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Smackdown! Keurig vs. Nespresso


Open your eyes, stumble to the kitchen, get your jolt of something caffeinated, and face the day. That’s how most of us do it, and our cuppa has become one of the morning’s non-negotiables. So it’s no surprise that single cup home brewers have become a new American obsession, feeding our addictions with speed and convenience. They’re like a 4G connection to your AM pick-me-up.

But Keurig vs. Nespresso — which one is right for you, or do you need one at all? Keurig came bounding out of the gate and took the early lead as champion with the help of flavors from big-name brands like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks to lure in American drinkers. Now, Europe’s chic Nespresso hopes to unseat the capsule king with its new VertuoLine machine, which can make its signature frothy espresso as well as a full cup of coffee.

While it might seem like you’re saving money by skipping Starbucks, brewing your coffee a few grams at a time is tremendously expensive. This New York Times article says it’s the equivalent to spending $50 per pound. You’d be better off brewing a pot of coffee, drinking a cup and spilling out the rest. Single cup home brewers, then, are really designed for the fickle, the hurried and the lazy— just know you’re trading speed, variety and ease for economics.

Oh, and full disclosure: I’m an anomaly human who doesn’t drink caffeine in the morning. So I leaned on teammates and friends for most of the research you see below. Any taste preferences are not my own, as I prefer a cup of peppermint tea to start my day.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at the middle-priced Keurig 2.0 K450 ($169) and the Nespresso VertuoLine ($299). Keurig vs. Nespresso — let’s see which one might be your coffee mate (ahem).

Keurig 2.0

The Keurig 2.0 series is easy to operate, and gives nearly instant gratification: pop in a K-Cup, choose your cup size, and let the hot water run through. Unlike previous Keurig brewers, the K450 comes with a four-cup carafe, so you can [highlight] brew for a crowd [/highlight]  (or for those three-or-four-cup kinda mornings). It also offers a “strong” setting, answering some critics’ complaint that the old brewers’ drinks were too weak. What makes a Keurig exciting is the [highlight] variety of drinks [/highlight] you can make with it: more than 250 varieties and 40 brands of coffee as well as hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, Açai Berry Vitamin Burst, and even iced drinks like Snapple and Honest T (for cold drinks, you run the brewer into a cup of ice). Campbell’s has just partnered with Keurig, so soups are also coming soon, which sounds cool, but also… kinda weird.

What does the Keurig coffee taste like? Coffee aficionados say the beverages don’t compare to “real” coffee that’s freshly ground and takes time to brew. But if you’re comparing to flavored drinks from your favorite coffee shop, they get pretty close. Looks-wise, The Keurig will be imposing on your countertop— part kitchen appliance, part-Decepticon. As for the capsules, your morning jolt will set you back between .60 and .90 apiece.

Nespresso VertuoLine

Nespresso, the European favorite, has lately been called the Apple to Keurig’s Microsoft— referring to its [highlight] stylized, chrome design [/highlight] and its upscale feel. Also, like Apple, it’s a single brand: both the capsules and the machines are made by Nespresso, whereas Keurig’s coffees are largely licensed brands. The general perception is that Nespresso’s coffee caters to a [highlight] European coffee-lover’s palate [/highlight] . Instead of offering a huge array of flavored, sweet drinks, it has a few select grades of darker and lighter java, meant to replicate great European coffees in a capsule. With simple descriptions like “Rich & Strong” and “Bold & Lively,” most of these need to be tasted in order for you to know which you’ll prefer. The company offers in-store complimentary tastings at a few Bloomingdale’s, Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma locations.

The VertuoLine is the first that will [highlight] brew both an 8-ounce up and a 1.4-ounce espresso cup [/highlight] (older models only made espressos). It also produces a “crema” atop each brew: that’s a creamy head, considered the mark of a well-made espresso. Another nice touch? It automatically ejects used capsules, which is especially nice if you’ve ever forgotten to clean out your Keurig, only to find a damp, icky, used capsule inside it the next morning. Capsules are .95 per coffee, and .75 per espresso.

The Verdict

If you want a wide variety of flavored coffees and drinks, or you just enjoy being able to get a dose of caffeine on demand and in a hurry, the Keurig 2.0 may be your match. At half the price of the VertuoLine, it’s fun, functional and does the job. If your priority is strong, richly-flavored coffee that reminds you of an Italian caffè, the Nespresso, with its gourmet grinds and striking counter presence, may suit your palate. Both offer drinks that are seemingly cheap compared to a coffee shop, but actually price out to much, much more (though you’ll avoid getting your name spelled wrong on a paper cup). Neither will save you money over grinding and brewing beans, but they will give you variety, convenience, and speed.

Which machine would you choose? Coffee talk in the comments!

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