Product Type: Krups coffee machines
Newest Review: ... damp fur around the mouth that smelled vaguely of coffee........ Then I stumbled across the Krups Dolce Gusto coffee machine - it looks a... more
"Latte Macchiatos All Round!"
Krups Dolce Gusto KP200040
Member Name: johnpeter50
Krups Dolce Gusto KP200040
Advantages: Easy to use; easy to clean; ergonomically pleasing; good level of foam.
Disadvantages: Some beverages are mediocre; minor design flaws; expensive for long term use.
I’m sure that you’ve noticed the growing trend of coffee machines on the market that claim to provide the finest Italian café-style java at home without the fuss. The latest company to enter the fray is Nescafé, with a joint venture along side the coffee-pros at Krups – introducing to you, the new ‘Dolce Gusto’.
According to the manufacturer’s information, each capsule is filled with finely ground, 100% Arabica coffee-beans that are ready to be brewed under a weighty fourteen bar’s worth of pressure in order to provide an authentic ‘coffee shop’ flavour. But does any of the marketing blurb hold true?
Available in three different colours (black, red and ivory), the ‘Dolce Gusto’ will look sleek and stylish in any kitchen; the clash of geometry may seem outrageous at first glance, but its bold exterior is remarkably practical, ergonomic and elegant to boot. Rather than bombarding you with jutting lines and styling detail, the Krups’ machine has rounded edges with soft curves to help each shape blend seamlessly into the next.
Whilst the conical base and spherical water jug may seem like an incongruous choice at first, it actually works together rather well. The transparent water tank sits comfortably into its slot, and doesn’t force you to hunt desperately around the back to find the appropriate release/lock mechanism as with similar systems. The jug’s practical handle and lid ensures that you won’t spill or splash water every time you travel back and forth between the ‘Gusto’ and the sink.
The capsules themselves are rather chunky, but still light and helpfully colour-coded depending on the choice of beverage; the milk and coffee caps each have identical lids, but the bases are painted white and black respectively to ensure that you can easily tell them apart.
To use the capsules you simply place them in the cradle and puncture them using the piercing needle; then it’s just a matter of locking the cradle and flicking the switch to start dispensing the beverage. Once you’ve completed the drink, you merely reverse the process to remove the capsule, and finally empty it into the (handily provided) capsule disposal tray - job done!
In this sense, everything with the ‘Dolce Gusto’ is truly effortless, and you’d really have a hard time getting things wrong. I’d never be so brave as to use a term like ‘idiot proof’, but the whole process is so straightforward that there’s nothing much that *can* go wrong, even if you’d wanted it to!
There are a number of beverages available for the ‘Dolce Gusto’. Presently, you can create a range of different hot coffees, with a mix of cold drinks and drinking chocolate to arrive shortly. Currently you can chose to make espresso, cappuccino, caffé lungo (essentially a large espresso) or a latte macchiato. Making a lungo or espresso requires the use of only a single capsule, while the latte and cappuccino utilize a milk pod followed by the coffee capsule; this means it’ll take roughly twice as long to create these beverages.
It’s a shame that a fuller, more diverse range wasn’t available at launch; by failing to include the drinking chocolate in the opening line-up (provisionally named ‘cioccolato’) the ‘Dolce Gusto’ ranks behind the likes of its well-established rivals. Nevertheless, the promise of improved long-term choice and facilities to create cold drinks (hopefully before the long, hot summer starts) put the ‘Dolce Gusto’ slightly ahead of the curve overall.
TASTE & FLAVOUR
Now for the big question – what about the taste? Well, this is going to be difficult one to answer. Unlike the other single-serving pod/disc systems on the market that provide a ‘one-push’ automatic mode, the ‘Dolce Gusto’ is completely manual; it’s therefore entirely up to you when deciding what quantities of each capsule should be used to compose your beverage, meaning taste consistency is an issue.
I have to say that the manual system is rather frustrating, especially after eighteen months living with the automation of my other coffee makers. You’d have thought that with a specifically designed range of cups and mugs, a visual ‘quantities’ indicator (such as a slight bevel or line for the milk/coffee mark) could be included very easily; but alas, it seems that the rough estimates provided in the manual are the closest we’re ever going to get for the manufacturer’s recommendation on ‘the perfect cup’.
However, as far as my wavering judgement goes, I think that the overall taste is pretty good. No – that doesn’t mean it’s marvellous, wonderful or outstanding – just pretty good… Which is disappointing really; with two powerhouse brands working on a machine you’d expect nothing but the best, which makes it all the more troublesome that they haven’t got things right from the start…
The coffee is rather too bitter and fairly acrid for my liking. Surely, a smoother and (dare I say it) weaker blend would have made for a broader, more crowd-pleasing appeal at launch?! As it currently stands, the acerbic espresso fails to set my taste-buds alight with the lungo merely extending my underwhelming initial impressions. Likewise, the milk used for the other beverages is generally a little too sweet and artificial; by no means is it in the realms of the saccharine or unbearably syrupy - just a touch too processed for my particular palate.
However, it’s not all a cumulative disaster on the taste front! On the contrary, fine-tuning the quantities helps enormously when it comes to creating your own custom flavours. With the latte, for example, I found using less of the coffee helped even out the slight acidity and lower the sweetness of the milk. I’m sure that with a recipe tweak or two from Nescafé, these problems could be ironed out without too much fuss.
Normally, the brew mechanisms on home machines can be pretty loud; but let’s face it, they were created for making coffee and not for encouraging people to sleep in on a Sunday! My previous coffee machines have all been rather noisy, but each seemed to produce a better result with an increase in the decibel level.
So it was quite a pleasant surprise when, plugging the machine in and running the brew cycle for the first time, there was a distinct absence of the usual overwhelming growl. It’s not exactly silent, but it’s certainly better than my other java-based machines.
Another advantage over my other coffee makers is its relative speed. From ‘power on’ to ‘ready-to-dispense’ takes just over thirty seconds, and is no doubt due to the 1.3Kw heating element, putting the ‘Dolce Gusto’ on-par power wise with most rapid-boil kettles.
Drink dispensing isn’t the fastest I’ve ever witnessed; however, it’s by no means a painfully slow experience. On a one-to-one basis, it’d certainly be fast enough to give its competitors a run for their money. Obviously being a single serving machine it won’t produce large quantities of coffee in the same way as a cafetière, but it definitely runs fast enough to produce a couple of hassle-free cups in the morning before work.
However, where the ‘Dolce Gusto’ really excels is in one of the most important area of them all – foam! In the past I’ve been compelled to tell all who’ll listen that the ‘single serving’ coffee machines are incapable of producing a decent layer of froth; most produce cappuccinos looking as if they were created using day old dish water and taste virtually as toxic!
But the ‘Dolce Gusto’s fourteen bars of pressure ensure that you receive that coffee-shop froth without exception. I couldn’t believe that my first cappuccino sat for over twenty minutes with a steadfast layer of bubbly milk on top. Okay, so the foam isn’t as prolific as an exploding bottle of bubble bath, but there’s a respectable centimetre or two in the cup and certainly enough to support a light dusting of chocolate sprinkles or cinnamon if you’re that way inclined.
I like to think that I hate cleaning up about as much as the next person, so I’m glad to report that Krups have produced a fantastically low maintenance device. When the sum total of the daily setup routine consists of refilling the tank and washing the capsule cradle, you know you’re going to have a hassle free existence.
As with comparable machines, most of the detachable pieces are dishwasher safe, and the ‘Gusto’ itself will only require descaling every so often (once every 450-1600 cups depending on the hardness of your water). An official powder is available from Krups for this very purpose, and I’d recommend using it (as directed) to ensure optimal ongoing performance.
The pods are pretty competitively priced when compared to its nearest rivals. The current recommended retail price is approximately three pounds for sixteen capsules; this equates to sixteen servings of the single capsule drinks and eight servings of the dual capsules.
I’d say that this is a very reasonable rate, and will no doubt be even better value when subjected to the usual supermarket price reductions and ‘Three for Two’ special offers. Those on a tight budget may want to think about whether they can afford to pay the extra required for on-going use, but when used in moderation it needn’t be an obscene expense.
EXTRAS & FREEBIES
Currently included with the ‘Dolce Gusto’ is a free welcome pack. This includes a latte glass, a cappuccino cup and saucer and a selection of coffee capsules from the available range.
As far as extras go, this is quite nice, although it’s doubtful that the coffee capsules will last you more than an evening (or two if you’re not typically a huge coffee drinker). Likewise, I have some serious doubts as to the motivation behind the ceramic freebies; they seem to be a fairly transparent attempt at marketing Nescafé’s range of accessories – why else would they only include a solitary cup, saucer and glass rather than a full set of some kind? Either way, it’s a pleasant inclusion…
THREE MONTH EVALUATION
Having used the ‘Gusto’ for three months now I feel that I should inform you of the issues I’ve encountered on a ‘day-to-day’ basis.
Firstly, the used capsules retain water better than a herd of camels! Should you put your used containers in the trash too quickly you’ll end up with a leaky puddle on your kitchen floor. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the handy capsule drip-container was large enough to hold more than a eight or nine capsules at any one time, but unfortunately heavy users will probably need to come up with a better solution.
Secondly, I’ve noticed the adjustable height tray is beginning to vibrate. Again, this wouldn’t be a problem were it not for the fact it bounces your mugs off to one side. If you don’t keep a close eye on things, your fine china could easily end up in pieces. The vibration has also had the regrettable side-effect of making the tray surface scratch more easily, leaving the aluminium marked and badly worn.
These are by no means deal breakers, but are something that the manufacturers should think about when conceptualizing any redesigns or updates.
The ‘Dolce Gusto’ manages to perform admirably when placed up against its top-brand rivals. Those looking for a new ‘single serving’ coffee maker could do a lot worse than investing in this little machine. Sure, it’s got its foibles, but it also has its charms too – not least the wonderment that comes from serving a cascading latte macchiato in a clear glass!
Coffee aficionados may be left unimpressed by the ‘Gusto’, but the average home user should be more than satisfied with the end result. Certainly worthy of a look in when it comes to choosing your next java-based appliance.
Summary: Occasionally quirky, but a solid all-round performer.
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