Curious about the instant espresso machines, but don’t want to spend big to try one? Lavazza to the rescue with a new machine, offering access to the Lavazza A Modo Mio system for a buck under a hundred. Worth the cost, or should you go with something bigger?
Compact and ready for action, the Minu is Lavazza’s miniature coffee maker designed for the instant espresso market, or what many are calling “inspresso.”
The machine is small and made of plastic, with magnets employed to hold various parts in, such as the capsule drawer, and the drip tray and excess water drawer, both of which connect to each other with a magnet.
Lavazza’s Minu has a water reservoir capable of holding up to 500ml of water, with the machine able to make one cup of coffee at a time, thanks to the capsule drawer taking one pod at a time, with the control for the coffee length handled by the coffee dispensing knob on the side.
The Minu is part of the Lavazza A Modo Mio system, which takes Lavazza’s supermarket sold pods, small round and reasonably flat hat-like capsules with ground coffee inside.
To use the Minu, merely switch the power on with the button on the top, insert a capsule in the drawer closing it up when you’re done, wait for the green light to become steady, place a glass under the spout (you can remove the drip tray if the mug or cup doesn’t fit), and then turn the coffee dispensing knob all the way to the right, starting the process.
When you’re done, bring the knob all the way back to the left to switch it off.
One plug is provided to power the Minu, with a jug plug found at the back of the unit.
Coffee machines have never been terribly cheap, especially if you wanted something decent. In fact, we’re so used to spending hundreds to thousands of dollars for a good machine, that the inspresso market — that is, the world of instant espresso — kind of came out of left field.
With this type of machine, espresso-style coffee has never been easier and more convenient, not to mention less costly. Rather than rely on the process normally needed for a traditional espresso machine, instant espresso merely has you fill it with water, load in a capsule, press a button, and away you go.
For many, this removes the romance of the fresh cup, and that’s fine, but for the rest of the world that wants a cup of cafe-style coffee with minimal fuss, inspresso makes a lot of sense.
But inspresso can still be expensive. We’ve certainly reviewed machines ranged between $200 and $1000, and while we’ve seen a few $100 machines, generally they’re what you can expect for the price: cheap for a reason.
Lavazza’s last $99 model — the Simpla — certainly fit that bill, and with the Minu, the coffee brand is trying to fix the entry level model, finding a way to provide an entrance for people keen to try capsule-based coffee that isn’t bad.
First there’s the design, because unlike the Simpla, the Minu doesn’t appear bulky and overly plastic.
Is it still made of plastic? Sure, and given the price, we’re not surprised the materials aren’t premium, but the Minu is small, slim, and very compact, providing a size similar to Nespresso’s Pixie machine.
Plug it in and you’ll find the operation couldn’t be easier: fill the 500ml water tank, switch the machine on by pressing the power button up top, and wait for the blinking green light to go steady telling you the heating block is ready to make hot water.
Take the capsule drawer out and place a Lavazza capsule inside, pushing it back into place and letting the magnet draw it back into place.
That last bit is actually very noticeable and helps to make the drawer fit nicely, guiding the capsule drawer back into place for you, which is a nice touch.
Once the machine is ready to go, place the cup under the spout on the drip tray grill (or remove the drip tray if the cup or mug is too big), and then you’re pretty much ready to go.
Unlike other Lavazza models we’ve seen that ask you to press a button for a certain length, the Minu relies on a knob to let you control how much coffee you want, which is an easier logic for most people to come to grips with.
We’d be surprised if anyone needed to check the manual for this machine, and since it’s six pages long per language, that’s probably a good thing, as it’s not likely to tell you anything you don’t already know or won’t work out from playing with the unit.
There’s no button here for short, and no button for long, though. If you like a certain length, you merely push the knob into its pouring position, starting the process, and pull it back to stop when you’re done.
That’s two modes: on and off, and it really couldn’t be easier.
When it has been switched on, you’ll hear a reasonably noticeable noise from the machine, as it whirrs into action and pumps the pod full of water, sending the coffee from the bottom of the pod into your glass. When the pod starts to run out of grounds to work with, you’ll see the water change colour from a deep brown to a light skin colour, and the longer you leave this on, the weaker the output will become, providing either a strong short or a weaker long, depending on the strength and length of coffee that’s desired.
Testing it, the coffee was quite good, with the Lavazza capsules producing a lovely crema in our cups, showing us it’s not just Nespresso that has mastered the art of engineering a good coffee capsule.
Once you’re done with the coffee, you can pull out the capsule and dispose of it quickly, simple tipping it upside down into whatever receptacle you’re throwing it into, similar to how the Nescafe Dolce Gusto machines work. There’s no spent capsule compartment here, so we’d suggest throwing the pod away once it has been used.
We’d also suggest checking the water drawer every few cups, too, as this area, which can hold as bit of water, will likely fill up with excess water from the machine as it works. This connects to the drip tray by way of a magnet, so when you go to remove the drip tray for a clean, this will likely come with it, and merely needs to be emptied and put back in the unit.
If you’re having any trouble finding it, simple look for the light near the drip tray when the Lavazza Minu is on.
One thing worth noting, though, is that for $99 you can’t expect a frother with the unit, so don’t be surprised when you open the box and don’t find one inside.
If you need textured milk — the frothy milk in a cappuccino — Lavazza does make a milk frother for $129, an accessory that is entirely optional, and which should texture the milk in an identical fashion to one of the budget milk frothers found in supermarkets alongside the Minu machine.
However, if you can live without the froth, you can always add pour in some regular milk for a latte or machiato, which we suspect this machine is geared towards.
Another small issue with the machine which is very minor is the equally small and minor water tank, which only holds half a litre, enough for ten espressos, but only five long cups of coffee.
Thankfully, the tank is very easy to refill, and you simply just pop off the back and refill, or take the tank cover off and pour water back in.
An update for the $99 Simpla, the Minu is not only compelling because it’s under a hundred bucks, but also because it does a great job in a small form factor, turning compact capsule coffee into espresso with ease, with some of the best control a budget machine can have.
While the cheaper Nespresso machines rely on pressing a button to match certain coffee lengths, and Lavazza has previously used this method as well, the Minu makes it easy for the consumer to decide on their own length, setting the knob to on and then turning the knob the other way to switch it off, making it so easy to control the espresso length for anyone using it.
This method of control is much, much easier than pressing a button once or twice, and is easy for anyone to understand: set the machine to start pouring and set the machine to stop when you’re done.
It’s so easy, that anyone could do it, and with the $100 price point — just slightly under it, in fact — we can totally see why people interested in the instant espresso machines would want to try it. Highly recommended.