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on 1 December 2010
We bought this after looking at several makes. We wanted a bean to cup machine that would also make cappuccino coffee automatically but that wouldn't be too large for a domestic kitchen.

It is smaller than the ESAM range so that was a big plus but it has the same features as the ESAM machines. I bought an extra milk jug direct from DeLonghi so now I can have cappuccino with soya milk while my husband has his with cow's milk.

The machine is so easy to use (much easier than the Jura we'd previously considered buying). It heats itself before it dispenses the first cup so that is as hot as the last cup. You can set the strength of the coffee or use pre-ground so we keep the hopper full of normal beans and keep a canister of ready ground decaf beside it for anyone who wants a decaf cup and then just select the appropriate setting each time. You can select coffee size from espresso to 'Americano' and also set your own custom amount. You can even tailor the ratio of milk to coffee for cappuccino and set the coffee strength different for each cup of cappuccino you make if you want to.

The milk steamer also allows you to dispense only hot milk (eg for hot chocolate) and you can set the frothyness from 1 to 3 (smooth - for latte - to bubbly). A 'clean' button then cleans the steam wand so it's always clean and ready to use.

So far we can't fault the machine - except that we are drinking far more coffee than we used to - is that good or bad?
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on 30 January 2009
I've had this machine for 2 months now and so far I have to say it's been wonderful. For the last two years I used a Gaggia Classic, which made great coffee but was a pain to keep clean and you had to get the grind and tamping of the coffee absolutely spot on or it would punish you with a cup of lesser quality. It had also started leaking coffee out of the filter for reasons I could not work out. Nor did I use the milk frother as previous experience of these has taught me they can be temperamental and take a lot of cleaning. I personally never drink milk in any form so it would only be used for friends. I wanted to get rid of these problems but feared that a machine that does everything might more easily break down. Anyway, I took the plunge and I have to say it has more than met my hopes.

I only ever use coffee from the great Algerian Coffee Store in London's Old Compton Street (they do mail order if you can't get to them) and this machine really gets the best out of it. It really is so easy - stick the beans in the hopper, ensure the water tank is full, set the machine to auto so that it comes on in the morning by itself and you can make a perfect cup in no time and have nothing to clean up. Getting rid of the extra actions of grinding your own coffee, then getting it into a filter without spilling much and then cleaning afterwards has saved a load of time in the mornings.

You have full control over a number of features: fineness of grind, coffee strength, cup size, water heat and so on. I find a relatively fine grind gives best results but if you get it too fine, it can slow water flow - some experimentation should show you the optimal grind for your taste. I have strength set to 'strong' as my wife also likes that - 'extra strong' is great, too. However, anything lower than that produces something I would not call coffee - if you like coffee THAT mild, why bother buying a machine at all? The froth or crema is fantastic in every cup I have produced so far although the manual does tell you that it takes a few cups to get up to standard on first use. Just select the strength and cup size you want (you can also set a custom cup size that the machine will keep in memory) and then press for 1 or 2 cups and the machine does the rest, telling you to wait until it has finished, which is very fast, and then it's ready to produce more cups or you can switch off - if you forget to do this, it will automatically switch off after 3 hours.

There is a hopper for pre-ground coffee and I tried it a couple of times out of curiosity. Results were poor as I don't think the coffee was picked up correctly from the hopper. I'm not too bothered about this as I prefer the integral grinder in any case.

I have only used the cappucino flask attachment once - I had thought people would want it more but it hasn't turned out that way. What I can say is that it works flawlessly and produces a very frothy cappucino (you can adjust settings to have more or less frothiness) which people said was excellent (I don't drink milk). The flask is easy to attach and detach and cleaning is a doddle as there is a button for this on the machine that forces steam through the nozzles. The important thing to note is that no milk enters the body of the machine - that makes a big difference in cleaning. One small problem with the flask - not a defect by any means - is that because of its size, it does not fit in my fridge unless I remove something else - whether it will be a problem for you depends how you organise your fridge.

Maintenance: the manual recommends a number of things. Firstly, you use a supplied litmus paper to test the hardness of your tap water (I always use filtered water but it is not softened) and then enter the setting into the on-board memory. The machine will then signal when you should descale. I live in London, which is a notorious hard water area, but even so I was a bit surprised to get the descale warning only a week ago (only 7 weeks after installation). Descaling is simple (a bottle of descaler is supplied) - just follow the on-screen instructions. There is very little cleaning required as there is no loose coffee like with a conventional machine nor does it drip very much at all; when the used grounds container needs emptying, the machine tells you (same when the tank needs filling) - open the front of the machine, remove the drip tray and container and rinse after emptying. Once a month, the brew unit, which does all the work, needs to be soaked for 15 minutes in clean water. It's very easy to remove and insert but do this with the machine switched off.

Don't be put off by the apparent size of the machine - the footprint is no bigger than my Gaggia and there is no filter handle jutting out.

That's its. So far, it's been perfect in use and is easy to manage. The real test will be after one or two years.
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on 2 January 2009
Good Points - Excellent coffee, easy to use, low mess
Bad Points - Size (it is bean-to-cup...), finish (but on a par at this price point)

We purchased this coffee maker as we wanted an easy to use machine - coffee with the lowest amount of faff!

Unpacking the machine we were surprised at its size; it's about 14 inches tall and quite deep, about half the size of a microwave. In comparison to manual espresso machines, very large; about average for bean to cup. Be aware that you need to access the top of the machine to fill with beans or pre-ground coffee, this has limited us to putting it onto a worksurface where there are no wall cupboards.

The machine is quite "plasticy", lacking the elgance of some of the other more expensive steel machines, but still appearing to be high quality. The drip tray top is steel and appears to be prone to scratching - it's scratched from the milk container within 3 weeks.

Setting up the machine was very easy - plug in, fill with water & beans, coffee mug steaming! At first the coffee seemed quite cool, even with the temperature set to the highest setting. Pre-warming the mugs with hot water solved this.

The potential coffee options are immense - long coffee, strong coffee, very short coffee, double shot etc. It took a long time and lots of experimentation to find my ideal coffee (double shot, normal strength & length + 2 shots of frothy milk into a large mug), but once found, it's awesome to have a coffee shop quality coffee within a couple of minutes of waking up! And this is what makes this machine rate 5 stars, the coffee quality is fantastic and so easy to keep clean. It is so easy to use with so little mess my wife is now a convert!
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on 22 July 2010
I ordered this machine to replace a Gaggia Titanium (actually, I think it was my third of fourth Gaggia Titanium following numerous repairs and replacements!).

The De'Longhi provides a more sophisticated 'experience' than the Gaggia. Access to the water reservoir is excellent and far less hassle than the Gaggia. The bean hopper works well and, unlike the Gaggia, beans don't get require manual 'encouragement' to drop into the grinder when the supply is running low. Good range of coffee options but I didn't manage to configure all of these to my personal preference prior to returning the machine ....

The 5500 only allows you to get your hot/foamed milk using the milk carafe (in the photos it looks like there's a traditional steam pipe alongside the carafe). Unfortunately the temperature of the milk is far from acceptable. According to De'Longhi the milk should be at around 60 degrees - my machine only managed around 40 to 45 degrees, although after using the function several times in a row it would creep up to around 55 degrees but then that's a big waste of milk! De'Longhi told me that the machine was faulty but, havign subsequently read other reviews, it seems that this is an inherent problem. Even with the coffee at its hottest temperature the end result was a moderately hot cappuccino or latte.

As a replacement I've ordered the ESAM 5400 which has a traditional steam pipe - and paid a lot less for it than the 5500 so saved some money along the way!

There is no option to adjust the temperature of the milk (unlike the coffee) so if you want to be in control of your milk ... don't buy the 5500!!
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on 24 June 2013
I agonised over buying this. I already had the ESAM 04.350 model and was perfectly happy with it. This model was reduced in price during a sale (I paid £399), making it very tempting to upgrade. Part of the reason the decision was so difficult is that I couldn't find much information online highlighting the difference between the models. Having taken the plunge, I'm noting my findings here in case anyone else is faced with the same dilema.

The main difference between this and the ESAM model appears to be size. When comparing the specifications I had noted the difference in measurements, but this doesn't really tell the whole story - this unit really does look significantly smaller than the ECAM model. To my eyes (and I accept that this is subjective!), it looks a bit more modern too.

Both units are constructed out of the same plastic material, and give the impression of being solidly built. It's not exactly a premium finish, but it doesn't appear cheap either. Having seen how quickly the drip trays (stainless steel) scratch and scuff on these machines I suspect that the plastic bodies may well be more practical than a metal alternative (found on models further up the range).

The internal layout is different to the ESAM, although both appear to use a similar brewing unit. The bean hopper seems to have a smaller capacity, but does have an airtight seal not present on the larger model. Both have a facility to add a scoop of ready ground instead of using the beans (ideal if you want to make a quick cup of decaf, for example).

Both models make a really good cup of coffee. I've owned machines from Gaggia and others in the past, and while they each have their strengths and weaknesses, the delonghis are my overall favourites. They're quite customisable, with a good range of strength and volume options, and the frothing caraffe is genius and perfectly dispenses anything from hot milk to a really rich froth depending on preference. Temperature is really good, perfectly hot enough without using the cupwarmer first, and the results are wonderfully consistent.

It's an easy machine to clean. Unlike others I've tried, the coffee grounds and water tend to collect in their respective trays, with little overspill. Despite the size reduction from the ESAM, the drip tray and water containers seem to have very siilar capacity, so I do't find myself emptying and cleaning it any more often than I did the other machine. In an area like ours (very hard water), it needs descaling fairly often - this adds cost but I can't really blame the machine for this. Besides, on a "per-cup" basis it's still a lot cheaper than trip to Costa...

My ESAM was over a year old and had made a *lot* of coffee, and was still functioning perfectly. I've no reason to suspect that this model is any less robust, and I look forward to thousands more cups of delicious coffee. After using the ECAM for a bit, I think it's worth paying a bit extra over the ESAM. It's a little smaller, a little quieter, and doesn't seem to have made any compromises as a result. Highly recommended!
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on 2 April 2012
I am going to cut the chase:

1 - This product is really easy to set up. Even though instructions aren't phrased (only diagrams).
2 - It produces great coffee and cappuccinos
3 - The Milk compartment offers great range of product.
4 - With a bit more practice, everything is customisable : Strength / length of coffee - programmable start time.

It is small / compact.

but obviously it makes a bit of noise ( since it's grinding the coffee)

500-600£ is a bargain
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on 22 June 2009
Chose this machine after our very expensive jura impressa avantgarde failed 3 times in less than 3 years, so decided to call it a day! the first machine arrived faulty as one of the buttons on the control panel was permanently impressed, rendering it useless! However a replacement arrived a day later and its been fantastic. If i was to compare it to my old machine (which cost 3x the price of the delonghi),they both make wonderful coffee and cappuccino's.The delonghi has a smaller water tank but it will still make about 8 large cappucino's before it needs refilling.It doesnt come with a water filter but i believe you can buy one to sit in the tank.The pot for the coffee grounds seems to fill quicker and descaling is required(prompted by the machine) more regularly.(i do live in a hard water area).It takes up less space on the worktop and turns itself on standby much sooner.I particularly like the milk jug which can be stored in the fridge and used as required.It even has a clean function to flush out milk from the dispensing spout.You can choose the density of the foam if you prefer latte's to cappuccino's.You can even tell it to come on at a certain time each day(it doesn't take long to warm up for use though). I too experienced difficulty initially placing the milk jug into its correct position, but after a small application of frizz ease it glided on effortlessly.The metal drip plate has scratched after 2 weeks of use, but to be honest they will all do this eventually. I am really pleased with my purchase - at a press of a button i can change the strengths of my expresso to my taste.I havnt had cause to use the ground coffee option yet so i cant comment on that, but i would definitely recommend this to any coffee lover.
Update 2014 .It has made 8708 cups of coffee.I had to replace the milk jug as it failed to froth, and after a few months the second jug failed too.So I invested in a separate milk frother which is amazing (dualit dmf1). The coffee machine is starting to age with coffee grounds falling inside and the door keeps popping open. It is still making good coffee so I feel I have had my money out of it!
UPdate Sept 2014 - it started leaking out the base so felt it was time to say goodbye. It made 10200 cups of coffee. I purchased a Delonghi 4200 to take it's place through Amazon which has gone wrong after 6 days (grinder issue)and is being returned :(. Guess they don't make Delonghi's like they used to!
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on 29 September 2013
There are some excellent reviews of this machine here which I found very useful in making our choice. But it was still difficult so I've made a video to show the actual operation which I hope helps.

I will try not to duplicate the other reports and just make a few extra points to help you feel better about spending such vast amount of money to make coffee!

1. I was impressed with how less bulky the machine looks than the measurements might make you think. The measurements are for the overall dimensions. The actual depth of the "main box" is c30cm which is about the depth of a standard kitchen cupboard.

2. Basically you can programme this to make pretty much any coffee you want. I recommend you download the manual as a pdf from the De Longhi site to best understand it as the descriptions are poor.

3. The facility to use pre-ground coffee is of limited value. You can only put a level spoon in otherwise there are dire warnings of gumming up the works and invalidating the guarantee. So you can't make a particularly strong coffee though it is fine for a single espresso.

4. It is worth shopping around for these machines. We bought ours at £600, not through Amazon. Very happy with that price.

In my video I do not have time to cover the hot water spout which you can plug in to replace the milk jug. You could use this for making a longer coffee (they say this is better than putting more water through the grounds, which brings out bitterness) or even tea, or to heat your cups. It's quick and easy to do and a feature which is more useful than I thought it would be.
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on 9 July 2009
Let's be honest, starting the day without a decent cup of coffee would be unthinkable in my house and for the last two or three years that role has fulfilled by a Gaggia Titanium which, to be fair, delivers an excellent cup of coffee. The only problem with it is the steamer which is forever leaking.

My Titanium must have gone back to Gaggia at least four or five times, incurring £50 courier fees for the last few because it was then out of warranty. The Gaggia people were always very pleasant but two or three weeks without my main coffee machine (I had a little De'Longhi as a back up) was a nightmare. So, when it starting leaking hot water all over the place again, earlier on this year, I thought "enough is enough" and decided to replace it.

As my little back-up De'Longhi had performed so well I thought I might have a look at the bigger ESAM5500. The reviews seemed to indicate that it was a good buy so I held my breath and clicked "purchase". In typically brilliant Amazon fashion it arrived the next day, well packaged and ready to go.

As they say in the instructions, it takes a few coffees before it really comes into its own but by the following day this machine was delivering coffee par excellence.

What do I like about it? The hopper for the beans is easy to fill and they never get stuck (unlike the Gaggia). The tank is at the front and is easily accessible (unlike the Gaggia), it dispenses hot, frothy milk direct from the jug provided and you can alter the amount of air that goes into the milk so there is an almost infinite variation from plain hot milk for lattes to very frothy milk for cappuccinos. The grind settings are easy to alter as are the strength and volume settings for the dispenser.

What don't I like? It needs descaling pretty regularly (about every two weeks for mine - but we do drink a lot of coffee) and the DeLonghi proprietary descaler is not cheap. However it is a massively false economy to try and get away with supermarket descalers as they are just not up to this particular job. There are cheaper alternatives (e.g. Durgol) which are perfectly adequate but it isn't worth jeopardising a £500+ machine by buying the really cheapo stuff.

Overall this is a great piece of kit that delivers everything you might want from a domestic coffee machine and, even allowing for the frequency of descaling, it still rates the full five stars.
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on 22 May 2013
Got this ECAM 23-450 to replace a much loved Gaggia.
It is so much quieter!
Fairly complex, but clear instructions, copies of which are available on the website if you hate paper or just want to print out the important bits.
Like other reviewers I thought the frother spout was too high, but if you realise the rubber end goes on the milk spout first, the shiny end (which is easier to clean) fits neatly over the mug.
Once you have worked out how to program the correct size of drink to fill your own preferred mugs there's no problem with that. There is a separate setting called 'My Coffee' available for the programmable coffee volume - not the most obvious of names.
The top of the machine has a cup warming area, but as we have an Aga we prefer it to be switched off as it could be a slight risk.
Great that both the water container and the grounds and drip tray come out forwards, so the machine will fit in a narrow space.
The one caveat is that the bean hopper fills from the top and the machine doesn't swivel. It is therefore difficult to fill with beans if it is situated on a work surface under cupboards. Because the hopper is wide and flat, sometimes sticky beans don't slide down into the grinder without a gentle push.
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