What: Pod coffee

Price: Cheaper than everyone says

Tech Talk verdict: Mad if you don’t.

podMy wife Sheryl and I have just come home from Europe and the thing that rocked us to our socks was that coffee in Paris is so dreadful.

I raised this with the guide of our walking tour and he referred me to a New York Times story ‘Why Is Coffee in Paris So Bad?’ It suggests Parisians have simply never been exposed to good coffee. He also noted that Australians are the toughest judges of coffee he knows.

Then we went to Scandinavia where they drink heaps of coffee, but it’s almost all drip-filtered which, to be as kind as possible, is better than instant. And the frothy milk looks like it comes out of an aerosol can. On our foodies tour of Copenhagen the guide directed us to the place making the best coffee in town and it was good. And cost $8 a cup.

Back home we used a stove-top percolator for years, but seeking something better we went to a free barista evening where they were flogging espresso machines. What turned us off was the constant cleaning and maintenance these things demand.

Then Sheryl’s daughter invited us over to try out her Nespresso pod machine. We bought one on the way home.

The coffee isn’t a match for a good barista operating a serious three or four-handle espresso machine but it’s better than anything we’ve ever been able to make at home before. And better than most anything you’ll find in France and Scandinavia too.

Cleaning? Hardly ever. Maintenance? Practically zero. Speed? Maybe 20 or 30 seconds longer than making instant. Get yourself a milk frother (the best are the hand-pump ones they sell in the coffee shops around the Victoria Markets) and you’ll never look back.

In the years since we’ve converted dozens of people to pod coffee, but of course there’s pod coffee and there’s pod coffee. My brother bought a cheap pod machine at a supermarket and was happy with it until he chanced on a demo of some Lavazza models. The improvement was such he bought one on the spot.

Pod coffee is now so popular that traditional espresso machines are being rejigged to be more compact, with smaller footprints.

Nespresso recently added Breville machines to its fold and the $899 Grand Maestria works nicely and looks the part. It’s supplied with a proper steam milk frother too. But really, I can’t see why you’d spend more than $250 or so for a base machine, although when you’re in a house of coffee drinkers filling the little one-litre water tank does get a bit repetitive.

Despite all you hear about the cost of pods and even factoring in the purchase of a machine good coffee still works out at comfortably less than $1 a cup. Given the convenience, speed and quality it’s a dead-set bargain.

Published July 2014