De’Longhi vs. Saeco: A super-automatic espresso showdown

When the choice is De’Longhi vs. Saeco, you’re choosing between two global household coffee machine makers. Both brands originated in Italy, are now part of international companies, and offer entry-level to high-end super-automatic models. 

In this article we will provide two detailed comparisons. The first is between high-end espresso machines from De’Longhi and Saeco. The second is between mid-range machines from each company.

Before we get started, we should provide a quick overview of the product that these brands do best: the super-automatic espresso machine.

What is a super-automatic espresso machine?

Super-automatic espresso machines automate the creation of cafe-quality espresso in your home or small office. They offer bean-to-cup functionality, meaning they grind beans, brew coffee, and steam milk right into your cup. These electronic baristas are for coffee lovers who want the convenience and quality of professional espresso at home. Though super-automatics are expensive, you can recoup their investment by skipping your take-out coffee runs.

Investing in a super-automatic espresso machine can save you a lot of money in take-out coffee.
Investing in a super-automatic espresso machine can save you a lot of money in take-out coffee.

Super-automatic machines vary in the variety of drinks offered, the degree of customization, and user interface. Basic models have one-touch creation of the most popular coffee drinks as well as controls for dosage, beverage volume, and coarseness of bean grind. High-end models offer more beverage choices and configuration options, often for multiple user profiles. Almost all models offer espresso, cappuccino, latte, and long coffee. Choose your drink, and these machines grind on demand for each brew cycle, tamp the grinds, and then run water through the grounds at the perfect temperature and pressure to create a premium beverage. 

Closeup of the spot on a super-automatic espresso machine
Super-automatic espresso machine. (© Sean Dreilinger | Creative Commons)

For milk-based options such as cappuccino, the super-automatic steams and froths milk at a precise temperature and dispenses it into your cup in careful tandem with the brewed coffee. Some models offer a manual wand option for more precise control. 

Here’s what you can expect from a super-automatic espresso machine:

  • High-quality burr grinder with fineness settings for consistent performance with different beans and beverages.
  • A removable or self-cleaning brew group, which is the assembly where brewing occurs.
  • A user interface with pre-programmed options for popular espresso drinks and drip-style coffee.
  • Menu or push-button customization for brew strength and other variables, depending on the model. 
  • Automatic or manual milk steaming and frothing. Manual options have a nearly foolproof wand. A machine with separate thermoblock boilers for brewing and steaming can steam milk immediately after brewing.
  • Automated machine cleaning.

De’Longhi vs. Saeco: Comparing their signature models

To help determine the winning brand, we compare signature models from each company’s high-end and mid-range lines. The high-end contenders are the De’Longhi Eletta and the Saeco Xelsis. The mid-range contestants are the De’Longhi Magnifica and the Saeco PicoBaristo.

De’Longhi Eletta vs. Saeco Xelsis

The De’Longhi Eletta and the Saeco Xelsis both automatically brew a range of espresso and coffee drinks and allow extensive user configuration for the perfect cup. 

 De'Longhi ElettaSaeco Xelsis
Programmable drinks1115
Grindersteel, 13 settingsceramic, 12 settings
Bean hopper size14.1 oz12 oz
Tank capacity67 oz68 oz
Dimensions10.2" W x 18.1" D x 14.2" H11" W x 20" D x 15.5" H

De’Longhi Eletta

De'Longhi Eletta Digital Super Automatic Espresso Machine with Latte Crema System, Black Check availability

Beverage selection: The De’Longhi Eletta offers 11 customizable beverages and one-touch buttons for cappuccino, caffe latte, macchiato, drip-style coffee, and hot water. It features an additional menu for milk-based drinks, including steamed milk, flat white, macchiato, and custom options. You can choose from four temperatures and five degrees of coffee strength

Milk drinks: The Eletta’s integrated milk carafe includes a dial to set the froth amount. If you want to showcase your barista skills, the machine also comes with a manual steam wand that also serves as a hot water dispenser. The wand produces microfoam finer than most super-automatics and can produce hotter milk than most machines. Thanks to its dual-thermoblock boiler, the Eletta can steam milk while grinding beans to speed up your beverage creation.

Grinder: The Eletta uses a quiet, steel burr grinder with 13 grind settings. In the fine range, it grinds more finely than most competitors. It also has a bypass doser so you can use pre-ground coffee if you happen to have it on hand.

Construction and maintenance: The Eletta automatically cleans on startup and shutdown and has a clean setting that runs steam and hot water through the milk circuit. The water tank, drip tray, and dregs bin open conveniently from the front, and the removable brew group has side access. Unlike the Xelsis, the Eletta features auto-start and auto-shutoff, and an optional energy-saving mode. The machine is also more compact than the Xelsis. 

Saeco Xelsis

Saeco Xelsis Super Automatic Espresso Machine, Titanium Metal Front, SM7684/04 Check availability

Beverage selection: The Saeco Xelsis offers 15 programmable drinks and one-touch buttons for espresso, espresso lungo, cappuccino, latte macchiato, and latte. You can save settings for nine drinks to six user profiles, which is useful for large households or workplaces. For granular control of beverage variables, the interface uses sliders for each setting. You can adjust milk and coffee volume, coffee dose, temperature, and milk texture. 

Milk drinks: The Saeco Xelsis milk system has an external cylindrical carafe connected by a flexible tube to the dispensing unit. Using the interface slider controls, you can program volume, foam, and even whether milk or coffee dispenses first into the cup. With the foam set, the machine produces a fine microfoam that should satisfy most connoisseurs. Cleanup between cups is easy with the automatic steam burst that purges the tube when attached to the drip tray. 

Grinder: The Xelsis has a ceramic grinder with 12 settings and a bypass doser. Ceramic grinders stay cooler than metal while grinding and better preserve bean flavor. The bean hopper holds 12 ounces.  

Construction and maintenance: The Saeco Xelsis has a larger, though stylish, footprint. If you use the Aquaclean filter, the machine can last 5,000 cups before you need to descale. The water tank is front-mounted for easy access and holds two liters. The Xelsis has other thoughtful design features such as a lighted water tank, bean hopper lid with gasket, and etched buttons.

De’Longhi Magnifica vs. Saeco PicoBaristo

The Magnifica is De’Longhi’s flagship compact super-automatic that offers most of the functionality found in the full-size models. It answers the need for one-touch convenience in small spaces. The Saeco PicoBaristo offers a mid-range super-automatic espresso machine that focuses on well-designed basics. It is more customizable than the Magnifica but also a bit more complex to use. It offers most Xelsis features at a lower price, foregoing the programmable user profiles. 

 De'Longhi MagnificaSaeco PicoBarista
Programmable drinks611
Grindersteel, 13 settingsceramic, 10 settings
Bean hopper size8.8 oz8.3 oz
Tank capacity60 oz61 oz
Dimensions11" W x 15.25" D x 14.5" H8.8 W x 17" D x 13.3" H

De’Longhi Magnifica

De'Longhi ESAM3300 Magnifica Super Automatic Espresso & Coffee Machine Check availability

Beverage selection: Aimed at users who love convenience, the De’Longhi Magnifica automates variables except for brew strength and grind adjustment. It brews pre-programmed drinks with consistent temperature and robustness. The machine has one-touch brewing for espresso, ristretto, low-pressure coffee, cappuccino, and latte. The straightforward controls include a rotary dial for selecting espresso, coffee, large coffee, cappuccino, latte, or hot water. Dedicated buttons set three levels of brew strength and the number of cups. Although there is no length setting, you can control coffee and milk volume by manually stopping and starting the brew button.

The Magnifica has two fast-heating boilers to precisely control the temperature for coffee and milk. The downside of fully programmed beverage quality is that the volume and foam are set. 

Milk drinks: The Magnifica has automatic milk steaming and frothing and a hot water spout that interchanges with the milk carafe. The carafe has a clean mode for automatic cleaning and an adjustable nozzle to fit different cup sizes. By design, the De’Longhi LatteCrema system creates a rich, long-lasting foam rather than an airy texture. You cannot adjust the milk temperature.

Grinder: The Magnifica has a steel conical burr grinder with 13 settings. It has a bypass doser and a bean hopper that holds 8.8 ounces. Some users have reported that beans sometimes get stuck on their way from the hopper to the grinder. This is likely more of a problem with darker roasts that can be oily.  

Construction and maintenance: The Magnifica is easy to maintain with self-cleaning functions, integrated water filtration, and front-access water tank and bins. However, it doesn’t notify the user when out of water or beans. 

Saeco PicoBaristo

Saeco PicoBaristo Super Automatic Espresso Machine, 1.8 L, Stainless Steel, HD8927/47 Check availability

Beverage selection: The Saeco PicoBaristo also has separate boilers for coffee and milk, so you don’t have to wait when brewing a second cup. It boasts 11 customizable drinks, including hot water and milk. Users have five programmable buttons for espresso, espresso lungo, café crema, cappuccino, and latte macchiato. A second menu level provides more configuration options, and you can choose the volume, temperature, and five different strength settings. Though the PicoBaristo does not have user profiles, you can save preferences for each drink. It does not have a cup warmer.

Milk drinks: The PicoBaristo features an integrated milk carafe for automatic steaming and frothing. Its froths the milk twice for extra creaminess before dispensing. As with the Magnifica, milk settings are not programmable.

Grinder: The PicoBaristo has Saeco’s signature ceramic grinder with 10 settings, as well as a bypass doser. The bean hopper holds 8.3 ounces. The oddly shaped hopper interior requires careful feeding of beans, and you need to use a tool (included) to make your grind adjustments.

Construction and maintenance: The PicoBaristo includes an AquaClean water filter that eliminates the need to descale until 5,000 cups. It also has a one-touch milk carafe cleaning function. The carafe must be moved before removing the drip tray.

What we like about De’Longhi espresso machines

De’Longhi espresso machines emphasize usability and consistent performance. The user interfaces are straightforward, and build quality is good. De’Longhi’s approach in its super-automatics is to automate the perfect drink as much as possible. The high-end Eletta offers the user more customization while the mid-range Magnifica takes the barista reins. Beverage quality is reliably excellent, and customer service is dependable.

What we like about Saeco espresso machines

Saeco espresso machines include innovative design features that add value. Foremost is the ceramic grinder that is gentler on beans than its metal counterparts. Ceramic is also durable, and Saeco claims its grinders will last 20,000 uses. 

Saeco machines feature easy maintenance with busy users in mind. The Aquaclean filter means less frequent descaling, and the milk circuit is cleaned thoroughly and efficiently. 

About the De’Longhi brand

De’Longhi is a global leader in small appliances for the residential market. Present in 120 global markets, the De’Longhi Group also offers well-known home brands Braun, Kenwood, and Ariete. De’Longhi began marketing in the U.S. in the early 1980s and partnered with Nespresso to create capsule coffee machines.

De’Longhi began its business with electric radiators, but its flagship products are currently coffee machines. Its lineup includes tiers ranging from manual to super-automatic and smaller items such as an electric moka pot and an electric milk frother. Each category offers several models.

About the Saeco brand

Founded in Gaggio Montano, Italy, in 1981 as an espresso machine maker, Saeco still has manufacturing sites in Italy and Romania. It prides itself on innovation. Saeco invented the removable brew group and uses ceramic grinders in its machines to prevent grind heat from degrading coffee flavor.

Saeco branding on an espresso machine
Espresso machine maker Saeco brand was founded in 1981 and the first company in the world to develop an automatic Italian espresso brewing system. (© Sean Dreilinger | Creative Commons)

Saeco bought the Gaggia coffee machine company in 1999. In 2009, the Dutch conglomerate Royal Philips Electronics acquired Saeco and Gaggia to grow its lucrative global espresso market. Its coffee machines span the range from entry-level to luxury super-automatics and still bear the Saeco name. 

Which brand should you get?

De’Longhi and Saeco share market niches, and both brands design well for the home user. Super-automatics from either will quickly and easily produce a quality beverage. Saeco offers more drink customization in the mid-range model, although De’Longhi wins for simplicity. 

When both lines share smart design and good looks, what is the differentiator? The answer to us is quality. Based on user feedback, De’Longhi edges out Saeco in execution. Their machines seem to have better quality control, and De’Longhi’s customer service is more responsive when things go wrong. 

In the end, the ability to consistently deliver excellent coffee will win your palate and spare your wallet. While both brands offer strong performers, our pick is De’Longhi for best value.