Quick Answer: The Delonghi ECP3420 is the cheapest espresso machine that can still make a decent shot of espresso. I recommend it if your budget is $200. Just be aware that for $350 you can get espresso machines that are more than twice as good as the Delonghi ECP3420.
The Delonghi ECP3420 is often touted as the cheapest espresso machine that can actually pull a decent shot.
In this Delonghi ECP3420 review, I’ll run through:
- Whether you can actually make a decent espresso with the Delonghi ECP3420?
- The lengths you have to go through in order to pull a decent shot with this machine.
- Where has Delonghi cut corners to keep the ECP3420’s cost down?
Hopefully, this will help you decide whether it’s worth going with this affordable machine and putting up with its shortcomings, or whether you should instead pay more for a better-quality machine.
Should I Buy the Delonghi ECP3420?
I’d only recommend the Delonghi EP3420 if:
- You do not want to spend more than $200 on your espresso setup.
- You are willing to weigh out your ground coffee dose and final espresso shot for every shot you pull.
- You accept that your espresso will be a fair bit worse than what you’d get in a coffee shop (it will still be decent though)
- You’re not bothered about having a crappy steam wand.
Delonghi ECP3420 Pros
The cheapest espresso machine that can still make a decent espresso.
Its internal components are durable given its price tag.
It’s compact enough to find a home in a crowded kitchen.
Delonghi ECP3420 Cons
Its milk frother is annoying to use as it can only froth milk for about 25 seconds.
You’ll need to buy a scale and a proper tamp to get a good espresso with the machine.
Although it makes a decent espresso it can’t make a great one.
By far the best thing about the Delonghi ECP3420 is its price/performance ratio.
It’s the only espresso machine (along with the similar Delonghi ECP3630) under $200 that can pull a decent shot. Its espresso is significantly better than what you’d get from a Nespresso machine, for example.
However, I still think that the ECP3420 offers inferior value for money to a lot of espresso machines in the price bracket immediately above it.
You’d get a better deal paying $150 more and getting the Breville Bambino, for example.
The Breville Bambino is superior to the ECP3420 in every way and can actually make a decent latte (something that the Delonghi ECP3420 absolutely cannot do).
You can find out more about the Breville Bambino in my comparison of the Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus.
Overview of the Delonghi ECP3420
Here are the key features that you should know about the Delonghi ECP3420:
No Volumetric Dosing: You’ll Need to Measure Your Shots Yourself
You have to “tell” the machine to start and stop pulling your shot yourself.
Many espresso machines will instead have you start the shot by pressing a button and then automatically stop once a certain amount of water has been dispensed.
The main downside of the Delonghi ECP3420’s manual dosing is that you’ll have to put a scale under your cup as you brew to measure the volume of water you’re brewing with in order to brew with any accuracy.
Fortunately, the Delonghi ECP3420 has enough cup clearance that you can brew with a scale under a standard coffee cup.
Comes with Pressurized Portafilter Baskets Only: Machine is Designed for Pre Ground Coffee
The Delonghi ECP3420 only comes with single and double pressurized portafilter baskets.
Pressurized portafilter baskets have one hole in their bottom that all your liquid espresso has to run through to get into your cup. This contrasts with non-pressurized portafilter baskets which have hundreds of such holes.
Pressurized portafilter baskets are designed to be used with pre-ground coffee. I’d therefore only recommend you use the Delonghi ECP3420 with pre-ground coffee.
While you can buy non-pressurized baskets separately to use with the machine, I still wouldn’t recommend grinding your own beans when using the Delonghi ECP3420.
Espresso grinders are expensive. You’re paying to grind your beans to a very fine grind size.
The Delonghi ECP3420’s pump struggles to pass water evenly through finely-ground coffee, so you’re not getting the benefit of brewing with fine grinds.
If you’re going to invest in an espresso grinder, then you need a better-quality machine to make this investment worthwhile.
Delonghi designed the ECP3420 with people using the machine with pre-ground coffee in mind, which is why it only comes with pressurized baskets.
The machine’s portafilter baskets are also compatible with ESE espresso pods. These are paper coffee pods, rather than Nespresso pods.
Uses a Panarello Steam Wand: Large Bubbled Foam Only
The De’longhi ECP3420 uses a panarello steam wand, as opposed to a pinhole steam wand.
This means that its steam wand has a metal sleeve around its outside with holes in it that pump additional air into your milk.
This reduces the learning curve involved in steaming milk, but it also limits you to only making frothed milk with very large bubbles. This is ok for topping espresso with, but it won’t incorporate well into your coffee. You also won’t be able to make latte art with large bubbled milk.
The table below shows the Delonghi ECP320’s specifications:
Type of machine
Semi automatic with panarello steam wand
Automatic shot dosing
Size (width x depth x height)
7.25” W x 9.6” D x 11.9” H
Maximum mug clearance (drip tray removed)
5 inches (6 inches)
Water tank capacity
Available portafilter baskets
Single and double pressurized portafilter baskets
15 bar pump
Heat up time
Descale warning light
Removable water tank
Removable drip tray
I am now going to assess the Delonghi ECP3420 across four key criteria:
- Espresso quality
- Milk steaming performance
- Ease of use and cleaning
- Design and build quality
- Value for money
The Delonghi ECP3420 can make a decent espresso, however, you’re going to have to work for it.
The Delonghi ECP3420 makes better espresso than any other machine under $200.
This was confirmed by barista and coffee YouTuber James Hoffmann in his roundup of the best espresso machines under £100. Hoffmann was testing the Delonghi EC155, which uses the exact same brewing system as the ECP3420.
You can see his thoughts on the Delonghi’s espresso below (watch from 3:30 – 5:19):
This view is mirrored by a user on the machine in this Reddit thread who says:
Bear in mind that in order to get a decent espresso with the Delonghi ECP3420 you need to weigh out your ground coffee and final espresso for every shot you pull.
When you use the machine without weighing everything out, the results are significantly worse. The coffee will either be bland or extremely sharp.
The machine has two limiting factors on how well it can brew espresso:
- Its pump is not powerful enough to work with fine grinds. This means that you’ll never get as intense a flavor or syrupy a texture as a coffee shop espresso.
- Its temperature control is poor: This is more problematic as it means your shot quality will be inconsistent even if you measure everything out correctly.
In short, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort to maybe get a decent espresso from the ECP3420.
This is still better than most espresso machines in the Delonghi ECP3420’s price bracket.
Espresso Quality Rating: 6/10
Milk Steaming Performance
The Delonghi ECP3420’s steam wand is frustrating to use. Even if you go through this frustration, it produces an inconsistent milk texture. I wouldn’t recommend this machine to latte drinkers.
You can see a video of someone steaming milk with the Delonghi ECP3420 below (watch from 4:55 – 7:00):
As you can see in this video:
- The machine produces a really inconsistent milk texture. Some parts of the milk had really large bubbles, other parts weren’t textured at all. I suspect that all texture will disappear from the milk foam within 10 seconds of you pouring it onto your coffee.
- It took two “steams” to steam all the milk: The ECP3420’s steam wand can only stay on for about 20 seconds, this isn’t a long time to steam a portion of milk. Having to wait for the machine to come up to pressure to steam enough milk for one cappuccino is really annoying.
In short, this machine sucks at steaming milk. Only get it if you want to make milk-based drinks very occasionally at most.
Milk Steaming Performance Rating: 3/10
Ease of Use and Cleaning
While the Delonghi ECP3420 has an intuitive user interface, its lack of automatic shot volume control and the underpowered steam wand makes it annoying to use.
The machine is dial operated, and its controls are laid out in a really straightforward way.
You can see this control panel below:
This is what the following dial positions refer to:
- ON: Makes the machine heat up
- Cup/Water Droplets icon: Makes the machine dispense water through your coffee grounds
- Steam icon: Makes the machine’s steam wand heat up
- Lever on the right of the machine: Turns steam wand on/off
The “READY” and “ON” lights indicate that the machine is at the right temperature to brew/steam (depending on where the dial is) and are turned on respectively.
Although a pressure gauge would be nice, I think that this control panel is intuitive enough that you can work the machine without needing to pour through its instruction manual.
Ease of Making an Espresso
As I said earlier, you need to weigh out your ground coffee dose and your final shot to get a decent espresso from this machine.
Since the machine’s brewing system isn’t brilliant, you need to overcompensate by getting your brew ratio correct to stand any chance of making something drinkable. It’s a pain to have to do this for every single shot that you pull.
Ease of Using the Steam Wand
As I said earlier, the steam wand is not powerful enough to steam a serving of milk in one go.
You need to wait for the machine to heat up again, and then steam your milk twice to steam a serving of milk.
It’s a complete nightmare to use.
Ease of Cleaning
The table below shows you how often each part of the ECP3420 needs to be cleaned, and whether it is removable and dishwasher safe (removable parts are easier to clean as you can clean them directly in the sink):
|How often does it need to be cleaned?
After each use
After each use
After each use
Every two weeks
Internal pipes (descaling)
Every two months
By far the most annoying part of the machine to clean is its portafilter.
The portafilter basket does not attach to the portafilter, but instead just sits in it. This means that you can’t knock the ground coffee out of the basket into a bin without knocking out the basket itself.
This means you either need to scoop out a soupy puck with a spoon (takes ages) or knock out your puck and then hunt for your fallen-out basket in your bin (gross).
You can see a video on how to descale a Delonghi ECP machine below (this line of machines all have the same descaling process).
Although descaling the machine is not difficult, the machine does not tell you when it needs to be descaled (more expensive machines do).
You can permanently damage your machine if you use it when it needs to be descaled, so you have to set yourself a reminder to do this every two months.
Ease of Use and Cleaning Rating: 5/10
Design and Build Quality
The machine is reliable and has a fast heat-up time given its price. Its portafilter and tamp are poorly designed, however.
Internal Build Quality
The ECP3420 has a decent internal build quality for its price.
I cannot find many cases online of the machine failing to heat up or dispense enough water. This suggests that its internal systems will rarely succumb to technical problems.
The machine can warm up in 30 seconds and make several espressos in a row. Not many machines in this price range have a powerful enough heating system to do this.
As mentioned earlier, the machine is let down by the weakness of its pump as it cannot generate enough pressure to brew finely ground coffee.
This is an issue that plagues many Delonghi espresso machines and has only been recently rectified in its top-of-the-line manual espresso machines (which are over 10x the price of the ECP3420).
External Build Quality
The machine is largely made of plastic. That’s why none of its removable parts are dishwasher friendly.
While its main body is sturdy enough that I can’t imagine it breaking easily, its portafilter is very flimsy.
The portafilter handle is stuck to the head with glue. This glue can melt when the head gets hot (which it inevitably will when you make an espresso).
This can cause the portafilter’s head to detach from its handle.
People have also complained that the machine’s portafilter basket is too small to hold a sufficient amount of ground coffee for a double espresso.
The maximum it can hold is around 14 grams of ground coffee which is on the small side for a double espresso (you usually use 14g – 19g ground coffee for this).
The Delonghi ECP3420’s plastic tamp is nowhere near the weight needed to get a good tamp. It’s so bad that I’d factor buying a separate tamp into the machine’s cost.
Size and Aesthetics
The ECP3420 is small enough that it should be able to fit in a kitchen with limited countertop space.
It is only 11.9 inches high, so you shouldn’t need to worry about low cabinets obstructing you from removing and refilling the water tank at the top of the machine.
I also like how there is a designated storage space for your portafilter baskets above its water tank
The machine has 5 inches of cup clearance (6 inches if you remove its drip tray). While you can put a scale under a standard coffee cup while you brew, it will not be able to accommodate most travel mugs.
Design and Build Quality: 7/10
Value for Money
The Delonghi ECP3420 is better than most similarly priced espresso machines, however, I think you get better value by going for a more expensive machine.
Delonghi’s ECP series is the only range of espresso machines under $200 that can actually pull a decent shot (some of the time anyway).
In that sense, the Delonghi ECP3420 offers good value for money.
However, I think that if you’re willing to pay around $150 – $250 more you can get a machine that’s far more than twice as good as the Delonghi ECP3420.
I, therefore, think that it’s one of the best-value espresso machines on the market.
Value for Money Rating: 8/10
Alternatives to the Delonghi ECP3420
Breville Bambino vs Delonghi ECP3420
I think that the Breville Bambino is a better value-for-money purchase than the Delonghi ECP3420.
The Brevlle Bambino is typically $150 – $200 more expensive than the Delonghi ECP3420.
However, the Bambino is superior to the Delonghi ECP3420 in every conceivable way:
- It makes better-tasting espresso
- It steams milk to a more consistent texture (without having to stop halfway through)
- It has automatic shot volume dosing
- Its portafilter baskets stay in its portafilter
Add these to the fact that the Breville Bambino will likely last you longer than the Delonghi ECP3420 and I can’t help but think that you’ll get far better for your money with the Breville Bambino compared to the Delonghi ECP3420.
Delonghi ECP3630 vs Delonghi ECP3420
The Delonghi ECP3630 gives you more milk-steaming options than the ECP3420.
The Delonghi ECP3420’s milk frother functions how the ECP3630’s does when it’s set to “cappuccino mode”.
You can also set the ECP3630’s steam wand to “hot milk” mode which will pump less air into the milk.
This will make something closer to a silky latte, but it still won’t be that close to what you get in a coffee shop. The ECP3630’s steam wand still has the aforementioned power issues that the ECP3420’s has.
You will pay a premium for the ECP3630 compared to the ECP3420, but if you want a bit of variation in your milk drinks then it might be worth this extra cost.
Delonghi ECP3420 Review: Final Verdict
I’d only recommend the Delonghi ECP3420 if you are on a non-negotiable budget of $200 and want an espresso machine right now.
While it’s pretty much the best espresso machine available at this price point, I can’t help but feel that you’d get better value with a more premium machine.