One of the main issues with a bean-to-cup coffee machine is programming it to work in the exact way you want. With the Nivona CafeRomatica 778 this job is easy, thanks to the integrated Bluetooth and smartphone app.
Throw in good looks, great performance and simple controls, and the Nivona CafeRomatica 778 is an enticing package for those who want great coffee hassle-free.
All too often, bean-to-cup machines have rather plain-looking exteriors, so it’s nice to see Nivona do something different with the CafeRomatica 778. Its textured white front means this coffee machine jumps out for all of the right reasons. The case is made from plastic, but it feels robust, and it has a nice finish to it.
Nivona has managed to make the CafeRomatica quite slim, and it isn’t too tall (340 x 240 x 460mm) either, sliding beneath my overhead kitchen cupboards without difficulty. The rear rollers make it easy to slide the coffee machine forward or backward when you need to manoeuvre it.
Simplicity is the order of the day, with the front of the CafeRomatica sporting a colour LCD screen and two dials that control the entire machine.
To keep things tidy, the milk tube plugs into the drip tray when not in use. This can only be mounted on the right-hand side of the coffee spout, but the supplied tube is of a sufficient length to let you comfortably place a milk container where you want it.
Nivona doesn’t ship the CafeRomatica 778 with a milk carafe, so you can just drop the hose into a cup or jug. If you’d rather have a proper carafe, the thermal Nivona NICT 500 (around £50) is a good choice, keeping your milk cold if you prefer to leave it out.
An adjustable coffee spout allows for cups between 90mm and 145mm tall. This is plenty of room for everything up to a large latté glass.
A 2.2-litre water reservoir pulls out to make for easy filling. Although, with such a generous capacity, you shouldn’t have to refill too often. Beans are poured into the hopper, located under a flap at the top of the machine, which can hold 250g (a normal-sized bag of coffee). There’s also a chute for using pre-ground coffee rather than beans.
Nivona CafeRomatica 778 – Features
The two dials on the front of the unit let you cycle through the coffee options. Nivona has used a very clear menu, with neat images and accompanying text, to make selecting the drink you want easy. There are options for Espresso, Café Créme, Café Lungo, Americano, Cappucino, Latte Macchiato, Warm Milk and Hot Water. There’s also a My Coffee option, which lets you create your own recipe.
Choosing any recipe will start the machine, but you can use the dial to override the default volumes and coffee strength on the fly. Impressively, the CafeRoatica 778 keeps ratios the same on increasing the volume. A cappuccino in a larger glass, for example, won’t have its milk-to-coffee ratio thrown out.
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Every recipe can be tweaked and configured to suit both your tastes and the size of glass you’re using. Depending on the recipe, you can adjust milk volume, coffee volume, aroma and strength. As with other bean-to-cup machines, configuring recipes is a little fiddly on the small screen – which is where the Nivona smartphone app comes in.
Once you’ve paired the CafeRomatica 778 with your phone, you can use the app to adjust recipes. It’s far easier doing it this way, and I soon had my machine configured to produce coffee just the way I like it.
You can also use the app to start the CafeRomatica 778 making coffee. To be honest, it’s easier to use the on-machine controls than having to pull out your phone each time you fancy a cup.
Nivona CafeRomatica 778 – Espresso quality
Bean-to-cup machines offer less control over the shot of espresso, but you can adjust the coffee strength, volume and temperature via the menus or app. I went with mid-strength (three out of five), and high temperature provided the best options: 30-to-40ml is about right for a shot of espresso.
Using one of three settings you can adjust the grind of the coffee beans between fine to coarse. The finest grind did the job for me with my test beans, but it’s worth experimenting with the settings to see how changes affect the final taste.
Likewise, the three aroma settings are there to be experimented with, affecting the taste and smell of your finished cup. This system is about choice, so test out the three options (dynamic, constant and intense) until you find the option you like most.
Espresso quality is pretty much as good as you can get with a bean-to-cup machine, and approaching what you can achieve from a manual machine offering greater control. A shot of espresso took around 23 seconds to pour, which is just about right.
I found the crema to be excellent: rich, thick and with that slightly oily consistency that clings to the side of the glass. It’s perhaps a little foamier than what you’d get from a top manual machine, but there’s certainly nothing to complain about.
I measured the coffee temperature at 64ºC, which is spot on for espresso: hot enough to release the flavour, but cool enough to drink immediately. Taste matches the look, with just a hint of bitterness from the test beans, with pronounced acidity and strong body following through.
Milk frothing is difficult to achieve in bean-to-cup machines, but the CafeRomantica 778 does a very good job. Since this machine has a single boiler, it froths and pours the milk first, before adding the cooler coffee.
As a result, and common with other similar machines, you get two tell-tale holes in the foam where the coffee has poured through. It’s nothing that a quick stir can’t fix.
Making a cappuccino, I found that the milk was dense and silky on top, and not overly foamy. Arguably, using a manual machine and free-pouring the milk will achieve better results. However, it’s a close-run thing, and the CafeRomatica 778 is far simpler to use than doing it yourself.
Once the machine has finished pouring your drink, a message flashes up on-screen asking you to rinse the frother. Don’t tap any of the buttons – this won’t start the cleaning cycle, but will make another drink. Instead, you need to pick the cleaning option in the menu. This makes sense, as you can make several drinks in one go without being constantly forced to clean the system.
Cleaning is quick. Simply insert the milk hose into the drip tray and the CafeRomatica 778 flushes both the spout and house with steam.
Nivona CafeRomatica 778 – Maintenance
To maintain top performance, bean-to-cup machines need to be cleaned routinely. This means emptying the drip tray and used coffee grounds container regularly.
The CafeRomatica’s drip tray is relatively deep but not too long, so carrying the waste to a sink isn’t too difficult. A regular wash with soapy water will help keep it clean. Used coffee drops out as well-compressed pucks, but there will be some residual grounds, so I recommend cleaning out the container with some soapy water.
The brew unit can also be easily removed and cleaned under running water. It’s worth doing this regularly to remove old coffee grounds and keep the main system clean.
You’ll be prompted to clean the coffee system with a cleaning tablet, and also to descale at regular intervals. The on-screen instructions make both jobs easy to complete.
Why buy the Nivona CafeRomatica 778?
Excellent espresso and milk-based drinks, combined with a nifty app and simple controls, make the CafeRomatica 778 a great choice. In fact, to get a wider choice of recipes, you’d need to spend another £200 or so on the Melitta Caffeo Barista TS.
If you want top coffee at a great price, the Nivona CafeRomatica 778 is an excellent choice.
Simple controls make this a superb choice for anyone who wants great coffee without fuss.