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Illy is fairly unique in that it doesn’t make its own machines, preferring to concentrate on producing coffee. Illy iperEspresso cartridges are all consistent and designed to brew espresso. If you like Illy coffee, these capsules are the only way to get a single-serve experience outside of packing your own Keurig My K-Cup. IperEspresso capsules are available in Medium, Scuro and Decaf versions as well as the recently added Lungo, which is designed to pull a longer shot. To use iperEspresso capsules, you’ll have to have a Francis Francis X1, X7, or the new Gaggia for Illy machine.
Lavazza is very distinct approach to the single-serve market. The company has two systems on the market, the Point and the Blue. Both systems offer about 10 drink flavors each (both coffee and tea), and the Point even has consommé soup and hot chocolate options. Blue and Point machines are espresso based and can brew the drinks under pressure. The cartridges are similarly priced, around 50 cents each, and sold in boxes of 50 or 100. However, the Point is more of a semi-auto in its approach and design, while the Blue functions more like a super automatic.
The fastest growing espresso machine on the market, Nespresso is the crown jewel of the Nestle empire, posting double digit growth for the company in the last couple years. Nespresso single-serve machines are very consistent and have a unique brewing system that ensures a thick layer of crema. Boasting 16 standard flavors, and a seasonal flavor or two as well, the Nespresso brand is bound to have a flavor for you.
Almost all Nespresso machines are priced at $279 and under (combo units are a bit higher), it’s tough to knock the cost of getting into Nespresso espresso. But, as with everything in life, there are a couple of cons to the machines. First, you can only get the cartridges from Nespresso. While this isn’t an inherently bad thing, as Nespresso has some valid reasons for choosing this distribution path, it can be frustrating at times. If you subscribe to the capsule service, and run out of coffee a few days early, you’ll be stuck waiting for the next delivery. You won’t have the option of running down to the local supermarket to grab a box of capsules.
Second, after the D290 was discontinued, none of the Nespresso single-serve machines have built-in steam wands. For milk based drinks, you’ll need to buy a separate unit like the Aeroccino or a combo pack that contains both the machine with Aeroccino. The only other drawback is that Nespresso capsules are some of the most expensive on the market. Each capsule costs around 70 to 80 cents. But for the consistency, and the flavor that you get from each shot, you’ll know why they charge what they do.
Some companies have opted for other brands to build machines for their proprietary systems. The Gaggia for Illy Plus uses the iperEspresso capsules. DeLonghi makes the Latissima for Nespresso and Breville produces a machine for the Keurig capsules. All of these secondary manufactured machines offer unique features, that are different than the original company’s machines.
For example, the Gaggia for Illy is a powerhouse, with a Pannarello wand; with a simpler set up, laid out more like a super-automatic. The simpler design eliminates the portafilter that the Francis Francis machines use, making one less piece to lose, or that you have to clean. DeLonghi’s Nespresso single-serve machines have the same removable milk container that is used in the company’s one-touch super-autos; this milk system results in awesome one-touch performance. Last, but not least, Breville single-serve machines for Keurig has metal housing for a more sturdy build there’s also an iced beverage concentrated brew option for those hot summer days.
Not a true single serve, but just as versatile and easy to clean up, ESE pods offer an extra option for those seeking the benefits of a single-serve system. Most semi-auto espresso machines offer a different basket or adaptor to their machines that make them pod capable. Gaggia, Saeco and Rancilio all have baskets, portafilters and kits available to make their machines pod capable. Once you have these parts, you could use the machine as a single-serve system.
There are more ESE pod flavors/roasts available than all of the single-serve capsules and cartridges discussed above. Many roasters offer ESE pods, which come individually wrapped and ready to brew. Pods usually cost as low as 40 cents each and you can find them at most supermarket stores. They just as easy to clean as a capsule or cartridge, with a simple flick the pod out of the portafilter and into your garbage once you’re done brewing. You could even send spent pods to your compost pile, since they are biodegradable.
In conclusion, the arguments for single-serve espresso machines on a whole, is clear. Cleanup is easier than any other type of machine and these systems provide consistency of shots with minimal fuss. If you have any questions about single-serve systems, feel free to call us in the sales department; we can also help you pick the one that is best for your needs.