Photograph: 123rf.com / Sergey Galushko
Coffee is essentially a necessity nowadays with most people - some people can’t even be considered awake till they’ve had their cuppa. We tested three machines to see which was the best to use when you are all groggy after waking up from restful slumber.
$398, from Nespresso boutiques at #01-14 ION Orchard and B1 Takashimaya D.S.
The Prodigio brews via capsules and they come in an impressive range of 24 flavours, categorised by their recommended serving size. There are three flavoured coffee capsules – chocolate, vanilla or caramel. I enjoyed the caramel’s tangy aroma though I was kind of let down when the espresso was not really that flavoured.
This is definitely the fanciest machine, boasting Bluetooth connectivity so that you can sync your phone to it via the Nespresso app. The app keeps track of how many capsules you’ve left and it’ll remind you when you’re running low - you can then order a new batch straight from it too.
Though all that convenience pales in comparison to the app’s caveat: you can have your Prodigio brew your coffee by just tapping a button on your phone. A hot coffee could be waiting for you the instant you are done freshening up.
Unlike the other two machines, the Prodigio does not just dispense an espresso and a full brew. It also does a ristretto: an even more concentrated shot of coffee when you want the flavour (and the caffeine) to hit you fast. And it is the fastest of the three at dispensing your brew - liquid energy starts dripping out 2 seconds after you hit the button, or your phone.
I love the sleek construction of the machine – it has a pleasing matte finish and every part feels satisfyingly smooth. Plus loading the capsules could not be easier: slide open the top compartment, pop the capsule in and slide it back. It dispenses used capsules into a disposal bin after it is done brewing – the Prodigio really pampers you.
Though the movable water tank port is advertised as a benefit, being able to shorten the overall length of the Prodigio in case you have a wide but shallow area for it, it made the water tank flimsy to lock in place and you could known the tank clear off its port easily.
But my greatest gripe with the Prodigio has to be the noise. It is unusually loud and the entire machine vibrates rather violently as it is dispensing, raising some initial concern – I thought I had broken it.
We love feeling pampered and the Prodigio takes away almost every routine of having a daily cup by having the app track it for you. All you have to do is remember to put a new capsule in and to place a cup before you go to bed.
Illy Francis Francis Y5 iperEspresso
$605 (black, white), $645 (satin), from Tangs, Robinsons at The Heeren, and Lazada
Illy trumps Nespresso with 28 variations of coffee in their iperEspresso capsule range. There are 15 single origin flavours for those picky about where their cup of joe hails from. The Dark Roast has to be my favourite with the perfect acidity and robustness for a pick-me-up.
Of the three, the Y5 was the only one with a proper adjustable system for different cup sizes - I didn’t have to awkwardly hold a too-big coffee mug under the dispenser when I wanted to have a frothy cappuccino.
I also really liked the satisfying weight of the Y5’s components. They’re made of metal instead of plastic and they lend the machine a futuristic, minimalist aura.
To add to that vibe, the area under the dispenser lights up when it starts brewing and slowly dims when it is done. I’m not sure if that function is needed: I guess it is great if you’re allergic to bright lights in the morning and you need a visual cue for when your coffee is done; but there’s something really satisfying about watching the light dim as the last drop hits the cup.
If you also hate loud noises in the morning, you’ll be pleased to know that the Y5 is the quietest of the three as well.
But most of all, I love the fact that the water tank is front-loaded instead of being at the back like the other two machines. You do not have to flip it around to top it up: just slide the tank out, fill it and slide it back in.
The Y5 was without a doubt the slowest at dispensing coffee. It is so slow that I usually ended up hitting the button a few times instinctively, like I do at traffic lights, hoping that insistence will hurry the machine.
Our main gripe has to be with capsule loading system. For such a futuristic-looking machine, getting a new capsule in can be quite barbaric as you are forced to slam down the spring loaded top in order to engage the catch.
And just like the Coffeeso, the arm sometimes get jammed when I did not properly activate the catch and I could only watch in frustration as the Y5 mocked me by launching the capsule backwards into its disposal bin.
The Y5 is very no-nonsense in its design and operation: it just wants to give your coffee, even if it does it slowly.
Coffeeso Aurora Pod Brewer
$258, from Sweet Musings, 12 Sago Street.
This machine uses coffee pods instead of coffee capsules to brew its java. Each pod holds a larger, 60gram dose of coffee grounds in a biodegradable filter wrapper. As for the grounds, there are 11 different varieties of roasted goodness, originating from Indonesia or Brazil and Columbia.
Like the others, the Aurora dispenses with 19 bars of pressure, delivering a delightfully foamy crema with every steaming-hot espresso. It is also incredibly cheap and easy to use: there are only two buttons to hit.
However, its low price also comes at the cost of construction quality. It has a very plasticky body and placing the water tank or coffee pods is usually accompanied by cracking or snap snapping noises.
And when loading coffee pods, the arm on the machine to open the pod compartment puts up way too much resistance. Sometimes it got caught when pressing down to lock the pod in but raising the arm again drops the pod into the disposal bin compartment, forcing me to fish out my unused pod to try again.
You really cannot argue with what you get for the price and it reliably gives hot coffee with a thick crema, if you can ignore your irritation whenever a pod falls into the disposal by mistake.