Nespresso simplifies the coffee equation in style
By Mike Hanlon
June 4, 2004
We drink a lot of coffee at Gizmag, so when we got the opportunity to sample a machine which was claimed to produce extreme quality coffee which is EXACTLY the same every time, and reduces the time devoted to the ritual of coffee making by several minutes, and eliminates the mess, we jumped at the opportunity. First things first - the name was a significant problem to overcome - Nespresso conjures up pictures of synthetic substances manufactured by unnatural means, of a low-cost substitute for people who don't have any taste and who couldn't tell the difference between good coffee and instant home-brand coffee if it hit them on the head with a hammer.
But we forged ahead with the test anyway, mainly because they gave us what they thought was a month's supply of coffee (which we ripped through in just over a week) and the Gizmag machine was on the blink so we needed a substitute while it was overhauled.The end result was surprising - not only did the machine produce really high (coffee shop quality) coffee every time, it could produce exactly the type of coffee you wanted every time, and the choice of nine different coffee blends meant that everyone could get what they wanted.
Even the decaf brigade felt it was a wonderful thing because it produces authentic coffee - very close in taste and crema and appearance to a real coffee.The coffee is purchased in capsules which are hermetically sealed (this is the only way you can keep coffee fresh for more than a few days according to the people at Nespresso - more effective than keeping it in the freezer) and each contain one dose i.e one cup of coffee.
If there is a negative to the entire system it's that you can't alter the strength of the caffeine hit.
Every system which standardises a process has unavoidable pitfalls and this is the only one we could find in the Nespresso system - some people like their coffee at nuclear strength and although we tried doing two capsules, this was a case of overkill.So if you are thinking of buying a coffee machine, make sure your strength requirements fit approximately to those of the Nespresso cartridges - if they do, almost every other aspect of the machine is ideal.
Each year there are an additional two "special blends" added to the nine on offer and all the capsules are colour-coded, which makes choosing your coffee akin to choosing a sweetie from a box of chocolates. The capsules come in long boxes of ten at a time, and there's a wooden display box which really makes you feel special when choosing a blend.The low-mess aspects of the machine were obviously part of the design criteria and the designers of the machine (Krups in German), have done an outstanding job.
Replenishing water supplies is often a case of obtaining a jug of some type, filling it with water then pouring and sometimes missing the container's opening on the coffee machine. In this instance, the Perspex reservoir sits on an o-ring sealing device which would not be out of place on a Formula One refuelling rig - so you just lift it off the machine, take it to the tap and fill it.
Easy and convenient and you can always tell when the water needs topping up because you can see the levels from across the room.When you open the jaws on top of the machine to put in a new capsule, the old capsule gets shunted down the throat of the machine and into a container - so you don't even need to remove the old capsule every time, and the container holds more than a dozen capsules so even with high usage it only needs to be emptied occasionally. When it is emptied, it is entirely mess free too.
Even the spill tray has an ingenious device which tells you it is getting towards full by floating a little yellow tongue out on the otherwise hidden slops.The strength of the pump is another plus for the machine - when forcing the hot water through the coffee, boiling temperature would burn the coffee - so there are two modes which allow for making the coffee and getting that great crema on top of the broth before hitting the boost button to create steam for frothing the milk. It's all simple and very fast and belies the theories of one amongst the Gizmo crew who was adamant that the most significant ingredient of good coffee is the love and attention when it is being made.
The Nespresso machine does not require anything more than rudimentary skills to produce coffee-shop quality coffee and apart from ensuring the milk frother-steam thingy is kept clean, it's as maintenance free as its possible to get. It costs $649 inc GST, probably less if you hustle a little.
The cost of the capsules could be a problem in that there's only capsule which fits and when there's only one game in town, the price to play is often steep. In this case, the 10-packs have been consistently priced for several years and come in at around $0.57 per cup - lots less than at the local coffee shop but probably a bit more than you're paying if you are buying ground coffee.It's a new take on quality coffee - convenient, consistent, quick-to-make and cost-effective compared to the local shop. Indeed, there's a very good chance that this machine will shame your local coffee shop for quality and consistency.