I’m no coffee connoisseur. Though I drink coffee every single day – a good cuppa sure puts a smile on my face in the morning – I never had the desire to seek out specialty roasts in order to enjoy my caffeine fix of the day.
I’ve had specialty coffee at cafés and I like them, but a nice robusta blend from the kopi stall or even a fresh coffee bag brew is all the comfort and stimulant I need on a typical workday. I draw the line at instant coffee though. No matter how much I needed coffee, the ickiness of instant is just too much of a shortcoming. I also draw the line at capsule coffee.
Yes, coffee from the pod, made ubiquitous by Nespresso, is unpleasant to me. They often taste burnt and ashy. And not in a good way like some peated whiskies are. No matter which of the many different capsule types I tried (and I tried many), all I get is ostentatious, overbearing coffee. I want my coffee with character and nuance. Not just in-your-face char and bitterness.
That is not to say all capsule coffee is offensive to me. There were one or two third-party pods I’ve tried that were at least somewhat drinkable black. But as it is the case with many a brew drawn from a Nespresso machine, a flat white was always the best bet in order to cover up some of the jarring boldness.
So when the Morning Machine – the world’s first Nespresso capsule compatible specialty coffee machine – was introduced to me recently, I was highly skeptical. After all, I carried around with me the many years of negative experiences I had with capsule coffee like a badge of honour. Whenever I were to be served coffee from a pod, I treated it like a challenge, as if daring it to prove me wrong (they never do).
With the Morning Machine, my contender this time however was not a human, nor is it a simple apparatus. Rather, it is a smart device. Touted as a convenient way to bring barista grade specialty coffee into our homes, it offered all the bells and whistles any coffee geek could want. From a built-in scale and temperature control, to a sleek minimalist design and a smartphone app where you can set precise brewing parameters, it sounds almost too good to be true; save for the S$510 price tag, which I can believe.
Beset by high expectations, I got excited when setting up the machine. I needed to know just how good it can be first-hand. And I had all the specialty pods to try it with too. I picked Morning’s own Bread & Butter capsule (a versatile full-bodied blend) and slotted it in.
But unlike a regular Nespresso machine, it didn’t just provide the option for a long or short draw. By default, it comes with ten different brewing options. This meant that I needed some level of knowledge when it comes to brew styles. Not fancying the idea of a smart device outsmarting me, I picked the one that was self-explanatory, the ‘Long Dark Roast’ option, and gave it a whirl.
What happened next was rather gratifying. As it made my coffee, the machine’s touchscreen presented information such as brewing temperature, pressure profile, and grammage. It’s not necessary by any means, at least not to an everyday coffee drinker like me, but I appreciated it. Somehow, it got me more interested and invested in the craft behind coffee making.
Once the last drop dripped from its spout, it even displayed the word ‘Enjoy!’ and let out a calming chime to let me know it’s done. How nice. It’s a welcome touch, especially in the early morning before I had my caffeine.
Eager, I took a sniff of the brew, loved the light chocolate aromas, and then had a tiny sip just to make sure the temperature was right. “This is a very nicely rounded coffee,” I thought to myself, before going in for a bigger swig. It was bold, but none of the burnt, ashy tones I expected was at all present. I can definitely drink this regularly.
But I wasn’t satisfied yet. I was already fixated upon another box, an Ethiopian natural process coffee from famed Hong Kong roaster The Cupping Room. This time, I turned the dial for the ‘Short Light Roast’ option, confident that this capsule will present itself best in a morsel. Good things come in small packages, right?
The moment liquid started flowing into my cup, I caught a whiff of its alluring aromas as it effused through the room. I was already hooked. This one is something else. It’s unmistakably coffee, but not in the way I’ve known capsule machines are capable of producing. It’s a rarer scent, one that I associate with my visits to cafés that have embraced coffee’s fourth wave.
Enticed, I cupped my coffee mug and brought it close to my nose. I wanted to know it better. It smells bright and fruity. I got even more intrigued. I took a sip, and I was immediately joyous. This has been what I was looking for.
Far from the single dimensional smoke bombs I’ve experienced from pod-based coffees, this one was layered with citrus, ripe berry aromas, and even a slight funk, giving it even more character. The long, lingering finish is also so welcome I kept exhaling in short bursts to prolong the sensation. It’s pretty amazing.
The magic too is that this level of enjoyment was achieved in the comfort of my own home, with minimal effort on my part. But then again, it isn’t really magic. It’s science.
The Morning Machine has managed to pinpoint and deliver flexible, ideal brewing settings in one neat package, allowing everyday folks like me to enjoy artisanal coffee done right. It does justice to the quality of coffee packed into those convenient pods, rather than apply the same blunt brewing technique to any and all capsules that enter its hatch.
Draining the last few drops of the Ethiopian brew, I still found it hard to believe that this came from a capsule coffee system. Yet, this is one instance where I’m happy to have been proven wrong. With a world of specialty capsules out there for me to try using different brewing parameters, I know my morning coffee ritual will never be the same again.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.