Lavazza’s take on the instant espresso machine has always been one designed to bring in the budget market, usually sitting under the $200 value for a basic espresso maker. The Fantasia is a little different, though, and asks for a little more cash for something that builds the milk frother into the package.
Features and performance
Having already taken on the International Space Station with its brand of instant espresso — we nicknamed is “ISSpresso” — Lavazza seems keen to take on home with its latest take on the instant espresso market.
It’s a slight departure from what we’ve seen from the company in the past, with Lavazza’s general espresso machines now getting a built-in milk frother, and that being the primary difference between this and its siblings.
Basically, if you bought one of the smaller Lavazza machines in the past — the Simpla, the Minu, or even the car friendly EspressGo — you were buying an instant espresso system made just for that: espresso drinks.
That is to say, you were buying it for the coffee. No milk texturing, no brother, just the coffee, with its top crema, but just the coffee.
Lavazza’s Fantasia is a little different, though, taking that formula already established for espresso with the other machines and throwing in a milk frothing appliance.
The machine looks a little different too, mind you, including a 1.2 litre removable water tank at the back, with an adjustable and removable drip tray that can be set to different heights depending on size of glass/mug you’re using, with these elements mostly made from plastic, though there’s a hint of metal on the drip tray.
Like other machines, you’ll also find a small expelled pod container built in, which can also be removed to empty out the spent plastic Lavazza coffee pods — and you’ll want to do this semi-regularly, since it can only hold a maximum of 11 capsules.
The machine also includes a thermoblock to heat up the water, and there are two espresso options — espresso and lungo (long) — to press, while the milk section can run three different foam settings, as well as different levels, with a small set of buttons to the left of the main foam settings used to designate foam height: low, medium (regular), and high.
Fill the water tank and plug the Fantasia in, and you’re practically ready to go, with one of Lavazza’s flat hat coffee pods all you need.
Switch the power on using the touch button, open up the machine using the lever, and drop the pod into place. There’s only one way these will fit, so make sure to follow the shape guide, and you’ll have coffee in no time, or much at all.
With the pod in place, close the door mechanism by bringing the lever down, and then pick the coffee you want to make.
Here’s where things get interesting.
While machines like the Simpla and the Minu were made primarily for espresso — the coffee only — the Fantasia can also deal with milk, and does so by frothing the milk in one of the magnetic texturisation appliances, spinning the milk in a plastic jug using a metal whisk.
To make the milk, you need to plug the tank into the Fantasia machine, which is normally an extra step on another machine, or an extra accessory that sits on its own little bay.
From the outside and the initial view, Lavazza’s Fantasia appears to integrate the milk frother to pour the steamed milk for you, but unfortunately, that’s not the case at all.
Rather, the frothing jug just uses the power of the machine to texturise the milk, and when it comes to pouring, you’ll have to do that for yourself.
Unlike the Nespresso range Lavazza’s Fantasia closely follows the style of — in this case the Lattissima machines — there is no automatic pouring or injecting of milk, and when the froth is made, you will need to remove the Fantasia milk just from the unit and pour the foam out yourself. Not quite as convenient as we’d hoped, especially given the design.
Lavazza even gives you a sign that it won’t do this with indicators on the milk jug to tell you roughly how much milk you’ll need for the right amount of foam, because for the most part, you’re frothing for one drink here, not several that are measured by the machine.
Outside of the lack of milk frothing, you can use the Fantasia in the same way as other Lavazza espresso machines, producing an espresso drink by pressing a button.
It’s the same style of Lavazza machine we’re used to, albeit with two espresso lengths, not the one we’re used to see on Lavazza machines, and the coffee produced here is as you’d expect: pretty good for being stored in a pod, and a pod you can find in supermarkets no less, with no trip to a specialty store required.
If you want to have the milk, though, you basically prep the milk separately from the espresso, either running the Lavazza A Modo Mio capsule first or after the milk, and pour one before the other. We normally run the espresso first and then pour the milk, but it’s up to you with what you do.
You’re still going to have to pour the milk yourself, though, as the Fantasia won’t do that part, even though it looks like it should.
While we like Lavazza’s slightly more premium inspresso solution, its price is the one factor that makes no sense whatsoever. On the one hand, it’s clear that Lavazza is marketing the Fantasia as a Lattissima competitor, with the milk tank built into the body, allowing you to froth the milk before you make the cup of coffee, pouring it almost immediately.
But where Lavazza gets it wrong is the lack of automation, making you pour the milk yourself, while Nespresso’s Lattissima takes care of that for you, layering the coffee and prepping a textured milk drink for you.
Fantasia gets close to doing that with the milk frother relying on the machine to supply the energy and cutting down on an extra cord, but for $400, we’re not convinced.
As a point, Lavazza’s other machines do more or less the same thing, albeit without the milk frother, an accessory that Lavazza sells itself for $129, or that you can buy from a third party for between $30 and $129. Granted, you require an extra power plug for this, but you’re saving at least $100.
That being said, the accessory and how it uses the power isn’t anything all that new, and its main competitors that more or less do the exactly same thing — Nespresso’s UMilk, for instance — manage a price tag of around a hundred less. That alone makes the Fantasia hard to justify, unless of course you like Lavazza’s coffee a whole lot more than what Nespresso produces.
It’s this total lack of value that stops the Fantasia from being a great choice, and it’s the lack of an automated milk pourer that limits the Fantasia from being the Nespresso Lattissima competitor Lavazza is so hoping it will be, at least from the design point of view.
And that’s a shame, because the Lavazza system is fairly strong and provides not just great coffee in the home, but also out of it if you have one of the EspressGo machines the company created.
But in the Fantasia, it’s not a solid value, and you could do better. Hell, you could get better value with another Lavazza machine.