“The Arte is the perfect starter machine for anyone keen to get into barista coffee-making at home,” enthuses Craig Simon, of Criteria Coffee. “I love the simplicity of this machine. It focuses on quality fundamentals and comes at a reasonable price. It’s light, it’s small, and it makes great coffee.”
Craig is referring to De’Longhi’s recently launched La Specialista Arte, a manual machine designed to provide an authentic barista experience for the home user. And according to the multi-award-winning barista champion, the Arte delivers on this perfectly.
“As a professional, it’s enjoyable to use. It provides the user with more control, whilst making some of those controls easier to manage,” elaborates Craig, who is also an ambassador for De’Longhi. “It’s just a decent straight forward machine, and it gives those at an entry level the opportunity to hone their barista skills at home without too much financial investment.”
Importantly, Craig points out that the steam wand on the La Specialista Arte provides café-quality milk texture.
“One of the strongest features of this machine is its steam wand – it makes remarkable texture for a domestic machine,” says Craig. “A lot of domestic machines don’t deliver on this feature, but the Arte provides the same sort of texture you’d get in a café. It almost behaves like a professional machine on this front.”
Additionally, Craig cites the intuitive interface and in-built grinder as winning attributes.
“It has a number of features that are handy, including an intuitive interface with buttons on the front – people will be able to grasp very quickly how to adjust the grind, dose and temperature profiles,” he explains. “It has a dosing station and dosing funnel that helps the grind come into the centre, which is good. And having the grinder as part of the machine is a huge benefit for people at home. Otherwise, they’ll be inclined to buy pre-ground beans, which will always be a compromise on fresh beans.”
While simplicity is central to La Specialista Arte’s design, the research and development of the machine has been both intricate and complex.
“Arte benefits from the extensive research we have done for the La Specialista family machines Maestro and Prestigio,” explains Cheryl Bosworth, Product Trainer for De’Longhi Australia. “We specifically researched and identified key pain points for consumers when using manual espresso machines at home. When surveying consumers, words and phrases that came up when describing the manual process were frustrating, takes time, messy, fiddly, complicated, wasteful, coffee tastes awful and inconsistent.”
La Specialista Arte seeks to tackle those challenges by giving users the tools and technology they require to make excellent espresso coffee, whilst keeping the manual process simple and mess free.
“We’ve provided all the barista tools so the process of creating your favourite coffee can be authentic and fun,” shares Cheryl. “That includes keeping in-built technologies such as the active temperature control, a hidden gem on the Arte. There are dual heating systems in the Arte to ensure the coffee temperature is stable and consistent and you can quickly changeover to the powerful steam wand to texture milk.”
However, Cheryl is quick to point out that while the Arte is a great beginner’s machine, it is still a manual – it just comes with better guidance than other manual machines.
“This machine is suited to anyone who wants complete control of the manual process with a splash of fun. To me this is the coffee purist. They want delicious espresso easily and love having the barista tools to create the best coffee,” she explains. “The Arte being a manual machine does take some skill to use so it really is for the person who wants to take the time to learn and enjoy coffee.”
Instrumental to the Arte is the complete barista kit that comes with the machine. This includes essential accessories and a dose and tamping guide.
“The quickstart guide helps users find the right starting point for their settings rather than wasting kilos of coffee trying to find it,” Cheryl expounds. “Arte has a simplistic control panel and easy to find temperature profiles that are not hidden in a sub menu. Meanwhile, the dosing and tamping guide accessory ensures freshly ground coffee stays in the filter basket ready for tamping, significantly reducing mess.”
The response from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive.
“So far feedback has been outstanding, particularly on how easy it is to set up the Arte for perfect coffee. A lot of customers have been surprised at just how thick and silky the golden crema looks on the espresso,” enthuses Cheryl. “The compact size of the machine is popular too with comments like ‘the machine doesn’t overwhelm my kitchen’. The other main feedback we’re receiving is about the tamping and dosing guide, and how easy it is to click on the top of the portafilter and then push it into the grinder for mess free dosing.”
Craig is not surprised the machine has been met with positive reviews thus far. From a roaster’s perspective, he sees the increasing trend in people making espresso at home as an encouraging development.
“People’s home habits have definitely changed, and I think perhaps specialty coffee has driven that engagement with people. People want to be part of that process and make good coffee in the home,” he ventures. “We can’t discount the impact of the pandemic – that’s been a pivotal driver of domestic coffee habits. Coffee-brewing in the home is inexplicitly linked to people being at home. Hopefully the domestic take-up continues because from a roaster’s perspective it’s been excellent.”
In fact, the growth in specialty coffee retail has been one of the few silver linings of the last few years. Craig believes this growth will create new opportunities for both the industry and consumers.
“The positive thing for coffee is that I think people are invested in the process now. It’s opened up more people to the idea of making coffee in the home and I think that that is only ever positive for specialty coffee and professionals in that space doing a good job,” he explains. “Just as perhaps pod coffee converted people from instant coffee, cafés are converting people to freshly roasted specialty coffee. As consumer demand increases, it means the more we can experiment too – and give people a real journey as to what coffee has to offer and what specialty coffee is all about.”
For Craig, that’s what being in the specialty coffee business is all about: creating experiences.
“Specialty coffee is about a coffee experience. I know that sounds a bit like a tagline, but there is truth in the statement,” he says. “A specialty coffee experience means that coffee goes beyond being a functional beverage, and that there is a connection between what you’re drinking and the journey those beans have come from to get to your cup. And this last 18 months has really driven that for a significant number of people.”
He is hopeful that despite the challenges of the last few years, people will continue explore with specialty coffee.
“Coffee has been one of the few things you can explore during lockdown – at least you can travel with coffee,” he concludes. “And I love that coffee continues to provide a social connection and inspiration to many despite the circumstances we’ve found ourselves in since early 2020.”