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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 29 September 2012
We have owned this coffee maker now for nearly a year. I'm pleased to say that I am actually more pleased with it now than when it first emerged all shiny and new from its box. It certainly looked stylish then, as it still does, and we had our first cups of coffee before much time had passed - and very good it was too.

Now I have had time to experience using the Icona I can report that those who say making a good cup of coffee is an art-form certainly speak truly. What the Icona does is make it possible for anyone to produce delicious coffee, with a little practice.

The machine is simple to use, with just three buttons - on/off, pump and steam. The steam volume is controlled by a nicely-placed round knob on the top. The water goes in a clear plastic reservoir at the rear, which can be removed if necessary, but is filled in place via a hinged lid. The portafilter is a reassuringly well-made heavy duty item and comes with two removable coffee filters - for one or two cups. They are fitted out to take those coffee pods used by people who value convenience over quality.

Here I must digress to point out that coffee made from a pod is not real espresso and limits the range of coffee brands and types that can be used. The Icona is an expresso machine, which means that boiling water is forced under pressure through ground coffee that has been pressed (espresso = 'pressed out' coffee).

And this is where the first bit of the art-form comes in - and it took me a while to realise it as I was so pleased with the coffee that I was making in the first weeks of using the machine. The instructions tell you to tamp the coffee, and there is a handy plastic tamper built-in. However, this is not up to doing the job properly and has one major drawback. Any coffee that sticks onto the built-in tamper - and some always does - gets shaken off when the pump is run and falls into the nearest cup and the kitchen work surface.

So, whatever machine you use please invest in a good quality hand held tamper made out of heavy steel. I bought one made by the Italian firm of Motta - available on Amazon and elsewhere. It has a beautiful ergonomic wooden handle and a precision machine polished tamping face. Most important, it measures exactly 52mm so fits the Icona basket perfectly. Using a decent tamper ensures that the coffee is pressed evenly and firmly into a cake with a smooth even surface. This means the pressurised water flows evenly through the coffee. Improper tamping leaves weak spots so the water rushes through, failing to draw the full flavour out of the coffee, resulting in a weak or even a bitter brew with a less than full 'crema' or head.

The next bit of the art-form is to use only coffee that is specifically ground for espresso. It is finer than coffee intended for filter machines and will usually be a blend that contains a high proportion of Arabica beans, which is the variety of coffee that gives the best crema.

The Icona can produce strong black espresso very reliably, time after time, but only in the smaller cups that are traditionally used for espresso. The space below the portafilter is not tall enough to take anything bigger. As the machine can be used to make cappuccino or latte coffee too, a certain amount of careful choice is needed in selecting the best cups. If you like a large mug, as seen in Starbucks, then you will have to make black espresso in a small cup (or two) and transfer it into your mug.

More artistry - warm the cups (or mugs) and the empty portafilter first. The Icona boasts a space on top where two cups can be placed to warm, but you would have to wait for about twenty minutes to see that happen, and if you are anything like me, that is far too long to wait for one's coffee. The Icona boils in little over a minute, so if you switch it on whilst getting the milk, sugar, cups, biscotti, etc. it is ready before you are. Getting the steam going takes around the same length of time, or perhaps a bit less.

Making a cappuchio is the final bit of the art-form that I am trying to master. You need to have a 'proper' milk frothing jug made out of stainless steel. You need a clip on thermometer so you know when the milk has reached exactly the right temperature - 70C. Too hot and it tastes boiled, too cold and it kills the coffee flavour. the steam wand on the Icona is pretty good. It sends out a well-distibuted blast of steady steam, and is easily removable for cleaning. The trick is to get the milk swirling as it heats and forms small bubbles. You don't want big bubbles. There are plenty of barista types on YouTube who demonstrate this skill - but emulating them takes a lot of practice. How do they make those patterns and pictures in poured milk?

For the money, the Icona is a great machine, capable of producing excellent espresso, cappuccino or latte coffee. It looks good, comes in a choice of colours and although fairly lightly made, seems robust enough to stand up to daily use. It does vibrate when the pump is on, as would be expected, but being a small machine there is nothing to dampen the vibrations. As a result, the water container lid can rattle, but a strategically-placed bit of cardboard will solve the problem - if you could call it that. For me, it is not an issue.

After about seven months use the Icona suddenly started to drip water from the portafilter holder head - copiously. I feared the worst and contacted DeLonghi customer service via email. I got a helpful reply that advised me to descale the machine, see if that cured the dripping, and if not, to get back to them. We live in a hard water area and regularly have to descale the kettle, so the Icona had received similar attention a few times - but obviously not frequently enough, or perhaps thoroughly enough. We gave it a very careful descaling and that did the trick - lesson learned. We now use cheap supermarket bottled water and descale once a month to be on the safe side. The portafilter head should also be cleaned by wiping round daily after use so as to remove any loose grounds.

So, to summarise: the Icona is a good-looking value-for-money coffee machine that will make excellent coffee if you learn the art-form and treat the machine with a little attention and consideration for its wellbeing.

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August 2014

It's great that folk have taken the trouble to post comments on this review - thanks to you all. I thought it might be timely to write an update. I'm surprised how nearly three years have passed so quickly. Nearly every day which has dawned during that time has been celebrated with a welcome cup of coffee from this super little machine.

I'm pleased to say that the Icona has never faltered. It just keeps on working, day in, day out. The only maintenance it needs is a wipe over, empty the drip tray, and a de-scale every now and then.

We have had some adventures though. I forgot to fill the water reservoir once and the Icona soon let me know by rattling and shaking as it pumped air. Scary. I keep the reservoir fully topped up each morning now, and find it damps the slight normal vibration of the pump down from an acceptable level to what I call busily soothing and full of promise.

Then another time I had a batch of espresso coffee from a very well known retailer and it was a little too finely ground - at least that is the theory I came up with. The dry coffee was tamped as usual but must have compacted too much to allow the water to easily flow through. The result was that the filter holder started to slowly undo itself. I could see the handle moving to the left and hot water beginning to escape from around the filter. OK, there are only three buttons on the machine, but in a panic could I remember which one was the 'Off' button? Could I heck. The situation was rescued without mishap after the old brain kicked in and told the hand to push the right button. (And don't worry, my day job is not airline pilot.) Actually, it's better to have the filter holder move and release pressure than it would be for a water pipe to blow inside the machine.

Has anyone tried experimenting with alternatives to frothy milk? I'm thinking there are a lot of lactose intolerant people who nevertheless would like a cappuccino. Incidentally, why does cappuccino sound so much more inviting than frothy milk topped coffee? Also, incidentally, my good friend Wikipedia tells me that cappuccino was named after the colour of the white habits worn by Capuchin friars. I've tried frothing almond 'milk', soya 'milk' and rice 'milk' but have not tried hemp, cashew, coconut, goat, sheep or buffalo. Sorry to say, but cow's milk, semi-skimmed and cold from the fridge makes the best froth so far. What say you?

Talking of Italian words, would the beautiful Maserati Quattroporte sound quite so exotic in English as the Maserati Four-door? However, my car may be a more mundanely-named 'people's car' and conveys me happily round rural Herefordshire, but my coffee maker daily transports me to the shores of the Amalfi coast. One can but dream.

And on that note, I think it is time for a cup of coffee.
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on 26 October 2012
The coffee machine looks good, fitting nicely on the counter top. It is a bit noisy for the ten seconds or so when making the coffee (a bit louder than the kettle but quieter than a washing machine). I've had no problem with it vibrating but I haven't used the smallest espresso cups with it. It is a bit messy, after making a cup there is often bits of coffee and a few drips on the bottom. Most of this is easily solved by having a cloth at hand or putting something underneath the coffee holder when you remove it/take it to the sink. Very easy to clean. The watertank is large, so you are not constantly refilling. The machine is probably best to be used for one or two coffees because each time you make another you need to empty and refill the coffee holder. I find the coffee hot enough without bothering to warm mugs etc. I do not like scalding hot drinks so I enjoy being able to drink the coffee straight away.

When you first get the coffee machine don't be disappointed if your coffee isn't what you expected. There is a bit of a learning curve. The manual explains how to use it quite well. I found that the coffee came out quite weak and watery when I attempted my first espresso. To get a stronger coffee I recommend using the bigger of the two measures (with one cup at a time). Make sure you press the coffee into the holder quite hard.Once the green light comes on to signal the coffee is ready press the button and for a strong cup, wait until the light turns off and press the button again to stop the flow (you can keep letting the coffee come out after the light goes off but it goes light coloured fairly quickly, which obviously makes it weaker and more watery). If it's still weak you may want to try buying a slightly finer ground coffee or of a stronger strength.

To turn your espresso into a latte, put some milk in a small metal jug (it needs to be small as the steam wand is just a couple of inches), you can use a mug but it can make pouring the milk a bit messy. I put the wand deep into the milk (having made sure the steam light is on and the knob on the top has been turned anticlockwise), swirl the bottom of the mug gently and then bring the steam wand closer to the surface when the milk has increased more in volume. Then just add the milk to the espresso. You can make great quality hot chocolates by making a hot chocolate paste with a little water and then adding the steamed milk, really nice before bed and makes the coffee machine even better value.

The machine produces quite a small amount of coffee. If you just want to use it for espresso I would buy some small espresso cups. If you intend to make lattes/cappuccinos then buy some cappuccino cups, if you try to put it into a mug it only fills it halfway or three-quarters. It looks a lot more impressive in a cappuccino cup and makes the process a lot easier because a mug is quite a hassle to get underneath and you have to remove the grill.

Being able to make a latte of a similar standard to a coffee shop was my main motivation for buying the machine and I am not disappointed. The machine is starting to pay for itself as I no longer need to cross the road to buy coffees. It takes a bit of time (a few minutes) to make a latte but I am getting faster now I am more familiar with the machine. A simple espresso is very quick- I have not had to wait for the machine to warm up, I just turn on the machine and by the time I've prepared and attached the coffee holder it is ready.

I really love my machine now that I have put in the initial learning time (I'm still experimenting though!) My biggest concern is that it may develop faults in the long term, which shouldn't be overlooked. Most of the other machines which were similar in price/function seemed to also have reviews of developing faults, I bought a machine new and through amazon in the hope customer service would be better for breakages then second hand through ebay.
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on 29 March 2017
Standard traditional coffee maker, takes a bit of getting used to but once mastered makes a lovely cup of coffee. It is worth noting that this does make quite a lot of noise and can make a mess if you aren't quick enough! The only drawback I found after awhile was the pressure adjustments..ie.sometimes you had to wait to make the milk straight after making a coffee etc. Otherwise very sturdy and very good.
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on 2 February 2013
Very compact, light, easy to use, sleek and even sexy looking espresso machine. Makes great and thick crema.

Great colour, very quick shipment, safe packaging. I've had it for almost 2 years now - works flawlessly... The only thing I am not 100% happy with is the fact that the standard cappuccino cups I have are too wide - I can put only 1 of them on the warming surface. But not a big deal, perfectly happy to fill the cups with hot water while frothing the milk.

Definite 5 stars.
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on 24 March 2017
Bought 4 years ago by my wife my best birthday present ever. Inexpensive (but still good looking) and makes great coffee. Much cheaper than these throw away capsules and better for the environment. Still going strong!
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on 11 May 2013
This is my second machine and once again the steam arm leaks even when the steam is turned off so again i will be sending back!!!!
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on 15 March 2013
Used every day this machine makes lovely coffee and easy to clean, only negative is the rattling of metal base.
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on 30 January 2010
I had considered buying an expresso machine for some time, being a Latte lover. Had purchased a Tassimo machine but could not get a decent hot cup of coffee out of the thing. although it produced other drinks, chocolate etc, the tea was, as my wife said, awfull. I returned it as faulty, drinks not hot.
I decided to go for a true ground coffee machine and chose the Delonghi Icona. Have not looked back, the ground coffee is really the only way to get good results. The coffee is hot and the milk frother makes all the difference, although the temperature of the milk can be judged by feeling the temperature of the jug, I have purchased a thermometer and it does make a difference. So now I enjoy excellent coffee at the right temperature.
The machine will also accept eeze pods and, although using the pods supplied with the machine gives a fair coffee, I will not be buying any more as the ground coffee is best.
An added bonus is that it looks good too.
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on 7 September 2010
Having deliberated over which coffee machine to purchase, my wife finally added the voice of reason and we opted for Icona at roughly £130 instead of some of its siblings at closer to a £1000.

APPEARANCE:
The machine fits very neatly against a wall and below our cupboards and is not out of place amongst other small kitchen appliances. It's relatively light so bringing it forward to to get to the water tank for topping up is not a problem. We have 4-6 coffees a day and the tank needs refilling only every few days, anyway.

OPERATION couldn't be simpler. There are three buttong and espresso takes 5 minutes for the first one (with cold machine) and 1 minute for subsequent ones). Instruction manual could be reduced to:
1. Switch on;
2. Choose single or double coffee holder and screw in the handle;
3. Wait for 2-4 minutes for the first-time-in-the-morning use, only about one minute for further ones, certainly not 15 minutes as suggested;
4. Press button when green light is on.
5. Press button again when green light is off.
And, to add milk froth for cappuccino (extra 1 minute):
6. Press another button (for steam)
7. Wait green until light is on.
8. Froth milk.

TASTE: Simply excellent. Crema is always perfect and my double espressos and wife's double cappuccinos are always thick and rich. We are currently on our fifth brand of coffee and are for the first time properly noticing the huge differences in taste. The Illy that comes with the machine is still the favourite, but as it's a bit more expensive than most others - we're still not committing.

FURTHER NOTES: Get yourself a metal milk froth container and possibly a thermometer. It will add £10 to the total, which is paid off with your first ten coffees, but will reduce spillage and ensure foam is at the right temperature. The coffee nozzles are a little bit too low and suit slightly shorter cappuccino cups. No problem at all with espresso cups.
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on 30 January 2010
Great Coffee machine, whether with a pod or with fresh ground coffee, we get great coffee. It warms up quickly, and we get really good crema on the espresso. Simple to use too.
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