So work got a new coffee machine this week. A Krups Nespresso pod thing, and I was the first one to use it, and would like to write a few short comments about it.
I also made a video of me playing with it:
Now I feel I better clear up my prejudice by way of a disclaimer. I was already biased against these pod machines, and super-automatic espresso machines, but I thought I would try and keep an open mind, and not let my prejudice get in the way.
First Impressions / Appearance: Well I had seen these things before, so there was no real “wow look at that” moments. It was pretty much what one would expect. You could look at it and know what most of the bits were for, but not all. I saw a quick start guide, but it assumed you already knew what every part was, which I didn’t so I had to read the full manual anyway. The design is pretty average, but that’s ok, Krups isn’t (as far as I know) famous for its design. It uses 3 different types of plastic, grey, shiny metal like, and see through. It follows a typical shape for an pod, or fully-automatic espresso machine, with a central upper bit letting coffee fall into a cup below, with a drip catcher underneath. A cup warmer, and a milk frother have been slapped on to each side.
Usage: This is where it falls short. It is extremely difficult to get the pod in correctly. You are supposed to lift up the lever at the top, put a pod in, close the lever and go. Afterwards you lift the lever and the used pod is supposed to drop into the holder below. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. You lift the lever up, put the pod in, and the pod drops straight through to the bottom. You can kind of close the lever half way and put the pod in but then it might sit too high, and you will only get water. You have to kind of hold the lever half closed, put the pod in, then slowly open the lever the right amount to let the pod slowly drop down into the correct position. It is very easy to let it drop, or to close it with the pod placed to high, or close it so only one side of the pod gets pierced. This wasn’t just my experience, when I arrived at work this morning two co-workers reported the same finding. I actually ended up wasting the first pod, it got pierced 2 times on one side, but not the other, no matter how I tried to get it into the machine. My 2 other attempts worked however, once I managed to get the pod in properly.
Taste: Now I dunno what is inside these pods, whether it is normal ground coffee, or some sort of instant stuff, but it seems far too small compared to the amount of ground coffee normally required for a single espresso shot. I had wasted a “single origin” pod, so my second attempt was a lungo pod. I made a lungo with it, and I didn’t like it. It was very weak, and had a bitter tinge like it was over-extracted. You could see as the coffee was coming out that it was only coffee colored for the first 2 or 3 seconds of the 50 second shot. Once I flicked the crema away, it looked watery. This morning I had a normal espresso pod, and it was acceptable, didn’t taste over extracted, was better than the typical crap spewed out by a super-auto, but was still very weak, and inferior to most other coffee I drink whether Aeropress, filter or an Espresso made my a talented barista. It certainly didn’t feel like a nice, thick, strong espresso that I could turn into a decent americano, like I usually do, in fact it was more like an espresso sized americano.
Cost: I don’t know how much this one cost, and I couldn’t find the exact model on google shopping, but similar ones (with the milk frother, but without the cup warmer) cost between €150-€200. For me this is over-priced. I would rather spend that much money on a decent grinder.
Edit: Woah wait a minute, stop the press, after a bit of googling, I found the model we have, and it costs €550! That is obscene compared to the much better coffee experience you could buy spending that money on other coffee gear. Heck you could probably get a decent grinder AND a good enough semi auto espresso machine for that money that would produce coffee 5 times better!
Conclusion: I don’t like it. Mainly because it doesn’t taste as good as other types of coffee such as Aeropress, proper espresso, even filter. I also don’t like the idea of aluminum pods, which could encourage Alzheimers, and lead to waste. Nespresso offer some recycling system, but how much energy is wasted shipping around these pods, used and unused, cleaning them, reprocessing the aluminum etc. Also Germany already has a tradition of the recycling bin for packaging, and also machines that accept empty bottles and give you money for them. If you can’t put these pods in the normal recycling, then I can’t see any alternative system, especially one which doesn’t give a deposit back, catching on here. They will probably end up not being recycled. Unfortunately people at work will use it instead of our usual filter machine, at least until the novelty wears off, or the pods run out, and its not worth cranking up the filter machine for one person, so I am basically stuck with drinking it for now. At least I have my Aeropress at home. I am also concerned about whether buying pods is cost effective compared to buying and grinding beans.
I give it a 3/10, because I did manage to get a drinkable (but not particularly enjoyable) coffee out of it, and it did taste a tad better than the typical super-automatic swill.