A cool upgrade for any coffee lover, the Nespresso Barista can make a huge variety of drinks from ice-cold coffee to frothy hot chocolate.
- Great choice of recipes
- Simple operation
- Produces some stunning drinks
- Doesn’t need a Nespresso machine
- Little control over volume
- Whisk attachment makes pouring fiddly
- Review Price: £179
- App control via Bluetooth
- Automatic recipe preparation with 21 recipes
- Whisk, jug and barista spoon
Most Nespresso machines are a variation on a theme, designed to make coffee from the capsules you insert. The Nespresso Barista is different. It’s a standalone machine that lets you use espresso, milk and cream to make a selection of hot and cold drinks automatically, from cappuccinos to iced nitros.
While all the recipes state they use Nespresso capsules, any espresso will do, whether that’s traditional Nespresso capsules, those for the new Nespresso Vertuo system or coffee made in a standard espresso machine.
Simple operation and some great recipes make the Barista a fun addition to any coffee-lovers arsenal, but a bit more flexibility on volume would have been welcome.
The Nespresso Barista is designed to be used with any type of espresso, whether that comes from a Nespresso machine or other source. However, the machine works perfectly with coffee from a Nespresso machine, which will output the exact amount of coffee for each recipe.
All of the current recipes use either a single or double shot of espresso, so if you’re using a Vertuo machine you won’t be able to use the large capsules. In this hot weather, if you’re planning on making cold drinks, then Nespresso has two limited edition espresso capsules that are available for both Nespresso and Vertuo systems. These are designed for mixing with ice for cold drinks.
There’s the Caffè Shakerato, described as a “straight, intense coffee with cocoa and spicy aromas together with a roasted finish”. There’s also the Caffè alla Salentina, which is described as a “bold, balanced coffee with a smooth and round texture, nutty aromas and typical Robusta notes”.
Build quality and design
- LCD and touch controls make it easy to select a programme
- Need to be careful when pouring drinks out
The Nespresso Barista looks like a fancy jug, with its metal handle and plain black body. It’s well made, but the matte finish of the main body is a real fingerprint magnet.
When turned off, there’s no sign of what this machine can do. Plug it in and hit the power button, and its screen springs to life, displaying the currently selected recipe. Cursor keys enable you to cycle through the various choices available.
Open the lid to the jug, which has a rubber seal to keep liquids inside, and you’ll see the main preparation area. It’s here that you pour in coffee, milk or cream, and then add any additional ingredients that a recipe requires, such as ice cubes.
Inside the jug is the whisk, a propeller-like device that spins to blend and mix the drink selected. Cleverly, the whisk attaches magnetically to the machine, so the bottom of the jug is entirely flat. The entire jug is dishwasher safe. Only the outside of the main body has to be cleaned by hand.
The downside is that when you remove the jug from the base to pour your drinks, the whisk has a tendency to detach as you pour. I recommend holding it in place, or removing it before serving.
- A large range of drinks are available but you need the app for some of them
- Some drinks still require multiple manual steps
The Nespresso Barista is capable of making a vast range of drinks, but the process isn’t entirely automatic for all of them. For example, if you want to make a flat white, the Barista can froth the milk, but you manually have to pour and combine the milk and espresso.
To help, Nespresso provides a weighty book with the Barista that takes you through the steps to produce each drink. Recipes have a maximum of four or five steps, making them easy to follow. And, rather than use hard measurements for liquids, the whisk has lines for the minimum, intermediate and maximum levels of liquid.
You can store up to 13 recipes directly on the Barista, but more exist and are accessible through the Nespresso app. Using the app, your phone communicates with the Barista via Bluetooth, letting you swap recipes in or out. You can also use the app as a remote, choosing which recipe to make and sending the choice to the machine.
Currently, there are 21 recipes available, although it’s likely that Nespresso will add more into the app. Many recipes are very similar: an iced nitro and iced lungo use the same ingredients (added in a slightly different order), but the blending for the nitro is more intense.
I started with the iced nitro, which, as the name suggests, is a cold coffee recipe. I added 90g of ice (three or four regular-sized ice cubes should do the trick), a shot of espresso and then water up to the maximum line. With Iced Nitro selected, a quick tap of the main button fired the Barista into life.
First, the drink was gently whisked, then the Barista kicked up into full-speed giving the coffee, ice and water a vigorous blend. Within a minute, the job was done.
The results were impressive, with the ice well integrated into the drink, which had a thick and foamy head. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that milk had been used to get the colour and texture.
On a hot day, the iced nitro is a fantastic beverage, turning coffee into a completely different drink. And, you could even add a flavoured syrup into the mix to change the recipe again.
Next, I moved on to a flat white. With this recipe, the Barista acts more like Nespresso’s Aeroccino, automatically frothing and heating the milk for you. The aim of the Barista with a flat white is to get plenty of microfoam for a smooth and velvety drink.
Sure enough, it did a good job. Of course, with practice and a good manual machine you could do better, but for convenience, the results were great. The only potential problem is that by following the recipe, you have little control over the volume of milk you produce.
Combining a shot of espresso and the milk into a regular cappuccino cup, I was left short of the top. Using Nespresso’s own glassware will give you better presentation and a full cup.
For other recipes that require foam to be layered on top of a drink, Nespresso provides its Barista spoon, so you can scoop the milk out and place it carefully on top.
As well as standard coffee recipes, the Barista can also make other drinks, such as proper hot chocolate. This requires milk and 15g of chocolate, before setting the machine to heat and blend the two ingredients.
I used milk chocolate drops, designed for cooking, which left a few chunks in the resulting drink. Starting again, I had to run the process twice to get the best results: smooth, rich hot chocolate that’s miles better than the instant stuff.
Being able to use chocolate opens up a world of different recipes – including a rich mocha, made with milk, chocolate and espresso.
I’ve always said that the great thing about coffee is the huge number of ways that it can be made. While the Barista lets you make foam to produce standard recipes quickly – such as cappuccino – it’s the other drinks, such as the iced nitro or mocha, that really make this machine shine.
Its large selection of recipes, simple operation, and the fact that you can use it with any espresso machine makes the Barista a fun add-on.
Having slightly more control over the volume produced would have been welcome, as the Barista is really designed to work with Nespresso’s own range of glassware. That’s a minor complaint, which has more to do with presentation than quality. Overall, the Barista is a great tool to have at your disposal, doing something so different to other coffee machines.