Coffee Break: Coffee + George Clooney = Nespresso

20 Aug

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.

DeLonghi Latissima Nespresso machine. (Mine is exactly the same, just with dust.)

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.

Nespresso capsules.

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.

A typical Nespresso Bar.

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.

Click here to visit the official Nespresso website.

Click here to read all of Catherine’s Coffee Breaks.

15 Responses to “Coffee Break: Coffee + George Clooney = Nespresso”

  1. Andi August 20, 2010 at 18:07 #

    I’m sure that when working in the NL you have come across Senseo. That thing actually makes decent coffee (it has an attachment to use two pads if you want to make a really big mugful) and it does it more or less at the tough of a button as well. Plus, there’s loads of flavours available, and NOT just from one company. Although I have a trauma about all things Dutch (and Senseo is from Philips), I suggest you give it a try. I warn against the really fancy version of the machine (which has a separate tank for milk) though, the regular one is quite sufficient. :-)
    Tassimo probably has the advantage of being able to make hot chocolate, tea and probably hot soup (?), but the choice is limited to the one brand as far as I know.

    • catherineryanhoward August 20, 2010 at 22:15 #

      Thanks for the info, Andi.

      Yes, I’m familiar with that system but I think I’m going to stick with Tassimo as the machine is moderately priced and they recently announced that Starbucks Breakfast Blend – one of my fave all day coffees (ironically!) – will be available as a Tassimo pod. Twinings tea also have a deal with them. That’s all I need really! :-)

      • Andi August 21, 2010 at 13:08 #

        That is of course a killer argument. Makes me want to trade my Senseo in for a Tassimo as well now :-D

  2. diane August 22, 2010 at 11:23 #

    My uncle got one of these last Christmas and seems to really like it — in part because you can have tea. As long as the coffee’ll be strong enough for you, it seems like a good option. Caffeine addiction can be expensive though, eh? ;)

    • catherineryanhoward August 22, 2010 at 11:57 #

      It is when you’re me – my spending-money-I-don’t-have problem extends into all facets of life! ;-)

      At least there’s only one Starbucks here in Cork though, and it’s at the airport. I wouldn’t be able to keep up my $4 coffee habit on this side of the Pond…!

  3. Mick March 22, 2012 at 11:43 #

    I’ve been using the refillable capsules for 6+ months now and I disagree with your assertion that the coffee is weak. I buy Lavazza whole beans at Tesco and grind them down fine, then pack the coffee into the plastic capsules TIGHT and the resultant coffee is very nice.
    I agree that the one draw-back to the Nespresso machine is the amount of coffee it makes per capsule, but I have gotten used to drinking several shots of my home-brew. I find it more tasty than my old french-press, and I am taking in a lot less “sludge” at the bottom of the mug.

    • catherineryanhoward March 22, 2012 at 12:03 #

      Hi Mick,

      That’s very interesting. Where do you get your refillable/disposable capsules? I might give them a try myself.

      I was talking to someone a couple of weeks back who recommended the Lavazza machines. The capsules cost pretty much the same (although they look bigger) and you can get a basic machine with a frother for €120, I believe. I had some of the coffee and I much preferred it. Just trying to avoid buying *yet another* coffee machine! :-)

  4. Marlon September 17, 2012 at 21:36 #

    It’s great that you are getting thoughts from this post as well as from our dialogue made here.

  5. Hester September 22, 2012 at 07:49 #

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  6. Rachal Herlong October 17, 2012 at 20:12 #

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  7. triathlonobsession November 19, 2012 at 16:29 #

    Ah no! I just bought the Nepresso Citiz (on sale mind you) for the hubby for xmas. I do fear it might get packed up one day due to lack of interest. I guess there are always the post-Christmas returns if he doesn’t like it. Great post!

  8. Kelsey Follett December 27, 2012 at 16:06 #

    My husband and I received the Nepresso Pixie for Christmas (as in 2 days ago) from my parents. He has shunned the thing ever since we brewed the first pod in a “large cup”. He’s a coffee drinker – big travel mug out the door in the morning coffee drinker so the “large” cup was a shock for him. I think I like the European feel of the thing. Brings me back to my trips in France, Italy and…..ok stop daydreaming. These are places he has never been (yet) so he does not have this connection and pretty much no concept of the “espresso”. So….do I keep the thing? We have a – lets just call it what it is – an American coffee maker (the kind you measure in cups, not ounces) that we received for our wedding 2 years ago that works great. We did not need the Nepresso nor did we ask for it for Christmas. (I honestly think my parents “bought into it” the song and dance at Sur La Table in San Francisco). I think I keep it as a “toy” (similar to the $250 golf driver the hubs received for the 6 times a year he plays golf). I justify it by how little room it takes up – unlike my Kitchen Aid mixer that I’ve used twice since the wedding.

  9. JM December 31, 2012 at 05:54 #

    Is it me or does the Nespresso make weak lattes? I bought the Pixie Bundle for myself this Christmas. I was hoping to replicate the strong flavor of the Tall lattes at Starbucks. I asked my local Starbucks how many shots they put into a Tall (12 oz) and they said two shots. With that info in hand, I have tried making lattes with two Arpeggios and milk just under the hot milk line on the frother (roughly 6 to 10 oz) and the lattes come out tasting more like milk than lattes. If I have to put in 3 shots then using the machine will be out of my financial comfort zone.

    Am I missing something? Everywhere I read, they say the Nespresso is the best espresso maker, but this unit makes me long for my old Krups steam espresso maker, where I could control the amount of coffee.

    • catherineryanhoward December 31, 2012 at 12:59 #

      The strength of the latte is controlled by the strength of the coffee and the amount of milk. I think there’s at least one capsule stronger than Arpeggio (can’t think of the name but it’s black, maybe Ristretto…?) so you could try that, and you can adjust the amounts of milk or coffee your machine dispenses (see handbook for info). I would advise against trying to “match” the taste of a Starbucks latte though—or any branded beverage—as it’s never going to taste the same.

      • JM June 30, 2013 at 23:09 #

        Follow up: I have kept my Nespresso and learned to drink less ounces of coffee in the morning. I use two capsules and about 1/4 cup of milk. If I want more liquid, I run one capsule as a lungo and the other as an espresso. I tried the Ristretto and did not like the flavor, so I have stuck with the Arpeggio and the Indriya. I tried going back to my favorite Ultra Dark Sumatra in my old drip coffee maker and I hated it. The Nespresso is so smooth tasting. For one week I was avoiding dairy and sugar, so I only had espressos and they were great. I normally do not like coffee black, but this does make the best tasting espressos. I guess I am hooked on Nespresso. One warning, this is an expensive habit. On average I use 1.5 to 2 sleeves of coffee a week ($9.00-$12.00/ wk). This is the one luxury I allow myself.

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