Coffee Machines: Which to get?
// May 13th, 2013 // General
I don’t talk about much outside the usual geeky stuff but bear with me on this one. If you’re a geek too, you’ll understand…
I’ve been a coffee lover for a long time. In fact, I can’t remember when I started taking a liking to it. I grew up in a family of tea drinkers, and drank tea since an early age, but at some point the shift changed over to coffee. It definitely got me through some gruelling times (Uni all nighters, for example) and now I can’t imagine waking up without having a good cup of Joe. The funny thing is, as much as I love my coffee, for the most part I’d never owned a dedicated coffee machine. I’ve often looked into the idea of purchasing one, but then decided to carry on with my Nescafé Alta-Rica instant coffee. I have one which takes ground coffee; a free gift from the Readers Digest if I remember correctly. After a while it became a nuisance because I could only make one cup at a time before having to clean it out. I really wanted to get a new one.
The problem is that there are so many different types out there. On top of that, I’ve found many coffee machines unusually complicated. I remember the first time I ever used a coffee machine, when I worked as a barman at a pub in central Middlesbrough. There were so many buttons, switches, knobs, and dials. I could disassemble and reassemble multimedia PCs, but I couldn’t operate a coffee machine. It was always a case of too little coffee, too little milk, and the milk wasn’t even hot either. This was back when I was 18-19, and I only started to get my head around fully fledged coffee machines when I was introduced to the ones at work in 2011, 10 years later! Now that I know how to use these, which has a milk steamer and takes beans directly, I wanted one… until I found out they were £400 a pop! That’s quite a bit out of my price range, plus I suppose it’d still be a bit complicated to use if I’ve just woken up first thing on a morning. I needed something simple and effortless.
Eventually, after much “umm”-ing and “ahh”-ing, I bit the bullet a week ago and bought one of these.
It’s a Tassimo T40. I was hoping to get the cheaper T20 model but they’re very hard to find new; so I went for it’s bigger brother, with a larger water tank. I had a look at others – Nespresso and Senseo machines specifically – but I decided on the Tassimo system as it makes the three main drinks: coffee, hot chocolate, AND tea. All the local supermarkets sell the coffee t-discs for this machine but, to my dismay, only Morrisons sell the hot chocolate ones, and I can only get the tea online. No bother though, as I can order them in especially if I want more. The main purpose of this was to make coffee, and they’re in abundance in the local shops, so that’s alright.
So far, I’m finding the Tassimo to be pretty good. It’s mostly plastic but the build quality is sound. It’s a bit bigger than I thought it’d be, mind, but it fits in neatly next to my kettle in the kitchen and is currently seeing far more action. It’s a simple matter if popping the t-disc in and pressing the button. You can’t ask for more first thing on a morning, groggy after a night’s sleep.
The only downside I’ve found with this system is that, by default, the drinks aren’t very large, probably no more than 190ml. That’s only just over half one of my mugs (and I don’t have big mugs either). Luckily, I can press and hold the button on the front for more water. This isn’t so bad with teas and most coffees, as the water flows through what’s left in the t-disc in the machine and doesn’t water the drink down too much.
Something surprised me when I got this home. When you buy a brand new Tassimo machine and register it online, you get £20 off Tassimo’s online store. I took this opportunity to order a heap of different drinks to try out! I’ve had this machine a week so I thought now was a good time to share my thoughts on the different drinks I’ve tried.
- Carte Noire Latte Macchiato
The first drink I ever tried with this machine. All in all, very nice. While I was researching into different coffee pod machines, people had told me about how the milk tastes “funny” from them. I can see what they mean, but it’ll be down to the possibility that UHT milk is used in the pods, as opposed to fresh milk. I’ve gotten used to it now.
- Carte Noire Latte Macchiato Caramel
The caramel equivalent of the above drink. The espresso discs are exactly the same, but the milk discs have a caramel flavouring in it. It’s got a sweet hint to it which could only be bettered with some caramel on top. This is one of my favourites from the selection I’ve tried and, thankfully, it’s available at my local Tesco.
- Kenco Caffè Crema
Although this is a popular choice, I picked this up from Sainsbury’s when I went out to find what each of the supermarkets sold. It seems like a bog-standard Kenco coffee with a hint of froth on the top. I use my own skimmed milk with it, sometimes heated and foamed up. It’s quite strong and has plenty of flavour. It’s more like an every day coffee as opposed to being a specialty coffee.
- Costa Latte
I’ve always been more of a Starbucks fan, myself, but sadly they stopped making t-discs back in 2009. Probably just as well, as I would’ve stocked up on hundreds of them and I’d be broke! The Costa Latte is a good alternative, especially since I can have one at any time at home. It’s rather nice, and appears to use the same milk as the Carte Noire Lattes.
- Cadbury Hot Chocolate
A lovely surprise to find Cadbury’s backing the Tassimo system, and their hot chocolate t-disc is devine! They use the same usual milk discs as most other coffees, but the chocolate disc is really like melted chocolate. It really does taste much better than making your own from powder.
- Twinings English Breakfast
I once tried Twinings take on the English Breakfast tea a couple of years ago, when I got a couple of free samples (one English Breakfast, the other Earl Grey). To me, it tastes like a typical cup of tea but with a deeper, bolder flavour. The t-disc equivalent is no different, and it’s gone down a treat each and every time. That’s what’s good about the pod/disc systems: every cup is perfect.
- Twinings Green Tea and Mint
I’m not a fan of flavoured tea. Sure, they always smell really nice when making them, but they always lack flavour. Even if you leave the bag in while you drink it, it’s gone cold by the time there’s any appreciable flavour. That’s why I found this to be the most surprising drink of all the ones I’ve tried so far. I’ve had it most nights before bed, and it’s really rather pleasant.
- Twinings Après-Midi d’Orient
This tea has hints of strawberries and rose petals (thankfully the latter isn’t very strong). It’s another surprising tea that I’ve taken a shine to, but not as much as the mint one above.
- Carte Noire Crème Brûlée
Con: although this uses two discs to make (one coffee, one milk), it’s a very small drink. Pressing the button for more water just waters it down as the coffee is a concentrated liquid instead of ground. Pro: it’s a rather strong and pleasantly sweet coffee and one of my favourites!
There’re two other discs I have I’ve yet to try (Carte Noire Voluptuoso Kenya, and Twinings Earl Grey). I’ll get round to trying those soon, once I have more space in my cupboard for open t-disc boxes. I won’t bore you all with the details when I try them, cos I’m not working on commission. However, if Tassimo want to send me more t-discs for free, I’ll gladly report on them (hint hint!).