The De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review, boiled down: simply one of the best bean to cup coffee machines you can buy.
Let’s be frank, here. We’ve not always been big fans of bean-to-cup coffee machines in days of yore. Outside of the very best bean-to-cup coffee makers, they've tended to be both extraordinarily expensive, and really quite bad at making coffee with any punch. In fact the majority of models we’ve tried have failed to produce espressos – and any other style of coffee for that matter – with any real depth, flavour or strength.
Even when tried with the finest grind setting, using the very darkest roasted coffee beans on the market, most of the extractions from the bean-to-cups we’ve tried have been about a millions miles from the kick-ass, full-bodied flavour and strength one would experience at a quality barista bar or even from a decent consumer-based espresso machine – see our Best espresso machine guide for our current favourites.
Nevertheless, every once in a while a bean-to-cup machine comes along that completely bucks the trend, producing cup after cup that meets all the criteria of a damn decent brew, whether it’s espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, latte or a simple Americano. The Sage Oracle Touch is one such machine and this new, multifaceted counter-top behemoth from De’Longhi is another.
The PrimaDonna Soul is not exactly priced as an impulse buy, but then it is one of the very best bean-to-cup machines we’ve ever tested. If you are serious about your coffee, but don't want to have to learn the skills required, this might just be the machine you’ve been longing for.
So let’s dig a little deeper and see what this hands-free, one-stop coffee shop can do.
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De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: price and availability
In the UK, the Primadonna Soul – aka De'Longhi ECAM610.75 for those who like more serious sounding names – is £1,200. In Australia it can be had for AU$2,995. Of course in both cases, check our pricing widgets for today's best deals.
There's more bad news for America, though: this machine is not available in the USA. Perhaps that's little wonder, since the USA is not really a nation of espresso lovers. We do have a guide to the best Best pour over coffee makers, however, if you are desperate for a cup.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: initial set up
The PrimaDonna’s colourful ‘quick start’ manual is full of graphic instructions on how to set it up, and while a picture may be worth 1,000 words, we would rather have some text explanations of how to set DeLonghi's machine up than a load of inscrutable cartoons.
Some explanations are quite straightforward – like plugging it in, which I was able to master quite quickly – while others leave you with a sore scalp. The main 29-page manual isn’t much better. In fact it looks like the deeds to a property, with lots of numbered clauses and diagrams.
However, as a pro with many years experience of setting up bean to cup machines, I decided to manfully press on. It was not too Herculean a task to fill 2.2-litre water tank and pour some coffee beans into the 250g hopper.
Then, a miracle occurred! A comprehensive set of very useful, step-by-step instructions popped up on the 4.3-inch screen, so it was all plain sailing from there.
Remarkably, everything seems to be covered, from how to set it up to cleaning advice and general maintenance. You would really struggle to go wrong because it senses every instruction you follow – clip this in, push that etc – only moving to the next stage of the process when the current task has been successfully carried out.
In the arena of electronic product guides, this outwardly very complex machine is hugely impressive. In fact, it’s so user friendly I can see it being a perfect coffee machine for guest house and AirBnB owners. I can also see the guests’ TripAdvisor reviews praising ‘the amazing coffee machine’ more than than the comfort of the bed or the room’s cleanliness.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: design
As is the case with pretty much all bean-to-cup models, the PrimaDonna Soul is a big old beast that will consume 47cm x 26cm of worktop space. At 39cm in height, you will also need at least 50cm of vertical space so you can access the top-mounted bean hopper. That should be okay in the gap between most worktops and cupboards, though.
Looks wise, the De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul isn’t as stylish as its closest rivals, its stablemate, the La Specialista and the silver-clad Sage Oracle Touch. It really does look like something you’d see in a hotel, and I don't really mean that as a compliment. Maybe it’s the large, protruding, 4.3-inch capacitive touch display on the front that makes it look more 'industrial' than 'consumer'.
It’s not ugly as such, it’s just not the prettiest or most stylish coffee machine I've ever seen. However, it certainly looks like it means business and, as we shall see, that's because it does mean business: damn fine coffee makin' business, to be precise.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: does it make good coffee?
The De'Longhi PrimaDonna Soul is capable of producing 20 different styles of coffee. Oh and tea, for those who don’t have a kettle – ie: no one.
Here’s the full list for your perusal: Espresso, Doppio, Espresso Macchiato, Americano, two sizes of Cappuccino, Espresso Soul, Cappuccino Mix, Long Black, two Espressos at once, Flat White, Caffelatte, Cortada, Latte Macchiato, Long, Over Ice, Coffee Pot, Mug to Go, standard Coffee, Steamed Milk and, yes, Tea.
The first bit of good news here is that this involves practically zero input by the user – certainly no skill is needed at all. That may upset the barista community, because with your one finger and no skill at all, you can produce truly exceptional coffee, using the PrimaDonna Soul.
It works like any bean-to-cup machine. Hence, the correct weight of coffee beans is first put through the grinding process before the coffee granules are deposited into the hidden portafilter and automatically tamped in readiness for the extraction process. When finished, the spent coffee grounds are dumped into a collection tub behind the large stainless steel cup plate. One major plus with this machine is how quiet the whole preparation process is – unlike some models that sound like someone cutting patio stones with an angle grinder.
The beauty of this machine is that it doesn’t just meet the requirements of casual coffee drinkers and their personal preferences, it genuinely makes a good fist of attracting coffee nerds, too, by offering an automatic grinding and extraction process that is head and shoulders above most of the competition.
It’s easy to change the consistency of the grind by simply tapping the touch display and selecting one of four levels between coarse and fine.
Alternatively, you could launch the Coffee Link app and let De’Longhi’s ingenious Bean Adapt technology do it for you. It took a while to understand the Bean Adapt concept but it’s quite simple really. Just launch the app, tap the bean icon and input whether your beans are 100% Arabica or Arabica/Robusta blend. Now select from four roast levels – light, medium, medium dark and dark – by looking at the colour of the beans, and the app’s algorithm will calculate the best temperature, grind setting and aroma for optimum flavour and strength.
This is not just a gimmick; it really works. This brilliant innovation takes all the guesswork out of the equation. The result is, at no time during my experimentations has the PrimaDonna Soul ever delivered a duff drink. That's exceptional.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: milk frother is a winner too
The milk container and frother is another revelation. Just the right size to store on the inside shelf of the fridge door, it features a simple froth consistency selector – light to humongous – and an extendable wand. To make a milky drink, just follow the on-screen instructions and, depending on your own preference, it will dispense the correct amount of the white stuff every time.
The result, for those who prefer lattes and cappuccinos, is up there with what you'll get at most coffee shops. It's really impressive how much the milk-texturing tech in these machines has improved over the years.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: the app
If you and other family members enjoy a wide variety of coffee styles, then this is the machine to go for. It offers the aforementioned 21 different beverages straight out of the box and each one can be customised – from strength of brew to milk quantity – and saved as a personal preference.
You can produce any one of these hot cuppas by using either the machine’s touch interface or by selecting from the list in the Coffee Link app. And the great thing is that the styles you use most are moved to the front of the list to reduce scrolling. It’s all so straightforward that even the most anti-tech Luddite will get a handle on it.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: the taste test
One word: wow!
I’ve tried quite a few espresso machines and coffee makers over the years and the PrimaDonna Soul is well up there with the very best. The battleship-like Sage Oracle Touch is possibly still the gold standard, but that is both significantly more expensive, and comparatively complicated to use.
By comparison, De'Longhi's brute does everything behind the scenes, and superbly well. Crucially, it can be adjusted to extract an espresso – the base of every drink here bar, of course, the tea – that’s as rich, aromatic and potent as any I have sampled in a barista bar. I don’t know what’s going on inside this machine and, frankly, I don’t care. All I want is a coffee maker that produces palette-smacking dollops of rich, black, aromatic black gold with as little hassle as possible, and this model does so.
Naturally it helps if you use the best coffee beans you can buy and in this respect I highly recommend anything in the Spiller & Tait range, Union Revelation and good old Lavazza for those emergency ration runs down the local supermarket.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: cleaning and maintenance
Being such a scrupulous perfectionist, the PrimaDonna Soul likes to keep itself in tip-top condition and that means it rinses the twin spout every time you switch it on and off, gushing water into the cup tray beneath. I would advise leaving a jug under the spouts at all times so you’re not caught out with an over-full drip tray.
The upshot is that it uses much more water than other machines, which means you’ll be refilling the main reservoir more often than you’d like. The used ground tray also requires regular emptying and very occasionally its built-in sensor wrongly detects that it’s full when it clearly isn’t.
Mind, these are not deal breakers in any way, given that the machine performs so well across the board.
Anyway, regular maintenance rituals are surely a good thing because most users – this writer included – hardly ever service their gear, whether it’s cleaning the washing machine, the oven or the brush rollers in the vacuum cleaner. Having an appliance that self services can only be a good thing for long-term reliability.
De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul review: verdict
The De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul makes a wide range of superbly aromatic coffees in any chosen strength and is easy to clean – it does practically everything itself.
The result is arguably the easiest-to-use coffee machine we've ever tried, and also one of the very best. That's true of both the espresso and other black coffee drinks it produces and the milk-based big hitters such as cappuccino.
If you’re after a high-end, do-it-all machine that probably isn’t even as expensive as you’d expect, De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul comes wholeheartedly recommended. It's the crème de la crema of coffee makers.