Expensive, convenient, & 1 out of 9 blends produces a very good espresso
Positive Product Points
Great option for decent espresso while travelling or at the office
Negative Product Points
Stuck with Nespresso capsules and no other espresso coffee may be used. (Locked into a proprietary system). The coffee is *expensive*: .45 (US) per ~7 gram shot.
The Nespresso system, which uses nitrogen flushed aluminum capsules, and the E.S.E. coffee pods have both been given a bad rap on the alt.coffee news group. Unfortunately, many speak without any real personal experience with either of these two convenient and admittedly less than ideal methods of brewing. Perhaps they've sampled products in stores or at shows. Often the product is brewed by someone who really knows nothing about coffee!
As far as the nespresso system is concerned, you can get a very decent cup out of it. And I believe it has a niche in the market. The machines that are used are very lightweight and portable. It is really ideal in an office environment or on the road (where good coffee can be next to impossible to find).
I purchased my machine because I needed something at work (I can't stand the regular coffee at work.) While I usually prepare my morning Vivace Vita macchiato at home on my Isomac Tea (mmmmmm....), by evening, when it is time to go home, I'm out of fuel! Two things prompted me to buy the Krups Nespresso unit: 1. I lost my carpooling partner and became nervous I might fall asleep on the road. 2. An incredible deal on ttadirect.com for a Nespresso unit ($28.00)
While the capsules are very expensive, the unit is very convenient (sits discreetly on the wall shelf under office flipper door) and the espresso is very good. Unfortunately, there is really only one roast out of the nine that produces an espresso that is both up to standards and tasty. That roast is the Arpeggio. It is made up of darker roasted arabica beans (more in the Southern Italian style, as opposed to Northern Italian). It produces the requisite 1 ounce in exactly 20 seconds. I thought I would like the "Ristretto" roast, which contains some robusta. I do not think, however, that a good quality robusta was used for this roast. In any case, something is off in that roast and I've decided to avoid it altogether. There is one other roast that I do like, though it makes more of a strong coffee (a lungo) than an espresso (1.75 ounces in 20 seconds). That is the Livanto. It is lighter in roast than the Arpeggio and makes a great "strong coffee".
It appears that Nespresso does not adjust their grind according to roasting degree (lighter roasts should be ground more finely!) So the lighter roasts are bound to be underextracted. Only the two darkest roasts are extracted properly (1 oz in 20 seconds). To avoid underextraction in the other blends you must time the shots at 20 seconds and expect strong coffee as opposed espresso. This might explain why so many seem to experience the Nespresso pods as "stale" or otherwise unsatisfactory. (The taste of underextracted coffee is very similar to that of stale coffee.)
While the Arpeggio blend is darker than I would prefer, it does produce a very nice espresso. On a scale of 1 to 10, with the finest that Espresso Vivace and Caffe D'Arte can dish out being a 10, I give the Arpeggio blend a 6.5. That's far better and cheaper than anything close by here at work. And while perhaps I could produce something better on a superauto, I don't care to spend the initial investment or more importantly, make that kind of statement here at work.
Last week I needed to attend a conference out of town. I brought my Nespresso machine along. It was so nice to not have to subject myself to Hotel coffee! Would I pay the $150 some are paying on ebay for this machine? No way! But for under $30 I'm hooked!