The Cafelat Robot is a machine that deserves all the praise it gets when people say it can help you make coffee with the same quality of machines three or four times its price. The only thing is learning to take into account the different variables to make espresso with a manual machine.
Not every espresso-making rule of thumb applies
There are several pointers that you’ll find around weight, ratios and desired strength for your espresso. I found that a lot of these rules of thumb don’t really apply to the Cafelat Robot. If you are an espresso novice, try to use guides like the Espresso Compass and be willing to try and experiment (more than usual!) to get your preferred taste.
Preinfusion is key (especially for lighter roasts)
Preinfusion is something that several machines do automatically and depending on your espresso-making references you might not be fully aware of the importance, benefits or purpose of preinfusing your coffee. For the Robot, this is a key step to get the most out of the machine and it’s something that you’ll read in most forums talking about making manual coffee.
Consider grinding much finer coffee than what you might use with other machines and experiment with long preinfusion times. 25-30 seconds are common periods in my espresso recipes nowadays.
Add-ons are worth it
Buying the Robot hands and the Levelling tamper were worthwhile investment. They are not needed per se but:
- The robot hands will allow to apply equal (or more!) pressure with minimal discomfort. It helps to spread the point of contact over your hands.
- The levelling tamper allows you to move faster and reduce one possible variation source in your espresso-making routine.
The pressure gauge is not needed. I read this several times while checking recommendations around the Robot so I guess I’m just adding one more voice to that chorus.
You only need two levels:
- Very light touch to preinfuse: 1-2 bars.
- Brew pressure: 7-9 bars.
The numbers are there for reference but you can just go by feel and guide your brewing using a scale to check your time/weight ratio.
Once you add the coffee to the basket and the screen on top, make sure to tap the screen to really set it in! For some reason this is not in the instructions (but it’s in at least one official video) and it makes a huge difference to prevent channeling.
Test different methods to heat the basket (essential when brewing light/medium roasts!) and see what works for you:
- Putting the basket over your kettle and use the steam.
- Pour boiling water over the empty basket and immediately dry it (my preferred option)
- Submerge the basket in boiling water and then dry it.
Check for channeling (especially if you don’t have a levelling tamper) and be consistent. This is a given when making espresso but for some unknown reason several Robot users seem to assume that channeling is not a thing with this machine. They are wrong!.