I tend to prefer unflavored medium- and dark-roasted brewed coffee and began to seriously explore espressoland only recently. The Nespresso (along with occasional trips to a great local cafe for calibration) has helped me make up for lost time. I started off in the pod world and prefer pods to k-cups but do enjoy both (see the links in my signature). Questions, suggestions, and samples are welcome!
My machine, the Essenza D90, is manual, meaning the shot size is not predetermined. For review purposes I’ll typically pull shots at my best approximation of the capsule’s recommended serving size, i.e. 40 ml (or 1.35 oz.) for standard shots and 110 ml (or 3.75 oz.) for lungos. As time goes on I intend to experiment with different shot sizes and report the results. I like my espresso black (no sugar) or with equal parts steamed milk (no froth) as a cortado (developed a taste for this while living in Miami). If you don’t see a reference to milk within a given review then it’s safe to assume I only had one sample and drank it black.
This may evolve further, but for the foreseeable future I'll limit myself to five tiers. Within a tier there's no explicit ranking unless otherwise indicated. I'll stick to alphabetical order.
*FAVORITES* IN VARIOUS CATEGORIES (at the moment):
Limited edition: Kazaar
Intense blend: Ristretto
Mellow blend (intensity of 6 or lower): Capriccio
Lungo: Fortissio with milk or Vivalto black
Decaf: Decaffeinato Intenso
As a cortado: Arpeggio or Kazaar
Wow! (Not to be missed!)
Kazaar - (Intensity: 12) Fall 2010 limited edition. Origin: S. American blend (Arabica + Robusta). Complex, peppery aroma. Great crema. Intense with pronounced (but not excessive) bitterness and bite. Creamy texture. The type of espresso you would get if Arpeggio and Indriya mated. As a cortado: fantastic! My new favorite with milk.
Ristretto - (Intensity: 10) Origin: S. American and E. African blend (Arabica + Robusta). Rich and robust. Nice crema. Does manage to convey a subtle fruitiness. Smooth. With milk: plenty strong, but not as interesting flavorwise as the Arpeggio.
Ahh (Satisfaction guaranteed)
Arpeggio - (Intensity: 9) Origin: S. and Central American blend (100% Arabica). Has more of a bite than the Ristretto. Deliciously dark and strong. Long finish. Wanted that traditional glass of water afterwards. Makes an excellent cortado.
Indriya - (Intensity: 10) Origin: S. India (Arabica + Robusta). Rich and spicy. Bittersweet chocolate. Best of the single-origins, I think. Good with milk but better black.
Roma - (Intensity: 8) Origin: S. and Central American blend (Arabica + Robusta). Woody, as described. I prefer this as a straight shot over the Arpeggio. With milk: fine but kind of dull. Over ice cream as an affogato: just great (thanks for the tip, Don!). Try the Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche.
Singatoba - (Intensity: 8) Fall 2009 limited edition. Origin: Sumatra Blue Batak (100% Arabica). Earthy and floral. Noticeable acidity. Great depth of flavor, richness, and mouth feel. Satisfying crema. Really shines as a cortado with the floral notes pleasantly muted. Thanks to Don for the free samples.
Solid (You could buy a sleeve and probably not regret it)
Capriccio - (Intensity: 5) Origin: S. American blend (Arabica + Robusta). Good, straightforward shot with very light acidity. Caramelized aroma. As a cortado: weak but acceptable. Can work as a stand-in for the Roma over ice cream.
Caramel - (Intensity: 6) December 2010 "Variations" limited edition. Flavor base: Livanto. Smells great. Tastes borderline odd black but rounds out with equal parts steamed milk and a teaspoon of sugar. A pinch of sea salt makes this one really sing. Thanks to starryeyes for the free samples and the "salty" comment in your review, which got me thinking.
Chestnut Cream - (Intensity: 6) December 2009 "Variations" limited edition. Flavor base: Livanto. Very pleasant roasty aroma. Chestnut finish subtle and true. Possibly the first flavored coffee ever with "cream/creme" in the title that I've liked. Milk weakens the shot (though not excessively) but brings out a marshmallow-like sweetness and "Lucky Charms" nose. Uncanny! Thanks to starryeyes for the free samples.
Cosi (Intensity: 3) - Origin: E. African, S. and Central American blend (100% Arabica). Mellow and lemony. A bit one-dimensional but somehow more enjoyable than the Volluto. Seems like it would be good cold and yet I can't imagine diluting it. Maybe a double shot would work in an iced drink?
Decaffeinato - (Intensity: 2) Origin: S. American blend (Arabica + Robusta). Smells sweet. Thin but refreshing. Becomes fruitier as it cools. Was surprised to like this one even a little.
Decaffeinato Intenso - (Intensity: 7) Origin: S. American blend (Arabica + Robusta). Not bad at all! Maybe closest in flavor profile to the Fortissio Lungo. Makes a decent cortado.
Dulsao - (Intensity: 5) Origin: Brazil (100% Arabica). Honey-toned. Agree with the cereal/malt description. Nice roasty aroma. Good texture and crema.
Fortissio Lungo - (Intensity: 7) Origin: S. and Central American blend (Arabica + Robusta). Fine. Strong enough to use in lattes and caps. Slightly bitter but won't scare away the coffee-shy.
L'Or Sontuoso - (Intensity: 7) Low-acidity shot with a pleasing little bite. Generally flat, though, and less aromatic than the Capriccio despite some similarities to that capsule in terms of flavor profile. Nice darker tan (but thin) crema. A fairly low "Solid." Thanks to Don for the free sample.
Onirio - (Intensity: 5) Spring 2011 limited edition. Origin: Ethiopian blend (100% Arabica). Fragrant (muddy flowers). A bright shot, though not overly so (and not one-dimensional despite the quick finish). Reminds me of Tanzaru, which I'd rank below this one. Magic is lost in milk but regained somewhat with sugar.
Tanzaru - (Intensity: 4) Spring 2010 limited edition. Origin: Peruvian and Tanzanian blend (100% Arabica). Light-bodied. I think “grassy” is right. Dark citrus notes. The occasional cherry tartness. Cocoa in the aroma. Pale, foamy crema. Makes an overly mild cortado with lemony brightness.
Vivalto Lungo - (Intensity: 4) Origin: S. American and E. African blend (100% Arabica). Floral aroma. Prefer this as a straight shot over the Fortissio Lungo.
Try before you buy (Free sample at Williams-Sonoma or Crate & Barrel, anyone?)
Almond - (Intensity: 6) December 2010 "Variations" limited edition. Flavor base: Livanto. Roasted marshmallow aroma. Tastewise, the most artificial and least pleasant of last year's Variations. Tanginess accentuated by almond flavoring, which comes off as more authentic with milk. Thanks to starryeyes for the free samples.
Caffè Vergnano Intenso - Faintly appealing aroma. Pale, thin crema. Somewhat burnt-tasting. Vague fruitiness. Doesn't exude a fresh/quality vibe but could do the trick in a pinch. As a cortado: meh; see Roma in that regard.
Decaffeinato Lungo - (Intensity: 3) Origin: Brazilian and Colombian blend (Arabica + Robusta). Gave me a case of the blahs. Nothing specific to criticize though aside from the weakness. Sure this isn't an Americano?
Finezzo Lungo - (Intensity: 3) Origin: E. African, S. and Central American blend (100% Arabica). Nice citrus aroma. Too lemony/flowery and thin in the cup for me.
Gingerbread - (Intensity: 6) December 2009 "Variations" limited edition. Flavor base: Livanto. Ginger snap aroma heavy on non-ginger spices (possibly cloves). Leaves a tingle on the tongue. Almost works (but not quite). As a cortado: better in every way. Borderline "Solid" for a flavored capsule. Thanks to starryeyes for the free samples.
Livanto - (Intensity: 6) Origin: Costa Rican and Colombian blend (100% Arabica). Malt and fruit make an overly tangy first impression. Aroma reminds me of a dry pod a few days past its prime. On the thin side in terms of mouth feel with a quick finish. Not sure I agree with Nespresso that this should be the base for flavored capsules!
L'Or Forza - (Intensity: 9) Pleasant but muted aroma. Thin-bodied. Smooth shot that's easy (too easy?) but not compelling to sip. Note: some finely ground coffee made it into the cup. Thanks to Don for the free sample.
Rosabaya - (Intensity: 6) Origin: Colombia (100% Arabica). It's a red berry fest! Little too much lively fruit for me. Something darker and sweeter lingers in the background (more smelled than tasted). Would be interested to cut this with some milk in the future.
Vanilla - (Intensity: 6) December 2010 "Variations" limited edition. Flavor base: Livanto. Can't decide if this subtle flavor is on or off (seems to waver). Enjoyed the aroma, however. Better as a cortado. Thanks to starryeyes for the free samples.
Volluto - (Intensity: 4) Origin: Brazilian and Colombian blend (100% Arabica). Enjoyed the aroma more than the flavor with this one. I understand the "biscuity" reference in Nespresso's description. Light. Slightly too-bitter finish.
Ugh (Don't give these to people you like)
Apricot - (Intensity: 6) December 2009 "Variations" limited edition. Flavor base: Livanto. Peachy aroma starts off pleasing but quickly veers toward gross. Agree with Pat: "bitter," indeed! 40ml is too much of this particular espresso. Took one last sip cold and didn't find it quite as offensive. Milk improves the shot somewhat as well. Thanks to starryeyes for the free samples.
Last edited by jbviau
on Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:42 am, edited 37 times in total.