The gadget that makes Steve Jobs jealous

Steve Jobs is a god. All you have to do is look at all the hype and anti-hype over an Apple product that hasn’t even been released yet.

He is one of the only guys I’ve waited in line to fork over my money to. And I will gladly do it again.

But I’m almost 45 and have been looking for a gadget that I think Steve Jobs would be proud to put his name on, but that he didn’t have anything to do with. That search has gone fruitless until now.

Oh, sure, I’ve bought BMWs. Sat in the best, and most expensive Mercedes and other cars. They don’t come close to Apple’s design standards. Heck, you ever played with the navigation system in one of those cars? I have and Steve Jobs would have fired the designer who built the BMW’s. It’s so bad Maryam actually returned the BMW I bought her with it in there to get a car without the nav system (I was grateful, that saved me thousands of dollars).

I’ve been to the Consumer Electronics Show a half dozen times. I’ll be there again next week.

I’ve tried some pretty cool devices like the Pogo Plug, the Drobo, Sony TVs, Tivos, Playstations, Xboxes, Fitbits, and many other devices.

None made me think that Steve Jobs would be jealous. Until now.

So, what is it? This coffee maker. from Nespresso.

Nespresso espresso/latte Maker

“Huh?” I can hear you muttering to yourself. “Scoble is an idiot and this proves it.”

Yeah, keep thinking that. But this coffee maker measures up to Steve Jobs’ high bar.

Why? What makes it so freaking cool?

Is it the little capsules that make it so easy to make different kinds of espresso or lattes?
Is it the two button design? (my other coffee maker has three buttons and three switchable knobs, for comparison’s sake).
Is it the milk warmer/foamer that just makes perfect foam and is easy to use (one button) and easy to clean?
Is it the look of the device that makes my kitchen look better than Starbucks?

Nah, it’s that it’s the first device that makes my iPhone seem flawed. After all, my iPhone can’t make a great latte.

Anyway, I recorded a little audio using my iPhone to further explain what’s cool about this device.

Disclaimer: Loic Le Meur gave me this for speaking at Le Web, but I would gladly pay the $350 retail price and I bought the coffee that goes into it, which, while expensive (about $1 a shot) is about 1/3rd the price of the same quality latte you can get at Starbucks.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

37 thoughts on “The gadget that makes Steve Jobs jealous

  1. I confess I´m a longtime advocate of #nespresso machines, but what would really lift the whole experience would be a “reorder capsules by tweet” service – as it´s an inherently social product and a well positioned brand in premium coffee.

    There´s momentum for such a service if you do a twitter search for #nespresso and I believe there is latent demand for even easier reordering.

    Yes, I know there is an online store and a club setup but maybe Switzerland could do take a leaf from Jobs and make it iTunes easyesque to reorder, you know a bit of oAuth magic and some social publishing, maybe in return for some capsule goodies. What else?

  2. I confess I´m a longtime advocate of #nespresso machines, but what would really lift the whole experience would be a “reorder capsules by tweet” service – as it´s an inherently social product and a well positioned brand in premium coffee.

    There´s momentum for such a service if you do a twitter search for #nespresso and I believe there is latent demand for even easier reordering.

    Yes, I know there is an online store and a club setup but maybe Switzerland could do take a leaf from Jobs and make it iTunes easyesque to reorder, you know a bit of oAuth magic and some social publishing, maybe in return for some capsule goodies. What else?

  3. I ordered my first Nespresso on Monday – along with an Aeroccino. Yet to be delivered due to the deep snow that has now hit the UK. A friend of mine bought one two years ago and he tells me it was the best investment he's ever made, and he's a major gadget fan.

  4. The capsules are actually completely aluminum. They are trivial to recycle, nor do they create an environmental threat. Please don't preach the “save planet – kill yourself” mantra.

  5. Why do we go to all that trouble, you may ask. Because coffee that's been roasted for more than a month is stale. It's stale whether you freeze it, refrigerate it, vacuum pack it or even put it in little airtight, single-serving plastic containers.

    The best way to get coffee roasted no more than three weeks ago is to roast it yourself. You may also find a local roaster, but the cost of that, for me, is prohibitive.

    By the way. Even stale coffee tastes better if you grind it coarse and make it in a French press.

    –roger

  6. People who really appreciate fine coffees roast their own.

    They acquire the finest green coffee beans from the finest coffee growing regions in the world: Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Brazil, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica. They seek the finest lots of each year's crops from the best coffee plantations.

    Then they set up roast curves to provide the perfect temperature changes over the roast cycle to bring out the best in each coffee they roast.

    They let the coffee rest three or four days before drinking it so the flavor can peak and the carbon dioxide can escape from the beans.

    Then they drink the coffee within three weeks or so before the peak is lost. After three weeks, they being drinking the coffee they roasted three or four days before.

    They grind the coffee just before they make it in a French press so that the fabulous fragrance is preserved and so that the taste is as good as that fabulous smell.

    This is what people who love coffee at its very best do. And it saves us money. The cost is less than one-tenth the cost of Starbucks coffee, and a little less than drinking Maxwell House from the grocery store. And the experience, the flavor, the sublime discoveries of nuances in coffees of flavors from a powerful blueberry in Harar horse, to a delicate and subtle tangerine flavor in a Papua New Guinea are well worth the effort, assuming your sniffer works well and your taste buds are intact.

    The green beans of even some of the world's greatest coffees can be relatively inexpensive. Why pay the roasters an arm and a leg.

    A small roaster costs less than $200 and will pay for itself in a couple of years.

    Few people who like coffee made this way would ever add sugar or creme, unless they are making an espresso. And even then, most do not. There is no bitterness in such coffees. And the wonderful fragrances and flavors are too good to adulterate.

  7. Robert, I'm a Nespresso owner and I have to agree to every line of you post except the “same quality latte you can get at Starbucks” one. I really prefer my Indriya for Nespresso than any Starbucks coffee (but I still enjoy Starbucks when I'm out of home). Keep the good work!

  8. …Is it the totally unnecessary individual garbage it creates for each cup? Or is it perhaps the fact that it locks you into overpriced Nespresso vendors instead of choosing your coffee from wherever you want?
    Sorry, this thing is too unecological and exploitative to be cool.

  9. Robert,

    If your readers (at least in SF – not sure about other cities) want to try this machine themselves I think there are demonstrations (and tastings) available in Bloomingdales in the basement level of the Westfield Center in downtown SF. I've passed by the booth with these machines for the past year but haven't yet tried them.

    Of course I'm also lucky to live in SF which has some of the best coffee anywhere at the moment – with dozens of cafes and micro-roasters all with serious machines and well trained barristas (worlds better than Starbucks or Peets)

    A few places for you to try next time you are in SF:

    - Blue Bottle (Mint St across the Westfield Center, the rooftop of the MOMA, the Ferry Building or their original Kiosk in Hayes Valley on Linden St)

    - Sightglass (7th & Folsom) currently a great kiosk, soon a fantastic new large cafe space – also one of the early users of Square

    - Epicenter Cafe (4th & Harrison) – there's a reason Epicenter is a frequent afternoon workspace for many SF tech writers, bloggers and entrepreneurs – coffee from Barefoot Roasters + great food (and in the evening a great beer selection)

    - Coffee Bar (Mariposa and Florida) – coffee from Mr. Espresso (roaster in Oakland) in an amazing space designed perfectly for laptop users (power outlets below the long bars) along with great food. A great cafe for working and a frequent hangout for guests & employees of the nearby KQED.

    - Ritual Coffee Roasters (Valencia St and in the Flora Grubb Gardens in the Dogpatch also now in Napa) they recently moved their roaster to a facility in SOMA (just a block or two from Sightglass) which has freed up a lot of space returning their Valencia St location to being a fantastic space for working along with great coffee.

    - Four Barrel Coffee – Valencia St (near 15th). Great coffee in a well designed space, no wifi and small tables & chairs but a constant buzz of conversations.

    - Haus Coffee (24th St near Folsom) one of the best of an emerging trend in SF, cafes that source coffee from multiple of SF's great micro-roasters. Haus has espresso from Ritual Roasters and drip coffee from the amazing De La Paz coffee – a micro-roaster in SF which doesn't have a cafe of their own but makes, in my opinion, some of the best coffee found in SF (which is saying a lot – the competition here is stiff)

    and there are many other fantastic cafes with many more opening every month…

    but sure, for home use, a machine which gives consistently good results simply is fantastic.

  10. I have this machine. I had a great Italian machine for years, but it just got to be too much work. This is easy, the espresso is quite acceptable (OK, I agree that it's not *excellent*, but it's better than many coffee shops offer.)

    What would make it perfect? If that foamer would make great hot chocolate.

  11. Hmmmm, ok, I am an Italian -living in the US- so I am biased. But let me tell you. Illy's machines are as nicely designed as this one, and deliver a much better tasting espresso.
    my 2c.

  12. i am surprised you chose an audio file to deliver the punch…
    the quality is poor and the medium is not as powerful as a video on your 3gs..

    after reading and listening i can understand why you are excited, but you did not take me on the same ride as you did..

    maybe this post got lost in technology my friend.

  13. Coffee that I have to order in the mail? Wasting a little plastic capsule every time I want a shot of espresso? No thanks. Clearly you’re too enamored with fancy gadgets to see that this is a horribly wasteful machine.

  14. Completely agree. My sister gave us a Nespresso for Christmas and, while surfing the Nespresso's site couldn't help noticing the similarities between the “Nespresso Club” (so it's called) and the iPod + iTunes ecosystem.

    The different models of coffee makers, all the accessories (in this case coffee sets, dispensers, cleaning kits…), the fun of discovering new tastes…

    The people at Nestlé has managed to turn the trivial act of enjoying coffee as an aspirational experience, Apple style.

  15. You compare the nespresso to the Wal-Mart of coffee? Not exactly the comparison that evokes awe but willing to take your word for it that it makes a great cup of coffee.

  16. Some of your commenters may lament the use of coffee capsules, and I would too if I hadn't tried it before. I've spent a lot of time and money on fresh beans, grinders and machines, but for the person that doesn't want to spend all the time and money these little machines really do surpass most cafes. I'd get one of these too if I didn't already have a few vintage lever espresso machines.

  17. We have had a similar machine here in the US for a while. Senseo by Phillips is very good and sells an espresso attachment with pods for their pod coffee machine. It makes great coffee and the pods were being sold relatively inexpensively on woot.com for a while, $24.00 for a case.

  18. I read this (in Google Reader btw) and am obliged to note that here in the UK Starbucks coffee is no great shakes, so comparing this machine in that way, does it no favours at all.

  19. As a swiss designer working for Nestlé, for having met the inventor of the nespresso system and seeing here in Switzerland the massive investment maid by this company in term of production capacity (the last one is a 400,000m3 state-of-the-art facility that will produce and distribute 4.8 billion Nespresso capsules a year) I can say that what Steve Jobs should be jealous of is the massive money generated by these simple capsules and the (nicely designed ?) expresso-cash-machine that goes with it.

  20. Hi Robert,

    Are these brilliant Nespresso ads running on TV in the US? Malkovich is perfect.

    Coming back to LIFT this year for dozens of good coffees?

  21. It’s jut sad that it’s also the worst eco-friendly machine ever created.
    The big plastic capsules it use just for one coffee are embarrassing. That’s it.

  22. Hi Robert, Hmmmm if we're using Starbucks as the benchmark for coffee, I'm sure this machine far exceeds their flavour.

    I would completely agree with Tom, however taste is always in the tongue of the beholder so I welcome you around to my house in London UK when you're next here and then we'll have this conversation :)

    But Starbucks, Seriously…?

    Let's talk freshly made Kona :)

    Nice article, I adore anything about coffee

    Russ

  23. Is there any way to get such a Google cup if you’re not working for them or don’t know anyone who does? Do they run a merchandise store perhaps?

    By the way, “as good as Starbucks” wouldn’t exactly sell a Nespresso machine to me. I guess I’m too used to Rancilio Silvia, a good grinder, and very good beans (sometimes even roasting my own beans at home).

  24. Absolutely agree, Robert.

    It's the combo of taste, variety and convenience that does it for me.

    Love my Nespresso – I've got a DeLonghi Lattissima 670 and adore it … Actually must have a Lungo now ;)

    Here in Europe, the capsules are around €0.35-0.40 so very well-priced too and they bring out specials very frequently. Keep in touch with them by registering on http://www.nespresso.com

    Enjoy!

  25. I used to agree with you, but sorry, don't after getting this machine. Yeah, if you are in Italy and have a real expert you'll get a better cup of coffee but what I get out of this machine is every bit as good as what I get at Starbucks or Peets and is at home. Waste? Yeah. OK, but a little plastic capsule every day is the least of what I throw away every day.

    1. Robert, “a little plastic capsule every day” may be the least of what you throw into the recycle bin. But consider this:

      1) It’s _additional_ waste and material that needs to be produced. Humanity could live and make coffee for ages. Without capsules. It worked well. So the capsule thing is primarily yet another environmentally unfriendly convenience thing introduced by clever marketing guys. Steeply taxing the capsules (e.g. add another 1$ for each capsule) for the damage they do would be better than nothing, but no money in the world can give us back a clean environment and the non-renewable resources that were used to produce the capsules.

      2) Scalability. It’s not only you and me. It’s usually not only one coffee per day. Think of how the pile of your used capsules would look after just a year (compared to the size of your coffee machine). Now think of how the US pile looks considering Nespresso’s market share of roughly 35%. It’s in the millions of capsules of waste per day. Maybe 20M, maybe 50M, maybe >120M. Fact is, there were almost zero capsules just 15 years ago. And now consider that it’s not only about the US. Add Europe (> 700M people), add India (1.2B people) and China (1.3B people). Yes, that will make billions of capsules thrown away day after day.

      3) Recycling. Are you sure your capsules are properly recycled? In the city I live, it’s a relatively progressive one, aluminum can be recycled (not plastic though, apart from PET). But hardly anybody does recycle those coffee capsules, for convenience. They just throw them into regular waste. Further, not only producing the capsules uses energy and other resources, recycling does as well. No recycling process in the world refills the natural oil depots we started emptying about 150 years ago (nature needed millions of years to produce them). For plastic, manufacturing, transport. No recycling process cares about the CO2 balance. And so on.

      4) The material used for the capsules varies from brand to brand. If it’s plastic, oil is used as the source of carbon in the plastic and for producing and transporting it. That plastic usually can’t be recycled (yet). If it’s aluminum, it can potentially be recycled (though a few people actually do), but aluminum requires an _extremely_ energy intense process to produce and recycle, so it does even more damage to our environment than plastic capsules do.

      Let’s think on a global scale about consequences when we produce, buy and promote things. Often, new kind of products introduced in the market aren’t really necessary at all. As a rule of thumb: If a product makes things more convenient, be suspicious at least.
      “Think global, act local” really is the key to a better, less consumerist and much healthier life and environment.

      I hope many readers will think again before buying a capsule-dependent coffee machine.

      Happy new year and all the best to you and our planet!

    2. Starbucks or Peets? You see Robert herein lies the problem. Neither of those places will get you a real good cup of “black gold”.

      I live in Australia and until about 5 odd years ago the best you could get here was probably Starbucks or Gloria Jeans (local version of Starbucks). Then artisan roasters started appearing and with them coffee shops that actually make their money selling coffee not all the other things you seem to find in the chain stores these days. 5 odd years ago I would have agreed with you … today it’s a different story.

      BTW, next time you are in San Francisco try Blue Bottle Coffee Co (http://bluebottlecoffee.net/) … they sell both single origin beans as well as blends. Get one of their lattes at their no frills hole in the wall shop and find out what a real coffee should taste like.

      Look I am not a coffee snob (although I must sound like one) but why settle for a Windows Mobile based multi touch phone when you can get the real thing and buy and iPhone? Get my drift?

  26. Robert… you are soooo wrong with this one.

    Coffee from these little machines with cartridges largely taste like crap when compared with real espresso made by a real espresso machine.

    If anything these little machines are the HTC Touch or Palm Pres of the iPhone world. They look like the real thing but are nothing like the real thing.

    At most I would say the coffee machine makers have had a good look at the printer manufacturers and through “hey we can do that too”. On the other hand the worst about these new cartridge machines is that they suck oodles of power and create a lot of waste.

  27. Wow. This kind of makes me want to start drinking coffee again. I can't remember the name of the machine we had at the Seesmic office when I worked there, but it also made magical cups of coffee and espresso. Loic definitely knows good java. Hope to see you at CES this year. Stop by the Sony booth. We won't have any coffee makers, but I'm pretty sure you'll find some innovation and design you like.

  28. Good article indeed. I would strongly reccomend spending time in a Nespresso shop as well and live the full “experiential marketing” linked with it. For those in marketing there are some interesting comparisons to be made with an Apple Store.

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