After noticing espresso shops were putting a decent dent in our budget despite our owning an espresso machine at home, I set out on a mission to find an automatic espresso machine. I remembered my dad having a coffee maker that was on an alarm. He set it and woke up to hot coffee. However, my husband has a preference for mochas—which after a tip cost us about $7 a pop! He rarely used his manual machine because he just doesn’t have time in the morning (he’s so not a morning person), but on investigation it seemed there was no such thing as an alarm clock espresso machine. Really, that made sense, being as you have to have milk frothed. After a lot of research I came upon an affordable automatic espresso machine that came as close to that alarm clock espresso machine as I could get—the Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker with automatic milk frother. He loves it, enough so I’d like to review and recommend it to all the coffee-desperate, but time-short parents of my page.
Mr. Coffee Café Barista automatic espresso machine review:
At a glance: 2 minute warm up (can be put on plug timer), 2 minutes to complete 15. oz mocha.= 5 minutes maximum with extra shots.
First, since my main goal was a fast morning automatic espresso machine, let’s look at the time involved in making a mocha with the Mr. Coffee Café Barista. We prep the machine the night before by grinding beans and filling the machine with water and grounds, place a cup below the spout ready with chocolate powder, then fill the milk reservoir and place it in the fridge. We also set out machine up on a plug-in timer. This allows the machine to power on and heat up before you wake up, though warm up time on this unit is only about 2 minutes. By doing so, the machine is hot when we get to it, so all that’s required is grabbing and inserting the milk reservoir and pressing “latte” twice. On several timings it took 2 minutes for the drink to complete. This 2 minutes is entirely hands free. My husband likes extra shots, so he comes back and hits a double shot, this adds another about 60 seconds. So, if you are home 2 minutes before leaving for work, you’ve got time to make a mocha at home with this.
At a glance: Comparable to coffee-shack espresso (professional barista’s opinion)
Ok, so it’s fast, but is the coffee good? With automatic espresso machines, aside from the beans you use and the grind process you use on those beans, you’re really looking at the shot quality and milk frothing ability. The Mr. Coffee Café Barista automatic espresso machine has a 15-bar pump which offers some serious frothing power. While some reviews I read stated it just “blew bubbles into heated milk,” I disagree. As someone who has worked as an actual barista, I’d rate the froth on par with coffee-shop machines (assuming the barista knows what they are doing that is), in fact, on its highest foam setting this machine puts out more foam than I’ve ever seen achieved with a commercial machine and it does have the flavor of properly steamed milk. The shot quality does depend on your grind, however. It’s important you use a fine grind and pack your shots well or you’ll get that “watery” shot people complain about.
At a glance: $159, no replacement filters, uses any ground coffee.
Next, let’s do the math. If the idea is to save money over that $7 mocha from a coffee shop, it’s important that’s plausible. What I really liked about this automatic espresso machine as compared to competitors is you can use any coffee you want and it has reusable metal filters. There are no expensive coffee “pods” to buy or replacement filters to mess with. The machine itself I found on Amazon with a regular price tag of $199.99, but there seems to be a long-standing price cut to $159, as I waited several months to buy this (I saved the great gift idea for Christmas).
For an accurate price comparison, I’ll add the cost of coffee, chocolate, and milk for the mochas. We use a local Alaskan coffee called Raven’s Brew. It runs us $9.99 per 12 oz. unground beans from a local store. We order our chocolate in-bulk (Ghirardelli 10 lb). Milk is about $3.99 a gallon on average up here (Yes, us poor Alaskans). However, a gallon of milk only makes about 8 large mochas. A bag of coffee lasts us about a month, 10 lbs of chocolate lasts at least 6 months. So, I’ll up the coffee and milk cost to 6 months, 1 mocha per day or roughly 22 gallons of milk and 6 bags of coffee.
Total cost: $520.32 for 6 months of mochas or there-a-bouts.
After tips, a 16 oz. mocha from almost any coffee shop in our area is $7, assuming you went every single day for 6 months you’d spend $1260 at that price. If we had a mocha a day, we’d save $739.68 in 6 months! Granted, your costs are going to vary by the coffee you use, the espresso drink you prefer, local cost of milk, how often you drink espresso (no we don’t really have espresso everyday), but I’d be willing to bet the average person doing the math I just did will see significant savings—not to mention reoccurring costs are low after the machine is purchased.
This seems like a pretty positive review, I know, so are there downsides to the Mr. Coffee Café Barista automatic espresso machine?
Cup space: It is annoying that most standard tall travel mugs don’t fit under the full spout. We use a soup-bowl cup and then pour the mocha into the travel mug when done. If you prefer smaller espressos, this likely wouldn’t be an issue, but if you want the max latte size on this machine (15 oz.) you’ll have to find a short, wide cup to brew into.
Durability: While I have had no issue with my Mr. Coffee Café Barista automatic espresso machine so far, I will note the main thing I found in other automatic espresso machine reviews for this model was that they do not last long. The average lifespan on negative reviews seemed to be between 6 months to a year. Some folks said Mr. Coffee replaced their unit no problem, others had some issues. Overall though, this espresso machine has positive reviews, so it’s hard to say if that lifespan is reflective of care. I will certainly update this review if mine dies within a short time frame.
Instructions could be better: I noticed a lot of negative reviews for this model were from people saying that their machine just kept pumping and never brewed anything. Well, ours did the same thing, for 30 minutes before we discovered there was a cap covering the water reservoir intake. This cap isn’t mentioned in the instructions, and if you don’t remove it, water can’t get through for brew and steam. I have to wonder how many negative reviews and returns that cap has caused—it certainly made me feel stupid.
Next, my husband assumed that he had to brew shots and then hit latte for just milk at first. As a result, his first few cups were like 6 shots as he hit large latte and added 4 shots. The instructions don’t really mention how many shots, if any, are poured into the latte or cappuccino button modes. For clarity, I watched, hitting either button once makes 1 shot + milk, hitting it twice for a large drink makes 2 shots + milk. You only have to use the espresso button if you want straight espresso or extra shots for your drink.
I was also sad it failed to mention you can make hot cocoa with this–it took me almost a month to discover that holding the “cappuccino” button 3 seconds allows you to just steam milk, and oh, my, was I missing out. Best hot chocolate ever.
Loud: The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista automatic espresso machine is also not what I would call quiet. It’s not so loud it wakes others up, but you certainly hear it.
All in all, I think the Mr. Coffee Café Barista automatic espresso machine is an excellent buy for those wanting a quick coffee-shack-quality espresso in the morning. Ease of use is great, its fast, and very affordable compared to other competitive products in the range.