Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Product Review: Nespresso (And Comparison to Tassimo)

Well the gift buying time of year is here and so it does not surprise me that I am getting hits on my blog from people looking for information about the Nespresso and Tassimo ‘hot beverage’ machines. Last year I blogged about a rebate for Nespresso that was in effect back then so that is why I get those hits.

I decided to write more about these products and to do a product review of the Nespresso.

In November 2005 my in-laws decided they wanted a machine that would make espresso other than their old fashioned stove top espresso maker. At the time they seldom made espresso but loved to drink it on special occasions. A cousin had been raving about her new Nespresso espresso maker. My husband was put onto the task of finding out what the difference between the Tassimo and the Nespresso was, to read product reviews, to check prices and to help make the decision.

This is what we knew:
1. We had also seen the TV show “The Apprentice” where one challenge was to sell Tassimo machines to customers, since it was a new product, they had to try to convince people to accept this new technology and to justify the seemingly-high cost of the machine.
2. My husband had been hearing Don Imus advertise the Tassimo machine.

Note that my in-laws already owned a regular coffee machine and used it daily to make their Folgers, pre-ground coffee, which they buy at the grocery store. They intended to keep using their regular coffee machine for regular coffee and wanted a new, easy machine that would make espresso.

The basic concept with these two machines (Nespresso and Tassimo) appears the same to the user. A premeasured product called a “capsule” (for Nespresso) or a “disk” (for Tassimo) is placed in the machine. You buy the little disks of the type of drink that you want, they are sold specifically for use with the brand of machine that you own. The disk is a little plastic cup with a sealed lid on it (They remind me of the little butter tubs in restaurants, but larger.) You put water in the machine and turn it on. You put the disk in the machine and press a button. In a very short amount of time (perhaps one minute) a single serving of that beverage is brewed. This is basically brewing coffee drinks and other hot drinks in the easiest manner possible. Think: easy, simple, mindless, and foolproof. The hardest decision to make is to decide what type of beverage you want (decaf, caffeinated, strong flavor, more mild, etc.).

Here is the main difference between the Tassimo and the Nespresso. The Nespresso makes espresso—PERIOD. The Tassimo makes coffee, espresso, cappuccino, latte’s, hot cocoa and tea. I suspect that the Tassimo has a bit more sophisticated technology as it has the ability to scan the beverage disk in order to know how much water to use to make that specific drink.

Both my husband and I thought that the Tassimo had the most options for drink choices so we recommended that they buy the Tassimo.

However the relative’s rave reviews of the Nespresso swayed my in-law’s to decide to buy the Nespresso.

Next came the search of where to find the machine at the lowest price. Amazon seems to discount the machines and if you can get free shipping then all the better.

Last year there were two Nespresso models that were the same price. My husband could not figure out what the difference was so he called the manufacturer. He was told that they had two different models aesthetically, that the machines were the same but one had a more modern contemporary external design and the other had a more boxy traditional look to it.

I was there when the Nespresso was opened and tested by my in-law’s. The machine is very easy to use but be sure to read the directions! We misunderstood one step and ruined two disks. Once we figured out the right way to do it we realized it really is very easy to operate, then we wondered how we managed to make that mistake.

The immediate problem was evident that the only thing to drink was espresso. Of course we all knew this but it was illustrated right them. I (the guest) don’t drink espresso, but I do drink milk-based drinks like latte’s and cappuccino’s or even regular coffee. So as a guest I chose to decline drinking an espresso beverage with them. This is important to consider because unless all present at your home, party, or gathering want to drink straight espresso, you have a problem. I would have been happy with plain coffee but since the Nespresso doesn’t make that, it is an issue, we would have had to take out the regular coffee maker and brew a special pot for me, and that was not the point, we wanted to test out the new machine with a beverage for me and to use just one machine. Oh well!

The second challenge came when they realized they needed more disks. These disks are not for sale in the grocery store. At the time they were available from the manufacturer via the Internet, by the phone, on paper sales using a brochure that came with the machine, or from a Williams-Sonoma store. With all the experimentation of the new machine and the two mistakes we made, they went through a lot of espresso disks in that first trial session. My husband then made a special trip to a mall to the Williams-Sonoma store only to find they were sold out of the disks. (A tip: call ahead to your local Williams-Sonoma store before making a special trip to buy the disks to see if they are in stock!) There is also the issue of ordering them by mail order or Internet order if you have to pay shipping, the order can get costly. So a lesson was learned: plan ahead and buy a lot of disks ahead of time or else you may find yourself empty-handed.

One year later I can say I’ve never seen my in-law’s use the machine. I asked my husband how frequently they use it. The reply was they rarely use it because it ONLY makes espresso and for that reason they are not happy with it. The oddest thing though is that they knew before buying the Nespresso that it made only espresso, and they knew the competitor’s product (the Tassimo) offered a wider range of beverages to choose from. Oh well! Oh, but they love the machine, they say! Instead they continue to use their same old coffee brewer for their few cups of coffee that they drink every day.

So I have nothing negative to say about the Nespresso when considering what it is and what is intended to do. It is just what it DOESN’T do that is the issue.

More thoughts on the Tassimo
At first glance it may not seem necessary to have a machine like the Tassimo make multiple drinks. For example who needs a machine to brew tea for you, or to make regular coffee if you already own a coffee maker? I can answer that now, it is convenience, pure convenience. If you are serving guests with the Tassimo you just do one step and everyone can have a custom drink, whether it is hot cocoa for the kids (or adults who love chocolate), cappuccino, espresso, tea or coffee. Imagine yourself with a small group of people and everyone wants different things. Imagine putting a pot of water on to boil for one cup of tea for one person, starting up the coffee machine for another couple of people then using a machine to make espresso for those who want that. It can be a bit much. If you can afford the Tassimo and want the convenience of it, then go for it, and use just that one machine to do everything for you.

If you are wondering how the milk gets into the Tassimo’s milk based drinks, the disk contains concentrated milk powder (according to the manufacturer’s website).

If you like flexibility with convenience then the Tassimo is for you, not the Nespresso.

If you want more flexibility than the Tassimo offers consider a more traditional home espresso maker which also has a milk steamer.

Nespresso's website has a demonstartion of how their machine works, here.

Tassimo’s website has a demonstration of how the machine works, here.

More Labor Intensive Methods
The other option is the one that has been around for over ten years. That is to buy a regular home espresso maker that has a steam attachment to froth your own milk for coffee drinks which contain milk. When I got married I received a Krups espresso maker as a gift. I still find this easy to use. You basically fill the container with ground coffee or ground espresso and put it onto the machine. It is your choice to buy whole beans and to grind it yourself (that takes less than one minute to do) or to buy already-ground espresso beans You press the button to heat the water. When the light indicates it is hot, you turn the button and the espresso brews and fills the cup. You are done. (That wasn’t hard, now, was it?) If you want steamed milk for a hot cocoa or for any coffee and milk drink, you put milk in a special metal cup, put the nozzle into the milk, turn the knob to steam, and heat and froth the milk, shut it off, remove the hot milk, and mix the drink. The pro’s of this are that the cost of the beans is much less expensive when buying it in whole bean or already-ground form than buying all those disks (some are nearly $2 for each single serving). Costco and BJs also sell Starbucks brand coffee beans at discount prices. Also you have a huge assortment of beans to choose from ranging from the grocery store to gourmet shops or perhaps even to buy from local coffee roasters.

Wow, in 1995 the Krups espresso maker I was given cost $350. I am surprised to see that Krups offers two machines on Amazon, one for about $50 and the other for about $95, so prices have come way down over time.

The Cost Per Cup of Beverage
I think the cost needs to be examined before you make your decision. Don’t just think about the cost of the machine. Investigate the cost of each cup of beverage on just the beverage disk part of the cost and see if this is beyond your range. If it is going to bother you to spend almost $2 (before shipping) on each hot beverage then perhaps the Nespresso or the Tassimo is not for you.

Note: I don’t own a Nespresso or a Tassimo. I did not receive any complimentary products from the manufacturer’s in order to blog about them. But if you buy them or anything else through my blog’s Amazon links then I will earn a small commission!

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Jiri said...

thank you for great "human" review and comparison between Nespresso and Tassimo. I wasn't sure which one to get... I'm going for Tassimo.

Stephen said...

A good review overall - many people do not know the difference in these machines. However, you can get a regular cup of coffee from the Nespresso. I did the same research and also decided on the Nespresso. I've been extremely happy with the decision. The espresso that it makes is on par with the very best professional machines (like the ones at Starbucks). The Tassimo espresso is horrible. You should note that many people use the Nespresso to create "Cafe Americanos" - which have the same strength as a regular coffee (just run the machine once with a capsule (a short shot), then once with no capsule - just water (a long shot). This Americano yields about the same amount of coffee as a Tassimo coffee - but tastes much better than the Tassimo. Unless you want to create hot chocolate and tea with your machine, then go for the Nespresso.

Jenza1 said...

We recently bought the Nespresso Laitissima after having had the previous model for many years (used for all different kinds of coffees and hot chocolates...so I am not sure why you couldn't make frothy milk on yours)
The Latissima does it all and you don't have to steam the milk...the machine does it automatically. The espresso coffee is delicious with all different levels of strength...I order online and receive sometimes in 2 days! you can interrupt the process at any time..ie add more or less coffee/milk and it is easy to clean. I definitely recommend it.

christinemm said...

Thanks for your comment.

My review was on the plain old Nespresso. My review was not on the Nespresso Latissima which did not even exist to the best of my knowledge back when I wrote and published that review.

It is good to know that they do sell the Latissima that does the frothy milk.

My in-laws ended up not liking the Nespresso much because they thought making one cup of coffee at a time was a waste, since they each would drink between them, 4 cups in one sitting twice a day (breakfast and after dinner). So they went back to using their old regular coffee pot for normal coffee.

Tim said...


I thought I'd add my feedback on this article from a European point of view. Other people have already commented that you can actually make larger coffees, cappucinos and the like using the Nespresso system, so I won't address that.

For continental europeans the quintessential coffee is the espresso. Large cups of brewed coffee are definitely not compatible with our taste demandes - I find them prcatically undrinkable. Obviously this is subjective and culture and upbringing play a strong part, but for us, if it isn't espresso it isn't coffee.

A true espresso stands above the rest because it brings out a wealth of flavours that you can't get any other way, and it has the delicious creaminess and a beautiful "crema" that make it such a wonderful drink. Coffee made in any other way lacks these attributes - resulting in a brown water which lacks body.

Espresso doesn't have to be strong - this is a misconception - although as the palette adapts the desire for stronger coffee may evolve. Whatever the strength an espresso makes a wonderful drink.

What does one need to make a good espresso? Excellent coffee appropriately ground and very high water/steam pressure, of which only the Nespresso system offer both.

So, while you can claim that the Tassimo is more polyvalent thanks to its ability to make all manor of drinks, the key point for me is that it simply can't make an espresso! It doesn't come close. Nor does the senseo.

Nespresso capsules are admittedly more expensive but you get what you pay for - excellent and very convenient coffee, a true espresso. To make better coffee in a home environement needs time and dedication (roasting beans, burring them yourself, etc) and even then you're unlikely to be able to offer guests such a wide choice of coffee at any one time.

Nespresso may only have 12 standard coffees but the selection is a great one that caters for all tastes so don't let this put you off.

My 2 pense. I appreciate that this post will probably mean little to many Americans and British people - it's not aimed at you - I just hope that I stop an espresso lover from making a big mistake.

christinemm said...

Tim your review and opinions are excellent. Thank you for telling how wonderful the Nespresso is for espresso. That was one main thing my in-law's wanted it for but they still drank "American coffee" multiple times daily and didn't switch over to just espresso drinking.

Thanks for taking the time to write that. This post gets a lot of hits so your review will be seen by anyone who visits this post in the future.

Kelly said...

In response to Tim's comments: Bravo! I live in Italy and the Nespresso makes a true espresso as European's know it. Not as we Americans know it. Even Starbuck's doesn't taste as good as I remember it tasting when I lived in the U.S. If you want real espresso I can truly say that Nespresso makes the same espresso at home with the rich cream on top just like they serve at the local coffee bar down the street here in Italy. So like Tim said, if you're a true espresso lover hope you don't make a big mistake by buying the wrong machine.

Kelly said...

In response to Tim's comments: Bravo! I live in Italy and the Nespresso makes a true espresso as European's know it. Not as we Americans know it. Even Starbuck's doesn't taste as good as I remember it tasting when I lived in the U.S. If you want real espresso I can truly say that Nespresso makes the same espresso at home with the rich cream on top just like they serve at the local coffee bar down the street here in Italy. So like Tim said, if you're a true espresso lover hope you don't make a big mistake by buying the wrong machine.

sweetpea85 said...

Hi there. After spending Christmas at my grandparents' house, who own a Siemens Nespresso machine (think it's the tk30 or something for those interested) I'm completely won over by the fantastic coffee it made. I found this blog whilst researching my options, to find out whether other people had had good experiences with the Nespresso system (esp. in comparison with tassimo.) I still need to do some research on Nesle as a company as I was taught, when young, that Nesle were baby-killers and I'm hoping they've cleaned up ethically. I was mostly making americano coffee, you just run several bouts of water through the same capsule, you don't really need to take the capsule out after the initial espresso, then add milk/cream if you like. I can honestly say it was some of the best coffee I've ever had. I don't drink coffee every day, more of a tea person, but when I do drink it I like it to be very good and fairly strong. My only other concern is whether the Nespresso capsules are Fairtrade or that they might be working towards this in the future. I would never normally buy coffee or tea that isn't fairtrade.

Naomi from WAM said...

Wow i just reviewed this product now and saw your review from 2006!!