It’s easy to see why this admittedly older model is still going strong. It’s got everything you need to make your favorite coffee drinks, and is offered at an excellent price.
Recommended for: This machine is really optimized for single people, or people who live in small households with only one coffee drinker. Purists will probably prefer something with a proper frothing wand.
Table of Contents
- 1 An Overview of the DeLonghi Perfecta Super Automatic Espresso Machine ESAM 5500
- 2 Surprisingly Easy to Use and Clean
- 3 Pros & Cons of the DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM5500
- 4 DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM5500 Review Conclusion
An Overview of the DeLonghi Perfecta Super Automatic Espresso Machine ESAM 5500
Are you a single person, or the only coffee drinker in your household?
Have you been looking for a great, full-featured espresso maker that offers one-touch convenience, and a feature set robust enough to make all your favorite specialty coffee drinks?
If so, then you’re going to love our detailed Delonghi Perfecta ESAM5500 review. This machine is all that, and more.
Unfortunately, for reasons that will become apparent as we go through all of this model’s features, it is tightly focused toward that type of user, and as such, it’s relatively poorly suited to serve a large household with several different coffee drinkers, each with different tastes and preferences. For the right user though, this machine is close to perfect.
We’ll cover everything it can and can’t do in the sections that follow, and by the end, we think you’ll agree. Even if you ultimately opt for some other model, you’ll be impressed by what this one has to offer.
Form Factor, Footprint, and Aesthetic
The first thing you’ll notice about the DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM5500 is that it’s mostly plastic. This is off-putting for some people, and it’s true that plastic isn’t as sturdy or durable as stainless steel, but it’s easy to see why DeLonghi made this decision.
The ABS plastic is simply cheaper, and it allows the company to realize significant cost savings, which translates into a lower priced machine for you. Besides, with proper case, this model will provide you with years of reliable service, and indeed, DeLonghi offers the same two-year warranty on this model that they do on their more expensive ones.
The Perfecta is fairly modestly sized, measuring 11.2” x 17.3” x 14.9” and weighing in at 25.9 pounds. Given these dimensions, most people won’t have any particular difficulty finding a permanent home for the unit, but even if you do, it’s relatively light weight makes it easy to relocate as needed.
Our DeLonghi Perfecta Cappuccino review wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t call particular attention to this aspect of the machine, as it’s better than first meets the eye, with its front-loading 57-ounce water tank.
Generally, we’d regard this as being a bit on the small side for our liking, because we’re power drinkers, and like to see at least a sixty-ounce reservoir.
In this case though, it’s hard to find fault because so many of the model’s other features optimize it for a single person’s use, and in that case, 57 ounces is plenty big, allowing the machine to keep pace with even the most diehard coffee drinkers.
One thing to note here is that the Perfecta’s water tank was not designed to accept a filter, so even if you wanted to use one, you’re just not going to be able to with this model.
That’s fine by us, but some people do prefer an espresso maker with its own filter. If you’re one of them, then this will count as a strike against the machine for you.
The reason it doesn’t bother us is that a significant percentage of people have a water filter at their kitchen sink, and even if you don’t, you can just use distilled water in your machine and reap the same advantages you would if the model had an onboard filter.
As to those advantages, the main one is that if you use filtered or distilled water in your machine, you dramatically reduce the need to descale, which cuts down on maintenance. At the end of the day, it’s up to you. If you don’t mind doing the occasional descaling, then using non-filtered water is fine too. There’s no wrong or right answer to that question.
We like almost everything about the way the DeLonghi Perfecta super automatic espresso machine ESAM 5500 implemented the grinder, but we do have one complaint. It features a stainless-steel burr grinder.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and by making that decision, DeLonghi was again able to hold the line on cost. Having said that, stainless-steel tends to heat more when used, which can sometimes lead to burned coffee grounds, and when that happens, the flavor of whatever drink you’re making will be completely ruined.
We’d have preferred to see a ceramic grinder here, but don’t regard it as a deal breaker, and unless you’re pulling several shots back to back, it shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something to be mindful of.
On the flip side, and this is something we really like, the grinder has seven different settings. That’s one more than the industry average of six. Sure, we’d have preferred to see even more, but it’s hard to find fault. There are some machines being sold today that cost twice what this one does that don’t have as many grind settings, so kudos to DeLonghi for delivering the goods on this front!
One thing to note though, and this isn’t something that’s particular to the ESAM5500, but holds true of superautomatics in general: They don’t like oily beans. Not only will they clog the grinder and shorten the life of its motor, but they’ll also clog the brew unit, which will require more frequent cleaning.
For best results, find a good Medium Roast you enjoy and stick with it!
Also, for those times when you don’t want the whole “beans to brew” experience, the Perfecta offers a one-scoop bypass doser, which is perfect for those late-night cups of decaf when you’re winding down. It’s a small feature, but a nice finishing touch that adds polish to the design.
The Boiler System
Our DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM 5500 b review wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t call particular attention to this aspect of the machine. It features a double boiler, which we think is fantastic.
There are a lot of high-end machines on the market today that don’t offer a double boiler, whose chief advantage is speed and convenience because it allows you to simultaneously steam milk and make coffee.
If you’re a casual drinker, this won’t be a big deal to you, but if you’re pulling shots throughout the day, the time that a double boiler system will save you can add up quickly. Sure, they’re more expensive, but DeLonghi balanced this beautifully. This is the reason they opted for the ABS plastic frame – so they could include the second boiler and cut down on the total brewing time. It’s a good trade in our book, and we heartily approve.
It gets even better though because both boilers feature Thermoblock technology, which allows them to heat more rapidly, cutting your wait time down even more. While it would be overselling it to say that the Perfecta is the fastest espresso machine on the market, you definitely won’t be disappointed here!
Best of all is the fact that you can fine-tune the precise brewing and milk steaming temperatures from the control panel on the front face of the machine, so your coffee is exactly your preferred temperature.
We’ll have more to say about the control system a little later on, but for now, the important thing to know is that DeLonghi has a reputation for brewing hot coffee.
That matters because in general, specialty coffee drinks were meant to be enjoyed at temperatures somewhat lower than most Americans like to drink their coffee, but on the highest temperature settings, American coffee drinkers won’t be disappointed in the least!
Telescoping Coffee Spigot
The DeLonghi Perfecta Cappuccino coffee machine ESAM5500B leaves us a bit underwhelmed where this feature is concerned. While the coffee spouts do telescope to accommodate a variety of cup sizes, you won’t have quite enough room to fit a 6” cup. About the best you can hope for with this model is 4.5”.
That’s fine for most people, but it does mean that if you have a favorite, super-sized coffee mug, you’re probably not going to be able to brew straight into it.
The Brewing and Control Systems
This is another instance where our DeLonghi ESAM5500b Perfecta digital super automatic espresso machine review would be incomplete if we didn’t spend some extra time talking about it, especially where the control system is concerned.
On the face of it, it’s about average. True, it was bleeding edge when the model first came out, boasting a central selector knob and an LCD screen, but these days, you can certainly find more advanced and colorful displays.
What sets the Perfecta’s control system apart, however, is not just how simple it is to operate, but also how perfectly it’s engineered to optimize the single-user experience. This, more than any other feature of the machine, is what makes it less than ideal for large households, but perfect if you’re the only coffee drinker in your family.
Using the selector dial, you can choose any one of the four pre-programmed, one-touch drinks. You can also turn the dial to one of the two customizable drink slots (one for drinks with milk, and one for drinks without).
The pre-programmed drinks are what they are. You get the factory default settings on these, although you can interrupt the programming to cut off the coffee or milk, and thus, alter the amounts on a drink by drink basis, but the two programmable slots can be set to any values you like and saved for one-touch convenience later.
That’s great for a single user, but the limitation quickly becomes obvious if there are multiple coffee drinkers living under the same roof. With only two spots allowing for customization, it could lead to squabbling and in-fighting over who gets to save their preferred settings.
Although the pre-programmed drinks can’t be customized per se (other than the workaround we mentioned), you can still set the coffee strength, from one to five beans (very mild, mild, regular, strong, and very strong), so you can make some changes at the margins, even there.
All in all, we love the system and the menu layout. Everything is logically placed and easy to access.
In addition to customizing your two coffee slots, you can access the maintenance menu (useful for when you need to descale), reset to factory defaults, change your language, and set an auto-start and auto-shutoff time. Very handy.
Because everything is laid out so well, there’s no learning curve to speak of with this machine. How long did it take you to figure your smartphone? Cut that time by about 75%, and you’ll have a good idea how easy it is to use this machine.
Where the brew unit is concerned, the biggest thing to mention is that it’s removable, so you don’t have to use cleansing tabs, which is one less thing to buy. Instead, just pop it out about once a week and give it a good rinse, let it dry, and then slide it back into position. Couldn’t be easier!
A Few Words About Espresso
If you’re already familiar with the differences between how drip brew coffee is made and how espresso is made, skip to the next section. If you’re new to this world, keep reading!
The coffee you enjoy every morning is probably made by a drip brew coffee maker. It relies on gravity to convey the coffee from the grounds chamber into the pot below.
Espresso is different. It is brewed via pressure, and pressure is measured in bars, where one bar is equal to atmospheric pressure at sea level. To make a great espresso, you need a minimum of nine bars of pressure. The DeLonghi Perfecta One Touch’s pump is rated at fifteen bars.
All that to say this machine has more than enough power to create world-class espresso, every time you use it.
The Milk Frothing System
People who are new to the world of specialty coffee drinks will probably appreciate how the DeLonghi Perfecta super automatic espresso machine implements its milk frothing function, while coffee purists will likely be underwhelmed.
The Perfecta uses an auto-frother, rather than a frothing wand, which gives you somewhat less control over the quantity and quality of your milk froth, in exchange for automating the process and maximizing convenience.
It’s not hard to see why DeLonghi made this decision. Purists represent a small segment of the market, and most everyone else is a little intimidated by the prospect of having to learn the wand.
The core component of the auto-frothing system is the plastic milk carafe that comes with the machine. This can be refrigerated when not in use and plugged into the unit when you want a milk-based drink. To do this, you simply remove the hot water spigot and slide the carafe into its slot, then angle the milk spout toward your cup.
There are two things to note about this system:
First, DeLonghi did take pains to ensure that users had at least some control over the quantity and quality of the milk froth. They accomplished this by placing a switch on the handle of the carafe. The switch has two settings: Latte and Cappuccino. Selecting one or the other is the means by which you can move to more milk and less foam, or more foam and less milk.
It’s not nearly as versatile as a proper frothing wand, but it does allow you to control the process to a degree.
The other thing to note here is the fact that the way the machine is designed, you don’t have to manually move your cup when making a milk-based drink, and we do love that because we prefer the hands-off approach.
On the whole, we were pleased with the froth produced by the Perfecta, although we’ll readily admit that we could probably do a better job with a proper frothing wand. In the end, it comes down to whether you care more about control or convenience. We prefer convenience, so we were fine with the way this feature got implemented.
Cup Warming Tray
The DeLonghi ESAM5500b Perfecta digital super automatic espresso machine does have a cup warming tray, but if you set the boilers to max temperature, you may find that you don’t need it. That’s seldom the case with other superautomatic espresso machines, but this one gets really hot, so you may not need it.
Our suggestion would be this: Try brewing a milk-based drink without using the cup warming tray because if any of your coffee creations are going to wind up being not quite hot enough, it’ll be something that uses steamed milk.
If it could use a bit of a temperature boost, make another one, but this time, pre-warm the cup, and you should be all set!
Surprisingly Easy to Use and Clean
We’ve already talked about how easy the DeLonghi Perfecta cappuccino is to use, so we won’t repeat that here, but we do want to take a moment to sing the model’s praises for how easy it is to keep it clean.
Regarding manual maintenance, you’ve got three things to do on a regular basis:
If you don’t use filtered or distilled water, you will also occasionally need to descale your machine. If you do use filtered/distilled water, then you’ll almost never have to worry about that.
The only other bit of maintenance you need to worry about is keeping the milk frothing system clean, and DeLonghi has made that incredibly easy to do.
There’s a button on the handle of the milk carafe.
After you make a milk-based drink, just push and hold that button. This will cause a jet of steam, then hot water to cycle through the milk tubing, flushing it out. You can either put a cup beneath the milk spout to catch this water or simply let it flow into the drip tray.
And that’s it.
That’s maintenance in a nutshell!
Pros & Cons of the DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM5500
The DeLonghi ESAM5500B Perfecta has a lot going for it, but at the end of the day, we regard it as a bit of a niche product. It’s a categorically bad fit for larger households, a decent fit for medium-sized families with only one heavy coffee drinker, but it’s optimized for singles, or households that only have a single coffee aficionado. In our view, this is its single biggest weakness.
The only other things we’d point out are:
With the caveats we mentioned above in mind, here’s what we like best about the model:
DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM5500 Review Conclusion
And that brings us to the end of our DeLonghi Perfecta ESAM5500 review. As you can see, it’s got great bones and is an excellent model overall, but it’s clear, based on the way several of its features have been implemented, that it’s best suited to be a one-owner machine.
This isn’t the model you want if you’ve got a large household with multiple heavy coffee drinkers, but it’s perfect if you live alone, or if you’re the only coffee drinker in your family. If that describes your situation, we highly recommend it.
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