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Miele CM6310 Countertop Coffee System review: Delicious automatic espresso -- if you're willing to put in the work

This machine can make two drinks at once.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Aside from the textless buttons and shortcuts for popular drink types, you can access more of the brewer's recipes from within the "additional programs" menu. These include selections for shots of cafe lungo, cafe latte, plus hot or frothed milk.

Performance and taste

Even though the Miele CM6310 Countertop Coffee System certainly qualifies as a superautomatic espresso machine, there is a learning curve in terms of operating it correctly. Even after priming the appliance with a half-dozen espresso shots, the first espresso I pulled still tasted sour and under extracted.

Refractometer readings confirmed my suspicions -- I measured this liquid to have a TDS (total dissolved solids) percentage of 6 percent. Given the 0.4 ounce coffee dose which Miele claims the CM6310 uses per shot (default setting), this translates to an extraction percentage of 9.8 percent. The ideal extraction percentage for any brewed coffee is between 19 and 22 percent, but it only tells part of the story.

This percentage range typically indicates the likelihood that all of the flavor compounds which make java delicious have been pulled into solution, yet the unfavorable chemicals have remained behind within the grounds. I've found though that when the amount of grounds used is high compared with the volume of brewing water, as with espresso, the TDS figure the more important stat.

I also know from prior testing that my darkly roasted Costco Columbian test beans are capable of so much more taste, so I sifted through the CM6310's brewing settings for ways to improve the situation. Numerous espresso shots later, I found a few tweaks that coaxed the machine towards superb results. After dialing down the CM6310's integrated burr grinder to its second-finest coarseness level, I made sure the brew temperature was set to maximum.

Lastly I opted for "short" presoak time, which tells the gadget to wet its grounds momentarily before pumping water fully through the filter. Keep in mind that the Miele device forces you to change these parameters for each individual style of beverage the machine can make.

Espresso was rich, dark and delicious.

Chris Monroe/CNET

After wading through this tedium, I tasted some of the best espresso I've pulled from a home brewer. Deep, dark and rich, the espresso was remarkably full-bodied. The crema was a healthy shade of brown, too, with even a few spots of striping. The flavor was complex with chocolate, spice and hints of bright pear acidity, and it lingered pleasantly long on the palate.

logged average TDS percentages for these shots at a solid 7.4 percent, which translates to an extraction percentage of 9.23 percent. It may not sound high, but as I said before, TDS sometimes becomes the more telling analysis tool since it represents the actual amount of material suspended in a given coffee liquid.

Looking at TDS only this performance handily outclassed numbers I recorded from the Krups EA9010 (4.2 TDS) and Philips Saeco GranBaristo Avanti ( 4.7 TDS) when I tested them side by side with Miele's device (with identical beans from the same bag). Indeed, the only machine that fared better was the Breville Barista Express which not only produced shots with even more flavor depth but also clocked in with a higher average TDS percentage of 8.5 percent.

There's a special milk hose for cartons and a grind size selector.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Conclusion

I admit the $2,000 CM6310 Miele Countertop Coffee System is a bit of mixed bag, which seems ridiculous for its price. Still, the espresso it makes can be so good that I still came away liking it. Sure it's a chore to program, tweak, and even fill with water, but as true espresso lovers will attest, quality is king and the CM6310 can deliver. It's also less expensive than competing superautomatic espresso makers that don't perform as well; namely the $2,500 Krups EA9010 and $3,000 Philips Saeco GranBaristo Avanti. That alone makes it easy to recommend Miele's countertop brewer.

Another option, which seems like a sweeter deal, is Miele's step-down device, the $1,500 CM6110 model. If it has the same espresso-making engine and milk-frothing ability (from cartons) under the hood as the CM6310, then I'd gladly make the swap for $500 more in my pocket. For those who prefer a manual approach, there's currently no better combination of price, performance and simplicity than the Breville Barista Express.

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