I have a confession to make. I like instant coffee.
It was my first foray into the world of liquid gold and got me through some of the poorer times of my life. But more than that, I straight up like the taste and you're welcome to fight me.
But my undying love of Nescafe doesn't render me any less susceptible to the aroma of fancy beans and freshly frothed milk. So when a $5,000 De'Longhi coffee machine graced me desk I jumped at the chance to try it. And I'm not ashamed to admit that it resulted in my purchasing my own, cheaper version.
So how does a coffee machine that costs a tenth of the price hold up against a majestic grind prince? Grab a cuppa and let's chat.
De'Longhi Maestosa ($5,000)
What is it?
The big boi machine in question is De'Longhi's Maestosa - a fully automated unit that froths the milk and grinds the bean juice for you.
It comes with a plethora of attachments (including one specifically for hot chocolate), the ability to choose any caffeinated drink you can think (including espresso martini) of and room for two types of beans. You can even opt for pre-ground coffee if you so desire.
It also has tech inclusions such as a coloured touch screen, multiple user profiles and an app that can connect to your machine via bluetooth. This means that you can sit in bed and send your order to the machine. Theoretically, anyway.
What's good about it?
Customisation is the stand out feature of the Maestosa.
Between multiple bean holders, the huge amount of attachments and the beverage choices - you can easily create the exact drink you want.
Here's a look at what's on offer:
You cab even able to deep dive into each individual drink to customise how much foam you want, the temperature and how intense the flavour should be. It's brilliant.
If customisation isn't enough for you, perhaps personalisation will take your fancy. The Maestosa takes this to the next level. Multiple user profiles are available so you can save your favourite beverages, as well as how you want them customised.
Here's an example of how it works. This is me customising a flat white:
This functionality is available on the machine itself and via the app.
Easy to clean
Lwft: All you have to do was pop the door open to take out the tray and grounds bin. Right: If you only want a quick water top up there is a handy spout, saving you from taking the entire tank out.
Cleaning coffee machines is generally a pain in the arse. The grounds get in places that you never thought possible and milk congeals in a horrifying manner. Don't even get me started on nozzle hygiene.
But the Maestosa makes this as easy as possible by automatically running hot water through the nozzles when you turn the machine on and off.
As for cleaning the tray and ground container - sure it's still a manual job, but the parts come out so easily that it isn't that bad. There was no excuse for not keeping this thing spick and span.
It makes damn fine coffee
A lot of factors go into a good coffee. The beans. Milk temperature. And even if you get all of that right, personal taste will always play a part.
The Maestosa is excellent at making coffee very difficult to mess up. I didn't have a single bad cup despite how much I tinkered with the settings. In fact, I didn't even have a mediocre one.
What's not so good?
Big and heavy
The Maestosa is quite massive and took up a significant amount of my kitchen bench space. It is also heavy, so you wouldn't want to move it much after designating an area to it.
That being said, a machine of this calibre and size is probably not meant for an apartment where only two people live. It's much more of a commercial machine, so it would probably fit into an office kitchen just fine.
The app connectivity wasn't great
While De'Longhi's Coffee Link app was one of the initial attractions of this machine (this is a tech site, after all), I never used it past the testing phase.
The app itself is great - it has a clean and easy-to-use UI, and allows you play with the same customisation features as the machine's touch-screen.
It just wasn't practical once you actually wanted to make a coffee.
The bluetooth connectivity barely worked. It took a lot of tries to get it to connect the first time, and the connection would drop out if I left the kitchen.
This killed any dreams of ordering the machine to do my bidding from the comfort of my bed.
But even if the connectivity worked well, I still question the practicality of the setup.
Firstly, you need to remember to have a mug under the nozzle at all times to use this functionality. You will forget to at some point, guaranteed.
But let's say I did remember to do this of an evening and woke the next morning, excited to order my coffee from the bedroom. As I mentioned earlier, the machine cleans itself when it turns on. So the first thing it is going to do is deliver dirty water into my cup. Then it's going to make my coffee on top of that. Yuck. And if you're someone who has milk, you're going to have to pour milk into the carafe and set it to froth anyway.
Considering I had to get up to let the machine clean and set up my milk anyway, I found that bothering to open to the app and reconnect bluetooth took longer than simply using the touchscreen.
Again, this would perhaps be more practical in an office environment where the machine was turned on and the milk topped up all day. Still, you'd need to train people to always leave an empty mug under the nozzle to accommodate the next app-user.
As tempted as I was by this machine, I couldn't justify $5,000 for a two-person home - even if it was perfect for when we had friends over.
When it comes to an office though, this isn't a bad tax write off. If I was an office manager with money to spend on a coffee machine, it would be the Maestosa.
But since I'm a regular Joe who had fallen in love with the ritual of making gorgeous coffee every morning, I researched my options instead.
Thanks to Black Friday, I found that De'Longhi had a cheaper machine on offer that seemed like a better fit for my household needs.
It may be a little more expensive again now. But you'll probably be able to get it cheaper again during the next sales period.
De'Longhi Magnifica S ($500)
What is it?
What I ended up buying is the De'Longhi Magnifica S. Not only that, I waxed rhapsodic about it so much that a friend (who had tried the Maestosa coffee as well) went bought it too. I guess I'm an influencer now?
The Magnifica is smaller and more manual - you froth your own milk (which is fine for this ex-barista) and rather than using a touch screen, it has buttons. There is still room for full or pre-ground beans, you can select the intensity of your coffee, and can make two drinks at once.
It may seem unfair to be comparing these machines. The Magnifica is devoid of a touch screen, doesn't froth your milk for you and doesn't come with a tonne of fancy attachments. It also doesn't have bluetooth connectivity, but considering my experience with it, I consider that a positive.
But despite the lack of bells and whistles, it holds its own.
What's good about it?
Its still customisable
While it doesn't have profiles or the ability to delve into the settings of each drink - the Magnifica still let's you tinker with the final product.
A dial allows you to choose the intensity of the flavour and a series of buttons lets you pick between long and short coffees. Frothing the milk yourself also lets you control the temperature.
In fact, I have been able to get the milk hotter with the Magnifica than the Maestosa. This is useful because I am one of those annoying freaks who takes ages to drink a coffee. Now I'm able to make it in my keep cup, commute to work and still have a hot coffee when I sit down at my desk a full hour later.
Easy to make two coffees
One thing I found odd about the Maestosa was that only some coffee types allowed you to make two coffees at once. Lattes and cappuccinos were fine. My beloved flat white was not.
While the Magnifica is far less fancy, the few buttons it does have allows for two cups at once. It's made things far more convenient for my little household.
Still easy to clean
Much like its older sibling, the Magnifica still cleans itself and lets you blow hot water out of the milk nozzle to keep that clean, as well.
The entire machine comes apart just as easily for cleaning the coffee grounds and tray out, too. I really like that De'Longhi has committed to hygiene across all price points - well done.
Easy to move around
This is a much smaller and lighter machine, meaning that getting it into your house is a breeze. It doesn't take up much bench space and if you decide you want to move it, you can do so without throwing your back out.
What's not so good?
Can't froth and bean simultaneously
As a former multi-tasking barista, I want the ability to froth my milk with one hand while that sweet liquid manna is being deposited into my mug.
Unfortunately, you can't do both simultaneously with the Magnifica and it's a bit inconvenient.
On the plus side, being able to make two cups at once means that time evens out pretty well when it comes to comparing the brew time across the two machines.
Less options, no touch screen
Being a cheaper machine. the Magnifica is simply not as fancy. At first I lamented the lack of detailed coffee customisation and the inability to make something a little different if the mood struck.
But it really only took a day to get over this. I'm mostly a flat white girl anyway (hah), and every cup of coffee I've made so far has tasted just as good as the ones the Maestosa birthed.
The only thing I have desperately missed is the cold foam carafe extension. That thing made the perfect foamy answer to sweltering summer days. Alas, I'll just have to make do with throwing a few ice cubes in my glass to make a home style iced latte.
At the end of the day I was clearly sold on what De'Longhi had to offer. Literally. After all, after experiencing the Maestosa I went and bought the Magnifica S.
While I adored the $5000 machine, it really is a commercial machine at its heart and is better suited to an office environment. While I do miss some of the extra conveniences, ultimately the $500 machine is perfect for my everyday needs.
It's still a high quality machine, which I expect from De'Longhi, but with a few less bells and whistles. And that's okay.
If you're shopping for an office or even a larger household of coffee drinkers who can justify dropping $5K on a coffee machine - the Maestosa is a damn fine choice.
But if you still want a really good machine that makes excellent coffee, is high quality and looks sleek as hell, you have a really good option available in the Magnifica S. And best of all, it's a tenth of the price.