Are fresh coffee beans better than coffee capsules? Can coffee capsules make good quality coffee?
This post has been prepared in collaboration with NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto, but the content and opinions are my own.
For many years, my husband and I were big fans of brewing our coffee in an Italian-made stove-top pot (a La Signora Caffettiera, to be exact), and when time was aplenty, we also ground our coffee beans freshly each morning. Fast forward to the arrival of our children and it is a miracle if we can wait 20 minutes for the pot to start hissing steam, let alone drink our coffee while it is still hot.
For a long time, limited counter space in our tiny kitchen ruled out any possibility of owning a coffee machine; we eat rice almost everyday, yet we don’t own a rice cooker for the same reason. But as the childrens’ ever encroaching toys have destroyed my dreams of ever living in a minimalist home, I felt it was time to make some lifestyle changes. And when we were given a NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Eclipse Automatic Machine to try at home (which I have reviewed in an earlier post), it didn’t take much to win me over.
Even though I spent many of my student years working as a barista in the evenings, I am not a coffee connoisseur by any means; I just know what I like and what I don’t like. Almost all of our friends have a capsule machine of some sort in their home, so I already knew that I could enjoy a good cup of coffee from a pod or capsule. But when it comes to choosing an electric coffee machine for your home, the choices can be confusing.
TYPES OF ELECTRIC COFFEE MACHINES
When it comes to electric coffee machines, consumers have the following common choices:
1. Manual espresso machines which require the user to measure, grind and extract their own coffee, similar to those found in most coffee shops;
2. Bean-to-cup machines which have an in-built grinder to deliver freshly ground coffee at the press of a button. This model is easy to use and is commonly found in offices and workspaces;
3. Drip or filter coffee machines which extracts coffee through a paper filter. This model has been around for decades and is best, I think, for those who like long black coffee;
4. Capsule machines which make espresso from pods sealed with coffee.
The first three options rely on the use of freshly ground coffee beans, but differ in their method of preparing the coffee. The last option, however, uses pre-ground coffee sealed in a capsule. And therein lies the debate: “is fresh always best” and can coffee capsules make good coffee?
CAN COFFEE CAPSULES MAKE GOOD COFFEE?
Whilst my favourite cup of coffee is likely to be one from a specialty coffee shop using locally roasted beans, I am happy to confess that my once snobbishness about coffee capsules has been replaced by much admiration for the ingenuity behind this technology.
At a recent coffee degustation held by NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto, I got to meet their in-house barista, Ola Persson, who dispelled many myths about the quality and stigma of coffee capsules. Coffee is at its freshest right after the beans have been roasted. The advantage of coffee stored in capsules is that they are typically sealed immediately after roasting, thereby locking in the freshness by preventing any contact with moisture or oxygen, the presence of which can make coffee go dull and stale.
So short of grinding some coffee beans which have been freshly roasted locally, coffee capsules are sure to guarantee you fresh coffee everytime. That is not to say that coffee capsules are superior, but it should be an assurance that coffee capsules do not necessarily equate to bad coffee. That bag of coffee beans lurking in your kitchen cupboard which was ground last month, or even last week, may not deliver a fresh and aromatic coffee like some coffee capsules can.
ADVANTAGES OF USING A CAPSULE COFFEE MACHINE
The advantages of using a capsule machine include:
1. Coffee is prepared in mere seconds;
2. There is minimal cleaning;
3. They are very easy to use;
4. Most models take up very little bench space;
5. There is an endless variety of coffee capsules to choose from (strong, mild, decaf, flavoured, etc).
The obvious disadvantages of using capsules are the capsules themselves and their environmental impact, as well as the cost of each capsule. If you have a household which drinks a lot of coffee everyday, I would probably shy away from capsules for these two reasons.
But we find that our capsule machine has been handy when entertaining friends, especially since there is always someone who wants de-caf or who likes their coffee extra strong. Being able to prepare different types of coffee from one machine has its clear advantages.
THE FINAL VERDICT
I think it is hard to beat a cup of coffee which has been expertly prepared from freshly ground coffee. But when time is short and you need a speedy route to your caffeine fix, a capsule machine can certainly deliver quality coffee with minimal effort.
Using a capsule machine is not necessarily a compromise on quality, especially if you invest in good quality coffee capsules.
As many before me have said, capsule machines have been an ingenious way of introducing superior-quality coffee into the homes of many, replacing instant coffee as the mainstream domestic choice. Not everyone can be proficient in using a manual espresso or bean-to-cup machine, and nor can everyone afford one, but using capsules is almost as easy as dissolving instant coffee powder.
While there is a time and place for stove-top brewing or fancy espresso machines, I’m glad that we have embraced the capsule machine in our home. And I rather relish the fact that our 4 year old can now make me my coffee in the morning!
Something which made me appreciate coffee capsules even more was the aforementioned event held by NESCAFÉ, where Ola Persson’s barista skills were expertly demonstrated while he showed us how to use espresso in a range of delicious summer cocktails. It got me thinking that I could make my favourite Vietnamese coffee in next to no time (see below for more details).
And for a bit of fun, we all got to try our hand at some latté art. Can you believe that these creations can be achieved with coffee from a capsule machine?! One of the advantages of the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto capsules is that, in addition to espresso capsules, you can also buy capsules for milky coffee varieties, such as Cappuccino or Café au Lait. These varieties require two separate capsules to prepare the coffee – one containing the espresso and the other with a concentrated powdered milk. There’s no need to use a separate milk foamer, and you can achieve excellent foam density to create latté art just like a professional barista.
I recently tried making Vietnamese coffee using espresso coffee capsules and the results were absolutely delicious! Click here to see my recipe.