Review: Lello Ariete 45900 Prestige Espresso Machine
The good-looking Lello Ariete 45900 Prestige Espresso Machine is a bright and smart looking espresso machine that would look great on any countertop and hold its own with the big boys without paying a lot for this high quality pump driven espresso machine. The Lello Ariete 45900 turns out a very respectable cup of espresso and doesn’t kill your pocketbook to do it. The simple controls and easy design features are a nicely put together to make for a good little espresso machine, priced to make anyone enjoy it.
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The Basics on the Lello Ariete 45900 Espresso Machine
Like many other respectable espresso machines, the Lello Ariete 45900 is a pump driven espresso machine with a 15 bar pump that delivers plenty of pressure through its heater to a portafilter that uses either ground coffee of ESE Pods. Maybe Lello Ariete shies away from using the term ESE, it is designed to accept espresso pods. One can only assume that they are not using the ESE logo so they don’t have to pay the licensing fee. Either way, if you’re asking “Does the Lello Ariete 45900 use ESE Espresso pods?” The answer is “Yes - only sometimes.” I was able to use Starbucks pods in my Lello without any trouble. The portafilter insert has a ridge around the inside that will seat a pod well.
The Lello Ariete 45900 machine does not specifically indicate that it works with ESE pods. In the original review period, I had no issue making espresso with Starbucks pods when firmly seating them in the portafilter, and in fact these pictures here with this review are Starbucks pods in action.
Since that time, a reader wrote in saying that their machine didn't work with pods. I have gone out and looked at a lot of other pods, and sadly the Lello Ariete 45900 does not work with them. I was able to make espresso with some other pods, but don't consistently. So, while we are able to get a cup of espresso with Starbucks pods, it's not an ESE certified machine, so it won't work with all ESE Pods despite what you read elsewhere.
In a nice design touch, the front of the machine is a highly polished stainless steel, while the top is brushed, so that it won't show so many smudges or marks. This is where the cup warmer will go, and as a result, the top will get a lot more chance to get smudged, but it won't show so much due to the brushed surface. (The cup warmer is a passive cup warmer and heats the cups up slowly from the residual heat that come off the water heater.)
The unit has a huge sized water reservoir (70+ ounces) that can be accessed in two ways. The first is to just remove the whole thing, as it lifts off the back of the machine. The other way is to just flip the top door open and pout water in while the tank is in place. This is a serious reservoir and doesn’t run out for days.
The steam wand is off to the right side. Lello Ariete includes a rubber tipped adapter that is great for frothing milk for a cappuccino, but not so good for a latte’s steamed milk. If you want a nice frothy cappuccino, keep the tip. If you want a latte, pull it off, and put it in a drawer.
Making the Espresso
The controls on the Lello Ariete are really simple and easy to use. The first time you start the machine, you’ll need to get water to the pump (prime it) by filling the tank and turning on the pump by turning the dial to brew. This will be noisy until water gets into the pump and then things quiet down to what most other pump driven brewers sound like. There is a single rocker style switch on the left side of the machine that turns on the heater. While the heating element is “only” 950 watts compared to 1100 for other similar espresso machines, the unit heats up in about the 2 minutes that others take. When the orange light goes out, the machine is ready to brew. I put my Starbucks Pods into the filter basket and put the portafilter on. The receiver on this machine is plastic, and not metal, which may be the only outward sign that this machine is only $99. I don’t think that this is a big deal. Having used the unit for a couple of weeks, I just didn't see any issues in use in this particular area. I did rotate the portafilter handle past center to tighten sufficiently. This may be deceptive as the unit has an indicator in the middle of the front panel saying "Lock". If you only tighten to here, it won't be tight enough; at least on my machine. I can easily rotate further to a "locking" position where the receiver has a "stop" in the track so that the portafilter will stop its rotation. My recommendation is to tighten until the portafilter is firmly in place. This may be past center on your machine.
Rotate the big easy to handle dial to the brew setting and watch the unit pour out some beautiful crèma topped espresso. The brewing takes about 15-25 seconds total. At the end of the brew you will need to turn the knob back to the standby position to stop the pump. The portafilter will have some residual water in it after brewing, so be careful not to spill when taking it off. That’s how it’s designed; it’s not all going to run out through the one small hole in the portafilter. The small hole is designed to create the backpressure when brewing that in turn creates the gobs of crèma. I got in cup temperatures of 175F – 185F in a preheated Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Espresso/Shot Glass.
The Lello Ariete 45900 comes with a rubber attachment on the end of the steam wand. This rubber attachment has holes in it that allow you to froth to your heart’s content. It heats the milk while pumping in a ton of air which can allow you to overflow the pitcher before it’s properly hot. If you pull off the rubber tip, it’s easy enough to steam the milk, and you will make excellent lattes.
Pour milk into a steaming pitcher, insert the want and then turn the dial to the steaming position. The steam starts almost immediately and the results are impressive. I liked the fact that the steam was ready on demand and didn’t have to hand around forever to get to the job of steaming. I did get a little bit of water coming out for a few seconds until the unit really started to pour on the steam. This isn’t a big concern. Also the unit burps some left over steam into the drip tray after some milk frothing runs. This is intentional to relieve some extra pressure, and I think it’s cool as the steam burps up from under the drip tray.
Review Summary Lello Ariete 45900 Prestige Espresso Machine
I think that the Lello Ariete 45900 Espresso machine is a well-designed bargain and it offers some nice stainless steel elegance for the countertop at a great price. The pump driven machine can turn out good espresso pretty quickly. I would recommend a thorough rinsing of the water tank and a few dry runs to get the unit “conditioned” if you will to get any off flavors out of the system before really getting into your routine. I used both ground espresso and Starbucks ESE Espresso Pods in the Lello Ariete 45900 and in both cases I got a good shot of espresso. Sadly the portafilter insert doesn't reliably work with all pods.
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Posted by Scott Martin at December 4, 2006 10:26 AM