The Perfect Cup: De’Longhi

10 Aug 2020
8 min read
Timeless Italian craftmanship meets modern design in De’Longhi’s masterful coffee machines, making cups of coffee that sing with full-bodied flavor and aroma. FOUR goes behind the scenes with the inimitable brand to find out more about their design process and take a closer look at some of their premium machines…

Zeno Adami, De’Longhi Global Brand Director, and Dario Grasselli, De’Longhi Global Design Director, talk to us about all things De’Longhi:

Tell us a little bit about De’Longhi, its history and its ethos…

De’Longhi has always been focused on transforming home experiences into moments of pleasure. Its motto is Better Everyday. We started with oil-filled radiators in the 70s and then expanded into mobile air conditioning (Pinguino) to transition into kitchen appliances and more and more into coffee machines, which now is our core business. We are driven by passion and deep technological expertise, that we want our consumers to experience every day. We call it internally a “healthy obsession for technology that makes a real difference”.

What is De’Longhi’s design philosophy?

De’Longhi Design is the synthesis of three main areas of study and focus:

Consumer insight: We consider our product proposals “consumer-centered design” because we always start by analyzing the users’ needs, demands and requirements, and then we give the best solution that satisfies and fits what the users, consciously or unconsciously, want and need.

Market requirements: De’Longhi is present everywhere, and coffee is the beverage with the greatest number of methods of consumption around the world. We cannot not consider how a coffee is prepared and drunk in different regions, such as Germany compared to Italy or Australia. There are differences that have a huge impact on the machine (recipes on the user interface, presence of milk accessories, space available for big mugs, etc) that sometimes we design especially for a specific market to connect with their individual needs.

Design trends: Picking inspiration from the fashion, automotive, high tech and even philosophy and anthropology worlds, our work is constantly influenced by careful consideration of major macro and micro trends. We are continuously searching for new trends in terms of materials, finishes and shapes (let’s remember that a coffee machine normally goes in the kitchen, or eventually in the living room) but also in terms of social, anthropological and ethnographic trends. The final product is thus the synthesis of many inputs together.

Tell us more about the design process and how it blends traditional coffee making techniques with newly developed technology? 

There’s constant research around the world of coffee, from a social, marketing, engineering and design perspective. I would say we are almost obsessed with coffee at De’Longhi, constantly aiming to create the best machine producing the best coffee experience everywhere in the world. As I always say, like Nutella for the cocoa spread or Jacuzzi for the hydromassage bathtub, my dream is to see De’Longhi become the antonomasia of coffee makers, whereby saying “I bought a DèLonghi” would mean “I bought the best coffee machine”.

To achieve this very ambitious goal, we continuously analyze and get in contact with the most unique technologies and methodologies to produce coffee, and experiment with them more than competitors do, so that we can create a standalone coffee experience for our customers and become the brand that they will definitively associate with a good cup of coffee.

We also participate in the design symposium, “Coffee Forum”; go directly to the countries and enter users’ houses making in-home observations and ask specialized trend agencies to study the world of beverage and its evolution to catch any little important detail that would be a stimulus to a creating a better product, a new or improved feature, or even a completely novel platform. We also do a workshop with coffee gurus, to capture their secrets and expertise and translate  them into innovative and visionary product solutions.

What makes the perfect cup of coffee in your eyes and how does De’Longhi fall in line with this?

In my eyes a perfect cup of coffee is a moment of pleasure.

De’Longhi has a very strong know-how and a lot of experience with technically perfecting the coffee machines to deliver the tastiest cup of coffee with the creamiest milk foam. This is not all though. We want to foster an immersive, all-encompassing experience around the moment of taste and enjoyment. The coffee bean processing and transformation that happens inside the coffee machine is key to obtaining a high quality in-cup result. De’Longhi translates the value of the art of processing and transformation to the customer.

All the De’Longhi  coffee machines are made to deliver its user’s ideal, tailor-made coffee. Can you expand on how this is achieved?

De’Longhi offers a complete range of coffee machines to meet different consumers’ needs. For the technology-driven consumer who prefers the convenience of having a perfect cup of coffee from freshly ground beans with just one touch, we have the automatic machine range. On the other side, we have the manual machines category for those who really want to be part of the hands-on preparation and replicate the gestures of a barista at home.

After years of experience in the coffee machine market, we are still learning from our customers and we are constantly looking to improve, anticipating their needs and improving their everyday life at home.

Tell us more about what makes De’Longhi’s products stand out against other similar producers?

Distinctive design, high quality performance and product innovation are the common elements of all our products that make us recognizable all over the world. We have an Italian heritage, clearly recognisable in the design of our product. Like an authentic Italian family, we are proud to sign a product with our name.

The construction materials are obviously used for aesthetic purposes, but how do they additionally contribute to making the best cup of coffee?

I normally quote the Gestalt Theory, that in few words says: “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. This means that when the customer buys a product, he/she unpacks it at home, plugs in the electric plug, adds water, adds beans, and finally presses the button and sees the coffee come out of the spout. He/she doesn’t buy only a coffee machine, but he/she buys an experience.

This experience is comprised of many small and big elements. From the buttons to press, to the plastic handles to touch, the colored display to see and caress with the fingers, the surfaces and shapes that perfectly fit their beloved and expensive kitchen, these are all the details that make up the experience. That’s where the materials of construction participate in creating the best cup of coffee, because it comes out of the most pleasant product to see and touch. And if this “design experience” is really pleasant, that coffee will be, surely, better than others. The whole is thus greater than the sum of the parts.

How do you balance off style versus functionality and ease-of-use when designing a machine?

The world of design has strongly evolved in the last decades, and it no longer adheres to the “form follows function” outlook of Walter Gropius from the Bauhaus in the early 50’s. The most difficult part of our job is considering aesthetic, materials, UI, UX, trends, ergonomics and anthropometric input all together, as a unique project that would satisfy, at the same time, all these requirements. Functionality of a product is very important, but also proposing a product that is discrete; well-fitted to your kitchen style – not too bulky, not too complicated – but not without your customizable functions; can connect to your mobile; is easy to clean and that, possibly, doesn’t break down. The designer must consider all these things together, and this is the reason why he/she is an expert in many disciplines.

In our studio we have various experts, specialized in different fields that give the right answer to the many project requirements. We have a team fully dedicated to the development of the User Interface, we have experts of usability studies, we have engineering agencies that support the development of our proposals, we have color and finishing experts, prototype specialists and CAD developers.

Maldonado used to say  that the design is a magic kaleidoscope made of different “faces” with which you can see the world, and each face is a different discipline that gives you a different perspective. That’s exactly how we design at De’Longhi: the same product analyzed from many different perspectives.

Is there any unique craftsmanship incorporated into the production process ?

The large majority of all our coffee machines are designed in Italy and there is a lot of craftsmanship behind the production process. For example Maestosa, our flagship fully automatic coffee machine, is assembled single-handily by one specialized worker. Only the most experienced and skilled workers are selected to assemble the Maestosa and only few pieces a day are produced in our Italian factory near Treviso. A true piece of art designed to impress and featuring top-notch De’Longhi technology.

Can you tell us about some of your top-of-the-line machines and what makes these so special? 

We recently launched a new manual machine called La Specialista that combines freshly ground beans with a top-of-the-line grinder (with different grinder settings to easily manage every type of coffee bean); the automatic features of a full automatic machine (predefined recipes) and the manual gesture of professional baristas (possibility to change temperature of extraction based on the different beans, smart tamping for more precise coffee pressing, professional steam wand for incredible latte art creation). All of this combined in a clearly Italian-inspired design to appeal to all the barista wannabes in the world.

What inspires these and some of the other De’Longhi designs?

Typically, the designer is a person that is by nature a visionary, very curious, open minded and always looking for something unexpected, and all of us are constantly craving inspiration from the surrounding world. We are inspired by any kind of “majesty” around us, it could be the color fading of the wings of a bird, or a product of a different field (a car, a sound speaker, a pen) that has those details that are surprising for their uniqueness, their elegance and their beauty. We have subscriptions to the most important portal of trends (WGSN, Stylus, etc), the office is overflowing with color bundles (Pantone, NCS, Mould Tech, etc), material samples and plastic texture chips. We even have inspirational books directly from fashion shows like CARLIN, or anodized metal plates from supercar brands.

Recently we made a collection of kettles inspired by the world of glass by the glass masters of Murano. Our designers went to see their work directly in their workshops, watching with their own eyes how the glass is born from the fire, and transformed into a piece of art. We tried to apply those incredible reflections, transparencies and fadings of light into our products, but producible with industrial methodologies, in order to allow every customer in the world to have the possibility of having a “masterpiece” of Italian glass craftsmanship on their kitchen countertop. This is the magic that I love about my job.

What interesting design trends are going on in the world of coffee and coffee machines?

In the last decade we have been experimenting with what our experts call “the third wave of coffee”, which is a movement made both by producers and consumers that see coffee not only as just a drink, but a true microcosm made of premium beans, cultivators, roasters, coffee shops, coffee experts, etc. Like in the world of wine (but also oil, tea, or even water), coffee is not only “robusta” and “arabica” (like the wine is not only red or white), but there is a huge variety of typologies and producers that are stimulating the final consumer more and more to become a real expert (for some of them I’d dare say “Maniac”) of the black beverage. I think everybody is familiar with the hilarious scene of the movie “The Bucket List”, in which the rich Jack Nichloson brings with him his luxurious coffee set to drink the most expensive coffee beans in the world.

The more the consumer is an expert, the more we need to think about our machines not anymore like black boxes, where you press a button and the coffee comes out, but we have to design machines with (again) the user at the center, understand his/her needs, and propose solutions closer to a “barista friend” that knows them very well, their taste, their mood during the day, their guests or their children, and propose the perfect cappuccino for their beloved grandmother at the end of lunch on Thanksgiving.

So, the overlapping between the professional world of coffee and the domestic one has become a reality, with technologies, raw materials, accessories, services and spirituality that have changed, probably forever, the users’ approach to the machine.

What’s next for De’Longhi, any new products on the horizon?

Many new products across all our segments, Coffee, Kitchen and Air Comfort, are launched every year and 2020 will represent another signature year for our brand. If there is a guiding light for the brand’s future, it is the willingness to incorporate the user experience in the innovation and development process, to focus more and more also on the importance of treating raw materials in the right way and the importance of understanding and showcasing this in the final in-cup results.


Visit De’Longhi’s website, Instagram profile or Facebook page to find out more.