Hands-on Gear Review

De'Longhi EC685M Review

Price:   $430 List | $249.93 at Amazon
Pros:  Good taste, small and sleek
Cons:  No grinder
Bottom line:  Not a bad choice if you already have a nice grinder and can find it on sale
Editors' Rating:   
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Dimensions:  5.9 x 13 x 11.9
Warranty:  2 Year Limited
Milk Frother:  Steam Wand
Manufacturer:   De'Longhi

Our Verdict

The De'Longhi EC685M's biggest strong suit is its size. The small footprint allows even those with small kitchens to enjoy the ritual of tamping and brewing espresso with a classic portafilter machine. Beyond that, the waters get a little murky as to whether this is a good machine for you. Firstly, it does not have a built-in grinder, so you'll either need to invest in a nice grinder that can achieve a fine espresso grind, or buy some of the premium pre-ground coffee that is meant for espresso making. Secondly, the De'Longhi lists for $430, which is less than what we've seen the Breville Infuser selling for. The Breville Infuser is the grinder-less version of our Editors' Choice winner, which made better espresso than the EC685M. The De'longhi earned a Best Buy award by a close margin but is the best manual machine that we've seen below $500.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Espresso Machines of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Monday
April 16, 2018

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The De'Longhi EC685M offers a manual espresso brewing experience in a small package, and makes some pretty tasty shots to boot. However, the lack of a grinder and its price point bring up some extra considerations before you buy.


Performance Comparison


Buoyed by good taste and a fairly painless cleaning process, the De'Longhi EC685M performed above average overall in our testing. To find out more about how it did in all of our individual tests, read on below.

Taste


Earning an above average taste score if 7 out of 10, the EC685M was able to pull a nice and robust shot in our testing. This machine's espresso did taste slightly watery when compared to that of the highest performing machines, but it was still stiff enough that it satisfied that craving for the concentrated punch of a good espresso. We found it easy to get some good foam for a cappuccino with the built-in steam wand, but the texture of its steamed milk left a little bit to be desired.

The EC685M pulls a fairly good shot.
The EC685M pulls a fairly good shot.

It's important to note that this taste score is even with that of the Gaggia Brera, which can make cappuccino at the push of a button and has a built-in grinder. It is also noticeably inferior to the taste quality of the Breville.

The steam wand makes good foam for cappuccinos.
The steam wand makes good foam for cappuccinos.

Ease of Use


The EC685M was again right around average in our ease of use testing, earning a 6 out of 10.

Simple Setup


Thanks to a well written instruction manual and very little assembly required, we had this machine out of the box and heating up water for the first brew in less than 10 minutes.

A Bit of A learning Curve


Like any semi-automatic machine, it will take a newcomer a bit to get used to manually tamping and brewing espresso. Beyond that, the interface is fairly intuitive, and the steam wand's setting are conveniently labeled 'hot milk' and 'cappuccino' indicating how much foam each setting will produce.

Learning to properly tamp and dose espresso shots is going to take anyone a few goes before they get it right.
Learning to properly tamp and dose espresso shots is going to take anyone a few goes before they get it right.

Ease of Cleaning


The EC685M was relatively painless when it came to clean up, earning it a score of 7 out of 10 in our cleaning tests.

Short Term Cleaning


The portafilter tended not to build up too much coffee gunk when pulling a shot, so wiping it off was pretty easy. The Steam wand also easily bras down into multiple pieces and is dishwasher safe. Even if you forget to wipe it off a few times and you get some buildup, you can just toss it in the dishwasher.

The steam wand disassemble and is dishwasher safe.
The steam wand disassemble and is dishwasher safe.

Descaling


The descaling process took us just 27 minutes and was very clearly described in the user manual. However, we didn't feel like we could leave the machine alone to do its thing while descaling, so our attention was required for most of those 27 minutes.

Milk Steaming/Frothing


Here again, the EC685M was a bit above average, earning a 7 out of 10. We were able to get it to make some nice foam to top off a cappuccino, but its stem milk didn't quite get that creamy texture that we wanted.

The steam wand is good  but falls a bit short of great.
The steam wand is good, but falls a bit short of great.

Value


It's kind of hard to peg the EC685M's value. First off, it lists for $430, but often sells for considerably less. This is still good for a manual machine that performed so well. If you're going to pay full price, we strongly feel that both the Breville Infuser offers better performance per dollar. However, if you can find the EC685M on sale it is be a good deal for a nice semi-automatic machine. Just remember you'll either have to invest in a nice grinder as well or commit to buying specialty pre-ground espresso coffee.

We also calculated its lifetime cost per shot (with an estimated 8 year life at 300 shots/year) at $0.53. However, this assumes that you get it at list price (it often sells for less), and that you either already have a grinder or commit to some of the cheapest preground espresso coffee.


Conclusion


The De'Longhi EC685M offers fairly good performance and the full espresso brewing experience for those that really want to learn the ways of the barista. However, there are both better and more convenient machines in the same price range.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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