Monday, July 28, 2008


Not long ago I had visited Switzerland and finding a good cup of coffee is almost impossible. Never the less the “trend” of espresso is very much alive and starbucks seems to be a cool and trendy hangout place for tourists and natives alike. Another trendy thing to have and drink is Nespresso, the famous espresso brewer in the whole of Europe and perhaps the most publicised and criticised piece of coffee machinery. Almost every household has a Nespresso machine and a vast selection of different pods. I got to use one every morning myself and had found out why people like it and if it actually makes a good cup of espresso coffee …

Ever since Nordic Barista Cup 2007 I’ve been a little sceptical of this machine and its capabilities, but “in theory” this machine is holeproof. It’s clean, its easy and believe it or not the taste is actually half decent. They appeal to an upper class crowds with their clean and sharp designs. This ferry tail success story really is a great example of superb marketing, however people do not buy a Nespresso machine for the taste in be cup, but for its convenience and cleanliness.

The taste of the pods is ranked by strength, acidity and bitterness, so the stronger/bitter the coffee the darker the colour of the pod. In other words higher dose of nasty robusta, stronger the taste. They do however make an 100% Arabica blend which I have grown to like. The name of the pod is Volluto and the capsule is gold in coulour. The espresso shot is far from perfect but it is more than drinkable and not a bad introduction to decent espresso. Having said that there are still few minor skills required in order to pull a decent shot.

Due to the low dose of coffee in the pods (5grams) and the low bar pressure of the machine the coffee is extremely easy to over extract. There is no restriction and very little infusion time at the start of the extraction, so the coffee comes down like a waterfall, it is very important to visually judge the espresso and cut the shot at an appropriate time. I have found that a 25ml shot would come out around 15sec but the end product actually tastes nice; sweet and chocolaty with a good amount of crema.

The machine itself is inexpensive, that is another reason why people want to purchase it but the pods are pretty expensive and the costs add up, but I guess it is much cheaper than getting an espresso at a coffee shop. Each pod is gas sealed immediately after grinding so the coffee keeps much longer. As there is no one way valve, the pods tend to puff up due to release of gasses.

I have come to the conclusion that ordinary people still drink espresso just because its fashionable, they are not interested in origins and don’t recognise fine flavours. Many like the strong taste, many don’t and that’s the bottom line. In that regard Nespresso is going a horrible job at education people about coffee as a product. You never see people buying a bottle of red wine just because its made out of a red grape, peoples general understanding of wine is much higher, many even understand the appellation system. Nespresso could reveal the origins and blend breakdowns, so people can start associating different tastes and profiles.


Roberto Bergami said...

good article kiril.
i've been intrigued by this machine and the pods myself. i even planned to review all pods nut never went further than the temporary ones, that were half decent as well.

if we talk espresso's, i guess in Belgium only one procent of people with an espresso machine is capable of producing beter quality than we can with this nespresso.
so, the succes is understandable and I think it's even good for us, specialty coffee lovers, this system is on the market.

keep on posting dear globetrotter,

antwerp Barista

thiswasme said...

As a Nespresso owner and habitual coffee drinker, I sort of agree with your review of the system, in principle. I've tried numerous home espresso machines, from various electric models to stove-tops and so on, and I've found that making it for myself generally produces wildly varying results.

With the Nespresso machine I'm willingly sacrificing a bit of quality for consistency and speed of delivery. I think that for the majority of us, this trade-off is perfectly acceptable.

Marcelo Francisco Toledo said...

Some things just seem "to modern" for me. I do not think you can compare the look & ritual of a authentic coffee & espresso maker. I am pleased that people enjoy these machines but there is nothing like buying beans, making grinds & adding your own special touch!- Marcelo.