The Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso Machine

Sometimes you get what you pay for and other times you pay for what you get. With the Mr. Coffee ECMP50, this is one time you get what you asked for: a modestly-priced espresso maker that produces a fine shot.

No one will mistake this unit for a multi-hundred dollar machine; it simply doesn’t have all the extras you expect to find in such a unit. But, for a first machine, the ECMP50 can certainly make a decent cup — provided you start with good ingredients and make them well, of course.

You may find getting the right ingredient in the right form a small challenge at first. These entry-level machines can be finicky about the size of the grounds. A little experimentation will solve that problem, though. (In this case, you want ones that are about the size of ordinary salt crystals.)

Making your brew well will also require a little experimentation. This machine is easy to use but, unlike some models, it doesn’t make a perfect espresso right out of the box. You have to learn to use it. Fortunately, the ECMP50 makes that easy to do. The manual is well written and the controls are simple to operate. Sooner than you know it you’ll be making double espresso in about 25 seconds.

With a 32-oz water reservoir you can make one for a few friends at the same time. You’ll get a decent crema and the wand makes frothing milk for a cappuccino no big effort. (The unit doesn’t come with a frothing cup, however; you’ll need to buy one separately.)

The unit is well built and well designed too, so it will last a long time and be no trouble to use during its long lifetime. The portafilter fits snugly; all the plastic parts are sturdy and fit tightly. All the components that need cleaning are easy to remove for a simple rinse and wipe, too, then replace just as easily.

To this reviewers eyes the unit is not the most stylish on the block. It looks like a smaller version of an ordinary professional model. But these things — even more than the coffee itself — are matters of taste. Let yours be your guide.

It certainly is spacious enough. The open area at the bottom provides ample room to use more than the standard demitasse-sized espresso cup. It will accommodate two ordinary (or larger) mugs at the same time. And, thanks to the wide, removable drip tray, you can easily clean up afterward even if your hands are a bit shaky.

There’s also a handy tray at the top that will let you store everything you need. It will fit a brew basket, cup, tamper, and more with no trouble. For all that space, the unit is fairly compact and lightweight. You won’t have any difficulty finding room on the countertop for it, or moving it around if need be.

In fact, the Mr. Coffee ECMP50 Espresso/ Cappuccino Maker is so lightweight you’ll need to put a hand on the top while inserting that snug portafilter. That may sound inconvenient but it demonstrates quality manufacturing. That’s not exactly a universal feature of entry-level espresso machines and it’s very welcome here.

The Mr. Coffee ECM160.jpg

The Mr. Coffee ECM160

In the world of espresso machines you often get what you pay for, no more no less. The Mr. Coffee ECM160 demonstrates that familiar principle well. For an entry level machine it offers good value for its extremely low price.

The unit is small, offering only up to 4 cups before needing a refill. But for many buyers, that’s fine. A couple of shots for each of you in the morning and you’re ready to go off to work anyway.

If you have to wait a few minutes (or even longer) before you can drink one, you won’t have to endure burnt coffee from a hot plate. The thermal carafe that holds your shot will keep the brew nice and toasty for quite some time. Get an early phone call that distracts you? No problem. Return to your brew when you’re ready and enjoy.

Thanks to a stay-cool handle you won’t have any trouble handling the decanter, either. With measuring marks on the glass you can pour exactly what you want (if, for any reason, you wanted to stretch four cups to five smaller ones, for example). The drip free spout makes sure you don’t waste a drop and makes for easy clean up.

The important question is: does the ECM160 make a good espresso? Well, to be sure, no matter what maker you use, ingredients and skill are key. Still, you won’t need any particular skill here. There are no temperature adjustments or other controls to make life complicated. (If you’re the sort who enjoys all those in order to enable maximum control and experimentation, this model is not for you.)

Making a cappuccino or latte with this model is no special challenge, either, using the included milk frother. It’s removable so you have complete flexibility and, again, easy clean up. The removable tip only makes that all the easier.

With some practice, you’ll find that creating an airy foam as it is to make a dense one. It’s always nice to be able to make things just the way you like and the ECM160 is very flexible in that regard.

Thankfully, even at this price point, Mr. Coffee paid attention to design and quality construction. Not only is it a fine looking appliance, it operates quietly. Some home baristas enjoy the sound of a machine that shakes the house. This reviewer prefers a little quiet in the morning, especially before that first cup. Let personal preference sway you here. It doesn’t hurt that the ECM160 is also very stylish.

At this price, not surprisingly, you don’t get a lot of extras. There is no tamper included and smoothing your grounds is really helpful for creating an even brew so you’ll need to buy one separately. (Not necessary if you use pods, of course, but that’s not an option here.) You also don’t get a steaming pitcher, but they’re available separately at equally modest prices.

The Mr. Coffee ECM160 4-Cup Steam Espresso Machine will certainly fool no one into believing it’s a high-end espresso maker. But it is an unpretentious machine and, for the money, does a fine job.