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Thread: Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL

  1. #1
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    Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL

    Glenys and I visited the Nespresso Shop in Karrinyup Shopping Centre today.

    I recognised it as a place of Devil worship. The staff, although they seemed nice enough, had a whiff of sulphur about them.

    I had a cross just in case but in the end the pods looked interesting and I made sure that the door was near enough if I had to make a run for it.

    I was quite impressed with the tastes of the pods and to the side of the main sacrifice altar (still had fresh stains on it), they had a tasting bar all very nicely set up. The lighting was well thought out too and reminded me of the Goetterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) type scene with the orange glow throwing a menacing glow on the altar with Nespresso machines exposed wantonly on shelves, openly inviting you to interact intimately with them.

    I have to say they did put a lot of thought into this place of Nespresso worship. Their pod geniuses were very helpful and I think the manager's name was actually Hal and no doubt is the person who does open the pod bay doors in the morning.

    I had two pods one was a Barista Scuro (95 cents each). I was quite impressed. They are definitely tasty but it is difficult to compare them with real espresso. Obviously not quite as extracted but nice to drink. The pods are no mess items which is great. The milk frothing of course is what requires some power and it is probably lacking in most machines. I think the strength of a simple pod machine would be for making drinks without milk and without much mess.

    I calculate my coffee costs me 25 cents per double shot so I would spend $1000 more per year if I did drink pods.

    The trip to the temple was informative and I decided pods are good for some people who want quick, easy and tastey.

  2. #2
    Senior Member LeroyC's Avatar
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    That sounds like a fair appraisal. But I have a problem with paying 4 x the price for stale coffee encapsulated in a product that is contributing majorly to the world's environmental problems.

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    I think that the wastage is minimal although it is there. We buy food all the time in packaging.

    The coffee isn't stale and it tastes good. If it is packaged and prepared properly it is good.

    The final test is taste and it was pretty good I have to say.

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    Great and humourous review Grant. I have tried pods several times and I agree it's drinkable for hoi polloi but not suitable for a snob.
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    I agree with wattgn. You can get a pretty good cuppa out of a pod when the stars align correctly - and it is repeatable.

    I spent over 18 months with a friend / cafe & pod manufacturing machine owner (a mere 1,000 pods an hour when running flat out) trying to find a complete pod system that didn't taste of anything horrible. We eventually succeeded by using a fairly expensive EU food grade pod. It is even a fully recyclable pod - and that is actually quite rare. We also found a decade old "fully high grade stainless steel" pod machine which did not taint the coffee either - actually a "Nespresso clone" but built properly. It even did a fairly good job of steaming milk (i.e. as good as those dedicated "milk frothers" or using a plunger and heating the milk in a microwave). Microfoam it isn't.

    I had the opportunity to do a little test after we had finally obtained the first shipment of empty pods.

    1) The roasts were a mixture of light, medium and dark SO's and the three in house blends (medium-dark & 2 dark blends).
    2) The grinder is a big old Mahlkonig (actually the EK43's great grandfather - it is using the same type of mechanism). The grind for a pod is quite different from the grind for an espresso machine, however that particular grinder can do anything from "too fine for Turkish" to "coarser than cold steep" very consistently.

    I could directly compare the final pods "straight out of the machine" using their "all stainless steel pod coffee machine" to their in house espresso machine (a Linea, naturally) after we had optimised the grind for the usage.

    Using that system the pods were about 85 to 90% as good in the cup as the LM. A bit of a surprise to me at the time (to put it mildly). I could even pick a lot of the regional variations of the light roasts. Impressive for a technology I had previously dismissed as being pathetic.

    Then we tried an fairly new (3 to 4 months old) original Nespresso pod machine (about $350 at the time, mostly plastic). Personally I would call it a total fail, however to be kind call it 50 to 60% as good as the LM. The regional qualities of the roast were fighting the plastic taint and losing. After that fiasco we tried a cheap more common (plastic, $65) pod machine. Completely undrinkable, all I could taste was the overwhelming taint of plastic mixed with a non-nondescript coffee taste. Perhaps 30% of the quality of the LM (on a good day).

    Milk: not really in the hunt, even the Nespresso original was not up to it. Clearly that could change overnight as even the $150 Breville / SB toys can do proper microfoam if you know what you are doing.

    I reckon that a good pod in a good machine can provide something which even most CS'r's would regard as drinkable as an espresso - certainly as good as most cafes. Unfortunately the overuse of plastic in every new machine I could find means that most pod machines are nowhere near the technology's potential. I also strongly suspect that the public's willingness to rate convenience over performance has resulted in some pretty significant cost savings at the manufacturing end rather than building a top rate pod machine. Surely a ten year old pod machine should not thrash all the newer ones?

    Needless to say, this domicile is still a pod free zone for now.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member LeroyC's Avatar
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    I care about the environment. Food packaging is unavoidable in our modern lives, but I do my best the minimise it. I will never be buying a pod machine and will never recommend one as the amount of packaging used as a ratio to the actual product is extreme. Although there are recyclable and compostable options most used pods still end up in landfill due to their very nature as well as where they are used (hotels and offices). But if you're happy to pay through the nose for fair tasting coffee and don't give a shit about the planet then this is the product for you.

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    I hate to admit it but pods have their place. I'm travelling through the backblocks of France and I've witnessed many restaurants dish up amazing food and dismal coffee, even though they have the hardware to produce something half decent. The beans are stale and the technique woeful, and I've noticed an increasing number of restaurants switching to pods to get a half decent espresso. Just forget about a milk coffee. I did spy one of these pod machines on Ile de Re a few weeks ago, gave me a chuckle. Talk about a wanna be.
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    I was surprised by just how good these pods tasted and I had been dead against them previously just on the principle that there is nothing like a properly made espresso. This is still true but tasting is believing and I now believe that these pods are definitely much better than the substandard grinder/espresso machine combinations I have seen producing distinctly average or worse coffee. The pod machines can be dead cheap too.

    The milk frothing is an issue but no more so than for other small thermoblock machines and as Stu posted above there are some full on pod machines with large boilers.

    I did find though that the extraction is not the same as for an espresso and this means if you have a milk drink it will be underpowered relative to the real thing. These pods are also only single shots. A double shot of the one I had at Nespresso would have cost $.95 x 2 or $1.90 compared to about 25 cents using my green beans and a double shot. Of course, I have $5000 worth of equipment but if you make even 4 coffees per day and they were all double shots which means two pods that is $7.80 per day compared to $1.00. $6.80 per day is $2400 per year I would save making my own espresso. If you decided to have just four pods a day then even then it would be $1200 per year savings so my gear would pay for itself in either 2 years or 5 years roughly and that doesn't take into account residual values and all that.

    Nespresso == Expensive but for many people it is worth it as no skill is required and it is neat and tidy and not much investment in equipment is needed either.

    I wouldn't get too upset about the wastage or environment either. We all throw away many kilograms of packaging materials and other household rubbish each week and pods would be a very small proportion of your total rubbish per week. I get it though. It would be better if they were totally biodegradable.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    OK, the doors are open.
    I have yet to have the pod coffee that is any better than a coffee bag.
    Maybe it will happen some day but so far not.
    I have friends who excitedly offer me pod coffee because it is "as good as Espresso". No it isn't.
    Pod coffee is "pod coffee". Espresso is Espresso. End of story.
    Hal.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    OK, the doors are open.
    I have yet to have the pod coffee that is any better than a coffee bag.
    Maybe it will happen some day but so far not.
    I have friends who excitedly offer me pod coffee because it is "as good as Espresso". No it isn't.
    Pod coffee is "pod coffee". Espresso is Espresso. End of story.
    Hal.
    That's been my experience too.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    OK, the doors are open.
    I have yet to have the pod coffee that is any better than a coffee bag.
    Maybe it will happen some day but so far not.
    I have friends who excitedly offer me pod coffee because it is "as good as Espresso". No it isn't.
    Pod coffee is "pod coffee". Espresso is Espresso. End of story.
    Hal.
    Hi Hal,

    Your comments equating pods to a coffee bag are just plain absurd, the products aren't remotely similar.

    I bought a Robur from a cafe owner today. We discussed pods and she agreed that they are really very good and suit some people just fine.

    It doesn't have to be the same as proper espresso and in fact they have a huge range of products some with additional flavourings.

    It is different to the real thing but I have had pod coffee from two different sources and both times I was surprised just how tasty it was.

    The Nespresso store was flat out. They are making a killing and pods have really taken the market big time. Most of our friends and family now use pods.

    It is a market for people who want something nice in the coffee line to drink but who don't want to invest either the time in learning skills or the equipment to do the real thing.

    There is no chance of me ever buying a pod machine but I appreciate now why it is so popular. It tastes great to most people and that is driving sales.

    Grant
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn View Post
    Hi Hal,

    Your comments equating pods to a coffee bag are just plain absurd, the products aren't remotely similar.
    You seem to enjoy ridiculing people who disagree with you. It isn't necessary. Why not just disagree with them and explain why.

    FWIW, I'd rate the better pods I've been obliged to try a little better than a coffee bag, but they're certainly not for me....I'll just have a cup of tea if that's the choice.
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  13. #13
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    The products aren't remotely similar so why was the comment made? One is like a tea bag with coffee in it which is extracted, the other is liquid and already extracted and can also contain other components.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    We were proudly presented with pod coffee by the friends we recently stayed with in SanFrancisco, 4 or 5 different types, including espresso, lungo, cappuccino.

    Our opinion! the stuff was wet, and, I believe contained caffeine, didn't really taste like coffee at all.

    Yep, ridicule and snide comments of a personal nature are poor form.

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    I said the comparison was absurd, it wasn't a personal attack and I stand by my comment which was perfectly fair enough.

    Coffee Bags are expensive and have all but disappeared from the market.

    I guess if people want to say such things that is fine and I'm entitled to reply.

    I get it, saying pods are good stirs up anger it seems but I was just relaying my honest opinion to the group. I can also see that these pods are wildly popular and are a big hit, the year on year increase in sales is huge and has increased by 523% in five years.

    I agree that they may not taste the same as espresso yet most people I talk to even people in the industry accept that they are quite tasty. Obviously not everyone thinks so but if the yard stick is comparing it to real espresso, I think that is probably not fair.

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    Please forget the personal attack stuff (grow up and do something more productive). Even at their best a pod is not an espresso. However, neither is a Carmencita / stainless steel stovetop "espresso maker" - and they have plenty of fans (including me).

    If it is not burnt or stale coffee and the milk is not scalded I am prepared to give it a go. Mostly I am unimpressed, however there are some pleasant surprises. Turkish coffee is far from espresso - however I still drag out the old Ibrik every so often and enjoy one, added cardamom and all. Ditto Bali "local coffee". I still have no idea what they add to it, however it is pretty good as a drink - just don't call it espresso (they don't). Ditto Viet Namese coffee (condensed milk and all...) - a bit sweet for my tastes but still a good refreshing cuppa. A lot of folks enjoy a pourover / aeropress / plunger / cold steep / cold drip.

    What surprised me is how good a pod was straight out of the grinder into the pod and then the cup. I still reckon the technology has potential, unfortunately it also has the potential to be ruined with poor equipment - and that includes 90+% of pod machines (the plastic ones).

    I still draw a red line at instant and "coffee bags" - no way they can approach any of the methods I just outlined.

    Enjoy your cuppa - all else is irrelevant.

    TampIt
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  17. #17
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    barista scuro, you say? i'll have to check it out. last time i made a pod and an aeropress short black, the pod wasn't even palatable by itself, let alone in comparison.

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    I think it was the scuro. There is a huge array of pods. It is worthwhile just to take advantage of their tasting bar. Get caffeinated on their dime.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn View Post
    The Nespresso store was flat out. They are making a killing and pods have really taken the market big time.
    Wait til you find out how many people drink instant...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post
    Wait til you find out how many people drink instant...
    Interesting you should mention that. The cafe owner mentioned that at home she just drinks instant, the one I bought the Robur from today. She said I have drunk it all my life. I prayed for her soul of course...
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    I have been into a Nespresso store and asked them to give me a range of their different type of espresso drinks from the demo station. Very nice and obliging people. Tried about 10 different pods. The shots didnt resemble espresso, or brewed coffee or any other pleasant tasting drink. The closest comparison would be if you got 30 ml of the type of coffee you get from a superautomatic at a 7-11 store but much harsher, thin and less pleasant tasting with a nasty pale pond scum on the top of it. Wouldn't voluntarily put my taste buds through the ordeal again

  22. #22
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    Fair enough but I enjoyed it and most people I know really like the Nespresso pods. If they were that bad I feel the shop would not have been packed out like it was. The pods I have had were pretty creamy with good mouth feel. I'm not even sure what they do to produce the pods but the shop seemed like it was going gangbusters. Mind you it was Saturday shopping.
    Last edited by wattgn; 3 Weeks Ago at 11:29 PM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Please forget the personal attack stuff (grow up and do something more productive). Even at their best a pod is not an espresso. However, neither is a Carmencita / stainless steel stovetop "espresso maker" - and they have plenty of fans (including me).

    If it is not burnt or stale coffee and the milk is not scalded I am prepared to give it a go. Mostly I am unimpressed, however there are some pleasant surprises. Turkish coffee is far from espresso - however I still drag out the old Ibrik every so often and enjoy one, added cardamom and all. Ditto Bali "local coffee". I still have no idea what they add to it, however it is pretty good as a drink - just don't call it espresso (they don't). Ditto Viet Namese coffee (condensed milk and all...) - a bit sweet for my tastes but still a good refreshing cuppa. A lot of folks enjoy a pourover / aeropress / plunger / cold steep / cold drip.

    What surprised me is how good a pod was straight out of the grinder into the pod and then the cup. I still reckon the technology has potential, unfortunately it also has the potential to be ruined with poor equipment - and that includes 90+% of pod machines (the plastic ones).

    I still draw a red line at instant and "coffee bags" - no way they can approach any of the methods I just outlined.

    Enjoy your cuppa - all else is irrelevant.

    TampIt
    The most important ingredient is the coffee itself. I agree instant and coffee bags are not so good. These days we can get good fresh coffee from many sources and we can then enjoy it in a number of ways. I enjoy plunger coffee sometimes as it is easy to make and tastes great.

  24. #24
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Yep, of course espresso and pods aren't the same thing. But I've managed to get fairly decent results out of pods.
    I remember being on a scientific expedition in Tasmania catching the devils, and in the wee early mornings all they had was a pod machine. I thought "Hey I'll give this a go." After a few shots and a bit of tinkering, managed to actually get it to pull a really nice 'shot'.

    There were three buttons of options: ristretto, normale, lungo (well, that's what I'm calling them haha). Different volumes basically. To me it didn't make sense to use a high volume of water through a small amount of coffee. So what I did was use two pods, the first I did as the espresso into the cup, and the second as ristretto, poured directly into the first shot. Actually was really nice and it became my standard while I was there. Wasn't weak, bitter or anything, but had some nice fruity flavours. I was surprised for sure. I then followed that up with a latte with 2x ristretto shots which worked well.

    It's worth tinkering with, and there are many different pod/coffee types to experiment with (I used the 'black' pod, which I think was classed as strong hehe).

    That being said, I don't own a pod machine and probably don't plan on one, but there are ways to tinker for sure! The volume of water that comes through the coffee makes a big difference hehe

  25. #25
    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    What surprised me is how good a pod was straight out of the grinder into the pod and then the cup.
    That's the key here, eh - the whole point of pod machines (at least for 99% of consumers) is the convenience of a pre-prepared, packaged item that doesn't take any effort or thought from the user. You'll never get good coffee from stale preground beans, irrespective of preparation method. So while it might be feasible to make good pod coffee by grinding fresh and filling the pods immediately before use, it's a moot point for the majority who either don't care or can't tell the difference. Just as it's irrelevant whether the pods are recyclable or compostible as they end up in landfill most of the time anyway.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post
    That's the key here, eh - the whole point of pod machines (at least for 99% of consumers) is the convenience of a pre-prepared, packaged item that doesn't take any effort or thought from the user. You'll never get good coffee from stale preground beans, irrespective of preparation method. So while it might be feasible to make good pod coffee by grinding fresh and filling the pods immediately before use, it's a moot point for the majority who either don't care or can't tell the difference. Just as it's irrelevant whether the pods are recyclable or compostible as they end up in landfill most of the time anyway.
    What we don't really know is what else they put in the pods. They are obviously protected from light and oxygen and some pods do have stated flavourings in them also. It is possible they add stabilisers to prevent changes to the coffee. I don't know.

    Mind you I think they have done a good job, they have spent a lot of money on research, production and marketing to get where they are now.

    I think they have followed the example of Apple and turned the shops into some sort of Church. My tongue in cheek review covered that. Everything is well thought out.

  27. #27
    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Well, I guess it's not entirely impossible that Nestlé have hit upon some hitherto unknown secret to making amazing coffee by adding things to stale grounds.

    Yep, their marketing is good. Their coffee isn't, but then that's only a byproduct of what they're selling.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post
    Well, I guess it's not entirely impossible that Nestlé have hit upon some hitherto unknown secret to making amazing coffee by adding things to stale grounds.

    Yep, their marketing is good. Their coffee isn't, but then that's only a byproduct of what they're selling.
    They know what people like. Big companies like that do a lot of taste testing and probably employ PhD Food Technologists. I suspect a lot goes on behind the scenes developing and testing product. If you have a product that is unappealing to consumers you aren't going to last very long.

    I remember at Peters and Brownes they used to do a lot of taste testing ditto when I worked in the Dairy Industry in New Zealand they employ statisticians and food technologists to develop products and test them.

    These pods are at the opposite end of the spectrum in some ways to fresh coffee, yet I liked what I tasted. I'd like to know how they do it.

  29. #29
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    Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL

    Maybe you can approach Nestle Wattgn?

    Is Cluney still involved with this malarkey or did he takes his sacks of cash and run?

    Any time there's a massive cash splash going on there's a nice margin to be found. Or the receivers soon come in and drink all that spare coffee.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post
    Well, I guess it's not entirely impossible that Nestlé have hit upon some hitherto unknown secret to making amazing coffee by adding things to stale grounds.
    .
    The guys that used to work in the cigarette companies must have moved over.
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    I see Sirius and other coffee companies produce their own pods?

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    Something that I notice, as I repair a lot of Nespresso machines, is just how well built they are. This is exclusively Nespresso, the rest are trash.

    They use quality components and are intelligently put together. Surprisingly enough, they are built to be repaired from my point of view.

    The entire heating system is it's own module. Removing one or two screws enables the whole lot to slide out of the side of the machine.

    Replacing the capsule mechanism, a common repair, is very simple and can be done in minutes.

    The overall fit and finish of the machines is great.

    As to the coffee they make, I don't really like it. Plenty of my customer's do though and as long as they're happy and buying the machines that I get to repair then I'm happy.
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    Interesting information. Thanks for that. I like to keep up with what is going on. I still think pods are great for people who want simple and low up front costs. Obviously not as good as the real thing done properly but how many people pay $2000 for a combo grinder espresso machine from HN and still get crap coffee?

  34. #34
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    My wife has a pod machine, luckily she keeps it in the cupboard unless she is using it. She loves that it is simple, quick, clean to use. She also loves the thicker milk made by the auto frothed/spinner thing. And she likes the taste.

    She is not interested in "real" coffee and won't use any of my coffee making equipment.

    To me the capsules taste "interesting" flavour wise but I find them thin and weak, just doesn't compare to espresso.

    The only way I find them remotely approaching espresso is to pull only a few ml from say three pods, and then add a few spoons of milo

    What really grinds with me (pardon the pun) is the huge cost per kg, and the landfill thing is another, they say they are recycling the pods etc but not sure how that works in reality.

    Agree their marketing is amazing, selling coffee at $200 per kg is a great effort! And their shops are set up amazingly well, as described by wattgn, very Apple-ish.

    How do they make their pumps so quiet? Haven't ripped one apart but if it uses a normal vibe pump the isolation is impressive.

    Cheers
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  35. #35
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by artman View Post
    My wife has a pod machine, luckily she keeps it in the cupboard unless she is using it. She loves that it is simple, quick, clean to use. She also loves the thicker milk made by the auto frothed/spinner thing. And she likes the taste.

    She is not interested in "real" coffee and won't use any of my coffee making equipment.

    To me the capsules taste "interesting" flavour wise but I find them thin and weak, just doesn't compare to espresso.

    The only way I find them remotely approaching espresso is to pull only a few ml from say three pods, and then add a few spoons of milo
    Hahaha that's awesome... XD

    Yeah pre-ground 7g coffee with 80 odd ml of water through it is gonna be interesting... that's why I say to pod machine owners to have a play with the settings and see how you can change the flavours. Obvious limitations, but worth trying.

    And yeah that's the thing, people enjoy it, so just go for it! I mean, I just got home from work and was hungry, so grabbed a spoon and the jar of Vegemite and went to town on it! Not everyone's cuppa tea but yummmm! XD

  36. #36
    Senior Member trentski's Avatar
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    I used to pull two of the shortest shots on the one at work and add 3 heaped teaspoons of milo and milk. Was ok

  37. #37
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Oh that sounds incredible haha... seems like this is a trend that's catching on haha!

  38. #38
    Senior Member csutak40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trentski View Post
    I used to pull two of the shortest shots on the one at work and add 3 heaped teaspoons of milo and milk. Was ok
    Long ago (been retired for years) before any workplace had any kind of machinery except for a jug and a microwave, when I was desperate for caffeine and no time to go out to buy a cup of coffee, I used to make myself a cup with SIX or more teaspoons of instant, microwaved with no water, just milk. It was drinkable Other times I only drank tea at work
    Last edited by csutak40; 2 Weeks Ago at 05:10 PM.

  39. #39
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    RESPECT! XD

    Wow love it... there are definite workarounds to limited beverages hey! And the milk would do quite well to mask any harshness in instant, although 6 tsp is impressive! I tip my hat to you!

  40. #40
    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Work bought a "high end" pod machine and a variety of pods.
    I used a Presso with my own beans and hand grinder with the pod machine to steam the milk, as did several other coffee fanciers.

    I can only suggest that if pod coffee tastes good to you--that's fine--but don't try good espresso.

    BTW--I've had some very second rate espresso at highly rated establishments (and for some reason France doesn't understand coffee).

    Greg

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