A while ago, I wrote my best bean to cup coffee machines post, and the De’Longhi ESAM 4200 featured in this post, this wasn’t a review as such, as I’d not used the machine at this point, I’d simply researched a number of different bean to cup machines including studying the reviews to gain an opinion of each machine that featured, which is what I do with these kinds of articles.
While doing this research, I gained the opinion that the ESAM 4200 was a great machine for the money, and this opinion was strengthened by emails I received by readers, who have this machine, and who couldn’t sing its praises highly enough.
In fact, one reader told me that they had an ESAM for years, then “upgraded” to a much more expensive bean to cup machine, only to be disappointed to discover that (in their opinion) the much more expensive machine wasn’t a patch on their old faithful DeLonghi Esam.
So the ESAM 4200 Magnifica bean to cup coffee machine was high on my list of coffee machines to use, and to review. But until now, the only material I had written about this bean to cup Espresso machine
Just to give you a bit of info about the way my reviews work, if you’re new to coffee blog.
When it comes to “best…” posts, where I discuss the best of a certain product, such as best budget electric coffee grinders, best manual coffee grinders, best bean to cup coffee machines & so on, I don’t just do a list of popular products. I spend days or even weeks in some cases, researching each product in order to put these kinds of posts together, attempting to give the best indication as possible regarding which might be the best product for the reader.
When It comes to individual product reviews, I don’t take these lightly either, I don’t review a product after having had a quick look at it, or having had a demo or a quick trial – I do my best to write detailed user reviews, written over a period of at least a week, if not longer. This makes my reviews proper “user reviews”, which I hope give readers a good insight into the machine, so they can decide whether or not this machine may be right for them.
Anyway, I was keen to do a full user review of the Esam 4200, so I got in touch with De’Longhi, who very kindly sent me a loan unit, to use for the review.
This isn’t a “freebie review” whereby manufacturers send products to bloggers free in return for a review, and it isn’t any kind of a paid review, De’Longhi have simply sent me a loan model of the Magnifica ESAM 4200 to be returned after I’ve finished using it for the review.
So, without any further waffle lets get to it…
DeLonghi ESAM 4200 Review – My Week and a bit with the Magnifica Bean To Cup Coffee Machine.
Unboxing and initial impressions.
I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and simple this part was. Got it straight out of the box, onto the kitchen worktop, removed a couple of packing protective bits, installed the water tank and the coffee puck collector & drip tray, and turned it on. So far, so good.
It’s a nice looking machine, and is fairly compact for a bean to cup Espresso machine, 30cm deep at the top, approx 38cm deep measured to the middle of the drip tray, 28cm wide, 35cm tall. Just keep in mind when measuring the height of your cupboards etc., that you need just under another 10cm to open the grinder hopper cover in order to load beans and adjust the grind.
I could see straight away how much thought has gone into the design of this machine, they really have done a good job of making it a very convenient machine for the average coffee lover to use.
For instance, the water tank is front loading. You just pull it straight out like an ink cartridge, fill it up, and slot it straight back in. This is a great feature for most users, who I assume will be slotting it into an already cramped kitchen worktop space, if they’re anything like me, and this feature means you don’t need to pull the machine out and turn it around to get to the water tank.
The group head, where the coffee comes from, can be slid up or down to bring it closer to the cup you’re using, and to allow taller cups to be used, which again, I think is very clever.
The drip tray is nice & big, makes use of all the possible space under the machine, and the way the front opens in order to access the coffee puck collector tray which simply slots in next to the drip tray, again I think is very well designed.
Setting it up
I followed what I thought was the quick 5 step setup guide, which lead me to getting stuck temporarily until I realised that what I thought was a quick start guide, is actually “How to prepare an espresso in 5 easy steps” once you’ve already setup the machine – and the full setup instructions need to be read when it comes to the first use of the machine. Doh…
So, on page 10 of the proper instruction manual, I discovered that when you use the machine for the first time, you need to turn the steam on, all the way anti-clockwise, and then wait for the water flow to stop, and for all the lights to flash, to indicate that you now need to turn off the steam. Once I did this, all was well :-).
So just keep in mind that the single A4 glossy 5 step guide isn’t a setup guide, it’s a guide to making Espresso once you have set up the machine as per the instruction manual – which I have to say is really straightforward.
This is a very easy machine to use, it’s all really straightforward. I turned it on, filled the hopper with coffee beans, turned the strength to Max (of course), set the volume/quantity to just under the half position, left the grind setting at the factory setting, pressed the single cup button, and hey presto, or should we say Hey Espresso? ;-).
The first espresso flowed far too quickly, I got about 50g of coffee in about 15 seconds, which is definitely what we would call a “sink shot” rather than a “drink shot”, but I expected this, it is going to take some dialling in, and also in terms of the volume/quantity setting (which I’ll get into later).
I then adjusted the grind finer, tried a couple of shots at this, and it was definitely going in the right direction. After a few more trials, I got the flow about right, extracting around 30-32g in around 30 seconds.
General observations after regular use
The first thing I want to say about the De’Longhi ESAM 4200, after some regular use, is that I think this is a brilliant all-around bean to cup Espresso machine, and I reckon its a great choice for most coffee lovers who want to be able to make Espresso at home.
It’s so simple to use, it’s really quick to heat up and to be ready to roll, it’s just such a good machine generally speaking, that I think it’s a great solution for most people – given that it’s probably the cheapest bean to cup Espresso machine on the market.
If all you wanted to know was is this a good bean to cup coffee machine for the money, then in my humble the answer is, definitely.You can certainly spend more than this on a bean to cup machine if you really want to, for things like touchscreen controls and fully automated coffee & milk, but if you’re not bothered about stuff like that, and you don’t want to spend more than you have to, then I think this is a great choice.
That being said, I’ll now get into more detail. Starting off with:
The good stuff:
Fast coffee – quick warm-up time.
Great coffee is something worth waiting for, and some of the best commercial and prosumer espresso machines take quite a while to be ready to use. When it comes to machines that are intended for the consumer market, though, convenience is important.
Nespresso machines, the ultimate in convenience when it comes to coffee, usually have 25 second warm-up times, the Sage Creatista plus has an incredible 3 second warm up time. Domestic Espresso machines don’t tend to be ready to use quite as quickly as Nespresso, but the Esam 4200 is very quick for an Espresso machine.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this bean to cup Espresso machine is ready to produce Espresso after a quick cleaning/priming cycle, under a minute.
Obviously, the quality of the Espresso is important for an Espresso machine review – and I’m very impressed with the quality of the Espresso produced by the ESAM 4200. I think the majority of coffee lovers will be very happy with the quality of the Espresso that this bean to cup Espresso machine will produce, as long as they’re using great coffee beans of course!
Do I think you could get better Espresso from a prosumer setup with a separate grinder, costing around a thousand pounds or upwards? Well, yes – once you’ve gone through the learning curve and developed the necessary skills.
As I’ve said in other posts, there are two types of people who make Espresso at home – the “average coffee lover” who likes coffee but just wants to press a button – and the “home Barista” who is happy to invest a significant amount of time, money and effort in continually increasing their Espresso making skills, along with developing their coffee palate, which will better enable them to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Bean to cup machines are for the average coffee lover, and if this is you – then I think the ESAM 4200 is a great choice if you want to steam and pour your own milk.
Capable of proper microfoam for Latte art!
I wasn’t expecting to be writing this about a domestic bean to cup espresso machine! The popular option with domestic Espresso machines are panarello wands, a sheath which covers the steam pipe and introduces steam to the milk via holes on the side. These kinds of steam wands are, in my humble opinion, about as much use as chocolate fireguards. They produce only large bubbled froth, to be spooned into cappuccino – which is fine if that’s what you like.
If, however, you’re wanting to produce lovely, shiny microfoam, with much smaller bubbles, for making delicious velvety flat whites, cortado/piccolo, macchiato, latte or cappuccino, and to have a go at pouring latte art, then panarello isn’t going to work for you.
De’Longhi have recognized this, and they have made it very easy to simply pull off the panarello to reveal the plastic steam pipe, which is essentially a single hole steam tip steam wand, or at least works in a similar fashion.
The photos bove are of the latte art I poured with milk steamed with the ESAM 4200, with the Panarello wand removed.
Just one thing I have to say here is that I’ve cheated slightly, as I’ve used my Espro torrid 2 milk jug, as I talk about in my latte art hack post. This jug is designed to help single hole steam tips to get the milk spinning, I found it a great help with the Gaggia classic, and it worked brilliantly with this De’Longhi bean to cup espresso machine.
Quiet grinding – enjoy your morning coffee without waking up the street.
The integrated grinder is fairly quiet, it makes a higher pitch sound than my Sage Smart Grinder Pro, but it’s not overly loud, I’d say a similar volume to a boiling kettle, maybe slightly louder but not much. I’ve read some complaints about budget coffeee grinders re the noise levels, but I don’t think you’ll have an issue with the integrated grinder on the ESAM 4200.
Big water tank & easy to fill
The water tank is 1.8l, which is a fair sized water tank for an Espresso machine. What I really like about this water tank though, is it is so easy to access and to fill. As I mentioned earlier in the introduction, it pulls straight out from the front, so you don’t need to access the side or the bank of the machine, you just pull out the tank, stick it under the tap, and slide it back in, perfect!
Big drip tray
I like the fact that the drip tray uses all of the available space at the bottom of the machine, to produce a decent sized drip tray, meaning that you don’t have to constantly be emptying it. This may seem like a little thing, but little things can make a big difference.
The front of the machine opens, allowing you to pull out the drip tray, which brings the coffee puck collector with it. Inside this you’ll find your used pucks of grounds, to be put in the compost. Empty the drip tray and the puck collector, give it a rinse, stick it back in. You will want to wipe the inside of the front, when you open it up you’ll see some coffee splashes onto parts of the inside of the front, so giving it a wipe down while you’re in there is good practise. Other than this, there’s an auto maintenance cycle that happens each time you turn the machine on – and running the descale cycle etc., all seems straightforward. The machine comes with a pack of descaler solution.
The bad stuff:
I have to say that none of these are deal breakers, they wouldn’t stop me from choosing the ESAM 4200 if I was going to buy a bean to cup coffee machine, they’re fairly small things really, you might think I’m nitpicking, but I don’t think it would be a balanced review if I didn’t include these observations.
Small grind adjustment range.
There are 14 grind settings, from 1-7 with .5 increments. In practice, with the beans I used with this machine, I didn’t have any problem, although with one of them I did have to go down to only one half step higher than the very lowest setting, and the highest setting I found dialled in at with any of the beans I tried was about the halfway point at 3.5. This didn’t cause me any problems with any of the beans I used with the machine, so I’m probably moaning about nothing ;-).
Hopper not detachable.
Again, this isn’t a deal breaker at all, in fact you’ll probably think I’m nitpicking, and I suppose I am, but with the hopper being integrated, it means you have to use any beans you put in there. There’s no easy way to get the beans out once you’ve put them in, because of the finger guard – so if you were wanting to try another bean, you’d have to go through the beans that are in there already.
I don’t think that this wouldn’t be a problem at all for the vast majority of people, as most people will want to use all the beans they have before opening the next bag. The only reason I found this a bit of a pain is I was testing the machine with different beans. The hopper capacity is only a couple of hundred grams anyway, so it’s not like you’d have to waste a load of beans, and in theory you could get a lot of them out by taking out the water tank, emptying the waste collector and drip tray, and tipping up the machine.
No references for volume settings.
The dial for the amount of coffee desired has no reference points around it to refer back to.
For instance, I found that for double Espresso, I needed to turn the dial to about twenty to (imagining a clock face around the dial), it took me a few wasted shots to figure that out. It’s no big deal, you could always put a mark on there yourself if you wanted to, but I just can’t understand why they haven’t put a numbered dial around it, so the user at least has a reference to go back to.
They could put images around the dial to show the approx range for a single Espresso, double Espresso, Lungo etc., – I just think this would make it a lot more convenient for the user, keeping in mind that bean to cup machines are all about convenience.
Like I say, not a huge deal, but I’m just not sure why they don’t put a handy face around this dial to help the user.
By the way, a quick tip re making Amercano & long black with Espresso machines.
First of all, a Lungo, or “long black” isn’t the same as an Americano.
Americano is espresso poured into hot water (not the other way around, by the way. You can do it that way if you like, if you’re a Neanderthal ;-), but as far as I’m concerned the “right way” is water first, Espresso on top), whereas a long black or lungo is basically a longer shot, rather than a mix of Espresso and hot water.
Yes they’re both a mix of water and Espresso, but with Lungo you’re continuing to extract coffee – as the water is still flowing through the puck of grounds, whereas with Americano you’re pulling the shot into fresh hot water, or pulling the shot into an espresso cup/glass and dumping this into the hot water.
So technically speaking, if you use the bean to cup machine to dispense a bigger cup of coffee, you’re making a Lungo or long black, and if you pull your shot into hot water you’re making an Americano.
I prefer the taste of Americano to Lungo, but each to their own, so try it both ways and see what you prefer.
£420 on the De’Longhi website, currently £299 on Amazon UK, also £299 at coop online, and from £289 new on eBay, and used on eBay from about £120-£200 (although I’d be cautious personally about buying a used bean to cup machine without warranty).
To the uninitiated, a few hundred quid for a coffee machine probably seems like a lot – but actually, this is a really low price for a bean to cup Espresso machine, especially given that it’s a very well known brand, and I think it’s great value for money at this price.
I’m really impressed with the Esam 4200, it’s easy to see why it’s the best selling bean to cup Espresso machine on Amazon UK. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants a bean to cup Espresso machine, who doesn’t want to pay more than they have to, and who wants to steam and pour their own milk rather than just pressing a button.
There are one touch machines, which froth the milk for you automatically meaning all you do is select what coffee you want, and then walk away with it. These kinds of machines tend to cost between double, to about six or seven times the price of the ESAM 4200, and some of them don’t have anywhere near the same kind of average review scores (the Esam 4200 has 4.4/5 stars from over 1700 reviews – which is difficult to beat).