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Krups KP150040 Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo Play & Select
Member Name: ImVeryNice
Krups KP150040 Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo Play & Select
Date: 02/02/10, updated on 03/03/10 (546 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to use and clean. The caffè lungo is quite good.
Disadvantages: Coffee not hot enough. Some drinks taste artificial. Pods expensive. Noisy. Only Nescafé's blend.
Neither did I really enjoy the thrill of unpacking, deciphering the instructions and putting it all together. The kids beat me to it before I could find the Queen's Speech in the Radio Times; it was all up and running without any intervention on my part. My first impression was not, in all honesty kids, too favourable. It was obvious that style and image were uppermost in the designer's mind and I couldn't make out whether it was meant to be boldly retro, firmly futuristic or possibly a mixture of both. It resembled a sort of mother ship docked to a landing module and, suitably scaled up, might have worked for Dan Dare of The Eagle. But I will pass on form and look now at function.
Having switched on and waited for the flashing red light to turn green (the kids filled up the water tank first) I engaged warp drive, or rather I pushed the lever on top to the right. The noise was surprisingly loud. A bit like my Volvo when the self-levelling suspension is playing up I thought. A strong, throbbing pumping noise nothing like the hissings and fizzings you get out of a traditional machine like the Gaggia. Krups have designed the machine with a mechanical pump providing the pressure rather than steam. This has the benefit of allowing you to make cold as well as hot drinks while removing the potential danger of scalding by steam.
The first coffee I tried was the latte macchiato, which is what most coffee shops call more simply latte or more correctly caffelatte. It is not to be confused with what usually passes as macchiato, which is espresso macchiato (a small strong black coffee with a spot of foamy hot milk in it). In other words what I made was a hot foamy milk drink with a small quantity of strong black coffee in it. This is my regular coffee and I was looking forward to experiencing an authentic-tasting latte made at home. But to be honest it wasn't quite right. Firstly it was obviously sweetened, which I dislike, and it wasn't quite hot enough to really enjoy it, as if it had been made ten minutes before. Finally I noticed a slight bitter after taste reminiscent of those - in my view awful - instant versions of caffelatte you make in a cup with boiling water. I put this down to the fact that without steam to provide the foam, Nescafé have had to use chemical agents (foam stabilisers?) instead. Overall I rated it well below the quality you would get from a specialist coffee shop but on a par with the offerings from the coffee shops of some of the more down-market department stores. I later realised that I had made my drink the wrong way round (the milk "pod" has to go first and the coffee "pod" second). Correcting this and warming my cup first, which you can do by operating the hot water without a "pod", gave better results if still not brilliant.
With 12 "pods" supplied as a starter pack it was possible to try three varieties of coffee, latte macchiato, cappuccino and caffè lungo as well as a hot chocolate known as chocochino. The last of these is a firm favourite with my children while I prefer the caffè lungo, which is a medium strength black coffee using about twice the amount of water as espresso. The blend used is pleasant enough, quite rounded and free of any unpleasant bitterness. Unfortunately, the cappuccino suffers from the same problems as the latte macchiato - it is sweetened and has that chemical after taste - only more so. Even with the lungo it is best to warm your cup first to get a reasonably hot drink. You can if you wish add extra water to give an Americano or milk or cream to taste.
Compared with other coffee makers I have used over the years, this Krups is probably the easiest to use, though a cafetière is hardly difficult, and is certainly the easiest to clean. A quick rinse of the drip tray and "pod" holder is all that is normally required. It is also the most consistent with no chance of stewing or over-heating the coffee. In short it has earned its place in our kitchen and is used every day provided we have remembered to buy a box of "pods". However, these are not cheap in my opinion, working out at about 40p per drink requiring two "pods", which most do, or 20p for those requiring just one, such as the espresso or caffè lungo. This is about twice what you would pay making your coffee from regular ground coffee, or coffee beans (depending on blend and brand). Convenience clearly has its price. The other drawback in my view is that you are tied to Nescafé's blend with no chance to try anything more distinctive or to your liking. In practice too all the drinks require you to add precise quantities of water, such as 120 ml for the caffè lungo. You can either guess - like I do -or go to the extra trouble of using a measuring jug, or buy cups with these quantities marked on them. It is obviously trickier when you need to use two pods as the quantity of water for each pod has to be measured to get the desired result.
To conclude, I am grateful for my children's kindness and generosity - they did end up making a contribution I understand, bless them. I will go on using the Krups for as long as it keeps going and I can afford the "pods". Luckily, I didn't make a New Years Resolution to give up coffee this time (it never works). But when it stops working, as all gadgets in our household do eventually, I don't think I'll rush out to buy another one. Perhaps I'll be able to use it to fix my Volvo's dodgy suspension.
Summary: An interesting new kind of coffee machine but not for purists.
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