An espresso maker can be a thing of beauty, adding a touch of chromed class to your kitchen countertop. But it can also be messy, fussy and time consuming. And, if you’re less than fully-functioning when you wake up, trying to get a decent coffee out of one first thing in the morning can be like trying to operate a runaway steam engine.
So, if you want fresh espresso at home but you’re after a simple life, it may be worth investing in a bean-to-cup machine.
But it will be an investment. These are expensive appliances. However, even though it’s still pricey, the Dinamica Plus is one of the more affordable options.
It has a fully automated milk frothing system, so you can make lattes, cappuccinos and more at the touch of a button. However, if you’re happy to do your milk frothing by hand, you could save some money by opting for the simpler Dinamica, which you can now buy for under £500 in the UK.
We’re testing the Dinamica Plus ECAM 370.85, which is not available in the US. US users can only get the more expensive Dinamica Plus ECAM370.95.TI, which has some additional functionality, including the ability to customise coffee to individual profiles. It’s priced at $1,499.95.
Design and build
The Dinamica Plus is a simply designed and attractive appliance. It comes in black, silver or grey. This really just refers to the colour of the front panelling, as all machines have a central black control panel with a colour touchscreen and chrome-effect trim around the screen and dispenser.
If I were to criticise its appearance, it would be that – apart from the drip tray – the machine’s exterior is almost entirely plastic. Some steel or chrome accents would have gone a long way towards giving it a premium feel. But it’s still a good looking appliance that will fit well in a modern, minimalist kitchen.
The next thing to mention is that it’s more compact that you might expect – in fact it’s pretty narrow at just 23.6cm wide, so you can easily find a space to slot it into on your counter.
It is, however, very deep (42.9cm), so you’ll lose most of the counter space in front of it. And if you have low kitchen cabinets, you should measure up to ensure that you’ll still have space above its 34.8cm height to remove the lid and drop beans into the hopper from above.
The hopper will be likely be in the shadow of your cabinets, but that shouldn’t be a problem as De’Longhi has made it large and accessible. In fact, it takes up the entire back half of the machine. Just lift off the lid and you can drop the beans anywhere.
There’s also a smaller inset funnel into which you can pour ground coffee, if you’d prefer to use that. You can only add one scoop at a time (there’s a scoop provided with the machine). However, if you’ve decided to invest in a bean-to-cup machine, you’ll really want to use fresh beans, so that’s what we’ve focused on.
There’s also space to store a couple of espresso cups on top but you probably wouldn’t want to: it won’t warm up the cups and will only obstruct the bean hopper.
At the front of the machine is a colour screen that you’ll use for all programming and coffee making processes – except for the bean grinding, for which there’s a separate dial in the hopper. You’ll also get alerts on when to refill the water tank and empty the used grounds container.
Underneath the screen is a double dispensing spout, which is adjustable downwards, so you can fit a pair of big mugs or petite espresso cups onto the generous drip tray.
One particularly nice feature about this, and other machines in the Dinamica range, is that the water tank is accessible from the front, without having to shift the machine or fumble about behind it. Simply slide out the 1.8 litre tank to refill it.
When you first set up the machine, you’ll need to clean and rinse it. It comes with a water softener filter, which you can add to the tank. If you live in a hard water area, you should definitely use it to extend the life of the appliance and stop it getting blocked up inside with limescale.
The filter will last for two months of normal use. If you live in the UK, you can buy replacement filters for around £10 each. US users can get them for around $16.
The machines rinses out each time it’s switched on and before it switches off. In order not to be caught out, I took to leaving a cup under the dispensing spout. Otherwise, you’ll find that the drip tray fills very quickly.
The touchscreen will give you a series of drink options: espresso; coffee (an Americano); cappuccino; latte macchiato; long; cappuccino + (a double); mixed cappuccino; doppio + (double espresso); caffe latte; hot milk; flat white; espresso macchiato; hot water; 2x espresso; plus, there’s a setting to fill a coffee pot.
The standard settings produce a very light, weak coffee (signified by a single bean), so you’ll probably want to experiment to get a drink that’s right for you. This is straightforward to do. Via the touchscreen, you can adjust the volume of water and the volume of coffee in each drink.
There’s also the option to adjust the temperature, set the water hardness level and switch the Eco-Mode on and off.
That all seems like quite a lot of options and faffing around but in day-to-day use, getting an espresso from the Dinamica Plus is about as easy as can be: switch on, press button, drink coffee.
And (once you’ve got the settings to your liking) it produces a very good espresso with a decent crema, every time, with no fuss at all. Home baristas will say this takes the fun out of coffee making at home, but then again, it also takes out all the work.
The Dinamica Plus is about as noisy as you’d expect, given the sounds of beans grinding and steam hissing. However, you can at least opt to switch off the operational beeps, if you prefer.
The machine will alert you when it’s time to empty the used grounds container but it’s definitely something to add to your to-do list if you going away. Otherwise, by the time you get home, you’ll have a drawer full of mouldy coffee to greet you.
One of the selling points of the Dinamica Plus is its automatic milk steaming functionality. It allows you to make warm or frothed milk, or mixed drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, at the touch of a button – more or less. The set-up comprises a thick plastic milk tank that attaches to the front of the machine, with an inbuilt steam wand.
It delivers heated milk that’s frothed to the requirement of your chosen beverage: no froth, minimum or maximum. It works well and, like every other aspect of the machine, produces reliable results.
But, as far as I’m concerned, if you’ve mastered a steam wand, the automatic system isn’t really much quicker. So, for many households, the Dinamica will be just as good an option.
Still, part of the point of the automatic steam system is that you can use it remotely.
You can use the Dinamica Plus without worrying about its smart features but, if you want to make yourself a coffee from bed, you’ll need the De’Longhi Coffee Link app. It’s available for Apple and Android, and free to download and use.
In the app, you can check the machine’s status, adjust the settings, read the manual, create new personalised coffee drinks and – this is the key part – make yourself a latte, cappuccino or espresso remotely, with a single tap.
Of course, if you want a latte in bed in the morning, you’ll have to leave the machine on standby the night before, and leave the milk tank attached.
The tank can be kept in the fridge when you’re not using it but as it’s insulated, it should safely keep your milk cold enough overnight that you won’t be risking a cheesy cuppa in the morning.
But a connected coffee machine has its limitations. You can’t make lattes for two, for example (although you can make a pair of espressos) and you’ll still have to get up to retrieve your drink and bring it back to bed.
Price & availability
You can buy the Dinamica Plus from a number of retailers. As it has been available for a while, the price varies greatly between outlets and we’d expect you to have to pay less than its RRP.
There are also a number of models within the Dinamica Plus range, in the UK at least. De’Longhi lists four variants on its UK site. We tested the ECAM 370.85.SB and it’s one of three machines on the page with an RRP of £899.
The Dinamica Plus Fully Automatic coffee machine ECAM370.95.T is a pricier model, with an RRP of £1,199. Its additional features include the ability to save profiles. The ECAM 370.85 will let you customise coffee, but you can only save one customisation option per coffee type. Profiles will allow you to tailor coffee settings to specific members of the household and then make them at the touch of a button.
In the US, the De’Longhi site only has one Dinamica Plus machine, the ECAM370.95.T, which is priced at $1,499.95. It’s also available from Best Buy.
As a somewhat sceptical fan of home espresso machines, the Dinamica Plus absolutely won me over with its ease of use and consistency. Once you have it set up to your liking, you’ll be able to have a high quality espresso at the touch of a button, any time you want.
The automatic milk frothing was also consistently good, but not significantly faster than using a steam wand. However, it comes into its own when using the connected features.
For more coffee maker options, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested. All of the appliances have been fully reviewed.
De’Longhi Dinamica Plus ECAM 370.85: Specs
2 cup serving
1.8 litre capacity
19 bar pressure
Grinder capacity: 300g
13 grinder settings
Adjustable coffee spout height
Adjustable water hardness setting