is one of our go-to semi-automatic espresso machines. The thermocoil produces consistent espresso and you can dial in espresso with 16 settings on an integrated burr grinder. The display is easy to use and set brew controls.

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The DeLonghi La Specialista has its place for certain users. This espresso machine is a good choice if ease of use is your main requirement. The integrated tamping system makes pulling a shot easier. Also, DeLonghi La Specialista has better milk steaming options.

DeLonghi La Specialista is a semi-automatic espresso machine is for those who care about ease of use. The integrated tamping system makes it easy to load and dose the portafilter. There’s a dual heating system (1-second heat) and Panarello milk frother that makes a dense cappuccino foam. Our problem is the build: more plastic and routine complaints about water leakage and a broken sensor.

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That said, the grinder will hold it back and the build won’t last as long as Breville.

DeLonghi La Specialista vs. Breville Barista Express: Final Thoughts

Both DeLonghi La Specialista and Breville Barista Express are good semi-automatic espresso machines. My vote goes to the Express due to the better grinder and a milk frother that creates better latte art.

If you’re considering the Express, check out how Barista Express compares to the upgraded Breville Barista Pro.

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Last update on 2023-02-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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