Locked Into a Capsule
Most recently, I was at a Nespresso Boutique in Munich, reviewing the new Vertuo Line for my work. For the people, who don’t know what I am talking about: the Vertuo capsules are much bigger than the common Nespresso capsules, used for preparing Espresso and Cappuccino. Nespresso came up with that idea, as the US and the Middle-European market are heavily filter coffee drinking consumer markets. Therefore, by placing a new product segment, offering big cups of coffee, Nespresso is hoping to grab that clientele. Those customers might use their own filter coffee makers or pad machines, e.g. Senseo, before. Now, they could have their own, premium experience with that Vertuo machines, preparing a single portioned high-quality coffee. These machines can not replace the regular Nespresso machines, preparing Espressos and Lungos, as the capsule size differs.
However, back to Minimalism and coffee. While I was sitting in that Nespresso Boutique, enjoying my free Nespresso Vertuo, I was reflecting on the storytelling, the world of luxury, exclusivity and consumerism. Signs popping up and sales representatives telling you the benefits of these machines, and how cheap they actually are.
Well, 75 Dollars for a new premium coffee maker, preparing me the best coffee easily available, on a daily basis? In addition, getting 100 capsules free? Sounds like a great deal, or?
The problem with those coffee maker systems, either it is Nespresso or any other single portioned coffee system, it is a Lock-In system. You end up, buying yourself into a system, which forces you to rebuy over and over their capsules (or suitable coffee capsules, only for that machine).
Price to Pay for Exclusivity and Storytelling
So what’s actually happening is that you’re giving away your freedom of choice, selecting coffee from all over the world, any roastery available and preparation method possible and change it to a more simple system, with a selection of ~ 15 various coffees and two to three different preparation methods. Moreover, those capsules are actually excessively overpriced with approximately between 50-70 Dollars/kg. I mean, it is a truly excellent coffee, which is Nestlé AAA and Rainforest Alliance certified. Some of the new exclusive speciald editions are even Fair Trade certified nowadays.
Nevertheless, a kilogram of directly traded specialty coffee would cost me half of it. And if I just want a ethically
well-sourced coffee, e.g. Fair Trade, then I can easily purchase a similar quality for a fifth of that price.
From my scientist’s perspective, Nespresso is undoubted a well-tasting coffee that has an extraordinary shelf life, due to the aluminium as packing material. However, and that is the hook, most of the price, you are paying for the storytelling, the marketing, the feel of exclusivity and „premium experience“.
I own such a machine. I actually also use it from time to time, otherwise, I would have donated it already a long time ago. However, how are Nespresso and Minimalism being brought together? Well, I told you before, that you give up the freedom of choice on a daily basis. On the other hand, you do know that if you buy that specific coffee of the small world of Nespresso, you get what you want. Which is a very good coffee at a very high price. You do not need to invest time in researching if the coffee is well sourced and of good quality. It tastes the same, every time.
So in the end, Nespresso can be time-saving, but also you don’t have to bring yourself into the process of selecting one coffee in a variety of over a hundred in the supermarket. Ending up, to figure out every time, the right amount of coffee to make a delicious coffee. So you simplify your way of drinking coffee in the whole perspective. One source of buying coffee, one method to prepare it, with the same good flavor every time.
Is Owning a Nespresso Maker Still Minimalism?
What is the baseline of all this? Minimalism and Nespresso? Yes or no? I think it is
not easy to answer. For me, as I am a coffee scientist and coffee addict, it is somehow freeing to know, what I get, every time I buy it. It gives me value. However, is the value equal to the
money I spend? That is a different page, and in my opinion, that does not have to do anything with minimalism. Minimalism is not about buying the cheapest stuff, saving the most money. It is
about buying stuff (if you buy anything) that is giving value to your life. This can be joy, hobbies, addictions, anything. Or a collection of coffee
So and to wrap it up: if you are into coffee if you like the taste and the design of that product. If that product is giving value to your life, then why not enjoy that product?
However, if your position is, that it is actually costing you freedom (e.g. because it is lowering your financial freedom, or because it is just another technical device in your apartment)? Then, I would say, there are plenty of people out there who would love to use it.
I will not buy a new machine, once mine should be broken (which is already running since 2009 without any problem). The reason why, that I am mostly drinking plain black filter coffee prepared by my old beloved filter coffee maker, which I bought on the day I moved into my first student apartment in 2008. That is way cheaper and I found out, that I am, in the end, more the filter coffee-drinking person than the Espresso or Lungo person.Once a while, I do enjoy a well-balanced Nespresso Lungo, but the new Vertuo for making filter coffee sized cups?
No thank you.
I did not address the environmental impact of the single portioned coffee in this small essay. The purpose was mainly to review the meaningfulness of these types of machines (in the household of a minimalist).
If you want me to write about my point of view on the ecologic and economic dimension of more and more people going for individualized coffee experiences, please tell me in the comments below.