Nespresso VertuoLine review:

A single-serve coffee maker with style

Insert the capsule with the flat side facing up. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Maintenance is a bit more involved and might require a look at the user manual. All of the various options -- running a cleaning cycle, descaling, restoring default settings -- have very specific instructions. And since there's only one button, the cleaning cycle is initiated by pressing the button three times in 2 seconds, while the descaling cycle is initiated by holding down the button for 7 seconds. None of these instructions are complicated, but they also aren't easy to remember.

I found all of the other machines a bit more complicated to use both in general and for periodic maintenance, except for the Bunn My Cafe MCU. Both Keurig models and to a lesser extent the Starbucks Verismo 580 have a series of buttons and options that clutter the display and aren't particularly intuitive. Starbucks Verismo 580 also failed in terms of design, hiding its water tank in the very back where it's more difficult to reach.

The Starbucks Verismo 580 has a very awkward layout. Colin West McDonald/CNET

We compared the $299 VertuoLine to several other single cup coffee makers during testing. Nespresso's competition includes the $159.99 Bunn My Cafe MCU, $149 Starbucks Verismo 580, $179.99 Keurig K75 Platinum, $149.99 Keurig Vue V700, and $199 Cuisinart SS-700 (now discontinued). Brew time and taste were the major factors we examined in this section.

Coffee brew time (default settings, in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate faster brewing)
Bunn My Cafe MCU (8 oz.)
Keurig K75 Platinum (7.25 oz.)
Cuisinart SS-700 (8 oz.)
Keurig Vue V700 (8 oz.)
Starbucks Verismo 580 (6 oz.)
Nespresso VertuoLine (7.7 oz.)

As you can see from the chart, Nespresso's VertuoLine machine came in last on brew time (using factory settings for ounces). While the Bunn brewed an 8 ounce cup of coffee in just 42 seconds, the VertuoLine took its time, brewing 7.7 ounces of coffee in 1 minute and 51 seconds. I use a french press at home, so 1 minute and 51 seconds from start to finish feels incredibly fast, but it's painfully slow in the world of single-serve coffee makers.

The VertuoLine took the longest to brew a cup of coffee -- 1 minute and 51 seconds. Colin West McDonald/CNET

If you're usually making coffee as you're running out the door every morning, that 2 minutes could get pretty annoying. Overall, though, it didn't bother me. The Nespresso VertuoLine manual says, "It will take some time before the coffee flow comes out (due to barcode reading and coffee pre-wetting)." Since the barcode is used to give the machine brewing instructions (and keep its pods proprietary), you won't have to spend extra time hovering over the machine pressing an "espresso" or "coffee" button -- simply press the "start" button and you're done. I'm willing to wait a bit longer for my coffee if it means I'm saving time pressing a series of buttons, but you can't beat the Bunn My Cafe's impressive 42-second brew time.

Nespresso boasts about its Grand Cru coffee and espresso pods and its signature crema layer, but we didn't notice a considerable difference in taste between these blends and other single-serve options we've tried. It consistently delivered fine coffee, but so did the Starbucks Verismo, Keurig Vue, and Bunn My Cafe. The crema layer is really the performance feature that makes Nespresso's product stand out -- and I think it makes a difference in how you feel about your cup of coffee. It gives it a premium vibe that might make you want to savor your drink a bit more, even if it tastes roughly the same as a K-Cup or other pod-style coffee in the end. I don't think the crema will be enough to justify VertuoLine's price for most folks, but it definitely makes one classy-looking brew.

We enjoyed Nespresso's Grand Cru blends, but they weren't significantly better than other single-serve coffee we've tasted. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Nestle's $299 Nespresso VertuoLine is pricy, but its streamlined approach to brewing is easily the best we've seen in a single-serve coffee maker. While you can make coffee and espresso in this machine, you're limited to Nespresso-brand pods. You also won't find any accessories for adding your own coffee grinds or making hot water for tea -- this machine is entirely (Nespresso-brand) coffee and espresso-focused.

If you want the convenience of at-home coffee and espresso, I like this machine much more than the Starbucks Verismo 580. The VertuoLine's crema layer definitely adds something extra and its layout is significantly better than the Verismo. You can also add Nespresso's Aeroccino+ milk frother for homemade lattes, which is way better than the powdered milk pods Starbucks offers. If you aren't too keen on espresso, though, I'd stick with the Bunn My Cafe. It received an Editors' Choice award last year for its affordability and versatility.

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