Add Sophistication to Your Daily Caffeine Consumption With This Nespresso Machine
In the comfort of your own home, you can savor espresso that’s on par with what your local coffeehouse is brewing.
I love a good espresso, but I’ve always had a hard time justifying the $2 or more expense of a single 1-ounce shot of espresso at the local coffee shop. And, while I had heard of Nespresso machines, I’ve always been skeptical of coffee that comes in pods. Do these machines really offer the same rich flavor as an expensive commercial espresso machine, or do they simply produce extra-strong coffee?
A few months ago, I had a chance to test those preconceptions when a hotel room we were staying in happened to have a Nespresso machine. My wife and I were impressed, to say the least. We were pleasantly surprised by the rich, creamy flavor this unassuming machine produced from its color-coded capsules. So much so that I wondered if a Nespresso machine could be an affordable way to add espresso to our daily caffeine fix?
What exactly is a Nespresso machine anyway?
To understand the difference between a Nespresso machine and a regular coffee maker, you first need to understand the difference between espresso and coffee. While both traditional coffee makers and Nespresso machines use coffee beans, coffee makers drip hot water through coarsely ground coffee. Espresso, on the other hand, is brewed by forcing extremely hot (though not boiling) water through finely ground coffee beans.
The difference? While coffee has an even consistency throughout, espresso produces a more intense, thicker liquid with three distinct layers: heart, body, and crema. The heart, the bottom layer of the shot, contains coffee’s bitterness, while the body comprises the middle layer. The sweet, frothy top is the crema.
Of course, espresso is also much higher in caffeine content. While coffee has about 14 milligrams of caffeine per ounce, espresso packs in an eye-opening (literally) 63 milligrams per ounce.
What makes Nespresso shots so good?
The answer is pretty simple. A Nespresso machine lets you make espresso that tastes like espresso without all the work. Making an espresso the traditional way typically involves buying whole coffee beans, finely grinding them into a powder-like consistency with a grinder, and packing the grounds into the espresso machine’s filter before finally brewing.
Nespresso machines make the process practically effortless by packaging the ground coffee into small pods. Rather than grinding, packing, and brewing, you simply insert the pod into the machine, close the lid, press a button, and voilà—espresso, with no grinding, no packing, and no mess.
And, because the capsules come in a wide variety of flavors and intensities, there are as many taste options to choose from as there are with coffee beans.
My quest for espresso
We loved the idea of having a Nespresso machine to help satisfy our daily caffeine cravings, but we weren’t willing to pay hundreds of dollars for one. In short, we wanted a device that could transport us to a European street café at an affordable price.
A quick online examination of espresso machines revealed a broad range of prices. A number of manufacturers make Nespresso machines, which start at about $130 and top out around $600 for combination coffee and espresso makers with milk frothers. While I typically like to stay in the midrange, I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming number of positive reviews for De’Longhi’s Inissia, which fell at the low extreme.
Because we were willing to sacrifice the touch controls, milk frothers, and stainless steel finishes that come with higher-end Nespresso machines, we decided the relatively simple Inissia was the best option for us.
What we love about it
Most importantly, the De’Longhi Inissia makes good espresso. I mean truly good, and I’ve had enough espresso at fancy coffeehouses in the United States, and even a few in Europe, to know.
The machine is easy to use—making an espresso takes less than a minute—and it even produces a satisfying whine while brewing. I also like that it comes with two size settings: one for a 1.35-ounce espresso and another for a “lungo,” which is 5 ounces. Make sure to use the corresponding pods for the two different sizes to avoid ending up with a watered-down or too-intense espresso.
Operating the De’Longhi
The De’Longhi Inissia is easier to operate than our coffee maker, and our coffee maker is pretty easy to use. Just place an espresso cup on the tray, fill the water tank, pop a pod into the holder, close it, press a button, and watch it brew. Even better, because the tank holds 24 ounces, you only need to fill it once every 15 espressos or so. This simple design makes it easy to brew multiple espressos back-to-back.
The De’Longhi also has some thoughtful extras. A tray catches any drips, eliminating messes on the counter. For energy savings and safety, the machine switches off after 10 minutes or so. When you open the lid post brewing, the used pod drops directly into a removable basket that holds 10 pods. Once the basket is full, simply remove it and dump the pods.
I particularly appreciate the flexibility of the design: Sometimes I like to add a shot of espresso to put a kick in my morning cup of joe. Although the space between the tray and dispenser is too small to accommodate most mugs, the tray conveniently folds up so I can fit a large coffee mug under the dispenser.
Even though we went with one of the cheapest Nespresso machines on the market, we haven’t been disappointed. We’ve been using the machine regularly for about 6 months. It consistently makes good espresso, and nothing has malfunctioned so far.
Keep in mind that to use the De’Longhi or any other Nespresso machine, you’ll need to purchase Nespresso pods. While these pods can cost upwards of a dollar each, you can find some for as little as 30 cents a pod. After experimenting with different brands, I’ve found that many of the cheaper pods are just as good as the more expensive ones. Either way, it’s still much cheaper than the price of an espresso at your local fancy coffee shop.