Do you want to have access to tasty espresso in the comfort of your own home, but don’t want to deal with the maintenance a proper espresso maker demands? The Essenza may be just the machine you’re looking for.
Note: this review is in no way sponsored by Nestle or any of its subsidiaries. We received this machine as a gift from a family member.
Most instant coffee machines, whether they are cup-based or pouch-based, generally don’t make coffee that comes close to matching what you would get out of a proper coffee maker. While I don’t have much experience with instant espresso makers, I can honestly say that the Essenza makes for an adequate replacement of a proper espresso machine. It even got the thumbs up from Brittnie, who used to train baristas for a living!
Now don’t get me wrong, nothing beats fresh espresso made by someone that knows how to wield a steam wand, but this little instant maker we got for Christmas is damn close. It uses pucks that come packaged in aluminum capsules, with each capsule packing about two shots worth of espresso. These caps are unfortunately far more expensive than bulk espresso (they cost between $.50 and $.65 per unit), but you can buy refillable versions if you don’t mind having to reload them. Thankfully, that’s not something we’ll have to worry about for a long time; in addition to the machine, we received a gift box with 200 capsules of various flavors (thanks, Brittnie’s Grandma!)
Once you fill the sizable rear tank with water and let the machine heat up, you load the capsule of your choice into the top. As you close the handle, the machine moves the cap forward and pierces the foil cover with a number of holes, prepping it for brewing at a pressure of 19 BAR. After that, all you have to do is put your cup under the spout, and hit the one or two shot button. You can also hold either one down for however long you want, although after two shots, you’ll notice that the water starts coming out almost clear. This IS espresso after all, and it’s supposed to be strong, so you definitely don’t want to overuse each cap. Once the brewing is done and your cup is filled, just lift the handle up, and the capsule will fall into a little receptacle which can be emptied (and cleaned!) in seconds.
Some of you may be wondering how this can be an espresso maker if there’s no steaming wand. Well, I’m very happy to report that it also comes with an electric milk frother!
Once you fill the frother just below the proper line (the lower one is if you’re going to heat it, the top one is if you’re prepping a cold beverage), put the top on it and press the button. If you press it quick, the rubber power button will turn red, the heating element attached to the spinner will engage, and your milk will get warm within seconds. If you hold the button down, the rubber power button will turn blue and the heating element will stay off, allowing you to froth milk for a cold drink. We found that filling the frother up to one of the lines caused it to overflow, so if you end up buying this little guy, we recommend filling to just below the appropriate line. As with anything like this, keep an eye on it: the milk will be heated and frothed in less than 10 seconds. Any longer than that, and it will start overflowing out the top. Once the frothing is complete, you simply grab the handle and lift the whole shebang off of its base. While this doesn’t provide you with the same quality or control you would get out of a steaming wand, it requires less time, less cleanup, and for the uninitiated, far less skill.
The capsules are a bit on the expensive side, but in under a minute you can have a cup of really good espresso without any of the hassles that come with a full-blown machine. Cleaning is super easy: just make sure there’s water in the tank and that the machine isn’t loaded with a capsule, place a cup under the spout, and hit the two shot button. That’s all it takes to completely rinse out the machine! The platform your cup sits on can be pulled out, taking the container for spent capsules along with it. Empty the used capsules, rinse out the tray, and replace. As for the frother, after you use it, rinse it with warm water a few times. Then, fill it up to the bottom line, and let it run in heated mode for 10-20 seconds; that’ll remove all the milk residue from inside, and keep it smelling nice and fresh.
This particular model (which includes the frother) can be found for around $200. In our opinion, it’s worth every penny!