SMEG ECF01 review summary
From fridges to hand blenders, Smeg’s 1950s design is an iconic staple that runs across its appliance collections. All tend to be quite large, but that’s not the case with this slimline ECF01 espresso machine – it has a small footprint both in terms of width and length.
Three buttons control its core features (a one-cup espresso, two-cup espresso and milk steamer wand). Beneath the simple frontage is a collection of advanced personalisation features to play with.
- Read our full review of the best espresso machines
Do not throw away the instruction manual! It’s essential for guiding you through the complex button sequences required for utilising this machine’s advanced settings. Plus it holds the key to solving teething problems, such as how to create one coffee after another (which involves cooling the milk steam wand first) and the importance of ‘regular flushing’ for the prolonged care of the espresso machine.
If you’re after a simple, low-maintenance espresso machine, the Smeg isn’t for you. But it’s worth the money for the quality of espresso produced and efficiency of the steam wand, if you don’t mind reading every page of its short instruction manual.
How easy is the Smeg ECF01 to use?
It’s a satisfying espresso machine to unpack (there’s no assembly needed), plus it’s lightweight and intuitive to set up. The 1-litre water tank sits beneath an easy-lift lid and locks onto the back of the machine. The lid doubles as an integrated cup warmer that’s large enough for two espresso cups.
Interestingly, the power button sits at the base on the right-hand side. Unusual, but not particularly annoying. It’s also anti-slip, which provides resistance against smooth work surfaces.
Three filters are included – one cup, two cup, and ESE pod compatible. The latter is readily available in biodegradable pods, so is a sustainable choice when it comes to mess-free coffee. Each stainless steel filter fits into the handle snugly, so if you’re using ground coffee you can load it quickly and without mess. The coffee scoop is a 2-in-1 piece of kit with a broad tamper on the other side, which offers good coverage for compacting the grinds.
Once loaded, you can select the cup option you’d like and the machine is relatively quiet when working. There are two drip trays, so you can choose the best fit depending on the height of your mug.
The milk steamer wand is an impressive feature that’s intuitive to use and offers the range of movement needed to vary the froth of your steamed milk. With guidance from the manual, you can achieve the swirl of silky steamed bubbles. However, you feel the absence of a stainless steel milk jug. The quality of the milk isn’t the same if you have to do it in a glass container. And for the price, a proper jug is a small element that would make a huge impact.
There are a couple of quirks that require some practice. For example, you must cool down the boiler if you wish to make a new coffee immediately after using the milk steamer wand. To do this, open the steamer unit and (carefully) allow any excess to escape. Then when the icons stop flashing, you can make your next espresso.
Quality of the coffee
The espresso drawn is hot, strong and topped with a silky crema. The machine won’t allow you to select the espresso without its Thermoblock technology having preheated, so you’re guaranteed the same quality every time.
There was a slight acidity to the first espresso, which disappeared after we programmed the machine to account for the area’s hard water. And there’s scope to personalise temperature, coffee quantity and automatic shut-off too, although it’s a process of complex button sequences. You’ll need the instruction manual to hand.
Thanks to the manoeuvrable milk wand, you can accurately create the right froth quantity for your favourite coffee, from flat whites to a thickly topped cappuccino.
Is the Smeg ECF01 espresso machine worth the money?
With an RRP of just over £300, this is an investment mid-range buy that, not withstanding a few quirks, wouldn’t disappoint when it comes to quality of espresso. It’s compact enough to be suitable for small kitchens and classy enough to catch your eye wherever it’s sat.
Thanks to the three included filters, it can be used with both ground coffee or pods. For the adventurous, the advanced settings mean you can tailor your coffee to a specific draw. It would be a great machine for anyone who wants to spend time improving their barista skills.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of it’s three-button interface. It’s not an intuitive machine to use, so practice is required for mastering the functions smoothly. The grey plastic coffee scoop and tamper feel cheap compared to the rest of the machine, and the lack of milk jug is a shame. But with a bit of practice and some nifty milk steaming, you’ll have great coffee every time with this reliable Smeg.
Smeg ECF01 specifications
Product weight: 4.7kg
Ground capacity: single and double espresso filters plus ESE pod filter
Average pressure: 15 bar
Water capacity: 1 litre
Dimensions: 330 x 149 x 329mm
Material: polished chrome, stainless steel, plastic
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This review was last updated in February 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.