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One-Touch Convenience Albeit With Some Quirks
on April 24, 2014
It has come to my attention that there has been countless reviews both praising and being critical about the Lattissima Plus. I will be focusing on both ends of the spectrum.
The Lattissima has been highly praised for the one–button creation of milk-based drinks. To some, this may be worth the premium over the more rudimentary models such as the Citiz Milk, Pixie, and Escenza.
This review serves several purposes:
1. To help the reader choose between the different models
2. To elaborate upon the pros and cons of the Lattissima Plus
3. To give some tips on more effective operation of the machine
4. To address common concerns and issues users are currently facing while operating the machine
This is a long review. I suggest skipping to the conclusion if you do not wish to dwell into the specifics.
= Comparison Between Models =
The Nespresso range consists of two main categories: milk and non-milk models. Regardless of the choice, all machines (except Lattissima+, elaborated later) use a very similar single-thermal heating block design of for brewing the espresso shot. This is important to note, especially when choosing between different models. Unlike purchasing a traditional, more expensive espresso machine that uses coffee grounds, purchasing a Nespresso machine involves much less critical consideration. One only has to decide which functionality is of more importance, and how much more will one be willing to pay for that.
For example, do you like milk-based drinks? Or do you prefer single shot pure expresso? Do you value a more convenient integrated one-button coffee solution, or would you prefer a modular system of making milk-based drinks such as the Citiz Milk?
All the different machines are at different price points, along with different degrees of convenience when producing that cup of coffee. I will not be elaborating on prices of the machines because it is always subject to price fluctuations, however I will touch upon the main functionalities and classifications of the machines.
Non-Milk Models: Inissia, Pixie, Essenza.
Modular Milk Models (Aeroccino): U, Citiz, Gran Masteria.
Fully Intergrated Milk Models: Lattissima+, Maestria.
Focusing on the milk models, the category is divided between models with the modular Aeroccino container, and those with the integrated milk function. (Refer to classification of models above)
The main point of differentiation between the fully integrated versus the modular milk models, is that the integrated milk frother produces milk with much finer microfoam compared to the modular Aeroccino. Further, the integrated model has the capability to greatly customise the frothy-ness of the milk, simply by turning a knob. This is customization is limited with the Aeroccino to just changing the frothing wands at the base of the unit. However, it does not offer as fine a degree of customization as the integrated solution.
Unlike the Aeroccino, the milk container in the Lattissima does not require daily cleaning. Instead, the whole module can be put in a fridge after you have dispensed your drink. Highly convenient. The Aeroccino however, has to be cleaned shortly after use. It also has to be cleaned thoroughly; otherwise the milk remnants might get burnt at the base of the unit upon subsequent use.
One might argue that the Lattissima’s price point is justified because it uses two thermal heating blocks - one for the coffee, and one for the milk. It is the only machine in the Nespresso range with such a feature.
So you have to decide how much of a premium you want to pay for that added convenience of having the Lattissima. Do you mind washing the milk container daily for the modular milk models? Do you prefer milk with a finer consistency? Do you value the one-touch convenience of producing highly customisable cappuccino? Or would you rather spend time brewing coffee, heating up milk, and crafting the cappuccino manually?
Personally I upgraded from the CitiZ & Milk model, after finding the Lattissima Plus on sale. I find that added convenience to be well worth the premium paid for the Lattissima
= Pros =
I believe that much of the pros have been covered in other reviews. However, one of the biggest plus points I see in the Lattissima is the ease of use of the machine.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest selling point of this machine is the automatic creation of milk-based drinks.
In terms of the size of the machine, it does not have a very big footprint, and sits comfortably on my countertop. I can even fit it inside a bookshelf.
Compared to other models, the Lattissima has a rather large water tank. This allows me to refill the machine only once every two or so days.
On a similar note, the Lattissima also has a relatively large used capsule container. Something which I find convenient because I do not have to empty as often compared to my CitiZ model.
The machine also dispenses warm milk, something that I find useful especially when wanting a cup of hot chocolate in the middle of the night. A plus point, is that I can even have frothed milk! Something a microwave can never accomplish.
= Cons =
Although I have lavished this machine with much praise, there are some quirks about it which irritates me at times. One of them would be the drip. Because I have been so spoilt by the convenience of the machine, it pains me to have to constantly clear the drip tray. After brewing from the capsule, and pulling the usual empty shot of water to clean the system, the Lattissima tends to drip for a good 10 seconds after the shot. Although this leaves only a small amount of excess water in the drip tray, it annoys me because it eventually leaves water stains both on metal top of the tray and below it. This may not be a major point of consideration to some who are less fussy. I have dealt with Nespresso customer service in Europe specifically to address the drip issue. They have been more than helpful in offering an explanation for the occurrence, but not a solution. Nespresso claims it to be part of the normal operation of the machine. Oh well.
= Coffee taste. Intensity. Costs. =
After building up a tolerance for caffeine over the years, I find that one capsule of the strongest blend available, Ristretto, is not enough to wake me up. I often find myself dispensing two capsules, just to make a strong cappuccino. This is highly subjective, so I strongly urge you to head down to a Nespresso boutique to try out the three strongest flavours available: Ristretto (10), Dharkan (11), Kazaar (12). Arpeggio (9) is another mild favourite. Personally, I find two capsules of Ristretto being sufficient to wake me up on normal days. Two Kazaars when hung over; one Arpeggio after dinner; one Dharkan with vanilla bean ice cream. With taste being highly subjective, is best for you to try out the flavours yourself.
An additional point to note, is that these costs add up. If you consume quite a few capsules a day, because you find a coffee not sufficiently strong enough, you might want to do a serious cost analysis of your consumption. Capsule prices vary across jurisdictions, and depending on what country you live in, it may be cheaper to just go to a coffee shop for your caffeine fix.
Now here are some tips on more effective operation of the machine.
= Hot coffee. =
There have been concerns about the coffee dispensed not being hot enough. Well I certainly do not like my coffee being so hot that I have to wait 10 minutes to even take a sip (McCafe, Starbucks). I do however, appreciate a certain degree of temperature in that brew. One way to produce a decent hot coffee, is to run the system once through before placing in the capsule. Closing the lever, pressing the espresso button once while there are no capsules in the machine, does this. I often dispense the hot water directly into the cup that I am about to use. This not only pre-heats the cup to a desired warmness, it also warms up the internals of the machine.
= Hot milk. =
There also has been some discussion about the milk not being hot enough. This is a valid concern, something I face when making the occasional midnight hot chocolate. One way to alleviate this problem is by preheating the system, similar to what we have done previously. Again, with the milk system loaded in the Lattissima, hold down the clean button for 10 seconds. The system will make a noise loud enough to wake the dead, and it will also spew out hot steam. This not only heats up the internals of the second thermal heating block that is used for the milk, it also heats up the cup. The milk should be sufficiently steaming hot right now.
Personally, before making a decent cappuccino, I run the system with hot water once, and also activate the steam system prior to pulling a capsule through the system. The steam also heats up the walls of the cup, not just the base. This ensures a more than sufficient temperature to the drink.
= Generic Capsules =
On a separate side issue. This relates to the use of generic capsules. Particularly, about the incompatibility of some generic capsules. This is of interest because of the vast availability of viable alternate capsules currently in the marketplace. Not only do generic capsules give you the opportunity to use your own beans, it also does so at a significantly lower price point compared Nespresso capsules. Further, some may argue that it is more environmentally friendly because of the reusability of the capsules, resulting in less wastage in aluminium.
Back to point, as with all generic items, you cannot expect it to be fully compatible with the machine. This is because the Nespresso business model is similar to that of razors and even printer cartridges, although some may argue that the price of the machine itself is not highly subsidised to offset the high cost of the capsules. You cannot fully blame Nespresso for having a machine that doesn’t work well with generics, but you can read online reviews to find the best generics that do work. Personally, I do not use generics because I find them troublesome – both in terms of compatibility, and the inconsistent taste. It might be the case that Nespresso’s hyperactive marketing strategies may have got the best of me.
Particularly promising, is the fact that Nespresso’s stronghold on these capsule patents have just recently expired in 2011. Further, a recent development in the European Union, has mandated that Nespresso tone down its use of controversial anti-competitive modifications to the machines, which had the sole intent making generics incompatible with the system. I find it very encouraging, and may even purchase a few generics to try out in the near future.
= Water Leakage =
there has been reports about water leaking at the base of the machine. Fortunately, I did not encounter this problem with my machine. I would strongly recommend anyone facing this issue to stop using the machine immediately, and call the customer service hotline. Water leaking out of electrical appliance is nothing to be taken lightly. I am sure the customer service agents would take the appropriate measures. They have been very helpful on the occasions that I have talked with them.
= Conclusion =
It is hard to choose the right coffee machine with so many available different functions. However, within the Nespresso range, the Lattissima is the only fully integrated, automatic, milk–based coffee machine. Further, the integrated milk frothing solution is better than the Aerocinno because of the reduced cleanup times, and higher customisability to the frothiness of the milk. The Lattissima also has a small footprint, a large water tank, and a large used capsule container. It can even dispense hot milk on the fly. The system however, does have an annoying habit of dripping small amounts of water after use. Consumers may not only find the capsules costly, but also find it restrictive, to find themselves confined within the closed ecosystem of Nespresso capsules. However, the market may see some changes in the near future due to anti-competitive regulation concerning these capsules in the European union – making it easier for generics to enter. Although it appears on several reviews about the machine dispensing lukewarm coffee and milk, I find that with the proper measures taken, the Lattissima is more than capable of producing a piping hot cup of coffee. I am giving the Lattissima four out of five stars. It would have been perfect if it were not for the annoying drip issue, something which they seemed to have recognised, and dealt with in the modular U system. I hope to see this implemented in future iterations of the Lattissima.