Product Type: Krups coffee machines
Newest Review: ... label clearly embossed on the frosted clear water tank at the back. You're never away from advertising with this machine, eithe... more
Circling Around Circolo & the Truth Behind The Dolce Gusto Formula!
Krups KP500040 Circolo NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto
Member Name: Nar2
Krups KP500040 Circolo NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto
Date: 02/02/11, updated on 10/05/11 (958 review reads)
Advantages: Stylish machine, easy to find pods in supermarket, good variety & design.
Disadvantages: Expensive prices for fattening drinks, no filter, no boiling water, no cup heater, no stop flow.
My mother came home a few weeks ago beaming to tell me that she had seen yet another coffee machine at our local electrical shop which she thought would be a particularly good idea, playing second fiddle to the Nespresso Lattisima machine she had bought a few years ago. Up until now because of recession and life, we've not had much coffee, even over the Christmas period, only using up the last of the tiny Nespresso pods that have had to continually been bought through mail order or online. This is the major problem I have with Nespresso style coffee pods marketed and sold by Nescafe. So many wonderful varieties, so many different flavours and yet Nescafe aren't ashamed to single out buyers who don't own a credit/debit card. Such discrimination can easily be forgotten when you'll find Nespresso pods on Ebay but unless you have a PayPal account or a credit/debit card, you're sunk! I max'd mine out at Christmas and with the weather slowing the post down, stuck to good old-fashioned filter coffee to see the New Year through.
The Dolce Gusto idea is a little bit better in terms of coffee availability though. Instead of mail order/online purchasing, which surprise, surprise you can still do by signing up and then receiving 16 free samples, I was quite surprised and delighted to find pod boxes at my local Morrisons in 7 different varieties available. At a cost of £3-46 for 16 pods in a box, these coffee pods will make up 8 drinks each - 8 coffees and if choosing the "latte" option, 8 additional milk pods - unless you're savvy like me, and either have a milk frother jug on the side, or a plastic jug ready to boil up milk in the microwave and then just use the darker coloured base espresso pods singularly. The milk capsules tend to be artificially sweetened, so if you don't like the idea of sweet milk, it is far better to use your own milk for coffee means. Per 220ml each capsule usually contains 89 to 120 calories depending on the type of coffee or drink and the cost of the Circolo machine is around £90 to £109-00.
The new "Circolo" machine coffee making procedure actually rolls back to the original idea by Nespresso/Nescafe where the multinational brand has made espresso coffee pods obtainable via supermarket outlets instead of the "mail order" Nespresso exclusivity. By changing each procedure of purchasing, at the end of the day the coffee and associated drinks still comes from Nescafe, whether you approve or not! Nescafe have again sponsored Krups to produce this latest machine to a style seen copied from a Dyson table fan and IPod speaker gadgets but despite the copy, the Circolo alone has gone on to win various design awards. It isn't difficult to see why; how many nearly round coffee machines can you think of? Whilst the hollow and circular style is copied, the function is worlds away from our posh and fairly expensive Magimix Lattisima machine, which produces coffee automatically with little intervention from the user, other than placing a cup and then pressing catches and buttons.
The Dolce Gusto Circolo retains the manual user involvement where you need to judge the quantities of milk and the quantities of coffee involved and even if the machine looks novel, you still have to manually operate the water pump if you want a cup of good coffee. If, say you haven't used the process before you may find that you'll waste a couple of new pods - which is handy - since you get two boxes of 6 pods each making up to 12 drinks to get you started! FAILURE to ignore the measurements even over watered and drowned out coffee and milk. Don't throw away the box though, because if you do join online there are points inside the box (via a code) which you enter online (once registered) and build up points to get a free box of pods sent out to you! BUT, You only get 11 points per box each time you enter a code and it takes quite a while to get to 170 points which is the amount you'll need if you want free coffee sent to you. With a slight whirring sound, the Circolo is anything but noisy and does the operation of dispersal with little splashing even if cups are located on the lowest rung.
Included in the box is the actual Krups KP5000 Circolo machine itself. It is fairly plasticky but Krups have done wonders here in sealing obvious edges on a primarily circular shaped machine with soft feet and very few hard edges. Depending on the colour for example, (and there are quite a few eye catching colours such as red with black contrasting, silver and black or yellow and black) ours is a dark grey colouring with contrasts of light and dark, obligatory and standard water dispersal tap with an Art Deco style ball with directional operation from cold to hot water. Oh yes, you can make hot or cold drinks with this machine but it doesn't exactly put the boat out to be able to produce ice cold water, or colder to what you put into the tank or filter the water, which you'll have to add yourself. The water tank at the back for example is frosted clear from the front and clear from the back whilst being easy to see and easy to take out and put back in, also having around a 3cm gap (length approximately 15cm) in which most kitchen taps can just sit above when filling up. However you do need to lift or move the machine every time you need to fill or take the tank. It would have made the design better here to offer an open top where water can be poured in like a traditional electric filter coffee machine, rather than having to move the machine each time to get access to the tank.
Much of the Circolo's action mirrors the old XN2005 Nespresso model (and other basic models after it with the Magimix re-softened models such as the M100 series) and it's the same kind of press-pull-and-push way of life. Buttons are replaced by a mix of a single lever for example and one flush fitting button alone with a pull up catch (thicker silver and embossed with the name for tactile purposes obviously) located centrally at the top of the circular machine when pushed down, pushes a hole into the coffee pod, and a silver ring pull style capsule holder tray in which the coffee pod needs to be placed before operation - and likewise pulled out when disposing of - located underneath. Really quite simple once you get used to the procedure. A neat tray with a silver perforated drip holder can be adjusted to three different sizes of cups, each time meeting the required slider parts whenever the tray is lifted out and adjusted. The single activation button flashes in green and red correspondingly whenever the Circolo is switched on and whenever it has heated up enough to disperse the coffee, stays on green to show its ready to go. This isn't a machine however that boils water like a kettle; so it won't give you instant hot water for a cup with a tea bag.
The best part of the Circolo in my opinion is the fact that it has a Xenon look-light display that lights up the cup area in brilliant white light, letting the user see the amount of coffee that comes out (better for judging) as well as lighting up the centre part of the machine, showing off the "Dolce Gusto Nescafe," label clearly embossed on the frosted clear water tank at the back. You're never away from advertising with this machine, either from Nescafe or the Krups name. The handy slide out drip tray with a metal base also has the Krups name printed twice, once on the tray and once at the back of the centre when the tray is lifted out. The machine is fairly wide but remains stable due to its flattened surface and circular body. It measures approximately 31cm by 31cm and 19.5 cm, the height being no more than our standard Panasonic bread maker, fitting nicely under our kitchen cabinets and weighs around 3.5kg.
Typically, there is no gradient on the water tank but it can take up to 1.3 litres and the user manual uses millilitres as its gradient measure when it comes to making coffees. This is important to know since you'll need a small measuring jug later on - an accessory, which doesn't come with this machine sadly. Further accoutrements in the box feature a "quick start" guide, full colour user manual booklet, a glossy introduction booklet to the flavours with explanations and a drop pod box with an inner plastic grid to catch the pods and let the excess used up drinks flood to the bottom. Just like our original Nespresso machine, my mum has already lost the inner grid holder in the pod disposable bin. Without it, it actually makes the plastic bin easier to clean, with one less inner grid to worry about! The bin is dishwasher safe, as is the drip tray, metal insert and pull out coffee pod capsule tray with an added suggestion that the clear water tank can be cleaned out using a baby bottle brush, as it is the only part of the machine which can't be put in a dishwasher. No descaler pods are given with the Circolo either but it is simple to flush through with the hot water on board. The user manual warns against using powders or vinegar for limescale removal, so its better to use filtered water in hard water areas. Word of warning; like the Numatic Henry vacuum cleaner manual, the Circolo manual is made up of graphics and arrows rather than large wording paragraphs and there is a fairly large area of wording given at the back of the booklet. It can be off putting at first, and in this respect I strongly recommend you take advantage of the quick start guide instead!
The problem with the Circolo or just about any "manual" Nespresso/Dolce Gusto machine is the quantities from getting the "perfect cup of coffee" and that comes from the first couple of uses and later on with much more expertise learnt, the feeling that the bigger pods are actually a waste of money. This is where you'll need your small measuring jug because the glossy user manual (and accompanying boxes you buy) have millilitre suggestions in getting the right amount of coffee and accompanying milk product into one cup and where cups are concerned you can use any size up to 14cm. I was delighted to find I can use my heat insulated porcelain coffee travel mug for example and for the small measuring jug, a plastic gravy fat jug. Because of the manual judgement, one single pod can continually flow into a cup without stopping and thus becoming weaker over time as the machine uses up all the water. Taking on what Nescafe suggest means you'll get the stronger boost of the actual coffee by taking in the actual 100 to 150ml suggestions and I have to say, their suggestions are spot on for the taste quality. Ignore the instruction and the coffee tastes watered down. This will also give you the biggest indication yet that you haven't found out what level works best and in short, wasting a single coffee pod. Pity that each flavour of coffee has a completely different measurement though and there are 18 different drinks that Dolce Gusto/Nescafe sell. For example:
Cappuccino: 200ml of white milk and 40ml of the coffee. On the basis that both white and brown pods are the same size, you'll waste the remaining 160ml of coffee left in the pod each time you use a Cappuccino pod - UNLESS you whip it out and keep it for later. Once the machine has pierced it however, you must use it the same day later as the pod can't be resealed - much to my annoyance! Or if you want a double espresso shot, leave the pod in and fill up to 80ml of coffee. Even then you're still wasting the 80ml of supposed espresso in the pod unless it's used the same day.
Latte Macchiato (opposite of a standard latte with milk going in first before coffee). 170ml of white milk pod and 50ml of coffee.
The Cappuccino blend is quite mild and not at all similar to what I expect if I was to order a coffee house blend. The milk is very frothy on delivery but go past the 200ml of the milk formula, and it is clear to see that it no longer comes out creamy, but fairly watery. The Latte Macchiato blend has a stronger tasting coffee whilst my favourite of all is the Americano blend, which has the strongest blend and much more body. I also tried the Chococcino but found it to be no better than home made hot chocolate via saucepan and hot milk, and too sweet for my liking. It is also quite horrific in the calorie department and far less healthier than Cadbury's hot chocolate alone.
The coffee varieties have different strengths but some are also a bit of a marketing waste too with equally different weights hence different millilitre suggestions each time per prep. An Americano traditionally for example is either one shot or two shots of espresso coffee filled up with hot water to produce a filter coffee like drink, but Nescafe already sell Espresso pods on their own as well as a box of Americano and accordingly to produce espresso, Nescafe suggest filling just 60ml or 40ml for ristretto style (the "short espresso") or 230ml for the Americano. On the basis that the machine is already pumping out water anyway, the Americano by Nescafe is strong but you could just use two shots of espresso and then fill it up with hot water - like they do in many a Starbucks and similar coffee houses. Buyers who aren't used to Italian coffee or the stuff you can buy in many a franchise coffee house will be instantly hooked by the wide range Nescafe offer, from hot chocolate to peach flavoured coffee, iced coffee options and different strengths of coffee, mostly all 100% Arabica. The milk pods tend to froth up fairly well due to the heat of the water in the machine but they have a vanilla additive to them that gives an artificial aftertaste. Handy if you have a particular sweet tooth, but this is why I prefer using fresh milk without any nasty sugar added. After all, if I want to add flavoured syrup that doesn't sit well with the added compulsory Vanilla, I'm sunk!
My gripe is this thought though. The traditional espresso machine, where properly manufactured has a lot lower bar pressure to push the water through the coffee tamper filter - and it stops each pump of espresso into a cup. Now, most buyers outside the Nescafe/Dolce Gusto/Nespresso realm aren't necessarily taught that the traditional machine is messy; as buyers, Senseo and Nescafe teaches us that the procedure is messy and the Dolce Circolo suffers from not being able to fill coffee or likewise drinks hot enough for me to take my time over. The cups you put in aren't heated either - unlike many proper espresso machines that do heat up the cups or feature a facility where cups can be stored to "heat up" on top. The sales people will tell you traditional machines are messy. What they won't tell you is that ANY Nespresso/Dolce Gusto coffee machine is unnecessarily burning espresso - if you believe that the Nescafe brand you're buying is really "espresso," and not "espresso quality." Traditional espresso is pumped out between 7 and 10 bars of steam-pressured water. The Circolo and many of Nespresso/Dolce Gusto machines pump out at 15 bars of pressure. Hence the possibility that your espresso doesn't taste as thick or creamy as the traditional coffee house types. They may well be a golden yellow crema on top, but that's where the similarities end, and further more, the electric traditional espresso machine with a milk frother arm is available at less cost than the Circolo if you know where to look!
Yes, the Dolce Gusto (and Nespresso) pods mean no coffee dust is spilt on your worktop, but the more traditional approach means no plastic pods to waste on the Earth, either. As an owner, what would you have grating away at your conscience? The traditional espresso machine (usually with a milk frother) also uses less coffee per cost. A standard 500g bag of espresso coffee costs between £3-50 and £5-99 depending on the blend, grind and brand. On the basis that you only get 8 to 16 cups use on average out of the 16 pods per box, the Nespresso/Dolce Gusto formula is mighty expensive, especially when you consider you can make up to 40 cups of single shot espresso alone each time per bag of 500g coffee! No Mess over more quantity? I don't think so, Nescafe! The added advantage of the drinks pods is that they can be used at any time - they all have a very long lifespan due to their seals - until you break it via the machine and have to use the pod later on the same day. With traditional espresso powder, it's time to invest in a food saver or have a couple of airtight food boxes on standby to fridge the excess powder. This won't matter to a true coffee fan though - they'll do anything to match their home brewed effort to Starbucks quality (or similar!).
In an instant, the Circolo coffee machine will appeal to those who need the latest gadgets. To buyers who adore circular art deco in their kitchen and probably have other appliances to match. That is no bad thing - I'm all for Art Deco - but at the end of the day, whilst the machine looks good and whilst the coffee and associated drinks are available from supermarkets with a good level of taste, I'm more than determined to find a machine of my own that is more traditional, gives out lots of thick coffee taste and a properly prepared espresso rather than "espresso quality." I've worked with traditional machines and they don't produce as much excess coffee powder as Nescafe would have you believe. I can simply swipe it all up with a wet flannel - and be economical at the same time, knowing too well I get more out of one bag of espresso coffee bags that can be stored in the fridge or vacuum sealed for longer. I love my coffee and in limited amounts, it is good for you without dulling it with cream and sugar. For those who love real coffee, get a traditional espresso machine with a steam milk frother. You won't have to faff about with measurements and won't be restricted to mock tasting sweetened milk that has an awful aftertaste. For those who love the idea of the Dolce Gusto formula, the Circolo machine alone is enough to entice - but whichever machine you choose, it is an expensive way to go to enjoy a cup of salvation and the artificial tasting milk pods are nothing short but disappointing if you are looking for the "same" Starbucks idea. Four stars for the design but three stars for the overall experience - what a great pity! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2011
Questions and Answers
Nescafe give their machines 15 to 19 bars of pressured steam to press the coffee. Is a higher pump better for espresso?
- NO. Traditional espresso machines and machines from Starbucks, Costa, Café Nero and others have industrial machines that should pump out only 7 to 10 bars of pressured steam. Anything higher actually burns espresso coffee, as it is a finer grade than filter.
Does this machine froth milk?
- NO. It produces frothy milk via the milk capsules.
Is Espresso coffee an actual roast type?
- NO. Espresso is how it is made. It is a finer dustier powder than filter coffee and needs pressure upon it to get the emulsifying oils within the coffee to spread out.
What drinks are available from Dolce Gusto?
_ See https://www.dolce-gusto.co.uk/
** MARCH 2011 UPDATE **
There is now a new Skinny Cappuccino option that have 49 calories per pod. Milk capsules are non-sweetened and lower in fat!
Summary: Buy it to look cool for "espresso quality", hide it to remain "environmentally friendly..."
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