What is the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk?
If you’ve ever thought that bean-to-cup machines were too expensive, then the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk may just catch your eye. Available for just £379, it’s the cheapest bean-to-cup machine I’ve seen. Add in the fact that it also steams milk automatically and this price appears even more of a bargain.
But there have to be trade-offs at this price. While the general espresso quality is good enough, milk frothing isn’t up to scratch, plus the basic interface makes it tricky to achieve the drink you want.
Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk – Design and build
Externally, the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk looks attractive, with the stainless-steel-coloured front plastic complementing the rest of the black plastic case. The front panel, too, is neat. It’s only when you pick it up that the slightly cheaper build quality shows itself; the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk is very light with thin side panels.
One of the main benefits of this coffee machine is that it’s mall, measuring a compact 200 x 325 x 455mm. That’s slim enough to easily fit on a kitchen counter without getting in the way.
The simple control panel on the front uses basic icons to show you the options you’ve selected. The spout on the front can dispense two coffees, sliding up and down to accommodate cups of up to 135mm tall. This should see it happily accommodate most tall latté glasses.
Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk – Features
On top is the bean hopper, which accepts a standard 250g bag of beans. Open up the side and you can access the grinder setting to make it coarser or finer, depending on how you like your coffee to taste.
This model doesn’t have a ground coffee chute, although this isn’t a huge problem: you’re far better off buying whole beans (see How to choose the best coffee beans) and letting the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk take care of grinding.
There’s a single dial to adjust coffee volume, which goes from 30ml to 120ml. Unfortunately, the dial isn’t marked in millilitres, so getting the right amount of coffee involves a degree of trial and error. Dispensing coffee is managed by hitting the coffee cup button, with a double-press dispensing two drinks. You can adjust coffee strength, too, with three settings available.
For milk, you have to attach the Cappuccinatore, which clips over the spout that sticks out the machine. This has a hose attached to it that you can drop straight into a milk container. It has three selectable options: hot water, hot milk and steamed milk. To use steamed milk, you first have to press the steam button, wait for the machine to increase temperature, and then twist the steam dial.
The Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk doesn’t ship with a water filter, although you can fit one into the water tank – I recommend it, since it will make the coffee taste better and reduce limescale build-up in the machine.
You’ll need to follow the instructions in the manual to set the water hardness level of your machine, using the provided test strip: this changes the reminder time between descaling.
Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk – Espresso quality
I had to dial down the grinder for a finer grind of coffee, and up the coffee strength to number two to get the best coffee out of the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk. Even so, pouring an espresso took around eight seconds, which is far too quick; around 20 seconds is the right amount of time.
As a result, the espresso had a very foamy crema that dissipated quickly and was very light in colour. Although the main body was nice and dark, the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk didn’t extract the full flavour from my Peruvian test beans, resulting in a slightly watery finish, rather than the depth and pronounced acidity that they’re capable of producing.
The espresso temperature was spot on at 65ºC, which is handy, since there’s no temperature control with this mode. The final drink was acceptable but lacked the quality I’ve seen from other machines.
Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk – Milk-based drink quality
To make milk drinks you first have to make espresso before moving the coffee beneath the Cappuccinatore. There’s no setting to control the amount of froth or the temperature.
For the best results, heat the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk up to steam temperature first. Then, before you put the cup under the Cappuccinatore or put the hose into your milk, turn the machine on for a few seconds. This expels any water in the system until you have pure steam.
Once done, you can slip the hose into your milk and turn on the machine. The results aren’t great, though: hot frothy milk is poured at a great rate into the cup, resulting in a bubbly finish rather than fine microfoam.
For occasional use, the system is alright, but at this price Melitta might have been better going for a traditional steamer wand, letting the user steam milk in a jug.
Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk – Maintenance
Maintenance is a bit of a pain with this machine. For example, the Cappuccinatore doesn’t have an automatic cleaning mode. Instead, you need to remove it and wash it manually. With it removed, it’s worth running a bit of steam through the machine just to give it a clean out. The Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk does at least rinse itself on power-up and shut down, which is nice.
As well as removing the drip tray and coffee pucks, the brew unit should be cleaned once a week. It pulls out from the right-hand side of the case and can be rinsed under a tap and left to drip-dry. It’s easy enough to put back in, although the side panel is fiddly to set back into place.
When prompted, you need to run the cleaning and descaling programmes on the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk, too. They’re a bit involved, so make sure you keep the manual to hand so that you can follow the instructions easily.
Why buy the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk?
The price is the main thing that attracts attention, but even then the Melitta Caffeo Solo & Perfect Milk left us wanting more. With slightly weak espresso and over-excited milk frothing, the quality of the drink isn’t as good as I’d hoped.
Spend a little more and you can pick up the Gaggia Velasca, which produces better coffee and has a manual steamer wand that produces better milk. It’s a shame, since Melitta makes my favourite bean-to-cup machine, the Caffeo Barista TS Smart – but this cheaper variant doesn’t quite deliver.
The other alternatives are to buy a basic manual machine or a pod coffee machine , both of which are listed in our guide to the Best coffee machines.