The Krup’s Nespresso ‘Gran Maestria’ Coffee Machine

Nespresso-Gran-Maestria

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I am mad about real coffee. I bore my friends senseless about aroma, strength, intensity and crema. The fact of it is, I am old school. I love the process of grinding beans and brewing a fresh cup of espresso the old fashioned way, and bless it, my Baby Gaggia is like family to me.

The thing is, and this is a very big thing, it’s a messy business, and there are irritating downsides. The machine takes a while to heat up, the steam nozzle often gets clogged, the coffee gets stale pretty quickly, the old coffee grounds stain the sink etc. But nevertheless, that aroma gets me every time.

So, is there really a better way? Can I embrace new technology and go over to the dark side? Nespresso transformed the coffee world when it launched its innovative pod system. Suddenly, everyone’s a coffee expert, waxing lyrical about Grand Cru, Ristretto, Arpeggio, Lungo and host of other romantic sounding words harvested straight from an Italian dictionary. What’s more, my proud collection of coffee beans has been eclipsed by an endless array of gaily coloured pods all promising varying degrees of wonderment, beautifully presented in displays that are an art form in their own right.

All well and good, but as they say, the devil is in the detail, or in my case, the tasting…

The Gran Maestria Titanium, Nespresso’s newest creation made specifically for Krups, sits proudly astride my kitchen unit, all sleek lines of grey and black; its green ready light appearing in a matter of seconds. On the left side is a cup warmer tray, a great idea, because good coffee tastes even better from a warm cup. On the right side another marvel; the aeroccino jug, producing perfectly frothed milk in under a minute to suit your cup – be it latte, cappuccino, or cold frappuccino.

I raise the central pod arm, drop in a pod, select how much coffee I want dispensed and the magic begins. Each time, and let me be clear about this, I had many cups in the name of research, the coffee was a bull’s-eye.. Always the right temperature and always producing a delicious crema to die for. The empty pods conveniently disappear into the waste chamber, all clean and tidy.

There are downsides of course. At around £475 this is no cheap date, the pods are only available from Nespresso which work out more expensive per item than ground coffee (although there will be other suppliers who will produce pods as the Nespresso patents expire) and you can only deliver one cup at a time. But for any lover of fine coffee, this is well worth the investment. The pods ensure your coffee stays roasted fresh and there’s no mess.

Are there alternatives? Tassimo is a similar system which uses T-Discs and there’s Senseo and its Pad (like a tea bag) owned by respected coffee supplier Douwe Egberts. They are similar in many ways, but don’t match up to Nespresso’s pod system for freshness and usability.

For me, I’m hooked, and my old Gaggia is officially consigned to history.

Gran Maestria Titanium £475 www.nespresso.co.uk

Great Christmas kitchen gadgets gifts

Food and sex are almost universal drives for human beings so I thought I’d round up kitchen gadgets gifts for Yuletide. For the food obsessed obvious.

Monster-Knife

Monster knife set
I don’t normally demand that my kitchen utensils be ridiculously cute but the Monster knife set from Red 5 can’t help but be adorable. What is more, form belies function and knifes are actually pretty good and the set contains five high quality, precision-finished kitchen knives, made of Molybdenum and Vanadium stainless steel,

Gorenje-HomeCHEF

Gorenje Microwave
We love anything with wifi built-in (Philip’s wireless lightbulbs were amazing) or a touchscreen. Gorenje have brought fingertip magic to the kitchen with this Gorenje HomeCHEF, a built-in oven with full-colour touchscreen. The SIMPLEbake system offers photo realistic images and pre-set programming. You do the pointing, HomeCHEF does the settings, temperature and duration. It’s at the pricer end of kitchen gifts at £1199

HomeCook

Philips Home Cooker
Not to over simplify but the Philip’s Home Cooker is basically a magical cooking robot. The built-in Autostir technology means you can set things going and simply walk away, returning to a dish that has been stirred, melted, simmered, stewed, boiled, steamed, friend and sautéd. Hopefully not all at the same time. You can ever get an attachment that handles all the cutting for you. Delightful and £250.

Panasonic-Toaster-LG

Panasonic Toasters
We had a look at Panasonic’s stylish new range of kettles, toasters and coffee makers a little earlier in the year and their NT-ZP1 / NT-DP1 Toasters really stood out. I was sent a couple to play with and ate a week’s worth in bread as I was having so much fun playing with the precision browning and pop up croissant rack. I don’t get out much. The styling really does make your kitchen look better (or mine at least) and the countdown to toast function is nothing short of classy. The NT-ZP1 is £119.99 from Panasonic.

saeco-xsmall

Philips Saeco Xsmall Class Black
A great way to get coffee crankin’ through your sys is this custom espresso maker from Philips. Not as fancy as some of the other Saeco range (I played with the Philips Saeco Xelsis which has a built-in fingerprint scanner) Xsmall is a more affordable machine, albeit one with adjustable ceramic grinders and a pannarello to let things get seriously frothy.
Yours for about £350

Panasonic New Design Icons for the Kitchen

Panasonic have recently embarked upon a singular crusade to make your kitchen look as stylish as possible and have bequeathed unto your granite surface a new range of incredible looking appliances.

Panasonic-Toaster-LG

First up are the Panasonic NT-ZP1 / NT-DP1 Toasters. The sleek reflective surfaces looked amazing, although tended to pick up a lot of dust so have to be kept clean. However, seeing as these are used for food that’s no bad thing. Both toasters have a cool little tab on the side that you can pop down to pop up a croissant warming function – my very definition of fancy. They also over reasonably precise control over the level of browning – 5 on the NT-ZP1 and 7 on the NT-DP1. The thing I enjoyed most was the blue light once you’d set the toasting level – it works as a sort of countdown and looks especially great on the glassy front panel of they NT-DP1.

Panasonic-Coffee

As I’m a walking cliche of a writer, I love me some coffee and the Panasonic Coffee Maker NC-ZF1 / NC-DF1 is another great looking device. As I’m *really* a walking cliche of a writer I live in a tiny apartment, so really appreciated the NC-ZF1s slim design with the whole unit pretty much solely comprising the water tank. It’s fits in smalls spaces yet brews a mean cup of coffee. It’s incredibly simple to use (I never once felt the need to reach for the manual), and has a built-in aroma control that lets you adjust the strength.

Panasonic-Kettle-LG

More of a tea person? Well then there’s the Panasonic Kettle NC-ZK1/ NC-DK range. Like the coffee makers, this is designed for modern living (which is a euphemism for tiny houses), and the kettle sits on a rotating power base so it can easily slot into a nook or cranny.

Find out more about Panasonic’s New Design Icons for the Kitchen

Hands on: Krups Nespresso U coffee machine

As an avid coffee drinker, I jumped at the chance to get hands on with the new Nespresso U. We first came across this compact addition to the Nespresso range while at IFA in Berlin, where it provided us with a much needed “pick me up” espresso.

The Nespresso U has been designed to ‘suit modern life and its demands’. Presumably one such demand is that on worktop space, because the U features a modular design that can change its shape (relatively speaking) to fit around your existing kitchen tech. Those concerned about the U clashing with their kitchen tiles will be pleased to know that it’s available in a variety of colours: Pure Cream, Pure Black, Pure Grey and Pure Orange.

There are also brains behind the U’s undeniably good looks. The device comes with pre-programmed Ristretto, Espresso and Lungo cup sizes and its soft-touch interface can memorise and automatically select your favourite cup size. After loading a distinctive Nespresso capsule in to the machine (we found, to some embarrassment, that you load it sideways!) you then simply close the slider and the brewing process starts automatically.

The people at Nestle Nespresso, as it’s formally known, are keen to point out that U has been designed to reduce the carbon footprint of each cup it produces. The U is capable of heating up in 25 seconds and will automatically switch off after 9 minutes of inactivity. Furthermore, the body of the machine is made from 30% recycled plastic.

Beyond its beauty, brains and eco credentials – is the Nespresso U any good? Well, yes – but with a couple of reservations. While the process of heating up the water is almost silent, we were surprised by the relatively noisy brewing process. We also encountered a situation where the U started a cleaning process that, despite following the manual’s instructions, couldn’t be stopped. These two gripes aside, the U represents a sensibly priced (around £120 for this Krups model), stylish and compact way of joining the Nespresso way of life.

Check out our video below which shows how the Nespresso U operates:

To find out more about Nespresso and the Nespresso U, visit: www.nespresso.com/umachine/

Scanomat Top Brewer: The future of coffee?

I’m sure I’m surprising exactly no one by being a writer who’s into coffee so my delight at seeing the Scanomat Top Brewer was a predictable as the slew of “lose weight in the new year” articles I’m going to write when this is done.

Scanomat-Coffee

But in all fairness, the Scanomat Top Brewer is an amazingly stylish approach to brewing beans. You’ve already seen what happens when Apple-esque design infiltrates the world of thermostats. And it’s equally impressive when it hits the world of coffee. There’s even an app.

The Scanomat Top Brewer is a professional grade coffee machine for high-end cafés (I spoke to the MD to broke the sad news that I probably wouldn’t be able to fit one in my tiny flat). The Scanomat has top notch grinders installed so it can fire out 4 cups of filter coffee in a minute. This coupled with the world’s tiniest milk frother, automatic cleaning and precision engineering means that the Scanomat can crank out the perfect espresso every time (and an impressive range of other coffee-based drinks too). There’s even a option for cold water, juice and hot chocolate drinks. Like I said it’s a shame I lack the space and funds to fit one in my kitchen.

The aforementioned app connects to the unit and enables you to select the brew of your choice – and you can save your particular preferences to a favourites part of the app. The app also allows you to monitor the temperature and progress of your drink – and if you run out of coffee you can order more right there from the app (there’s also a finger touch keyboard if you don’t have a smartphone handy).

The Scanomat also has pretty decent green credential and runs on a unique Zero Watt system that stops if from drawing power when on standby.

Hopefully coming to a coffee shop near you.

www.scanomat.com

Grower’s Cup: Coffee on the go

I won’t start with a coffee pun as they’ve all bean done – especially at comedy roasts (sorry) but I do love my coffee. In fact judging by the number of coffee shops around me pretty much everyone in Central London loves the stuff. But what if you’re out and about and dying for a quality cup? Well like I just said there are coffee in pretty much any direction I can throw a rock at the moment, but that may not always be the case. Fortunately as long as I have boiling hot water, freshly ground coffee is not too far away, thanks to Grower’s Cup.

growers-cup

Grower’s Cup is a simply but cool new gadget for coffee lovers everywhere – literally. Grower’s Cup is a durable lightweight bag filled with some high quality coffee with each bag providing three cups of delicious, freshly ground coffee. All coffees are single estate or from named cooperatives. The berries are hand-picked and hand-sorted and then slow-roasted by Grower’s Cup in small portions on their Micro-roastery, which enhances the coffees’ unique character. Free-dried instant coffee this ain’t. The three step instructions on the back pretty much say it all – pour in hot water, wait and enjoy.

In essence a disposable French press, each Grower’s cup pouch contains a filter with 24g of freshly ground, speciality coffee. To brew three cups of coffee, all you need to do is open the bag, pour in half a litre of hot water and brew for five-eight minutes.

Waiting for the science bit? Here it is: the unique brewing system preserves the coffee’s natural oils, enhancing the coffee’s delicate flavours and finer aromas that can only be achieved by using a French press. However, unlike the French Press, on pouring the first one-and-a-half cups the brewing process stops so the remaining coffee won’t go bitter.

At £2.50, each bag is about the same as a latte in a regular store so these light-weight pouches are probably set to be a fun addition to any outgoing coffee lover’s backpack.

For more information contact Rosker

Brew your own for caffeine fiends

I have to admit to being a bit of a skinflint, so while I was quite excited by the latest press release about three new coffee-makers (I know I need to get out more) I wasn’t quite so enamoured by the prices – the cheapest one mentioned was what I consider a whopping £699.

Zanussi-Coffee

So I thought I’d do a bit of maths (which is a major sacrifice for me as sums are not really my thing). Let’s say your average cup of nice coffee you’re your local Costa Bucks coffee shop costs you £2 a time (I know prices will vary depending where you live but let’s take that as an average). So, you buy one every morning on your way to work, (so around 200 days a year, excluding weekends and holidays). That adds up to about £400 a year – so 12 months after your purchase, you’ve pretty much saved about two-thirds of the price of your super-dooper coffee maker, which will last you a long time, and also provide warming cups of loveliness at other times of the day.

Okay, so I’ve almost convinced myself now, so let’s head on to the facts about these kitchen gadgets. They’re all integrated – which means they fit neatly into a fitted kitchen, just the way that integrated washing machines, fridges and so on.

Let’s start with the low priced one and we’ll work our way upwards. The Zanussi ZCOF637X can churn out an endless supply of quality espresso, cappuccino or the style of coffee you prefer. It features a hot water dispenser for long coffee drinks or tea making and a steam spout for frothy milk drinks. For truly fresh beans, it has a grinder or you can choose to use pre-ground coffee or individual coffee ‘pods’.

Coffee-EBA

The Electrolux EBA60010X costs around £750 has a 2-litre water tank with BRITA filter and a steam/water spout for Americano, latte, cappuccino and hot chocolate. If you have to do your own dirty work, the telescopic shelf runners have been designed to make cleaning and filling a breeze.

AEG-Coffee

Finally, if you REALLY like your cup of hot stuff of a morning and have £1299 burning a hole in your pocket, take a look at the AEG PE4511-M, which can create authentic Italian coffee at the touch of a button. Its sleek looks are highlighted with digital control options and an LCD display. A multi jug option allows for up to 6 cups of coffee to be made in one go, if you have lots of friends, or indeed, need a whole lot of caffeine first thing in the morning.

Kitchen gadgets roundup

Listen to music while you make room in your freezer for that big leg of elk

“No gimmicky offering to get tongues wagging,” assures the latest press release from Slovenian brand Gorenje (and with England actually managing to win against them we don’t need to hold that against them). World Cup victory aside, just wait a cotton-darn pickin’ moment. It’s a fridge-freezer with an iPod dock on the front – isn’t that just a bit of a gimmick?

Kitchen-Gadgets

But the Slovenian firm is blowing its own Vuvuzela about the RK 1000IP freestanding iPod touch fridge-freezer, which also boasts two 50W speakers and wireless internet connection. So what’s the point of this fridge freezer cum music player? Well, the makers envisage the user scrolling through handy household hints and tips via the iGorenje portal (www.igorneje.com), while listening to their favourite music. (Our favourite tip on the site? How to make room in your freezer for that big leg of elk.)

The fridge itself has an A+ energy rating and a state-of-the-art cooling system to keep power consumption to a minimum. Other design features related to food rather than fun include two Ready ‘n’ Serve removable trays that can be used in place of a conventional serving tray for ready meals and a cheese and deli container with a wooden cutting board on top.

Finished in Jet Black Steel, the fridge freezer is arguably a good-looking addition to a contemporary kitchen, and we guess that it saves taking up worktop space with a separate dock and speakers. But at £2,000, we’d rather spend a few quid on an extra shelf. However, for anyone kitting out their kitchen with top-spec gear, it may well find its way on to their shopping list.

At a considerably lower price, Gordon Ramsay’s Panini Press is a cheap way to produce those trendy sarnies that can be pretty pricey if you buy them from the sandwich shop. Minus any high-tech gimmickry – though we were slightly disappointed to discover it doesn’t swear at you if you don’t chop your onions small enough or slice the panini quick enough – the Panini Press can also be opened out to use as a grill – ideal for breakfasts. (£39.99). The Cooks by Gordon Ramsay range is due out in August,

To complete the coffee shop experience in your own kitchen, splash out on your own coffee making machine. Sadly, it doesn’t come with the rather attractive Italian barrista who serves coffee round the corner from our office, but the Dulce Gusto Circolo Coffee Machine is still pretty good looking with an eye-catching circular design – and uses the familiar Dulce Gusto pods to make Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato and Espresso, among others. It’s a not-cheap at £159.99, but if you spend £2.50 a day on your favourite coffee, it’ll only take you a couple of months to break even. Log on to www.krups.co.uk

And if you want to brighten up breakfast time, here’s a toaster with a difference. Tefal’s Brighten up Breakfast with the Toast N’ Light. This little kitchen helper changes colour while it toasts, starting at blue, green, yellow, orange and finally red. Apparently this means you can keep track of your toast cooking – possibly a case of information overload?
The cost of knowing exactly how ready your toast is? £44.99 .
See www.tefal.co.uk for more