Update: an additional write-up for three more varieties is here.
It occurred to me that it might be worth revisiting the machine to discuss the quality of the coffee and update some thoughts about the machine.
First of all, the machine itself. I bought the unit that relies on you to shut off the water rather than delivering a measured dose. This suits me. First thing in the morning, as I’m about to leave for work, I might want a very quick espresso, almost a ristretto. In the afternoon, a longer cup somewhere between an espresso and a lungo. On a Saturday morning, a full cup. Sometimes I top up wth hot water, most of the time not.
I almost never make cappuccino or macchiato, though. Partly because you waste so much milk for just one cup (you need more than you’ll use in a standard frothing jug). Partly because the frothing wand on the machine is a bit useless. Other family members are keener on the milky coffee drinks than I, so this doesn’t bother me much. But the steam feature is underpowered and doesn’t deliver a satisfying froth.
Onto the coffee itself.
Waitrose stock just two types, the standard red (APPASSIONATAMENTE) and the brown/ochre (CAFFÈ CREMA LUNGO DOLCEMENTE). You’d use the red for an espresso or as a base for a cappuccino, and the brown/ochre for a lungo.
Online, you can buy the other blends. Lavazza themselves have an online store, but I’ve found this a real pain in the arse to use. I’ve had trouble logging back into an account that I’ve created, so I’ve ended up creating three different accounts. Suspecting I might have forgotten which password I used, I requested a reset, but still couldn’t log in — hence the additional accounts.
In the end, I found the coffee on Amazon marketplace, which is where I’ll buy in future. The bastards (Amazon) don’t pay UK tax, but they don’t make it hard to access your account.
This is a finely ground blend and the water will flow through the machine quite slowly. I always heat the cup first so that the coffee is still hot when I drink it. You can heat the cup by putting a bit of hot water from the kettle (if available), or by putting it in the microwave with a little water, or by using the wand attachment in hot water mode. I use proper, thick, porcelaine coffee cups which can absorb a lot of heat. Because, unlike tea, coffee is not made with boiling water, it can sometimes end up a bit tepid in one of these cups if the cup is cold.
It makes a satisfyingly dark, thick espresso, with a good golden brown crema. The taste is strong and smooth, but not at all bitter. Although there’s always a temptation to think that some of the other colours (less widely available) will be more exciting, the bog-standard red is always worth having, so don’t pass it over.
Caffè Crema Lungo Dolcemente
As the name suggests, this is designed to be a creamy and softer brew, ideal for running more water through for a longer cup. The grind is coarser, so that it takes no longer to deliver the drink than the red capsule does an espresso. It makes a coffee that is slightly more bitter than the red espresso (the more water you run through, the more bitterness you get). It definitely lasts longer as a flavour than the red blend.
Tierra Intenso (maroon)
This 100% arabica blend is Rainforest Alliance certified, which might be important to you* and Lavazza like to push this one. I got some free samples in the post and ordered a box.
It’s okay. I think the grind is coarser than the Appassionatamente but not as coarse as the Crema Lungo. I think the coffee is more bitter than either. There is a hint of dark chocolate about the flavour and you know you’ve had a cup of coffee.
If I bought it again it would be conscience making the decision, not palate.
Cremosamente Dek (blue)
This is an essential purchase if you want to enjoy coffee in the afternoon and still get a good night’s sleep. The blue is decaffeinated. If I could wish for one thing, it would be for Waitrose to stock this, perhaps instead of the brown.
I guess it’s supposed to match the red, though it’s stronger and not quite as smooth. If you ever thought decaff coffee was insipid and not worth having, this might surprise you. Apart from not getting the caffeine, I’d defy anyone to spot that this was a decaff. It’s got an edge of bitterness which is not unpleasant, and feels like it gives you a kick, even if it doesn’t.
Just because I like the colour, I thought I liked this best. Being honest with myself, I probably like bog-standard red best, but this runs a close second. It’s like eating chocolate cake soaked in coffee. A fine, tight blend, and the water flows slowly through, producing a syrupy, thick brew with a beautiful crema. This is different from the Tierra Intenso, which is an obviously coarser grind, with a coarser, less smooth flavour.
Worth getting a box now and then for an occasional treat.
There are two other blends, but I haven’t yet got a sense of what makes them different. Will update later on.