How would you like your coffee?
First of all a few terms so we're all singing from the same hymn sheet! Espresso is the common 'brew' across the machines we reviewed. Think of this as a base coffee from which others are made. Espresso is a short (40ml) strong black coffee. From this base you can add hot frothy milk to make Cappuccino, for example.
The machines we reviewed made coffee either from special proprietary 'capsules', such as the Nespresso system or the Braun Tassimo capsules, from fresh ground coffee or from ESE 'pods' (Easy Serve Espresso). Machines that can use fresh coffee obviously gives the widest choice and are also the most cost effective. ESE pods are provided by a number of producers, while propietary systems offer the most limited choice and tend to be more expensive.
This is of course only a small range of the machines available. If there's one you'd like us to review then just leave a comment below and we'll see what we can do!
Now to the machines. I've listed them highest smiley score first. In the following paragraphs the product name links will take you through to the complete review - or just click on the pictures!
Top of the list for Espresso was the Kenwood Retro. Available in a range of colours this is a simple, straightforward well built machine. The Retro benefits from accepting both fresh ground coffee and ESE pods. This flexibility coupled with a lack of annoying 'technology' and a very keen price at around £110 earnt this machine the only highly commended award in the group.
The Krups XP2070 was high on our list of machines. Combining an excellent Espresso machine with a full filter coffee maker is an excellent idea - try making Espresso for 6 people at a dinner party! Like the Kenwood - the Espresso function not only worked well, it also accepted both fresh ground coffee and ESE pods. The technology was a little irritating, especially the need to set the clock before making any coffee!
At £179.99 though this two-in-one machine offered very good value for money!
Next up was the Braun Tassimo. This inexpensive capsule machine uses the proprietary Tassimo system of capsules. Rather than restrict the choice to coffee though, the Tassimo is also quite at ease delivering hot chocolate and some teas.
The Tassimo is very easy to use, offers a good range of drinks at a very reasonable £79.97.
The Nescaf Dolce Gusto is a very popular machine reviewed a little while ago here at GadgetSpeak. Using it's own Nescaf capsule system this machine benefits from ease of use, rapid drink delivery and lack of mess.
Like the Tassimo, this machine also benefits from a reasoable price of around £75.
The Krups LeCube is the first of a couple of Nespresso products we reviewed. You're limited to the set of 12 premium coffee blends provided by Nespresso, and you have to buy those through the Nespresso club. The LeCube was the best of the two Nespresso machines we tried - it did what it was meant to do. Unlike other machines, the LeCube has no way to produce steam or to froth milk, so if you favoured brew is Cappuccino then you'll need to invest in a separate milk frother.
The Nespresso system is intended to be 'exclusive', with it's own club for buying merchandise as well as capsules. This does mean you can;t pop out to the supermarket though when you run low. Exclusive also means quite a hefty price for a fairly inflexible machine of around £150.
Next we looked at the FrancisFrancis X6 Trio ESE espresso coffee machine. The X6 made great coffee, but suffered in our review for a number of reasons, notable lack of flexibility (only supporting ESE) coupled with an excessive price tag.
At £249 this, along with the Latissima, were the two most expensive products. While the quality of the coffee was good - to us it was no better than that produced by the Kenwood Retro - and we found both machines similar in operation.
Finally, we have the Nespresso Lattissima. The joint most expensive machine in the group. While in theory this should have been a good machine we had a number of problems in use. The key differentiator of this machine over the LeCube is a 'milk frother'. In use we found this to be somewhat messy and temperamental and really couldn't get on with it.
That's it - hope you found the reviews useful. Remember to leave your own comments if your experience was different to ours!
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