Incredible espresso and milk drinks, and the dual bean hopper make the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS the automatic machine for coffee lovers
If you absolutely want the best coffee going, we’ve always thought that you needed to opt for a manual espresso machine. We admit it, we were wrong, and we were more than happy to have our assertion challenged by the phenomenal Melitta Caffeo Barista TS. This fully automatic bean-to-cup machine does everything for you, from grinding and pouring espressos, to automatically frothing milk drinks. The real key to its success is that it’s hugely tweakable, letting you fine-tune the types of drinks it produces. It even takes two types of bean at once (there’s a split hopper), so you can vary your drinks even more, say one espresso roast and one lighter roast. In other words, it’s a bean-to-cup machine designed fully for coffee enthusiasts.
Added to all of that, it’s one of the best-looking bean-to-cup machines that we’ve seen. Its glossy black plastic and chromed finish give this machine the high-quality looks we’d expect from a high-end coffee machine. Although it’s hugely tuneable, getting the Caffeo Barista TS set up for the first time is easy, following the simple instructions. You need to fit the water filter and adjust your water hardness, using the provided test strip. You also need to fill the 1.8L water tank, which slots neatly into the side of the machine.
One of the best things about this coffee machine is that there’s a shortcut button for the majority of drinks that you want on the front of the machine, including espresso, cafe creme, cappuccino and latte. You just tap the touch button you want and the machine uses its pre-sets to make the drink of your choice, which includes the volume to pour and the beans to use.
There are also dedicated controls to override any of the settings, so you can choose which beans to use, how strong to make the coffee and the volume. It’s brilliantly easy to use and the handy LCD shows you exactly what you’ve selected, so that you know what’s going on. Our one minor complaint is that, as with all touch controls, they sometimes need a couple of taps before they register your press. Generally, though, we had no major problems.
Before you start, you may want to warm your cups on the cup warmer at the top of the machine and you can even use the hot-water button if you want a quicker method.
Espresso and long blacks
Once you’ve selected your type of drink, the Caffeo Barista goes away and starts preparing your drink. You’ll notice that once your coffee has been ground, you can hear the grinder spinning away on empty. Don’t worry, this is intentional: this ensures that the grinder is empty of beans so that when you switch to the other beans you don’t get any cross contamination.
Then the coffee starts to pour, and what coffee it produces. We’re used to the best automatic machines coming close to what you can achieve with a manual espresso maker, but the Caffeo Barista is as good, if not better, than what you can produce. Dark, rich espresso pours out of the dual spouts into your cup. The crema is spot on, too: it’s thick, reddish-brown and has that perfect oily constancy with no foam. Taste is just as good as the coffee looks, with all of the flavour extracted from our test beans, and a full-bodied flavour coming through.
That’s not to say that you don’t need to spend some time getting the machine set up. While the out-of-the-box settings are good, some tweaking dramatically improves things. For starters, you can adjust the grind, by moving the dial on the right-hand side of the machine. This impacts on the flavour and strength of your coffee, as well as its appearance.
We also found that our first espresso was a little cool, at just 57C, but coffee temperature can be adjusted in the settings menu. Using the High setting, we measured it at 63C, which is just about spot on for our tastes.
When it comes to frothing milk, the Caffeo Barista TS is just as good, and it’s also rather neat and tidy thanks to the clever design, which lets you place the milk hose on the left- or right-hand side of the outlet. When you’re not using the hose, the tube plugs into the drip tray, so it’s completely out of the way.
When you want to make milk drinks, you have to hook the pipe into a milk container. You then tap the button to make the milk drink you fancy and sit back while the coffee machine does all of the hard work for you. Now, steaming milk automatically is a tricky job that not all machines get right, but the Caffeo Barista is superb, and we ended up with a near-perfect latte: rich, with a smooth foamy top to it. That really is impressive.
One of the issues with a lot of automatic machines is that you have to pre-set the amount of drink to dispense, which can mean that end up with a cup that either overflows or is under-filled. While the Caffeo Barista TS has pre-set dispense amounts, you can also top up with hot water and milk as you see fit: just tap the relevant button to start and tap it again to stop.
Customisation and further drinks
As good as the default options are, we started this review by saying that the Caffeo Barista is a coffee lover’s dream, because of how customisable it is. The range of operations is incredible. To start with you can adjust the type of coffee that the short-cut buttons deliver. This includes the basics (strength, beans to use, temperature and volume), but also the recipe. For example, you can change the espresso button to deliver a ristretto, lungo or other short drink; the cafe creme can be changed for an americano, long black or other long drink; and there’s a huge choice of milk-based drinks, including flat white, latte macchiato and espresso macchiato. With any of the milk drinks, you can also adjust the amount of froth you get.
While you may want to get the basic buttons set up the way you want, there’s a second level of customisation via the My Coffee menu. Using this you can set up to four user profiles, each one configured to give the person the drink they want when they hit one of the short-cut buttons. For example, you may want a shot of espresso, but someone else in the house may want a double. In short, there’s a staggering amount of customisation, which means that people get the type of drink that suits their palette.
Every manual machine needs some maintenance to keep it working smoothly, but the Caffeo Barista TS is one of the least intrusive and least annoying we’ve used. It helps that it uses its LCD to tell you what to do and when to do it, so that you don’t have to refer to the manual. While this help’s good, it’s the fact that maintenance is quick, convenient and easy that really makes this machine stand out. When you turn it on, it runs a short rinse cycle, which you can either put into a cup or let drain into the drip tray.
Milk cleaning can be hugely annoying, but again, this machine is brilliant. After you make a milk drink, all you have to do is put the hose into the drip tray and short cleaning cycle, including steam, runs. It’s very quick, makes no mess and is a big improvement on other machines we’ve tested. Other than that, it’s a matter of regularly emptying the drip tray and used coffee puck bin, and refilling the water reservoir, all of which the machine prompts you to do.
Then, you’ve got the other jobs that come with a coffee machine, such as descaling, which has to be done every three months or when the coffee machine prompts you. It’s a simple job, with clear instructions and a dedicated descaling mode. It’s worth mentioning that the brewing unit can be unclipped from the side, letting you easily clean it and remove coffee grounds from the inside.
The Melitta Caffeo Barista TS is nothing short of outstanding and it’s the first automatic machine that we’d seriously swap a manual machine for. It’s easy to use, produces excellent coffee and does an amazing job of frothing milk. With a huge number of customisation options and the dual bean hopper, it really is a machine for coffee lovers. It’s without a doubt, the best automatic machine and one of the best coffee machines full stop, that we have ever used. If it’s not quite what you’re looking for, our best coffee machine article will have something to suit your needs.
|Maximum mug height||145mm|
|Milk frothing||Yes (automatic)|
|Number of boilers||One|
|Coffee type||Coffee beans|
|Adjustable strength||Yes (five steps)|
|Warranty||Two-years (15,000 cups) RTB|