Friday, 17 June 2016

Coffee pod machines: Nespresso vs Dolce Gusto

I'm currently in Prague attending a radiology congress, staying in an AirBnB apartment. This one is comes equipped with a Nescafé Dolce Gusto coffee machine. As it happens, the last AirBnB apartment I stayed in, in Vienna, where I was attending another radiology congress, came with a Nespresso machine. I have thus had the opportunity to compare the two systems.

I did wonder a little about the difference between the two products, as both used capsules made by Nestlé. Of the two, Nepresso is the better known and more heavily advertised, endorsed on television by the likes of George Clooney. With Nespresso, you can get an enormous range of different coffee capsules, including limited-edition temporary ones. There are grand, swanky Nespresso shops, and although the machines vary in price, they are clearly aimed at the higher end of the market, with some concessions for buyers lower down the food chain. It is said that some upmarket chefs use Nespresso machines in their restaurants since they work out cheaper than hiring a barista.

Dolce Gusto machines seem to be aimed at the more modest end of the market, and they are cheaper than the Nespresso equivalents. The range of capsules is more limited, but the machines also make cold drinks and tea. You can get also get capsules for things like cappuccino, with one coffee pod and one milk pod, whereas with Nespresso it's coffee only, and you have to add the milk yourself. Dolce Gusto machines and pods all have the word Nescafé displayed prominently in their packaging and advertising, so the product is clearly aimed at people who are not snotty about instant coffee.

The machines vary slightly in the way they are operated, but both are quick and simple to use. What about the coffee? I tried a range of pods from Nespresso when I was in Vienna. In my current apartment I have so far tried the standard espresso, lungo and cappuccino pods. I think the Dolce Gusto coffee is pretty good, with a mellow, rich flavour. It's every bit as good as Nespresso, and better than some of the Nespresso capsules I have tried. 

If you wanted to buy a coffee capsule machine for your small office, Dolce Gusto might be a better choice because the coffee would be just as good as that from Nespresso, if not better, and you'd be able to get a wider variety of beverages, like caramel latte macchiato, or Marrakesh style tea.

If you really wanted to be able to choose from a really wide selection of pods, you might be prepared to pay the premium for a Nespresso, but then if you cared that much, perhaps you'd want to prepare the coffee yourself from beans, with a proper coffee maker. Of course there's more snob value to a Nespresso, and I'm sure that would mean a lot to some people, the sort that used to scoff at the Iron-Curtain era Skoda I used to drive. 

Would I get one of these? I think not. I've owned earlier versions of coffee pod machines in the past, but now my preferred method of making coffee at home is a plunge pot, also known by some people as a "French Press" (although as far as I know it's not a French invention). 40-50 g of coffee in 1.25 litres of water at 93C gives good results. My preference is for full bodied coffee with low acidity. Currently I'm drinking Orang Utan, from Sumatra, which is excellent and whose profits help to fund Orang Utan conservation. If you can't get hold of it or want something more economical, IKEA dark roast is excellent. If I want espresso at home, I do have a Rok, a British-made device which works rather well (see link). Capsule machines are convenient but they work out quite expensive, and generate more waste, even if some of the capsules can be recycled to some extent. My current system works well for me at home, so even though I've enjoyed using these gadgets while away, I won't be buying one.
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