Earlier this month, I received an exclusive invitation via promoted tweet to an exclusive tasting of the all-new Nespresso VertuΦline pod coffee maker, as well as Nespresso’s new line of pod coffees, the Grand Crus Coffee Range. It was to be, according to press materials, a “revolution of coffee.” My editors urged me to attend.
It wasn’t hard to find the exclusive tasting, as it was staged within an enormous golden dome (modeled to look like one of their coffee pods) in the middle of San Francisco’s Union Square. The four security guards standing by the door didn’t bother to look at my exclusive RSVP, but they did stop an old man from carrying in his skateboard. Once inside the stately pleasure dome I found caverns measureless to man, a couple hundred people waiting in line for their pod coffee, and staff decked out in suits and Nespresso-branded cocktail dresses.
What Nespresso means by “revolution of coffee” is pretty literal/a hilarious pun: the VertuΦline machine literally spins the little coffee pods with New CENTRIFUSION™ TECHNOLOGY (for coffee brewing). I didn’t get an answer out of any of the baristas working the machines about exactly what the advantages are of spinning the coffee. Even the hyperbolic brochure doesn’t offer any argument for why your coffee needs CENTRIFUSION™, only that the VertuΦline does indeed have it.
I was allowed the exclusive chance, along with anyone else who wandered in, to try the DIAVOLITTΦ espresso and a HAZELINΦ coffee. Apparently the difference between a coffee and an espresso made using the VertuΦline is A.) the size of the pod and B.) how long you let it run. Here are my impressions of both.
This was billed as the “strong” espresso. The tasting notes read as follows: “A high intensity espresso for coffee aficionados. Energized by highly roasted Robusta and Brazilian Arabica coffee beans, with an aroma that hints at oak wood and leather, balance is achieved with a creamy texture.”
It had a thick head, almost like a tiny little Guinness or something. The shot yielded around 2 ounces of fluid, and took 35 seconds to “pull”. I got notes of carbon. Old socks. Notes of spinning/revolution. Oak usually translates into notes of vanilla, but here it’s more like chewing on bark. Aspirin comes from bark. It’s kind of like chewing on aspirin. Bitter. About the consistency/mouthfeel of brewed coffee, once you break through the thick wall of crema.
Nespresso says that HazelinΦ is “A blend of slightly roasted Brazilian and Central American Arabicas infused with a hazelnut flavor which creates a smooth, balanced coffee that is sweet to the taste with a distinct, nutty aroma. Adding milk gives a praline note to the original hazelnut flavor.”
Again, you’ve got a thick frothy head of “crema” on this brewed coffee, which is apparently the point? It took about 90 seconds to extract. Disturbingly, I get no hazelnut. I do get hints of horrifying indifference, and more carbon. This coffee tastes like the font Comic Sans: cheerful, yet banal.
Nespresso says that the VertuΦline not only spins the coffee, but it also reads its bar code. This enables it to brew with custom secret parameters for each kind of coffee. There are 13 coffees in all. Besides HAZELINΦ, for brewed coffee you’ve also got STORMIΦ, ODACIΦ, MELOZIΦ, ELVAZIΦ, VANIZIΦ, DECAFFEINATΦ (that’s Italian for decaf I think?). In addition to the DIAVOLITTΦ espresso, there is ALTISSIΦ, VOLTESSΦ, and DECAFFEINATO INTENSΦ. HALF CAFFEINATΦ comes in both sizes.
For what it’s worth, the literally revolutionary new machine’s attendant coffee pods use beans from the Nespresso AAA Ecolaboration Sustainable Quality Program. This program purchases beans above market rates, and is working in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance, whose president, Tensie Whelan, serves on the Nespresso Sustainability Advisory Board (alongside George Clooney).
I’m sorry that I didn’t try more coffees. After two, I knew this feature would necessarily need to be more experiential, because there’s no need to go on for thousands of words about something you don’t like. The Nespresso Pleasure Dome is a real thing that’s happening right now (we first ran into this cΦffee brand experience at SXSW of course), and similar events to this one are currently underway in Philadelphia, Miami, and Phoenix.
For he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of Paradise.
Leif Haven (@LeifHaven) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Φakland, California. Read more Leif Haven on Sprudge.