Nespresso and Nexpods

So I turned 33 the other day and for a birthday gift, my parents bought me one of these:

A DeLonghi Lattissima 660 Nespresso coffee machine.
For those who are not coffee purists, these are usually catalogued under “Evil” or “Wrong” 😀
….but when you’re bleary-eyed in the morning….kindof convienent….

In fact, they’re pretty much designed for use by the bleary-eyed early in the morning. Take a coffee pod, lift the machine’s lever, drop in the pod, close the lever, push the button, get coffee. Want Cappachino or Latte? Stick on the foamer attachement, filled with milk, and press a different button. All automatic. And while it’s not as good as the hand-made stuff in a decent coffee shop, it’s not horrible, and it’s better than you’d get in a bad coffee shop. And early in the morning, you don’t care so much 🙂

However, there’s a major, major drawback. Specifically, it’s a Nestle product. Now their (rather heinous) ethical record aside, they’re fairly much dead set against the idea that they’d sell you the machine and then you’d buy the coffee elsewhere; so if you want pods for this thing, you can only buy them via Nespresso. This isn’t a major hassle if you find you adore the taste of one of the nespresso coffee blends, but to be honest, I don’t particularly find any of them incredibly good (“pretty okay” seems to be as far as the tastemeter goes with them) — and more, I don’t like the idea that if they decide the pods aren’t profitable anymore, I get stuck with a machine I can’t use.

Nespresso Pod - available only from Nespresso

Nespresso Pod - available only from Nespresso

So I was rather happy when I noticed a post in the Boards.ie coffee forum describing the NexPod, which is a third party pod for the Nespresso machines:

for those who like their own blends and a fresh grind, but who also like the convenience of a nespresso machine, these are now available: http://www.nexpod.com/

Excellent, I thought, and looked them up. €20 for 80 pods and filters, including delivery. Excellent, I thought again, and ordered some immediately. One of the purists didn’t think I’d be saving a lot of money (the pods work out cheaper than the nestle pods, but that’s before you count the cost of the coffee), however as I said at the time:

Dude, if it was about saving money, I’d drink tap water.
I wouldn’t have gotten the machine myself, but my folks though it was a good birthday present and in the morning when I’m bleary-eyed, it is. I’ll just put better coffee in the pods is all.

Besides, I dislike shopping in Brown Thomas. I keep wanting to grab someone, slap them about the face and yell “YOU DO NOT PAY A THOUSAND EUROS FOR A COAT THAT LOOKS LIKE IT WAS MADE BY A BLIND TAILOR’S APPRENTICE YOU IDIOT!”. I’m getting worried that one day my self-control will slip and next thing you know, I’ll make the evening news…

A few days go by, and then yesterday, the Nexpods arrived. Three or four days, over a weekend. Not too bad, so that’s a point for logistical availability right there.

Nespresso machine, Nexpods and Nespresso pods

Nespresso machine, Nexpods and Nespresso pods

Right, time to test!

I started by filling one up half-way, stuck in the filter, put it in the machine, closed the lever. Noticed the lever wasn’t closing as easily as normal. Hmmm.
Hit the button. Cue regular noises… and then louder noises… and then mild panic at the thought of burst pressure vessels… and then a stream of pure water instead of coffee from the spigot… and then hitting the button and opening the lever to take a peek.
The NexPod was crushed flat. Mangled. Normally the pods are relatively intact after making coffee. Hmmm. Maybe I underfilled it. Okay, user error, try again. This time taking photos!

First, take one Nexpod:

NexPod and filter

NexPod and filter

NexPod and filter

NexPod and filter

They don’t look quite as sturdy as the Nespresso pods, and they don’t feel that sturdy either. Hence the mashing flat on the first attempt. Comparing them side by side, you can see they also have slightly different designs:

DSCF5519a

But okay. Fill it up (slightly messy job this):

DSCF5523a

Then tamp it down, top it up and tamp again and sweep off the excess. Gloriously messy, this bit – the advice to do it in the coffee grounds bag is good advice, but doing it over the open container works well also. Just don’t be enthusiastic 😀

DSCF5524a

Now insert the filter paper into the lid, which is a bit fiddly;

DSCF5526a

And then close the lid. This bit’s downright awkward, the lid doesn’t want to close and then it snaps shut suddenly, but you can wind up covered in coffee if it goes sideways.

DSCF5527a

Even when it’s relatively clean, it’s not perfect – you can see there that the lid isn’t sitting down perfectly all the way around, and that’s down to the lid design, not user error. And the flimsiness of the pods is a bad thing here also – the effort of closing the lid can cause damage to the pod at the rear:

DSCF5528a

Closing the lid caused that large split and the smaller one to the right. You have to wonder if the whole thing might not pop open on you when you’re trying to close it…

Anyway, at this point, it’s off to Larry.

Larry the Lattissima

Larry the Lattissima

What, like you don’t name your kitchen appliances?

Okay, so first the control run with a Nespresso pod. Again, the operation of the machine’s simple. Open the lever:

DSCF5532a

Then drop in the pod into the slot:

DSCF5537a

And close the lever. Just a quick point to note here – as you close the lever, a piston-tube-thingy is extended out to meet the pod and hold it into the correct place and feed the steam to it, like so:

DSCF5538a

(That’s just as it starts to close – the sleeve of the P-T-T then covers the sides of the pod completely and holds it in place as you close the lever fully).

I digress to note this point for a reason, more on that in a minute. Once the lever is closed, you push the espresso button, the machine chugs away and put pours a reasonable espresso. Open the lever again when it’s done and the pod drops down into a tray for later easy disposal.

Okay, so much for the control run. Now for the NexPod. Open the lever, drop in the pod:

DSCF5547a

Now here’s the thing. One time in three, it works like that. One time in three it falls right through to the disposal tray. And the rest of the time, it hangs up somewhere it shouldn’t along that path. The different mechanical design causes a bit of fiddliness here. Not a great thing at bleary-o-clock in the morning. I think what happened the first time I tried this was that the P-T-T caught the edge of the NexPod and crushed it flat. So this time, I’m careful to ensure the pod and the P-T-T engage properly, which necessitates removing the disposal tray and reaching up from underneath, but eventually:

DSCF5548a

There, seated. Now close the lever. If you can. In fact, it’s much, much harder to do – the mechanical design differences translate to a lot more force being needed to close the lever. And in fact, while you do that, the pod doesn’t line up with the sleeve of the P-T-T, it goes off to one side and gets crushed. So you give up on the lever, you get the pod aligned by fiddling with it, and then you shove the pod home in the sleeve with your finger like so:

DSCF5549a

And then you close the lever, and hit the button. And you get the normal noises the machine makes. And then slightly louder normal noises. And then yay! Coffee! Cool. Open lever to dump pod… nothing. Hm. Lever opens, but no pod in tray. Hmmmm. Look inside, nexpod is still stuck inside the P-T-T:

DSCF5550a

Reach in, try to extract with fingernail, curse, pull pocketknife, reach in, extract with blade:
DSCF5551a

Gah. But okay, how’s the coffee? How did the results of all this palaver compare?

Nespresso pod and espresso

Nespresso pod and espresso

NexPod and espresso

NexPod and espresso

The coffee itself tastes as good from one as from the other. Same end result, more mess and fuss with the NexPod. Now NexPod do say they intend this for a single use only, but some have said you can clean the pod, replace the coffee and filter and reuse it, and NexPod agree that this can work, at least some of the time. I dunno – the damage done to the pods by the brewing process is quite significant:

DSCF5556a

DSCF5558a

I don’t think they’re going to be reusable at all. You can, of course, clean them out and recycle them, and a lot easier than the Nespresso pods which you have to send off to be recycled — but then, this is Ireland and our idea of recycling seems to consist of collecting recyclables in seperate bins and then burying them in different coloured bags in the same landfill.

So overall? Well, yes, they do work, and the coffee is perfectly fine; but unless I’m doing something awfully wrong, they’re not as good as the nescafe pods. I think it’s down to the sidewall construction – they’re definitely more flimsy than the nescafe pod’s sidewall, and I think they flex too much when you close the lever, so stuff doesn’t align well as a result.

Oh well.

Seems, by the way, that others agree on this:

19 comments

  1. gourmet bobNo Gravatar

    Any coffee format that requires owners to rip a page out of the ink jet printer playbook is ultimately doomed.

  2. proud mamaNo Gravatar

    Lesson for moms like me–don’t complicate your kid’s life. They have enough to be busy with in their multi-tasking, multi-gadget generation.

    Nice, clear photos! Visual profoundity!

  3. You did a great job informing us about the Nexpod. Thank You

  4. coffee maker is always a nice gift a person can get.
    braun coffee maker

  5. I love my nespresso but i would also love a reusable pod. Big Up to the guy who endured the pain of nexpod. I thank you and feel for you.

  6. I won’t buy the Nespresso machine because the environmental damage caused by those pods is so huge (remember that the it all has to be mined and processed before it’s even used and maybe recycled which in itself takes more energy and resources).

    However, I love the size of the Nespresso and the coffee the sales woman made me on one was impressive for the size of the machine; nice temp, nice crema – even the milk was good!

    If someone comes up with the next Nexpod that is reusable I’m there!

  7. hi,
    thanks for the review, it was very informative. I can’t bear to give up the Nespresso machine, but was about to as i’m not a fan of Nestle either. I fell in love with coffee because of it, so it was a very sad decision. But it was great to discover hacks, and refill pods. Shame about Nexpod, but I found another re-fillable nespresso pod online… called ne-cap. I’d be interested to know what you think of them?

    Here’s a video to see how it works, a little different from Nexpod: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJhmo7ZrwOI

  8. Thanks for the clear take on this. I was thinking of getting the Nexpod, but after reading this and running some numbers, I’ll stay with the original capsules. I did want to remind you folks, that the patent on the capsules, owned by Nestle, will run out this year, 2011. That means we just have to wait until a massive flux of clever companies come out with competing capsules, perhaps cheaper and with better coffee?? One can certainly hope…
    Cheers

  9. Hi there,

    Not sure if I have this right, but isn’t that a “lungo” (long extraction) pod you’re using to make espresso? Is your lack of faith in Nespresso possibly due to using long extraction pods to make short espressos? FWIW they are coarser ground and not that great to me, I drink short blacks the whole time and only use the pods designed for the shorter (30-50ml) extractions….

  10. The pods for lungo, ristretto and normal espresso are all the same – and you use the same amount of grounds when making them in a normal espresso machine as well; the difference is the amount of time you run the machine for.
    To be honest though, trying to get a great espresso out of the Nescafe machines isn’t really an option. You get halfway-decent, easy-to-make espresso and that’s pretty much the deal with them. Mind you, at eight in the morning when you’re bleary-eyed and just want coffee, now, it’s a darn useful thing…

  11. Nice write up. We are simply shaving the foil top off the nespresso capsule, packing it with fresh coffee, cutting an aluminum foil square and molding it around the rim. Drop it in and you’ll be amazed at how well it brews. We can get 2-3 extra uses out of each capsule this way.

  12. I had to while I read this.. I bought the German Duk filters, then the ne-cap ones. The Duk filters actually suck. The coffee is really bad. I have no idea why, but the Ne-cap system seems to work and depending on the coffee you use (I like to buy organic fair trade espresso and grind it to a Turkish grind). Still, it’s kind of a pain, but you never really know how long the Nespresso coffee sits there and where it really comes from.. I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one going through this mess! You really went to a lot of trouble to show how much of a mess it all is! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hmm, don’t know what happened to the first part of my note. I had to write something after I read this blog. It’s good to know the patent is running out. I’m looking forward to seeing and tasting less expensive organic blends.. Cheers!

  14. fablab fanNo Gravatar

    Great article and info, thanks for all the photos.
    I’m wondering when someone is going to play with some hi-tech aluminum cutting thing, like how they make the aluminum unibody Mac cases (RIP, Steve Jobs…)
    A sturdy two-part capsule, like an aluminum unibody Nespresso case with an aluminum screw-on base would be AWESOME!!

  15. Great lllustrations..I was doing some research before buying these machines and this really helped. However, I’m thinking that if u are going to individually fill those little cups, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of this machine which is convenience…. Otherwise I can just buy a traditional espresso machine and pAck and tamp it with whatever coffee I like. I think the best solution would be ready capsules on the cheap from other companies. Hopefully soon!!!

  16. I have a nespresso machine problem. The pod melted in the p-t-t the top edge came off so there is nothing to grab onto. I tried opening the lever and turned on. I was hoping the water pressure would force it out enought to grab. What can I do?

  17. Agree with above writer, this machine is meant to be used in the manner for which it was designed. Any deterrent from this mode of operation will break down the results. I have Le Cube at home now for 3 years and absolutely love the coffee from the capsules so much so, I started buying more decaffeinated so I could enjoy that extra cup. To spend so much for a machine designed for temperature, pressure and results makes no sense to alter it and be cheap.

  18. You should try http://www.allaboutpods.ie

    you can get biodegradable pods compatible with nespresso machines and a box of 10 pods is only 2.95 Euro. Cant beat that. they are sold all over the continent and now in Ireland too.

  19. You can buy high quality Nespresso compatible capsules in Ireland at http://coffeemania.ie with free shipping available.

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