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If you have limited kitchen space like I do, you’re always trying to find machines capable of tackling more jobs.
The trick, of course, is to avoid compromising on the end results at the same time!
In this Mr Coffee Cafe Barista review, I’m taking a closer look at a very popular combination coffee maker.
It’s designed to deliver knockout lattes and cappuccinos, at the push of a button, and without compromising on quality. Does it really live up to its reputation though?
What to look for
All-in-one machines like the Cafe Barista are designed to pack lots of functionality into one coffee maker.
I think a machine like the Cafe Barista is ideal if you want one machine that can make many coffee drinks. You’ll also favor convenience alongside quality.
In other words, you want a really good cup of coffee, but you don’t want to have to do any tweaking or tinkering to get there!
If you want more control over the brewing process, then I’d recommend looking into something like a semi-automatic espresso machine instead.
The best of these produce truly outstanding coffee, and give you much more control over the entire brewing process.
At the same time though, you do have to be willing to roll your sleeves up and work on your steaming, frothing and foaming skills!
Here are some things to think about when you’re looking into this sort of coffee maker.
- Frothing Control: How much control do you want – or need – over the milk frothing process? If all you want is a button-push cappuccino or latte, make sure the machine can accommodate this. If you want fine control over the foaming, you’ll need a coffee maker that lets you take more manual control over the steaming wand.
- Ease of Use: These machines are designed to be as simple to operate as possible. Look for a coffee maker that keeps things as simple as possible. It should let you clearly – and quickly – navigate the drink settings you need, without any unnecessary control clutter.
- Reservoirs: Make sure the milk and water reservoirs are easy to remove, refill and clean too. I’m not aware of any machines at this level that let you plumb directly into the water supply. You need to make sure the reservoirs are generous enough that you won’t have to fill them up after every other drink.
- Dimensions: Most all-in-one machines have a pretty compact design. You’ll still need to allow extra space to get the water and/or milk reservoir out of the main housing. Check the manufacturer’s specs and then allow enough space all around the area you intend to keep the machine. Front-loaded reservoirs are a lot easier to handle, for obvious reasons!
Mr. Coffee’s Cafe Barista is a combination espresso, cappuccino and latte machine. It’s designed to be as hands-off as possible, taking care of each stage of the brewing process for you.
The fact that it handles so much of the process automatically means you have few options when it comes to tweaking the brew though.
While you can, of course, choose the coffee you put into it (and opt for different coarseness, for example), there are no options for tweaking the strength or brew time on this coffee maker.
That of course is a big benefit for its target audience, who want convenient, button-push coffee. It’s simply how the machine is positioned in the market.
In the box you get the machine itself, a measuring spoon / tamper (more on that later), and a pair of filters. These little metal trays – one for single and one for double shots – fit inside the portafilter, which is also included.
You simply place the one you want to use inside the filter, add your coffee, tamp it down, and then swivel the portafilter into the machine.
From here you just select your drink options (including milk setting) and the Cafe Barista takes care of everything else.
It’s pretty simple stuff, in other words, but convenience is the name of the game here!
- A simple machine that still produces very good cappuccinos and lattes.
- This Mr Coffee espresso maker creates dark, rich espresso with a full crema.
- Water reservoir is quite generous, and big enough for the average household.
- Very easy to clean and care for.
- Smart, modern design. I think it looks great on the countertop!
- Needs a few cleaning cycles on set-up to achieve a high brewing temperature.
- Very little control over the milk preparation.
- Plastic tamper included with the machine really isn’t up to the job.
- You’ll want to buy a bean grinder separately for best results.
- I’ve seen reports that the machine doesn’t have a particularly long lifespan.
That’s a very broad overview of the Mr Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker, but in the next section I’m going to take a much closer look at how the machine works in practice.
The Cafe Barista brews coffee with a 15 bar pump system.
That hits the minimum pressure you want an espresso making machine to operate at. The end result is a bold, well-extracted shot of coffee, ready for the next stage of your drink.
There’s no grinder built into the Cafe Barista though, so you’ll be stuck with using pre-ground coffee.
Alternatively, you could consider buying a dedicated grinder alongside the machine. Personally I think this is a worthwhile investment, as you get a much better brew using whole beans.
Regardless, the espresso from the Cafe Barista is pretty good given how it’s targeted in the market. It goes without saying though that the better the beans you use, the better the end result will be.
To help you get started, you also get a recipe book out of the box. It’ll give you plenty of ideas to start working with, and I think that’s a nice touch by Mr. Coffee.
As for the milk preparation stage, the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista includes a very simple dial on the milk reservoir. This lets you choose the type of milk foam you want for the drink you’re making.
Turning it to the right sets things up for a pretty good foamy cappuccino. Move the dial to the left instead if you want to prepare a smoother latte.
(Just make sure you’ve directed the milk spout into the cup first. If you forget to do so it’s going to make a real mess!)
Although you do get a reasonable amount of control over the density of the foam you create, you shouldn’t expect to flex your barista muscles too much with this thing.
There’s a very narrow range of options to work with, but ultimately this is a machine designed to do the hard work for you.
If you want a coffee maker that’s going to give you much more control over this stage of the process, you might look to read our guide to the best semi-automatic espresso machines.
I’ve also highlighted a similar Mr Coffee machine that provides more frothing control towards the end of this review.
You obviously don’t want a lot of milk sitting around at room temperature for too long.
Once you’re done making your drink, the front-facing milk reservoir detaches really easily. Once it’s out, you can just pop the whole thing in your refrigerator.
That’s great for saving on waste, and means you don’t have to worry too much about getting quantities perfect.
Likewise the water reservoir – located at the rear of the machine – comes out easily enough for refilling.
Check your kitchen space carefully before buying the Cafe Barista though. You’ll need enough space around the top or sides to get the tank out.
I really like how simple the controls are on the Cafe Barista
Just three buttons allow you to navigate all the options that are available. If you want a double shot version of each drink, you simply press the related button twice. Just make sure you’ve set the portafilter up with the right size first.
Finally, the On / Off switch is located at the rear of the machine.
Overall I think it’s very intuitive to use and I don’t think anyone will struggle to find their way around everything this coffee maker’s capable of.
Although you get all the accessories you need out of the box – including separate filters for single or double espresso shots – I would definitely recommend picking up a separate, sturdier tamper alongside the machine.
The one that’s included isn’t terrible but it is plastic and flimsy. You want to be able to use a little bit of force when tamping your grounds, and I don’t think the one that’s included with the Cafe Barista is up to the job.
By all means give the supplied tamper a go before shelling out any more money! Just be aware this may end up being an extra expense for you in the long run.
All in all I think the Cafe Barista is a pretty good combination coffee maker. There are some great alternative machines that you might want to consider alongside it though.
If you’re particularly keen on having more control over the milk preparation stage, you might want to consider this alternative Mr Coffee espresso machine instead.
It has the same 15 bar pump system, but you have more control over the frothing process. Unlike the Cafe Barista, this machine also lets you prepare two separate drinks at the same time.
Keurig K-Cups – and other pod machines – offer very convenient coffee brewing. That does mean you’re going to be spending quite a lot of money on pods in the long run.
Keurig’s K-Cafe machine is a popular coffee maker in this category though, and is very simple to use. It’s also got a pretty beefy 60oz water reservoir as well, so you won’t need to refill the thing constantly!
De’Longhi has a well-deserved reputation for making really high quality coffee machines. I think the BCO430BM is a very worthy alternative to Mr.Coffee’s machine.
As well as sharing that 15 bar pressure system, the machine also includes some patented De’Longhi tech. That helps it achieve a really rich extraction. There’s a lot more flexibility in terms of the milk froth it makes too.
These machines are all designed to pack plenty of versatility into one coffee maker, be easy to use, and still deliver really good lattes and cappuccinos.
In that sense, I think the Cafe Barista does a very good job of living up to its promise. The controls are really simple, the coffee’s very good, and the automatic frother means consistent results every time.
Click here to find out more about this popular machine, and see how other people have been getting on with it.