So after receiving two Robots - with the background of having gone through countless machines of all price classes from vintage Arrarex Caravel, Gaggia Minis, Classic, self restored Orione, Lambro to a few newer low and high end pump drive machines, Portaspresso HC-P (beta actually), Flair + Gauge, self built titan grinder etc - i have to finally write my first comment on an espresso machine
My annoyance with pretty much all machines has always been complexity, temperature swings, size, cleanup procedures, lack of simple profiling etc pp. It is all great to fire up that big lever now and then but after a while you are kind of back to basics especially if you kind of live in multiple countries. Flair, Caravel, Portaspresso are all great in their own but all very special in their own with lots of compromises - just in different areas.
Having toyed around with the Flair for a while which is excellent! with the gauge but still is a mess from workflow, cleanup, parts quality, plastics, basket size etc i was absolutely thrilled to see Mr. Cafelat aka Paul coming forward with the first designs on the Robot and finally announcing it is going to have a pressure gauge.
Having seen a few of his works and utterly insane attention to detail - more or less by accident when browsing through some restoration infos from Dante when restoring the Lambro - i kind of had the hope this guy would go full on "if 80% works fine lets just go 160%..." on this and boy he delivered.
I ordered two Barista Robots with spare baskets, pressurized ones etc pp. Should have ordered spare tubes, washers right away to make this work until its handed over to the next generation... It will outlast them too i am sure!
The Robot is an absolute piece of art from design to build quality. I was super stoked when i heard that all the aluminum stuff wasn't working out and in true Cafelat style he would just go full on stainless on the whole brew path and levers. THANK YOU (i dont give a crap about aluminum but man it is so nice...
again... if 80% works fine just go 160%...)
With all the high quality work you still feel that this is a largely hand labor kind of thing as you could easily see in his posts about the whole process too. The one robot has a little edge here, the other there but it really just adds to the character. I love it. While the parts themselves are of course factory machined, the extensive manual treatment the machines have received (poor Paul my goodness) makes every one a bit unique and you can feel its not just million part thing pumped out on some Chinese assembly belt.
It is a beautiful, high quality design object that just screams with "a lot of love has gone into making me" and that actually nails it on function.
There have already been enough posts about the whole workflow (it does not get easier / faster) but what really strikes me is the whole basket / brew chamber design. Apart from the whole look and general specs etc of the machine i think this is really the genius part that truly makes this little gem a masterpiece in the current espresso machine world.
1) you can just dump the grounds in there and stir without any mess, any funnel any whatever magic
2) shower screen just sits on top of the puck, this solves so many issues from channeling, puck disruption through water inlet, pavoni style sucking up of the puck, excessive air column over it etc pp.
3) pouring the water just on top with an ample amount possible for a small lever to suit everyone's needs
4) just the right thermal mass to give you dark or light roast temperatures over and over again without any portaspresso, flair etc annoying heat up procedures. it is so relieving to just dump the boiling water in and go... i cannot repeat this often enough
5) virtually nothing to clean up as the -stainless- basket is basket, brew chamber etc everything in one, knock the puck out, rinse or wipe and DONE! nothing to get filthy over time, no aluminum to degrade / get nasty looking, no hidden corners, edges etc pp, absolutely nothing to break
6) precision, full sized commercial style basket, bottomless or sprouted style portafilter
The whole basket design / style / material is really the key element of this machine.
The coffee itself is excellent. Nothing to complain about. The extractions are repeatable like clockwork. Grounds in, water in, lock in, pull. Same result over and over again, every day. Like people said, even if grind or pressure, temperature is a bit off it just works.
Profiling is 100% customizable, taste wise 6-8bar with some preinfusion so far best.
Bottomless design works perfectly, you really need to throw in rock sized ground supermarket coffee to get spritzers.
Pressurized basket i have not gotten as superb looking results (creamy) as Paul in his video yet but taste wise (for pre ground supermarket coffee) has been very good. Might have been that Robusta in the crema e gusto brick from the Brikka that does create lots of bubbles when freshly opened. I guess that amplified with the pressurized basket and things got very bubbly.
This thing will be a live saver for many in more remote locations, vans etc. Came home to my main residence, no fresh coffee, got a brick from the bodega around the corner... no one was killed that day thanks to the pressurized basket
Few personal preference things:
- acaia lunar doesnt fit between the legs... just by a few millimeter, i solved this by grabbing two acaia cinco editions (ridiculous solution money wise of course... you can just grab a $10 amazon scale that fits too), they complement the whole over the top and design aspect of the robot wonderfully especially swith their slide casing
- above 6bar most people will have to lean over the machine to get a constant e.g. 8 bar pressure going till the end, you cant really see the gauge in that position anymore, i will probably see if i can come up with a adjustable thing for the gauge
- pressure tube running along sharpish edge, it seems it will last a lot longer than i thought but as paul has said himself, it was a compromise and will probably not last forever (in comparison to the rest of the machine), will stock up on tubing here
- shot taste is excellent just missing thickness / mouth feel a little but that might be due to the coffee / grinder i currently only have access to here. i am a sucker for oily southern Italian syrup
Overall: Best Espresso gear buy i have ever done and i will support Paul with buying another couple for the family. It is so rare today to find someone that combines clever design, functionality with so much love for detail, quality and integrity! Anyone else would have compromised quality A LOT or jacked up price multiple times. He rather took a hit on the machine... If i need any gear in the future that Cafelat happens to sell i will buy from them just to support the ideals behind the company.
Thank you Paul and the whole team. I haven't bought just a functional espresso machine - without the usual compromises that get annoying over time - but a little piece of joy every day and a smile on the face of everyone seeing it for the first time. Priceless.
This was my first purchase of any Cafelat equipment and i have 0 affiliation with them.