Ah! How sweet coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, milder than muscatel wine.
German composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, was so terribly fond of his coffee that he wrote a comedic Cantata known as Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (or 'Be still, stop chattering') dedicated to the beverage. Research tells me that the performance was most likely held inThe Collegium Musicum. Apparently the moral of the story is revealed in the tenth movement, when all three characters sing that 'drinking coffee is natural'. Stay with me, please, I am getting to the point. シ
The folks at NESCAFÉ® know how much I love my coffee, so they kindly gifted me with a Dolce Gusto Circolo capsule machine and asked me to road test it with a view to promoting it as 'the perfect Christmas gift for a discerning loved one'. So, let's do this.
First, the spin. Made by Nestlé and De'Longhi, I'm told that the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto was the first capsule system available in Australia to make a range of both hot and cold beverages. There are six models (including Circolo, Gusto Jovia, Gusto Mini Me, Piccolini, Genio and Melody) with prices ranging from $99 to $229. Promoted as stylish, funky, energetic and fun, NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto machines use 'smart' capsules, which have been designed to regulate the pressure of the machine. A demo on the Dolce Gusto web site explains that once you've popped a capsule into the machine, a needle pierces the seal and water 'races in' at the right temperature with high pressure. The water is pushed through the roasted ground coffee, 'capturing' the flavour and aroma. Then a disk pokes through the foil in the bottom of the capsule and 'delivers the exact amount of pressure' for the brew you've selected. Sounds simple enough. The NESCAFÉ capsules are bulkier than the well known competitor's slimline pods. Interestingly, the NESCAFÉ capsules can be recycled by sending them to by sending them to TerraCycle for free. For each capsule received, consumers are awarded 'two points' or $0.02 per capsule that can be redeemed for a payment to your chosen non-profit organisation, school or charity.
Capsules are available in boxes of 16 for around $8.49 and include flavours such as espresso intenso, espresso decaf, espresso ristretto, caffe Americano, cafe au lait, chai tea latte, cappuccino, skinny cappuccino, latte macchiato, caramel latte macchiato, hot chocolate, cappuccino ice, iced peach tea and mocha. These are available in supermarkets and on line, although we noticed that none of the supermarkets we visited stocked the full range. Those milk-based flavours have eight milk capsules, along with eight coffee or chocolate capsules.
The road test...
The Good Things team opened the box and set the machine up on the kitchen counter, before perusing the Quick Start guide (pictured below). Another (younger) fellow blogger/reviewer noted that he 'could easily decipher the pictorial instructions' that came with the machine. Well, I'm afraid it took these two fifty-somethings much longer to understand the different images, and we found ourselves laughing at our interpretation of some of the pictures, particularly number '5' with the eyeball. You can picture what we found ourselves doing, can't you. Ü
A few explanatory words in plain English would have clarified the finer details for us middle aged 'oldies'. Of course, once you get the hang of it, the operation is indeed quite simple and not something you can forget.
The parcel from NESCAFÉ included complimentary packets of cappuccino, hot chocolate (chocoletto) and espresso ristretto capsules, so we tested those first up. Both the cappuccino and hot chocolate ones have capsules of milk powder as well as separate capsules with the coffee or chocolate powder (eight of each in the box). The hot chocolate or chocoletto ingredients are whole milk powder, sugar and emulsifier (soy lecithin) in the milk capsule; and sugar, cocoa solids, emulsifier, 'flavour' and cinnamon. To me, the hot chocolate was reminiscent of the kind you might buy from a hospital vending machine, somewhat watery in taste and lacking in that depth of flavour and rich chocolate deliciousness. The finished product is delivered scorching hot every time we've tried it, so take care not to burn your tongue.
The cappuccino ingredients are whole milk powder, sugar, emulsifier (soy lecithin), cow's milk and soy, and roast and ground coffee 100% Arabica. Curiously, the suggested quantities are 200ml of milk to 40ml of coffee, but this results in a decidedly weak blend. And even with the quantities adjusted, the milk seems to overpower in the cup (see the cappuccino pictured below).
My sous chef, Peter, always orders a double shot espresso, while I prefer a macchiato with a dash of extra milk (however, we were not able to find a box of the macchiato capsules locally). The espresso ristretto delivers a reasonable glass of coffee and, certainly, my taste tester on this one has not complained. That said, he hasn't commented positively on the fruitiness of the blend either, which tells me the coffee is not nearly as good as it might be. We purchased a packet of the espresso intenso, and I could write 'ditto above' for that one.
The Good Things team has mixed opinions about the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Circolo capsule machine. Ask the sous chef and he will tell you 'Yeah, it's alright.' But, like the lady of the house, he misses the coffee aficionado experience of grinding freshly roasted, specially-sourced coffee beans and crafting a brew of espresso with a traditional coffee machine.
The smaller versions of the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto capsule machine would be absolutely perfect for travellers who cannot bear to be without freshly made coffee (as in those who never travel without a coffee plunger). Where the footprint of the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Circolo is a little too large for travel, it is perhaps better suited for apartments with smaller kitchens. We do, however, like the trendy, hipster design of the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Circolo capsule machine and its striking red colour, which is quite appealing. So, yes, the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Circolo capsule machine would make a good Christmas gift... for the right person.
Disclosure: Good Things received a NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Circolo capsule machine gratis to road test and review. The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the Good Things and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nestlé.
So tell me dear readers, what are your thoughts on pod or capsule coffee machines? And have you ever travelled with a coffee plunger or mini coffee maker tucked into your luggage? I have!
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.