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 ♥♥♥.


Rachel Tan said...

Can this Nespresso model make 3 cups of coffee continuously or does it start to sputter?

I am very tempted to get the Lattissima but the price tag is a real deterrent. The separate aerocinno seems better as you have the option of hot or cold latte :)

monlim said...

Rachel: I've not tried 3 cups continuously. It works fine with 2 cups. I like the separate Aeroccino option as you can use one without affecting the other (esp if one component malfunctions). I used it to make hot chocolate for Andre and he said it's delicious :)

You still have a few days before the promo is up! *tempt tempt*

Rachel Tan said...

okay succumbed! Ringing the Nespresso boutique now but no one is picking up :p

I can't drink coffee black so Aerocinno is a must have. Wow hot chocolate. I can't wait to make aerocinno version of angmoh-tea-tarik.

I've been procrastinating for years. But at our recent trip, we had access to a coffee machine for a bit (not nespresso) but I was hooked on fresh latte.

Do you use fresh milk or UHT milk?

monlim said...

Ooh, another convert! I use Farmhouse low fat milk. If you prefer a creamier taste, Farmhouse regular milk is fantastic. But we could do without the extra fat in our household, haha! I don't like UHT milk.

Rachel Tan said...

Bought! Over the phone. Imagine - I haven't even seen it :p Order by 4.30 pm they deliver tomorrow morning before noon!!
And chose 10 sleeves at random.
I'm asking so many questions as I haven't seen the demo... how many seconds do we leave the milk in the frother? The whisk should be removed?

monlim said...

Wah, you the ultimate shopper! They're happy to deliver it to you pronto cos they know once you're hooked, you'll spend a bomb on their capsules :D

I asked the rep to show me how to work the machine and aeroccino on the spot cos their instruction booklet isn't v good. But it's very simple, really.

The aeroccino is auto. There's a little detachable whisk that has a metal ring coil. Remove the coil if you don't want extra foam, just use the whisk. Pour milk in (lower level makes enough for one cup, higher level 2 cups). Then cap and press button (turns red). Hold for 2 seconds if you want it cold (turns blue). It stops when done (light goes off), you don't need to monitor. Super easy!

Rachel Tan said...

if you could live with a dairy creamer, I would imagine UHT milk can't be half bad, especially after the Aeroccino works its magic on it? Haha :p
Yes I need to ban myself from shopping the next couple of months!

monlim said...

Haha, unfortunately, I've grown used to the taste of dairy creamer :P

I'm a big online shopper too, so I totally get you. Some years back, I had to ban myself from ebay cos everything looked so tempting!

Rachel Tan said...

Help!!! Too much foam!! Which part do you remove from the aeroccino?

monlim said...

If you look inside your aeroccino, there's a protruding contraption at the bottom. Take it out (it's magnetic), you should see a ring-shaped spring thingy attached. Remove that ring (that's the part that creates the foam) and replace the contraption.

Rachel Tan said...

Thanks! Removed the spring-ring-thing and it is much better. Serious foam overflow and spillage the first time round. Haha. Die. How to sleep tonight....caffeinated me now.

monlim said...

You should have drunk decaf, hahaha!

CE said...

hi monlim, Rachel, may I know which no. to call to order the coffee machine? I don't see any adv for the free Aeroccino anywhere.

monlim said...

CE: This is the promo:

I think you should be able to order via the Nespresso main line.

Rachel Tan said...

6431 2084
Excellent service over the phone.

I have not seen the other models but the Pixie is very well-reviewed. You may want to consider that model. I've not seen it. I'm happy with the Inissia as frankly I wouldn't spend a penny more on a coffee machine but if you use a regular sized mug, I find that you have to hold and position the mug as the coffee flow barely reaches the mug and looks as though it would flow by the side of the mug. Oh dear I am sorry I am not describing this well.

monlim said...

Rachel: Yeah, I wouldn't pay more either as the functions are exactly the same! I don't have a problem using regular sized mugs, unless the edge of the mug curves inwards. As long as the sides go straight up, the coffee flows into the mug just fine, no need to hold it :)

Rachel Tan said...

When I see the liquid gold barely making it safely to the mug, instincts make me wanna hug the machine to tip it over to ensure the spout is spewing coffee in the right direction. Lol. Lifting the mug is the saner option me thinks. Paranoia me.

Something's wrong with me. I've tried the different colour pods but I can barely taste the difference.

monlim said...

I know what you mean abt paranoia with the spout, lol! It looks like the coffee is not gonna make it into the cup...but it does :D

Nothing wrong with you - my sis told me the same thing, that it all tasted similar at first. Only when she got used to drinking a particular one for a while, then she could taste the diff when she switched.

Rachel Tan said...

New favourite - decaffeinated lungo :p

monlim said...

Ooh, not tried that! Decaffeinated Intensio is very good - doesn't taste like decaf at all :) I just tried the Vanilla one in my sample pack. It's really not bad but it costs more.

CE said...

I've been using the machine for a while and just dropby to give my 2 cents. I notice that where I store the milk does make a difference. The milk will have more foam storing it in the main area compared to keeping it at the shelves attached to the fridge door. And I think farmhouse brand goes with the coffee best :)
Secondly, I've tried using the expresso capsules with lungo mode . I find it not as fragrant (might hv bitter taste according to some review). Hence I still stick to expresso (40ml) with 100ml of milk. The size is just right for my breakfast meal :)

monlim said...

CE: Thanks for the tip! I never knew storage space could affect the foam. Quite strangely, now that I've used the aeroccino for a while, I noticed that the foam is getting less. Not sure why but it suits me just fine :) And yes, I love Farmhouse milk too!

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