Capsule coffee machines may be seen as the ultimate in kitchen convenience. But is this convenience outweighed by premium prices, excess packaging and the hassle of maintaining yet another machine?
Considered a luxury just a few years ago, espresso-based coffee machines now take pride of place on kitchen worktops. And capsule coffee machines account for a large segment of this market.
With George Clooney as its ‘face’, Nestlé’s Nespresso empire has grown from strength-to-strength, with its success tempting many other coffee machine manufacturers to jump on the capsules bandwagon. Even multinational coffee shops have got in on the action, with Starbucks recently releasing its Verismo home coffee system.
Clooney, coffee capsules and convenience
What’s more, several companies, including Braun and Nescafé, have now brought out a range of hot drinks makers – sort of mini vending machines for the home that spurt out instant coffee, hot chocolate and tea. These are expected to be a hit for Christmas 2012.
But are capsule coffee machines and hot drinks makers the epitome of a ‘created need’? Sure, these machines are convenient and many do well in our tests, but how much more convenient do we really need life to be?
According to market research firm Mintel, a big lifestyle trend for the next few years is the ‘slow it all down’ trend – a backlash to life in general becoming faster paced.
One way to pause and appreciate the small things in life is to take time to savour a nice brew – but the making of the cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) is part of the process. Even making an espresso with a machine that takes ground coffee is pretty simple; and putting the kettle on for a tea is even simpler.
The fact that we’re cutting out daily rituals like this bothers me. In our high-speed, high-stress age, I’d pay for a machine that forces me to slow down rather than one that accelerates my already busy lifestyle!
Take time to perfect your brew
The price argument will be more persuasive for some people. Capsules often work out at about 30p per cup of espresso. Starbucks’ capsules are even more expensive, with a pack of 12 Verismo espresso pods costing £5.99 – so 50p per capsule. When you consider that a home espresso made with ground coffee costs around 10p per cup, that’s a costly choice.
As well as being expensive, the capsule trend can be pretty wasteful, with each single serving of coffee sealed in a plastic and aluminium covered pod. Some capsules can be recycled, but the take up of Nespresso’s recycling service has apparently been pretty low – perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider that people are primarily buying these machines for their convenience.
Lastly, many capsule machines restrict you to one brand of coffee. The drinks may be simple to make, but surely the novelty wears off a bit after drinking the same type of coffee everyday for months on end? Is it time for us to wake up and smell the coffee when it comes to capsule machines?