Road Test

REVIEW: Nespresso, Coffeeso or Illy - which capsule coffee machine gives you the best morning brew?

Best coffee capsule machine

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. 

 

EDITOR'S RAVE

Nespresso Prodigio

$398, from Nespresso boutiques at #01-14 ION Orchard and B1 Takashimaya D.S. 

The coffee

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. 

Pros

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.

Cons

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. 

Verdict

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. 

9

 

Read also: REVIEW: 9 amazing subscription box services for coffee, sake, art and craft, coffee and more

 

GREAT FIND

Illy Francis Francis Y5 iperEspresso 

$605 (black, white), $645 (satin), from Tangs, Robinsons at The Heeren, and Lazada

The coffee

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.

Pros

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. 

Cons

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.

Verdict

The Y5 is very no-nonsense in its design and operation: it just wants to give your coffee, even if it does it slowly.

8.5

 

Coffeeso Aurora Pod Brewer

$258, from Sweet Musings, 12 Sago Street.

The coffee

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. 

Pros

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. 

Cons

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.

Verdict

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.

7

 

You need this easy bread maker in your home

Photo Winston Chuang Art Direction and Styling Ann Neo

 

WHAT IT IS

The Easy Bread bread maker is a counter top appliance that bakes a fresh loaf of bread in two hours and 10 minutes. All you need to do is pop in a palm-sized,rectangular capsule containing a preser vative-free bread mix. There are seven to choose from, including white, spelt and Mediterranean bread.

HOW IT WORKS

About the size of a large capsule coffee machine, the bread maker works like one too. Fill up the water tank, pop in a bread capsule and hit the start button. The bread mix and water are combined in the machine’s baking bowl with the help of a kneading paddle. Once the mixture is ready, the baking automatically starts. I love how my kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh bread; the machine beeps when the loaf is ready. I like that there is a timer for me to decide when I want the bread to be ready. The night before, I popped the capsule into the bread maker, set it for 8am, and woke up to a warm loaf for breakfast.

THE BREAD

I baked two loaves – Puro (white bread) and Country Love (multigrain bread). Puro turned out crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It was very satisfying, especially with a bit of peanut butter and jam. Country Love was a chewy loaf with a thick, crunchy crust. The dense bread was heavy and tasty. I enjoyed the roasted, slightly bitter after taste of the grains and seeds.

CLEANING UP

It took me 15 minutes to clean up after my baking session. I had to wash the baking bowl and empty the water tank, and brush out residual baking mix from the machine. To do that, I placed a tea towel into the baking compartment and used a brush (included with the bread maker) to sweep up the remnants from the nooks and crannies onto the tea towel.

VERDICT

A step up from conventional bread makers as all you need to do is pop in a capsule. But bread lovers would miss the freedom of coming up with their own recipes.

Easy Bread, $299, and bread capsules, from $4 each. Available at Tangs at Vivocity and Tang Plaza and www.tangs.com

 

4 fun apps to exercise your brain and make you smarter

Play these games to problem solve, boost your memory and be more creative

Image 123RF

COGNITO: BRAIN TRAINING GAMES

Free, from the Apple App Store. In-app purchases from $4.48.

This app struck the best balance between cognitive skills training and fun. Players assume the profile of a spy in training, and progress through a story by completing three missions a day. Each mission is designed to increase a cognitive skill, such as memory, adaptability to changing rules, reasoning and speed – all necessary for a spy, of course! The game’s narrative structure kept me playing, and the beautiful graphics and entertaining games motivated me to improve my score. I could also compete with friends in a shoot-out for cognitive supremacy.

VERDICT: Entertaining and educational – what a perfect brain training app should be.

SCORE: 9

 

ELEVATE – BRAIN TRAINING

Free, from Apple App Storeand Google Play. In-app purchases from $4.48.

Unlike the others here, Elevate is training-focused. The interface and the games are simple and to the point. Each game is a thinly-veiled “fun” activity that's like a short English or maths multiple-choice session. There is a large emphasis on language skills, including a time-based activity with a series of sentences riddled with redundant words that you tap to remove. I liked how short and to the point the games were. This illustrated clearly the specific skills one had to hone. I also liked the two minute pre-training test. It showed me what to expect in upcoming games and gave me a benchmark to work towards.

VERDICT: For the serious learner wanting to improve maths, vocabulary and grammar.

SCORE: 8

 

BRAIN WARS: COMPETITIVE BRAIN TRAINING GAME

Free, from Apple App Store and Google Play. In-app purchases from $2.98.

The app goes out of its way to hide the learning elements that actually work your brain by pitting you against strangers in a match of three random games. These were challenging, and the element of competition pushed me to work harder. One tested my focus with a stack of cards that had symbols. I had to swipe the ones with the same symbols in the same direction, and then quickly swipe in another direction when a different symbol appeared. The simple interface made it enjoyable to play.

VERDICT: A fun app that makes braintraining a friendly, social and competitive game.

SCORE: 8.5

 

PEAK

Free, from Apple App Store and Google Play. In-app purchases from $2.98.

Only a handful of games are available on the free version, and I was a little disappointed by how slow and easy they were when I first started playing them. But the more I played, the harder the games became. I liked one missile targeting game in particular: Tiny missiles with letters on them flew out from different sides of the screen and I had to direct them to targets to form words. The more I played, the quicker the missiles moved and the longer the words I had to form became. The only trouble? To raise the point of difficulty, I needed to invest in a lot more playing time. The app also gives you the option to add advanced training for skills like sharpening your memory, solving problems and thinking creatively.

VERDICT: A comprehensive but time consuming app with a lot of potential.

SCORE: 8

REVIEW: This versatile vacuum cleaner will clean your home like magic!

REVIEW: This versatile vacuum cleaner will clean your home like magic!

Coordination: Amanda Jayne Lee. Photo: Zaphs Zhang

THE MACHINE

An upright bagless vacuum cleaner, the Philips Powerpro Aqua Stick stands out from other stick vacs with its unique mop function. The mop is a magnetic attachment consisting of a microfibre pad that’s dampened by water stored in the 200ml water tank. The mop can immediately clean the area you’ve vacuumed and it can also be detached if you only want to vacuum. The cordless machine takes an hour to fully recharge; each charge lasts 40min – more than enough time to clean my three-bedroom apartment.

 

USING IT

Strong and quiet, I like how silent yet powerful the machine is. There are only two power settings – Regular and Max. At the Regular setting, clumps of my dog’s fur, dust and even cereal were picked up quickly. I found the max setting quieter than other regular vacuum cleaners.

 

LARGE BUT EASY-TO SWIVEL NOZZLE

Although the machine is weight down by the nozzle, water tank and dust bin, the wheels on the nozzle made moving it across different types of flooring – parquet, tiles and carpets – a breeze. The swivel head, which went around furniture legs and into corners easily, also helped. The only downside: the large nozzle didn’t always fit into tight spaces.

 

A PRACTICAL MOP FUNCTION

My home was squeaky clean after I used the vacuum and mop function. I like that the mop left the floor just damp, not overly wet, as holes under the water tank release a slow constant drip of water to keep the pad damp. The magnetic mop system was easy to attach – fill up the water tank, attach the mop pad and click it in place . To remove it, I just had to step on the corner of the mop attachment and lift the vacuum cleaner up.

 

VERDICT

An easy-to-use and time-saving appliance that did a great job of cleaning my home, and in half the time it usually takes.

 

Philips Powerpro Aqua Stick, $499, from major electrical stores.

 

How to get a flatter stomach without exercising

tea, bloated, fat, bloating, tummy

Photography Jasper Yu Art Direction & Styling Nikki Ho

1.Tomatino

Gryphon Tea Company, $17.40 (box of 20 sachets), available at www.gryphontea.com

The blend: Organic rooibos, organic honey bush, apple, tomato, carrot, beetroot, cinnamon, orange peel.

How it helps: The blend is infused with fruits that help calm the stomach and aid digestion.

2. Natural Ginger Bag

Gold Kili, $3.85 (box of 20 sachets), available at Fairprice

The blend: Ginger.

How it helps: Ginger supports the digestion of heavy foods, and helps to relieve motion sickness.

3. Healing Garden

The 1872 Clipper Tea Co., $26 for a tin (100g), $18 for a pouch (100g), available at www.clippertea.com.sg

The blend: Ginger, lemongrass,lemon peel, ginseng root, spearmint and liquorice.

How it helps: It supposedly boosts immunity, improves digestion and provides relief from colds.

4. Buckwheat Mixed Grain Tea

Pokka, $4.85 (box of 10 teabags and two zip packs), available at Fairprice

The blend: Buckwheat, brown rice, black beans, cassia seeds, mint leaves.

How it helps: Buckwheat cleans, strengthens and soothes the intestines.

5. Moroccan Mint Green Tea

Dilmah, $5.70 (tin of 20 sachets), available at Fairprice Finest

The blend: Green tea leaves, peppermint.

How it helps: Peppermint cleanses the palate and works with green tea  soothes your stomach.

TIP!

For the best brew, steep your tea for two minutes. Enjoy!

The best can opener to have in your home

 

CULINARY MAGICAN (EDITOR’S RAVE)

$18.90, from Tott
The small and tidy tool is light, well-balanced, and cuts extremely smoothly. It’s at the top of the line-up for its simple appearance, affordable price and effectiveness. It snapped on quickly and I could turn the handle with very little effort. I liked that it also cut outside the can, so I never had to worry about the lid falling into it. - 10/10

LIFT OFF CAN OPENER

$5.90, from Giant
A no-frills can opener, it has an extremely light plastic body. The heavier handle weighed the head of the tool down, throwing off my grip slightly. But it did a credible job: It snapped onto the edge of the can easily but I needed to use more force than the other can openers to cut through the lid. Its small size makes it easy to store. - 7/10

365+ VARDEFULL

$9.90, from Ikea
Its rubber-covered handles taper into a  at edge towards the end, making it easy to grasp and hold in place. A light squeeze helped make the initial cut and then all I had to do was turn the handle until the lid was cut off. I like that it also comes with a bottle opener at the end. 8/10

JAMIE OLIVER CAN OPENER

$28.90, from Tott
Although this cut smoothly, it made for a complicated tool with its two-button system. There’s a wing-like button to lock the cutter into place and a small,  at one on the other side to unlock the wing.The position of the smaller button made it difficult to unlock the cutter with just one hand. Grasping the opener with one hand, I found that my thumb pushed against the small button to unlock the wing, but my other fingers worked against the motion, pushing the wing back into place, creating an impasse. 6/10

ZYLISS LOCK-N-LIFT CAN OPENER

$33.90, from Tott
This was the most ergonomic of the lot.The  at, rubberised handles gave it a good grip, while the lock function made it effor tless to press the handles down. It cut easily and quickly, and was the sharpest of the lot. Its only  aw is that the rounded blade sticks out at an angle, and far enough that it can be used as a paper cutter. Not the safest for kids. 9/10

HOME PROUD CAN OPENER

$11.90, from Fairprice
Taking off the cutter’s plastic guard was a little dangerous. It was firmly locked in place and I needed to use quite a bit of strength to pull it off – I was afraid I’d slip and cut my fingers.The bulky shape made holding it quite difficult but it cut smoothly and quickly. - 7/10

 

REVIEW: 5 cold-pressed juice cleanses to help you detox

1 HIC JUICE, REBOOT  3-DAY CLEANSE [Editor's Rave]
8522-1103, www.hicjuice.com.sg
The Cost: $340.26. Add $32.10 for delivery. Self-collection is available at The Shop by Hic at #02-470 Suntec City Mall.
The Combi: Six 500ml bottles a day. Mostly organic. Mix of juices, smoothies, coconut water and nut milks.
Start Dates: Any day, except Fri and Sun.

DOING THE CLEANSE In the lead-up to the cleanse, Ashley, the concierge, e-mailed me tips on preparing for the detox, and a guide that covered everything from how to go about the cleanse to managing common side effects.

I was fine on day one – no hunger pangs or cravings although I seemed to be more sensitive to smells, especially fried food. On the second day, I started craving warm, savoury food.Thankfully, Ashley quickly replied to my Whatsapp query, suggesting a clear vegetable or fish soup with minimal seasoning. It was on the last day that I got hit hard – I didn’t get the runs like some others in the team, but I was mildly constipated (considered normal, though less common), and had stomach cramps.

VERDICT The cramps were the toughest part but I loved that the juice cleanse “rebooted” my palate, giving me a preference for cleaner tastes over unhealthy processed foods. 9/10
– Mia Chenyze, consumer and lifestyle writer

2 A JUICERY, FANATIC CLEANSE
9384-8924, http://ajuicery.com
The Cost: $240. $20 for delivery. Self-collection is available at #02-05 The Commerze@Irving, 1 Irving Place.
The Combi: Seven 400ml bottles of green and fruit juices, and one 400ml bottle of nut milk a day. Uses regular fruits.
Start Dates: Tue to Sat for three-day cleanses.

DOING THE CLEANSE This wasn’t my first cleanse, so I gamely opted for the intermediate Fanatic Cleanse. Nonetheless, the brochure they sent was a helpful reference. The programme had quite a few delicious veggie-based drinks. The only turn-off was the one containing napa cabbage, which gave it a noxious smell.

Halfway into day one, the cleanse started working and I popped into the office toilet three times. On day two, I felt light-headed and irritable, craving something crunchy and hot. By day three, I felt that eight bottles a day was too much for me to handle, and was feeling quite sick.

VERDICT I was lighter physically, but felt “heavier” due to the sweet juices.The cleanse also left me feeling grouchy from the lack of hot, solid food. 6/10
– Amanda Jayne Lee, consumer and lifestyle writer

3 GORILLA PRESS, 3-DAY OMAKASE JUICE SET [Great Find]
9178-8927, feedme@ gorillapress.co
The Cost: $280. Free delivery.
The Combi: Seven 460ml bottles a day. Juices are a mix of organic and regular fruits. Mix of juices, smoothies, coconut water and nut milks.
Start Dates: Any day.

DOING THE CLEANSE Pre-cleanse, I received a detailed e-mail on what to do during the detox, as well as its possible side effects. Throughout the cleanse, founder Valerie was quick in replying to my e-mails; I could also Whatsapp or call her.

I loved that they went the extra mile to make the drinks more interesting and delicious, with superfoods like goji berries and chia seeds. I enjoyed the majority of the juices, although I found the nut milks a little chalky and bloat-inducing.

VERDICT Other than some fatigue on the first day, I breezed through the cleanse and wouldn’t mind doing it again. After all, the drinks were pretty tasty. 8.5/10
– Ann Neo, senior designer

4 THE SYNDICATE JUICE CO, SIGNATURE CLEANSE
6288-8166, www.syndicatejuice.com
The Cost: $310. $30 total for delivery, with two scheduled deliveries for a three-day cleanse. Self-collection available at #03-01 Yan Xian Building, 5 Harrison Road.
The Combi: Five 500ml juice bottles and one 500ml bottle of nut milk a day. Uses a mixture of organic and regular fruits.
Start Dates: Tue to Fri for three-day cleanses.

DOING THE CLEANSE Upon signing up, I was e-mailed a brochure on preparing for the detox. I’m a huge foodie, so I wasn’t terribly keen on subsisting on only liquids for three days – thankfully, the juices were palatable.While the veggie-based concoctions became monotonous, I looked forward to the nut milks, which were rich and filling.

I had some hunger pangs and cravings on the first day but they were manageable. I felt lethargic, but I suspect it was from the absence of caffeine. I went to bed an hour earlier than usual – also as a means of taking my mind off food. The runs started on the second day, but I didn’t mind – I took them as a sign that my body was purging itself of toxins. However, the third day was really tough.The hunger pangs were unbearable, and I was yearning for something hot and savoury.

VERDICT I felt lighter and less bloated after the cleanse, and my tummy seemed flatter. I also started to pay more attention to what I ate after. 6.5/10
– Delle Chan

5 ABSOLUTE JUICE, 3-DAY ABSOLUTE CLEANSE
9766-1972, www.absolutejuice. com.sg
The Cost: $228. $15 for delivery. Self-collection available at #01-106 Roxy Square, 50 East Coast Road.
The Combi: Six 500ml juice bottles and one 250ml bottle of coconut water a day. About 10 per cent of the vegetables used are organic.
Start Dates: Any day except Sun.

DOING THE CLEANSE Before I started the cleanse, business manager Ad contacted me with basic advice on how to go about it. He also assured me I could contact him any time with questions.
I had some hunger pangs in the afternoon of the first day but they passed. I also had a persistent slight headache on the first two days, likely from the lack of caffeine.

While I enjoyed most of the juices, a few blends were a tad sweet, so it was nice to have a green juice thrown in on the second day. I didn’t feel hungry, nor was I hit by any major cravings, but by day two, I was beginning to really miss eating. I also felt colder than usual, and had trouble focusing at work although my mental fog cleared up on the last day.

VERDICT I was pleasantly surprised that the cleanse helped reduce my caffeine dependency and made me crave cleaner food. 7/10
– Veronica Chng, contributing deputy editor

This article was originally published in SImply Her January 2016.