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We tried out Hotel Chocolat's new coffee machine offering – read on to discover whether the espresso was up to the test
Just occasionally, small appliances surprise you with the quantity of character they bring the countertop. The picture doesn't do this little coffee pod machine justice. Its matte charcoal chocolate exterior and rounded edges combined with small elements of flair make using it a simple and satisfying experience; we're talking soft-touch drink selection buttons, an engraved pod loader, textured lever handle and steel cup holder.
At £149.95, it's perhaps a little pricey for the simple espresso and lungo functions it offers, compatible with Nespresso pods. More versatile machines are available for less. However, the quality of its build combined with the espresso it produces means it still feels worth paying that little bit extra for. A Podcycler is included in the box for prepping the pods for to be recycled – a good example that all coffee brands encouraging the use of coffee pods should follow.
Hotel Chocolat presents its products in ways that make the unboxing feel like an event and this was no different. The packaging was also plastic-free, with the machine protected by a white fabric cloth rather than the traditional thin-film bag.
There's very little guidance on machine set-up or specifications, but thankfully it's very intuitive. The water tank slots into the back from above, but has a small flip-up door for top-ups. It's a practical capacity without being too large, meaning you're encouraged to change the water often. It can become all too tempting not to do this with larger water tanks, particularly considering the small coffee options. We flushed the machine through four times before use until getting a well-rounded coffee free from a plasticky smell.
On the countertop, it was compact in width, so slotted in nicely under cupboards, but we had to pull the machine forwards for every pod load to stop the handle from blocking the cupboard door. It's very quick to warm up, which is just what you want if half asleep or racing out the door.
If they produce over nine-bars of pressure, most single-serve coffee pod machines can produce a good espresso. It's the slightly longer Lungo drink where quality sometimes falls. However, the Podster performance stays strong: shots were consistently well-brewed, topped with a crema and full in flavour. Excitingly, its lungo boasted a similar finish. It pulled the single espresso with the quantity of water for a double without compromising on the aroma or flavour. There was a short period of dripping after every espresso so we emptied the drip tray daily.
There's a lot about Hotel Chocolat's The Podster coffee pod machine that we love. It's got style, it's efficient, the espresso and lungo it produces have richness and depth. Something we also love is the addition of the Podcycler, which punches the coffee out of each cap meaning they can be rinsed, stacked and added to your recycling.
This is a small but positive statement from a brand that's new to coffee, and an example that even more established brands should arguably follow. If you're going to enable the use of aluminium coffee caps, you should offer your customers a solution to making the recycling process easier as a small step towards improving the sustainability of your offering.
Buy from Hotel Chocolat, £149.95
The Podster specifications
Drip tray: single height, removable
Coffee functions: espresso, lungo
Dimensions: L35.1 x W15.9 x H23.60cm
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