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Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart review: The perfect coffee machine? Almost

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
999
inc VAT

An utterly brilliant, fully automatic coffee machine, but the extra smart features need work and it's expensive

Pros 
Hugely flexible
Twin bean hoppers and ground coffee support
Easy to clean and maintain
Cons 
App has connectivity and stability issues
Pricey
Very large
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What’s the most reliable way to produce a proper espresso at home? Until we tested the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS a couple of years back, the answer to that question would always be to buy a high-quality manual espresso machine, a proper burr grinder and put some time into learning how to use those pieces of equipment properly.

I’d still say it’s worth learning the basics – there’s a certain satisfaction in being in full control, producing something that looks and tastes great with your own two hands – but the Caffeo Barista TS Smart does it so well that you don’t have to if don’t want to.

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Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart review: What you need to know

The Melitta Barista TS Smart is, at its heart, a fully automatic bean to cup coffee machine. You put your beans one of two hoppers at the top (allowing you to have two different types on the go at any one time), fill the reservoir it up with water, then select your drink from the panel or menu at the front and it’ll do the rest for you.

It comes with a milk reservoir and can froth milk for you, too, so you’re not just limited to espresso and americano but can choose from a huge selection of milk-based coffees as well.

We’ve already reviewed the Barista TS a couple of years back and were very impressed with the range of drinks it’s capable of producing and the quality of those drinks. This new version is just as good. In fact, it’s almost identical to the original Barista TS; the main difference is that you can select and customise your coffee recipes from the screen of your smartphone, via the Melitta Connect app.

Melitta Caffeo  Barista TS Smart review: Price and competition

The Barista TS Smart may be brilliant but it certainly isn’t cheap. It costs £999, which even for a fully automatic bean-to-cup machine is pretty pricey. You don’t have to spend this much on a bean-to-cup machine. The Melitta Caffeo Varianza CSP is now £500, for instance, and also produces superb coffee. The difference is that it isn’t as flexible or as feature-packed as the Barista TS Smart.

One competitor it isn’t necessarily worth considering is the original Barista TS. Brilliant though it is, it’s now around the same price now as the TS Smart – more expensive in some places – so if you’ve decided to purchase the Melitta machine, the Barista TS Smart is the one you want to buy.

In fact, the main competition to the Melitta at this price comes from the Sage Barista Touch, the king of mid-range manual espresso makers. That costs £999, has a built-in coffee grinder but requires you to take a little more control of the coffee making process than the Caffeo Barista TS Smart.

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart review: Features and design

This is a brilliant coffee machine but it’s also a pretty big one. And when I say big, I mean BIG. It’s not so much the height or the width but the depth that could be a problem – it only just fits on a standard 60cm kitchen worktop leaving a little over the width of a coffee cup in front of it.

If you have the cash, though, it’s well worth finding the space to squeeze this machine in because it produces coffee-shop quality drinks with the minimum of effort, is easy to clean and looks great.

The most impressive thing about the Melitta Barista TS Smart is its ease of use. From the front panel you can brew up to five different types of coffee at a single touch and there are also sliders here so you can tweak the amount of coffee and the strength of the brew as you go.

It’s possible to customise each of the preset buttons to supply a drink type of your choice and there’s a whole load of presents to choose from, too. In fact, there are 21 available, from familiar standards like cappuccino and latte through to more obscure choices like black eye, red eye and espresso macchiato.

It’s also incredibly flexible. Coffee beans vary so much in both flavour and intensity that you need to adjust things like temperature, flow rate and grind size to get things just so; the good news is that you can do precisely that with the Barista Smart. Grind size is adjusted with a lever under the right-hand panel, while “intensity” and temperature can be tweaked in the menu or through the Melitta Connect App.

With two bean hoppers up top, you can quickly switch between different flavours of coffee and, if you fancy something else, it's also possible to add ground coffee one cup at a time. Beware, though, grounds do have a tendency to stick to the chute, so make sure you get in there with a brush regularly or it'll get nasty in there.

The machine also produces a top quality milk froth – again completely automatically – and it’s possible to control whether this is poured before or after the coffee is brewed. In this way, you can make a cappuccino (coffee, then milk) or a latte macchiato (milk, then coffee) with the same machine. All-in-all, the Caffeo Barista TS Smart is a superb coffee making machine, whether you like your coffee strong and short or long and milky.

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart review: Smart features

It’s the app that sets the Melitta TS Smart above most automatic coffee machines, though, and this is available on both Android and iOS. It connects via Bluetooth so you need to be in the same room to operate the machine but this isn’t a huge limitation. While you can’t control the machine from another room this isn’t a huge problem, since none of the drinks takes that long to make.

And it makes setting up new drinks, tweaking flavours and finding out how to clean and maintain the machine’s various parts a lot easier than using the screen on the TS Smart and its touch-sensitive buttons, which sometimes take a couple of presses to activate.

At its most basic the app allows you to connect, then select from the machine’s 21 presets from your phone to make a drink. But there’s more to it than just this. You can also change and customise the one-touch coffee buttons on the front panel via the app – again, a much simpler job via the app than it is via the Barista TS Smart’s own colour LCD.

It’s also possible to download extra coffee recipes and create your own, tweaking the amount of coffee produced, the temperature of the water used and amount of milk you want to add, the coffee strength and aroma. The grind size is adjusted manually via a lever under the right-hand panel, but that’s just about the only element you can’t adjust via the app. You can also alter the order that water, coffee and milk are added.

The app isn’t perfect. Using the iOS version, I found it would crash occasionally and throw random connection error, especially when reconnecting with the app still open. The cleaning instructions aren’t especially clever. If you forget to switch off before removing the brewing unit, for example, the app generates a rather unhelpful alert box, then locks you out until you’ve reinserted it – but it doesn’t tell you exactly where you’ve gone wrong.

The software clearly needs a little development work. For tweaking and changing recipe settings, however, it does work very well and it makes using the Barista TS much, much easier than with the touch screen.

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart review: Cleaning and maintenance

Cleaning and maintaining a fully automatic coffee machine can often be tedious and more involved than you might at first expect, but even here the Melitta Barista TS Smart excels.

The machine regularly carries out quick rinses and runs steam through the milk pipe and nozzle to ensure milk residue doesn’t collect and turn to cheese. Quick rinsing is fully automatic and takes seconds while cleaning out the milk pipe requires you to disconnect the pipe from the milk carafe and connect it to the spill tray. The machine takes you through everything, step by step on the screen.

More involved cleaning cycles such as descaling work in a similar way. The machine decides when they need to be done then bugs you every time you turn it on until you’ve completed those jobs. Again, the procedures are detailed step by step on the screen at the front, or you can choose to run through them in the smartphone app instead.

All good stuff; the Barista TS even warns you when the spill tray is full and the water needs topping up. But there’s one key caveat. While you do get a nudge to run descaling and coffee system cleaning, there’s no automatic prompt to tell you to remove and rinse out the brewing unit. This needs to be carried every week and, if you don’t do it, you’ll end up with mouldy coffee grounds clinging to the mechanism inside. Not nice.

Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart review: Verdict

It’s pricey, but there still isn’t a better fully automatic coffee machine that we’ve come across than the Melitta Barista TS, and this Smart version elevates it to another level. It produces superb-quality coffee quickly and without fuss, it’s incredibly easy to use and simple to maintain.

It’s flexible, too, allowing you to create your own recipes and store them for future use or simply tweak and customise the 21 presets supplied with the machine.

In short, if you want a machine that can do everything for you but you like the idea of being able to create your own drinks, too, the Melitta Barista TS Smart is the coffee machine for you. It’s simply superb.

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