Archive for the ‘Kitchen Tools and Gadgets’ Category

Nespresso’s Le Cube

January 29th, 2010
Nespresso Cube (and Aeroccino, sold separately)

Nespresso's Le Cube (and Aeroccino, sold separately)

I can not make good coffee. I have read at least 50 articles on technique, studied several TV programs, spoken to a number of professionals, tried varying temperatures and filtration of water, bought the best coffee beans, and purchased a truly embarrassing number of coffee grinders and machines, manual and automatic, in a quest to create a drinkable cup of coffee. I have French-pressed, dripped, percolated, and brewed, until I cried tears of spent coffee grounds. After all this, if someone held a gun to my head and screamed, “Make me a GOOD cup of coffee NOW or you’re DEAD!” I’d simply apologize and go quietly to my grave.

As the years (years!) wore on, I discovered what coffee I did and did not like: I liked very strong, but not bitter, coffee. I did not like Starbucks’ coffee, and I loathed Dunkin’ Donuts’. I found most New York City diner-coffee acceptable, but that’s probably because I knew exactly what I was going to get. I liked coffee that had at least some mouthfeel and texture, while I disliked coffee that was watery. And finally, there wasn’t a single place in Madison, New Jersey, or its surrounding area that made good coffee, period. At least it was nice to know it wasn’t just me.  (This last has changed. Nautilus Diner in Madison has OK coffee, and Rob’s Bistro makes a very fine cup of Joe.)

I found I liked espresso. Great espresso has a nutty and dried fruit aroma, a dark body that you can’t see the inside of the cup through, a mousse-like, caramel-colored crema on top, and a rich, strong, coffee flavor. But I’d say 98% of the espresso I’ve been served in restaurants is dark-brown water with a bit of tan-colored foam around the rim, and it tastes as terrible as it looks. The best espresso I’ve had in New York was at Becco in the theater district. Even the server raved about it and crooned that the staff was allowed to have their fill of the stuff for free (oh, the envy).  Starbucks’ espresso, while not great, was passable and my go-to beverage for a long time. Of course, the best espresso I ever had was in Italy, and that wasn’t just one cup. I mean, wherever I went in Italy, I was served excellent espresso. Ah, la dolce vita indeed!

My coffee woes would not normally be a problem. The only one in my house who drinks coffee is me, so nobody need know of my infirmity. But then my ever-observant husband detected two clues of my distress: The first was my wrinkled-nose and screwed-up face along with exclamations of “ick! ick! ick!” during my regular brewing attempts. The second was the growing pile of rejected coffee makers I had retired to the basement, which was reaching an alarming proportion. The coffee grinders were simpler to hide; I would simply call them spice grinders instead.

I honestly don’t remember how we found out about Nespresso’s Le Cube. I think it was when we were in a Sur La Table, but no matter. Christmas of 2006, my husband surprised me with a Cube, and my life changed forever. Look at how perfectly lovely it is (shown in Titanium Grey – it comes in four finishes):

Nespresso Le Cube

Nespresso Le Cube

It really could not be any easier to use. Simply insert a capsule in the top, close it, press a button, and voila! Nearly perfect espresso with a nice crema. There’s even a heating element to warm the cups where they are stored atop the unit (frivolous, yes, but a nice perk). It’s extremely easy to clean, only requiring a descaling rinse once every three months. No machine that costs two month’s rent, no grinding beans, no temperature controls, no lessons in tamping and how to “pull” a cup of espresso. Just a button push. Is it Italy-quality? No, but it is close, with the significant upside that I can make a shot or two in the morning on the way to work without a big production.

There are several varieties of coffee to choose from. My favorite is the Arpeggio. They also have lungo capsules, good for a larger cup, though I find none of them are strong enough for my double cappuccinos, so I sometimes use two singles of the regular capsules. Although the machine is not inexpensive (around $200), the capsules are only $.55. It has certainly paid for itself over the years and is absolutely worth the investment.

The only downside is that Nespresso sells flavored variations toward the end of the year that are limited editions. I was simply over the moon about the chocolate-orange flavor from 2007, but they no longer sell it. Granted this is bastardized espresso, but it was really good as an occasional treat. I was tempted to pay $100 to someone in Europe who was selling 20 capsules on Ebay, but I restrained myself.

I am a cappuccino drinker in the morning, so I purchased Nespresso’s Aeroccino, which froths and warms milk. It works like a charm.

Le Cube really is one of the best gifts I ever received. If you are coffee challenged as I am, or you just like good espresso, I can’t recommend it highly enough.