I bought this as a Christmas present for my husband, who has a slight Starbucks addiction. I calculated (rightly) that in the long run it would save us money on the daily Starbucks run and it has also proved very useful when we have guests over for dinner parties and coffee mornings with my other "mom" friends. Let me tell you, everyone is extremely impressed when I produce perfectly prepared, professional lattes.
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This machine works EXCLUSIVELY with the Nespresso system, which is to say you cannot use it with any old ground beans. The Nespresso system is comprised of individual, sealed and premeasured portions of ground fresh beans, which are sealed in metal cups about the size of an individual creamer sized plastic cup you get at restaurants and cafes. To make the coffee or espresso, you insert the cup in the machine and lock it into place (more on that later), which punctures the cup to allow the water to flow through.
These individually sized coffee pellets (called "capsules") are purchased easily online through www.nespresso.com. They come in packs of 10 and are shipped within a day or two to your home. Each capsule costs about .52 cents each.
There are 12 different flavours of coffee, including 2 decaffeinated. There are also periodically limited edition flavours that are more exotic, usually regional blends (i.e. a java, a Mexican etc).
I usually keep a bowlful of pellets in a china bowl on top of the machine, but there are beautiful carriers that you can buy from www.nespresso.com (as well as lots of accessories and cups and linen).
The machine itself is a sleep black and chrome box, comprised of several parts: the water reservoir, the capsule insertion point, the used capsule container, the milk container and frother, the overflow grill, the operation buttons, and the hot water faucet.
One of the main reasons I chose this machine over other Nespresso systems was the water reservoir. Other brands have large, glass pitcher type reservoirs that jut out from the back, making it a rather irregular shape and to my mind not very symmetrical. The reservoir in this machine is hidden underneath; you easily pull out the base all the way out of the machine, carry it to the faucet, and fill it up. It's very easy to remove and replace, holds enough water for several days worth of coffee drinks and, best of all, hides away under the machine, making it look a lot more professional and sleek.
Once the machine is filled with water, it's really ready to go. There are 6 buttons on the machine: On, Espresso, Lungo, Latte, Cappucino, and Hot Water. To go, you press the On button. Within 1 minute, the Espresso and Lungo buttons turn red and are ready to go. Within 2 minutes, either the Latte and Cappuccino or Hot Water buttons turn on and are ready to go.
Next, you insert the capsule. You lift the lever and drop the capsule in. When you close the lever, it punctures the sealed capsule, which allows water to flow through.
MAKING THE COFFEE
You place the cup on the overflow grill (which has a reservoir underneath in case there is any spillage). You can raise and lower the overflow, so you can either use a small espresso glass, a cappuccino cup or a large, tall glass for lattes.
Now you're ready to brew Espresso or Lungo drinks:
Espresso: For espresso, you push the espresso button. Within 10 seconds, you have a perfectly brewed, steaming glass of espresso.
Lungo: For lungo (which is larger than an espresso but without milk), you press the lungo button. Within 10 seconds, voila, there you go.
If you want a milk beverage (i.e. cappuccino or latte), you have to affix the milk reservoir. This is very easy. There is a clear Lucite container with a lid (it separates completely from the machine). Lift the lid and pour in milk; close the lid and slide onto the machine. You have to adjust the frother nozzle so the steamed milk will flow into your cup and away you go.
Latte/Cappucino: Press the desired button. First the frother will huff and puff, filling your cup with perfectly frothed, creamy milk (there is an easy sliding lever on the milk reservoir for a more foamy milk or less foam/wet milk). When the foamer stops, the coffee part of the machine starts going, and a shot of espresso falls right into the middle of the foamed milk, creating a beautifully swirling cafe au lait colour. Enjoy!
One thing I love is that when you're done, you can take the milk reservoir right off the machine and pop it fridge, so you haven't wasted any milk. I usually fill the milk reservoir once a day and wash it in the evening, so I can easily make any drink I want all day long.
Teas: Once you've taken the milk reservoir off, you can easily pop the hot water faucet in its place. (When the milk reservoir is in place, you only have the option of the cappuccino and latte buttons being lit; when the hot water is in place, only the hot water button is lit). Simply place your cup under the faucet and push the button. A cupful of boiling water flows quickly, ready for a single brew of tea.
The machine is self-cleaning. The milk reservoir has 4 parts: the Lucite reservoir, the black lid, the chrome frothing attachment, and the plastic straw that draws the milk up to the frothing attachment. I either wash by hand or pop in the dishwasher. It reassembles in about 15 seconds.
As for the used capsules, after each one is used, it drops down into a small used capsule drawer, which holds about 10 used capsules. When it's full, you simply pull it out, empty in the garbage, rinse it out, and slide back in. Job done in about a minute.
You can adjust the machine to change the amount of water you want in each cup (for a weaker drink, more water, for a warmer drink, less water). You can use the hot water faucet for hot chocolates or cup-of-soup. It's fantastic when you have guests, because they expect a regular cup of Joe and end up with a fancy latte.
I bought my machine on amazon.co.uk for £299 (VERY EXPENSIVE, I know), it's at amazon.com for $800.
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