Nespresso, though always present, has become a constant talking point whenever we find ourselves talking about coffee and coffee machines in particular. While their Nespresso capsuled coffee has been available for almost a decade, their recent efforts to improve the quality of their products has not gone unnoticed by people like us.
A Swiss company, Nespresso is a combination of Nestlé and Espresso. Nestlé’s headquarters in Switzerland is where all of Nespresso’s coffee is roasted, ground and encapsulated.
Before we proceed to talk Nespresso up, let’s first take a look at some of the bad rap they’ve gotten since launching their capsule coffee. Nespresso has had the idea, and technology to make single-serve coffee since the late 80s. But people just wouldn’t buy it; it tested very badly, so the product did not go on sale.
Only recently their efforts have paid off, and people have started to appreciate the good, the convenience of capsule coffee. And then, competitors want a piece of the action, making the exact same product and, in some cases, selling way more than Nespresso. So, reasonably, Nespresso resorted to suing every one of these competitors… Unsuccessfully.
The fact that Nespresso sued competitors comes up frequently as if the fact that Nespresso tried to challenge someone is proof of bad intentions or unfair play. What we see is just a company trying to protect its idea from being capitalized on by other people, and that’s something that we respect. Nespresso tried –and failed- to stop everyone to cash in on something that they had been planning on for decades. Can you imagine?
Despite all this, their machines and coffee dominated the market for years, but not the US market. US consumers are accustomed to bigger coffee sizes, which made the single-serve format unappealing for a lot of coffee drinkers, despite its innovation, turning to other single-serve brands with more familiar coffee sizes.
It was then that the Vertuo-line was launched with the VertuoPlus machine. Once again people were suspicious of unfair play: these new VertuoPlus capsules are implemented with a barcode system that makes them impossible to use in any other capsule coffee machine except for the specially designed Nespresso machines. Again trying to push other competitors out of the market, said, everyone. But in reality, VertuoPlus coffee is not a substitute: They continue making their classic capsules, just with the original machines.
So, What’s the point of the New Capsules?
The point is a new coffee. Or, rather, a new way to brew coffee. VertuoPlus capsule coffee is vastly different from any other type of coffee because it is brewed by a method called “Centrifusion”. Again a mix of two words (these guys are fixed on that idea), this brewing method combines infusion with centrifugal force to make your coffee.
Centrifugal force means that you don’t rely on good ol’ pressure to help the water reach all of the coffee grounds but make the capsule spin at crazy speed instead. By crazy speed, we mean up to 7,000 revolutions per minute.
Then comes the barcode. This is embedded in each capsule and read by the VertuoPlus coffee machine. The barcode contains information about how to brew that particular capsule, information comprised of five different elements: rotational speed, temperature, infusion time, volume and flow of water.
So that we can better tell what sets these two different types of capsule coffee apart, we’ll talk about how the capsules are made.
Capsule coffee gained traction right around the same time coffee, in general, was experiencing a boom that it had never seen before in history: Coffee shops were opening around every corner in every part of the world, coffee consumption was an at all-time high and everyone seemed to want to learn more about this wonderful drink.
As it happens, though, the excitement fades, and you’re still left with the need to drink delicious coffee. But who has the time? Who can brew coffee every single time they want one, considering they drink, at least, three cups a day.
That’s when capsules shone—although there had been single-serve coffee before, it was coffee in a bag, just like tea, but its quality could never compare, and to some, it was practically undrinkable.
Capsule coffee is made by encapsulating a single dose of coffee, enough for espresso, typically between 5 to 7 grams of very fine ground- with a mix of materials— usually aluminum along with other organic materials and plastic.
Since the capsules are hermetically sealed, the quality of coffee is not affected even after several months of being grounded. Usually, after you grind the coffee, it has about a week before it starts going stale.
After you insert the capsule in the machine, several holes are poked in the capsule, then hot water is poured through the capsule –grounds- much like the traditional way of making espresso. After you’ve made your coffee, you can simply toss the capsule aside. No wet grounds to be disposed of, no dirty portafilter to be cleaned.
Stylized as VertuoPlus, these capsules are designed to appeal to a wider range of drinkers, with more exotic flavorings, and several sizes. Though regular capsule coffee comes virtually in just one size, no matter the brand, the VertuoPlus capsules come in five different sizes:
- Espresso: for a 40 ml coffee
- Double Espresso: for 80 ml of coffee
- Gran Lungo: for 150 ml of coffee
- Mug: for 230 ml of coffee
- Alto: for 414 ml of coffee
Since the addition of different sized capsules makes it easier for one to make a bigger coffee in one sitting instead of having to use several capsules and potentially creating more waste, this makes it even more convenient, particularly for more avid drinkers who enjoy drinking coffee by the mug instead of a tiny espresso cup.
But size is not the only difference between regular capsules and the VertuoPlus ones. As we said before, the method of extraction that these capsules require is vastly different from others, involving a combination of infusion of the coffee grounds and centrifugal force- spinning the capsule to achieve full extraction.
What this means is that the coffee you drink is better overall. Regular capsules have way too many variables like different machines, different water temperatures; even different capsules can offer more resistance, or have grounds too tightly packed. All of this makes making capsule coffee along, inconsistent process of trying, and failing.
By making machines that work exclusively for one kind of capsule and one only, the quality of extraction is far superior to the (now old) capsule coffee, because all variables have been accounted for, and the best result is actually the only result you can get. The machines are engineered to work with exactly the one capsule that you’re inserting into it.
Further setting the bar: barcode technology
The most distinctive feature of VertuoPlus capsules is the code that is embedded into each and every one of them. Now, every coffee deserves special treatment. You can’t just make all coffee in exactly the same way; there’s always a special way to bring out the most which that particular coffee can give you.
As of now, single-serve coffee does exactly that: each type of capsule is given special treatment. Because that is how it should be, isn’t it? VertuoPlus machines will read the barcode after the capsule has been inserted and from that, they’ll get the information about how that coffee has to be made (RPM, temperature, infusion time, flow and quantity of water).
All of this, many critics have said, is really just an attempt by Nespresso to push competitors out of the capsule market. We, however, see it as a true next-level capsule game: The specialty coffee equivalent of capsule coffee.
The VertuoPlus has even produced an original drink of its own, a trademark drink of sorts: The Reverso. Milk is poured first into a glass, then the coffee is extracted. One of the characteristics of VertuoPlus capsules is the amount and texture of their crema: When poured on top of the coffee, the crema stays on the surface forming a delicious entanglement of crema and milk that would be hard to achieve with other brewing methods.
VertuoPlus Machines VS Original Machines:
As of now, the VertuoPlus range of machines has yet to catch up to its predecessor. There are only a handful of machines that work with the new capsules, and although they are all good quality machines, they cannot compare.
OriginalLine machines go from home machines to very professional machines with all sorts of interesting features; VertuoPlus machines are still on a phase where all of them are mostly compact, minimalistic machines designed for home use. The cause likely being that Nespresso does not want to rush production of high-end machines before coffee drinkers have tried the product and decided they like it. (And trust us, that’s all it takes. Just one cup.)
So, while VertuoPlus coffee makers are:
- Inexpensive (below the 200$ mark)
There are not many styles to choose from, and there aren’t any salient features to speak of. They make great coffee, though, that’s for sure.
OriginalLine coffee makers:
- A lot of styles to choose from
- Can make milk-based drinks
- Have different features, such as Bluetooth connectivity
- Can use capsules from other manufacturers besides Nespresso
- Machines range from home use to semi-professional use
…But they cannot use VertuoPlus coffee capsules, thus missing on a higher quality coffee and the size of your coffee is greatly restricted.
But before we come to a verdict, let’s examine closely two of the most representative machines of each team and compare them side to side, see exactly what the difference is.
Highly praised for a very compact, ergonomic design that lets the machine be partly folded up and be easily transported with a handle, this machine is one of OriginalLine’s most accessible, popular coffee makers.
Specs & features:
- Dimensions (in inches) 4.4 width, 12.8 depth, 9.3 height.
- Used capsule container capacity: 11 capsules.
- 25-second heat-up
- Two coffee sizes (espresso & lungo)
- Removable water tank, 24 ounces.
- Low water alarm.
- Weight: 6.6 pounds
- Cable storage
- Automatic shut-off
VertuoPlus’s own Vertuo:
- Dimensions (in inches): 8.3 width, 11.9 depth, 11.9 height
- Used capsule container capacity: up to 13 of the mug size Vertuo capsules
- 15-second heat-up
- Removable water tank. 40 ounces.
- Five coffee sizes.
- Weight: 10.85 pounds.
- Automatic shut-off
It reads like the Vertuo is a little bigger and, actually, a little more potent of a machine than the Pixie, doesn’t it?
The VertuoPlus is Nespresso’s first of their new line; the frontline of the whole Vertuo project. It’s a very stylish machine—it has a chrome finish that would make it stand out anywhere.
But here’s the catch: Both machines sell at approximately the same price. Actually, for the same price, the Vertuo seems here like a far, far better choice than its OriginalLine counterpart. After all, it’s essentially a better machine –sure, bigger, less compact- but a machine with more capacity and more power, no matter how you look at it.
And, as if giving you that last push you need, VertuoPlus machines go on sale often, meaning that you can probably get the Vertuo for quite less than the Pixie; A much better machine for much cheaper.
If someone were to choose right now—money in hand, both machines in front of them, what would they think about?
Ultimately, it all comes down to compatibility. With the OriginalLine you get a bunch of different options because there isn’t one sole, exclusive seller; you can get compostable capsules, reusable capsules, capsules from Europe… You get it. The offer is overwhelming; you wouldn’t have to settle. You can find one that really clicks with you.
The Vertuo is a great machine, of course. But to be restricted to buying only from Nespresso? That could be a deal-breaker for many people. But it doesn’t have to be: If you’re worried about quality, that’s the whole point of Vertuo. Quality is something you seriously don’t need to worry about.
If you’re worried about a more eco-friendly alternative, you can always go all-out with Nespresso’s own recycling plan. It might take some extra work, but it’s definitely not a problem if you really care about the environment.
If its variety you care about, the number of different Vertuo capsules is pretty much the same offered by Nespresso on their OriginalLine capsules. And, let’s be honest: At some point, it will happen just as it happened with OriginalLine capsules: The patent will expire, and the market will be flooded with all kind of options, variations, and alternatives—And that can be a good thing, although it might compromise the quality of your coffee.
Characteristics of Each Line:
- It has a lot of compatibility with other brands and machines.
- Less expensive
- Greater range of coffee makers
- Better tasting coffee
- More size options
- Better quality materials
- Unique brewing method
- Capsules made specifically for a certain type of machine and vice-versa
Benefits of Each Line:
Which would mean that there are different benefits, depending on which Line you would rather opt for. Being the coffee aficionado that you are, what does each Line bring you?
- More freedom to experiment with different types of capsules
- Coffee makers which allow you to make milk-based drinks
- More home-oriented coffee makers
So, no matter what choice you end up making in the end, there’s going to be an element that affects your choice which goes beyond just plain machine specs or the quality of your coffee, and that is the kind of experience that you’re having.
While the OriginalLine has an experience that finds strength in numbers— number of different machines that offer features and functions that enrich your brewing experience, and number of capsule coffee that you can use; whether it be from 5, 6 different brands or one of the reusable capsuled which seem way more eco-friendly.
The VertuoPlus focuses more on a VIP, deluxe kind of experience. Both capsules and machines are made to look quite sophisticated, never using cheap materials, and so is too the whole brewing method, because it is unique –exclusive- to VertuoPlus machines.
In the end, after a much heated discussion, we couldn’t decide which one we liked better. They both have their pros and their cons, and there’s definitely an issue of personal preference, but they can also work great together; there isn’t a need to sacrifice one for the other. Depending on the occasion, you can use one of the other; that’s the only thought that seemed to work for us. And we hope it works for you.