The Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP is one of the most lavish fully-automatic bean-to-cup coffee machines currently out there. For £2000 it’s designed to be a sophisticated one-stop-shop for no less than 21 pre-programmed international coffee specialities - as well as boasting meticulous personalised adjustment. But, here’s the big question, can a machine with such meticulous technicality truly replace ‘authentic’ manual espresso preparation and milk texturing?
The Caffeo Barista TSP has all the refinement aesthetically to greet contemporary kitchens with total compatibility, whether it be a marble or solid wooden worktop. The modernistic luminous control input and contrasting attractive chrome accenting, together with the use of stainless steel on the drip tray, top cup tray warmer (our capacity = 4 glasses), centre front body panel (black or silver) and removable insulated milk container - all combine to create an elegant spectacle for the eye. The remainder of the body is entirely black and constructed from plastic and we felt it was a nice contrast, particularly as this is primarily where the usefulness within this design is to be found. It conceals a 1.8l water tank, sealed dual bean hopper and pre-ground coffee entrance on the top. On the right there’s an unfastening side panel - to present the washable removable brewing unit. Above the brewing unit is a 5 setting grind slider. The tidy LED lit all-in-one spout output (can serve 2 drinks at once) for milk, hot water and coffee. Additionally this spout is height adjustable, allowing it to elevate for 14cm tall glasses, unfortunately it’s just shy of comfortably fitting our latte glasses (same problem with the Sage Barista Express) - but all the other glasses we ordinarily use did fit.
Despite such meticulous design refinement, to bring about a straightforward preparation for the owner whilst fusing it with the highly technical automation of the machine's ability, the attached power cable is amusingly short, we had no choice but to use a cable extender so it could reach a nearby plug. Another minor downside of the stylish Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP that comes from all its internal technical specifications, and something that may not be evident from our photos - is that it’s big! Unlike previous coffee machines we’ve reviewed like the Sage Barista Express or AEG Favola Cappuccino, which don’t take too much planning as to where to keep in the kitchen, this requires serious consideration due to its 27cm width by 39cm depth - the latter measurement was a concern for our worktops. Reassuringly, the wheels underneath make sliding the machine out and sideways to refill beans, water, etc - an easier labour if located underneath worktops with cupboards.
Interface & Drink Options
The interface is more similar to a smartphone than a coffee machine. Upon booting and rinsing itself in a speedy 1 minute the Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP will greet you (literally with salutations dependent on time of day) with a fairly attractive touch sensitive user interface and a properly backlit sharp TFT display. A menu button provides deep customisation of cleaning cycles, water hardness, date, time, etc all navigated by up and down touch control inputs. After a few hours of intermittent drink making, we didn’t feel timid of using the system and had a comprehensive understanding of it. The slider touch controls take a bit of getting used to as they’re somewhat laggy in responsiveness, but everything else was fluid and competent.
Highlights include 8 personal profiles that can be named and mean that the coffee maker remembers your favourite beverages exactly how you like them. We’ve taken full advantage of this at the studio. How it works is that you have 21 pre-programmed but completely configurable drinks to choose from within four categories, from these you can respectively assign specific choice using the first four self explanatory one-touch buttons on the Melitta’s front for each profile. Coffee strength, quantity of coffee, quantity of milk, the temperature and which bean hopper to use are all configurable for your drink. This really exhibits just how deeply Melitta have engineered this coffee machine to compete with authentic barista credentials. Even after we’ve customised our drink we can still change our minds whilst it’s brewing, allowing for adjustment of milk quantity and coffee strength via sliders - Melitta you’re meticulous to the end.
Performance & Taste Testing
Whilst coffee machines like the £549 Sage Barista Express come into many homes as a product to teach the art of espresso extraction and milk texturing - which the Sage does so brilliantly. The Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP is a machine that is designed to do the complete opposite. It’s literally a robot barista and its sheer speed in the art of drink making is indeed quite a spectacle! Over the past months we’ve been scrutinising its espresso and ‘sort-of’ ristretto capabilities, to see if these shots are full bodied and rich with aroma and flavour independently as well as when paired with their textured milk counterpart. Possibly of more signifiant interest is that we’ve been sampling the milk texturing proficiency with non-dairy options too. These include almond, oat and soya milks - all of which we universally agreed were creamier after being textured and dispensed from the Melitta than we can achieve through manual steaming. Most importantly consistency is hugely important when it comes to coffee and we were extremely happy that every drink was identical day after day (permitting that we used the same bean variety) and even we can’t achieve this level of exactness manually. The drinks covered in our taste testing below establish the core of the options available, with adjusted levels of milk and espresso to our preference. Many of the 21 coffee specialties selectable are iterations, with simple double and triple espresso options. The ones we didn't dive deeply into, that stand as unique options, were the Americano, lungo, and café au lait.
Espresso & Ristretto: Pre-infusion is evidently heard when the machine is executing anything to do with coffee, and this process expands the ground coffee with hot water and then increases the pressure to 15 bars to extract espresso. The bodies of these shots appear with an almost nectar-like extraction, concluding with an initial layering and deliciously sweet crema. Despite the manual telling us to refrain from adjusting the grind setting dial located on the side of the Caffeo Barista TSP until used for one year, we did adjust it anyway, and the sheer differences in taste and aroma are HUGE! Whilst it doesn't have the intricacy of the 15 different grind settings offered with the Sage Barista Express, it can without doubt make exemplary espresso at the press of a button. From our experimenting we discovered that the best grind results, allowing us to set and forget across fruity, citrusy and dark faceted bean varieties, were found at setting 3.
The specifics of an espresso shot is a 30ml quantity of liquid extracted over 30 seconds - however, Melitta’s default recipe is 40ml which can be adjusted to a minimum of the traditional 30ml. A ristretto is normally a 15ml shot with a 15 second extraction time, and here the Melitta can cause confusion because it extracts 30ml ristretto shots. So is there any difference between the espresso and ristretto? When we look at the disposed grounds in the collection bucket within the drip tray it appears to us that the Caffeo Barista TSP doses a fair bit higher than that of a traditional manual espresso shot (possibly a double shot), perhaps an engineering requirement allowing for the definitive quality of a double ristretto at its 30ml minimal output? However, if we leave this mildly confusing unanswerable question behind, the results of a 30ml shot of each have no differentiating taste between them - leaving us to conclude that they are the same.
Latte Macchiato: Delicate paced pouring and richly textured milk is essential for the layering of a macchiato. With our concerns focused on the espresso extraction landing directly onto the milk, it seemed likely that layering could be minimally pronounced. However, as our photo illustrates, the layering is a picture perfect latte macchiato made with 60ml of coffee over 130ml of milk. The entire drink tasted lightly aerated, and what was specifically pleasingly was that our rich full bodied espresso, voyaging in layers through the drink conveying the aromas and flavour, changed as we sipped our way further to the bottom of the glass. Absolutely first class latte macchiatos every time.
Flat White: This Australian import is our favourite espresso based beverage, and we consume them with more frequency than any other. The rule of thumb is to use whole milk, but we tend to stick with good quality semi-skimmed milk when manually texturing and still gain excellent results. So we challenged this automatic method and it stood its ground pretty well. Whilst we didn't feel the semi-skimmed milk was as silky as we can achieve via manual texturing, it was still creamy. In contrast, when using whole milk (90ml) results seemed just about on par with our manual texturing and, dare we say it, produced a flawless flat white! The crema from the espresso sat proudly on the top of the drink as it should, so every sip featured the unique flavour profile of generous sweet crema and micro-foamed milk.
Cappuccino: While we’ve become a little tired of this iconic Italian favourite now, we don’t have any complaints to make. It was refreshing to see a lack of dry foam on the top - which is hugely popular amongst UK baristas for some reason? This is when we remembered that the Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP is a German engineered product and therefore serves the recipe of a cappuccino how it was originally served in Europe. So the foam on top is thankfully wet and not ludicrously excessive in quantity to distract from the actual beverage. Assuredly the body was beautifully textured and quite sweet due to the higher ratio of milk (ours 120ml) and espresso (30ml) to that of our flat white. Although the espresso element proved impactful and flavoursome even from more fruity bean blends.
Cafè Latte: Very similar to the above cappuccino - except we prepared ours with the UK standard milk quantity which equals 240ml to one shot of longer pulled 45ml espresso in this instance. A hugely popular drink throughout the UK, but we personally don’t enjoy this with a single shot of espresso; the pale complexion and subtle espresso aroma is too bland for our tongues. The milk texture is silky and rich - but this is best served for people who prefer milk over coffee. Once we included an extra shot, added with ease, just as if we ordered a café latte from a barista, it proved to be a far more enjoyable drink.
Café creme: On a manual machine such a beverage needs a course grind, otherwise the technique that is required of running all the hot water through too finely ground coffee will result in harsh notes - preventing the potential of flavours. It takes a few tries to perfect manually, but via this automated bean to cup method, at the grind setting stipulated above, it was literally perfect every time. Crema wasn’t destroyed and what was noticed almost immediately by all of us was that the body preserved a naturally smooth and substantial texture from the coffee oils. Comparatively an Americano tastes a bit dull and strangely watery in contrast, even with extraction from identical beans.
Clean Up and Maintenance
The machine looks after itself and you. Loaded with sensors, it reports details of low bean levels, when the drip tray needs emptying, when the water tank is running low, and somehow knows when we enter pre-ground coffee into the specified shoot. Convenience factors we take for granted everyday, like the used coffee being thrown internally into a bin within the drip tray and the self cleaning of the milk tube by plugging it into the drip tray and purging, are satisfyingly hassle-free and the insulated milk jug is kept in the fridge so that we don’t need to clean it everyday. For new owners the screen highlights, via a diagram, exactly where the necessary task needs to be undertaken. Our favourite feature is the self-cleaning abilit of the Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP. Upon switching this coffee machine on and turning it off, it will automatically rinse/purge itself - but be careful not to leave your glass under the spout on startup for this reason! It will also inform you as to when to descale, when it will perform a more intensive system-wide clean.
The Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP is loaded with technology that not only automates drink making but also looks after itself. We give huge credit to the user interface, which allows anyone who partakes in the drinking of coffee - regardless of tamping, extraction times, grind or milk temperature knowledge - to do so very easily. Assuredly the level of automation offered makes the hardest part of using it come down to the decision of which roast of coffee beans to buy. We can definitely see the attraction; after all, so many of us partake in purchasing barista made coffee from various outlets. If you’re in no way interested in manual methods and want a bean-to-cup method that can truly rival the quality, then this is a phenomenal option for silky textured milk and full bodied espresso. As funny as it may sound, the Melitta Caffeo Barista TSP could pay for itself surprisingly quickly if it replaces your daily visit to the coffee shop.