Good Coffee, Great Price

Before we get started I would like to pre-apologize for the length of this post. It’s one of my very first recommendation post so I got a little wordy but, more importantly, this isn’t a cheap item and if I had all this detailed info before I started making purchases then it would have saved me a lot of time and money so, yes, there are paragraphs and paragraphs of detailed information about anything and everything I have experienced throughout this whole process.

If you’re like me then you enjoy a good latte or cappuccino from Starbucks every once in a while but, if you’re like me, then you also don’t enjoy having to pony up five bucks every day for a decent brew. Doling out $35 a week for coffee every day sure does add up in a hurry, over $1800 per year to be exact. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for sub-par coffee at home. I’m no coffee connoisseur by any stretch but I do know the difference between a fresh cup of joe and a stale mug of varnish remover. I decided to do some research and try to find a solution for home that would yield some acceptable coffee without breaking the bank.

However, price wasn’t the only think to consider. Being the creatures of convenience that we are, it’s nice just placing an order and someone handing you a finished product so the shorter amount of time between deciding you want some coffee and having coffee in your stomach the better. Lastly, it’s almost worth the 5 bucks a cup to not have to clean up the mess afterwards. There are plenty of great manual espresso machines out there that will provide an impeccable mocha latte that rivals even the best coffee shops but you better be prepared to spend more time cleaning up then you spent making the coffee. That wasn’t an option for us. We needed minimum effort in obtaining a finished product, minimum clean-up time, and minimum price per cup. Enter Nespresso.

After much research we decided to purchase a nespresso machine instead of a Keurig for a couple of reasons. First off, we don’t always just want coffee. Sometimes we are in the mood for a latte or a cappuccino and, even buying the cappuccino specific k-cups, didn’t produce anything even close to a real cappuccino taste. Starting with an espresso shot is paramount and the Keurig K-cups are just some regular coffee mixed with a little flavoring to mimic the real thing. The second reason is that, even when you just crave a regular cup of coffee, I find that the Keurig produces a weaker brew. I would have been none the wiser had I not tried the coffee from the Nespresso but after using espresso pods in the Nespresso machine and making a full cup of coffee from them I realized I had been drinking watered down coffee my entire life. Taking all this into consideration, the Nespresso was the obvious choice for me. It is ready to begin pumping out java less than a minute after turning it on, there is virtually no clean-up (more on that later), and the different drink combinations are only limited by your imagination.

Once I made the decision to go with the Nespresso machine, I had to choose which model I wanted from the long list. Here’s where you can learn from my mistakes. DeLonghi was the maker of most of the Nespresso branded machines, which I knew nothing about at this point, and there was one “special edition” one made by Kitchenaid, which I had definitely heard of. We have a Kitchenaid mixer and it’s amazing so it would stand to reason that all of their small appliances would be just as amazing. That’s not quite the case. I purchased the Kitchenaid version of the Nespresso machine along with the separate milk frother. In comparison to the DeLonghi versions, the construction was quite a bit different. While the DeLonghi versions are beautiful machines, the Kitchenaid branded maker definitely put more of it’s focus into the aesthetics then it did it’s function. It was a much simpler functioning machine then the DeLonghi brand. No bells and whistles to speak of. You lift the slot machine looking arm, drop in the pod, pull the handle back down, and press the button. Out comes the coffee. If you wanted a latte then you add some milk to the separate frother, plug it in, and hit the button. Froth goes the milk. Both pieces did their job well enough but I just didn’t feel that much better about my coffee experience as I though I would. Soon I quit messing with the frother. Sometimes I put a little too much milk in it and it would overflow out the top while it was running, even though it wasn’t a huge deal I still had to clean out the frother and little magnetic coil every time I used it, and in the end it was just foamy milk. I was putting in just as much work in making and cleaning it as I would had I made truly steamed milk but only getting froth. I also found that I was having issues with pods not loading correctly in the machine and after one time too many, I pulled down on the handle and the gears broke off inside.
While I wasn’t over-impressed with the Kitchenaid brand machine, I did like the taste of the coffee and made the decision to stick with Nespresso and by the other brand. My next choice was the DeLonghi Lattissima Plus and I have been living in heaven ever since. What a well made machine. The loading mechanism is different on the top and I can’t ever remember getting a pod misaligned. Instead of the single button like the kitchenaid, there are 4 buttons. Two buttons are for making coffee without using the milk attachment and the other two automatically light up once the included milk unit is attached. The buttons are also programmable. If you press one of them and hold it down, you can run the machine until you are happy with the amount of the pour and then release the button and it saves that as it’s default. We left the espresso button like it was and it pours one shot but we changed the 2nd button to pour a whole cup of coffee. We did the same for the milk buttons. Instead of a standalone milk frother, the latissima plus comes with a separate milk unit that snaps into the main machine. One of the great things about it is that it actually pumps hot water/steam though the attachment so the milk is more of a mix of steamed milk and froth instead of milk that has just been “whipped” into a froth with the Kitchenaid brand. Before we go any further I do want to note that the milk frother that comes with the Kitchenaid is actually called the Aerocinno Milk Frother. It’s actually made by Nespresso, not Kitchenaid, and has settings for warm milk and for cold milk. As I mentioned previously, it does the job and I think you would be happy with it but for the purposes of this post and for myself, I was focused more on convenience so the automatic unit that comes with the Latissima Plus was the ovbvious choice for me. The fact that you’re actually getting a more legit steamed milk is a bonus. There is a knob on top of the milk steamer that determines how “frothy” it is and you can use the same method with the buttons to set how much milk goes into each cup, just as you did with the amount of coffee you want. Here’s where the milk container included with the Latissima Plus really comes in handy. Once you’re all done and your cappaccino is made, there is a button on top for cleaning the milk container out. Simply put an empty cup under the spout from the container, hold the cleaning button for a few seconds, and it will pump some hot water through the container and clean it out. DONE. Put the container in the fridge and it’s ready to go for the next morning. All you need to do is add some more milk to the container as it gets low and I like to disassemble it about once a week and give it a good cleaning since we are dealing with milk.

The Latissama Plus has a container for used pods. As you raise the lever to open the top to add a new pod, it automatically drops the previous used pod down into the waste container. I think it holds about 10 spent pods before you need to slide it out and dump them in the trash. Let’s see a Keurig do that. Also, true espresso has a beautiful golden frothy look to it as it begins to come out of the machine (crema) and this is achieved because of the high pressure of the water passing through the tightly packed coffee grounds. Because of this, sometimes the water pressure backs up a bit before it begins to pass through the grounds and so most espresso machines have a little reservoir for that water to go, otherwise it would come bursting out from everywhere. Since this is a true espresso machine it also pressurizes the water (to around 19 bars of pressure which I think is standard for a good machine) so it has a tray at the bottom for the excess water. Check it once every couple of weeks and empty it in the sink if it’s full. Lastly, every once in a while the lighted buttons will turn from white to orange notifying you that you should descale your machine to keep it in top working order. Just like everything else with this machine, the process is pretty simple. You just snap in the included descaler piece, add some descaling solution to your water tank and start the descaling process. It does it all automatically and stops half way through for you to add clean water to the tank, and then it rinses everything out once it’s complete.

So, to sum up how easy it is to use the Latissima Plus to make espresso/coffee every day here’s what you do.

Press the power button and wait about 40 sec for the water to heat up
Load the pod in the top of the machine
Press the button for either a small espresso shot or regular cup of coffee and wait until it’s done.

That’s it! If you are wanting a specialty drink such as a latte or cappuccino you just snap the milk container in before powering on and make sure to rinse out the container after your done by holding the button for a few seconds.

As far as maintenance, you need to empty the used pods when the container fills up (about every 10 cups of coffee), run the automatic descaling cycle every couple of months, and give the milk container a good washing once every week or so.

Nespresso had the patent on the machine and pods but it expired a few years ago. Before that you were limited to buying their machines and their pods from only their site. Now that the patent expired you can get many different brands of machines and even the pods from other makers that are compatible with their machines. To be competitive, Nespresso has release a new line of machines called Vertuo in addition to it’s Original line and it has also started making some cheaper machines. Here’s my take on everything. Vertuo vs. Original? The Vertuo sounds appealing. The capsules are a bit larger and shaped differently so they won’t work in the original machines. Because they are larger capsules, you can get more coffee from them. I regularly make 8oz cups of coffee with my Latissima + but the Vertuo Line will make a 14oz cup if you want a larger cup. Techinally, You can make any size cup that you want with the original line. As I mentioned earlier, you can customize the pour size by holding the button until your cup is full to your liking. I think the benifit of the Vertuo is if you wanted a coffee with a strength of 5 then that capsule could give you a 5 strength for all 14oz but if you poured 14oz with the smaller capsule of the Original line, the coffee would be weaker than a 5 strength BUT with a little experimenting you could just use a capsule with a strength of 8 or 10 and by the time you pour the 14oz it would be watered back down to a 5 strength. For this reason, and the fact that I only drink my coffee in 8oz cups, I’d rather just stick to the Original line. Another reason I opt for the Original over the Vertuo is that I use the alternate brands of capsules instead of the Nespresso brand ones and you don’t really have that option if you have a Vertuo Line machine. The Vertuo Line has the ability to adjust the flow of water depending on the capsule you put in and in order to do this it has to read a barcode on the capsule and most alternative capsule makers don’t want to mess with all that so they only make the original line capsules. There are also some different brands now making nespresso compatible machines and Nespresso is even making a few cheaper machines. Most of the machines that I’ve seen look flimsy so it’s worth it to me to spend the extra money to get a well built one and I had a friend buy one of the cheaper ones that Nespresso came out with and he said that they were much more flimsy then their higher priced ones.

So if you’re interested in some good coffee and, like me, have already realized that there are other options besides the Keurig that are so much better then have a look at the Latissima +. It makes espresso, coffee, cappuccino, lattes, and just about any other specialty coffee drink you can think of….and more. It’s quick, there’s virtually no cleanup, and makes one of the best cups of coffee short of grinding the beans yourself, manually pulling espresso shots, and steaming your own milk.

As you might remember, I mentioned that I use alternative capsules instead of the Nespresso brand ones. Don’t get me wrong, Nespresso makes some great coffee capsules and has a great variety of blends and strengths. My issue with the Nespresso brand is with the flavors. I like chocolates and vanillas and caramels and those kind of flavors and, while nespresso has a few to select from, they aren’t as intense as I would like; more of a hint. Plus they cost anywhere from $.75 to $2.00 each. I use Gourmesso brand. They have some decent blends but, more than that, their flavors are on point. The Vanilla is very “vanilla-y”, the caramel is rich, and the chocolate almost tastes like chocolate milk. They are perfect for me. They even have a selection of teas if you like a nice cup of hot tea in the evening. The price is right too. They run around $.50 per capsule. Another alternative brand that I am very interested in is Hi-Line Coffee. They have a huge selection and their flavors seem to be right up my alley. The only reason I haven’t pulled the trigger on them yet is that you have to buy them 20 at a time and they run about $.70 and more. I hate to buy 20 of one flavor and end up not liking them but I’m just about ready to take a chance anyway.

I’m very happy with my choice of the Latissima + and the Gourmesso nespresso compatible capsules. After much research and experimenting with different machines and capsule brands, I feel that this is on of the best choices for getting the best coffee, without the wait, for the lowest amount of money per cup, and the least amount of cleanup. I’m providing links below to everything I have mentioned so far and I’m also going to provide a link to my next purchase. I’m going to try out either the Gaggia Anima Deluxe Super-Automatic Espresso Machine or the Gaggia Anima Prestige Super-Automatic Espresso Machine. I’ve been researching the next natural step in my coffee evolution and I think a machine that does everything that the Nespresso machine does and also grinds the beans fresh each time is the logical choice. I’m just trying to decide if it’s worth the extra few bucks to step up to the model that steams the milk for me too. I’ll let you know of the results and the review of my chocie.

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