Inexpensive fully automatic coffee machine: DeLonghi Magnifica Start ECAM220.31.SSB in the test

This is how CHIP tests fully automatic coffee machines

Making delicious coffee is of course the main task of a good machine. We will therefore devote an entire chapter to this subject later. But taste alone is not enough for us. Because if you only want good coffee, you have to use a portafilter machine. Owners of a fully automatic coffee machine, on the other hand, are also looking for convenience. That is why we also attach great importance to the equipment, handling and easy cleaning of the machine.

Flavor and reference (25%): For the taste test, a qualified coffee sommelier assesses the taste of the espresso. Characteristics such as taste balance, acidity and body are included in the evaluation. We always use the same roast for testing (70/30 blend of Sao Silvestre and Java Robusta from Brazil and Indonesia). A portafilter machine from ECM serves as a benchmark for how the maximum potential of the trial roast can unfold. In addition, the temperature and the entire reference time enter into this evaluation, i.e. including the heating time.

Maintenance (25%): If you buy a fully automatic coffee machine, you have to clean it constantly. Fortunately, modern devices already do a lot of work for the user with cleaning programs. However, some actions cannot be automated. We check how boring cleaning is. Some machines, for example, happily dispense the coffee powder throughout the interior, or pour the dripping wet grounds into the collection container – both recipes for quick and disgusting mold growth. We also check whether the spout runs for a long time or whether the coffee (including cappuccino) splashes wildly and ruins everything. Finally, we check whether the automatic cleaning of the device exists and how easy it is to use.

Comfort (25%): A fully automatic and easy to use coffee machine has intuitive buttons and even a customer understands at first glance how he gets his latte macchiato. Plus, it doesn’t make the user wait long to heat up, consumes little power when idling, and grinds so quietly that no one wakes up. Here we also evaluate which aspects (water, temperature, etc.) can be adjusted. What we don’t judge is the reference time: since the amount of water is responsible for the taste, there is neither good nor bad here. A good espresso sometimes needs a few more seconds.

Amenities (25%): This is where fully automatic machines shine over other models. We evaluate all comfort functions: How many recipes are there and can personal profiles be saved? How good is the display, how many degrees of grind are there, and are the water and bean reservoirs large enough? An installable water filter also plays a role. Last but not least, we measure something that may seem trivial to some: maximum cup height. Because it would be annoying if your favorite tall coffee glass didn’t fit under the outlet.

Important: the best machine in the ranking may not even be necessary for your needs. A high CHIP score refers to the maximum potential a machine can have. For example, if you only drink espresso with no added milk, then the gear rating is not essential for you. By the way, you can weight and sort our ranking according to your own preferences.

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