Nespresso VertuoLine review: A single-serve coffee maker with style

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The Good The Nespresso VertuoLine is a sturdy coffee and espresso maker with a delightfully intuitive layout. Unlike its bland single cup counterparts, Nespresso spiced up its design with some retro style elements.

The Bad At $299, it costs considerably more than its competition. Only Nespresso-brand coffee and espresso pods are compatible with VertuoLine machines.

The Bottom Line This well-designed machine is a very good option for fans of at-home coffee and espresso. Consider the $159.99 Bunn My Cafe MCU if you want a more versatile coffee maker.

7.6 Overall
  • Performance 7
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Maintenance 8

Nestle's Nespresso brand is known for its espresso-centric line of at-home brewers. In an attempt to appeal to folks who also like coffee, it recently launched VertuoLine, Nespresso's very first single cup espresso and coffee maker. Nespresso is targeting premium brew fans with its proprietary selection of barcoded "Grand Cru" coffee and espresso pods. At $299, VertuoLine machines aren't cheap, but they do offer superior design and usability, and Nespresso's signature crema layer that makes your daily dose of caffeine feel a bit more gourmet. Overall, though, this machine didn't yield significantly better coffee than what you can find from other, less expensive models and coffee pods. Still, if you're interested in a machine that strictly makes coffee and espresso, VertuoLine is a very good option.

Design and features
Nespresso's VertuoLine comes in chrome, black, or red. The machine has a retro vibe that I really like, especially since other models we've tested offer function, but very little character. The VertuoLine measures 8.32 inches wide by 11.91 inches deep by 11.93 inches tall, about the same as a standard K-Cup machine. It weighs 10.8 pounds, has a mid-sized 40-ounce water tank, and a 14-pod capacity disposal bin.

The $299 VertuoLine is more stylish than the other single cup coffee makers we've reviewed so far. Colin West McDonald/CNET

It offers three adjustable cup heights to accommodate small espresso cups, standard coffee mugs, and larger travel mugs. The machine defaults to 1.35 ounces for espresso and 7.77 ounces for coffee, although you can customize these settings to anywhere from 0.3 ounces to 17 ounces. A single button controls the entire coffee maker, and you can adjust the settings via a combination of different button presses. A latch at the top locks the pod into place and releases it smoothly into the disposal bin after it brews your drink.

VertuoLine takes 15 to 20 seconds to preheat. During the brewing process, the pod spins rapidly due to Nespresso's trademarked Centrifusion Technology. That tech is supposedly what creates the decadent crema layer of foam. VertuoLine will automatically power down after 9 minutes.

A sample pack of capsules come with your purchase, so you can taste test the various blends for yourself. And if you tire of plain espresso, you can add Nespresso's Aeroccino+ milk frother into the rotation for lattes, but that's it as far as accessories go. From here, the features are a bit of a disappointment. The VertuoLine is only compatible with Nespresso's own coffee and espresso capsules.

The VertuoLine sample pack of coffee and espresso capsules. Colin West McDonald/CNET

You can't add your own coffee grinds, you can't add a filter to make plain hot water for tea, and you definitely can't use another brand's coffee capsules in this machine. Nespresso designed its pods to ensure that. Each one is branded with a barcode that the machine scans to determine the specific brewing instructions. That's a pretty severe limitation when some other single-serve coffee makers come with so many accessories and brew options.

Take the $159.99 Bunn My Cafe MCU. It's smaller at 11.3 pounds and measuring 13.5 inches wide by 9.2 inches deep by 16.5 inches tall. It's also extremely versatile, offering a hot water attachment for tea or oatmeal, a pod attachment for tea bags, a third attachment for ground coffee, and another attachment for K-Cups or other coffee capsules. While it doesn't have a pod disposal bin, has a smaller 14-ounce water reservoir, and looks pretty utilitarian, it feels very durable and it can make pretty much any warm beverage imaginable.

The Keurig Vue V700 is massive in comparison to the Nespresso VertuoLine. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Both the $179.99 Keurig K75 Platinum and the $149.99 Keurig Vue V700 have larger water tanks, but they are also bulkier, heavier, and flimsier than the Nespresso VertuoLine. The $149 Starbucks Verismo 580 measures 8.2 inches wide by 14.8 inches deep by 16.4 inches tall. It weighs 8 pounds has storage space for up to 10 coffee pods and a 33.8-ounce water bin capacity. Like the VertuoLine, it's limited to its own proprietary coffee and espresso pods. It looks very sleek from the front, but it's a very long machine -- 14.8 inches deep -- and that makes it look really awkward on a countertop.

Usability and maintenance
One of my favorite things about this coffee maker is its simplicity. It has one button and that one button controls everything. The water tank is located in a spot that's easy to reach, remove and put back in place and the coffee pods are easy to insert. Locking the lid take a bit more muscle that I would have expected, but I like the way it clicks securely into place. I really like that you don't have to bother with selecting a brew type. The barcode on the coffee pod does everything for you. And when it's done brewing, simply unlock and lift the lid and your used coffee pod will slide to the bin disposal area.

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