Exploring the Cafelat Robot: A Hands-On First Look

Today, a deep dive into the Cafelat Robot, a compact manual lever espresso machine, begins. This first look review has been highly requested, and it promises a thorough examination of what this $370 device has to offer. Known for its sleek design, particularly the green model, the Cafelat Robot stands out with features like a pressure gauge and a cleverly designed portafilter basket that doubles as a brew chamber. There’s more in the box than one might expect, including unique tools and a specialized tamper, which I’ll explain in detail as we explore how this machine distinguishes itself from other manual espresso makers.

Setting up and brewing with the Cafelat Robot unveils its unique process. Filling the basket with coffee, tamping it down, and then layering the dispersion screen on top is only the beginning. Hot water, poured directly into the basket, heats rapidly, ensuring optimal brewing temperature. The process, although different from other manual machines, feels intuitive after a few tries. Notably, the pressure gauge allows real-time monitoring, enhancing control over the brewing process. Despite minor quirks, like fitting scales under the machine, the Cafelat Robot delivers impressive espresso shots, combining ease of use with a satisfying hands-on experience.

Unboxing the Cafelat Robot

The Cafelat Robot arrives with a collection of intriguing components that immediately set it apart from other manual espresso machines. Upon opening the box, you’re greeted with the main unit in a striking green color, though a silver variant is also available. This particular model, known as the Barista Model, features a pressure gauge which is a handy addition for espresso aficionados.

Among the accessories included, you’ll find a tamper that fits the unique portafilter basket, a set of spouts for those who prefer a split shot, and a pressurized portafilter designed for pre-ground coffee. Each piece of equipment is well-crafted, reflecting the thoughtful engineering behind the Cafelat Robot. The inclusion of these extras not only enhances the brewing experience but also provides versatility in how the espresso can be prepared and enjoyed.

Understanding the Portafilter Basket

The portafilter basket of the Cafelat Robot is a multifunctional marvel. Unlike traditional espresso machines, the basket here doubles as the portafilter, brew chamber, and dispersion screen. This design allows for a unique brewing process where hot water is poured directly into the basket, ensuring rapid heating and optimal extraction.

To use it, coffee grounds are tamped into the basket, followed by placing the dispersion screen on top. Then, boiling water is added, and the basket is locked into the machine. The dual levers are used to press the water through the grounds, with the pressure gauge aiding in maintaining the desired pressure. This process, though different from what many are used to, becomes intuitive with practice and offers a high level of control over the espresso-making process.

Brewing Process and Thermal Management

One of the critical aspects of using the Cafelat Robot is adeptly managing thermal stability. When starting with a cold basket, there’s minimal heat loss because the water quickly heats the basket. For consistent results, boiling water is added to the basket, which then retains heat effectively for the duration of the shot.

Brewing with the Cafelat Robot typically involves precise measurement of both coffee grounds and water. For a balanced shot, around 17 grams of coffee is used, with about 60 grams of hot water added to achieve approximately 38 grams of espresso out. While the scales might not fit perfectly under the machine, a bit of trial and error helps in mastering the quantities for an optimal brew.

Practical Use and Cleanup

Using the Cafelat Robot is described as a gratifyingly hands-on experience, albeit with a few minor quirks. The dual lever system allows for substantial pressure application, necessary for extracting rich, flavorful espresso. However, the pressure gauge may be slightly difficult to read depending on the user’s height and positioning.

Cleanup after brewing is straightforward. The shower screen and portafilter basket can be easily rinsed or wiped clean, and the base may need a quick wipe to maintain cleanliness. Users appreciate that minimal coffee comes into contact with the machine’s piston, simplifying the overall cleaning process.

User Experience and Final Thoughts

Overall, the Cafelat Robot is praised for its build quality, aesthetic appeal, and the excellent espresso it produces. While the initial setup and workflow might feel unconventional, users quickly adapt to the unique process. The machine’s design allows for significant control over the brewing parameters, which is a major plus for manual espresso enthusiasts.

There are a couple of downsides, such as the weight and thermal mass of the spouts and the difficulty of fitting scales under the machine, but these are relatively minor issues for most users. The Cafelat Robot stands out as a formidable manual espresso maker, offering a satisfying and rewarding coffee-making experience.

In summary, the Cafelat Robot stands out as an impressive manual lever espresso machine. Its innovative design, featuring the multifunctional portafilter basket and real-time pressure gauge, offers a hands-on and rewarding brewing experience. Users appreciate the machine’s capacity to produce high-quality espresso shots, with thermal management and ease of use being significant advantages.

While there are minor inconveniences, such as the fitting of scales under the machine and the thermal mass of the spouts, these issues are relatively insignificant when weighed against the overall performance and enjoyment provided by the Cafelat Robot. The device’s build quality, aesthetic appeal, and the excellent espresso it delivers make it a worthy investment for both novice and experienced manual espresso enthusiasts. In conclusion, the Cafelat Robot excels in delivering a satisfying and rich coffee-making journey, solidifying its place as a valuable tool in any coffee lover’s arsenal.