As level 4 lockdown reared its ugly head, Aucklanders were ready. Coffee beans in hands, and "essential" espresso machines being delivered to their door. But did these fancy machines actually give bang for their buck? Bethany Reitsma was loaned a review device from De'Longhi to find out just that.
You know those celebrity baby announcements? They all go something like, "We are overjoyed to welcome our gorgeous new addition to the family and can't wait for you all to meet her. Our hearts are full!"
That's how I felt when the De'Longhi La Specialista Arte machine arrived on my doorstep during Auckland's level 4 lockdown.
Four weeks in without a daily trip to the cafe and no coffee machine at home, I'd been living off vanilla latte sachets. But they were simply no substitute for a barista-made flat white and I was experiencing severe caffeine withdrawals.
So when De'Longhi offered to loan me their newest creation for a test run, I couldn't say no.
Though I'm an expert at drinking coffee, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to making it. This machine takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process.
Its built-in coffee grinder has eight settings ranging from fine to coarse, depending on the type of beans you have on hand.
It also includes two sizes of single-wall coffee filters, a professional-style tamper and tamping mat as well as a handy tamping guide that ensures you don't waste any coffee grinds.
Once it's all set up, you can simply press buttons to do the work for you - it has all the fun of a manual coffee machine while still feeling automatic.
I noticed two major things soon after I started using the machine. First, it heats up very quickly. No need to wait for it to reach temperature before you can start brewing. Second, it's virtually mess-free - the tamping guide means you won't spill coffee grinds all over your kitchen bench.
It comes with three basic settings: espresso, long black and hot water - essential for heating up your cup before you pour. You can adjust the temperature of the coffee, meaning it's easy to make a decent iced coffee as well.
The steaming wand is very easy to use as it's just the touch of a button rather than turning a dial to release steam - but of course will take some practice. After a week or so, I've just about mastered the art of getting a smooth, silky foam, though my latte art still leaves much to be desired.
A cup support also allows you to raise your cup closer to the coffee dispenser so you get that lovely golden crema on top.
But there's one glaring question: is it worth the hefty $899 price tag?
It depends how serious you are about your coffee. If you're like me and you can't go a day without buying a coffee (lockdown aside), then it might be a good investment.
But if you've used home espresso machines before, you'll know that this machine does what most other cheaper models on the market do.
It's worth noting that with this setup, you don't have to buy all the extra equipment separately - milk jug, tamper, or grinder.
If you enjoy the ritual of making coffee without all the fuss, then it's worth thinking about forking out for this beauty.