There’s no way around it: Nespresso has transformed how casual consumers prepare and enjoy espresso. In the process, it has introduced millions to the pleasures of convenient and tasty coffee creations.
With nothing more than a capsule and the push of a button, these machines set to work in millions of homes around the world. Curiously, espresso was once considered in many countries to be an exotic drink confined to coffee elitists and far-away countries.
Naturally, some coffee purists balk at the idea of using a Nespresso machine. Concerns have been raised in many areas, including the cost of capsules and the negative environmental effects of capsule waste.
However, the snobbish critique focuses more on the method of preparation. These people argue, quite simply, that espresso ought to be made the old-fashioned way.
Barefoot Coffee Roasters published a piece exploring this exact point. The question that many people have is whether or not a home-brewed espresso can ever truly rival the work of an experienced barista with access to advanced equipment.
Exploring The Differences
Leading independent and chain coffeehouses generally brew espresso using professional-grade equipment. These machines are designed for high-tempo, heavy-duty use. But does that really make them superior?
Interestingly, Starbucks uses a customized espresso machine designed by Swiss firm Thermoplan. Created specifically for Starbucks, the machine is deliberately compact to facilitate better visibility between barista and customer.
The operation of the machine is highly automated, which is an obvious bonus given that many baristas lack extensive experience in the finer details of brewing.
These professional machines are capable of generating greater pressure and greater efficiency in the constant output of espresso. This makes them more durable, but not necessarily better.
A typical home Nespresso unit, on the other hand, sees relatively light usage. But make no mistake, they’re still capable of turning out a quality espresso.
Perfect Daily Grind describes 9 bars of pressure during espresso extraction as the “benchmark.” In effect, what this means is that any espresso machine needs to have sufficient power to force water at high pressure through a “puck” or capsule of finely ground coffee.
Nowadays even cheap, entry-level Nespresso units are more than capable of exerting such pressure. In fact, even coffee experts are slowly and reluctantly coming round to the idea that Nespresso-made creations can be of excellent quality.
Not only are these units supremely convenient, but they offer an excellent range of flavors and strengths at an affordable price. Fragrant or floral, rich or refined — there are capsules available to suit the tastebuds of any coffee lover.
A key selling point of cafes in times gone was the range of drinks on the menu. While it’s still true that there are certain drinks that cafes do better, it’s now indisputable that the average coffee drinker can find a greater variety of capsules, whole bean, or ground coffee than what they could expect to find at a cafe.
However, before we get too carried away, it’s important to point out some drawbacks of Nespresso.
- Capsule monopoly — Nespresso’s impressive VertuoLine machines include barcode scanning technology. This is, ostensibly, to allow your machine to adjust the brewing process according to the unique characteristics of each coffee. Unfortunately, this also means that consumers cannot use any third-party manufactured capsule.
- Lack of control — some coffee aficionados pride themselves on their ability to take control over a manual brewing process. Indeed, some people swear by manual pressure adjustments during espresso extraction to craft the perfect shot. Most casual consumers won’t be too perturbed by this drawback, however.
Sure, Nespresso units take away manual control. They might impede customization to a degree in this regard. But, in truth, for the casual home consumer they’re great. Although a small percentage of people will be dissatisfied with Nespresso, these are likely the same coffee buffs that would turn their noses up at chain coffee from an establishment like Starbucks.
If you want to take ultimate control over the espresso extraction process, then it’s time to invest in your own professional grade brewing equipment.