Fun fact: I worked in hospitality for 15 years. One of the many gigs I had in that time was making coffees in a Blue Mountains cafe under the expert guidance of a Gerhard, a perfectionist who made a killer pumpkin pie (he called it Russian Caramel Cake to increase sales - it worked) and never let me serve a coffee that was anything but perfection.
Safe to say, ever since, my standard for coffee had been pretty high. The last time I had a pod-style coffee machine I only used it when visitors dropped by. So I was keen to see how the $300 Nespresso Vertuo Plus stood on my scale of "at least it has caffeine" to "Gerhard would love this".
What Is It?
The Nespresso Vertuo Plus is a $299 pod-style coffee machine that extracts coffee differently depending on which capsule you're using (it scans the barcode to find this out). It promises "exceptional coffee quality, with a generous and smooth crema." It also uses a new type of pod for Nespresso, so your old ones won't be compatible. Neither will the ones your local cafe sells with their personal blend that you love.
What's It Good At?
Making coffee, pod-style. This is the Mercedes-Benz, The Godfather, The Beatles of pod coffee machines. It is efficient, consistent and delivers the best coffee you could possibly expect from this kind of machine.
The Vertuo Plus heats up incredibly fast, so it's ready to use in an average of about 15 seconds. It's also surprisingly quiet - you could easily have a breakfast conversation while it was being used rather than yelling over the "errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" alot of these machines tend to make.
One of the new coffee styles Nespresso is really pushing to coincide with the release of this particular machine is "The Reverso".
It's essentially a pet-name for "cold milk-first" coffee that you pour into the cup (or glass, if you're fancy) then run your coffee into it. The result is a cuppa with a lovely caramel colour, and minimal difference in temperature - even with milk straight from the fridge.
The aroma of the coffee styles I tried with the Vertuo was lovely. Those soft vanilla notes wafting through your kitchen means you're not thinking twice about that 4:30pm coffee even though it's definitely going to keep you up at night.
Ease of use also gets a shout out. Adjust the try to the right height for your mug. Press a button to turn it on, lightly lift the front lever, and it'll automatically raise up so you can put the pod straight in - sliding the old pod down into the used pod graveyard. Tap that lever down and it closes automatically. You're paying a prestige price for this product, considering what it is, and it feels like one.
Cleaning is a (relative) breeze; a simple-to-use program selection process means you can set it to clean itself, run the descaling process (using an additional descaler product added to the water reservoir). All you're left to do is replace the water, rinse out the drip tray, and empty the carcasses of pods the once were.
A quick note on the pods themselves - and the waste they create: you can pick up postage-paid odour-proof sealed recycling bags to pop your used pods in - once it's full, send it away and Nespresso will make sure they don't go to landfill.
What's It Not So Good At?
I mentioned that it was the Mercedes-Benz of Pod coffee machines, and that's true, though to be a bit more specific - it'd probably be the entry-level A180.
Yes, it's still a Merc, but if you're looking for the A45 4MATIC AMG of Pod-machines, then the Latissima Pro (also from Nespresso) complete with removable milk carafe (for keeping your milk, you know, fresh) covers you for everything from cappuccinos to lattes to espresso to macchiato without lifting more than the one finger you'd have to lift to press the start button.
That said, you're also paying the difference you would with the cars; the Latissima Pro (at the cheapest I could find – $699 at The Good Guys) is double the price of the Vertuo Plus, and triple ($899) on Nespresso's own webstore - and doesn't include any of their proprietary Vertuo pod tech.
First-time use for the Vertuo is always going to be a little tricky - balancing the size of your preferred coffee-to-mouth delivery device with the amount of water passed through the pod itself. Easiest solution? If you're the only coffee drinker in the house, invite some friends around to help drink the couple of watery or strong cups you'll make before getting it just how you like it. Then binge watch Riverdale or something, I don't care I'm not your Mum. The point is you're going to have a lot of shitty coffees before you make a good one. Do with them what you will.
It's worth pointing out that yes, while the Reverso method of making coffee is good, it doesn't compare to steam-frothed milk by any means. If you’re looking to save money on your daily cappuccinos, you'll likely want to invest in the matching Aeroccino frother ($99). If you go down this path, the Vertuo sits pretty firmly in the mid-range for a pod-style machine, and in the lower end of barista-styled ones.
Should You Buy it?
Let's be 100 per cent real. It's highly unlikely that a pod-style coffee machine will make the same quality of cup that Gerhard can create with an espresso machine, steam wand, grinder and those free-trade rainforest friendly organic monkey-poop beans that actually taste really good.
However, if frothed-milk-based coffees aren't your immediate go-to, for the sub-$300 price tag it's a solid, reliable pod-style coffee machine, great at making multiple cups of joe quickly. Or perking you up when you’re bleary-eyed and groggy at 6am. It's quiet (comparatively), doesn't take up much space, and its black (or titanium) stylings fit very well in a modern kitchen.