As many of our coffeecrew readers may think, being an editor for this website must be a great gig! Enjoying fine cups of brew in exciting places, and then being able to express our thoughts and ideas to thousands of readers each month. As an editor of the crew, hard work is a must from time to time, and this usually includes product reviews. Over the years, members at the crew have given the pros and cons to all types of products, the best of which can be seen here. I was recently provided with a Nespresso ES 50 Manual by Swica Importers of Vancouver, which is the subject of this review.
Some may be familiar with pod coffee (it has traditionally been more popular in Europe), and Nespresso is the newest entrant to the North American market for this segment of espresso coffee. At a first glance, it looks like a regular espresso machine, equipped with a steam unit, large reservoir, and is finished in the familiar materials. However, you will notice that no porta-filter exists on this machine. The Nespresso machines use a capsule-style coffee, which is a small packet of ground espresso in a vacuum-sealed pod approximately half the size of your palm. To extract the coffee, the process is similar to a traditional espresso machine. Upon first use, I was amazed at the similar but different process this machine offers.
To use the capsule of espresso, the only step required is to lift the center lid, lock back in place (at this point, you hear teeth puncture the capsule), heat the machine, and then flick the switch to brew. A different process than grinding the beans, placing in the filter, tamping, all the while ensuring the correct pressure is being achieved. I was amazed at the crema I achieved on every brew on this machine...until I realized again that my skills were not at play here. The benefit to this machine is a similar brew every single time. Since the capsules are pre-measured, and the water pressure in the machine is regulated, every brew will be the same as the last. Once finished drawing a 2oz. shot of espresso, milk can be frothed in the same fashion as all other machines (of course, the steam unit needs pre-heating).
What impressed me the most about this machine is the ease of use (which is in fact, one of the main selling features for Nespresso). I never had to deal with grounds all over my kitchen counter, nor worry about grinding espresso beans. I was provided with an array of different types of capsules, allowing me to have Espresso, Americano's, and decaf. This then lead me to ask the question: "Where do you buy the coffee for this machine?" Unfortunately, the only way to purchase coffee is to order online through nespresso.com, or phone and fax 24/7, and within 48hrs, a delivery is made to your work or home. The one issue I saw with this was that the choice of coffee is quite limiting; I find that one of the most enjoyable parts of drinking coffee is always finding new blends, roasts, all from different independent shops around Vancouver. However, if you want a reliable cup everyday, the Nespresso unit does this quite well.
The capsule coffee market has been quite slow to take in North America, but has been quite successful in Europe (this doesn’t surprise me - just looking at this machine screams engineering - think Swiss design). It seems as though Nespresso is pursuing an initial growth strategy targeting small offices and businesses where customers may enjoy an espresso drink but there isn’t the time for a manual espresso machine. I am interested to see how this new entrant fits into our amazingly vibrant coffee culture in Vancouver.
In closing: the Nespresso machine turned out cup after cup of reliable espresso based drinks, in a machine that is very user-friendly. For those aficionados who prefer to have more manual control and feel while making their espresso, stick with the manual Saeco's, Gaggia's, and Rancillo machines. For those who want a clean, no fuss machine, I highly recommend looking into the Nespresso ES 50 (www.nespresso.com).
Dave Reimer is a Vancouver resident and coffee expert. As a business graduate from B.C.I.T, he has a critical eye for what succeeds or fails in todays competitive marketplace. Look forward to more reviews from Dave in the near future.