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Mother's & Father's Day Gifts: Quality European Hotel Coffee For American-Sized Tastes

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Mother's & Father's Day Gifts: Quality European Hotel Coffee For American-Sized Tastescomments, called-out Comment Now Follow Comments Following Comments Unfollow Comments Comment Now Follow Comments Following Comments Unfollow Comments If you travel a lot and stay in nicer hotels, you have probably noticed the recent proliferation of higher quality capsule-driven coffee machines in rooms. The reason why free drip coffee has always been available at mid-market hotels in this country and free instant at budget hotels in Europe, while nicer properties have shied away from in-room coffee is not because they don’t like their guests. It’s because both options create messes but not good coffee.
The landscape changed in the past few years with the introduction of high quality coffees packed in air-tight foil packages with dedicated machines designed for their preparation. The most successful of these systems has been Nespresso, a Swiss company. Pick a flavor or strength, pop the little capsule in and hit the button – no fuss, no muss, the machine even contains the used cartridge and the quality of the coffee or espresso is quite good. As a result, Nespresso machines and their kin (the Peninsula Tokyo uses an Italian Lavazza machine) have spread like wildfire throughout the world of luxury hotels and now are found beyond Europe, all across Asia and increasingly here in the US (Two recent Forbes.com Hotels I Love selections, the Four Seasons Paris and Four Seasons Jackson Hole, WY, very different properties in character and geography, both added Nespresso machines as in-room guest amenities).
The new VertuoLine is Nespresso’s first machine made for the American market, using new bigger capsules to produce full-sized cups of coffee, as well as smaller capsules for espresso. It’s easy to applaud the expansion of in-room quality coffee, since so many travelers start their day with a cup and it beats getting dressed just to go down to a stand in the lobby. But there has been one significant problem for American travelers with these systems – the cups are way too small. As its name suggests, Nespresso is built on espresso, which is great if you want espresso, but far more Americans drink cups of coffee. Like many competitors, the machines offer two sizes: small and smaller. Often hotels put out two sets of cups, one for a normal tiny espresso and one more mug-like, but if you select the big cup option you basically get a double espresso in woefully oversized vessel. That’s not to say American coffee is superior or even equal to the rest of the world’s, it’s just that most Americans drink coffee by the cup not the thimbleful. You can use up all the capsules most hotels provide (typically three) just to create one normal cup of coffee.
Nespresso just changed the playing field with the introduction of its first machine created specifically for the American market, the new VertuoLine. It is the same neat, well designed and technologically advanced Swiss machine designed for bigger capsules that produce bigger cups (eight ounces). It also has one significant upgrade that sets it apart from all other Nespresso machines. The new Centrifusion technology reads a bar code on the foil capsule and adjusts water temperature and flow rate (the length of time the water is in contact with the ground coffee) for each type of coffee and size of cup. It also spins the capsule during brewing (hence Centrifusion) at up to 7,000 rpm (the spin rate is also varied based on the bar code of the particular coffee you choose) to fully squeeze every bit of flavor out of the grounds. Nespresso claims that this also creates a more impressive crema, the rich tan colored foam atop a cup of coffee. It’s true: I’ve been test driving a loaner for the past few weeks and the VertuoLine defiantly produces a frothier crema than the considerably more expensive and fancier Swiss machine I regular use.
It makes very good coffee with far less work than doing it yourself in a quality way. There’s virtually nothing to clean up and no grinding, no pouring, no grounds disposal, no filters, nothing. There’s a very accessible water tank to fill and periodically you have to dump the used capsules. My main concern with these types of machines has always been the capsules themselves in terms of greenness, the level of waste produced compared to beans, and that’s still the case, except at least these foil capsules are fully recyclable. The new machine also takes smaller capsules if you still want to do espresso.
As a result, the new VertuoLine is ideally suited to hotel use, and I hope it spreads, but if you don’t mind capsules, it is also an excellent home machine. Nespresso’s existing small cup versions have already become widely available for home use in this country, and if you frequent fancier shopping malls or high-end retail streets you may have seen their stand-alone boutiques with dozens of colored capsules arranged like precious gems and demonstrator machines in use. The company also has smaller boutiques within many upscale retailers such as Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Sur La Table, where you can physically test and taste, but capsules, machines and everything else are widely available online. Fans like Nespresso because the quality of coffee in their capsules is high, they store very well, and the machines work as promised.
Overall, it is a pretty impressive piece of turnkey coffee making technology for $299, and comes in several color options including stainless steel, black and red. There are eight styles of coffee currently available, from basics such as “Rich & Strong” or “Smooth & Balanced” to vanilla or hazelnut, and in addition to decaf they have half-decaf capsules, a nice touch. With both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day looming on the immediate horizon, it’s not a bad option for the coffee drinker in the family.
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I have been traveling the world as a journalist and passionate lover of all things fun for nearly 20 years. I have had weekly columns in USA Today and Investors Business Daily, published thousands of articles in leading magazines from Playboy to Popular Science, and am the author of Getting Into Guinness. I am the Contributing Travel Editor for Cigar Aficionado Magazine, have my own golf travel blog, larrygolfstheworld.com, and am a co-founder of TheAPosition.com, the leading golf travel website. I love every kind of travel, active, cultural and leisurely, and my special areas of expertise are luxury hotels and resorts, golf, skiing, food, wine and spirits.
The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
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