Nespresso VertuoLine Review: Is it worth the capsule limitations?

VertuoLine Nespresso Machine

Years ago you probably got one of “those” espresso machines.

You know, one of those manual ones that came with a bunch on instructions in 3 languages that gave you zero info on how to actually make a good shot of espresso. You got it as a wedding, house warming or bridal shower gift and it up ended being used once and was left in the box since then.I definitely got one of those, and before I got into coffee as a passion, I could not be bothered to master the grind, the timing and the water level to use it.

I just went to a coffee shop for my fix.

But now, after years of avoiding coffee pods of any kind, I ran into an Nespresso demo and I was suddenly in the market for a Nespresso machine.  I had my doses of sweet darkness from both their OriginalLine and VertuoLine machines, so I am definitely pumped to write about this today.

Today I will give you the full low down on the Nespresso VertuoLine from my perspective, so you can see if it will satisfy your coffee requirements.  The stuff that I feel is important and what can make this line of machines a miracle for many or limited to some (like me).

I promise you by the end of this post, you will know whether the VertuoLine is for you or not. We’ll cover the quality of coffee produced, the capsule situation, the ease of use of the machine and how you can even expand the coffee option if you have the time.

Nespresso Remains Committed To Quality

One thing I have to admit right from the beginning,  they are committed to creating a quality machine that produces consistent results.

The coffee (although not organic) is top tier and the resulting coffee is in line or better that what you get at most coffee shops, chain or not.  So while Nespresso tries to monetize their proprietary tech for as long as the patents allows, they have not slacked in the coffee taste category at all.

They get points for that, as 3rd party capsules are not and will not be available for the VertuoLine, for years to come, so their coffee has to be decent or the machine dies a quick death in the marketplace.

The machine uses a “centrifusion” process (in contrast to the pump pressure approach used in the OriginalLine machines) to extract the coffee.

The capsules are designed to get the injection of hot water in the middle of the capsule and the machine spins the capsule at a high speed to push the water through small holes around the perimeter of the capsule .

A unique extraction process that produces a quality cup of coffee and espresso.

A Unique American Style Cup of Coffee

A new standout feature for the VertuoLine is the 7.7oz coffee style option (not available in their OriginalLine machines). I personally do not have a favorite way to have my coffee. Sometimes I want a quick, dark, creamy and intense espresso and sometimes I want to sip on a great full cup of american style coffee.

An americano (a watered down espresso shot) can do the trick most of the time, so I was pretty skeptical on what this VertuoLine style full cup would be like.

Vertuoline Coffee DemoWhat came next from the demo was a feast for my eyes.

The coffee size capsule was placed in the machine and the whizzing sound began as the machine’s “centrifusion” brewing process starting pouring out a stream of crema that just did not stop until the last second or two of the brewing time. The product, a full size cup of coffee with head of crema at least an inch tall, that stuck around til the end. It looked to me like a larger than life espresso shot in coffee form.Nespresso Crema

Taste was also a surprise.

The coffee had a distinct espresso type of flavor that had a light creamy and airy texture.  It was definitely different than a drip or pour over coffee I have had  but in a good way.  The cup did not require milk or cream because the coffee crema added sufficient lightness and mouthfeel to cup (I like my coffee black).

It was like introducing the drip style coffee world to the espresso crema with a punch.  The cup still retains what I like about drip and pour over coffee with a little punch of robustness and creaminess. It did not taste like a watered down espresso either, so that’s good.

I rambled on with this feature as it is literally why you would get a VertuoLine machine over one of their OriginalLine machines.  If you want to have a full cup of coffee on a consistent basis, the VertuoLine is what you should be looking at.

Bar Coded VertuoLine Capsules A Dream Or A Limiting Factor?

Since Nespresso filed it’s first patent for brewing espresso coffee from capsules in 1996,  they have tried to keep competition at bay by discouraging 3rd parties from making capsules for their system.

As the patents started expiring, and third parties started introducing Nespresso compatible pods to the market, they came out with a new patented process that led to the VertuoLine machine and the the new bar-coded capsules. To try to garner a bigger portion of the American market, where people like big cups of filtered coffee, Nespresso introduced a machine and capsules to fill that market while keeping the espresso capabilities.

Nespresso VertuoLine bar coded capsule

Each VertuoLine capsule has a bar code that tells the machine how to brew that particular pod, introducing the 8 oz coffee and the 14 oz travel mug sizes.

As I explained above, it does produce a unique large cup of American style coffee with a European twist. The draw back, the patents protecting these capsules are not expiring soon and unless Nespresso decides to license out the ability for 3rd parties to make capsules, you can only get your coffee from Nespresso.

They are serious about their coffee, and the quality/taste is sound, but they are your only option.

That means none of that great stuff you found at your local roaster and no organic (unless you hack the capsule process, which Nespresso does not recommend as it may damage your machine, more about that later in my bonus section).

What Can The VertuoLine Do?

I gotta give it to Nespresso, they are really trying to hit several markets in one easy to use machine.

You can brew 5 different sizes in a single serve format with a touch of one button.

– Espresso (1.35 oz)
– Double Espresso (2.7 oz)
– Gran Lungo (5 oz)
– Coffee (7.7 oz)
– Alto (14 oz)

Each size has it’s own line of pods bar coded to brew that beverage to Nespresso’s specifications, giving you consistent quality and taste every time you want it.

With these base pours and a frother (beast deals on VertuoLine machines comes in bundles with a milk frother) you can easily create cappuccinos, lattes and anything you can come up with, even over ice.

You can run the machines continuously,  depending on the water tank size and used capsule container capacity.  The machine can definitely handle a good size group before adding water and emptying the used capsule container, which takes almost no time at all.

Unpacking The VertuoLine Machine Bundle And Making That First Cup.

That are several VertuoLine machines made by different machines, and quite frankly , you could not go wrong with any of them.  The one that stood out for me in quality, price and look was the Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville with Aeroccino Bundle.

Let see what comes in this bundle.

  • the Nespresso by Breville Vertuo Machine with a 40 oz. removable water tank and a used capsule capacity of 13 coffee / 20 espresso capsules
  • a Aeroccino 3 milk frother that has hot or cold frothing for cappuccinos (more foam less milk) and lattess (more milk, less foam). Useful  slanted rim for pouring, a durable non stick surface for easy clean up and the capacity to make enough frothed milk for 2 beverages at a time
  • an initial set of 12 Nespresso VertuoLine capsules to get you started right away on your new coffee journey.

From opening the box to brewing your first cup is measured in minutes. Just rinse the water tank, fill the water tank, plug in the machine, pick your pod, put a cup under the dispenser, lock in the capsule and press the button. Within seconds  you’ll have a quality beverage.

10 Things You Want To Know:

  1. OriginalLine capsules are not compatible with VertuoLine machines. The VertuoLine bar coded capsules can only be used on VertuoLine machines
  2. Nespresso does not sell organic coffee for any of their machines.
  3. You can recycle Nespresso aluminum capsules. (not easily sometimes)
  4. You cannot use your own coffee with the VertuoLine machines. (officially you cannot, unless you do the hacks found in the bonus section)
  5. Water tank are BPA free.
  6. Nespresso produces 24 unique coffee blends that come in 5 cup sizes for the VertuoLine machines.
  7. There is only one button to press on the machine to make coffee, the bar codes on the capsules tell the machine what to do.
  8. Maintenance is required but simple to do.  You run the descale function every 3 months or every 300 capsules, which ever comes first. (the manual is straight forward)
  9. The aluminum does not come in contact with the coffee in the capsule.  A food-grade lacquer sits between the coffee and the aluminum.
  10. The VertuoLine capsules cost more than the OriginalLine capsules. VertuoLine capsules range from .85  up to 2.00 (for some limited editions).

What I Say About What People Are Saying..

Scouring the reviews I found mostly people raving about the machine and coffee, with a few complaints that I went ahead and tested myself.

Complaint #1 – The coffee was not hot enough.

One main complaint some people had was the temperature of the coffee.  I prefer my coffee hot as I tend to enjoy my beverage over a longer period of time. This is a valid concern and I wanted to see for myself.

At the demo, the coffee and espresso I tasted was hot, real hot.

But I noticed the demonstrators where following best practices to get this result. They where using insulated paper cups that minimize the heat loss of the coffee on contact and they made sure to run a hot water espresso shot without a capsule first, to heat up /clean the machine, if the machine had not been used in while.

At home, make sure to warm your cup and run a hot water cycle  (if running the machine from a cold start). This will guarantee a hot cup.


Complaint #2 -The coffee and alto sizes are fantastic but the espresso size is not true espresso.

Being  an espresso drinker myself, I had to see this for myself as it would be deal breaker for me.

During my tasting adventure I can definitely see that the coffee and alto coffee produced is unique and has a notable taste. The espresso shots produced, because of the “centrifusion” process of the machine, produces a lighter crema with a slightly less body and bitter tones than a espresso made with the pump pressure process used in their OriginalLine machines.

So some serious espresso drinkers will say that this “centrifusion” process does not produce the taste and mouthfeel profile of a true espresso. In reality most of this is personal taste.

If I was served an espresso from a VertuoLine machine in blind taste test, I would enjoy it.

My Own Conclusion

Let me sum it up from my view.

The Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine produces a great cup of coffee and alto coffee. It produces a formidable espresso shot that would fit most people’s taste profile.

The patented capsules do limit your coffee options to Nespresso offerings, but this keeps having a consistent high quality cup of coffee and espresso on demand real simple. Trust me, unless you have mastered the grind, the measurements and the technique, producing this quality of beverage will take you sometime to perfect. Slap in capsule, press a button and you have some bliss.

For most casual espresso drinkers, it produces a formidable espresso shot for milk drinks and easy drinking black shots.  But for more serious espresso drinkers, this machine may fall short of the taste profile they are seeking and a dedicated espresso machine (like one of Nespresso’s OriginalLine machines) would be a better fit.

So if you are looking for a strong all around machine that will be used consistently for coffee and alto sizes with the option of creating a high quality espresso and espresso drinks (cappuccino, lattes, etc), I would recommend getting your hands on the Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville with Aeroccino Bundle.

The price is right and that bundle is a great fit for most coffee bliss seeking people.

Bonus: Hacking The VertuoLine Capsules

The are no 3rd party options for Nespresso VertuoLine machines and probably won’t be any for years to come. There is no official re-usable capsule option that allows you to use your own coffee.

There are a couple of options that people have used to “hack” the capsules  and used them as a re-usable option.

*NOTE: I am sure that Nespresso does not recommend you do any of these hacks or use any third party materials in their VertuoLine machines.  You are on your own if you do.

Couple of things:

1- these hacks are time consuming, so if you think it will be like your Keurig refillable cup, thank again.

2- the quality of your espresso and coffee extraction, will take hit.  Thinking that you are going to nail the quantity, the grind and the capsule seal in your first attempts is unrealistic.

Hack #1

Involves cleaning and re-using the bar coded VertuoLine capsules with your own coffee and sealing them with a special foil from My-Caps.

Hack #2

Involves saving and cleaning every type of VertuoLine capsule for its bar code and to use as a carrier to another another capsule that is sealed with a foil/wrap you make yourself.

 

 

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