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You know, it is easy to see why consumers prefer using microwaves to conventional ovens; they're smaller, can be slotted into the tightest of spaces and normally cost a quarter of a conventional oven's price which offers the same features. It's not just an impression I get from every day use, or for the fact that my mother no longer needs to put her back out when she's baking cakes - not when a microwave at eye level gives better access and can be moved around compared to a cooker or a fitted kitchen oven.
So when it comes to a compact coffee maker that claims to be able to pump steamed water through an espresso tap to make espresso coffee, my coffee loving parents loved the idea and design of the new Krups Nespresso XN 2005. It took away the immediate "Bread Maker" sized traditional electric espresso coffee machine idea, even if they had soldered on with the traditional stove pot kettle for espresso for many years and compared to a bulkier machine, the whole concept behind the Nespresso idea is to avoid the worktop hugging machine with odd pipes to clean and more parts than a child's easy to put together 8 part jigsaw!
Nar2's Quick Skip Review Spec
1260 watt, quick to "brew" & release in less than a minute.
19 bar pressure, 2 button panel with back lit lights.
10 capsule remover drawer and removable drip plate.
Height 25cm, Width 17cm, weight just under 3kg.
1.3 litre water tank, comes with 12 capsules, 10 espresso and 2 lungo sizes.
Our price - £35-00 due to non-existent demand from a local electrical shop!
Normal price on average £70 to £100 or half price in 2006/7.
Second hand price now £40 to £50 on Ebay or Gumtree - replaced by current ranges.
At the time of purchase, it certainly paid off to haggle when my mum bought the Nespresso Krups XN 2005 at £35-00 with two containers of coffee pods (if I remember there were 10 pods in each tray) when she was supposed to only come away with one tray! The Scottish Hydro Shop where we purchase a lot of our large appliances from and who have always delivered a consistently high and friendly service had kept the machine in the store open for many months but not one single buyer was interested. Officially in early 2007, the price had been £45-00 before mum managed to score £10 off the cost price but the machine originally cost something in the region of £90 when it first appeared in 2006.
The Design & Brand Concept
Firstly, Nespresso aren't responsible for the machine. This award goes to Krups of whom I have always regarded as being one of the leading brands when it comes to coffee equipment and prep machines. Nespresso however is a company who are obvious in name from the first three letters in the "Nespresso" tag. It is a name which is feared greatly here on many review channels simply because it holds a large petition/boycott against its products and services. If you still haven't guessed by now, I shall utter the word for you; Nestle of Switzerland.
Nespresso apparently minimises the traditional preparation of espresso, taking away the mess of the metal hand tamper, metal sieve and fixing it to the main water jets which traditionally with steam extract the beans/grind's full flavour and quality.
Where does the coffee grind go?
Well it doesn't for starters. Nespresso may well promote the cleanliness of minimising powdery mess which can be attributed to traditional espresso machines but you can only use sealed coffee pods which are only available from the same company and if you don't like using Mail Order or online purchase, then this machine has been a waste of money. Unlike the later, cheaper produced Dolce Gusto (an idea I prefer) coffee available in supermarkets, Nespresso have no intentions of bringing premium to the masses with the only exception that one shop in the whole of the UK survives.
The coffee pods are a strange breed however and please don't leave me comments about "oh I worry about the waste" because these pods look exactly the same as plastic milk pods you can find in McDonalds and Burger King (and given the proportion of customers who travel daily to consume coffee and tea with milk pods, I bet the largest amount of waste can be found directly at these fast food places rather than the kitchen of the humble Nespresso owner.)
So the only way of buying the pods is from mail order (through the "club" which you are automatically a member of, when you send in your first order) or if you are lucky enough, darling to live in the throws of Kensington, you will find the only Nespresso shop in Knightsbridge, the home of Harrods in London. You can't get more exclusive than Knightsbridge, let alone Harrods! Prices are equally expensive too, particularly if you just order a box of 10 pods (this is the minimal arrangement) of one flavour. So far, my mum has devoured the complimentary trays and bought around £60 worth of coffee pods and further merchandise from Nespresso. To say that she has been sucked in is a major understatement!
Each box of 10 pods costs on average £5.00 on average (2012 prices from Amazon.co.uk) though from Nespresso themselves, it can cost a bit more or less depending on the year! You'll need to make 10 pods as a minimum order in one box which will produce 20 cups of coffee. Thankfully despite the different
flavours, all of them are equally priced with the exception of the "Lungo" variety. Now given that I can make at least 35 cups of espresso coffee for the same type of espresso coffee in loose bags available from supermarkets between the cost of £3 to £4, Nespresso instantly turns me off because of cost and having to use mail order.
Over the the years and thanks to the Internet, you can now buy the coffee pods from various sellers online. We use EBay as well as Amazon.co.uk to buy the pods from as the delivery and the prices are slightly shorter to each compared to Nespresso.
Each Nespresso pod has a shelf life of roughly 6 to 7 months unless the seals on the pods are broken. I'm more of a loose coffee grind bag buyer and use air tight boxes to keep blends in the fridge where all types of ground coffee should be kept to regain freshness and longevity. But I do understand the concept of Nespresso and like the compactness & containment idea - there's never a mess of any powder with this machine!
The merchandise that Nespresso sell optionally to the customer ranges from good quality pieces to equally poorly made aspects consisting of various cups and saucers which complement the Nespresso machine (you don't even get a cup in the box). For a price of what was supposed to be £9-95, Nespresso charged my mum £13-95 for the set. What she got was lovely looking glass cups with the nastiest of cheap plastic saucers to match.
Other accessories consist of a silly plastic tower horror which gives access to the different colours of pods as well as a coffee tray. I smell a trip to Ikea for most consumers there in lieu of this branded "N" tower, or when you have got over your "open space" tower coffee pod displayer, you can use it for displaying jewellery...
General Performance from the XN 2005
Thankfully the quality of the Nespresso 2005 is very stylish aided by art deco like brushed metal on the pull up pod deposit lid and a metal perforated grille where the cup sits and catches spills. Surrounded by this is a matt black metal body soft and smooth to the touch with "Krups" in large lettering to the left whilst the name "Nespresso" is written in understated but clear beige writing to the right. I gingerly nicknamed the machine "the cuckoo nest," based on the overall look and began to warm to the machine's look as well as its general design.
There are only two buttons on the Nespresso XN 2005; the On button lights up in red whilst the espresso coffee button lights up in green, intermittent when the machine is boiling up the water and trying to sense how many cups of coffee the owner wants - or so the manual would have you believe. At least alongside the rest of the machine, the buttons are well made, rubberised and feel good on the fingers. Tactile surfaces go on from smooth and glossy feeling surfaces on the metal with slightly speckled, harder resistance on the drip tray and slide out pod bin located underneath the main tap.
In reality though you have to stand and watch the coffee being deposited in a cup no bigger than a tea cup or a small espresso cup (you can't use a mug as it won't fit under the permanently stuck spout) and to activate, you have to keep your finger on the release button to release the coffee. Sadly even now in 2012 the "base" Nespresso machines like the "Pixie" and other machines still persist in the owner to keep their finger pressed on the release button. You can buy other machines that do it automatically - but you may find you'll have to spend £200 to get that design feature!
Another unbelievable cost cutting exercise has also been applied to the lovely looking carafe which holds water and therefore is the only vessel where water can be added for the Nespresso to work. I'd expect a glass carafe but not here; Krups have put in a rather lovely looking curved glass jug but it is made of clear acrylic plastic and there is no facility to install a water filter, but at least you could use your own.
Fill the carafe at the back with cold water, lift and push into the lock at the back of the machine, lift the deposit lid upwards, select a pod that you like and handily you'll find that Krups have gone to the bother of putting the shape of the pod on the main deposit channel so that you won't confuse which way the pods go. Krups could have gone to the bother of calling this design "as simple as a child's block box to fit the shapes through the matching holes," but I don't think they want to insult the customer all at once! So, once the pod is inserted, drop the metal deposit lid and select the coffee activation button. Once the button is pushed, the noise of the motor starts up.
At first I thought that my mum had taken her Food Saver food vacuum machine out because of the associated whine and low grating noise that the vacuum sealer makes. But then I was thinking what could she be vacuum sealing at nearly four in the morning? It was the noise of the Nespresso extracting the flavour out of the pods, water prep time and depositing the finished article into a cup. Oh yes, this is one noisy son of a Cuckoo's nest but only for a minute - unless you want two shots of coffee and your kitchen may well sound like a dentist when the grinding motor comes on again! Still you can't get everything and the Krups XN 2005 does a good job of what it is supposed to do. Luckily by opening the lid again the used pod is deposited in the user container tray below which at best minimises messy deposits in a bin with traditional systems. Like other coffee makers though, if the machine isn't placed on a flat level surface, it refuses to work.
Thankfully the whole "preparation" time only takes between 15 and 30 seconds but then judging by our old Kenwood, it only used to take 30 seconds anyway to produce a double shot of espresso...
The Coffee Flavours & the Titles
Briefly what annoys me the most about this palaver? Well, unlike loose espresso coffee you can buy in supermarkets and coffee houses which have a universal numerical system to indicate strength and weakness, Nespresso really have gone to town in dressing up the blends by applying fancy Italian names and different colours.
For weak strength coffee for example, there are some really far fetching names such as "Volluto" or how about "Cosi"? In all there are 12 espresso "premium" blends and 3 to 6 additional large cup blends suitable for large espresso which in this instance Nespresso call "lungo." Thank god Nespresso have added blends here which start at the highest of 10 as being the strongest to 3 and 4 for being the weakest blends. All the blends have different fancy names and have various blends of coffee in each pod, not just one blend of coffee to serve up espresso quality.
There is even a blend called "Ristretto." Any serious coffee fan who knows their salt will know that "ristretto," means restricted and it does not apply itself to an individual blend of coffee. Infact if you order a Ristretto at a professional coffee shop, it's the basic espresso which has been stopped just before the full flavour of the normal espresso has been reached. You don't need a separate brand here to class it as something else!
Perhaps the worst aspect of all is that a lot of worded rubbish has been applied to the individual recipe break downs of each pod WHILST the strength numbers have been written even smaller in the guides and in the tasting trays (another cost option marketing piece of merchandise which serves up nothing other than 36 spaces for three times as many of all the varieties of pods encased in a dark metal "board game" fold up "tinted ebony" wooden like tray and the holes aren't even big enough to accommodate standard tea light candles when you tire of the pods!). Just a short blurb and a strength factor would suffice here instead of dressing up coffee with florid names.
When you use the espresso pods over time, you'll get an idea of how much espresso coffee needs to be flowed into the cup of your choice. The first time around, it is always best to go with what Nescafe/Nespresso suggest as you could easily waste pods by over flowing with hot water, which is effectively what this machine does determined by the stop/flow button with your finger held down. Secondly, the Lungo pods are TWO SHOTS of coffee and therefore need either two times pressed by your finger, or if you know the measurements given by Nespresso, keep your finger pressed down for longer.
This isn't a machine for those buyers who may have sight problems. My father had Macular eye problems and during our ownership, it was always me who had to make sure the coffee produced wasn't dulled down by too much water.
The Scent & the Tastes
A couple of seconds of scent is all that you get once Nespresso has pumped the coffee into the cup and the scent doesn't travel far enough in the whole house like our old espresso machine used to do. Infact it is a good advantage if you are trying to sneak a cup in without your partner knowing! But that sums up for me anyway, the result of this whole marketing exercise. Krups don't have to worry, they have their own range of excellent machines but here the tastes of each espresso coffee leave a lot to the imagination of the company responsible for the blend. And given the quantity that my mum bought I have had every blend offered! What I find with the Nespresso is that every espresso produced lacks body, even the Lungo pods which are supposed to be made in a 110ml size cup compared to the standard smaller espresso size of 40 to 45ml.
In my experience, a proper espresso should be drunk slowly to fully appreciate the roundedness of the grind's full taste. There is plenty of crema (the gold top frothy coloured foam which adorns the top of every espresso) from each pod to the cup though which may appeal to the senses of sight but the liquid that comes out is quite thin and milky unlike the thickness of properly made commercial espresso. As a result each espresso can be drunk quite quickly with the need for more but the overall flavour dissipates far too quickly for my liking.
The heat of the espresso should also be very hot but not boiling and in this respect this is another aspect which lets our Nespresso down - the espresso produced is just not hot enough to withstand further recipes to be added to it. On its own, the heat of the espresso is okay but I would have expected a stronger temperature and we have followed the guidelines completely if the coffee is not hot enough but there has been no improvement.
Another aspect of the machine is that it claims to have 19 bars of steam pressure. Traditional espresso only needs around 9 to 10 bars of pressure and quite why Krups have
Pictures of Krups XN 2005
The main look of the Krups XN2005.
fitted the machine with 10 bars more of pressure when it's not needed is unclear. No froth gun is added to this model either which presents another downside, particularly if you want to go to the bother of making other recipes which Nespresso supply a little booklet for your pleasure.
Additional Handbook, the User Manual & Cleaning
Out of the box, Nespresso Essenza XN comes with a lot of paper inserts and info regarding the club, merchandise, recipes and coffee pod info. You'll also find a glossy brown folder which holds everything in place, much akin to the "welcome" folder you'd find in any top leading hotel. Here Nespresso have added handy inserts at the front and back of the wipe clean cardboard folder for additional info to be slipped into, whilst pages can be taken in and out via the standard subject type binder rings. Impressively though each page has tiny metal rings which add to the overall good quality exclusive impression.
The user manual is a bit of a bother though. Frankly it folds out to the size of a wall chart where just about every European language has been included (French, Italian, Greek, Scandinavian countries, possibly Russian and Spanish) and German language has been applied to the English section too, with the worrying aspect that the German wording is written in thick bold black lettering whereas the English appears second in small grey lettering. Very handy then! Luckily there are pictorial diagrams and colours to show just what to do with the machine if you can't find or even see the English wording whilst each page has been numbered. What a shame then that the first three pages aren't joined by pages 4, 5 and 6 and you have to look elsewhere. No wonder Nespresso have included a separate section in the welcome folder to make operation easier.
It does take a long time to read the manual though as there are too many languages going on and the manual can be folded up to reveal only the German and English sections. For a company whose only shop is based in London for the UK customers, I'd have thought Krups could have enclosed a better written manual.
Cleaning is just as easy as making a Nespresso though Krups offer up a cleaning pod which you can buy (yet more expense) for cleaning out the machine. My mum just flushes out the system with cold water from the tap (and goes about in the same way to make a coffee without actually putting coffee into the system) but recently I've been adding bicarbonate of soda which will ensure complete sterile condition; that's what we use after the chemical powder at the café I used to work in with the commercial machines so it shouldn't be any different here. The metal cup holder grate is removable and is easy to pick out. After this is done, the holder for the used espresso pod can be pulled out which reveals two parts; inner grate to store the cups and the holder itself. Being plastic however it is not dishwasher safe. I am surprised that Krups have made the coffee spout and lid pusher permanent to the machine - neither are removable for complete hygienic cleaning, only relying on the water that gets pumped through or the cleaning pods in tandem. t
One of the things that I find with Nestle's coffee pods is the fact that they relay similar tastes to their Instant coffee powders. For any coffee lover that can be a downside. The taste of each blend reminds me very much of Nestlé's Alta Rica, Gold Blend, Fine Blend, and any other bloomin' blend Nescafe have put into a jar and labelled it "instant," only in this instance you are paying through the nose for something that doesn't knock the nose for six or tickle the tonsils with long lasting delight. Even the handbook professionally states fact where they show the art of espresso:
"...involves a special extraction procedure of forcing water at high pressure through a fine blend of ground coffee..." Well this is true but not at a full 19 bars of pressure where it will actually burn the coffee, Nespresso!
No litre markings on the carafe, small sizing of wording and strength indicators, poor plastic that can't be put into the dishwasher serves up a belief that Nestle just needed any partner to team up to produce a machine that could just make the coffee whilst Nescafe screw the customer for money for a product you can get in a jar. Oh yes, our machine in less than a year also failed to function when the stop function button broke and Krups refused to repair it! Eventually Nespresso graced us with a similar Magimix machine, but it didn't come free and we had to pay £55 extra to have the machine as opposed to the fuller retail price of £125 at the time. Don't tell me Nespresso is good value! Not in my experience!