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✔ What We Liked
- Affordable entry-level machine
- Compact size with a roomy water tank
- The steam wand had good pressure and was easy to use
- Manual brew setting
✘ What We Didn't Like
- The machine struggled to maintain strong, consistent water pressure, which led to bitter espresso
- The water temperature is too hot
- Single-shot and double-shot settings gave inconsistent amounts
- Steam wand expels a bit of water during use
In our opinion, the Tru 15-Bar espresso machine is just an okay option for an entry-level espresso machine. If you want to experiment with making espresso drinks at home, the price point makes this an easy purchase. However, the appliance has some issues with water – the water pressure is too low, and the temperature is too high. Its single-shot and double-shot settings suffer from inconsistency due to the water issues, but you can remedy this by using the manual setting on the machine and running a water-only cycle before using it.
The first drink we taste-tested was an espresso. The machine has a few brewing issues, which makes it challenging to get the perfect espresso. We detail these issues in the Brewing section below. After many failed attempts, we finally got a shot that tasted good.
We compared it to a shot from our automatic De’longhi machine. To be fair, the De’longhi machine is $1,800 and brews perfect espresso. Compared to the De’longhi shot, this particular cup of espresso from the TRU machine was bitter but still a decent drink.
We had some issues with the water pressure of the machine, which I also detail in the brewing section below. The water pressure issues contributed to the bitterness we tasted in our first six shots. After I ran some water-only shot cycles through the machine, this helped the water pressure. We got a much smoother espresso with a beautiful honey-colored crema.
We had the best success using the manual setting on the machine instead of the single-shot or double-shot settings. We also had better success not following the user manual’s instructions (more on that in the brewing section).
The second drink we tried was a cappuccino using the barista version of Califia Farms oat milk. The barista version frothes better. The regular version of oat milk produces a thin, watery foam. If you drink non-dairy milk, I recommend looking for the barista version.
We also compared this machine’s cappuccino to a cappuccino from our De’longhi machine. We had resolved some issues with the machine’s water pressure, so the espresso we brewed was much better.
The only issue we had was that the steam wand expelled a bit of water into our oat milk before it started steaming.
Other than that, it was a good cappuccino. It was smooth and nutty and had no signs of bitterness. It was comparable to the cappuccino from the De’longhi machine. The main differences were the slight wateriness due to the steam wand issue I mentioned above and the consistency of the milk foam. The De’longhi machine has an automatic milk frother, and it’s hard to beat its consistency with a manual frother.
Ease of Use
The machine is straightforward to use. However, when we used it the first time, it took a few tries to get it running correctly.
I wanted to make a double shot as my first drink to test. Before doing the double, I wanted to run the single-shot setting to warm up the portafilter and my cup. Even though I had a full water tank, I had to run the single shot four times before the water started pouring out.
I realized later that the user manual I received is not the same one available online. Mine does not include instructions about priming the machine before first use. The online manual does include this information. In short, the online manual recommends running water cycles through the double shot and steam functions until you’ve used up a full water tank. The priming process is on page nine of the manual I linked above.
I purchased my machine through Amazon, so that may explain why my user manual was different from the online version.
One thing I liked about the machine is the roomy size of the water tank despite the compact size of the machine. The water tank holds 56 ounces, so you won’t need to refill it frequently. It’s also easy to remove as it simply sits at the back of the machine.
This machine had some issues when we first started brewing. We tried both the single-shot and double-shot setting multiple times, and the amount of espresso we got was almost random. It would often give us much less than expected, but other times it would give us too much.
The best success we had was using the manual setting. With that, you can count for 30 seconds after the espresso starts coming out to get a standard-size single shot.
With all of our tests, there were three things true about this machine. First, the water pressure is lower than expected. The machine struggles to push water through the grounds and portafilter. It’s best if you don’t do a strong tamp. Even without a strong tamp, the lack of water pressure means you end up with espresso that’s over-extracted or bitter-tasting because the water takes too long to flow through the grounds.
Running a few water-only shots before brewing helped with the machine’s water pressure issue. The seventh overall espresso we made was much better after I ran a few water cycles through the machine. It had a honey-gold crema and a smooth taste with very little bitterness.
The downside to this is that it will significantly lengthen your brewing time if you need to run two to three water cycles before you can pull a shot.
Second, the water temperature is too high. Every time we made espresso, it came out too hot. I couldn’t drink it immediately without burning my tongue. Ideally, espresso should be at drinking temperature from the moment it’s brewed.
Third, don’t follow the instructions in the user manual. The user manual says that the portafilter should have tamped grounds just 1/8 of an inch from the top. This is too high in our experience and forces the brew head into the coffee grounds. It should be closer to 1/4 of an inch from the top and not too firmly packed (because of the water pressure issue).
If you buy this machine, be prepared for a learning curve to perfect the brewing process.
In our cappuccino taste test, we used the steam wand to froth the barista-version of Califia Farms oat milk. The steam wand had good pressure and temperature. It wasn’t fussy like the brewing process, so it should be more accessible for newbies.
The one issue we had with the steam wand was that it put out a little water before the steam came out. This watered down our milk.
When you get the machine, you receive a single and double filter for the portafilter and a dual coffee scoop/tamper. It does not come with a milk frothing pitcher.
The machine has a few different settings: single shot, double shot, manual, and steam. The manual setting lets you start and stop the brewing process when you want. The top of the machine also serves as a warming plate to pre-heat your mugs or glasses before you use them.
Finally, the machine also has auto-shutoff, which engages after a few minutes of no use.
|Number of steps involved||4|
|Time to brew||30 to 60 seconds|
|Supplies needed||Milk frothing pitcher|
|Yield||One to two espresso servings|
The machine is easy to clean. After your pull a shot, you can remove the portafilter, remove the grounds and rinse the filter and portafilter thoroughly. You can also reattach the portafilter to the brew head and run a shot with just water for a deep clean. Wipe the brew head with a damp cloth to remove any stuck coffee grounds.
To clean the steam wand, wipe it down with a damp towel and then remove the sleeve. Rinse the sleeve in warm water. Reattach the sleeve and run a hot water cycle to purge the wand of any remaining milk.
You can use the small pin that is in the rubber part of the steam wand to thoroughly clean the brew head and portafilter.
You can remove the drip tray by pulling it out. You’ll know when it’s full of liquid because the red buoy will peak above the surface. You can handwash the drip tray with warm, soapy water.
Finally, the water tank can also be removed and hand-washed. If you need to descale the machine, TRU recommends using a mixture of distilled vinegar and water to descale it every six months. Descaling instructions are on page fourteen of the user manual.
The machine measures 9.2” wide, 10.6" deep, and 11.5" tall. With the steam wand out, the machine is roughly 10.5” wide. The machine weighs just shy of eight pounds. It’s compact for an espresso machine, so it’s a good option if you have limited space.
The design of the machine isn’t to our taste, but it’s not a bad-looking machine. It has sleek lines and rounded corners. Frankly, it looks better than some more expensive machines.
The machine, of course, comes with a portafilter, single filter, double filter, and a combination tamper/scoop. It does not include a milk frothing pitcher. Depending on the brand, you can get a metal milk frothing pitcher for around $7 to $30.
|Current price on Amazon||$129.99|
|Cost for supplies||$7 to $30 for milk frothing pitcher|