I must preface this review by saying that I am not a coffee connoisseur (although I may be aspiring to be a coffee geek). Growing up, my best experiences with coffee were Cafe au Lait at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter, and Kona Coffee in Hawaii. In my search for better tasting coffee, I had used french presses, and an Aero Press(which did produce great coffee). Not until I met my wife did I know that you could spend more than about $200 on a coffee machine. Her parents have a Jura-Capresso super auto, which one I'm not sure, that I have used a few times. She wanted a super auto, because she loved the convenience, like not having to fumble with grounds while groggy.
I made the decision to buy the DeLonghi after about three weeks of traveling, without the Aero Press, and buying coffee from various drive through coffee stands. Tired of paying four dollars for over sweetened espresso based drinks, and having already determined to purchase a super auto for my wife, I decided to pick up the DeLonghi 3300 from Bed Bath & Beyond.
I had seen it there a few days before, and as it was the only super auto available in the area. I looked it up, had trouble finding reviews, and figured that if it wasn't worth the money, I would take it back. When I showed up at the store, I found it no longer on the shelf. In a panic (I hate waiting once I've decided to buy something) I went to the front counter to ask where they went (in this town, I was pretty sure that they weren't sold) and was told that they had sold out. Luckily, The manager walked by my wife, and asked if she needed anything, she mentioned the DeLonghi. From him, we got the strait dope.
Since the town wasn't a great market for coffee makers over $25 a pop, they were only carried as a seasonal item. The boxed ones had all been sent back to the warehouse that morning! Luckily for us, the display model had not been sold, and we picked it up for $599 + tax.
So, I took the machine home, no box, just threw it (no, not literally) into the trunk of my car. It didn't have the manual, and it took some time to find it on DeLonghi's over animated site. It was pretty easy to figure out though. After a few hours, some Starbuck's House Blend from Sam's Club (which I returned the next day, not worth drinking) and some serious reading on this site to learn what the shot should look like (having never tasted a good espresso, I couldn't gauge taste), I was able to produce a great latte (compared to your average over-the-counter) and what tasted to be a pretty good cappuccino. Since then, and learning more and more about manually pulling shots, I have been able to successively improve the taste and consistency through adjusting the machine.
Grind is adjusted on a dial in the bean hopper, and as with other super autos I've used, it has to be adjusted while grinding. I recommend running at least three shots through it after the grind is adjusted for the machine to catch up. I passed the setting I needed several times by not waiting a few shots to gauge the grind. I'm currently on 3, but would like to go to a finer grind, as I get closer to the 25-30 second shot timing.
The amount of water forced through the puck is determined by the leftmost dial on the front of the machine. It simply doubles the water for a double, so a single shot is right at the first dot above the lowest setting. As I was having trouble getting a single shot to take the right amount of time (it was running way short), I decided to set the single cup to a double (the fourth or fifth dot from the left). It works for me, and as I get to know the machine better, I may go back to the single shot amount. It can be set to make a larger cup, up to about 6 ounces it seems, but it runs all the water through the puck, which isn't what I am looking for, although for a more standard coffee, it would work.
The next dial to the right is the "strength" which is simply the amount of grinds in the puck. This is what I have been using to try to dial in the timing of the shot, which may or may not be the best way, but it works for me. I currently set it at between 2 and 3 dots.
The rest of the machine is fairly straight forward. Everything is accessible from the front, with the exception of the beans and the grind setting, which are from the top. The machine turns off after 3 hours of neglect, which is a good feature, because it starts up quite quickly, and the cup warmer doesn't work well anyway. I use the hot water feature, which comes out of the steam "wand", after pressing the hot water button to turn off the steam, to heat the cups before dispensing a shot. It does the basic flushing itself out, and all of the components that are "user" cleanable are easily accessed. The manual seems to recommend scraping the machine out with a knife and a fork (I'm not kidding) and vacuuming out the machine every now and then. I don't think it will be all that necessary as after a wipe down every other night while cleaning the kitchen, I don't expect much build up.
The last important part of the Magnifica is the steam "wand". It is an all-or-nothing steam function, and the froth aider can't really be removed. If the milk and frothing pitcher are cold, and you swirl the milk while it is steaming, it produces nicely sweet macro foam. Definitely not going to make microfoam latte art, but it does taste good, and the kids love drinking the leftover steamed milk out of espresso cups.
Overall, I am very happy with the machine. It does a great job for the money, and is simple enough for friends and family to use. As long as they understand the ratios, anyone can make great espresso-based beverages with little to no training, once the machine is tuned to the bean. Easy to clean at the end of the day rounds it out, I'm extremely happy with the machine, and look forward to further fine tuning it.