Living with the VTech Pod system espresso machine

The trouble with progress is that it is an unstoppable juggernaut. I could easily spend several days a week reviewing all that is new in coffee World - just concentrating on the familiar and improvements to what I am most comfortable with. But then I would miss the really new stuff - and the truly innovative.
And although the Pod system is hardly new or truely innovative - it was something I was ready to investigate.

The espresso and coffee pod systems have been around for some time now - they are huge in Europe - and over there, Pod systems are serious contenders in the top spots for kitchen popularity. And although I am not entirely sure why they are so big across the pond, getting to use one for a month gave me some much needed clarity.

And so it was, as I was picking up a Nuova Simonelli Oscar for review from Reg James's EspressoTec.Com - Reg pushed several more boxes in my direction: One containing a Vtech Pod system and the other the (soon to be reviewed) VTech Uno dual boiler espresso system. Oh joy. More stuff to play with. And if anyone is curious why I take so long to get to these chores - well, I have yet another web site that I do - where I review radio and telecom products... and it is the same over there: Lots of stuff - Too little time.

Basic Concepts: There are two kinds of espresso and coffee preparation methods if you boil it all down to the lowest common denominator:
  • Manual Coffee and Espresso
  • Super-Automatic Coffee and Espresso
With manual coffee or espresso making, you have to do a bunch of stuff; grind coffee, heat water, infuse the two ingredients together in some fashion - praying that you can do it right... and then finally serve the product.

With Super-Automatic coffee, you plug in your coffee appliance, add coffee and water - and press a button - with a cup placed under a spout. 1-2-3. That is it.

In a Pod system, whether it is tea, coffee or espresso - Your raw materials are in a form much like a tea bag - pre-packed with precisely dosed coffee (or tea) and packed in an air tight (and hopefully nirtogen infused) envelope - fresh (more or less) until the moment you brew you beverage.


The beauty about the pod systems, as well, is - you can effortlessly switch between decaf, different blends, and (god forbid) flavored coffees! Trust me - this will be the ONLY reference to F******* coffee you see on this website - now or forever!

So - lets talk about the Vtech Pod Espresso system. The Vtech Pod Espresso system has two thermal block boiler systems - one for brewing, one for steaming - So, if you are so inclined, you can steam milk for cappuccino or latte while you are brewing pod shots. The Vtech Pod Espresso system has a 3-way solenoid for dripless change over of spent pods - I found this handy as I rarely brewed a single pod during the test phase. In fact, many of my willing victims tolerated triple and quad shot Americanos with very little added water on board.

The Vtech Pod Espresso system uses a 55W 16-bar pump (An Ulka no doubt) for relaible brewing.
And because the Vtech Pod Espresso system uses dual thermal block boilers, the unit heats up very fast. I did not stop-watch it or anything but I think about 7 minutes was more than ample for a full component heat up. As usual, several quick flushes got everything up to working temperature.

The Vtech Pod Espresso system uses a mix of Brass, Stainless steel commercial quality electrical bits and pieces. The portafilter holder, steam wand and steam valve are brass - brass where it counts!

In the saddle: After the Vtech Pod Espresso system is heated up and ready to roll (the ready light tells you so!), there is little more than tearing open a pod envelope an dropping the pod in the open basket - locking it in, and pressing the brew switch. Not surprising, your brew cycle is about 25s and you get about 1 and 3/4 fluid ounces of espresso per pod.

And I don't do singles.

Brewing a double, triple or *gasp* a quad shot takes about 45s per brew phase and change-over. Your only limit is - your physical dexterity.

I found the shots from the Vtech Pod Espresso system hot -- and I mean the right temperature for espresso - and every single shot was extracted exactly like the one before it. No shock there.
Keeping in mind that Pod coffee is not quite like fresh ground (and that might just be the most cocky understatement you see here...) - I found the drinking quite pleasant without the bitter surprises you get with many conventional brewers or super-automatics. Did I mention that the coffee was hot!?

Steam power was, as described: On demand - with seeminly enough fire power to brew 12 fluid ounces of cold milk in short order. As usual, not being a big milk drinker, I did not explore its potential that much.

Summary
- For those hankering for quickie coffee or espresso who are looking at SuperAutomatic machines under 1500$ - look at a Pod machine first. Where the Pod system wins over the SuperAutomatic (just add beans and water - press button) - is that the coffee is hot and properly extracted each and every time. The Pod systems are, in fact, more like manual and semi-auto espresso machines and not at all like fully SuperAuto units. This equates to reliability, less downtime and fewer headaches. Trust me. {mos_sb_discuss:23}

Coming up - we review the VTech Uno dual boiler espresso system - It gives the Rancilio Silvia a run for the money.