There are few things finer in life than a perfect cup of bean-fresh coffee. Let’s be honest, it’s the kind of experience you can rarely replicate outside of a barista-made brew. Nespresso has cornered the market on making coffee look sexy, but at the end of the day, it is still ready-ground coffee in sealed capsules. It’s also a one-trick pony, albeit a very good one; it just makes espresso.
Coffee machines are big business and the competition is fierce. But for me, the real battle is being able to deal with all our rapidly expanding coffee preferences. No dinner party would be complete without a shopping list of coffees at the end of dinner. It’s not just about single or double espresso anymore, there is americano, long black, cappuccino, latte, flat white and macchiato or even, god forbid, latte macchiato to name a few. Then there’s the decaf brigade of course or that one guest who simply must take coffee with almond milk or soya substitute or insists on fair trade only.
The Melitta Barista TS Smart is a very impressive coffee machine from legendary German coffee company Melitta which has come a long way since Melitta Bentz invented the first coffee filter in 1908. Melitta coffee has attained almost revered status in Europe so, frankly, any product that combines German engineering with the Melitta marque has to be a serious contender.
And it doesn’t disappoint. This is no one-trick pony. This is a machine, out of the box, which dispenses 21 different coffee recipes no less, more than enough I would suggest to defeat any dinner party challenger. There are two airtight bean hoppers that are auto-selected for different specialities. Melitta defaults to standard espresso beans in one and lighter roast café crème beans in the other (which is a popular German variation of Americano or a long black) but you can program it for any other type of bean. There’s even a useful chute for ready ground coffee if that pesky dinner guest brings their own to be super safe.
The bean hoppers and the water tank are the only analogue parts of the coffee operation, everything else is handled digitally, even down to the self-cleaning. You get also prompts when the water tank, drip tray or coffee grounds container needs emptying, it tells you when it needs more beans added and if you need to top up the milk.
There are six standard dispensing direct keys across the top of the facia; espresso, café crème, cappuccino and latte macchiato which can all be modified. So, for example, if you always like your espresso lungo or dopio you can amend accordingly. Same for the others, so the first thing I changed was the café crème to americano extra shot. The other two direct keys are for preparing milk (frothed or just warmed, stored in a milk container attached to the machine via a hose) and hot water. There’s one more key that offers two-cup dispensing.
But if all this preset malarkey is too complicated for you, the two slider settings underneath should do the trick. One is for beverage quantity, so big cup, just slide towards the plus sign and the machine will automatically adjust its own settings. Same goes for coffee strength, the other slider. An alternative is also possible. Take off the side panel and you’ll find the grinder slider which changes the default grind settings. Over to the left is a finer grind for a stronger flavour and to the right is a coarser grind.
But, presets aside, every recipe is accessed via the one-press main menu, so I found myself using the main menu and the sliders to manufacture any coffee variant I needed.
For bean geeks, the possibilities are almost endless. The Melitta Barista TS Smart can carry up to eight personal user profiles so if you’re sharing, everyone can have their own preferences delivered, the same, every time.
And now we come to the big encore. The Melitta Barista TS Smart comes with its own app via Bluetooth to your Apple or Android device so, technically, you can do all of the above direct from your dinner table, as long as you have someone standing by with the cups of course. The app pretty much replicates the machine options including changing the grind and water temperature.
The self-cleaning function is fine and dandy for everyday flushing but the machine needs the brewing unit to be cleaned of residue coffee grounds regularly otherwise you might get stale grounds affecting the taste. It comes out as one unit very easily once you unhook the side panel, and then simply give it a thorough rinse under the tap and let it drip dry. While you have the panel open, it’s also a good idea to mop up loose grounds lying inside.
All this German technology is fine and dandy, but what does the coffee taste like? I can report, that after extensive tests and almost mastering 15 of the 21 recipes, the coffee is as good as if it was barista prepared. For me, the Melitta Barista TS Smart, is the first coffee machine I have tested that replicates coffee shop brewing so effectively. It makes sense to use Melitta beans but having tested the Barista TS Smart with other high-end beans the results are just as good. The milk froth for cappuccinos is consistently thick and foamy and effortlessly delivered as part of the dispensing process. The only thing missing is a dab of cinnamon or chocolate powder with your name on it, but perhaps that option is for a later model. Who knows what’s possible when it comes to German innovation?
Of course, this type of quality does not come cheap. At around £800 the Melitta Barista TS Smart is right up there with other high-end bean to cup machines such as Sage and Gaggia. That said, the sheer wealth of customisable options and the quality of the brew justifies the price point.
Let’s face it, it’s a lot cheaper than employing a personal barista and probably just about as good. I think Melitta Bentz would approve.
Tell me more about the Melitta Barista TS Smart
The Barista TS Smart® is available from Melitta® UK’s NEW eShop at RRP £1,199 which retails its entire range of premium coffee machines, pour overs and accessories.