Review of the DeLonghi Dinamica TrueBrew Over Ice Automatic Espresso Maker
I am a major coffee drinker, who usually goes through at least 2-3 cappuccinos or espressos per day. But there are times when I’m really craving an iced coffee – whether it’s because the weather has turned warm, I’m trying to cool down after a long ride or I just feel like something different. So, I was excited to test out the new DeLonghi Dinamica TrueBrew Over Ice automatic espresso maker ECAM35020B ($899.95), which has a special mode DeLonghi claims makes a smoother, yet full-bodied iced coffee.
After nearly two months of regular use, what’s my takeaway? This thing works, and it works really well, both for brewing my normal hot espresso drinks and a better glass of iced coffee. In fact, I like the versatility and overall performance of the Dinamica TrueBrew Over Ice so much that it is my pick for the machine to get if you’re in the market for an automatic espresso maker, especially in the under $1,000 range.
As an automatic machine, the Dinamica allows you to use your own beans and grinds them fresh to order – so your options are endless. You also have the option of changing the fineness of the grind, and the bean strength (amount of beans used for the extraction) can be customized for each drink or as a permanent customization (which requires some fiddling with the buttons). The integrated bean grinder can be set to seven levels of fineness (you can also bypass the grinder and use pre-ground coffee, say if someone wants a cup of decaf). It’s not going to give you the micro controls over water temp and pressure that more advanced machines offer (though it does have four temperature level presets – low, medium, high, maximum), or even the preset customizations of the Delonghi Eletta we previously reviewed, but the Dinamica isn’t designed for barista challenges, it’s designed to make great coffee easy, and that it does.
The espresso that comes out of the spout is quite good, and certainly better than your local Starbucks. Yes, you can do better with a fully manual system if you have the time, skill and tattoos to make that happen – I don’t, and I found the Dinamica results more than satisfying. If you’re coming from a pod-based system, like Nespresso, you will be pleased with the upgrade in flavor.
Just to be clear, the Dinamica is an espresso machine, not a coffee machine. It can make hot coffee, but I find the flavor to be thin and bitter. I’ll stick with my French press for my coffee needs.
The real question, though, is how does it perform for iced coffee? The secret sauce behind the TrueBrew Over Ice feature is, according to DeLonghi, “a proprietary brewing method that combines a higher dose of coffee, a specific brewing pressure and lower temperature” to extract the full flavor of the beans, without the bitter components you get at higher temperatures. And it really does work. I compared multiple variations of espressos and coffees from the machine over ice with the coffee produced in the TrueBrew mode, and the TrueBrew process undoubtedly makes a smoother, full-flavored iced coffee. For regular drinkers of iced coffee, you’ll love this machine.
If you’re not into the iced coffee thing, you’re better off going with a model from DeLonghi’s Magnifica line. You’ll get basically the same features, minus the iced coffee, for $150 less.
The DeLonghi Dinamica TrueBrew model I tested (ECAM35020B) uses a manual milk frothing wand. It was easy to use and effective, producing a dense tasty foam. Other models of Dinamica TrueBrew Over Ice include the ECAM35025SB ($999.95) with an adjustable milk frother for making hot milk, though I don’t think it’s worth the $100 premium, and the Dinamica with LatteCrema (ECAM35075SI), which uses an automated milk frother identical to the one in the DeLonghi Eletta we reviewed previously. At $1,199.95, the Dinamica with LatteCrema is only for those who really, really, don’t want to do their own frothing. But I find the manual frothing takes no more time than working with the automated container and delivers a denser, hotter foam. My advice is to save the $300 and stick with the manual.
The Dinamica does not have separate heaters for the espresso and milk, so there is a delay of about 20 seconds between making an espresso and the machine building back up enough pressure to froth milk.
Features & convenience
Set up of The DeLonghi Dinamica TrueBrew is straightforward. There’s an optional water filter (included) to install in the 1.8L tank, then you just fill with water, add your beans (max 300g) and you’re good to go. Once you turn it on, the Dinamica takes under a minute to heat up before it’s ready to serve your first drink.
The front panel is simple and easy to use. Convenient buttons on the front panel let you select your drink type – single or double shot espresso, lungo, coffee or iced coffee. Once your drink is poured, tap the frothing button for milk. You’ll get a beep when it’s ready to froth, then there’s a little toggle switch to start the steam.
There’s a drip tray below to catch water from an initial rinse the machine does when first turned on and a final rinse when turned off. The drip tray holds a fair amount of liquid, though I found it easier to just stick my milk frothing pitcher under to spout to catch the liquid to avoid cleaning the tray as often. Spent coffee grounds are dispensed into an internal container. The machine will flash a message when full (or 72 hours after your first drink) – then you can just pull it out an dump in the trash or compost.
The Dinamica also has a water hardness setting that controls how long the machine will run before you start getting descaling recommendations on the display. Like the Eletta we tested, the descaling warning starts happening pretty quickly (after about a month of use, in my case). You can get past the warning by pressing the steam button, but it is a little annoying until you reset it by going through the descaling process. The Dinamica includes a descaling kit in the box, but the process is time consuming so make sure you set your water hardness to the proper level for your actual conditions.
Also, as with the Eletta, the beans container doesn’t give you a warning when it is almost empty, so you can be in the middle of making an espresso only to find out you’re out of beans.
If countertop space in your kitchen is at a premium, the 9.45” (w) x 17.32” (d) x 14.17” (h) Dinamica takes up more space than my Nespresso Latissima and a lot less than the Delonghi Eletta.
After about 2 months of use, I started to experience an issue with leaking water from the steam spout, as though a gasket or seal was failing. As someone who tests countless products, I know that it’s possible for ANY given product to have problems, so what’s important is how a company deals with it should a problem occur. In the case of the Dinamica, it comes with a 2-year warranty (3-year warranty if registered). And should there be a problem with the machine, DeLonghi will send you out a box and prepaid shipping label to return the unit, with repairs typically completed within 24-48 hours of receipt at their facility, according to DeLonghi. When I talked to their customer service rep, she informed me that for units that fail within the first 30 days, they will just ship a new unit out. Overall, owner experiences have been very positive for the Dinamica, though some have expressed issues with the reliability and speed of that repair process.
The DeLonghi Dinamica TrueBrew Over Ice automatic espresso maker ECAM35020B costs $899.95 on delonghi.com. It’s also available on Amazon, where reviewers give it a solid 4.3 out of 5 stars as of the time this article was written. Many of the low reviews are from folks who bought this for making coffee (not espresso) and aren’t satisfied with the results.
The DeLonghi Dinamica is a solid automatic espresso machine with the added bonus of an iced coffee feature that works really well. If you drink a fair amount of iced coffee in your house, the Dinamica would be a great choice.
[Image credit: Techlicious]