Every so often I get an offer of a coffee machine, to test, in exchange for a review - or a machine in exchange from one of the many online companies offering a selection of coffee products. The folks at New York City based Gourmesso.com were good enough to send a very significant supply of coffee samples and arrange for an Inissia machine to test them on.
This machine came with no real strings attached (my favorite) apart from, "Hey test the machine out - tell us what you think and what you think of the coffee pods that we supply..." OK. I can do that.
Anyway - the Nespresso Inissia arrived via courier in pretty short order along with a separate shipment of Gourmesso pods - happy times for the boys in the lab about to ensue!
The Nespresso always comes well packed with very handsome and readable instructions and a sample of some authentic Nespresso pods. Out of the box it is a pretty quick set-up. Add some water to the carafe, "touch" one of the brew buttons (there is no classic power switch) and the "brew" button blinks until the unit is ready to brew - typically under 90 seconds when you are powering it up for the first time. I do not mind there not being a power switch as long as it is clear in the instructions that there isn't one - and there are very clear instructions.
The Nespresso Inissia is an espresso machine in the truest sense of the word. It makes 2 fluid ounce servings of espresso using a high pressure pump. It uses the proprietary pod system as created by Nestle - but of course there are other vendors that make pods that will work with the unit - like Gourmesso, the company that were kind of enough to spot us a machine.
Quite often, when the curious among us are checking out the Nespresso system for the first time they need to be reminded that this is an espresso coffee system. It does not make mugs of brewed coffee. You can make passable Americano drinks with it if you are willing to have a supply of boiled water on hand to water down the espresso. I found that I needed to brew 4 shots of Nespresso coffee to make a decent 12 oz. Americano. More on that later.
Continuing the tradition that Nespresso started, there are a myriad of pods available for these machines all with very fanciful names that say nothing about the coffee you are drinking -- for the most part that is.
- Ristretto: full-bodied, intense espresso. Appears to be their benchmark.
- Arpegio: full-bodied, intense espresso. Bright. Lemony.
- Roma: Fairly balanced. Unassuming.
- Fortissio Lungo: Lungo does refer to a "long shot" but I try not to stretch the brew much.
Anyway - you get the idea.
Gourmesso, bless their hearts, has simplified the identifcation and sampling of their wares by choosing a naming system that makes more sense and gives you an idea about what you are loading into the machine; Nicaragua Mezzo, Brazil Forte, Ethiopia Blend Forte, Colombia Arabica, etc. Very helpful indeed when you compare this to the mystery of the Nespresso naming system!
In use: The Nespresso Inissia is one of the fastest power to brew-ready units I have ever tested. A minute and a half to warm up - give or take - which is pretty astounding. I imagine that the boiler (yes, I really need to tear one of these units apart to find out...) is pretty small and is likely a "thermo-block" system. Little more than a heating unit with a coil of water conducting conduit inside - in the old days these units were quite vulnerable to scale build up and a catastrophic "heart attack" coffee machine style. I am going to keep this unit for a bit and dish out some abuse to see how it stands up.
Locking and loading: is dead simple. Pick a pod. Pull up lever. Drop it in. Pull lever forward. Ready to brew. There are two buttons for brewing. Short and Long. And regardless of which one you pick to push, you can hit a button to stop the brew cycle "ristretto" or short. I use the short brew exclusively. Honest moment folks: If you were to use the LONG brew on this unit, the results would be simply undrinkable. There is simply not enough coffee in the pods to use that much water. I will actually take some Gourmesso pods and Nespresso pods apart and weigh the contents. My theory so far is that the Gourmesso pods contain slightly less coffee than the Nespresso ones - which explains why the taste of the Nespresso pods is (to my taste) slightly better. It's all subjective right?
The Long Reality: The long brew on the Nespresso Inissia is around 4 fluid ounces (OK, maybe 3.5) -- which is way over-extracted. As I said above - I am going to make some comparisons. In an interesting experiment, I polled over 100 staff in my unit at the University to freely come visit and have some free pod coffee from the Nespresso unit. There were only 6 volunteers and half of those objected to the waste that the coffee brewers produce! Now that is science at work!
Cost: At 80 cents for a Nespresso capsule - you are going to rack up some serious charges in a hurry if you have a thirst for this kind of caffeine delivery. The Gourmesso pods are around 45 cents each - but there is a bit of a compromise on the flavor I think. I will be revisiting this theory after I buy some more Nespresso pods this weekend.
Convenience: There are mountains of pods created by the popularity of these machines. One of my issues is the near inability for most people to recycle the pods - and hence 100% of the waste goes into a landfull or is dumped in the ocean in an every increasing crisis. Sorry to say this but I cannot support those kinds of products no matter how good the taste is (see below) or how convenient it all is. For me, convenience is making coffee with paper filters that I can toss into my compost bin and recycle onto the vegetable bed. The tomatoes love it!
Taste: Overall, (and this is almost a direct quote from my previous article on the Pixie!) I found the taste of the pods edgy, not particularly alive nor particularly unique, somewhat muted but better than they tasted when I tested my first Nespresso several years ago. Truth be told, the flavor has improved, particularly for the Nespresso pods. And, as I said, I need to do some live side by side comparisons of the Nespresso versus the Gourmesso pods - because I can definitely taste a difference.
Bottom line: You cannot beat the convenience of powering up a coffee maker in under 3 minutes and dropping a pod or two in and brewing up passable espresso in such a short time. This is not cafe quality coffee. This is not even coffee that is up to my rigid standards for the home. It is, however, massively convenient and if you do not mind the blight on the environment and the cost, it might be your thing.
Price tag: The Nespresso Inissia sells online (or in select retail stores) for around $99 bucks. You would be hard pressed to get any conventional pump drive machine to produce anything even remotely espresso like for $100. It is largely plastic and obviously a stripped down version of the sexier Pixie, but the results are the same.
Final impressions: Love them or hate them, POD Coffee systems are here to stay. Hopefully someone will come up with an idea to make the pods biodegreadable or something. It is hard to take - brewing up some pretty good shots of espresso only to tip the waste into an overflowing landfill. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And yet, these machines are going to appeal to the busy people of this World that do not have the time or inclination to turn coffee making into the art form it has been for me all these years.
Your author has been writing about coffee culture since the mid 1990's - which makes this website very old in internet years. From time to time we discover something quite fascinating. It can happen to me and can happen to you!