When I first unboxed the Merol ME-712 coffee machine, I was a little disappointed. The plastic shell did not look very robust and it slightly lacked the style of the European machines. But as I will explain, don’t judge a book by its cover, or what ever cliché makes the point. The ME-712 coffee machine came with great expectations, a supplier of mine in the US has been selling them by the container and was raving about them when we last spoke. But every body loves cheap, especially him and cheap things don’t often turn out to be cheap in the long run.

But the price point was unbelievable so I had to try one. Now after a week of using it in my kitchen and having stripped it completely in the workshop. I like this machine for the price I paid – under $1000. The European show pony coffee machines have been losing their value for years. As a coffee repair shop I now turn away a lot of european models, they are just cheap and often unrepairable. Anyway most are made in China.  In a bid to make the machines cheaper and more disposable, the parts have become perishable. They are designed to be used for a couple of years at most and then disposed of.
We had to add of few variations to this machine to make it fit our performance criteria, but the added time and cost is value, as the machine now is in a class of its own within the price bracket. In Part 1 of this article I will go over the performance of this machine as experienced by a typical user. In the second part I will do a teardown of the machine and talk about the components under the hood and the hydraulic design.

The key performance and design attributes I sought from this machine were;

1. The ability to make good coffee. This means adequate coffee weight in the puck. Somewhere around 8 to 10g, with some tinkering I got over 12g. Good water temperature and pressure. And finally a robust milk frothing system. This machine caught my eye as it had duel boilers, probably the only automatic under $1500 with duel boilers.

2. Serviceability. This means a hydraulic design that works and a frame which allows me to get my hands in and change parts. I worked on Nespresso machines for a few years and just to get a boiler in and out took an hour of fiddly mucking around. You had to pull half the guts of the machine out. Serviceability also means a good supply of parts at affordable pricing. The european brands have restricted access to parts meaning machines have to be returned to remote service centres for small repairs. The repair might have the price capped but if its a minor issue, the consumers not winning. Especially when the machine is away for weeks and arrives home broken. All stories we hear.

3. Durability. I have mentioned the outer plastic shell leaves a little to be desired. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got it opened up.

4. Finally, a friendly user interface. The ME-712 has a few quirks but once you know them, one can easily dial up a beverage of their choosing.

coffee machine menu screen me-712

Just a quick introduction on the Merol machines. You will see the same machine badged differently, and being offered around the web. They are all Merol machines. The difference in price comes down to modifications, the after sale service being offered and extras being offered with the machine. At OutWest Coffee before dispatch, we open up each unit and make 2 component changes and add a third, we adjust the grind and then calibrate and test each unit. I run temperature checks on the boilers and flow rates etc and eliminate any manufacturing or component defects. If you purchase one of these machines from me you will find the check list signed by one of my factory staff demonstrating the tests we have performed before dispatch.
This adds to the cost but it means I know what I am sending out and don’t need to reply on the Chinese factory for quality control. It results in happy customers not frustrated customers, who unbox the machine and find it does not perform to their expectations. You the consumer have the choice, the off the back of the truck price or my price, I’ll tell you now, I sell these machines for $100 more than the cheapest online competitor. But my customers are happy and not moaning online about my machines or my service and I intend to be here for warranty claims, unlike the drop shippers.

Unfortunately the Merol brand has suffered due to these machines being dumped into the market. I actually tested an earlier model and decided against stocking it. With the ME-712 they have eliminated all of the annoying software errors that frustrated users of the earlier models. But any coffee machine without adequate quality control or backup service is gonna have some disappointed punters. So keep this in mind when you read some of the reviews of the early models.

milk frothing on the me-712menu milk frothing me-712

Using the ME-712
The first thing you will notice, unless you buy it from me, is that its never had a bean through it. I think this is typical of the small domestic machines. When I buy commercial 
machines from Italy they are tested. Once plugged in you can easily remove the somewhat frail water container and fill it. This is a nice fitting container, not loose like its gonna fall off, as they are on some machines. The arrival of power to the circuits is announced with a loud beep (unless you have turned off the audible alarms) and the screen lights up. It sits on standby until you touch it, it then displays a nice graph and heats up. It took less than 2 minutes from switch on to being ready for a coffee. I timed it at 90 seconds before it was hot and running its boot-up system checks, comprised of rotating the brew unit and priming the hydraulic system. The main menu comes up when the boot is complete and its ready.
To make milk you need to place your cup under the milk dispenser. Don’t forget to warm your cup if it is not already preheated from the nice cup warmer. Milk is sucked through a tube from the container to your cup and frothed via an air intake valve. This Venturi systems is the tried and test saeco system and it works very well. Now with most machines with a flash boiler, the machine takes about 20 seconds to bring the flash boiler to temperature from cold, before it opens the steam valve and begins the flow of milk. Once hot its instantaneous. But unlike other machines, it displays a nice little graph while you are waiting. Some machines leave you wondering if the steam valve has failed, the wait is so long and not flagged.

The milk flow and temperature is phenomenal. Milk out of my fridge at 6.7 degree was heated to 60-65 degrees, depending on how much air I added. See the photo showing the designer foam I achieved. You will need to move your coffee cup over to the coffee spout to add coffee. This is not a great disposition, as having a seperate milk and coffee outlet makes cleaning the milk line so much easier. I just run fresh water through after each milk beverage and it stayed very clean and hygienic. 

Now to the coffee production. At first the menu felt weird but it does work. You select either a single shot or double shot, while the machine is grinding you can tap the bean icon and increase the tamp weight by increasing the grind time. You can also tap the temp gauge and increase the temperature from 75 to 90 degrees, but I found it difficult to adjust both for the same beverage. However it does remember the last shot temp and holds this for the next one.

Now I got a 12.3g weight (measure by weighing the ejected puck) and when I measured the coffee shot (measured by placing thermometer under the coffee stream), for a selected 90 degree temp, I got 76 degree coffee shot. This was from cold, on the second shot with the brew chamber now warm, I got an 84 degree shot. I was very happy with that from an automatic machine in this price range. I service a lot of small domestic machines and a coffee shot of 70- degrees is the best a lot of $5k machine will deliver. But note this is an area we modified to achieve these results.

milk frothing on the me-712menu milk frothing me-712

By the way when I measured water temp for the tea, set at 80 degrees, I got 83 degrees. The tea for hot water and the steam utilise the same boiler. The coffee production has its own dedicated boiler. This is the sort of design that makes this machine work so well. Just like the old school Saeco.
The final temperature of the latte in my cup, as seen in picture was 60 degrees, I have had beverages as warm as 65 degrees. Final beverage temperature obviously depends on the proportion of milk foam to coffee shot. So in my opinion, this machine blows all competitors in the price bracket out of the water. In terms of milk consistency and temperature, coffee shot temperature and the weight of coffee that can be utilised for coffee extraction, there are no competitors. All you coffee snobs reading this and thinking this guy is just talking this up. I am gonna post a challenge on youtube and fool some snobs like you. I’ll keep you posted.
Emptying the coffee pucks is via the side door, like the Saeco royals, funny that. The brew unit looks interchangeable with a Saeco, but we will get into that in Part 2. The machines loud beeps are annoying although you can turn them down or off. But I found the graphics were fine and very clear for warning of pucks draw full or water tank empty. So I left it off.

perfect latte from the me-712

me-712 brew unitme-712 water tank

This concludes my introduction of the operation of the Merol ME-712 Coffee Machine. There is a lot of additional functionality I have not mentioned, thats not of great concern here. More important is its coffee making abilities. In the next section we will take a more technical look at the machine. I have included some photos of the machine in my kitchen and hereby want to formally retract my criticism of its style. Love that small footprint and its not that noisy. Ok I have become biased, but so far there is nothing to regret about this purchase. Or is there?

Parts and support. This brand has been dumped in the market by Kogan type operations that bring in containers of these machines and sell them real cheap. Meaning someone like me gets under cut on price. So I stop importing parts and machines cause I can can not sell them. Recently Pronto Coffee took all their phone numbers off their website and my phone went mad with their customers wanting parts and asking me how to fix their machines.

Until I win Lotto, I will be here trying to give this machine support and provide a reliable supply of them. But if they turn up all over eBay I’ll probably call it a day. So where do you get a ME-712 at a great price. From me of course, purchase a me-712 coffee machine here or give us a call. Support me and I will have your back on parts. Or you can go to the Pronto site and try and buy one from them for a hundred bucks cheaper. That’s if they have them number listed, or they decide to answer the phone.

Stephen Rodda

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