There's a good reason why you often pay through the nose for lattes, cappuccinos and other cafe-style drinks at your local java joint. Combining steamed milk with concentrated espresso coffee, these fancy beverages are made to order and are labor-intensive compared with ordinary pots of drip coffee. For a reasonable $200, however, the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista will tackle much of this tricky process and with tasty results.
The kitchen gadget automatically pulls espresso shots on command and even combines them with freshly frothed milk right inside your cup to make cafe favorites with minimum effort. Of course, this coffee maker is no super-automatic espresso machine that handles everything including grinding and weighing beans. A contraption like that will easily set you back thousands of dollars. Neither can the Cafe Barista deliver straight espresso quality to match those premium brewers or more sensible options such as the $300 De'Longhi Dedica. Still, if you seek a frugal way to sip real espresso-based drinks without having to do much work then the Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista will satisfy.
I doubt when shoppers hear the name "Mr. Coffee," images of luxurious materials or unconventional industrial designs come to mind. Neither will it draw the eye like the chrome-plated and decidedly European-looking De'Longhi Dedica. That said, this machine is attractive enough to blend in with the backsplashes of modern kitchen counters.
Measuring 12.4 inches tall by 10.4 inches wide and 8.9 inches deep, the Cafe Barista is quite compact, even for pint-size drip coffee brewers such as the. As far as a pump espresso device goes, however, this is a sizable appliance. It's slightly larger than the less capable (and cheaper) Mr. Coffee Pump Espresso Maker ($90). Side-by-side with the De'Longhi Dedica, the Cafe Barista plainly dwarfs the smaller machine.
One reason for the Barista's increased girth is its special reservoir for milk. Not only is the tank removable, it features a built-in wand for steaming when attached to the brewer and can be stored in the fridge for the next time you need it.
Like most home espresso contraptions, the Cafe Barista comes with a portafilter for both brewing shots and loading the machine with grounds. It's essentially a metal filter attached to a sturdy handle that you must lock tightly into place under the Cafe Barista's brew head. Mr. Coffee also includes two filter baskets to choose from, for single and double shots.
Below the brew head are a pair of sliding drip trays you can position to accommodate either large or small glasses and cups. You can remove both for emptying and cleaning, but unlike the De'Longhi Dedica, they lack a handy float to warn you when they're full.
Controls for Cafe Barista are relatively simple, but they're more complex than your basic manual espresso machines. Aside from the power switch located on the lower-right edge of the device, there's a control panel that features three buttons stacked vertically (Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte). To the left of each key are indicators for automatic drink-making modes while on the right you'll find labels for manual functions.
Pressing the "Espresso" button once commands the Cafe Barista to brew a single shot, while hitting it twice queues up a double. Holding the key down for three seconds kicks the machine into custom-brewing mode where it will continue to push water through the filter until you press it again. The other buttons marked "Cappuccino" and "Latte" operate the same way, except that a long press initiates functions for manual frothing or cleaning (the steaming wand), respectively.