Review: Starbucks Verismo 580 Espresso Machine
Starbucks is going hard to bring their new Verismo system to market, with full push button latte making capability. According to a recent article in the Wall St. Journal, nearly half of all adults aged 25-39, have at least one espresso drink per week. That's pretty astonishing, and creates the reference point of a $4-$5 coffee; making an at-home latte of about $1 pretty enticing.
Starbucks is promising to bring the authentic flavor of the cafe home to your own kitchen - "Starbucks quality at home." Given the ability to have a professional barista, freshly ground beans and freshly steamed milk prepared for you in a cafe, vs. the Versimo machine, using pods, make this a pretty tough comparison.
We've been using the Verismo for a few weeks now, and most of the drinks we've made are those Lattes that are supposed to taste as good as that cafe drink. Currently Starbucks offers ten different varieties and combinations of Pods for their Verismo Brewer. Sorry, you can't use Nespresso, CBTL, or any other branded pods in the Versimo brewer, and the Versimo pods don't fit those other machines either. Versimo is part of a KFee System of pods.
The Versimo 580 Machine
The machine is made for Starbucks, and has a lot of features that one might look for in a single serve espresso machine; good sized reservoir, easy to use pods, and a way to get both espresso and milk-based drinks. It brews at 19-bar, plenty of pressure to extract flavor and oils from the ground coffee.
The Verismo 580 is fairly compact (5.9"W x 14.9"D x 11.7"H), and can easily fit on a counter top. It comes packed with no additional packs of capsules inside. Starbucks is offering a free starter pack of 8-Latte drinks (8-espresso pods and 8-milk pods) when you buy it though the Starbucks Store.
The reservoir is decent, coming in at one liter (33 fluid ounces), and holds about 10 used pods - remember, that's two pods per Latte. Do the math and you'll be running about four+ of the six ounce lattes before you need to get to clean out and refill the water. It tilts out off the back of the machine, and is easy to grab with the small lip on the top.
Brewing with the Versimo 580
Brewing with the Versimo 580 on a regular basis is pretty easy - quick to heat up, and use. The Versimo needs a rinse when it starts up in the morning; requiring you to pump through about 2 ounces of water in the rinse. The rinse is a good thing, unless you forget about it, and drop your first capsule in before you remember that you need to rinse. I've done it more than once; it's frustrating. After you learn, things are better.
When brewing Lattes, Starbucks has you brew the milk first, then the espresso. Nicely enough the espresso rinses out the milk from the machine, keeping things cleaner. The "Caffe Latte" box comes with 8-pods of dried milk and 8-pods of dark espresso.
Sadly, the lattes are only about six ounces. A "Short" (that has been largely removed from the Starbucks menu in cafes) is eight ounces. Looking for a Venti? That's twenty ounces, or three full rounds in the Verismo. Ouch.
Brewing an espresso is easy, and makes for a nice espresso without the adjuster insert to raise your glass up to the spout. My insert has lived its life in the junk drawer in the kitchen.
I only ran espressos and lattes in our time with the Starbucks Versimo 580. It's nice to have a latte first thing in the morning, with little to no work. The downside is that the Latte is not what I see in the cafe. The milk starts as a dry powder and comes through as a nice froth. The flavor is slightly sweet, but has a toasted, cooked flavor to it. When you add in the espresso, it brings in the bitter flavor that I expect out of an espresso drink. It lacks a lot of the warm complexity that the cafe drink has, and the espresso definitely does not have that classic smoky flavor that Starbucks classically has.
If you add sugar to your Latte, you might be surprised; I found that it wiped out the cooked milk flavors and made for a nicely sweet, warm latte. Still not a Cafe quality latte, but good nonetheless.
Espresso - in tasting the dark espresso and the medium roast Guatemala Antigua espressos alone, the flavors are good. They create a nice crema when brewing, and have good solid flavor profiles. The Medium espresso has a lightly toasted flavor, with caramel notes to round things out. Add sugar and it's a nice full flavor profile.
Review Summary - Starbucks Verismo 580 Espresso Machine
The Starbucks Versimo machine makes decent espressos, and acceptable lattes, as long as you add sugar to those lattes. The flavor of the latte is not as good as I expected, and if you think you are getting in-store quality at home, you'll be disappointed.
There are a few things about the Versimo that I like, and a few things I would change, but overall, it's not bad.
Versimo vs. Nsspresso: For $200, the build quality is not what Nespresso's is at the same price point, but you can't get a milk pod for Nespresso, so you can't get a latte. Sure the Nespresso Lattissima Plus gives you a Latte from fresh milk, but that's twice as expensive, and out of a lot of people's price range.
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Posted by Scott Martin at November 25, 2012 2:32 PM