Part VI: Conclusions on Comparing Single Serve Coffee Capsule Systems from Nespresso, Lavazza, FrancisFrancis X8, and CBTL
All the systems worked flawlessly with one exception. The FrancisFrancis X8 developed a pump problem almost immediately. One email to Illy though and they immediately shipped out a replacement unit as well as a FedEx Return Label. It took two days for shipping and the FedEx delivery person picked up the old one. Service was fast, sure and the replacement machine has worked perfectly.
Click image for a larger chart...
Which one to chose depends on your individual priorities.
If counter space is the biggest issue, then the Nespresso machines have the smallest foot print, followed by the CBTL Caffitaly Contata, the Illy FrancisFrancis X8 and the Lavazza LB 1010 is the largest, about the same footprint as my cutting board. The Nespresso is also the lightest of all, by a considerable margin.
If you want more than just espresso based drinks, then Lavazza and the CBTL Caffitaly systems would be the ones for you. The Lavazza has espressos, teas and a veggie consommé; the CBTL Caffitaly system offers espresso, teas as well as brewed coffee. I will admit that I was very skeptical of getting a good brewed coffee from a multipurpose machine but was very, very surprised how well the system worked. The brewed coffee was every bit as good as I get from my Grindmaster OPOD or Bunn MCA. It does not have the selection that is available in pods in the US, but since it is an open standard and widely adopted in Europe, I hope we will soon see greater availability of Caffitaly format capsules in the US.
If low maintenance is your priority, the FrancisFrancis shines. Since all the brewing and dispensing happen in the capsule, there is never a need to flush water through the system and no build up in the brew path.
For an office environment or high use setting, the Lavazza LB 1010 is the clear winner. It has the biggest water tank, is built to commercial standards, is the quietest of all with the least vibration and is easy to clean. I also found that overall, it produced the best and most consistent espressos but the Illy FrancisFrancis X8 was a very close second. The only drawback to the Illy machine was its small water tank that might become an issue in an office environment.
If you want steam wand capability then the Lavazza LB 1010 and the Illy FrancisFrancis X8 are the two choices. The Lavazza has the advantage of having separate dedicated boilers for the two functions and so switching between making espresso and steaming is instantaneous with no wait times either to heat the water or cool the system down. The Illy FrancisFrancis X8 though will cool down quickly if you follow the directions given in the experience section, so it is not a major consideration.
So what is my final ranking?
I'd have to place the Lavazza LB 1010, Illy FrancisFrancis X8 and CBTL Caffitaly Contata machines at a neck and neck photo finish with the Nespresso system running a distant fourth. While the espresso produced by the Nespresso machine was better than SOME I have produced in a conventional espresso pump machine, I found every single example tasted over extracted. That is most likely due to the small amount of coffee in each capsule when compared to any of the others as well as the higher pump pressure.
If I had to live with just one of the espressos, it would be the Illy. I simply love the complexity and poise found in Illy's blend. I would also be completely happy though with the espressos from either CBTL or Lavazza.
We want to thank JAR for all of his efforts on these comparisons. We can only hope we get invited over to his amazing espresso palace and get hopped up on caffeine.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at May 31, 2011 5:51 AM
Not that Jay but the jar Jay.
There are basically three coffees, and the house blend available as regular and unleaded.
The House blend is a medium-light roast breakfast blend from Costa Rican, Colombian and Brazilian coffees. It is bright, fruity with great mouthfeel and a lingering sweet finish.
The Viennese is a classic medium (maybe Full City? ) roast Sumatran, with a floral aroma and a chocolaty finish.
The French Roast seems to be a darker, smoky roast made from Costa Rican beans, but think more French Quarter than Rive Gauche.