Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nespresso capsule coffee beats traditional coffee in blind taste test

In the UK, more than 15 Michelin-starred restaurants use Nespresso, the market-leading capsule system, to make their coffee — including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Berkshire, and The Ledbury in London. In France, Nespresso supplies more than 100 Michelin restaurants, including the legendary L’Arpège in Paris. Even in Italy, where the first espresso machine was patented in 1884, more than 20 Michelin restaurants use the new capsule system, and many others around the world use it or its rivals developed by Illy, Kimbo, Lavazza and Segafredo. Push-button espresso began as a domestic product, a way to simulate espresso at home without the mess and fuss. But in recent years it has rapidly, if quietly, started to take over the restaurant world. ...

That concern led me to a private dining room at the two Michelin-starred Latymer restaurant, part of the Pennyhill Park country house hotel in Surrey. With me were a coffee shop owner, two coffee obsessives, and a coffee-drinking friend. We were going to blind-taste three coffees: Nespresso capsule coffee, which is served in the restaurant; the traditional espresso that the hotel provides for room service; and a third unmarked coffee I had brought with me to be made the same way, just to see if the whole thing was nonsense and coffee is coffee is coffee. ...

The tasting was designed to be as blind as possible, with each taster trying each coffee in a different order, so as to counter any advantage or disadvantage that coming first or last might give. ...

In distant last place came the ground coffee I had brought, a very good quality, single-estate bean, but not roasted for espresso and ground four days earlier, a little too coarsely for Bruno’s machine. The traditional house espresso scored 18 points, and was the favourite of one taster. But the clear winner with 22 points was the Nespresso, which both scored most consistently and was the favourite of two of the four tasters. Of course, these were just four people’s opinions. But their consensus fits the judgment of top chefs and Nespresso’s own extensive testing, which must have been conclusive enough for them to have the confidence to agree to my challenge in the first place.
--Julian Baggini, Aeon, on man vs. machine coffee. HT: Megan McArdle