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Nespresso vs Espresso
January 10, 2013 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Can individual human flair and creativity be bettered by the mass-produced and mechanised?
posted by travellingincognito (145 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is pretty alien to me, since in Sydney (and I'm told Melbourne) coffee is so cultish that we have barista championships and even McDonalds has an espresso machine.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why I bring my AeroPress with me to fine dining establishments.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:51 PM on January 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not a maximizer. I prefer the variable nature of coffee plus the human theatre of preparation. However, there's a bar below which I don't want quality to drop. As long as we are getting good ingredients well prepared and thoughtfully presented, I'm not going to obsess over a couple of points on a tasting scale, and I want there to be a skilled job happening and a culture around the service. That to me is worth a lot more than the knowledge that I'm having a technically "perfect" cup of coffee.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on January 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm not going to obsess over a couple of points on a tasting scale, and I want there to be a skilled job happening and a culture around the service. That to me is worth a lot more than the knowledge that I'm having a technically "perfect" cup of coffee.

Interesting. Are you saying that you'd actually rather that products were produced in complex and skilled ways because you enjoy the attention given to it? I'm unsure what the culture of the prep staff gives you.
posted by jaduncan at 8:00 PM on January 10, 2013


Yes.
posted by blue t-shirt at 8:03 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes. I'm saying that I enjoy that there is a culture, lore, occupational tradition around the preparation of food and drink that has geographical, historical, and taste quality aspects and that I enjoy that, and that homogenization and mechanization trade that off for consistency, and I would rather have the former than the latter, as long as we're above a baseline quality standard.
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on January 10, 2013 [23 favorites]


A lot of people can't seem to taste the difference, particularly when milk is involved, between "inoffensive" and "really fucking awesome". Which is OK, because the latter is totally subjective.

Coffee loses a lot of its aroma immediately upon being ground. Nespresso revolves around sealing most of these volatiles into the (ecologically disastrous, but convenient...) pods. The best way (as in, the most effective way) I have found to customize coffee to my taste (and my wife's, which is totally different) is start with freshly medium-roasted beans, either single-producer or a blend to our tastes. We then grind it directly into the portafilter (I like espresso, and I like it ristretto, which is to say, thick) or her dripper (she likes smoothness). You can see how these preferences could come into conflict, which is why I like the challenge of trying to get a transcendant cup for each of us each morning. You can also see where Nespresso could make a restauranteur's life a lot easier, because this whole supply and production chain has many steps.

We have found that freshly roasted Ethiopian, Tanzanian, Sumatran (only some, though), and Costa Rican beans tend to be our favorites. A handful of local roasters (Klatch and Jameson Brown) make blends that we really like, too. But the whole supply chain, from the farm all the way to the grind into the brewing device, has to be managed properly or you get drek. Unless you're going to source and roast your own beans, that means finding local suppliers who will provide you with stuff that's less than a week old, just like you need to visit the farmer's market or join a CSA if you want really good vegetables, in season and at a fair price.

This is a pain in the ass, which is why for most operations (especially those who drown the results in milk or cream anyways) it's probably better to use capsules. However, if you're willing to do a bit of work and get your systems straightened out, you can work with local roasters and shops to get a product that will slaughter anything out of a capsule, every single time, because it's customized to your personal preferences.

Plus you meet a bunch of cool people (and some assholes, but mostly cool people), not just behind the bar but at the cafe or roaster. That's kind of the whole point, to me at least, learning what I like and how to get it into my cup, while meeting other people interested in the same.

YMMV.
posted by apathy at 8:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


We are not simply hedonic machines who thrive if supplied with things that tick certain boxes for sensory pleasure, aesthetic merit, and so on.

We're not?
posted by Grimgrin at 8:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty skeptical of any taste test that compares nespresso against the hotel espresso. Espresso is really easy to mess up and over-extract. I'm no gourmand but I can tell the difference between different baristas at the same cafe' and even in my coffee obsessed city, where everyone has comically high standards, I wouldn't expect quality from a hotel. (In fact, all of downtown Seattle is a good espresso wasteland [with the possible exception of Seattle Coffee Works])

It makes sense that some might want to eliminate this variability and consistently deliver a quality product. However, this comes at the expense of never being able to deliver a truly outstanding one. It makes me a little sad that high end restaurants don't even try.
posted by lucasks at 8:09 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the absolute and total polar opposite of Nespresso, I suggest that folks check out the HG One grinder project. Particularly their video of a typical morning routine.

I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that, although we use a different grinder and a pump machine, a lot of our steps are pretty much the same. Stir star, thwump thwump, pump, drink.

Needless to say this is also the polar opposite of what you'd want in a restaurant with employees of varying skill, high production demands, and a focus on "not making things that taste bad" where "bad" can mean anything.

But still.
posted by apathy at 8:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently my (irrational?) hatred of capsule coffee machines is greater than my opinion on long, self-involved think pieces on artisan produce and high-end food.

Because I could actually relate to this. I'm not sure I rate Nespresso coffee highly at all.

I must admit, I do like the practised thump-thump-thump of the scoopy thing into the slops
posted by Mezentian at 8:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would rather have the former than the latter, as long as we're above a baseline quality standard.

I guess my issue is that it means that the product will never be cheap enough to be not be an elitist thing. It's not a bad thing, it just tends to end up with product-as-status-symbol.
posted by jaduncan at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


This must be one of those "different strokes" situations. Because I can't for the life of me understand how anything other than the taste of something like coffee would enter into anyone's decisionmaking.

(Social and environmental concerns aside)
posted by graphnerd at 8:16 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I drink nespresso at the office and I vastly prefer the earthiness of a certain Tanzanian blend steeped for 20 minutes in my French press. Nespresso is taking mass market easy coffee in a really positive direction, not unlike what Starbucks did for the coffee shop 15 years ago, but it doesn't hold a candle to a good cup made from freshly ground, oily beans.
posted by dobie at 8:17 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess my issue is that it means that the product will never be cheap enough to be not be an elitist thing. It's not a bad thing, it just tends to end up with product-as-status-symbol.

I consider that a bad thing.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2013


I consider that a bad thing.

Eh. People that want the status symbol buy it, people who don't get the economically efficient version. I don't complain when people buy jewelry or Rolexes either.
posted by jaduncan at 8:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not care how my espresso is prepared. I only care that it tastes good. If you give me a twist of lemon peel in it, you tell me something. If you give me a peel next to it you also tell me something. If you give me a small cup with espresso in it without a garnish or a huge bowl of various sweeteners you tell me something. If I get a single small cup of perfect espresso, I will know it.

The rest is bullshit. Cream, milk, boar's urine? I do not need it. I know what is good. The rest are piss.
posted by Splunge at 8:25 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nespresso is taking mass market easy coffee in a really positive direction, not unlike what Starbucks did for the coffee shop 15 years ago, but it doesn't hold a candle to a good cup made from freshly ground, oily beans.

I totally agree with this. I was at my brother's place last year, and got to have a Nespresso, and let me tell you it was miles ahead of the mediocre, who-knows-when-it-was-ground drip coffee I had there a few years ago. I prefer to make my own, and my town has a barista-to-resident ratio that would make Portland drool, but I was more than happy enough to drink that when I was there.
posted by sauril at 8:33 PM on January 10, 2013


I have my greatgrandfather's stovetop espresso machine, that his mother brought from Naples, when they came to Chicago more than a hundred years ago. It's not a Moka pot; it's the kind where you flip it to serve it.

I think the staff at the Intelligentsia down the block probably make an espresso that's just a bit better than my I make in my greatgrandfather's Neapolitan-style stove top pot. They certainly have a better grinder. They roast their own beans and they go through them faster, so their fresher. But mine tastes more like his did. And I get to have it with a fucking twist of lemon in it.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:38 PM on January 10, 2013


With a French press, everyone can have good coffee.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:39 PM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Does a $300 Nespresso machine make better espresso than one of these expensive super-automatics?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:39 PM on January 10, 2013


> With a French press, everyone can have good coffee.

With an AeroPress, everyone can make amazing espresso with sexy crema that can then be used to make all manner of your favorite coffee drinks.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:42 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's ok everybody, you can have faith that your espresso will always be better than the stovetop espresso my husband makes every morning... with pre-ground French Vanilla flavored Dunkin Donuts coffee.

I don't even LIKE coffee and this pains me.
posted by sonika at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


With a French press, everyone can have good coffee.

With an aeropress, you can have hot coffee.
posted by pompomtom at 8:46 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


(ecologically disastrous, but convenient...) pods

Disastrous, yes, but less so when the alternative is the disposable cup, plastic lid and sleeve thing you'd get at Starbucks.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:46 PM on January 10, 2013


i lived with someone who had a Nespresso machine and got hooked. after i moved a friend gifted me my next (used) machine and when that died of old age i bought my own. considering that i would otherwise be spending at least $5 a day on coffee the savings are pretty obvious. plus, i get to drink perfect fucking coffee everyday without waiting in line, with 30 seconds of effort and it costs $0.55 a cup.

i could give two craps about time honored traditions or some suburbanite fantasy of authenticity. the opportunity to get good, actual espresso is pretty rare and if a machine can get close enough in my house then i say bring it. a basic Nespresso machine costs $129.00; that's not very elite.

i've yet to try an AeroPress but would like to try one so i can have good coffee when i work out of town. it's all about the crema and that's what brings me back to my Nespresso. perfect crema every time.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:48 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coffee threads are just like EVE online threads for me. Kind of fascinating, but they describe an activity I don't understand.
posted by maxwelton at 8:49 PM on January 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


ecologically disastrous, but convenient...

This has always been my main reason to avoid pod coffee (seconded by the price per cup compared to beans), but a little searching surprised me: posted by rh at 8:50 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I experienced the Nespresso pod for the first time only last month at a conference. The hotel at which the conference was held was using Nespresso machines to crank out coffees for attendees at the morning teas. It certainly wasn't the best cup of coffee I'd had lately, but in terms of achieving a good trade-off between flavor and speed, it was definitely miles ahead of the drip coffee you normally get at these things. These things have a place, that's for sure, though I'm not convinced they'll put too many barristas out of work (yet?).
posted by barnacles at 8:52 PM on January 10, 2013


I liked the experiment and the fact that it was just a springboard for his musings on food production generally, but he lost me with "Chocolate made from cocoa beans grown by people in near slave conditions should taste more bitter than a fairly traded bar". Because, really? I like bitter chocolate ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:52 PM on January 10, 2013


Nespresso USA does have recycling or you can alternatively empty each pod and put in with normal recycling. there's also a handy tool you can buy online for like $30 that's something like a big cherry pitter that will poke out the used grounds leaving an empty aluminum pod.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:55 PM on January 10, 2013


> Then it’s a matter of hiring leading coffee experts, throwing millions of pounds of R&D at a crack team of engineers, and building a machine that will force the right amount of water through the coffee at the right temperature and pressure.

Eventually we'll get to the point where the first two steps can also be done by computers and machines. Think of all the money we'll save!
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:58 PM on January 10, 2013


When did lemon juice in coffee become a thing? What does it do?
posted by Bwithh at 9:11 PM on January 10, 2013


Earn you time in Purgatory.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:13 PM on January 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Didn't we just have this conversation?

Automation is making this job go away too... and yes, there will still be affluent individuals who want the personal touch and want to see the service, but in most medium-sized restaurants that serve a lot of coffee, probably a significant chunk of one worker's time was being expended making coffee and cleaning and servicing the coffee production chain, and now the restaurant can do without that work...

Once these machines take over completely, I'm sure there will be a lot of different specialty grinds/beans/etc you can get - and as these things last for a very long time, you can keep a deep inventory of product in your store, without having to employ anyone.

Yes, there will still be people who want to pay for the theatre of seeing someone make the cup of coffee - but most people don't care. This is another hundred thousand or so jobs eliminated world-wide...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with these machines is not that they don't make good coffee, it's that they take all the initiative away from you, like a LEGO construction set that consists of only two parts that fit together in only one way.
posted by deo rei at 9:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does America have the cultural idea of baristas as semi-celebrities and sex symbols yet? Because with that in place I can't see automated coffee making take off.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:16 PM on January 10, 2013


Sure, baristas can be highly-skilled, personable and/or cute...but what if I told you the coffee at the fully-automated place would be ten cents cheaper???
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


You might not care much about fine dining or coffee. But you probably do value the skills of the artisan and might well believe that food is one of the ever-dwindling number of domains where individual human flair and creativity cannot be bettered by the mass-produced and mechanised

Oh, FFS, how much more goddamn pretentious can you get? Of course that process can be mechanized. Probably most production processes can, and probably can be brought up to a higher standard than most humans can produce.

It's just coffee. They didn't grow the beans themselves. All they're doing is (maybe) roasting beans themselves (few places do this, because roasting coffee stinks horribly), grinding up the beans, and mixing them with water in various ways. This is not inherently an artistic process, and the fact that some people make it artistic is out of boredom, not some mysterious necessity.

All they're doing anyway is using a machine, the only difference is that they have to manually load grounds, instead of getting them pre-measured. I have every expectation that capsule-made coffee from a Michelin restaurant will be better, most of the time, than what I get from a barista, however talented, because the process is much more thoroughly controlled. The fundamental secret to quality is repeatability. You have to be able to do the same thing, over and over and over and over, and get the exact same result every single time.

People are lousy at this. Machines are not.
posted by Malor at 9:28 PM on January 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


I mean, fer chrissake, this is the exact same conversation we had all during the Industrial Revolution.

Stick with manmade textiles! You want the artisanal experience! Don't let machines make your shirts, they can't possibly be as good.
posted by Malor at 9:31 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Really enjoyed this article. I thought the writer was extremely "fair & balanced" (though I loathe that term) in characterizing the battle of automation vs. handmade. As the author so favorably concludes, imperfection, so often missing from automatized processes, drives innovation. That's especially true of food, I think-- look at all these awesome foods invented by accident. If McLuhan were alive today, I think he'd have a maxim: "automation must still allow for innovation." & innovation is often born from mistakes (a very rare thing in automated processes)
posted by Perko at 9:33 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, fer chrissake, this is the exact same conversation we had all during the Industrial Revolution.

Stick with manmade textiles! You want the artisanal experience! Don't let machines make your shirts, they can't possibly be as good.


Man I'm super pro-progress Fascist manifesto pro-whaling guy and even I still acknowledge that handmade clothes are better and should be more expensive than mass-produced ones, the same way a fine meal cooked by a master chef is better than McDonalds and vinyl is better than digital music.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:33 PM on January 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I like the interaction with someone who knows a lot about the process. It's rare that a week goes by that I don't learn something neat about coffee chemistry, roasting, or the dozens of other things the folks behind the counter do. I'm willing to pay a premium and tolerate a very occasional lousy shot for that experience.

(Everything else aside, an Aeropress, while it makes good coffee, doesn't make espresso. On the ~3" diameter aeropress face you'd need about 800 pounds of force to hit the bare-minimum pressure to be where you want to be on the solubility curves. Coffee-making is just like any other industrial extraction process; take your big map of solubilities and figure out the optimal temperature and pressure to get what you want with a minimum of what you don't.)
posted by introp at 9:36 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Malor: Personally, I don't care how my shirts taste.

I do care whether they are made in a sweatshop of inferior materials, or via a properly controlled supply chain with incentives in place to maximize quality and durability. I will pay a bit more for something like an Icebreaker sweater because I have hard evidence that it will last 10+ years of grueling abuse (I am currently wearing said evidence; the sweater was a gift from a friend).

Similarly, I don't care nearly as much about the automation or lack thereof as I do about the quality of the product. So far, the fully automated ("super-automatic") espresso machines and pod coffee I have tasted produced an inferior product. However, I have no doubt that a properly managed supply and production chain could change this. It just hasn't, yet.
posted by apathy at 9:36 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not just about the taste of coffee. Coffee is a ritual, one shared by all working stiffs, whether blue or white collar. You sit down, you pause, you slowly sip to start your day or to give you energy for an upcoming night.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:39 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't recall in recent memory a more clear example of blindness to the intrinsic value of preparing daily consumables with the hands, focus, and love. Even the most hard nosed rationalist should have enough heart in them to properly appreciate that coffee is deserving of ritual and meditative care.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:46 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If capsules contained enough coffee and the machine could make the coffee a decent temperature - then, just maybe.
posted by mattoxic at 9:47 PM on January 10, 2013


Then it’s a matter of hiring leading coffee experts, throwing millions of pounds of R&D at a crack team of engineers, and building a machine that will force the right amount of water through the coffee at the right temperature and pressure.

And somehow the people at my work will still manage to put 7 times as much coffee in it as they're supposed to and make it undrinkable.

I am amazed at the number of people who use pod coffee even though it's so blatantly ecologically awful. I suppose I shouldn't be but I am.
posted by fshgrl at 9:50 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


We are not simply hedonic machines who thrive if supplied with things that tick certain boxes for sensory pleasure, aesthetic merit, and so on.

...he says, right after the blind taste test that implies completely the opposite point.

Much technology is itself a testimony to human creativity and ingenuity. Apple has got very rich through supplying technology that is beautifully designed by humans who are as gifted as the best artisans.

Ha! I sincerely hope the author was laughing as he wrote this. No, Apple got rich through good marketing and virtual slave labor - so backbreaking, in fact, that the workers in their supply chain (which they control as rigorously as a fascist dictatorship) commit suicide on a semi-regular basis. (And let us not forget their abysmal environmental record.) The idea that anybody might admire Apple's business practices with a straight face indicates a mind-boggling ignorance of the subject in question.

To be fair, I agree that the human touch is undervalued in craftsmanship, and I believe that there are some things that a machine cannot ever replace. But ignoring the results of an empirical test simply because it doesn't match what the author would have liked to believe is just silly.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:01 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coffee loses a lot of its aroma immediately upon being ground.

This is why it amazes me to see people at the store buying expensive boutique-roasted whole bean coffee, and immediately turning to the in-store grinder and grinding up the whole pound or so to go.

This is like picking up a head of garlic and putting it into an in-store garlic press, bagging the pulp and taking that home. It starts to react with the air and with itself almost immediately. The coffee isn't going to be worthless as quickly as the garlic would be (that would happen within the hour), but unless they're going to be serving for a hundred people that coffee will taste like dust long before they reach the bottom of the bag.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ha! I sincerely hope the author was laughing as he wrote this. No, Apple got rich through good marketing and virtual slave labor

Those are artisan iPhone motherboards, produced by real Chinese families.
posted by jaduncan at 10:09 PM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Similarly, I don't care nearly as much about the automation or lack thereof as I do about the quality of the product. So far, the fully automated ("super-automatic") espresso machines and pod coffee I have tasted produced an inferior product. However, I have no doubt that a properly managed supply and production chain could change this. It just hasn't, yet.
posted by apathy at 5:36 on January 11 [+] [!]
Anti-eponysterical, surely.
posted by jaduncan at 10:11 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


When did lemon juice in coffee become a thing? What does it do?

It's not the juice, it's the peel - containing the lemon oil.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:12 PM on January 10, 2013


Even the finest restaurants are serving coffee made with capsules.

You know, you read a thing like that, but you don't have time to read much of the rest of the article, and you come away thinking "coffee made with capsules. Hunh."

Then later that day there's a lull at work, and you feel kinda tired, but you've got hours to go. So you think to yourself "I need a cup of coffee." And then you remember that thing you saw before, where coffee comes in capsules, and you again think to yourself "maybe I need capsule of coffee instead of a cup of coffee!"

For a moment you laugh at your own joke and the silliness of ingesting coffee by means of a capsule. But then an odd terror grips you. "If the coffee is in a capsule, why would I put it in my mouth?" After all, if you're drinking coffee for the flavor, you put it in your mouth, but if it's in a capsule you won't taste it, so you must be ingesting it just for the effect, and the flavor doesn't matter at all. A few awkward moments go by, as it dawns on you that coffee suppositories must be a real thing.

This used to happen to me all the time before I switched to tea.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is there a good link for preparation? Lemon peel coffee search results seem to all be dismissive.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2013


They're holding up Nespresso as an example of something better?

There goes their credibility.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:25 PM on January 10, 2013


Thank you Internet for finally giving Charlemagne the opportunity to find something positive to say about Australia.
posted by taff at 10:33 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I go out to eat, I want something different, not something the same. If they brought me machine coffee at a fancy restaurant I'd pour it on the floor and ask them to make me one with their hands.

Espresso is one of those thongs that restaurants almost never get right, even good ones. And it's not even that difficult.
posted by unSane at 10:40 PM on January 10, 2013


So you'd pour a perfectly made (by machine) cup of coffee on the ground... because people in restaurants can't make good coffee by hand?

Are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth?
posted by danny the boy at 10:43 PM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm a heathen when it comes to coffee (take one packet of swiss miss cocao, add a ton of instant coffee, fill cup half full with hot water, mix, add skim milk to top off), but nine times out of ten, if I'm looking at handmade or processed, I'd like the handmade, please.

I made a bench for our front hall this summer. It was my summer project. The top swings up. It's awesome. It's also poorly put together, not really even, and a bit to big for the space it's in. I love it, more than I would something I bought. It's also what I want, and after years of looking for something I could buy, I gave up and made what I wanted.

Real ramen over cup. Handmade fried chicken over KFC. A handmade burger over McDonalds preformed patties. Does that make me elitist?
posted by Ghidorah at 10:48 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've used Nespresso pod machines in the office before. They're better than the usual Keurig, and infinitely superior to those nasty diner-style drip machines.

But do I prefer a well-trained barista using a real espresso machine and freshly roasted beans? Of course.

At home, I cold-brew, which is a whole different beast. I'm not really an at home espresso person.

unless they're going to be serving for a hundred people that coffee will taste like dust long before they reach the bottom of the bag.

Enh. It depends what coffee, how you brew, and how you store it. I don't have a grinder right now and have been getting my coffee either pre-ground or using the in-store grinder. I go straight home and pop it in the freezer. I cold brew in large batches with rough-ground coffee, so it's not like I have a ton of ground coffee sitting around. Also, I'm unemployed right now and rarely splurge on high quality beans, so if the coffee is slightly suboptimal one morning, meh. It's not like I just flushed $15 down the toilet.

But the jerks buying pre-ground espresso imported from Italy, then using it a tablespoon at a time in their moka pots? Idiots.
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 PM on January 10, 2013


With a French press, everyone can have good coffee.

This, yes, even when you are just using the same kind of filter coffee blend you'd normally put in a filter machine: coffee, just boiled (but not boiling) water from yer electric kettle, let it steep for a mo, then press down. Mind, you do have a lot more coffee grind at the bottom of the press of course which can be a problem if not paying attention.

As for capsule or pod coffee, the last time I tasted any it was about halfway between instant and real coffee, at about the same level as the syrup based machine coffee we had at work for a couple of years.

What Id on't understand though is why high end, Michelin star quality restaurants would use pod based coffee when that whole experience revolves around authenticity and quality.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:54 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blindness, far from making tests fair, actually robs us of knowledge of what is most important, while perpetuating the illusion that all that really matters is how it feels or seems at the moment of consumption.
I thought this, much more than any specific details about coffee connoisseurship, was the key takeaway. In much the same way the placebo effect can actually make people feel better, there's a psychological/emotional component to what we like to eat and drink that can't be fully measured objectively. Food and drink are cultural as well as physical objects, their value is not just physiological but also cognitive, and the story behind them does enhance our appreciation of them.

I can't demonstrate that empirically, any more than I could tell you why my grandmother's shortbreads, eaten out of the can in her pantry on a Christmas visit when I was six, established the mental baseline by which I would measure all other shortbreads for the rest of my life. If it turned out that shortbreads baked by some sous-vide-esque method perfected texture and flavour on some culinary matrix of indicators, I'd still want my grandmother's shortbreads most of all.

Memory matters. Context matters. Story matters. I'd rather a world of baseline Nespresso than a world of baseline sitting-on-a-burner-for-three-hours swill, yes, but that doesn't mean that the art of coffee making is perfectible. It'll always have a subjective component. For which we should be thankful.
posted by gompa at 10:55 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Has anyone had experience with the Jura Capresso super automatic machines? I'm considering getting the ENA 3, which I've seen selling for around $680. I'd rather get that than a Nespresso machine.
posted by mike3k at 10:55 PM on January 10, 2013


When I go out to eat, I expect good food.

I don't expect the restaurant to have their own vineyard; I do expect them to have a good bottle of wine to drink.

I do not expect them to have a barista sitting in the back reading a magazine all night; I do expect a good cup of coffee.

You can have your precious ritual in your coffeeshops, where you can also conveniently muse all day about which experiences are genuine and which are fraudulent.
posted by danny the boy at 10:57 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


dunkadunc: "They're holding up Nespresso as an example of something better?

There goes their credibility.
"

OK, I actually read the whole article. That wasn't what they were getting at, at all. What they were getting at was actually really cool- that there's so much more to quality than just blind taste-tests.

I promise in the future to actually read the whole article before I say anything.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:04 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


If they brought me machine coffee at a fancy restaurant I'd pour it on the floor

From what the article seems to be saying, Nespresso doesn't taste obviously machine-made or instant like that Keurig or Tassimo stuff. The machine uses high pressure and the pods contain only ground coffee.

(I've never had it. I'm curious to try it, now).

It's actual espresso, it tastes acceptable or even good, it's cheap to produce, and it's exactly the same every time they make it.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:16 PM on January 10, 2013


I've had all the kinds of coffee, and I'll say that neither Keurig nor Nespresso taste artificial or like instant.

I find that Keurig tastes sort of thin and dull, kind of a counterpoint to diner coffee tasting bitter.

Nespresso tastes completely unremarkable to me. Not great, but nothing horrible either. In a restaurant after a big rich meal and a lot of wine, I probably wouldn't notice the difference in a latte.

Another thing Nespresso has going for it is that it's not charred half to death like Starbucks.
posted by Sara C. at 11:30 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: even I still acknowledge that handmade clothes are better and should be more expensive than mass-produced ones

Okay, bespoke tailoring makes some sense still, at least if you have an unusual body shape. But your tailor will be using machine-made cloth. I don't think anyone makes that stuff by hand anymore. Machines are enormously better at making cloth.

the same way a fine meal cooked by a master chef is better than McDonalds

If McDonalds really wanted to, they could produce master chef meals. They absolutely could. The problem is that we don't want to pay for it, and we especially wouldn't want to pay for it under that brand name. We want to believe handmade is better, but if you can come up with any objective measure to encapsulate 'goodness' for a meal, McDonald's is eventually going to be able to do much better than a chef, once they come up with a process.

It would probably take a crapload of investment and all-new equipment, but they could be putting out 5-star meals if they wanted, every day, without fail. It's just not cost-effective, because the people willing to pay for that kind of quality are too dispersed, while any restaurant would have to move enormous volume to make the investment worthwhile.... and part of the appeal of the really expensive food is that you don't eat it very often. So they stick with cheap foods, and the foodies go to chefs. If we all wanted to eat Michelin-class food every single day, and we all had the money to pay for it, there'd be McMichelins everywhere.

Ah, you say, but what about ambiance? That's harder, but not impossible. It would be hard to shuffle people in and out fast enough to make that kind of highly optimized production worthwhile -- but again, if we were all willing to spend many thousands of dollars a month on eating out, they'd find ways. Kitchens are increasingly automated these days anyway. There's machines all over the darn things. Cooking in a modern kitchen, even Michelin-rated, is going to be much less hands-on and much more by machine than it was, say, twenty years ago.

and vinyl is better than digital music.

Digital recordings are entirely superior. Digital mixes often suck; the digital domain is so powerful that it's easy to abuse horribly in the perpetual Loudness Wars. But this isn't digital's fault, this is the fault of the record companies.

If you could get the vinyl mix on a CD, it would be better in every way.
posted by Malor at 11:32 PM on January 10, 2013


apathy: Similarly, I don't care nearly as much about the automation or lack thereof as I do about the quality of the product. So far, the fully automated ("super-automatic") espresso machines and pod coffee I have tasted produced an inferior product.

But were the tests blind? Humans are expert at fooling themselves. If you knew the brew was from a machine, it could very well taste worse to you, no matter how objectively good or bad it actually was. You really want double-blind testing, where you've got shots from a human and shots from a machine being served up by people who have no earthly idea which is which.

Results from this kind of testing frequently surprise most of the testers. And this article's full-cry denunciation of double-blind is another way of saying, "Please, fool me! I want to be fooled! I want to overpay for an inferior product!"

Burhanistan: Even the most hard nosed rationalist should have enough heart in them to properly appreciate that coffee is deserving of ritual and meditative care.

You know, that reminds me very strongly of the opium addicts that pipe collector was talking about, a few weeks back.
posted by Malor at 11:45 PM on January 10, 2013


I'm opening up a chain of chamomile tea bars all around the world, each one across from a Starbucks, for people who would rather relax.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:03 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


that there's so much more to quality than just blind taste-tests.

Marketing and associations with products unrelated to their actual quality: it works, bitches.
posted by jaduncan at 12:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


As somebody not schooled in the intricacies of espresso making I had never imagined the humble Nespresso machine on my kitchen worktop could ever produce anything in the same league as a steam-belching chrome leviathan tended by a barrista with the confident air of a magna-cum-laude graduate from the manufacturer's mountain-top Tuscan summer school. But apparently it can do better! Remember the the everlasting gobstopper machine?
posted by rongorongo at 12:28 AM on January 11, 2013


Anybody tried the new Senseo Sarista ? It uses beans. I could not find it on the US page, so I don't know if it is available in the US.
posted by Pendragon at 12:40 AM on January 11, 2013


Marketing and associations with products unrelated to their actual quality: it works, bitches.

I'd favorite that about five times if I could, jaduncan.

If you refuse blind tests, if you refuse objective evidence, then pretty much by definition you're making yourself a tool of the marketroids.
posted by Malor at 1:04 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love my short morning ritual of grinding coffee beans and then using a french press (if I need multiple mugs) or using my presso to make my coffee. Yes, it is the ritual and the lovely mechanics of it all.

My Italian neighbours, who take an espresso very seriously, have a Nespresso machine.

Make of that what you will.
posted by Megami at 1:05 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I use a #6 coffee filter and a thermos, and boil my water in the same saucepan we've been using for 25 years. I use either Equal Exchange beans or Green Mountain French Roast if I'm skint, always ground extra fine.

The quality varies from batch to batch, but I'm not using little cartridges every time and it's better than anything I've had elsewhere. Also, it's not Nestle.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:06 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


A French press is the best way I know to make coffee. Run cost is just about zero, and it makes a truly outstanding brew, as long as you get reasonable beans. As long as you're not buying those horrible flavored supermarket beans (they're flavored to hide how bad they are), you should get a good cup.

It's not espresso, but when the coffee's that good, who cares?
posted by Malor at 1:23 AM on January 11, 2013


If you refuse blind tests, if you refuse objective evidence, then pretty much by definition you're making yourself a tool of the marketroids.

Does the same thing apply to (to go back to the cloth example) hand knit clothes from people who love you?

People imbue the things around them with meaning with or without marketing. You wear hand made mittens even though the mittens aren't made of love (they're actually pretty scratchy and have gaps at base of the fingers), the love is just the context the mittens bring to you.

Vinyl has a context of nostalgia and tactile experience (I asume). In the case of coffee, there's going to be at least three meaningful directions: 1. "I'm rich enough that I can afford to have a good cup of espresso that's hand made" 2. "I'm familiar enough with coffee that I appreciate variation in it" (in fact in an age of machines you would have a heightened sense of those variations). 3. "I am pampered by human activity in an age of machines" (again, the more machines are used the more special this is). All of that will exist with no marketing needed.

Fucking, hand made mittens.
posted by tychotesla at 1:32 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been living in Spain for two years off-and-on. "Baristas" aren't a thing. Every server in every restaurant or bar can make espresso and various drinks based on it. They are all better than Nespresso, which is somehow also prevalent here. Those machines make terrible coffee.

I'm already dreading my return to the US as far as coffee goes, where espresso is some high-falutin' thing instead of just an everyday part of life.
posted by melt away at 2:02 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Snobbery for its own sake benefits no-one, and what someone else likes isn't wrong just because it didn't come out of your book. My remarks above about store grinding were simply to do with shelf life; I wasn't looking to disparage anyone's tastes.

Frankly, my favorite cup would have every coffee snob in the world sniffng at me in highfalutin' disdain. Basically I start with a particular, not very expensive Central American blend from a local roaster (NOT Stumptown!), dark enough that the beans have an oily surface. I pulverize them in an ordinary Braun grinder, finer than espresso but less fine than you'd use for Turkish coffee. Then I make it pretty strong in an equally ordinary Krups drip coffee maker with no gadgets on it at all.

I've tried everything else to death, in cafes everyone raves about, and fucked about with home espresso makers and french presses and whatnot ad infinitum, but this is what I come back to. It never palls for me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:27 AM on January 11, 2013


The giveaway line is this: "In distant last place came the ground coffee I had brought, a very good quality, single-estate bean, but not roasted for espresso and ground four days earlier, a little too coarsely for Bruno’s machine."

Which really just shows how daft the whole piece is.
posted by rolo at 2:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Overthinking a cup of beans.
posted by chavenet at 2:42 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting. Are you saying that you'd actually rather that products were produced in complex and skilled ways because you enjoy the attention given to it? I'm unsure what the culture of the prep staff gives you.

A sense of immersion.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:42 AM on January 11, 2013


Mr. Coffee. Every delicious cup will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness for years to come.
posted by three blind mice at 3:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a confusing article. He starts off doing a taste test and then concludes that the taste isn't the issue at all.

I like Nespresso. I'd take a cup of Nespresso over coffees from most chain coffee shops. I like the convenience. I can have a cup of coffee in 30 seconds.

People are free to put forward their favourite way of making coffee, but nobody says it has to be a binary choice. It's not for me: I still get my beans from the little one man roasting shop for when I have more time to take over my coffee.

Articles like this always remind me of debates about whether you drive a Honda Civic or a Ferrari 458. One is reliable, practical and does a decent job. One is exotic, sensational, temperamental and needs skill to get the best from it. We don't really pretend that they compete against one another.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:35 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everything else aside, an Aeropress, while it makes good coffee, doesn't make espresso. On the ~3" diameter aeropress face you'd need about 800 pounds of force to hit the bare-minimum pressure to be where you want to be on the solubility curves.

That's why I get my local alligator to bite my AeroPress down; it makes for great espresso. It's a bit beeweedok, but he doesn't complain.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm, I'm thinking of this post:
There is no perfect pasta sauce: there are only perfect pasta sauces!

... We all take variability and niche markets for granted these days, but back in the 70's and 80's, the American food industry was obsessed with the so-called platonic dish - a perfect and universal way to serve a food.
I guess there's no perfect pasta sauce, but there is a perfect coffee...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:24 AM on January 11, 2013


Your favorite coffee preparation method sucks.
posted by LondonYank at 4:31 AM on January 11, 2013


Here's two photos from a Nespresso store in the ritzy section of Amsterdam. My experience here was one of cognitive dissonance. The store sells shiny colored pods and people were browsing around as if they were luxury cars or jewelry. Actual, you know, coffee was hard to find.
posted by jeremias at 4:33 AM on January 11, 2013


As an addendum, I have both a Nespresso machine (for workaday straight out of bed espresso making) and then I have an Aeropress and a Porlex hand grinder for when I feel like taking my time with some fresh ground coffee. Of course it takes 4 minutes of frenetic grinding to get 2 shots of espresso, but I still do it, on afternoons and weekends.

Horses for courses.
posted by LondonYank at 4:35 AM on January 11, 2013


The Nespresso machine is the pulsating pus-filled boil right in the middle of the face of What Have We Become?
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:00 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


After all, if you're drinking coffee for the flavor, you put it in your mouth, but if it's in a capsule you won't taste it, so you must be ingesting it just for the effect, and the flavor doesn't matter at all. A few awkward moments go by, as it dawns on you that coffee suppositories must be a real thing.

I didn't quite use coffee suppositories, but I had a conundrum working as a nanny. I'd get tired, but wouldn't be able to consume a hot beverage in a timely enough fashion to have it take effect and not get cold. ("Sitting down" was not in my job description.) Then I remembered Excedrin Tension Headache has the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee and the only other ingredient is acetaminophen.

I have passed this "hack" on to every new parent I know. Works like a charm.
posted by sonika at 5:08 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The intangibles actually make artisanal coffee taste worse to me, because I'm annoyed by the ever-present implication that I should value the services of someone who tweaks a small list of parameters inside of a circumscribed range to the extent that I value those of, say, a skilled cook (and Malor, I really want to hear what your vision of mass-produced gourmet food is, because in your faith in our ability to mechanize every process I really think you discount the particulars of what makes good cooking resistant to mass production). Anyway, making good coffee is a skill, and a useful one, but it seems to me that it complements a range of other related skills and doesn't really stand on its own. The "barista" as such should be a curiosity, someone highly dedicated to a niche pursuit, as with the people who participate in wood-chopping contests. Meanwhile, there's no reason why everyone who even looks at an espresso machine in the course of their work couldn't be a decent hand at pulling a good shot from it, so that we could go even to some shitty little corner store and be assured of a good cup of coffee, as is every person's right.
posted by invitapriore at 5:21 AM on January 11, 2013


Then I remembered Excedrin Tension Headache has the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee and the only other ingredient is acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is very fucking far from harmless. Therapeutic doses over a day are not that far from toxic doses, and they hide it in all sorts of drugs so you can easily exceed a safe dose by taking common OTC medications together. Thousands of people are hospitalized for acetaminophen toxicity every year, and hundreds die.

If you really want caffeine, you can easily buy it not premixed with stuff what will kill your liver.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:43 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't drink alcohol or take any other OTC meds. I also take prescription drugs, which are far more likely to destroy my liver in the long term, but thanks or your concern over my 500mg daily Tylenol intake.
posted by sonika at 5:47 AM on January 11, 2013


Okay, in a thread full of coffee addicts, can anyone tell me the name of the automatic machine that accepts small foil wrapped discs instead of the little guys that look like half and half thimbles? I had about 10 long espressos and then I lost the picture that I took of the make and model.
posted by tripping daisy at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2013


I'd recommend people pop No-Doz or something before taking an analgesic just to get some caffeine.

Confidential to Malor: I don't even drink coffee or caffeinated drinks every day. Just because people like ritual and care in something doesn't make them an addict, but thanks for taking a stab at ridiculous equivocation.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2013


I'm not trying to be a jerk, but really, why not just buy caffeine tablets? Suggesting excedrin as a stimulant isn't a hack, it's just a really bad idea.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just to double check my own understanding of acetominophen doses, the recommended max per day is 3000mg. From eMedicine:
Long-term use of acetaminophen in recommended doses has not been shown to be harmful to the liver, even when combined with moderate (about one alcoholic beverage per day) alcohol consumption.
Yes, acetominophen toxicity is a very serious issue, but taking 500mg per day for a headache (or in my case, to prevent one) will not cause the damage you're describing. And now I'm done with this derail.
posted by sonika at 5:55 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the dosages, Excedrin is 65mg caffeine. No-Doz is 200. And that is why I don't take it. I just need to stay awake, not become jittery.
posted by sonika at 5:56 AM on January 11, 2013


Another thing Nespresso has going for it is that it's not charred half to death like Starbucks.

I say this all the time in coffee discussions, but the "charred" taste is intentional: it comes about because Starbucks blends are configured for what used to be a West Coast flavor preference. West Coast coffees have always been more acidic and had more of a charcoal edge, while the East Coast preference was milder, warmer and richer. Regional taste preferences are a known thing in food marketing, but since Starbucks has now dominated I suspect that regionality in flavor profile has largely gone by the way, but it explains why for a long time Sbux tasted shitty to Easterners. Info from my SIL, formerly a corporate trainer for Allegro.
posted by Miko at 5:58 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Then I remembered Excedrin Tension Headache has the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee and the only other ingredient is acetaminophen.

This is an incredibly bad idea, especially if you drink any alcohol whatsoever.

I'm all for doing what it takes to get through the days, but there are better ways to get your caffeine in tablet form than by risking toxic levels of acetaminophen and liver failure.
posted by ardgedee at 5:58 AM on January 11, 2013


You can cut No-Doz caps in half.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:59 AM on January 11, 2013


(Not that popping No-Doz is all that good of an idea anyway.)
posted by Burhanistan at 6:01 AM on January 11, 2013


Ok, the medical experts of MetaFilter are against acetaminophen. I get it and thank you for your concern. I will not recommend Excedrin for others. For myself, I have epilepsy and do not drink and worry more about the damage my anti-convulsants are doing to my liver than I worry about therapeutic doses of OTC meds. You have been heard, can we end this now?
posted by sonika at 6:03 AM on January 11, 2013


Popping Penguin Mints is an even better idea, at 7mg of caffeine per tablet. You'll be wired up and suffering mint fatigue long before you endanger your vital organs.
posted by ardgedee at 6:05 AM on January 11, 2013


Seriously stop worrying about my organs, thanks.
posted by sonika at 6:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it was more the advising others thing that set people off.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:09 AM on January 11, 2013


Which I have indicated I will not do in the future, if people would bother to read my follow ups.
posted by sonika at 6:11 AM on January 11, 2013


[Maybe drop the acetaminophen side discussion now?]
posted by taz at 6:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nestlé applied the same concepts used in Nespresso to baby formula : BabyNes!
posted by cwhitfcd at 6:13 AM on January 11, 2013


tripping daisy - we had a Nespresso machine that used foil-wrapped disks that my roommate got from work. Nespresso machines that are marketed to businesses take the foil disks, the machines for home use take the thimble-shaped capsules.
posted by aiglet at 6:49 AM on January 11, 2013


Nespresso is good stuff. Even at very, very fancy restaurants coffee is generally treated as an afterthought. I mean when it comes down to it you can buy a machine that is easy to maintain and produces genuinely excellent espresso for a few hundred bucks, or you can employ one or more baristas to maintain thousand+ dollar equipment, carefully select beans, roast beans, and produce a drink that - while remarkable - is essentially an afterthought at the end of an extravagant meal. Given those two options, it's pretty easy to see why you would go for the former.
posted by NathanBoy at 6:50 AM on January 11, 2013


MetaFilter: I promise in the future to actually read the whole article before I say anything.

posted by modernnomad at 6:57 AM on January 11, 2013


"...it explains why for a long time Sbux tasted shitty to Easterners."

Oh, it tastes shitty to a hell of a lot of us Seattleites, too. Always has.

I shamefully admit that I add sugar to my espresso (though much less than I used to -- just a tiny bit now). Invariably, Starbucks espresso takes twice as much as Nespresso takes. And twice as much as many more respected coffees around here do. It's awful. But I still drink it on occasion because it's everywhere. I just have to sugar it up. Blech.

I like my Nespresso. (I have a Lattissima so it can make cappuccinos. And I like cappuccinos. Also, steamed milk with almond syrup, which brings back memories of the first coffee shop I ever hung out at regularly, the Last Exit. Back then I wasn't much of a coffee drinker.) Most of the capsules are pretty good. It is worlds better than any other machine I had tried (none of them real espresso machines, though -- just those cheap home steam machines). But everyone's taste is different. I tend not to like bitterness in general (damned supertaster genetics), so I lean toward smoother, sweeter flavors. The Nespresso purple and charcoal-gray capsules hit that sweet spot for me.

The thing is, like what you like. If you like Sbux, enjoy it. You like it and that's fine. If you like Nespresso, that's fine too. If you need your coffee harvested by virgins and flown directly to you on pillows of fine goose down, then ground exactly 2/3 of a second before you prepare it in your $1500 La Perfectamundo gold-plated espresso machine... well, that's fine too. Just be aware that you are on the extreme side of things. You're the coffee equivalent of an audiophile. And if others just don't feel the need to go there... there's nothing wrong with them. They just aren't you.
posted by litlnemo at 7:10 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The real disingenuity is charging £7 for a cup.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, in a thread full of coffee addicts, can anyone tell me the name of the automatic machine that accepts small foil wrapped discs instead of the little guys that look like half and half thimbles? I had about 10 long espressos and then I lost the picture that I took of the make and model.

Tassimo T-Discs?

Horses for courses

Indeed. I used to have a Gaggia grinder and espresso machine. I switched to Nespresso after discovering that I really enjoyed their Rosabaya capsules. I couldn't be more pleased.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2013


If you need your coffee harvested by virgins and flown directly to you on pillows of fine goose down, then ground exactly 2/3 of a second before you prepare it in your $1500 La Perfectamundo gold-plated espresso machine...

I have just figured out what to do when my lottery investment pays out.

I've had Nespresso coffee and it's perfectly innocuous, it's reasonable quality and it's consistent; which is what owners are looking for. I wouldn't buy one due to the environmental cost of having foil canisters every time I need a coffee (it's not like milk bottles when it comes to recycling/reuse).

If I go to my coffee shop, I take my own cup. Making coffee at home, I grind the beans and then either use a moka pot or a french press. I like the process and that is part of the attraction for me versus pressing a button on a capsule

Question: when on earth can I buy the fine mesh filter for a french press, mine seems to have gone AWOL in the last move.
posted by arcticseal at 7:57 AM on January 11, 2013


$1500 La Perfectamundo

Much cheaper in Europe.
posted by tigrefacile at 8:27 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


THIS -> Even with a Nespresso people will still find a way to stuff it up.

Nespresso machines MK-1 through to MK-(some other number) rely on the human to decide how much water should be pushed through the capsule to make the coffee and let me tell you; the average human should not be given this much responsibility.

George Clooney plainly says in the instructions to use 40ml for a espresso and I will say from experience that if you follow George's instructions you will be drinking a perfectly decent espresso coffee.

Problem? Yes "people", and when I say "people" I include family and friends.

"People" will ask you if you would like a coffee and then after chirpily extolling the wonders of Nesspresso will shortly afterwards present you with a half litre (500ml) of burnt coffee flavoured water in a mug, topped up to the brim with boiling milk. It will burn your tongue and your tongue will remember the taste of melted aluminum foil forever. It's not what George Clooney intended. I know this in my heart of hearts.

Well someone, perhaps Clooney himself must have had the same experience as me because the next time I ran into a Nespresso machine - some design changes had been made and I was hopeful that things were changing for the better.

I was around my Dad's place at Christmas and I saw that my brother had given him Nespresso machine of his own. When he asked if I wanted a coffee I immediately jumped up, "No need for you to get up. I'll make it." Face to face with the new machine I noticed it now had two buttons; one button with a picture of a small cup and the other with a picture of a bigger cup. Each button was programmed to dispense the correct amount of water for an espresso 40ml or a Lungo 110ml. YES! Good one George, I really think this will make a difference.

A month later I was around my Dad's place and I noticed he was drinking a full mug of coffee.

I looked at him and drew a breath, "Is that Nesspresso?"

"Yep." He held a dangerously oversized steaming mug of something.

"How did you do that?"

"Do what?"

I could picture it now, the ritual he now performed each and every time he made coffee. The machine would never give him him enough water to fill his mug but he had triumphed over the machine, because he was a human and it's what humans do. There was a button and he knew what to do with buttons. He would press it again, and again, and again, and ... until the mug was filled as it should be. "Nothing." My face was a mask but there was a taste of burnt aluminium on my tongue; I sat down and smiled, but inside I wept. I wept for George Clooney's dream of a better world that will never be.
posted by vicx at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


vicx: "The machine would never give him him enough water to fill his mug but he had triumphed over the machine, because he was a human and it's what humans do. There was a button and he knew what to do with buttons. He would press it again, and again, and again, and ... until the mug was filled as it should be."

Just for the record, on many Nespresso machines the amount of water is programmable. You push and hold until you reach the amount of coffee you want in your cup. Next time you just press once and you get that amount. It remembers. There are 2 buttons so you can program for "lungos" as well.

Dads -- they can be smarter than they look. They also, in my experience, tend to RTFM.
posted by chavenet at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2013


They also, in my experience, tend to RTFM

You have clearly not met my father.
posted by arcticseal at 9:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't make anything idiot proof because idiots are so ingenious.

Not calling your dad an idiot here
posted by Bovine Love at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone had experience with the Jura Capresso super automatic machines?

I have a Jura XS90 in the office, and it stands up to heavy use. It makes coffee that's about par for restaurant quality, so consistently good, not spectacular.

The caveat that I'd note is that the superautomatics tend to have a lot of little fiddly tasks associated, and prompt you to do them before you can have coffee, rather than after you've brewed a cup.

I considered getting one until I saw the price tag, but still think they're pretty great if you want to press a button, and have pretty good coffee come out.
posted by frimble at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2013


f you need your coffee harvested by virgins and flown directly to you on pillows of fine goose down

How tall are the virgins? Are the geese white or brown?
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, Apple got rich through good marketing and virtual slave labor - so backbreaking, in fact, that the workers in their supply chain (which they control as rigorously as a fascist dictatorship) commit suicide on a semi-regular basis.

Employees of Foxconn are less likely to commit suicide than the average Chinese or American citizen. I'm not saying working at Foxconn is awesome, but the suicide meme is false.
posted by the jam at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2013


the "charred" taste is intentional

Oh, I know it's intentional. I just don't like it. Which is why I'll happily make myself a latte on the Nespresso machine in the office and then turn down the offer of a Starbucks run.
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2013


I hate it too!
posted by Miko at 11:38 AM on January 11, 2013


The AeroPress might not do espresso, but the Handpresso certainly does. I've had one for three years and absolutely adore it. The results are (to my taste) as good or superior to Nespresso, and it takes up no space on your worktops.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Echoing the sentiment that burnt Starbucks drip most certainly does not appeal to a West Coast or more accurately Northwest coffee preference. Seriously. I am from and live in Portland and have been drinking coffee my entire life: Starbucks has always been noticeably burny compared to coffee from just about anywhere else, including Shari's.

My own pet theory is that because the drip coffee is probably the lest best seller at a Starbucks (I know no one that buys drip at Starbucks--only pumpkin lattes, Frappucinos, etc., and I buy drip at Starbucks only when I find myself in an airport), it is not made very often (perhaps only once or twice a day), and sits in its vat and effectively cooks. I mean, if you've had Starbucks drip and drink it black, you will notice that it will scald the shit out of your mouth for at least 5 minutes after pouring. It's gnarly. And it is not West Coast, or Northwest.
posted by nonmerci at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2013


> My own pet theory is that because the drip coffee is probably the lest best seller at a Starbucks (I know no one that buys drip at Starbucks--only pumpkin lattes, Frappucinos, etc., and I buy drip at Starbucks only when I find myself in an airport), it is not made very often (perhaps only once or twice a day)

I'm pretty sure this is not the case, and their drip coffee is rotated frequently. I've had a cup of their drip right after it was brewed, and it had that same burnt taste. The burnt taste is due to the dark roast, mainly.

Also, damn if Starbucks' drip coffee is too strong for me to even finish more than a quarter of their tall size, and I'm no stranger to triple espresso drinks.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2013


I can confirm that drip coffee at SBux and other corporate chains is made every hour and a half if it's not sold out. Whatever is left when the 90min timer goes off is dumped out. I worked at a Seattle's Best and on most days, we'd have to rebrew before the 90min were up. Except for decaf. I think we sold out of decaf maybe twice in the year I worked there.
posted by sonika at 1:16 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Starbucks brews drip coffee frequently enough that, if you stop in for their version of the Box Of Joe, they have to brew it to order and it takes 15 minutes.

Also, like all other international fast food operations, their goal is consistency -- the reason everybody loves Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts so much is that, in the 90's when most coffee to go was from a deli or McDonald's, they had the advantage of serving a fresh, consistent brew. If the problem was burnt stale coffee, it would be noticeably better in the morning but more burnt in the afternoon or evening. And, hell, even gas stations have long advertised fresh coffee that doesn't sit on a burner all day!

My understanding is that they over-roast because so many people are buying that pumpkin spice latte garbage, and a super dark roast is the only way to get a finished product that actually tastes like coffee. If you order an Americano there, it tastes like a pack of cigarettes.

I also feel like darker roasts were trendier 10-15 years ago when Starbucks was coming to prominence all over the US.
posted by Sara C. at 1:17 PM on January 11, 2013


I got an email flyer from Starbucks the other day saying that Canadians drank twice as much of their blonde drip as Americans. Might be because it's the lighter one of their selection or because generations of Canadians have been raised on weak Tim Hortons' drip coffee.
posted by arcticseal at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2013


Looks like Handpresso also uses pods.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2013


Yeah, I love the blonde roast. Add some half&half, and it's a better version of donut shop coffee.

That's if they haven't run out. Are they ordered by management to not exceed a maximum number of pots of blonde each day? Or is it not actually popular past a certain hour at my Starbucks? I should probably just ask the staff.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:37 PM on January 11, 2013


They've had a promotion running this week where if you buy a coffee, you get a free tall blonde*. Not surprised that they're running out, as you say it 's like a better quality donut shop coffee.

*Yes, we are childish enough that we enjoy saying that.
posted by arcticseal at 1:41 PM on January 11, 2013


generations of Canadians have been raised on weak Tim Hortons' drip coffee.

A lighter roast isn't the same as a weaker brew.
posted by Sara C. at 2:00 PM on January 11, 2013


Good point, but to the average guy in the street who just wants a hot cup of coffee, this is the Starbucks equivalent.
posted by arcticseal at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2013


Oh, of course. I'm not knocking Tim Horton's coffee at all. My point is more that there's a lot of misinformation out there about what makes coffee taste like it does. Things like "Starbucks sits on a burner all day to get stale" and "People who like lighter roasts brew weak coffee."

Having grown up in south Louisiana where we brew coffee so strong you could stand a spoon in it, I always assumed that I preferred a dark roast. Then I started experimenting with different beans and brew methods and discovered that you can get that same strong, rich coffee without using beans that are halfway to charcoal.

Now my mom? She brews some weak-ass coffee. French Roast, of course. But ugh.
posted by Sara C. at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2013


I can see why hotels might take the easy way out. But a hotel choosing one espresso for all its servings is a very different choice from a patron choosing the exact same espresso time and again.

I have a DeLonghi at home and it is wonderful. I do like the convenience of ess pods and Illy in particular but I also like to pack and draw my own whenever time permits. I also like to visit the local coffee houses. Yes, the espressos there are not standardized but that by itself is not a bad thing. I actually like the variation I get with every visit.
posted by asra at 3:08 PM on January 11, 2013


The reason SBux over roasts is that it's the easiest way to get it 100% consistent every time.

(I worked for Seattle's Best which is owned by SBux and we learned these things.)
posted by sonika at 3:17 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, drip coffee and espresso don't have anything to do with each other. Espresso uses a medium roast and is ground and brewed per cup no matter what. Drip coffee is made with fewer beans (per cup), a coarser grind, and hotter water. A preference for lattes has no bearing in SBux's roasting for drip coffee. People who order a pumpkin latte aren't likely to order a regular coffee anyway.

If you take the same beans and make espresso instead of coffee, they will taste smoother and less bitter due to the difference in brewing method. See also different brews of drip coffee - French press, etc.
posted by sonika at 3:26 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How typical of those on the losing side of a blind test -- the artisanal coffee lovers in this thread -- to throw the Monopoly board across the room while shouting "this is stupid! blind tests don't work anyway!" I'll bet you would have been more than happy to accept the results if they'd been in line with your preconceptions that handmade is better. This tends to happen reliably whenever the latest herbal or homeopathic remedy fails a blinded test, too ("some things science just can't test").

Look, context and environment plays a huge role in gustatory experience. No-one's denying it. The "granny's shortbread always tastes better" or "hand-made sweaters are best" phenomenon is absolutely real. Indeed, lab tests have confirmed the importance of those contextual cues over and over -- if we think something is natural or artisanal or expensive, we're also likely to think it tastes or feels better. (In one study, when wine lovers are given exactly the same wine and told that one is $100 and one is $10, they enjoy the expensive bottle much more -- what's brutish and battery-acid-like in a cheap wine is complex, challenging and intricately-layered in an expensive one).

It's for this exact reason that we have blinded tests: to separate the gustatory from the contextual cues that they are so often mixed up with. All we're saying is, don't get context mixed up with gustatory taste; don't let the fact that something is artisinal fool you into thinking the gustatory experience is inherently better, because often, it isn't. One other big contextual cue that's important here and hasn't been mention yet is the social signalling angle. As Bourdieu shows in Distinction, taste is often a way of reinforcing our place in the social hierarchy. It feels good to hate on Nespresso because it's something the hoi polloi like; liking artisanal coffee makes us feel like we're part of a privileged, discerning elite.

As far as the article goes, it seems like a subtle no true Scotsman fallacy: "OK," he seems to conclude, "so the majority of people prefer the taste of Nespresso, but *real, educated* coffee connoisseurs prefer hand-made artisanal." Except that there's no clear evidence even of that. Notice how the author wasn't actually blinded when he made his pronouncement that Nespresso was bland and middle-of-the-road?
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:30 PM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


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