Sunday, September 21, 2014

Living The Good Life, Living In Fear: The Mr. Coffee Café Espresso Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker!

The Good: Comparatively inexpensive, Produces wonderful espresso, Easy to clean, Exceptionally easy to use
The Bad: Does not include all of the necessary components, Low durability with daily use!
The Basics: Inexpensive, the Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker makes pretty wonderful espresso and cappuccino drinks . . . until the thing gave out!

[For a little while, I have been building a cache of reviews for my blog, which has allowed me better turnaround for some things, like food and appliances. As such, I received and reviewed the Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker months ago and when I did that, I originally rated it an 8/10. However, after two months of consistent use, the steaming wand on the unit stopped working (I spent a whole day re-priming it to no avail!). Thus, while I am initially quite flattering and positive about this product, all my fears in its lack of dependence were realized, albeit in a different way than I anticipated!]

Recently, my wife and I celebrated our five year anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, my wife gave me a whole system for making espressos and cappuccinos. The gift came after a pretty long discussion the two of us had on one of the prior gifts she presented me. A few months prior, she gave me a Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT Coffee Maker (reviewed here!) and my disappointment with that spawned a long conversation between us. The conversation boiled down to me being more honest with her about gifts that I actually like versus my being polite with her. When we started brewing coffee with the Mr. Coffee coffee maker she gave me, I raved about it . . . mostly to be polite and appreciative. She then read my analysis of the coffee maker when I reviewed it and she was upset with me and disappointed because, in her words, she could have returned the coffee maker when I first realized how little I liked it instead of holding onto it.

Both to make up for that gift and to give me something truly wonderful, she bought me the Mr. Coffee Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker for our anniversary. One of the key defects in the prior coffee maker she bought me was that the coffee it produced was far too weak for my tastes. To rectify that, my wife knew that my love of espressos and cappuccinos would be better served by an espresso maker as opposed to just trying to make darker coffee.

By contrast, the Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker lives up to all my hopes and expectations. For home brewing, the ECM160 might be the best value for the espresso connoisseur. And, in fact, all that robs this espresso maker of perfection is what it lacks, not what it is. In fact, to date (I’ve been using the espresso maker for two months now), the only problems with the espresso maker for what it is are the implied ones . . . production issues that have not yet been realized. In simpler terms, there are issues with the way the Mr. Coffee ECM160 Café Espresso Coffee Maker is made that imply that the espresso maker might break. Until that happens, though, it is easy to rave about the ECM160! Unfortunately, at the two month, three day mark, this unit DID break down and the steaming wand stopped working entirely, severely diminishing the value of the unit.

The Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is a beautiful-looking 4-cup Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker. That makes some wonderful, discreet batches of espresso and the results are consistently wonderful.

The black plastic and chrome base of the Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is an rectilinear cube shape that is 10 1/2" tall, 8 1/2” wide (from knob to steamer wand) and 8" deep (without the accessories), so this is an ideal Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker for those who do not have much in the way of counter space. The Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is great for families or individuals who want potent espresso or cappuccino drinks, but do not want to spend huge amounts of money on store-bought espressos.

One of the key selling points for the Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is the unit’s ease of use. The unit has one control knob and that makes making espressos (and steaming milk) virtually idiot proof. Turned all the way down, the unit boils water within the brewing chamber and turned the other way, the unit’s steaming wand is activated. The actual brewing process/steaming element is all controlled through opposite twists of the knob!

The Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is filled easily through a chamber knob on the top of the unit. This is the first potential place of breakage that I have become concerned about the more I have used it. The Mr. Coffee ECM160 has metal components within the fill chamber and the black plastic knob atop the unit that must be unscrewed to add water to the unit. The top has plastic threads and a rubber seal; the plastic to metal connection seems especially vulnerable to the heat and pressure generated when one turns the control knob. After the water chamber is filled and the top knob is screwed on entirely (also problematic as there is no definitive stop point for the plastic threads), fill the espresso filter chamber. There, one need only add espresso grounds to the metal chamber and press them down with a tamper. One of the actual issues with the ECD160 is that it does not include a metal tamper to adequately compress the grounds. Filling the filter chamber yields the other big potential problem with the unit: the filter basket goes into the chamber and the chamber is a metal and plastic combination (the handle is plastic, connected to the metal chamber). Tamping down the espresso grounds can put stress upon the filter basket. While this has not broken yet, it has real potential to break from being a natural stress point. Once the basket is filled and tamped down, simply insert the filter chamber into the bottom of the ECM160’s top portion and slide the carafe beneath it.

Twisting the knob on the Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker all the way up starts the brewing process. The water takes approximately three minutes to get up to temperature and a four-cup espresso is brewed in seven minutes. When the coffee is done brewing, twist the knob the in the entirely opposite direction and the steaming wand activates. The steaming wand is used to steam milk for espressos or cappuccinos, which heats milk or creamer up so that it does not simply chill out the espresso one makes. Unfortunately, the ECM160 does not come with a pitcher for frothing milk in! Also unfortunately is that when the steaming wand fails, there is no coming back from that, apparently. When it's done shooting steam out and gives out, nothing seems to fix it!

The Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is extraordinarily easy to clean. Both the carafe and the brewing basket (where the espresso goes) are dishwasher safe and the overflow vent below the carafe is both removable and dishwasher safe. The cup marks on the carafe are easy to read when filling the reservoir for making espresso.

The Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is fairly energy efficient; the knob turns to three settings - Brew on, Steam on and off. There are no extraneous functions to waste electricity with (no clock, etc.). When the ECM160 is off, it can (and should be) unplugged and it will not drain electricity at all.

The Mr. Coffee ECM160 Cafe Espresso Coffee Maker is easy-to-use, inexpensive and has a low cost of use. That makes it a wonderful home espresso maker, even if one needs to get a frothing pitcher and a tamper, for anyone who likes exceptional and strong coffee; if only it lasted it would be worth buying!

For other coffee-related kitchen appliances, please check out my reviews of:
Hamilton Beach 42434 Coffeemaker
Cuisinart Grind Central Coffee Grinder
Hamilton Beach E160B Coffee Grinder


For other appliance and tool reviews, visit my Home And Garden Product Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment