Every Christmas I try to buy something nice to give to me from me and in 2008, that something was a Nespresso coffee machine. Officially it was the best way to make a one-touch cafe latte at home. Unofficially, George Clooney was in the commercials, I wanted something cool to play with on Christmas morning now that I was too old for toys and I longed to sit on a high stool at the Nespresso bar in Cork’s exclusive Brown Thomas department store and sip freshly prepared Nespresso coffee from delicate glass Nespresso cups. It was truly the best way to spend my lunch hour back when I worked the 9 to 5, and I never say no to free coffee.
But now the machine that cost me the best part of a week’s wages is in a cupboard collecting dust while several long, slim boxes of Nespresso capsules creep towards their ‘Use By’ date beside it. The last time I used it was several months ago, and that was to make a latte for a guest. My caffeine habit is such that I have opportunity to use it several times a day, but don’t. Why not?
In the TV ad, Gorgeous George eyes up a brunette before selecting a colorful Nespresso capsule, popping it in his Nespresso machine and then, a moment later, enjoying a perfect cup of coffee. The idea is the amount of coffee is perfectly controlled every time, as is the amount of water dispensed to filter through it, so your coffee will always be just right. The machines will make you make you an espresso, lungo, cappuccino or latte with minimal effort. With my DeLonghi Latissima machine, for instance, I press one button and watch with delight as a perfect espresso drops into my cup, followed by freshly steamed milk and topped with foam: the perfect latte.
But that’s just the logistics. The secondary lure of the Nespresso system is the same thing designer clothes and sports cars promise to bring us: a better life. Nestle do everything they can to brand their Nespresso system as something exclusive, expensive and luxurious. My machine was almost €400, a pack of 12 capsules is as pricey as it is environmentally unfriendly and Nespresso coffee can only be bought from Nespresso bars, online from the company or by mail order. (As for the location of Nespresso bars, I bought my machine in Debenhams but had to go to Brown Thomas – think Selfridges – for the coffee to put in it.) There’s even an iPhone app and a fancy website. I didn’t just buy a Nespresso machine – I bought into Nespresso. I thought it would transform my early morning coffee-drinking into something decidedly more fancy than me in an old NASA T-shirt and sweat pants with a face like Gollum, chugging back coffee from whatever liquid-holding device was closest to hand, desperate to wake up.
The problem is that once the initial novelty wore off, I realized that Nespresso just didn’t appeal to the coffee drinker in me. While it was real easy to make a cutesy espresso, lungo (technically a ‘long espresso’ – an average-sized cup of coffee, i.e. a teacup) or latte, it couldn’t serve me up what I really wanted, which was enough coffee to fill my favorite coffee mug/cereal bowl with a handle. To do that would either involve running water through a capsule twice, or using two capsules. I was also soon bored of the range of Nespresso flavours (currently at 16, I believe, in various strengths). I couldn’t find one that tasted just right and even if I had, I’d have soon bored of it. The fun of being a coffee-drinker is trying new coffee, something I’d never get to do if I relied exclusively on my Nespresso machine. BOR-ING!
(There is a company that produces fill-your-own Nespresso capsules. I’ve never tried them, but I have my doubts. Real Nespresso capsules are packed by machine; it’s impossible to fill one with as much coffee yourself, by hand. Therefore the coffee will inevitably be weak, although a hell of a lot cheaper.)
To top it all off, I hardly drink lattes anymore – too many calories.
So while my crazily expensive Nespresso serves as a reminder of the money I was prepared to throw away back when I actually had a job and only gets dragged out for special latte-making opportunities, my eye has wandered onto something else: this Christmas, I really want a Tassimo.
Santa, are you listening?
P.S. A large number of you seem to be landing on this post because you Googled ‘using Nespresso capsules twice’. While I’m sure the official word is not to (why would they encourage such a practice when it’ll hurt their sales?), I actually don’t recommend it either. Unless you like your coffee weak, of course. What I did use to do was put water through a capsule twice to make a larger cup of coffee than my Nespresso liked to make (so I basically putting two lungos in a cup), but if you’re making an espresso to drink straight or put in a latte, I’d bite the bullet and only use each capsule once.