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July 2014 Newsletter

The Pod People are coming!  No it's not "The Invasion of the Body
Snatchers", a 1956 film that's been remade several times since. It's
the rapid proliferation of coffee capsule systems and the associated
brewing equipment now taking up more and more shelf space in our
supermarkets. I decided to check out the various systems, and some
of the coffees, to find out exactly how good or bad they were.

I wasn't going to waste money buying 6 different machines (the
number of readily available "systems" that I could find: for all I
know, there could be more!) so instead I concentrated on the
capsules themselves.
The systems were:

Nestle Dolce Gusto
Vittoria Espressotoria
Lavazza Modo Mio
Aldi K-fee .

The first thing I did was to calculate the price per kilo of the
coffees, and price per capsule.

Original Nespresso was the most expensive at $120/kg but only $0.60
for a 5 gram pod. Vittoria had the most expensive pod at $0.70 each,
but overall worked out at $107.70/kg. Equal cheapest were the
Caffitaly Gloria Jeans Nicaraguan and the Aldi K-fee at $46.90/kg
and $0.38 per capsule.

Quality was another matter, and had no relationship to price at all.
I emptied out capsules and did a standard cupping of all the
different coffees I'd bought, a dozen or so all up. None of the coffees
I tasted would rate above an 82, just barely specialty grade. Equal best
were the Lavazza ($92.00/kg) and the Gloria Jeans Nicaraguan ($46.90/kg).
By far the worst was MAP in the Caffitaly capsule ($81.25/kg), with
virtually no detectable flavour or aroma at all. Second worst was
Piazza D'Oro L'or Nespresso Compatible ($115.38/kg), showing
distinct signs of staling.

Packaging clearly affected this. The L'or "compatible" capsules are
NOT sealed like Nespresso, but are inside foil wrappers. And
speaking of compatibility, all the different systems have different
size and shape capsules, except Aldi and Caffitaly. Those two are
different internally, though. The Nestle Dolce Gusto system has
extra large capsules, some of which are filled with a powdered milk,
sugar and soy concoction supposed to make milk foam. I've tasted
worse (CafeBar comes to mind) but not recently. Every different
system requires its own machine, so once you've bought the machine
you're locked into the system.

Finally, the worst part of all coffee capsule systems is the
packaging wastage involved. None of the capsules can be recycled in
household bins, so they all end up as landfill. Caffitaly are the
worst, since the capsules have plastic water spreaders on top of the
coffee and a crema disk below, making the wastage 3.8 grams per
capsule. Nestle Dolce Gusto are next at 3.5 grams per capsule, also
with a crema disk. The best of a bad lot is Lavazza at 1.3 grams
waste per capsule.

To put it another way, with the Caffitaly system you throw away 475
grams of plastic for every kilo of coffee. With Lavazza, it's 173
grams of plastic per kilo. A Dolce Gusto coffee AND milk drink
wastes 875 grams of plastic per kilo of coffee, which is horrifying.
On a purely personal basis I simply can't justify recommending any
brewing system that creates that much waste, convenience be

Anyway, on to happier things. This month's special is:

Sumatra Onan Ganjing

The Onan Ganjing cultivar is a different varietal to the beans we
see in Sumatran Mandheling and Lintong coffees.
This is a seriously smooth, full bodied, low acid coffee with hints
of raisins and plums in the taste and a very clean finish unusual in
Sumatran coffees.

Until next month