Meetup At The Cairns Episode II – The Dark Side of Convenience

I thought about letting this one go. But Melvin happened. And I just have to borrow his tagline for this post.

It was an ominous feeling to have heard Steve say those words. You just had to be there.

We talked about the Aeropress. About how good a cup of coffee it makes. But it just was not espresso, the way Aeropress had marketed it as.

And then, Steve introduced the N word into our lives and we never looked at him the same again.

Steve talked about how good Nespresso really was at its price point. And then he mentioned the Nespresso ristretto as a must-try. And of course, the convenience of it all. I started going over Steve’s history of machines in my head. A whole series of Braun-Krups-Krap before the transition to the Rancilio Silvia/Rocky combo, and then, now the Expobar Brewtus. And this same guy who’s speaking to us now about the wonders of Nespresso also did tell me in a phone conversation a few months earlier of his next fictional if any, upgrade-itis which was to be the La Marzocco GS3, instead of the Kees Van Der Westen Speedster, mainly because of support issues. This seems to be the upgrade path most home baristi take after the E-61’s I believe.

And then, we called it a day, and we left. And no, Melvin, my journey towards the Dark Side did not end outside Steve’s gates. After you dropped me off, I eventually ended up at ION ORCHARD. Well, it was the path I took to get home anyway. Waitaminute, doesn’t ION ORCHARD also have a Nespresso Boutique?


I walked into the Nespresso Boutique. Wow! It’s a beautiful sight. If you’ve ever walked into a Nespresso Boutique, you’ll know what I mean. Wall to wall packed with Nespresso bricks of different Pantone colours. A whole line of Nespresso coffee pods in different colour shades. Right smack in the centre of the store is an island, where they have demo machines, and all the flavours of Nespresso with it.

Wait, the journey to the Dark Side cannot be complete until I’ve had a taste of, what did Steve recommend. . . “oh! Ristretto please?”

A saleslady made me one by dropping in a pod, and pushing the button. It was served in a clear plastic demitasse. I took a sip, and . . . .


This Can’t Be Espresso. This Will Never Be Espresso. BUT, it wasn’t really swill either. I can detect very very slight hints of spice. . . tobacco maybe. It was under the temperature though, slightly warmer than room temperature. It was thin coffee.

The saleslady told me of the convenience factor, about how you could just plug in a Nespresso unit and just churn out coffee without having to wait for a warm-up period. Even my old Gaggia thermoblock required at least a 15 minute start up time. But that did make a different class of espresso as well.

In all fairness, the Nespresso is simple to use, doesn’t make a mess. It makes ok coffee for its price point and for the amount of effort put in. But just like our discussion on the Aeropress, I feel you cannot call this espresso. It’s just convenience coffee.

8 thoughts on “Meetup At The Cairns Episode II – The Dark Side of Convenience”

  1. Hey Colin, i think there are still companies out there selling substitutable ink jet cartridges to fit branded printers…
    May be someone need to look into selling substitutable coffee cartridges at a more consumer friendly price.. ;)

  2. In my defense, I didn’t say that I planned to part with my hard earned cash on a Nespresso system, merely that one of our ranks (who shall not be named) has purchased a Nespresso machine for convenience sake and that my company, being French and therefore in love with poor quality espresso, has a machine in every office worldwide. I usually have a Nespresso Ristretto blend in the office after returning from lunch. The machine is on 24×7 and therefore always warmed up. I give it two complete flushes (ie. 2 x 20 second blank pours) before inserting the capsule and pulling the shortest shot that the machine can deliver – about a 1.5 oz. Two sips and it’s gone. It’s about 60% quality of the worst shot the Brewtus produces, but it’s ALWAYS 60%. I acknowledge it’s consistency and the fact that it’s better than Nescafe 3 in 1 (the other option in the office). :-)

  3. And before someone suggests it, I am too busy/lazy in the office to be bothered with a grinder and french press or Aeropress to get a decent shot. I also work downtown, so if I am really desperate, I’ll head on out to a coffee shop. I do have a couple of good options such as Espressoul and TCC (only for their classic coffee btw, not their stupid crappy coffee drink cum desert abominations). I do realise that even mentioning the ‘N’ word has sent a shudder through the Singapore coffee geek community. :-)

  4. In my previous comment I also actually meant he who shall not be named but sold me the Silvia and actually bought a Nest Press O.
    Looks like someone’s gonna be banned from future salsa dips :)

    But imho, nespresso is such a convenient way for getting coffee that it pushes more toward the “coffee as a utility” notion. The coffee it serves may consistenly hit 60% of the worst Steve Cairns/Brewtus shot,(Which I personally think makes nespresso slightly better tasting than chained Coffee outlets.) but it leaves little room for the variances in the coffee we may accidently find when we are bothering with the french/aero press :)

    And to Steve’s defense, I do not think that he will ever get a nespresso machine. The only reason why he would be drinking nespresso consistently is that its free for him courtesy of his company. (Does this absolve me from being banned from salsa dips? I promise to bring the chips:D )

  5. There are Nespressos and there are NEspressos…I have a single head machine in my office (and in almost every of our major offices around the world…Geneva, Montreal, Miami)…yucks…but I have stayed t some hotels where the grounds are housed in a nitrogen sealed capsule (instead of an aluminium foil puck) and those actually taste acceptable.

  6. Convenient Coffee?

    It’s used by more than 18 of the best 50 gourmet restaurants in the world.
    That serves at a thousand stirling pounds a head.

    If you actually appreciate and did intensive coffee tasting, you will realise Nespresso is more than it meets the eye.
    Is the best you can actually get.
    I’m not joking or bloating the words.
    Just a matter of whether you are able to differentiate and tell what’s a good gourmet coffee.
    If you are a local coffee drinker, then most probably you will not understand what’s good coffee since good coffee was never in existence here.

    From the point stand of freshness, the ingenuity, the ease of use, the technology and the quality of their grand cruz. They are 5 stars in all fields.

    1. @Gourmet Expert

      At a thousand pounds pax, you would think these restaurants could at least afford a Slayer or 2, one for normal and the other for decaffeinated. :)

      I stand by my views on Nespresso, having been to the boutique and having tried other Nespresso capsules. Thin, extremely watered down, not the likes of an espresso, made from freshly roasted beans ground on demand, and made by not only a good machine with adequate temperature stability but also an equally capable barista behind it.

      Our coffee meetup group, CGSG (Coffee Greens Singapore) purchases specialty coffee beans on a regular basis. And our purchases sometimes include coffees that have won Cup of Excellence awards, or a certain Panamanian coffee that wins Specialty Coffee of the Year many times over. Though I have yet to subject myself through a cupping experiment like Aldo Coffee’s CoE vs Maxwell House (that’s an idea!), I daresay I and on behalf of the rest of the group who left their comments above yours, do possess adequate ability to differentiate good coffees more so than the average local coffee drinker.

      “From the [sic] standpoint of freshness,…”

      We all have, at some point in time, been in your shoes, before our eyes were opened up wide by freshly roasted coffee. Coffee so fresh that it needed at least 2 more days of rest. Do yourself a favour. If you really do appreciate good coffee, drop by Suntec City this week(end) for the Singapore National Barista Championship. I’m quite sure you’ll be able to taste some good coffee and maybe this will open up your eyes some.

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