As we wrote about in March, Nespresso’s historically proprietary capsules were slated for competition this summer — and it’s about to get real. Both Sara Lee’s L’Or capsules and the Ethical Coffee Company’s biodegradable capsules have hit the market and Nestle has begun an avid defense of their ~1700 patents on how the espresso is produced on their machines.
With lawsuits in the works and police raids of manufacturing facilities in France, it’s clear that Nestle’s Nespresso business model is designed around a lack of competition. Since we’re ardent supporters of competition and believe it to be in the best interest of the customer, it’s hard for us to empathize with Nestle’s position on this one.
As with the machines themselves, there seems to be different target markets for each of the competitive capsules being produced and that kind of diversity will only serve to increase the reach, accessibility and attractiveness of the equipment itself. If you have people concerned about the environmental impact of the capsules, they can purchase the equipment and go with Ethical Coffee Company’s capsule approach; similarly, if someone is more budget conscious and willing to take a bit of a reduction in quality, it sounds like the L’Or capsules are cheaper but maybe not quite as tasty as the original. In both cases, Nestle should see the competing products as another marketing arm that feeds into their machine sales. Obviously, their model is designed around lower cost machines that are supported economically by capsule purchases over the life of the equipment, but the biggest complaint and ‘no’ factor we see on the retail side is this lack of easily accessible capsules.
On the US front, Green Mountain and Lavazza are in final negotiations to team up and take another stab at Lavazza’s capsule-based espresso in this market, so the competition will be equipment based, as well, within the next few years. In our opinion, both pressures will result in better options for the customer at the end of the day, so we’re all for it.
Where do espresso machines and coffee makers go to die? Not in the landfill, if we can help it! At Seattle Coffee Gear, we launched a recycling program last year in an effort to keep as many fully assembled machines from landing in the trash. Many of these are pretty complex — they have circuit boards, electrical wiring and miscellaneous metals that are best kept out of our ground water supply.
Our partner in this venture is Uesugi USA, a Japanese company that (as luck would have it) have a US presence here in the Seattle-area. We pulled Henry into the mix and headed out to their facility to talk about what they do and see how they take these machines apart, break them down to their components and funnel them back into the commodity supply chain as cleanly as possible.
This is one of Gail’s favorite summertime recipes. Enjoy!
- 3 oz. cold milk
- 1 shot of espresso
- 1/2 oz. Monin White Chocolate Sauce
- 1/2 oz. Monin Raspberry Syrup
- Combine white chocolate sauce, raspberry syrup and espresso shot in a glass, stir until thoroughly mixed together.
- Add ice and cold milk; stir to combine.
- Garnish with a fresh raspberry.
A lot of people dig the ease of the Nespresso capsule machines, and if you’ve been on the market for one — or even considering pulling the trigger on picking one up — they’re sweetening the deal on purchases made between 4/30/10 and 6/30/10. If you buy a machine of $299 or more, you can fill out a rebate form that will apply a $50 credit to your Coffee Club account.
One of the big debates about the Nespresso is the fact that you can currently only get the capsules from them via their website, and so this little gift will be a sweet discount on the cost of your coffee over the life of the machine. With the rough price of each capsule at around $.50, this is basically 100 free of them! If you pick up one of these machines during this promotion period, print out and follow the instructions on this form to get your goods.
If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:
- To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
- To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
- To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)
Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ‘em out.
Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.
While the Nespresso machines are clean, convenient and easy to use — as well as making darn good coffee — some folks are turned off by the fact that the capsules for the machine are available for sale only through Nespresso directly. We sometimes have people stopping into the store hoping to get a small batch of the capsules to tide them over until their next mail order shipment arrives…and you can imagine their sour disappointment when we tell them we’re not allowed to sell any of the demo capsules we have in the store.
It can certainly be a really convenient option for those that are great with planning ahead, especially because you can setup a regular delivery of your favorite types of capsules so, theoretically, you’d never be out. And the way that Nespresso has structured their product and pricing reflects the fact that, when you buy a machine from them, you are starting a long term relationship, not just engaging in a quick n’ dirty one night stand.
So it’s no surprise that Nespresso is reacting with a little bit of attitude to the recent news of a second large company (this time, it’s Sara Lee) in the process of producing capsules that will be compatible with the Nespresso machines to directly compete with them. Last year, another company (Casino Guichard-Perrachon) announced it would introduce capsules made with coffee from the Ethical Coffee Company. Nespresso says it has over 1,700 patents covering the capsules and the way in which they interact with their machines, stating that they will “defend our intellectual property vigorously”.
We think competition does benefit the customer at the end of the day, so maybe two companies coming after their business will result in Nespresso changing up their game a bit. In our opinion, if they widened their capsule distribution to include their authorized retailers, that would be an excellent benefit for everyone involved.
Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, landed in an email box near you today — and if it wasn’t near enough for you to actually read it, you can do so here on the site or make sure you get up close and personal next month by signing up for future editions.
This month, we talk about the different functional types of espresso machines, include a recipe for Indochine Lemon, point you to our manufacturer manual resource on Brown Bean and introduce you to a few new products we have in the store. What you won’t see, however, is The Grind Special, which is for subscriber-eyes-only. Sign up to get that little bit o’ goodness every month.
Navigating the available options in the world of home espresso machines can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Functionally speaking, there are a few different basic variations:
- Manual/Lever: With these machines, you are the pump. You grind, tamp and control the pressure during the extraction. You also manage the whole steaming process.
- Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatics have 15 – 17 BAR pumps involved, which will settle down to about 9 BARs of pressure if your grind/tamp is accurate. You will grind & tamp, then initiate the shot on and off. Steaming is also up to you.
- Automatic: Still grinding, tamping and steaming on your own, but you can program these machines to dose out a specific amount of water, so it will automatically end the shot.
- Pressurized Portafilters: Automatic and semi-automatic machines can have a variation that includes a pressurized porftafilter. This makes the machine a little bit easier to use because you don’t have to be super particular about your grind and tamp.
- Pod-Friendly: Another variation of semi-automatic and automatic machines are those that allow you to use what is basically a ground coffee version of a tea bag. These single serving pods make for easy, mess-free brewing.
- Superautomatic: These machines manage the whole grind and tamp process for you, but on most of them you will still be required to steam your milk. Some of them (usually called ‘One Touch’) provide automated frothing and shot extraction into your cup at the touch of the button; others have an automated frothing system that will froth the milk separately and you can pour it into the cup after it’s automatically extracted.
- Capsule: Probably the most simple machine in terms of materials and labor, these guys use a proprietary capsule filled with pre-ground coffee and extract it at the touch of a button — no grinding and tamping. Some of them have automatic frothing options.
We asked Gail to talk to us about these different machines, why someone would want to buy a specific type and why perhaps they wouldn’t want to buy it. Hopefully, this video will function as a good primer for learning the basic functional differences and help you as you research which machine best suits your needs.
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.