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I Tell It Like It Is

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In this Delonghi Stilosa review, I explain what makes this little brewer so special.

Latte made with a Delonghi Stilosa machine.

At first glance, the De’longhi Stilosa looks like any other entry-level espresso machine – cheaply made and affordably priced. But having spent a few weeks getting to know it, I’m happy to report that there is more to this budget espresso machine than meets the eye.

Let’s see why I recommend it if you’re looking to get into espresso without dropping hundreds of dollars.

What I liked:

  • Stainless steel boiler for ideal brew water temperature
  • User-friendly features for beginners
  • Sleek design and compact footprint
  • Very affordable price

What I didn’t like:

  • Cheap plastic case limits durability
  • Small 51-mm filter baskets
  • Frothing pitcher not included

The 2024 Delonghi Stilosa Espresso Machine Review

De’longhi Stilosa (aka De’longhi EC260BK) is the most basic of the De’longhi espresso machines. It’s the long-awaited replacement to the very popular De’longhi EC155. As a fan of the EC155, I was excited to finally get my hands on the Stilosa to see how it stacks up. 

Overall, I’m pleased. It’s simple to use and keeps the features I loved in the older model but adds a more modern design, an improved steam wand, and a few other perks.

How We Rated It

  • Brewing Capacity
  • Coffee Flavor
  • Ease of Use
  • Build Quality
  • Value for Money

Delonghi Stilosa

What Makes The De’longhi Stilosa Special?

What makes the De’longhi Stilosa special is the same thing that made the EC155 my favorite entry-level espresso machine: the stainless steel boiler. A boiler is exceedingly rare in machines at this price, which are more often equipped with thermoblock heaters.

The advantage of a boiler versus a thermoblock is better brew temperature stability and accuracy. Certain flavor components of coffee only extract at particular temperatures.

You might think a few degrees of variation isn’t a big deal, but it’s actually the difference between making good and great espresso (1). 

Even small fluctuations in water, group head, and steaming temperatures can cause varying extraction yields and flavor profiles.

I used a thermocouple to monitor the brew water temperature, and it was consistently within about a degree of 201 F – the ideal recommended range for extracting coffee (2).

The only caveat is that a boiler takes more time to heat up and stabilize than a thermoblock. The Stilosa heats in about 3 minutes, but in my experience, it’s worth waiting at least 5 to 10 minutes for the best results. This also provides plenty of time for the passive cup warmer up top to get warm.

How To Use Delonghi Stilosa Espresso Machine

De’longhi calls the Stilosa a manual espresso machine, but I consider it semi-automatic because it includes a 15 bar pump. So you aren’t manually pulling the shot with a lever, but you are involved in every other stage. 

Unboxed Delonghi Stilosa machine with accessories on top

I know this doesn’t sound ideal for a novice espresso drinker, but I’m a big fan of this style of machine for newbies. The operation is as simple as turning a dial, but the amount of user control gives you room to expand your barista skill set; it’s a learning tool.

Here is the process I’ve adopted:

  1. Turn the machine on and let it heat up for 10 minutes. 
  2. Weigh and grind 13 grams of coffee to a fine grind using a burr grinder.
  3. Preheat your espresso cup.
  4. Add the ground coffee to the filter, distribute it evenly, and tamp firmly.
  5. Insert the portafilter into the machine, positioning the cup below.
  6. Turn the dial clockwise to start the shot.
  7. After about 30 seconds, turn the dial back to center to stop the shot.

Frothing Milk With A Steam Wand

What if you want to craft milk-based specialty drinks with the Stilosa? As with making espresso, the process is simple, but you have room to improve with practice.

Here is what I do:

  1. Measure milk of choice into a milk frothing pitcher.
  2. Turn the dial counterclockwise to steam mode.
  3. Insert the steam wand into the pitcher, just below the surface of the milk.
  4. Flick the switch on the side of the machine to open the steam valve.
  5. Adjust the angle of the pitcher until the milk forms a whirlpool.
  6. Stop by turning the dial back to center when the milk temperature is between about 140 and 150 F.

When I was first practicing with this machine, I used a thermometer to ensure I had the milk at the right temperature (3). But once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to know when to stop based on timing and feel. The exterior of the milk pitcher should be hot but not so hot you can’t hold it.

The milk frother is another aspect of this machine that is improved by having a boiler instead of a thermoblock. It yields drier and more powerful steam, both of which make it easier to create the silky microfoam needed for a latte.

Pannarello Steam Wand

The Stilosa uses a beginner-friendly Pannarello steam wand (4).

The Pannarello Wand is a device that attaches to the steam arm of the espresso machine and aids in simplifying the frothing process, which can be intimidating to first-time users.

This makes it easy to prepare airy milk foam for a cappuccino but you’ll need a bit more practice to get the silky smooth steamed milk you need for a latte. However, in my opinion, the Pannarello steamer is a big upgrade from the “swivel jet frother” of the EC155, which I found nearly impossible for making cafe-style lattes.

A Beginner-Friendly Espresso Machine

A few features make this coffee maker ideal for espresso beginners, aside from just its very low price.

The most obvious is the pressurized filter baskets. A pressurized basket takes the pressure (no pun intended) off your puck prep skills. 

Even if your grind, distribution, or tamp is a little off, you’ll still enjoy a tasty shot with a thick layer of crema.

This makes it easy to prepare airy milk foam for a cappuccino but you’ll need a bit more practice to get the silky smooth steamed milk you need for a latte. However, in my opinion, the Pannarello steamer is a big upgrade from the “swivel jet frother” of the EC155, which I found nearly impossible for making cafe-style lattes.

Does Delonghi Stilosa Use Pods?

Initially, I didn’t think the Stilosa was compatible with ESE (easy-serve espresso) pods because, unlike the EC155, it doesn’t come with a special adaptor. But upon contacting the brand, I was told that you simply slot the ESE pod into the single-shot basket, and it worked great when I tested it.

An espresso from an ESE pod will never be as high-quality as one from freshly ground coffee, but it’s super convenient. And unlike K-Cups or Nespresso capsules, used ESE pods can be tossed in your compost to biodegrade.

What Drink Quality Can You Expect?

After all that, how does the espresso taste? It’s good coffee but doesn’t quite measure up to cafe quality. 

While testing this machine, I pulled a number of shots using varying skill levels to get a sense of its capabilities – always with the same medium-dark roast espresso beans.

First, I tried using pre-ground coffee that I measured into the portafilter with the scoop and gently tamped. It wasn’t bad! That’s why the Stilosa is a great pick for beginners. It’s always going to make decent espresso. The shot was a little one-note, and the body was thinner than I like for espresso, but it was still bold and flavorful with a pronounced layer of crema.

Next, I used freshly ground coffee that I distributed evenly and tamped with a tamper calibrated to deliver 30 pounds of pressure. The quality of espresso notably improved, with greater flavor complexity and more body.

Finally, I swapped in a non-pressurized filter basket. It took a few attempts to dial in the grind, but once nailed it, the shots were noticeably sweeter and smoother, with a fuller body and denser crema layer.

In general, I made better tasting espresso using medium or darker roasts with this machine. I struggled to pull a light roast shot that didn’t taste weak or sour.

Delonghi Stilosa Portafilter Size

De’longhi pump espresso machines, including the Stilosa, typically use narrow 51-mm baskets. In my opinion, this limits their espresso quality, especially with lighter roast beans. 

Accessories that come included with the Stilosa machine

Most commercial espresso machines have 58-mm baskets, and modern specialty cafes use 18 to 20 g of coffee for a double shot. The small espresso baskets of the Stilosa simply can’t accommodate that dose – I maxed out around 14 grams – so the flavor intensity drops off as shot volume increases.

This caps the size of latte or Americano you’re capable of making to about 8 ounces, above which the coffee flavor is quite weak.

Design and Build Quality

As one of the newer additions to the Delonghi line-up of manual machines, I think the Stilosa has an attractive modern design. It’s housed in sleek black plastic with stainless steel elements.

It’s a compact machine that won’t take up too much space on your counter. It measures 8.07” wide by 13.5” deep by 11.22” tall and has a 34-ounce removable water reservoir. It also has a relatively high coffee cup clearance of 4.25”, which can be increased to 6” with the adjustable cup stand. This is another notable upgrade from the EC155, which couldn’t accommodate mugs much larger than a demitasse.

What is the life expectancy of a Delonghi coffee machine?

This is a budget espresso machine with budget materials, so don’t expect it to last as long as the pricier stainless steel alternatives. 

That said, De’longhi is one of the best in the business for home espresso machines, so even their entry-level models benefit from their manufacturing expertise.

The Stilosa comes with a 1-year warranty, but with proper care, I would expect 3 to 5 years of peak performance from this machine. That’s an ideal window for a beginner model because you’ll likely be ready for an upgrade in 5 years anyway.

Cleaning the Stilosa

This machine is easy to clean on a daily basis. After use, I discard the ground coffee and rinse the portafilter and removable drip tray. Then I run a few seconds of hot water through the group to clean the shower screen. If you’re making milky coffee drinks, be sure to purge the steam wand before and after use and wipe any milk off the exterior.

Once a week, I pop the basket out of the portafilter and give it, the portafilter body, and the drip tray a proper clean with soapy water and a soft sponge. I also wipe any spills off the plastic case. 

You will need to descale the Stilosa on occasion – how often depends on the hardness of your water – which can be easily done with a solution of water and white vinegar. While there is no automatic descaling cycle, the manual includes easy-to-follow instructions. I live in a region with relatively soft water and descale about twice a year.

Is The De’longhi Stilosa Worth It?

It’s impossible to argue against the value for money here. I think the Stilosa is the best espresso machine under $200

It ranges in price depending on where you buy it, but it’s always around $100. I’ve tested a lot of espresso makers in my time, and I would have valued this one at double that. Sure, it has a cheap plastic exterior and won’t last forever, but for $100 (including 1-year warranty), there’s no way you won’t get your money’s worth.

What does Delonghi Stilosa come with?

The De’longhi Stilosa comes with the machine, a portafilter, two filter baskets (one for single shots, one for double shots), a plastic tamper, and a measuring spoon. 

I’m glad to see they did away with the built-in tamper of the EC155, which was terribly awkward. But I still recommend tossing out the plastic tamper and buying a metal one with some weight, especially if you upgrade to non-pressurized baskets (5).

It doesn’t come with a pitcher for steaming milk, which is a little disappointing but not entirely surprising at this price point. Plan on adding $10 to $20 to your budget if you want to froth milk.

Delonghi Stilosa vs Dedica

The De’longhi Dedica is a substantial upgrade from the Stilosa, both in features and price. The biggest difference is that the Dedica is automatic rather than semi-automatic. That means you can preprogram espresso shot volumes rather than having to stop each shot by hand. 

The other obvious difference is the design and build of the Dedica. It is much narrower, has a stainless steel case, and has an overall more premium look. For me, the downside to the Dedica’s slender design is the low capacity of the drip tray. When I was testing a Dedica, I was emptying it pretty much after every shot.

Aspiring latte artists should definitely consider the Dedica Arte model, which replaces the Pannarello steam wand with a professional-style wand.

Here’s how the Stilosa stacks up against other machines in its price range:

Demo Image
Demo Image
Demo Image
Demo Image
Demo Image

Semi-automatic espresso machine

Automatic espresso machine

Semi-automatic espresso machin

Super-automatic espresso machine

8.07″ x 13.5″ x 11.22″

8.86″ x 11.22″ x 12.6″

Don’t Buy The De’longhi Stilosa Espresso Machine If…

  • You want a more hands-off espresso machine: Do you typically have 10,000 other things on the go while making your morning coffee? A semi-automatic espresso machine probably isn’t for you. Instead, consider an automatic model like the De’longhi Dedica or Breville Bambino. Or splurge on a one-touch cappuccino maker like the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista.
  • You have espresso experience: If you’re already an espresso connoisseur, you probably won’t be satisfied with an entry-level machine. Provided your budget allows, go for something a little more advanced like the iconic Gaggia Classic Pro. It has a 58-mm group, professional-style steam wand, and makes excellent coffee.
  • You value build quality: It’s difficult but not impossible to avoid plastic appliances without breaking the bank. The Breville Cafe Roma is an affordable semi-automatic machine with a brushed stainless exterior. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a look at the manual Flair Classic. The learning curve is a bit longer, but it can easily last decades.

The Verdict

I hope this De’longhi Stilosa review has answered all your questions about this budget espresso maker. In my opinion, it’s an elegantly designed espresso machine perfect for espresso-drink beginners. 

If you want to explore making coffee shop drinks like lattes and cappuccinos at home without investing a ton of cash or learning time, I can’t think of a better option. It’s easy to use right out of the box but will also teach you enough barista skills to see your drinks improve with practice. 

Delonghi Stilosa

SEE ON AMAZON

  1. Nuova Simonelli. (2020, May 28). EXPERT: Why temperature matters when brewing espresso. Retrieved from https://magazine.coffee/blog/9/5906/expert-why-temperature-matters-when-brewing-espresso
  2. Specialty Coffee Association. (2024). Protocols & Best Practices. Retrieved from https://sca.coffee/research/protocols-best-practices
  3. Korhonen, J. (2022, June 6). 5 Easy Tips That Will Make Your Latte Art Flourish. Retrieved from https://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/jori-korhonen/june-2022/5-easy-tips-will-make-your-latte-art-flourish
  4. Gagga Milano. (n.d.). Steaming and Frothing. Retrieved from https://www.gaggia-na.com/pages/steaming-and-frothing
  5. Devoney, M. (2023, March 28). Why are distribution and tamping so important for quality espresso? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2023/03/why-are-distribution-and-tamping-important-for-espresso/



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