The Eletta Explore is a stylish bean to cup machine that brews divine coffee – both hot and cold – and is extremely easy to use, with simple milk frothing and customising options.
De’Longhi is one of the biggest names in high quality bean to cup machines in the mid-range price bracket. But bean to cups are pricey appliances, so mid-range in coffee aficionado terms means pretty expensive to the rest of us.
Still, a good bean to cup machine will take all the effort and mess out of brewing a perfect espresso. And what sets the Eletta Explore (ECAM450.86.T) apart from competitors is its cold brew technology – making it a versatile option throughout the year, even in the height of summer.
Let’s take a closer look.
Design and build
1.8l/ 60oz water tank
300g/ 10.6oz bean capacity
The Eletta Explore is stylish. It’s a metal-fronted appliance with a 19-bar pressure pump, weighing about 11.3kg/ 24.6lbs, with a black hard plastic body that stands 38.5cm high, 45cm deep and 24cm wide (15.3 x 17.5 x 10.25 inches), with an opaque 1.8 litre/ 60oz water tank on the right that pulls out from the front.
The chrome and black drip tray underneath the double dispense spout has a flip up option that gives you the depth to dispense into a travel mug 17cm/ 6.7 inches high.
The grinds container is behind this drip tray, so you need to pull this drip tray out to access it, and the drip tray itself has a red indicator float that notifies the machine to tell you to empty it.
To the left of the dispenser is the accessories connector. This is a little bit of absolute genius. It is basically a socket behind a drop-down panel where you plug in the hot waterspout, the hot milk carafe or the cold milk carafe.
What this means is that you don’t need to flush the milk system pipes separately, or fiddle about with connector parts. You have your carafe full of milk, which you can keep in the fridge, and you just plug it into the machine – the machine does everything else, from dispensing to cleaning the mechanism afterwards, though, obviously, you do need to wash the carafe itself.
The 300g/ 10.6oz bean hopper is on the top of the machine and has a lift-off smoky opaque lid. It’s a much more generous capacity than you’d see in more budget-friendly models.
To the front of the feeder is a chute for ground coffee, but you can only use it as and when you want to use ground coffee as the grinds need washing out of the system afterwards to avoid problems.
On the top of the machine at the front is a cup warmer and inside is a conical burr grinder for an even grind.
Above the dispenser is a 3.5” TFT display with full colour icons, and to each side, there are quick option buttons for “to go” drinks, hot drinks, cold drinks, and favourites. What these buttons do, in reality, is bring up the correct menus in the display, lessening your need to scroll.
The Eletta Explore really delivers – to the point where we can’t find much to complain about. De’Longhi has thought about pretty much everything when it comes to ease of use.
How to set up the Eletta Explore
Clear quick start guide
Step-by-step touchscreen instructions
We will be honest here: setting up the Eletta Explore looks terrifying. In truth, it’s astonishingly easy.
De’Longhi provides you with a quick start guide with easy-to-follow pictograms and the machine itself tells you what to do on the display screen.
You simply wash out the water tank and the carafes, plug in the machine, and follow the instructions on the screen. It will ask you to choose your language, fill the water tank, fill the bean feeder, plug in the waterspout, and will then run a cleaning cycle, using 0.2 litres of water, with a container underneath the dispenser spouts. Once that is done, the machine is ready to go.
Control panel and smart features
Four profile options
Simple icons for drink choices
When you’ve set up the machine, you can then programme individual profiles for users. You get four profiles, which may not be enough for the largest households, but these profiles are just a way of saving favourites to a name and you can easily dispense and personalise drinks without them.
The control panel is a full colour touchscreen with a scrolling menu of icons for different drinks, plus a settings menu and a profile selection prompt. Below each icon is a plus button that takes you into an adjustments screen for volume size and intensity of brew.
However, you can then set up smart features. The QR code to download the De’Longhi app appears on the display screen. Just scan and then download the app.
It is a straightforward process. You set up an account, connect to the internet, pair your coffee machine, and then your smartphone functions as remote control for the machine. You can brew drinks directly from your phone, check the status of your machine, discover recipes for hot or cold coffee (some of which are tremendous), and there’s also a rather nice magazine section.
The app also gives you statistics on how many drinks the machine has brewed and enables you to set the automatic shut off timer, which is a great energy saving feature.
The only slight issue with using your phone as a remote control for the machine is that the Eletta flushes the brewing mechanism with hot water before each dispense, so you need a container to catch that flushed out water before you place the cup you will actually use for the coffee under the spout.
This means you can’t put a cup under the dispenser last thing at night with a view to using your phone to make a coffee first thing in the morning while you are still in bed, but you can use the app to wake up the machine so you can stumble downstairs and just switch out the cups and press the brew button.
Hot coffees, cold coffees, cold brews and more
Bean adapt function
The ease by which you can make an excellent coffee with the Eletta is remarkable.
Switch the machine on, it does a quick rinse into a container (we used a small jug for this), then you put your own coffee cup under the dispenser, press your favoured coffee type on the touch screen, plugging in a milk carafe if you want a milky coffee or just a foamed milk, and the machine does everything else – plus, it tells you what it’s doing while doing it, and gives you any prompts you need.
There are a variety of preset choices between cold and hot coffees, and cold and hot milky coffees, with a foamed hot or cold milk option, and a straightforward hot water for tea.
We tested a hot espresso first. The result was a dark body, good crema, great aroma, and rich, tongue-tingling tangy taste that blew our socks off.
The next test was the long coffee. Interestingly, this was a double grind process and a start and stop dispense that produced a coffee so drinkable that we nearly had another straight away.
Of course, the quality of your beans will matter here, but judging from the results we got from an average supermarket bean selection, we think that the Eletta Explore will make the most out of whatever you have.
It also has a “Bean Adapt” function, which uses espresso settings to best grind the beans and brew according to the coffee beans used, and then delivers the results through the “espresso soul” option on the control panel.
Using the milk carafes
Genius plug and play carafe system
Can use plant-based milks
Making a milky coffee is astonishingly simple. You get two carafes with the Eletta: a LatteCrema Hot for hot milk (with a silicone intake tube) and a LatteCrema Cool (with a rigid plastic intake tube).
You fill these carafes with milk when you need them and plug them into the accessories connector to the left side of the dispense spout. We really have to applaud this concept; it makes creating a milky coffee incredibly fuss free. You don’t have to connect pipes to spouts, or anything like that. You can simply keep your carafe in the fridge and plug it straight in.
Then you select the milky coffee you want, and the machine will prompt you to set the froth setting on the top of the carafe when you need to – and that’s it. The machine does everything else, including rinsing out the milk mechanism at the end of the dispensing process, though you do need to turn the froth setting to “clean” when you’re finished.
We made a flat white first, and found it smooth and incredibly drinkable, with just the right amount of froth. We did alter the settings a little for the next flat white we made – just upping the intensity of the brew a little more – and one of our tasters said: “This is divine. It’s better than a coffee shop coffee.”
For our next test, we tried the cappuccino, which required the maximum froth position, and found that this setting stretches the milk quite a lot, so if you are a big cappuccino drinker, you may want to get a bottle of full fat milk in for this purpose. Still, it was a wonderful, full-bodied drink.
For our third test, we tried the hot foamed milk and found the result to be a light, cloud-like liquid in a glass.
You can also use plant-based milks in the Eletta – soy, almond and oat – so you have alternatives should you be lactose intolerant, vegan or just watching your dairy consumption.
Price and availability
There is no doubt that the Eletta Explore is a big investment. But high quality bean to cup machines are expensive and for its price point, we think this machine is excellent quality and does everything you could want, in an easy-to-use way – including making cold coffee drinks.
The Eletta Explore is available in the US from Amazon and De’Longhi. It’s priced at $1,799.95, and there’s no price advantage from buying from any one retailer.
In the UK, it costs £999.99 and it’s available from a number of places, including Argos, AO.com and De’Longhi. Again, all retailers are selling it for the same price at the time of writing.
If you like the idea of the Eletta, but just don’t want to invest as much, we reviewed the Dinamica Plus which offers a similarly excellent coffee making experience for around $300/£300 less. However, you won’t get the cold-brew function.
The Eletta Explore is a fantastic automatic bean to cup machine. We can’t find much wrong with it. Okay, the water tank could be a bit bigger, we suppose, but that is being really picky.
It looks great, it’s a good size, the water tank is on the side and you pull it out from the front, there’s a flip up on the drip tray so you can dispense into a sizeable travel mug, the milk system is plug and play, it’s got a vibrant touch screen control panel – and it’s smart-enabled.
All we can say is if you like freshly ground coffee, you’ll really appreciate the Eletta Explore. It’s a near perfect bean-to-cup.
For more coffee machine options and to see our other recommendations, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested.