I love coffee, cappuccino, espresso, you name it, so I was pretty darn excited to have a chance to test out the Nescafe Dolce Gusto. It makes both hot and cold drinks, with a 15-bar pressure system that is comparable to coffeehouse machines. You can also customize each drink you make; as you can adjust how strong that particular cup will be, as well as how frothy.
|Introducing the lovely|
Nescafe Dolce Gusto Circolo.
Nescafe sent me one of their higher end machines, the Circolo. I actually think it’s sort of neat looking, particularly when it’s lit up, but my husband thinks it’s silly and ostentatious. My biggest complaint is that it takes up a fair amount of space on my tiny kitchen counters. I think I would actually prefer the lower end, Piccolo model, or perhaps the Melody which I’ve been told is functionally identical, because it is a much slimmer sleeker design, and not a counter hog like the Circolo.
This machine was incredibly quick and easy to set up. Nescafe knows you’re going to be eager to try out your new coffee machine, so they included a handy quick start instruction sheet. Basically you give it a good rinse by running water through on hot and then cold for about a minute total, and then you’re ready to try out your first capsule.
|The Circolo – It’s a bit of a counter top hog.|
When you hit the button to turn it on, it takes a few seconds to warm up before turning green. It’s not a long wait, just long enough to grab your cup and get set up. You then pop in the capsule, press the handle down to pierce it, and then flip the top lever and watch your drink immediately pour out. Now you can’t just turn this on and walk off. On the other hand, it’s really fast. So while you do need to stay put with your hand hoovering on the lever, it’s only for seconds.
|Circolo in action, producing a near instantaneous latte.|
It feels like a high quality machine. There is a heavy, solid, feel to the components. I love the way the round metal handle on the capsule drawer feels when you pull it out to put in a capsule. When you push it back in, the drawer slides in firmly and sort of snaps into place with the aid of a magnet. Then you use the solid metal lever to press down and puncture the capsule. And finally, you flip the lever at the top to the right to make a hot beverage. Again, the lever is metal, smooth and solid, and pleasing to both hand and eye.
I am not quite so over the moon with the water reservoir. It seems too small. It feels like I am filling it too often. Perhaps I just drink too much coffee. You can’t fill it up while it is still attached to the machine. You must remove it. To remove it I find I have to pull the machine out and turn it to the side. Again, taking up a lot of my kitchen counter real estate. I also find snapping the reservoir back into place doesn’t always go smoothly. I’m willing to admit, this might just be me as I’m a bit of a klutz. I really wish I could just top the water tank up without removing it from the machine.
|I find the thin water tank a little awkward to get in and out.|
There is a definite learning curve with this machine. You can make incredibly tasty drinks, that are customized for how strong you like them, but it does take a little practice. The instructions show how many ml each beverage should be. When you turn the lever to on your drink starts pouring out. It’s not automated. There is no timer telling it when to turn off. You need to watch and decide when it should stop.
How long do I leave it running for? How much is x ml? How do I eyeball that in my coffee mug? It’s nice to be able to make the drink weaker or stronger to taste, but it’s also nice to have some idea of where the baseline is. After a couple of false starts, I ended up using a measuring cup to figure out how full my coffee cup should be. So now that I’ve got it measured out coffee is relatively simple, but where things get tricky is with the two capsule bevvies, like the Cappuccino and the Latte Macchiato I tried out. When do you stop the milk? Did I leave enough room for the espresso? Again, it took me a bit of trial and error before I figured out exactly what the milk to coffee ratio should be.
There are fifteen different types of capsules available for the Nescafe Dolce Gusto. The Circolo comes packaged with two mixer packs of capsules, which included various roasts of coffee, hot chocolate, latte and cappuccino. The mixer packs did not include the Caramel Latte Macchiato, Vanilla Latte Macchiato, Mocha, Peach Ice Tea, or Ice Cappuccino, which I’ve yet to try. I’ve been attemptng to hunt them all down, particularly the Mocha which I am just dying to taste test, but haven’t had much luck thus far. It’s not that the capsules aren’t readily available, it’s that each of the local grocery stores I’ve checked has the same three options: Caffe Americano, Caffe Grande and Cappuccino. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that no one is stocking the Ice Cap in November.
|One yummy Latte Macchiato coming up.|
Having pretty much given up on local venues, I took a look at ordering capsules online and discovered that Amazon.ca has a good selection, at slightly lower prices then the Nescafe Dolce Gusto online store, plus free shipping (which is something the Nescafe store doesn’t offer).
Overall I am pretty impressed with the Dolce Gusto. You do need to stay with the machine while it’s running, but it makes drinks ridiculously fast. There is also a definite learning curve, but once you figure out how to eyeball the right portions, you end up with some darn tasty beverages. I have enjoyed each of the capsule varieties that I’ve tried thus far. The Cappuccino is a favourite with both myself and my husband, as is the Caffe Americano. The various coffees are good, but the lattes and cappuccinos is where the machine really shines. The frothy milk on the cappuccino has a slight hint of sweetness to it, and comes out just the right consistency. Is it coffee shop good? Not quite, but it’s pretty darn close and I can make it for a fraction of the cost, at home in my kitchen, in under a minute.
|The Dolce Gusto line is available at most major retailers, such as Best Buy, Future Shop, The Bay, Home Outfitters, Sears, Amazon.ca, etc. The Circolo retails for $160 and the Piccolo retails for $120. (Hey, I already did some comparison shopping for you: Amazon has the Dolce Gusto listed for $69 and Walmart has the Melody II for $66.)|