Review: Delonghi Magnifica EAM 3500 Review
The DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3500 Super Automatic Espresso Machine is simply put an excellent machine to have in your kitchen. If you love having espresso made for you, figure out how to justify the price and get one of these on your countertop. I can’t put it any other way, but it’s a delight to have such access to such high quality coffee. The design is a sleek metallic look that offers a bit of elegance on the countertop. The DeLonghi EAM 3500
is a super automatic espresso maker that has a lot of features going for it including that “Barista Button” as I like to call it. With a pitcher of milk plugged into the machine, you hit the one touch latte button, and the unit makes a latte for you. The unit has an ample whole bean supply bin on the left top of the machine, as well as a 60-ounce water reservoir along the left side that is removed from the machine by sliding it out the front. The unit has a bypass doser, which give you the ability to use another coffee type (as long as it’s pre-ground) instead of the “House Standard” that you have in the whole bean bin. I ordered up some Gimme Coffee
Leftist espresso blend for the purposes of this review. Try them out yourself; they are great.
I liked this machine so much I put it on my Holiday Buying Guide for the best Espresso gifts. Check it out.
Let’s just take a quick step back and discuss the DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3400 vs. the Magnifica EAM 3500 in this review. The Magnifica 3400 is the unit that is also available at Starbucks this season. The essential difference is that the Magnifica 3400 does not have the milk pitcher attachment and also the “One Touch” latte button, or the Barista Button as I like to call it. I think that both machines would be great, but I am biased in favor of the Magnifica EAM 3500 because of the pushbutton ease of getting a latte made for you. Total luxury that you deserve at this level. I mean if you drink lattes, how could you not want this option of having the drink made for you? You can still steam your own milk if you want to….
The Barista Button
The DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3500 comes with a milk pitcher and two lids, one for frothed or cappuccino milk and one for steamed or latte milk. This pitcher “plugs” into the steam port on the right side of the unit and has its nozzle pointing right where your coffee mug goes. The control panel is focused on simplicity and offers you the Barista Button right at the bottom of the front panel, push it, and the unit grinds, tamps, steams milk into your cup and then pulls your espresso shot right into your cup. Bam! Done. When you are done, you push a button on the pitcher to clean the head unit with steam and then put it right back into the refrigerator. I have had dozens of these across the last few weeks, and loved them all. The pitcher can be tossed right into the dishwasher for cleaning every now and then.
The Control Panel
The control panel is simple in layout, but a little complex if you decide to take the thing “off road’ and get into tuning the unit to all of the potential options. Across the top of the control panel you have the clean LCD read-out panel that offers you the status of the machine. The top row of buttons is the Menu button – for getting into the settings menus, Bypass dosing/Next button – gets you into the bypass dosing mode, or toggles you through the menu when in the menu mode, the Rinse/Change button - allows you to run a rinse or change the menu options, Hot water – dispense hot water from the steam outlet for a cup of tea, etc. The second row includes the buttons that you’ll use day in and day out. It has from left to right: On/off, the Strength button – 5 potential strengths, and then small, medium and large pulls. These buttons will dispense 1.35 ounces, 2.7 ounces, or 4 ounces of espresso based coffee as set by the factory. You can adjust these within the menus of the machine.
There are a lot of settings on the machine that I played with, got in trouble with and then hit the Factory Reset virtual button and got back to the beginning. So undertake these changes with some amount of caution, but not fear. You can adjust what the machine gives you without issue, I just took things a little too far. The grinder can be set, but comes from the factory calibrated to the grind size that is just right. As time goes by, if you find that you need to adjust it, you can. Similarly, you can adjust the amount of water that is used to dispense any of the standard small, medium and large pulls on the front panel. It’s an easy setting. Don’t want a 1.35-ounce pull for the short button, well, then change it to something else. The machine does it empirically by running through a shot, where you hit a button when you want it to stop, and then it will titrate to that point after that time. You can also do this for: the amount of steamed milk you request, the hot water that is dispensed for tea, and the amount of milk and espresso that gets dispensed in the Barista Button cycle. Honestly, this is where I got into trouble, trying to adjust the espresso to steamed milk amounts. Things got all out of whack, so I just aborted and tried again, with much success. I tell you the experimentation is fun though! The experiments in high school chemistry weren't this much fun.
The other thing that you can do to fine tune your espresso is to adjust the strength of the shot, or really better said, the amount of espresso that gets ground. The “Strength” button with the little whole beans above it toggles you through the 5 strength settings: Extra Mild, Mild Regular, Strong, and Extra Strong. The great thing about this is that the unit remembers what you used the last time you brewed, so that if you like a strong setting, it can always be set there, no toggling every time you want a shot.
Niceties on the DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3500
The DeLonghi EAM 3500 has a lot of other things going for it that makes life easy with this machine. The machine can be set to come on in the morning so that it is ready to brew espresso when you arrive in the kitchen. The unit can be set to shut off in 1, 2, or 3 hours after turning on so that the unit doesn’t waste electricity. The unit dumps old “pucks” of spent coffee into a grounds bin that is easily removed by opening the front door. I usually, emptied the drip tray when the grounds bin is full. DeLonghi proportioned this right, as I never got a drip tray overflowing on the EAM 3500 when doing this, as it is a bit deeper than other Super Autos that I have used. The EAM 3500 also comes with a scoop that sits nested under the cover for the by-pass doser, so there’s no looking for it all over the kitchen. I will say that there is one thing in the minus column, for the Magnifica 3500, and that is that the unit is loud when grinding. It’s “stop talking on the phone until it’s done” loud, but luckily this is only for about 4 seconds a brew. I didn’t worry too much about it, as it was easy to go about your business while the thing whipped up latte after latte for me. Finally, the unit has a great cup warmer. The top right side of the unit has a nice bright area to store a few espresso cups, and it gets plenty hot in only a few minutes. A lot faster than a lot of other espresso machines that I have used.
Cleaning the DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3500
The cleaning steps are very easy in the Magnifica 3500. There are a couple of steps that you can take to make things better all around. The first is just emptying the drip tray and the grounds bin. Don’t worry too much, the machine will tell you when you need to empty the bin.
The next thing is to clean the brew group. This is the mechanism that tamps and extracts the coffee. I cleaned this every week or so, and it was a 2 minute job. When the machine is off, you can pop open the front door, pinch the red buttons and remove the brew group to rinse it under running water. Put it back and you are done. The last thing you need to do very infrequently is to decalcify the unit, which involved using the decalcification solution that is included with the brewer. It’s an automated series of steps that you just have to watch and wait for. Depending on your water hardness, you may only run this a couple of times a year.
Review Summary – DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3500
The capabilities of the DeLonghi Magnifica EAM 3500 are wonderful. The Barista Button makes a great latte, time and time again. I found that even making a simple shot of espresso was a delight and consistent from shot to shot to shot. I liked the holistic design of the DeLonghi as it was well thought out and I appreciated that the grounds bin and the drip tray seemed to almost be synchronized so that I never overflowed the drip tray. I did test out customer service early on and found the DeLonghi people to be articulate, helpful and very knowledgeable about their product. I’m sad to send this one back, and I’ll miss my Barista Button in the mornings, and in the late mornings, at lunch and in the mid afternoons….. well, you get the picture.
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Posted by Scott Martin at December 8, 2006 4:56 PM