Easy to use
Quickly makes espresso drinks
Espresso is weak
Tamper is poorly made
If you’re in the market for an espresso/cappuccino machine, there is a wide spectrum on the market ranging from low-budget to top-of-the-line options. Some espresso machines are completely manual and require a lot of time and energy but leave plenty of room for customization. Others function completely automatically. One middle-ground option is the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista. We took this semi-automatic machine for a spin and made many drinks with it to determine how well it delivers on quality, setup, ease of use, cleanup, and price. Take a look to see the final results.
Design: Conveniently designed
We found that the overall design of this coffee maker was well-thought-out because all of its parts are labeled clearly. This helped a lot when we first started using the machine. Plus, parts are all removable, which is convenient for cleaning and refilling.
The buttons on the front of the machine are clearly labeled with the corresponding drink, and there are manual and automatic options. The milk reservoir conveniently fits within the unit, and it’s removable, so leftover milk can be stored in the fridge when not in use. The frother also has a clearly labeled knob that controls how much froth goes into each drink. There is an included measuring spoon that doubles as a tamper, used for pressing the coffee grounds into the portafilter. There are two filters that fit into the portafilter: one for a single shot and one for a double shot.
Additionally, there are two drip trays. One tray sits within the unit underneath the portafilter, catering to full-size mugs. The second tray pulls out from underneath the milk reservoir, creating less room for the espresso to spill out for those who prefer a smaller cup. The water reservoir in the back is removable so the user can easily fill it up, dump out any excess water after usage, and clean it.
As for aesthetics, this machine is both sleek- and modern-looking. We have the silver version with black details, and it easily fits in with the rest of our kitchen appliances.
Setup Process: Simple and straightforward
We found the setup for the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista to be simple. This was partly due to the simplicity of the machine but can also be attributed to the included instructions, which were easy to understand. Before using it for the first time, we needed to wash all of the removable parts with warm water and soap. We also had to prime the machine, which involved running it through a few cycles with just water. Then the machine was ready to go.
To make an espresso, we picked the filter size we wanted (single or double) and placed it into the portafilter. Next, we scooped our grounds into the filter and pressed them down with the tamper until they were about ⅛-inch below the top of the filter (per the manual's recommendation). We attached the portafilter to the machine and placed a small cup on the pull-out drip tray. Then, we pressed the top button, or the “Espresso” button (one time for a single shot, twice for a double), and let the machine do its work.
Though the process is easy and fun to watch, the espresso itself was weak.
To make a cappuccino or a latte, the process pretty much stays the same as when making an espresso shot except that there is the added step of adding milk to the milk reservoir. After attaching the portafilter with coffee grounds into the machine, we filled the reservoir with milk (the manual doesn’t suggest a specific amount). The machine dispenses the appropriate amount of milk froth based on the beverage selected. We also used the tray that created more space in the unit so that a full-size mug could sit under the portafilter.
Next, we made sure that the frothed milk dispensing tube was directed into our cup. We also adjusted the froth control knob to control how much froth was added to the drink. We then pressed the “Cappuccino” button (once for a small beverage, twice for a large) and let the machine do its work. The process is the same for a latte, except that you press the “Latte” button.
Performance: Quick results
The process of making an espresso shot or espresso drink with the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista is quick and easy because it’s mostly automatic. Overall, we were impressed with our results considering the lack of effort involved. This machine can actually make espresso beverages with the touch of a single button, which is a major advantage. We made plain espresso shots, lattes, and cappuccinos.
For espresso drinks using the “Cappuccino” or “Latte” buttons, the machine actually froths the milk in the reservoir and places it into the cup. Afterward, it makes a single or double shot of espresso and adds it to the cup. However, we found that though the process is easy and fun to watch, the espresso itself was weak. We noticed it mostly when drinking cappuccinos and lattes because the added milk waters down the espresso taste even further.
This machine can actually make espresso beverages with the touch of a single button, which is a major advantage.
This could be attributed to the fact that the machine adds too much water volume to the espresso shot when using the automatic function. However, this machine can be controlled manually by pressing and holding the drink buttons. But even so, the user can only control how much espresso (not the water to espresso ratio) or how much milk gets added to their drink, which didn’t make that much of a difference in taste. The weak espresso also could be due to the tamping pressure. The tamper is made out of plastic, which didn’t allow us to apply a lot of pressure on the coffee grounds.
When coffee grounds aren’t tamped firmly enough for an espresso shot, the water flows through the grounds too fast, and therefore is under-extracted. We weren’t able to apply that much pressure with the included tamper, so our grounds were probably too loose, creating that weak flavor as well.
Ease of Cleaning: Requires thorough cleaning after each use
After using the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista, it requires thorough cleaning to properly care for it. We found the entire cleaning process to be pretty time-consuming because it required running the machine a couple of times to clean out its internal parts.
To clean it out after making an espresso, we removed the portafilter and dumped out the espresso grounds. There is a lever that flips up on the portafilter handle that latches onto the filter so it doesn’t fall out when dumping the grounds. We found this to be very useful. Next, we rinsed both the portafilter and filter with warm water. We then reattached the portafilter to the unit without any coffee grounds and ran it through a single espresso cycle. The manual says to remove the portafilter after running it through a cycle.
We found the entire cleaning process to be pretty time-consuming because it required running the machine a couple of times to clean out its internal parts.
If a milk-based drink was made, the milk reservoir also needs to be cleaned. To do so, leave the leftover milk in the reservoir, and place a large cup under the frothing tube. Adjust the froth control knob to the clean position. Next, press and hold the “Latte/Clean” button until the machine starts up. Once the machine stops, dispose of the contents in the cup and the remaining milk. Thoroughly wash the milk reservoir and all its parts. This piece and the lid are dishwasher safe.
The manual also recommends dumping out the excess water left in the water reservoir in between uses and then cleaning out with soapy water. The water reservoir, the portafilter, and the filters are not dishwasher safe.
Price: An inexpensive semi-automatic system
The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista retails around $250, which is a really affordable option for an at-home espresso machine. Compared to some of the cheaper alternatives, this one wins out because it is semi-automatic. With this machine, it’s easy to make cappuccinos and lattes at the touch of a button. Other machines often require a much more involved process.
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista vs. DeLonghi EC 155 Manual Espresso Machine
A top-competing low-cost espresso machine is the DeLonghi EC 155 Manual Espresso Machine, which we also tested. Retailing around $100, this machine also makes fresh espresso shots and froths milk for cappuccinos and lattes. The main difference, however, lies in their systems. The DeLonghi machine has a more involved process.
As the name suggests, it has a manual system and requires the user to froth his or her own milk and control the espresso dispersal. This kind of control can be to the benefit of more experienced users, but newbies may find this troublesome as it can lead to bad-tasting beverages on the first few attempts. The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista, on the other hand, is semi-automatic, which makes the process of making cappuccinos and lattes simple.
For someone who is new to making espresso drinks, the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista is much more ideal because of its easy-to-use system and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of espresso-making to get a decent drink.
- Product Name Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista
- Product Brand Mr. Coffee
- MPN BVMC-ECMP1000-RB
- Price $249.99
- Weight 10.37 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 12.6 x 8.86 x 11.22 in.
- Watts 1,040
- Warranty 1 year, limited