Human company and general banter aside, one of the many things I miss about being in the Clearleft studio is the coffee. We have a lovely espresso machine which, thanks to complimentary barista training and what is now years of practice, many of us have become adept at using. Sadly it will remain out of bounds even upon our post-Covid return to the office.
While working from home for the past 6 months, I’ve been without an espresso machine. I do have a trusty stovetop and Aeropress, both of which get regular use brewing the excellent rich roast from my friend Jayne at JaJu Beans & Leaves.
For complicated domestic reasons I won’t bore you with, we also have a Nespresso machine. It’s a decent bit of kit – a Sage Creatista Plus – and is capable of making a reasonable facsimile* of an espresso and texturising milk almost as well as our office machine. But every time I use it, I feel that somewhere a kitten dies. Perhaps it’s the user experience, which is excellent in terms of getting a consistent cup of coffee quickly, but doesn’t exactly reward like the physical routine of crafting your own flat white. But what really bugs me is the wastefulness of the landfill-destined pods.
I know there are such things as refillable capsules, but the thing is if I’m going use a Nespresso machine, I don’t want the faff – I want the full fast convenience. Even from cold, the Sage will give me a coffee in less than 15 seconds. But I really don’t want to be chucking away plastic pot after plastic pot, or aluminium ones which the council won’t recycle. And I don’t want to use Nestlé’s own recycling scheme, partly because I’m not keen on being stuck with Nestlé coffee, but also because when I did try it, it was a complete pain in the arse. So that leaves home compostable* pods – which is an option for me as I have a vigorous compost bin in the garden.
My goal therefore was to find home-compostable Nespresso pods which deliver a reasonable approximation to real espresso. I like my coffee dark, chocolatey and slightly bitter, as opposed to the mellow, fruity end of the spectrum. Up until now my go-to supermarket capsules have been Waitrose’s excellent own brand ristretto, which taste great and at 25p a pod are pretty good value. However the capsules are plastic and thus not recyclable locally, so with these as my flavour benchmark, my quest for eco-friendly pods began.
The quest for tasty coffee
In the end I tried 17 different coffees from 5 different brands until finally I came across two which hit the mark.
First up was Roar Gill. I ordered their Bold, and Exotic & Rare blends. Coffee aside, the packaging is lovely and fully recyclable as you’d expect – the company’s green credentials seem beyond reproach. However the Bold blend just wasn’t bold enough for me, or at least not the way I liked. It had plenty of flavour but lacked a richness in feel. The Exotic was not my thing either – all fruity and floral (as described, to be fair). The Rare I quite enjoyed but again it lacked the punch I seek from a morning coffee.
After the slight disappointment of Roar Gill, I tried Halo. Again the packaging is a thing of beauty, and fully home compostable even including the polymer wrapping keeping the coffee fresh. I tried their Honduras and Pacamara single origins, as well as the Ristretto blend. The latter promised chocolate, caramel, stone fruits and dried currants, but sadly to my probably unrefined taste buds all I got was the fruit. The Pacamara faired little better. I enjoyed the Honduras but it still fell short of the Waitrose pods in terms of the richness I was seeking (and they are four times the price).
Undeterred I carried on searching and came across Blue Goose. The ethical approach they take to their whole business really appealed, and I ordered the Eco Collection consisting of an Ethiopian, Peruvian, Lungo and Decaf. Overall these were the best so far, especially the Peruvian, although I found the decaf rather sour. The quest continued…
Boom! Now we’re talking. I got myself a multipack of five different coffees from Toast, and straight out of the gate the House Blend nailed it. The description, a strong espresso with a powerful and robust taste, finally matched my own experience of the coffee. Their other blends have been thoroughly enjoyable too, in particular the Papua New Guinea Bold and the Columbia Medium, a beautifully deep and complex coffee with a long smooth finish to quote the blurb.
I ordered Grind capsules at the same time as the Toast ones. I’m glad I did because the Toast ones are that good I might not have bothered, and I would have missed out on the best coffee so far. Grind is now a chain of fancy London coffee shops, with its roots inevitably in Shoreditch. The description of its House Blend says the pods are designed to emulate as closely as possible the taste of the coffee in our locations. With notes of chocolate and hazelnut, the Grind House Blend cuts through milk to deliver a proper coffee punch. And it did exactly what it said on the tin. A winner.
The search is over
If you like the kind of coffee I do, then look no further. By way of the Grind House Blend, I can now drink what I was hunting for: a rich, bold, chocolatey coffee with a creamy texture, ethically sourced, presented in home-compostable pods. At 45p a shot it’s not cheap, but about the going rate for premium Nespresso pods.
I’ll almost certainly keep buying the Toast pods too as they are almost as good and provide a bit of variety, and at 39p a pod are slightly cheaper.
And with that, I’m off to the kitchen to make a mid-morning flat white.