Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wake up and smell the coffee!

It was a decision that took about two years but I've finally done it - I've jumped on the Nespresso bandwagon. 

For as long as I can remember, I've been a 3-in-1 coffee drinker. To be more specific, Super 3-in-1 Rich Coffee Mix. Among the myriad of coffee mixes I've tried, that's the one which stands out for me in terms of taste. Plus it's very convenient. Tear the sachet, pour in the hot water, tah-dah! Coffee.

So this went on for years, until about two years ago when my sister started nagging me to put a stop to the 3-in-1. "It's so bad for your health!" she scolded. More specifically, according to her friends who are nurses, the palm oil and other preservatives in such mixes can have long-term health effects.

One thing I've come to realise: before I hit the age of 40, health warnings bored me. I would have said "Aiyah, it's just another fad! In 10 years, they'll say 3-in-1 is good for you!" But once I hit 40, such bits of info weren't brushed away quite so easily. Somehow, they creep into my mind and cause niggling doubt because I know my body is already on the downhill slope. My eyesight is deteriorating so badly that my kids now read all fine print for me. On the recent trip to London/Paris, I wore knee guards everyday so my knees wouldn't give way from all that walking, and after day 2, I had to pop into Boots to buy anti-inflammatory pills to soothe my aching back. Ageing is not glamorous. The last thing I needed was palm oil to cause my arteries to explode or something.

The problem was finding an alternative for the 3-in-1. My sister suggested a single-serve coffee machine. She had a Martello back then but I tried a cup of coffee and wasn't crazy about it. So I went on a tasting spree. Whenever I came across coffee machines on display at malls that offered samples, I asked for one. The Nescafe Dolce Gusto was released and I was hopeful - finally a coffee machine with a reasonable price-tag! But it was such a letdown. The coffee tasted like those insipid java-wannabes you get at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. No kick. Plus, to make a cappuccino or latte, you need to add a milk capsule which contains preservatives. Well, might as well stick to my 3-in-1 then! 

The cost of the machines and capsules was a big deterrent. My sister tried telling me it's still cheaper than drinking a Starbucks brew everyday, but that argument doesn't hold water cos I DESPISE Starbucks. I prefer local kopi to ang moh coffee any day. My favourite is the kopi from Toastbox (I find that among the local kopi joints, Toastbox is the most consistent in taste). If only there was a Toastbox within walking distance from my home.

So after a while, I tossed out the idea of coffee machines and explored other forms of instant coffee. Instant coffee powder, where you add milk and sugar, 2-in-1 which is basically just coffee powder and sugar. None of them stuck. The taste was disagreeable and some of them caused havoc with my stomach. After weeks of utterly unsatisfying attempts, I reverted back to my good old, preservative-laden Super 3-in-1.

Then about a year ago, my sister replaced her Martello coffee machine with a Nespresso U. She invited us to try it and whadya know, it was actually not bad! I realised that what made the difference was the milk. Her Nespresso U came with a milk frother and adding the steamed milk to the coffee ramped up an ok beverage to a wow one.

But still, I vacillated. I told myself it was expensive. I think subconsciously, I didn't want to part with my beloved 3-in-1. Before I was about to leave for London, my sister told me that Nespresso is much cheaper in Europe than in Singapore and she urged me to stop the 3-in-1 habit. Ah yes, the artery-exploding palm oil. Darn it, I thought I'd put that behind me. (I may be making my sister sound really naggy but she isn't, she's very sweet. She really cares about my health and my arteries.)

I guess God must be on her side because Nespresso recently launched the new Inissia model, which is the smallest and cheapest one yet. (Incidentally, Nespresso releases a cheaper model every few years to try and capture a new market but they all essentially work the same way, so there's no point getting the higher end model. The Inissia has all the same functions as the Pixie). In addition, there was a special promotion until 30 June 2014 where for $238, you get the Inissia and a free Aeroccino (the milk frother). You'll have to buy 10 sleeves of coffee capsules though, but you'll need to buy them eventually anyway.

I checked out the prices in London (unfortunately we were in Paris during a public holiday and the Nespresso boutiques were closed). They were offering a very attractive £40 discount off the Inissia, which made it only £49! The Aeroccino was £50. However, the discount was valid for UK residents only. I calculated that at full price, it would be cheaper to get it in Singapore with the current promotion (plus I wouldn't have to lug a bulky machine back home). So I only bought capsules which are significantly cheaper in London (about 65cts per piece vs 91cts here).

Long story short, after I returned home, I went to Takashimaya and bought me my very own Nespresso Inissia with Aeroccino and a whole bunch of Arpeggio capsules. Singapore only brings in the red and black machines for now, none of the limited edition colours. I chose the red one and the black Aeroccino.

I've used the machine for over a week now and here's my verdict:

It makes a very satisfying cuppa joe and the star is really the Aeroccino. If you drink your coffee with milk like me, it makes all the difference. In a couple of minutes, the Aeroccino whips up a batch of hot steamed milk, topped off with a layer of foam (I recommend removing the whipping ring so you don't get half your milk turned into foam). Besides making the coffee that much creamier, the plus point is that I end up drinking a lot more milk (vs 3-in-1 which is basically dairy creamer and a ton of preservatives).

Some tips: I use the Arpeggio and Decafe Intensio (for night) capsules as I like the taste - strong and smooth. They're meant to be extracted as an espresso (40ml). Nespresso tries to tell you that you have to buy the Lungo capsules if you want to make a larger cup of coffee, eg latte (they cost more), but that's rubbish lah. I've used the Arpeggio to extract 110ml (this is the setting for the lungo button on the Inissia) and it tastes perfectly fine. Add milk to the lower line on your Aeroccino and you'll get a wonderful full cup (as in the picture. Yes, I use a Disney mug ☺)

I think it's a modern marvel, these coffee machines. I can't understand how you can turn on a cold machine, press a button and have HOT coffee instantly flow into your cup. Even a kettle takes time! Same for the milk. It's very easy to use, super convenient. Just fill up the water tank when it runs low. Cleaning up is a cinch too. The discarded capsules collect in a container that you empty once in a while. The Aeroccino is like a large metal mug that you rinse out.

I'm loving my two cups of Nespresso a day. My arteries are safe for now. Added bonus: each time I make the coffee, my home is enveloped in the lovely java scent that lingers for hours ♥♥♥.

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