Being a professional barista for most of my life, I’ve been fortunate to be in control of the coffee that I drink and the coffee that I make. Needless to say, my expectations are quite high, some may say fussy...So when it comes to espresso coffee at home, I’m a bit sensitive about this topic. I wanted to see how this machine REALLY holds up and fits into my lifestyle so I’ve been using the Melitta Barista Smart TS for a few months now, and I have to say I find myself using this more and more each day! When I'm in a hurry to run out the door, I literally turn it on and press go, for a long black or espresso!
It’s hard to find a good bean to cup machine for home that is no faff and makes good coffee – believe me, I’ve tried quite a few! Usually they’re clunky, or confusing to use, and the coffee output is average to say the least. It is very difficult to get the same quality of espresso or creamy steamed milk at home, that you would get in a café. The set up is different, the machinery is very different, so the power and all the elements that makes a café function and operate to make your crafted coffee is completely different. So even having the expectation that a machine at home would be as good as a café, needs to stop right there.
Well...there are always a few excellent exceptions, but like a lot of exceptions it comes down to purse strings. Even then, if you’re not a well trained barista, you might not get the best out of such a good machine because it relies on human skill as much as the machine itself.
This machine actually gets me quite excited though…. Read on!
I think the problem with home machines is that they try to be too clever, and emulate a café machine so you do end up having to do quite a lot of the work yourself. Which is fine if you have time but even I have had to load a few espressos in other bean to cup machines numerous times until I was happy with the extraction (I told you I was fussy...). For example, filling the porter filter yourself, tamping and then inserting it into the group is fine, but the problem with these machines is that if it is wrong, you have to start that process all again.
The Melitta Barista TS Smart machine particularly makes me really excited for people who can’t make coffee, have no time or interest in making coffee but LOVE drinking good coffee! This machine is PERFECT for you. If you're a café owner, barista, chef or baker who doesn't want to make coffee on their day off, having this machine is total luxe. I know that when I've been working long shifts or a long week, sometimes I just want to stay inside on my day off - but I always need my coffee! Health and fitness people would really benefit from this machine too, as it's something I definitely use this when I need a quick espresso before a run or gym work out.
This Melitta Barista TS Smart is intuitive so therefore super easy to use. The controls have an easy touch and slide option and like an Iphone I’d be surprised if even someone who knows nothing about coffee or working a new appliance, found it hard use straight away.
The design is really slick. It looks minimal – I did think it was quite deep when it first arrived, but I understand why it is and I quite like it now. I saw the Dapper Chapper had it at his dapper home, and it fits in quite nicely on that sexy sideboard table! (see right)
This machine looks slick and minimal, but it actually has so many functions. The grinder has five different grind settings from coarse to fine (I use the finest setting personally) and it is so quiet when it grinds! No wonder when I looked into this, I found it has a prestigious "quiet mark".
The hopper actually has two air-locked chambers so the beans keep “aroma” fresh and you can have a dark roast in one and something a little lighter for more longer, filter-like coffee. There’s virtually no mess or wastage as well. I was surprised to see it has a shoot for already ground coffee that you can also use, if you have your own grinder that you’d like to use!
You can also brew two coffees at a time if you need and the water tank has filter technology so you don’t need to descale the machine as much. It comes with a pH water testing kit so you can test your tap water and set the machine up according to how hard or soft it is. I like to use filtered or bottled water anyway because London water is really hard and so it not only helps protect the machine even more so from limescale build up, but I also think it helps make the coffee taste better too. The water tank holds 1.5litres and is easily detachable so if you do use the tap, you can. But don’t worry, the machine will tell you when beans AND water need topping up, or when the drip tray and grinds need emptying (and it takes seconds to do). Though I do have to concentrate to balance the tray so that I don't spill it. You’ll normally get around 8-10 coffees before it tells you the grounds need emptying. I love all these features because I'm likely to forget to check. It really is designed so well to create more time. So it leaves your head with more space to fill with other stuff!
Another reason this machine excites me is because, I made a coffee from the bathroom!! YES!! This machine can be operated by your smart phone through the Melitta connect-app. Through the ‘My Coffee & Smart Service’, you can create and save your own recipes and connect to the machine via Bluetooth. I woke up, turned the machine on, and after a few moments, put a cup underneath. I went to the bathroom, then started getting ready for the day. Half way through putting on my eyeliner I told it, via my app to make me a Long black. And by the time I walked down stairs it was there ready and waiting like a biblical halo in the clouds, full with the soundtrack of angels singing.
It already has 21 recipes to choose from but you can program in your own personal recipes too – I’ve programmed my long black to be 100ml of hot water and 35ml of espresso floated on top, on the “intense”, strongest setting and from the bean chamber 1, because thats how I like my coffee from this machine! You can make minor adjustments on the water temperature, which is great, but it would be nice to have more options on this for the next model perhaps? It can save profiles for up to 8 people so your flatmates, workmates or family can have tailored coffees too!
It’s been so fantastic to use when I've been cooking, baking or making coffee cocktails. Part of what I do is recipe development for different brands, involving both food and drink, and usually always involving coffee. So when I’m testing an idea and need an espresso strength coffee it has been super handy and has saved me a lot of hassle. I just press the ‘on’ button, let it rinse, then press the espresso button. Done. It's great if friends come over in the weekend to make Espresso martinis or any of the Baileys Irish cream cocktails you may have seen me post on instagram!
The espresso has good flavour but as I've mentioned it will depend a lot on the beans you use. The body of espresso isn't as 'full' as you'd get from a commercial machine, but it's unlikely most bean to cup machines will due to the temperature settings and pressure. But when I set it to full intensity and extract around 30-40ml, it always creates a nice crema.
I hate cleaning up. I've walked away from this machine a lot, but NOT because I was annoyed with it, I walked away because I could just leave it to automatically self-clean every time and switch itself off! If you’re using milk there’s an auto steam cleaning function option after every use. Cleaning is really so easy with this machine. When it's time, the machine will take you though a step by step cleaning regime to descale it. I haven't had to do this yet, Melitta recommends once a year, but I guess that’ll depend on how often you use it and the water you're using! The brew kit is removable too, so again, it’s really easy to clean.
If you like milky coffees, the flexible plug-in milk system is great. It can do everything automatically if you want it to make you a latte, macchiato, cappucino or flatwhite. But if you're like me and like a little latteart play, I just catch the hot steamed milk into a jug and pour my own flatwhite! I’m sure you’ve seen some on my insta-stories! It's pretty fun! If you're into alternative milks too, I tried putting Oat milk in and it frothed up well! If you can get your hands on Minor Figures or Oatly - that would be my recommendation as they taste great and foam well for coffees.
When I'm done with the milk, I normally detach the tube and put the external milk box (which is tightly sealed) straight into the fridge ready for the next time I want to use it.
I’ve been so surprised at how this has fitted in so well. Of course it wont stop me from going to a café or making filter coffee, but it’s such a great luxury to have the choice of an espresso based coffee whenever I want!
The best thing is that the quality of coffee that is extracted is consistent and reliable which is a bench mark I believe is paramount for any café so why not at your home or office too. It's important to start with good quality beans (click here to buy TGITC beans ;) ) but at least you know your coffee is going to be consistent, and enjoyable. I personally believe that everyone should enjoy drinking coffee however they like it, and with this machine, you can experiment with different settings really easily to make you that coffee every time.
I know that there are cheaper products on the market, but I find with cheaper machines, you don’t end up using them as much because they are messy and you may have to have an external grinder or manually fill the porter filter each time. Which, don’t get me wrong, it's fun (I’m a barista and LOVE everything about making coffee) but if you’re making a few coffees a day, and depending on your available time, these finicky machines can just become a random appliance on the counter top that never really gets used.
To really get value for money when I am looking for an espresso machine for home, I want a something that looks good, produces tasty and enjoyable coffee, isn’t going to break the bank, and is going to be practical so that I can use it easily time and time again.
Just so many options to make it fun and different but also really simple so that if you just want standard no fuss coffees, it does that too, and consistently – which is all you can ask for really!