The One Cup Coffee Maker

You may know this about me already but there was a time, over six years ago, when I was a law student working in a law firm. And this law firm had a little coffee room and the coffee room had a machine that made individual cups of coffee; you chose your flavor–often the highlight of my day, in that dreary place–and once you selected your pod, you slid it into a slot, pushed a button and voila! There was your very own personalized cup of coffee.

A few years later, when my parents bought a Koerig machine, I couldn’t disassociate it from my time in the law firm. Mom asked what flavor I wanted (“We have French vanilla, mocha, anything you want!”) but when she brought me the cup, I could only think one thought: “The elements of a tort are duty, breach, causation and damages.” (Whoah, I can’t believe I remembered that.)

Which is why, when Nescafe offered to send me their Dolce Gusto machine, I was skeptical. Actually, I wasn’t skeptical: I just wasn’t interested. I prefer my coffee made fresh with fresh beans, ground right before brewing. I get most of my coffee from coffee shops anyway and the only time I wish I had a coffee machine in the house is in the winter when it’s freezing cold outside and the idea of leaving the apartment seems like the most miserable prospect on earth.

But then, recently, I’ve visited the homes of chefs and food writers and discovered that they have similar machines in their apartments. Amanda Hesser had one from Italy that makes a really great shot of espresso; the latte she made (she steamed the milk herself) was really excellent. And then, one of the chefs I cooked with for my cookbook had one too.

So, I dug up the old e-mail from Nescafe and asked them to send me their machine. And pretty quickly they did:


[Ethical side note: I don’t have any qualms accepting products to review on my blog. As you’re about to see, I plan to be brutally honest.]

Let me be brutally honest. The cappuccino that I made with this Nescafe machine was not very good. The reason that it wasn’t very good is that their version of a cappuccino is to put powdered milk in the pod with the coffee, so the resulting drink is frothy in a really synthetic kind of way.

The machine itself is pretty simple to use, however. You just plug it into a wall, fill it with water, put your pod in and press “on.” (Actually, pressing “on” is the hardest part: you have to hold the button down until it stops flashing red. Or is it flashing green? See, it’s very difficult.)

I decided to try one of their espresso pods, instead, to see if I could make a better cappuccino by heating my own milk in a pot. So there’s the espresso pod:


And here’s the espresso “shot” it made:


Actually, because it was hot, I decided not to add hot milk but to add cold milk and to make an iced latte. Here’s that finished drink:


Not bad, but not great. It didn’t have the intense coffee flavor you get from a real shot of finely ground, tightly packed espresso. All in all, I have to give the coffee from this machine a C-. When I served some of it to guests at a dinner party, one of them called it “airplane worthy.”

However–and there’s a twist to this story–since getting this machine? Every night, when we’re watching TV, I’ve made myself a cup of decaf coffee with the decaf coffee pod. I don’t know why I do it. The decaf isn’t any better, but maybe because it’s decaf it tastes pretty much like any other cup of decaf coffee I’ve had before. I find a hot cup of decaf before bed kind of comforting; like a hot cup of cocoa, only summer-appropriate.

As I sip my coffee, comfy in my chair, my mind empties and I’m left with only one thought: “To have a valid contract, you’ve got to have consideration.”

Now that’s what I call a coffee maker.

UPDATE: Amanda Hesser informed us, via Twitter, that “we have a Nespresso Le Cube (bought reconditioned on eBay) & Rancilio Sylvia.”

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