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Smeg ECF01 Espresso Coffee Machine review

An espresso lover’s dream

Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Smeg’s ECF01 Espresso Coffee Machine designs brilliantly update the vintage aesthetics of the 1950s for a modern appliance. The espresso machine makes fantastic traditional Italian coffees, but you’ll need to practise your barista skills first - this is no press-and-play situation.

For

  • Traditional Italian espresso, cappuccino and lattes
  • Sleek, stylish and compact design

Against

  • Takes a little practise to use

One Minute Review

The Smeg refrigerator is an undeniable fashion icon whose 1950s retro style remains popular to this day. Established in 1948 by Vittorio Bertazzoni in the village of Guastalla, northern Italy, Smeg’s FAB blimp-like appliances have barely changed their outer designs across their 70 years of existence, with the Bertazzoni family now adding in small appliances like toasters, stand mixers and espresso machines to the line-up.

Make no mistake, this is a machine as confident about its appearance as its performance, making barista-level brews – if you’ve the skill to make them. Beneath the retro-yet-sleek design there’s a lot to unpack from Smeg’s ECF01 espresso maker. If you’re looking for a press-and-play machine to deliver your first caffeine hit of the morning, an espresso machine may not be the route to go down. However, if achieving the perfect crema, silky foam and savouring something that feels truly Italian is what you have in mind, you’re in the right place. 

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

The Smeg ECF01 Espresso Coffee Machine has an RRP of £319 / $490 and is available in a range of colors that includes black, cream, white, pastel blue, red, pink and green. It's a pricey machine, but the results speak for themselves and the overall design will look great no matter your kitchen's decor.

(Image credit: Future)

Design

  • Beautiful compact design
  • Integrated cup warmer
  • Hits optimum temperature in just 40 seconds

As with the Gaggia Gran Deluxe, the Smeg ECF01 Espresso Machine is beautifully compact, with barely a centimeter of wasted surface. There are a few clever additions hidden in this sleek design: the top of the machine doubles up as a cup warmer, and although it looks as if only an espresso cup will fit beneath the spout, the drip tray can be removed, allowing you to fit a medium coffee mug or cup beneath. Unlike the bulky refrigerators the company is famous for, for a small kitchen, you’ve got a good match with Smeg.

The ECF01 may not have all the bells and whistles of other high-tech machines, but with an impressive 1350W of power and a 15 bar pump pressure, for power, it’s coming in way above the Gaggia Gran Deluxe (with just 950W).

(Image credit: Future)

Smeg uses a Thermoblock heating system for this model, which allows heating to optimum temperature in around 40 seconds - unlike other machines which use single or double boilers. For the scope of a domestic espresso machine, we were impressed with the speed in which the model heated, and how easy it switched between pouring coffees and steaming water or milk.

Accessories that come alongside the machine include three portafilter inserts - for one cup with coffee grounds, two cups with coffee grounds, or for using an Easy Serve Espresso (ESE) pod. Plus a combined spoon and tamper.

(Image credit: Future)

Day-to-day use 

  • Not beginner friendly
  • Smart customisation options
  • Wonderful-tasting range of coffees can be made

This machine has a less-is-more approach to buttons and controls, meaning this is a gadget worth reading through the instruction booklet to find out what’s happening once you press the ‘on’ button.

Possibly a little daunting for a beginner, the ECF01 is worth getting to know if you’ve had fantasies of being an at-home barista: you may need to level-up in order to get the most from this machine, but you’ll be rewarded with super-silky foamed milk and just-bitter-enough coffee shots.

In the booklet you’ll find out that there’s a lot more to customise than you might first expect. For instance, by holding down either of the coffee buttons on the front of the machine until you’ve filled your cup to the desired level, the Smeg ECF01 will remember to pour exactly the same amount of coffee next time.

While it’s an espresso machine by name, one you’ve got the hang of the three-button interface (and necessary sequences) you’ll be able to make cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos with ease. If you’re accustomed to your coffee machines coming with screens, you may find it frustrating understanding what the ECF01 is up to while it’s whirring away, but our patience was rewarded with great coffee at a decent price for the model.

This is a ground coffee to cup, as well as capsule to cup, machine, so you will need a grinder if you’re into that freshly-ground vibe. Luckily, Smeg also produces a dedicated bean grinder, so you can keep that FAB aesthetic going right around the kitchen.

(Image credit: Future)

Taste

After learning to leave the machine a few seconds for proper heating, we managed to achieve beautiful crema-laden espresso every morning. Milk-frothing took a little longer to master, but it was worth a few attempts of following the instruction manual step-by-step to get our milk swirling and tapping down-pat, and admittedly, something worth practising for the coffee craft enjoyment.

This isn’t a place for caramel, extra dry, pumpkin spiced additions, but a machine that produces beautiful velvety coffee and smooth foamed milk day after day. 

(Image credit: Future)

Eco

Sustainability-wise, Smeg’s machine is programmed to turn off in order to save energy. It uses either ground coffee or ESE pods, and unlike Smeg’s competitors, you can use biodegradable pods here.

Buy it if...

You’ve the patience to make great coffee
The Smeg ECF01 takes a little getting to know, but it’s worth it for the end result. If you’re someone that enjoys the ceremony of coffee, and five minutes each morning to savour a beautiful cup of joe, then you can’t go far wrong with the ECF01. 

You have an eye for design
More powerful than many comparable machines at this price point, the Smeg makes a great design statement and punches above its weight for taste and variety of drinks achieved with such minimal equipment. Taking the best in classic design and modern kit, this is an elegant, understated machine difficult to find a reason not to love.

Don't buy it if...

You want foolproof coffee
Smeg’s machine takes some practice, and if you haven’t the patience to learn its intricacies, you may be better off with a straight forward coffee pod machine instead.

You don’t want to grind your own beans
To get the freshest taste that this machine deserves, you’re going to want to invest in good beans and a grinder. It’s really a coffee aficionado’s machine, so those happy with a quick brew may find its dedication to the art a time sink.