To bean or not to bean?

Last weekend our Nespresso machine died in front of my eyes. Water started leaking from its base during use and it shorted the electricity. It was a painful death. I'm tempted to take it apart and try to repair it but it also brings up the question; what to buy next?

Part of me enjoys the convenience of the Nespresso machine, the other part of me is eager to buy my first "serious" espresso machine.

See, I'm a coffee lover. That is to say, like most of the people living in the US I have a coffee addiction, and have been brainwashed into spending more and more on my daily coffee intake. To make matters worse, we live in a society where we call the people who make great coffee "artists". I'd love to practice some coffee artistry myself and make that perfect barista-grade cup of coffee.

I did a little bit of research and picking an espresso machine is not easy. It turns out this is a complex space. The choices range from super-automatic machines (e.g. they do everything from grinding, dosing, tamping to brewing) to semi-automatic machines (e.g. you manually grind your own beans and tamp them) to manual machines (e.g. you control how long the brewing water sits over the bed of coffee, resting as it were at neutral or boiler pressure). There are even "coffee schools" that offer classes and certifications to become a professional barista.

While I love the smell of fresh ground coffee and an above perfection espresso, I also don't want to take 15 minutes to make a cup of coffee. I usually need my first cup of coffee to help me wake up and I'm often crunched for time, so I don't want it to be super complicated.

Espresso or Nespresso? To bean or not to bean? Help!

Comments

Ione (not verified):

Hilarious!

August 20, 2014
Vincent Lesh (not verified):

Great post, Dries- and whatever you decide, perhaps you might try honey with your coffee sometime. it may sound strange, but its actually a perfect combination and very delicious. Cheers!

August 20, 2014
Chris Brookins (not verified):

I went through the same process you went through. I had narrowed it down to the Rancilio SILVIA and then I started talking to a bunch of baristas. They universally said don't bother - the amount of time it takes to do it well each and every time just was not worth the time nor expense. They also said the Nespresso was absolutely the best. So that is what I went with. Now if I was getting my second Nespresso I would get the Lattissima Pro which has a proper milk frother that seems better than the Areoccino I have.

Good luck!

August 20, 2014
Dries:

Funny because I had actually looked at the Rancilio Silvia and it looked like a great entry-level espresso machine. Many people seem to recommend it.

I have used different Aeroccino milk frothers for 8+ years and have great results as long as you use fresh milk. Milk that is fresh has more glycerol which makes the milk foam. Milk that is older, but may still be perfectly drinkable/sellable, has less glycerol and doesn't foam. Organic milks sold at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods tend to be less fresh. Stonyfield milk foams consistently. Give it a try!

August 20, 2014
Chris Brookins (not verified):

Yeah totally agree that the type of milk for the Aeroccino is key. But what the Aeroccino can't do is super-heat the milk like a proper milk steamer can on most espresso machines, which causes sugars to form in the milk, making it just a tad sweeter. That is what I miss.

August 20, 2014
David (not verified):

To Bean! Espresso! Be an artist. You can even roast your beans at home.

August 20, 2014
Jeffrey Cai (not verified):

The whole process of brewing a cup of coffee by your own brings a different output than coffee itself. It is the life style, way of enjoyment that people are looking for when they brew their own, IMHO.

For a busy entrepreneur, it is quite a luxury hobby. But when your life changes gear and you want total indulgence in coffee, bean yourself up!

August 20, 2014
Akhil Shayam (not verified):

I was an addicted like you! I used to drink 5 to even 10 mugs of coffee everyday. And was drinking without sugar to avoid diabetics! At this moment I am 34 years old. Unmarried. When my doc noticed I have caffeine addiction he urged to me to avoid taking too much coffee. The reason he mentioned is excessive caffeine is injurious to health specially it has great influence on prostate gland. Nobody wants to enlarge his prostate gland. So I had to prevent myself from coffee and tea immediately. Probably loss of a Nespresso is good for you! ;-)

August 20, 2014
Bart (not verified):

The Rancilio Silvia is a great machine, but it requires training or at least studying to pull a decent espresso shot. Have you tried alternatives like Aeropress or even filter coffee? Feel free to contact this Belgian for more information!

August 20, 2014
Kris Buytaert (not verified):

As an open source pioneer you only have one option:

https://twitter.com/jpmens/status/489853016947048449

August 20, 2014
nielsvm (not verified):

Like you, I'm a big coffee drinker with explicit preferences about what a good espresso is, and what isn't. I go to coffee shops regularly - no, we call these differently in the Netherlands - and really do enjoy a good organic brew.

I have a Nespresso at home, for 4 years now. And in fact I would make the case for keeping Nespresso as the initial investment on the machine, combined with the nowadays really cheap cups, is just unbeatable. The key with Nespresso machines is to consistently maintain them, if you let them run once or twice a day without cups, all the pipes will clean and the machine lasts longer.

Really, go with Nespresso again. The grinding machines come with maintenance contracts, are expensive, labor intensive, not necessarily always better tasting...

August 20, 2014
Lisa Backer (not verified):

I like this one as a good balance between high-end coffee taste and speed. Since I'm remote, I drink a lot of coffee from home so it has to be good but it has to be fast enough to grab a cup in between meetings.
http://www.saeco.us/automatic-espresso-machine/espresso-machine/Odea/RI9...

August 20, 2014
Mike (not verified):

A simple Moka pot makes great quality and is a simple design -- a 4 cup serving takes about 8-10 min to brew on the stove.

August 20, 2014
eigentor (not verified):

At home I use a Gaggia Evolution, which is probably the cheapest machine for serious espresso, bud sadly Gaggia has gone out of business. Together with an Ascaso Mini mill this is a 350-400 Euros combo which can produce very reasonable results. With some practice it takes you around 3-5 minutes to make a decent cappuccino.

But this is only valid at home. In the office the mess of spilled water, milk and coffee meal is not sustainable. But at home - give it a try and yourself some time to practice (correct graining setting in the mill, correct amount of coffee and tampering, foaming the milk with reliable ease).

But then it us absolutely worth it and rather cheap for the quality you get.

August 20, 2014
hatsch (not verified):

definitly NOT nespresso!
get yourself one of that full automatic espresso machines where you put in full beans and an integrated grinder, that let's you select the garnularity of the grinded coffee, the amount of the coffee and the amount of the water.
i have the delonghi ESAM 3000B, it's definitly not the best one out there, but depending on the quality of the beans it makes excellent coffee!
the 300€ initial investment is nothing compared to the ~70€ you pay per kilo coffee when you buy them as nespresso tabs. you can get really good coffee beans for that price! and it tastes much better than this nespresso "coffee".

August 20, 2014
John P. Weiksnar (not verified):

I was skeptical but a made-in-Italy DeLonghi superautomatic has been the answer, delivering daily since 2009. You're looking at a double espresso in ~2 minutes. Dust it out, feed it whole beans and rinse the removable guts around once a week. Decalcify annually. The front-loading water compartment is sort of a masterstroke. HTH.

August 20, 2014
Yves (not verified):

I use an Aerobie AeroPress and grind the beans with a Cuisinart burr grinder (does a very decent job for its price).

Ok, using a capsule is fast and requires only one or two actions, but once you get the hang of using the AeroPress it only takes a few minutes.

Nothing beats the taste of freshly ground beans, your favourite parameters (water temp, steep time, bean grind, ...), it is a science on its own. I also like the zero waste.

August 21, 2014
Francesca Balla... (not verified):

Espresso and beans. I know I am influenced by my being Italian, but nothing better then fresh ground beans for a great coffee. We have a Saeco since 5 years ago and it is "hard work machine", never break as long we clean it and decalcify regularly. The real secret is the coffee, and its roasting process.
Good luck!

August 21, 2014
Roland Tanglao (not verified):

move to a place where you can walk to an awesome espresso place (or move aquia's office :-) OR visit vancouver and I will treat you to awesome espresso at RevolverCoffee which is 30 seconds from my desk at mozilla or at MatchStickCoffee which is 20 minute walk from our place!)

espresso is too finicky for homebrew

for home brew i recommend:

chemex + kone filter + decent grinder

if you must have espresso-like coffee at home the get an aeropress; it's cheap cheerful and much easier to grok and maintain!

August 21, 2014
Juan Pablo Alonso (not verified):

Now that you are considering to make the jump... go for the next level and get a professional machine. If you have a normal size kitchen ( at home / office ) you will have space to accommodate the grinder and the machine. It will take you aprox 1 minute and you will enjoy every single morning the pleasures of a great coffee.

A video worth a million words...

http://vimeo.com/60691992

I made an Excel with all the manufacturers of Coffee machines. Just in case you want to check the list and compare.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/t2uspafx9gzdodt/Coffee%20Machines.xlsx

Another important aspect that you must look after is the Coffee itself. Always Arabic ( never Robusta ). Also is better if the grains are from "High Altitude".

The only downside is the cost: ( but worth it if you can afford it )

More than 3.000€ for a decent machine. A good one >5.000€

P.D. This is just my personal research. I haven't got any professional machine but i enjoy coffee. As an entrepreneur in Spain it has been a great help the last 3 years :)

August 22, 2014
Moshe Eshel (not verified):

My dream used to be a good Espresso machine, then I got one, and for me at least the pleasure of good coffee (once you learn how to work the machine), wasn't worth the hassle (cleaning, etc). In my house, I'm the only one drinking, and that means that all the mess is for a single (double/triple :-)) shot.
I switched to a Nespressoish (another pod system called Caffitaly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffitaly ) machine quite some time ago and have never looked back. They require little maintenance, there is very little to clean and most importantly the coffee comes out good and consistent. The machine I use has high pressure and a real frother, not on par with a professional machine but very capable. it's called the Nautilus like this one:
https://shop.gloriajeanscoffees.com.au/caffitaly-capsule-machine-red

Coffee is great!

August 22, 2014
Russ (not verified):

I live in Melbourne, Australia, possibly one of best coffee destinations in the world. My advice is to (1) know the difference between poor, good & great coffee. (2) know if you like with or with out milk or both depending on the moment (3) work out the best method to extract the most from great beans. (4) buy a great grinde (Mazzer). (5) experiment with the various methods to make coffee. https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBAQcNxOfJeJFe-rZvNe1dyJD9KNEKl9d

August 23, 2014
Dries:

Ended up going with the Nespresso Lattissima.

September 2, 2014

Add new comment

© 1999-2014 Dries Buytaert Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Drupal is a Registered Trademark of Dries Buytaert.