January 24, 2010

Nespresso Variations 2009 Espresso Capsules Review


UPDATE: 2012 Variations are out; See My Nespresso Variations 2012 Full Review
Every year, Nespresso comes out with a new set of Variations, flavored espresso capsules, that while not for everyone, they are an appealing and fun way to play with your Nespresso machine and enjoy espresso with others who maybe aren't as into espresso as you are. This year, three Nespresso Variations showed up in early December at the Nespresso Club store and at their boutiques across the country.

Chestnut Cream - "Reminiscent of very sweet and concentrated jarred chestnut cream, recalls the traditional "marron glace," or "candied chestnut." - says Nespresso. For me, I tried it as a straight espresso, and in a latte. The latte was a great way to enjoy the subtle flavors that do admittedly get a bit muted, but complement the cream flavor well. Americans might think of this a bit as a hazelnut cream type flavor, but it is a bit different. Straight, the flavor is intense, and sits on a nice medium dark roast that offers a bit of acidity for the flavors to play off of. I preferred it with a bit of sugar. I do have to call out that the aroma coming off this when it brewed was intoxicating.

Apricot - "Reminiscent of a very fresh, ripe and juicy apricot; unlike the more intense dried apricot flavor." - Says Nespresso. They should have added "It will blow you away with the authentic flavor". This was my least favorite in concept and most favored in tasting. Total surprise. Again, I tried it straight and in a latte, and favored this one as a straight espresso with a bit of sugar. Again the sugar just lengthens the flavor profile enough to enjoy it. No need for over sweetness here, just a touch to bring it out. The flavor truly is like a fresh apricot, which is a great treat. The aroma is not as overwhelming when it brews as the Chestnut Cream, but the nose when drinking is just great. Don't let it sit around long, the aroma is great sooner than later.

Pain d'Espice/Gingerbread - "Reminiscent of crystalized orange zest or peel, honey, cinnamon and ginger in a brown sugar base." - Says Nespresso. I think that it comes across with a strong ginger flavor, reminiscent of my big surprising favorite from last year the Crystalized Ginger Variation. Again, great with a hint of sugar to lengthen the profile, and has some nice subtle spice flavors. It is not over the top gingerbread flavor that you may be use to from store bought gingerbread men. I enjoyed it quite a bit straight, but the flavor also blended nicely with milk based drinks too.
With each of these capsules rated a "6" on a scale of 1 to 10 for strength, Nespresso is appealing to most espresso fans. The base coffee is a clean blend with some acidity to make the flavors pop a bit without being overly sour. At Nespresso.com, they refer to the base blend of the Chestnut and Apricot as the Livanto blend and roast which happens to be one of may favorites along with the Rosabaya Single Origin. So not a surprise that I like the Variations flavors on top of one of my favorite blends.

I liked the brews overall, with the Apricot being my hands down favorite for surprising quality and experience of a flavored brew. not for everyone though, but well worth a try in everybody's next order. I liked the Gingerbread flavor for its wide appeal - a lot of visitors tried these this past month or so and liked this one the best. I happen to think the trio is well worth the try in your next order if you are open to the flavored coffee idea. I am usually not when I go to a coffee shop, but still look forward to these every December.

A quick check today has all of these capsules in stock but sadly not the matching espresso cups. A quick thanks to Nespresso for sending a set of these for this review, which only added to the stockpile that I bought on my own.


Brewing into a 12-ounce Double Wall Bodum Pavina Glass

Above you can see a drink being made that was a hit this year with friends and family. I was brewing with my Nespresso Citiz into a Bodum Pavina 12-ounce Double-Wall Glass that already had frothed milk in it from a Nespresso Aeroccino - less than a minute from milk to frothed heated milk. I tended to mix some sugar into the heated milk before brewing the Nespresso capsule. I set the glass on the bottom tray with the mid-level shot glass stand folded up (behind the glass against the Citiz). The espresso brews down the side of the glass to make the layered effect.   

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Posted by Scott Martin at January 24, 2010 9:25 PM
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