With the turning of the calendar page, every September brings a new Limited Edition from Nespreso. Part of their occasional variety efforts to shake up their standard 16 Grand Crus, the Limited Edition can help drinkers explore a little more and potentially discover a new flavor space that they hadn't enjoyed in the past. These Limited Editions typically focus on a theme; the marketing department sees to that, and in some cases, the theme becomes a beast of its own. Take the case of the Kazaar Limited Edition 2010 that wrapped product with the concept of an espresso with such a strong flavor profile that it was an "11 on a 10 scale", backed b an all-robusta blend. The concept took off, the product surprised many, including me, by rounding off the typical rubbery harsh notes typical of a Robusta, while keeping its late flavor punch.
This year's Nespresso Limited Edition Capsule, the Crealto, is not nearly as adventurous as the Kazaar, but still a good adventure in a little capsule. The new bi-color capsule treatment, reminiscent of an entrée at a fine restaurant drizzled with a delicious sauce. The message behind Crealto is that Nespresso coffee should be enjoyed with the creative expressions of fine cuisine. High creativity is the message in its name, but I am not sure they pulled it off in the coffee itself.
There are a lot of capsules that claim to be Nespresso Capsule Compatible, and they appear to be making their way to market despite the court challenges from Nespresso. Found in the UK, Coffee Pods are a line of four varieties that are have the coffee in plastic capsules, with a clear plastic film to seal the coffee in. To protect the freshness, the capsule is sealed in a pouch.
The four Coffee Pod varieties are: Intense, Smooth, Light & Lively, and Decaf.
They will be available at the well known Waitrose markets across the country.
Nespresso has released Crealto, its 2012 Limited Edition Blend. It is a blend of washed arabicas, slow roasted to reveal a long finish in the flavor profile. With an intensity of 8, the Crealto is best suited to stand up to milk and/or serve as a good stark espresso.
The name is inspired by high cuisine - Createur + Alto; the high creator envisioned as a chef creating their best dishes to bring out the best in the foods presented. Nespresso sees itself doing the same with the beans that they present and hope that you enjoy the flavors that they were abel to bring out in their slow roasting process.
"The high intensity coffee is blended entirely from washed Arabica coffee beans, and its long roasting time cooks all the notes harmoniously, allowing it to develop round roasted notes that are long-lasting; giving Crealto its unique character and aroma. Crealto is best served as an espresso but can also be enjoyed with milk; releasing subtle nutty aromas."
These blends tend to go fast, and I just ordered mine; order yours to enjoy, and re-order if you like them. Nespresso ships 2nd day to your address. I often get it the next day since the distribution center is only a hundred miles from my house.
The Nespresso capsule wars continue to rage in Europe, and recently, an Italian court told Caffe Vergnano that their capsules do not violate the Nestle patents protecting the Nespresso system and its capsules. They did ask for a labeling change, but that's minor. I see that they are available in Italy and Australia for now. If they come to the States, I'll let you know. They were just launched last month in Australia.
They have four varieties of their Caffe Vergnano 1882 coffee, Intenso, Cremoso, Arabica, and Decaf. Caffe Vergnano comes in biodegradable plastic capsules, made of Biode plastic, which has been certified as biodegradable under controlled conditions.
So, I'll be the first to admit that brewing a shot of espresso from a capsule made of aluminum is not the most environmentally responsible thing I could do, but I love the ease of use of single serve shots in a compact form. Nespresso has extensive recycling efforts in Europe for their capsules, and they are closing the loop per se on that waste stream. Nespresso is using that aluminum from the capsules to make the aluminum side panels for the new Pixie - a clever way to reduce their footprint just a hair in the grand scheme of things.
When I reviewed the Nespresso Pixie, I thought it was a solid little machine, with other "green" features, like an auto shut-off that comes pre-set to shut down the power after a few minutes of non-use. If you want to by-pass it the short time-out, you can change a setting, but I am pretty sure most consumers won't.
Nespresso has brought out the Nespresso Zenius, a connected coffee maker targeted at the office coffee market. Simply drop in your Nespresso disk, and out comes a great shot of espresso. Do it enough times, and the Zenius makes a call to the Nespresso store to automatically order more. I like the steampunk look that makes it look like it's going to blow steam out its sides every few minutes for good measure.
Of course it delivers the same high quality shots that you've come to expect from Nespresso. the line of eight capsules are more limited to than the home version. The line of eight is split up into Espresso, Lungo, Decaf, and Ristretto.
The functionality is supported by a SIM card that is inserted in the machine, making calls out over the mobile phone network. Not only can it auto-reorder, but they will also run diagnostics on the machine to make sure it's working properly. There are several settings that can be changed, like brew volume on the three programmable keys. Just in case some clown in the office readjusts all of the brew settings to what you don't like, there's always the factory reset.
File this under interesting, a Swiss inventor has patented a reusable Nespresso compatible capsule. The two-piece construction allows you to unscrew the top, add the coffee and screw it back together. The fact that it doesn't have any parts that get ruined during brewing make the capsule super long lasting. The sturdy construction and the fact that it can withstand the 18 bar pressure during brewing makes this a candidate for experimentation. Add this to the wish list.
I've tried the NexPod and the Capsulin Nespresso Compatible capsules and while interesting, each had their downside when compared to the convenience of dropping in a regular capsule.
The latest machines to come from Nespresso are the Maestria line, targeted at the user who wants to make milk-based drinks, while still enjoying the convenience of the capsule based system. The Maestria line comes in a couple of versions, one with an actual steam wand, something I didn't know if we'd see that coming out of the Nespresso launches anytime soon, and one with the more familiar Aeroccino sidecar to automatically heat and froth the milk. The design language is straight from the recent successes in the market of the Citiz and Pixie; vertical, with some extra strong features to communicate the strong capabilities and added features.
I would call the base machine, shown above, comes with and all aluminum body, the milk steamer, the ability to "fine tune" coffee volumes, and a 1.4 liter tank. Other automatic machines like the Citiz and Pixie are able to change up their brew volumes, but not easily. They are set-up to run the same volume consistently - a short and a long. This seems to be a reasonable approach to accessing the market for milk based drinks without going full-automatic, like the Nespresso Latissima+, without venturing into a fully ground coffee arena.
The second machine style, called the Gran Maestria adds the Aeroccino sidecar, as well as a cup warmer to the side.
The base machine Maestria C500 or D500 is $549, while the Grand Maestria D520 is $699.
Nespresso has been growing at a strong pace for a long time globally, but has only scratched the surface in the US. They are trying to change that with the introduction of Nespresso ads on US television starting today. The ads will run, telling consumers that they have the best cafe right in their home.
The Ad features the Nespresso Latissima Plus machine - a small machine that can froth milk at the touch of a button and create a whole host of cafe style coffee drinks. It's not a Clooney based ad series, like they run in Europe, but the idea is to introduce the Nespresso concept, not continue growth among consumers who are already aware of Nespresso.
The NYTimes has a nice little rant article about the high cost of single serve coffee brewers, pointing out that people are paying about $50+ per pound of coffee when buying in a single serve format. Obviously you can get coffee for a lot less than that, even darn good coffee; the kind of micro lot coffee that would blow your socks off. Most people either get it or they don't - it's about consistency and convenience. It's not about amazing nuances in the cup that you can get from freshly roasted beans, and it's not about low cost, even though you can rationalize that you are wasting less.
Massive Revenue and a Total Shift in the Industry
What's interesting are a few tidbits in the article. Nespresso sells only 8% of the coffee in the world, as measured y weight, but 25% of the dollars spent on coffee is for Nespresso; that is a stunning number. I didn't realize that the franchise was that big.
Keurig sold 4 million brewers leading up to the Christmas 2012 holiday, and about $715Million in K-Cup coffee packs. Can you imagine what it will be next year after those 4 million brewers get cranking? Sure the there is a patent expiration coming, but at a couple of cups a day per brewer, that's about $300+ million in retail sales for Q4 2012. Can you say $1 Billion in retail sales per quarter?
The big market shift is in the reframing of the cost for coffee. Older people think in terms of cost per pound, can or brick bag of coffee. Younger people reframe the cost of coffee versus what it costs at the coffee shop. So while $50+ per pound is a lot versus that bag of whole bean at the store, $0.60 per cup versus that $4 Latte I had yesterday is cheap.
Competition for Keurig and Nespresso
Finally, what these folks need is a little competition for their brewers. That's coming.
I mentioned the patent expiration that Keurig is going to deal with as competitors may be able to make dents in their installed base of brewers.
Also good news for Nespresso fans too; Amazon is bringing Ethical Coffee capsules to the US later this year. Should get interesting as this maker of Nespresso compatible coffee capsules must be gearing up to take a dent out of this market, where Nespresso has a toe hold, but Keurig has the emerging standard locked down.
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