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There are plenty of things I don’t miss about my barista days (high maintenance customers and leaky trash bags come to mind), but actually making handcrafted espresso drinks is not on that list.
I used to relish pulling crema-topped shots from our expensive machines, frothing milk to silky perfection, and experimenting with off-menu drinks during slow hours. There was something so meditative and satisfying about it that makes me miss standing behind the bar.
That’s why I was psyched to get my hands on the beautiful-looking Café Affetto Automatic Espresso Machine and Frother to return to my barista roots, and put its espresso-making capabilities to the test.
What is the Café Affetto?
The Affetto can make several espresso drinks and steams milk with the touch of a button. It also includes a conical burr grinder that houses your coffee beans in a built-in airtight container and allows you to easily adjust grind size to your liking.
This 7-inch-wide smart machine is sleek, with rose gold accents and touch-sensitive light-up buttons on the top that offer Espresso, Americano, Steam (to activate the steam wand), and Hot Water options.
There's also a feature called My Cup, which prepares a customizable drink of your choice that can be changed or altered at any time from the SmartHQ app (options include ristretto, doppio, triple, lungo, and Red Eye).
You can use the app to modify drinks to your preference—like changing their volume, grind time, and temperature—and enable software updates for the machine.
The app also notifies you when it’s time to refill the water tank, add more beans, and descale the machine. Plus, it offers links to the brand’s YouTube channel, where you can browse videos that walk you through functions and cleaning options of the machine, providing helpful coffee info for beginners.
Master the kitchen.
What we like about the Affetto
The espresso is consistently delicious
Now, I’m someone who loves my daily dose of moka pot espresso. But any coffee lover knows that sipping a fresh, crema-topped shot from a high quality espresso machine is a unique, sacred experience. And this machine provided that for me every time.
Once I discovered the optimal beans (I love Kimbo’s medium roast) and grind size (extra fine, please) to complement my palate, I couldn’t get enough of this espresso.
Every shot, latte, and Americano I sipped was perfectly balanced—thanks to the inherent technology of the Affetto. During the brewing process, the beans are first pre-infused with a low pressure to gradually extract the flavor profiles, and then increased slowly to produce a balanced flavor with every cup.
I only experienced a weak-tasting Americano once—when the machine was getting low on beans—but typically, the machine would notify me to add more beans before I had to experience a watery coffee.
It’s easy to maintain and clean
Setting up the Affetto, and connecting it to its corresponding app, was like a walk in the park. The machine arrives practically all set up (aside from a few removable pieces) and the manual guides you easily through all stages, from unboxing to sipping your first coffee.
When it comes to upkeep for the Affetto, the machine does most of the heavy lifting for you. It notifies you—both on the button panel and via the app—when to refill the water, add beans, and empty the drip tray and coffee ground bin.
And due to the removable pieces’ user-friendly design, all of these tasks are a breeze and take seconds to complete. It also automatically rinses the coffee spout and steam wand every time you turn on the machine to rid them of any leftover coffee or milk.
The descaling process—which should be done once every month or so (the app will let you know when it’s time)—was also easy to complete.
The machine comes with several packets of descaling powder (or you can opt for water with vinegar), which you’ll mix into a full water tank before launching the descaling process from the machine. It runs through the machine once, then a full tank of water alone is run through the machine, and the process is complete. The whole thing takes between 30-40 minutes and requires very little action.
There are lots of customization options
The SmartHQ app capabilities take this appliance from good to great, allowing users to experiment with different settings until they find their perfect cuppa.
And the entire interface is user-friendly. Personally, I’m someone who likes to learn about things in a hands-on way (rather than reading each page of a manual), and I found it easy to navigate the machine intuitively, only referring to the manual when I had questions.
The button panel is a little touch sensitive—since it’s all basically a touch screen with no traditional buttons—but it’s easy to cancel drinks by hitting the buttons again if you hit something by mistake.
It’s a beautiful addition to your countertop
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This machine is sleek. It has a modern design that you’ll want to keep in view—and with just a 7-inch footprint, it doesn’t take much counter space to show it off. Details like the espresso spout are always rose gold, but it also comes in three finishes: matte white, matte black, and silver, to match your other appliances.
What we don’t like
The steam wand’s capabilities are less than perfect
OK, maybe I’ve been spoiled with the steam wands of my past (the robust wands from my barista days were attached to machines worth tens of thousands of dollars), but I still found it difficult to produce silky, hot milk with this machine.
First, the wand doesn’t pull out of the machine to allow for convenient and comfortable steaming angles; instead, it only tilts diagonally to the right, which means I had to really work at finding the right angle to tilt the milk jug and achieve that “vortex,” which is crucial to evenly heating and foaming milk.
The manual does include some brief directions on how to steam milk, but there were no photos (or accompanying videos on the app) that helped visualize the correct technique, so it took me several rounds of too-foamy or not-foamy-enough milk before I achieved something that was close enough to what I was looking for.
Second, achieving an optimal milk temperature was a challenge. The manual suggests steaming the milk until the jug feels hot to the touch, and then turning it off—but each time I tried that, the resulting milk was room temperature or lukewarm at best.
Even after leaving the steam wand in for extra time, it felt impossible to reach an optimal temperature for serving. It would have been helpful to have a thermometer included in the set to use during the steaming process, along with guidance on optimal temperature ranges.
One other issue I had with the steam wand: When it’s rinsing and heating up, the water would often splatter everywhere, making a mess on my countertop.
The hot water feature isn’t optimal
I was excited to see the hot water button included in the machine, so that I could use it for drinks like tea in addition to coffee, but I was pretty disappointed with it.
Instead of pouring out from the main espresso dispenser, it comes out of the steam wand (which, as you might guess, is prone to making a mess). The water comes out slowly and messily, splashing everywhere and taking a long time to fill a small cup. I only used it once because I found it much less convenient than using my kettle—even if that option took longer.
It’s pretty loud
This machine might be small, but it’s not quiet. The heating, grinding, and rinsing noises could be heard from across my house (sometimes waking up my sleeping dog). It’s especially loud when steaming milk, which activates what sounds like an incessant banging noise in the machine until you turn the steam function off.
The Affetto also shuts off automatically—which is helpful, since I’m notorious for forgetting to turn off things like my hair straightener—but when it does so, it makes a big, startling noise.
Is the Café Affetto worth it?
Yes, if hot lattes and cappuccinos aren’t your go-tos
Despite its few faults, I love this machine. I love the way it looks, the convenience of it, and every drink that’s come out of it.
The caveat to that statement is that my go-to drinks are espresso shots, black Americanos, and iced lattes, which means I didn’t rely on the steam wand feature of this machine while I was using it. (And, when I did use the steam wand, I didn’t find it to live up to the standard set by the rest of the machine’s features.)
So if you’re a cappuccino connoisseur, and you value the reliability of a powerful steam wand, you could be disappointed in this machine for that reason—especially given its steep price tag. In that case, it might be worth investing in one of these espresso machines instead.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.