I expect you’ve seen them – boutique espresso machines that appear as though they were designed by Frank Gehry, looking both retro and modern at the same time. They accept only preloaded foil capsules with fancy metallic hues. The sixteen “Grand Cru” flavors are marketed with an aesthetic rivaling that of top-shelf chocolate truffles. There is no doubt about it: Nespresso is the Apple of coffeemakers. And it holds no appeal for me whatsoever.
Sure, I could buy one of those contraptions and pop in a preloaded pellet and press play, but where is the challenge? I prefer to pull my shots the way that farmers did back in olden times: with a God-fearing cranky old Breville Semi-Automatic.
Bright and waaay too early each morning when my 17-month-old daughter wakes me up with her screaming, I stagger into the kitchen and refill my grinder’s undersized hopper, pouring beans directly out of a five-pound sack. Loose beans skittle across the countertop like dark, oily beetles. I grind the beans, hoping no loose pebbles or other detritus destroy the burrs, then I tip the powder from a square bin into the round portafilter, spilling about a third of it into the sink where it gets all over the dishes. I tamp the grounds, twist in the portafilter handle, and pull a double-shot while holding the espresso cup in place (the pump’s vibrations cause it to slide across the metal tray) and trying to prevent my daughter from climbing up my leg in her never-ending quest to steal my glasses. Finally, I scrape the used grounds out with a crab fork, rinse and repeat twice more to complete my morning fix. What’s not to love?
Compare this to the Nespresso iProcess, where magical faeries (or George Clooney, if you believe the commercials) drop a single, shiny preloaded pod into a candy-colored machine. Press a button and voilà, out comes a perfect shot with a dollop of luscious crèma atop it that looks to all the world like a Guinness for Tinker Bell.
There is no mess. Crap didn’t spray everywhere and there are no grinds to make their way into my dishwasher. Nobody gets hurt or scalded by a steamer wand, and the whole process takes, like, seconds. Where, I ask, is the sport in that?
Clearly Nespresso’s tidy closed system and convenience factor, not to mention style, make it Apple-like in both usability and cachet. And like Apple, they even have sleek cafés that double as stores – I went to one in Soho a month back and sat on a stool while an ultra-hip “barista” pressed a button and served me a double (then charged me eight bucks). I want none of it. I’d rather hoard the (admittedly) unused capabilities of my semi-auto and its accompanying gremlins than buy into the proprietary little world of the Nespresso elves, thank you very much. So keep your fedoras and your MacBooks, and I will continue to get grimy under the hood of my Breville, replacing pump diaphragms and other pieces, until I can finally afford the DeLonghi Superautomatic of my dreams.
To extend the Apple analogy, see a video on how to “Jailbreak” a Nespresso pod.