Verdict. Assessing the quality of drinks objectively, the De’Longhi Magnifica Evo machine produces ok espressos and decent coffee milk drinks. It certainly doesn’t quite compare to manual espresso machines and dedicated grinders in drink quality, but it does good within the full-automatic coffee machine category. The ability to use fresh whole beans or ground coffee with this machine is fantastic, which elevates this machine well above all pod machines. It’s a machine we are enjoying because it produces decent milk drinks without the complexity of manual machines, it’s fast to use, and it’s easy to move around.
Initial impressions. The machine is a bit heavy, but still pretty easy to move. There is a space on each side of the machine to easily hold it when carrying the machine to a different location. Included with the machine are a small bag of beans, a very nice quick-start manual, a specs manual, a water spout, a milk jug / milk frother, a water filter, and water hardness testing strips.
Setup. After washing the reservoir, I filled it and followed the priming instructions from the quick-start guide. This process finished much quicker than I expected. Then, I added fresh whole beans to the hopper, and brewed a few espressos to adjust the flow until it was slow and smooth, and with a beautiful caramel color. By the fourth espresso, I was grinding at the 1.5 setting (close to the max “fine” setting), and I was very happy with the flow and color of the espresso. However, I was surprised by the ratio of dose to yield with the default settings. More on that below. Setting up the milk pitcher was very easy: just open the lid, add milk, close the lid, and connect the pitcher to the espresso machine.
Operating the machine. Using the machine is very easy. Pour the beans in the hopper, connect the milk pitcher, select a drink, and wait for the machine to make it! The machine certainly makes everyday enjoyment of coffee drinks very easy. On the other hand, accessing settings, and selecting functions beyond the drinks on the menu is more tricky. Because there is no screen with a user interface, keeping the manual handy is necessary so you can find the instructions for customizing drinks, cleaning, descaling, troubleshooting, etc.
Espresso brewing quality. First and foremost, if you want quality espresso, you MUST purchase fresh coffee. Fresh coffee is coffee that has a “roasted on” date (not a “use by” date), and you should consume the coffee between 4 days and 20 days from the roasted on date. Also, for this machine, I recommend sticking with medium roast; dark roast will be a bit too oily and the beans will likely stick to the hopper. Light roast is likely to be too hard for the conical burrs and may damage your grinder. I estimate the dose for the light espresso option to be 7g, the medium espresso to be 10g, and the strong espresso to be 13g. During testing, the yield for light and medium settings were 40g, and for the strong espresso 32g. These were all brewed with nice and smooth espresso flow. Just based on ratio, I expected the espressos to be too watery; medium roast ratios are usually 1 to 2, so for 13g of dose for the strong setting, the optimal yield would be around 26g as a baseline, and then adjusted for taste. Upon tasting espressos at each strength settings, I confirmed that the espressos were not strong enough, and lacked body and complexity. However, they were smooth with plenty of crema. I adjusted the espresso setting so that the machine would brew for a shorter time, and my results were much better. While I do not like the default drink settings, the machine can be tweaked to achieve decent espresso with traditional ratios, primarily to drink with milk. Drinking straight espressos from this machine is just ok.
Milk drinks. While this machine can produce smooth tasting lattes out of the box, I think they can taste much better with some adjustments to the settings to adjust ratios. Of note, lattes from this machine will have very thick (cappuccino-like) foam. It help to stir the drinks after brewing to mix the thick foam layer into the rest of the drink; this produces a much more enjoyable beverage. Because cappuccinos use less milk, the default setting tastes stronger, bolder, and closer to a traditional drink. The thick foam also helps to get a nice cappuccino.
Things I love:
- Easy initial setup and priming, and great instruction booklet with lots of pictures
- Minimal heat-up time; it is operational very quickly after turning on the power
- Adjustable brewing spout can move up or down to accommodate different cup sizes
- The grinder coarse/fine adjuster knob appears to only have 7 settings, but there are additional steps within the 1 through 7 settings. Sure, it doesn’t provide infinite adjustments, but it’s probably enough steps to dial-in good flow for an espresso
- The brew group mechanism is fully removable for easy cleaning
- The removable milk jug is great so that you can store left over milk in the fridge
- The machine self-cleans when turned on and off
- There are sufficient drink options and basic drink customization settings, but not so many that it complicates operations
- The small square opening in the reservoir cover is very convenient to add water without having to move the lid
- The milk pitcher has an angled shape that makes pouring milk very easy, almost like a spout
Things I don’t love:
- There is a plastic grid that serves to avoid getting too close to the grinder burrs, I think. I understand the safety feature but I wish it wasn’t there. On days that I don’t use all the beans in the hopper, I can’t remove the left-over beans to keep them in an airlock container to keep them fresh. The hopper cover is not airtight so the beans that are left in the hopper will not be as fresh in the morning
- Part of the appeal of full-automatic machines is simplicity of use. However, along with that comes many limits on dosing and brewing adjustability; that’s ok if you know what to expect
- The cover of the water reservoir only goes on one way, but I couldn’t see any directional markings. The first few times I put the cover on, I put it on the wrong way. Now, I know to check that the grooves line up with the silver frame. It will not be an issue any more… but it was initially a bit confusing
- The milk frother does not have a foam setting, so it looks like the machine will only produce max foam, which works for cappuccinos, but it’s not desirable for lattes
- There is no button to only activate milk frothing. Sometimes when we make hot chocolate for the kids, we froth the milk to make it more fun. It looks like we can’t use this machine to froth milk without selecting a coffee drink first and then having the machine try to grind coffee, brew espresso, and finally froth milk.
Overall, this machine is a great choice if you are looking for a full-automatic espresso machine; it’s easy to use and it brews a variety of coffee and milk drinks pretty well. If you are looking for more control and more traditional drinks, this machine can partially get there with some settings adjustments, but you are probably better off with a manual espresso machine. This WILL NOT produce an amazing espresso shot, but it will make a decent milk drink. This is machine that we keep in a small apartment we have in Colombia, and we are happy to use it for about 8 weeks per year. I would rate it 3.5 stars (out of five) for a fully automatic machine, but if rated against all espresso machines, I would give it 2 stars.