Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Single-Cup Coffee Gadgetry Gone Awry

It has been mentioned before that I am somewhat of a gadget aficionado, a gadgetrix, a lover of all things computery and automated. People like me will facilitate Skynet because it will be cool to play with - right until it rises up and eclipses our species. (Pros and cons, I guess.)

In addition to gadgetry, I love me some coffee. My boyfriend knows these things about me and has bought me not one, not two, but three single-cup coffee machines. These single-serving brewers are a great gift for the gadget-minded coffee lover on your Christmas list. The first two machines he bought me were simple Keurig devices - plug 'er in, put a K-cup in, and press a button. Voila! Coffee. This third one, though, oh, it is a lovely gadget indeed. Unfortunately, I think it may have crossed over into the "too much effort" zone.

Behold, the Nespresso Essenza Aeroccino!

This fancy little beast is actually a single-shot espresso machine, a distinction that my boyfriend didn't grasp since he shuns all things caffeinated (nobody's perfect). He was lured in by a lovely advertisement that he saw on TV in Hong Kong. The Essenza comes with its own milk frother thingy (the Aeroccino), which I have never before owned. I didn't realize just how different this machine was from my 'point and click' Keurig machines until I started tinkering with it. It turns out that there are many ways in which the Essenza is a pain in my ass.

The Nespresso machines use their own proprietary capsules, which are only manufactured by Nespresso and are available in 16 varieties. I gather that this is supposed to be an elite machine with only the most discerning, high-end product available to run through its hallowed tubing but they take it through elite and on into perplexing. "Fruity and sweet," one capsule proclaims.  Another is labeled, "smooth and creamy."  There's an intensity rating, as well as guidelines for what sort of beverage to make with the capsule in question. That's nice. Could I... just have some coffee, please?

Each capsule makes one shot of espresso or possibly lungo - and I'm afraid I am too much of a peasant to really know the difference. (If you look at the website for Nespresso it sort of implies that if you have to ask, you're unworthy of the device.) So, for the price of a whole cup of coffee on a Keurig machine, I get 1 shot of espresso. (Or maybe lungo?) Either way, it's a teensy bit of concentrated caffeine. If I want, like, a whole glass, I need to do 3 capsules, so one K-Cup = 3 Nespresso capsules.

Sadly, I don't actually own any of those little espresso minicups which Google tells me are called demitasse (re: peasant), and a regular coffee cup does not fit between the spout and the grate. I've had to get creative. Yes, I make my espresso into a shot glass, then dump it into a coffee cup. Where it sits, forlorn.

Then comes The Frothing of the Milk. This Aeroccino thingy is actually kind of cool. It comes with two whisks - one for frothing hot milk and one for frothing cold milk. (I didn't even know frothing cold milk was a thing.) In about two minutes, it makes delicious foam, although the milk is tepid at best.

With about 15 minutes and careful instruction reading, I managed to construct a truly delicious decaffeinated capuccino with frothed almond milk.  Consider that it takes me about 30 seconds to construct a cup of coffee with my Keurig machine, and those cups come in over 200 varieties from various vendors. Nespresso gives me an elite caffeine experience. Keurig just gives me my freakin' coffee.

I can see that this has practical application for making fancy pants drinks for guests. Or when I feel like channeling my inner barista.  I won't lie; the Nespresso makes one hell of a capuccino or espresso - it's delicious for sure. But this machine does not replace my regular workhorse Keurig Elite. It augments it, but since it doesn't make actual coffee, it's an 'and' not an 'or.'

If you're looking to get or give a single-cup coffee maker this year, start with a Keurig machine unless you know the person is ready to commit to his or her inner barista.
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  1. In my experience, you have to be really into espresso to use a home espresso machine... But a Keurig, that sounds like my kind of single-serving coffee maker.

  2. I love my Keurig! We use it all the time and since I like really strong dark coffee and my husband likes milder coffee and flavored coffee (yuck)it is perfect.

  3. Nara, have you tried the new Starbucks cups? They are waaaaay more expensive than the normal ones (unless you get them from Costco) but they are far and away the best coffee you can get from the Keurig. The French Roast is hands down the best coffee I've ever had from a K-cup. Definitely pick them up.

  4. I haven't tried those yet. I am running low too, so I just might have to try them. My favorite is the Green Mountain Dark Magic. Yum