A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to receive a Dolce Gusto ‘Stelia’ coffee machine. It actually arrived a couple of days after my birthday, so that was a particularly nice surprise.
So, how did I end up with a new coffee machine? Well, I was contacted by the folks at TerraCycle as part of their initiative to spread the word about recycling coffee capsules. Coffee machines that use capsules have become quite popular during the last few years since they’re easy to use and taste a million times better than instant coffee (and I imagine all those Nespresso ads with George Clooney may have helped too).
But all those coffee capsules create a lot of garbage, right? Not necessarily! What many people probably don’t realize is that you don’t have to throw your capsules in the trash – many of them are recyclable.
As someone who has been using a Nespresso machine multiple times a day for several years, this was pretty exciting for me to discover. And when TerraCycle offered to send my coffee-addicted self a new machine, well that was even more exciting.
In case you’d like to know a little something about who gave your reviewer her machine (and/or are interested in recycling), let me quickly give you the rundown on what TerraCycle is. TerraCycle is a company dedicated to ‘eliminating the idea of waste’ by recycling things that are generally considered ‘non-recyclable’. They operate in 20 different countries including Australia, the US, Canada, the UK and France. In Australia, TerraCycle has recently partnered with Dolce Gusto to raise awareness about recycling coffee capsules.
If you’re interested, you can find out more on their US site or Australian site, or their other international sites. TerraCycle have also made a video explaining the recycling process, and how you can recycle coffee capsules.
So, without further ado, here’s my review!
The Stelia machine looks futuristic, like a coffee robot from the future. If this doesn’t fit with your kitchen decor, then don’t worry – the machine’s quite light and compact, so you can move it around and/or store it in a cupboard.
I’m all for the robot look, but I’m not quite sure why they’d put a red cord and plug on a black machine. A black or gray cord would’ve made more sense, but that’s just me being picky.
The machine’s very easy to set up and use. You pour (cold or room-temperature) water into the bubble at the back, and insert a capsule into the black ‘head’ at the front. Then you can select how much coffee you’d like by pressing one of the green bars that light up on the head. All of the capsules (and the boxes they come in) indicate which bar you should press, and how much liquid that will yield. For example, for a ‘Lungo’ you should press the fourth bar, which will give you 120mL – or exactly half a cup – of coffee.
Side note: You may notice that the black head of the machine is very glossy, which is why you can see a reflection of my living room in it (uh, sorry!).
One thing that makes the Dolce Gusto range different from other capsule coffee machines is that you can buy capsules that contain coffee and milk. For example, to make a cappuccino, you first insert the milk capsule and select the fifth bar. Then insert the coffee capsule and press bar one.
This means that you don’t have a separate milk compartment to clean, you don’t have to worry about having sour milk, and you can still make a cappuccino (or hot chocolate, or a chai latte) even if you’re out of milk.
On the downside, it’s a bit awkward if you can’t have dairy. Or if, like yours truly, prefer your coffee with almond milk. Yes, you can still make a basic coffee and add non-dairy milk to it. But you can’t have a nice foamy cappuccino.
As well as the Stelia machine, I was given a few capsules to try: the Skinny Cappuccino, Chai Latte, Chocoletto, Lungo and Americano.
The capsules comes in boxes of sixteen. This means that one box of black coffee capsules will make sixteen coffees, but one box of cappuccino capsules will only make eight (because there are eight coffee capsules and eight milk capsules).
By the way, the nutritional information (per serve) is printed on the boxes. My machine also came with a pamphlet outlining the nutritional information for all available capsules.
Even though it doesn’t look like much coffee when you make it, there is a reasonable amount of coffee in the cappuccino. And a good amount of foam on top.
That being said, I would’ve preferred a little more coffee – probably because I’m someone who prefers their coffee on the stronger side. But there’s no need to worry because you can add more coffee! Just select the second bar (or even bar three) instead of bar one, which is stipulated in the instructions. And voilà: you have more coffee.
Since the milk comes from a capsule, the cappuccino has a slight ‘milk powder’ taste. It’s not offensive – not like those instant cappuccinos that you make using powder and hot water – but it’s definitely there.
Fortunately, this wasn’t overly sweet (I generally find that chai lattes are far too sweet). There’s a pretty good flavor, but like all chai lattes that are made using powder and not real tea, the flavor can come a across as slightly artificial.
Personally, I’d prefer to make my own chai latte using real chai tea and milk, but that’s how I feel about virtually all chai lattes out there (and I’ve tried quite a few).
When I traveled to Italy and France a few years ago, the hotel in Rome had a hot chocolate machine as part of the breakfast buffet. The Dolce Gusto ‘Chocoletto’ – a hot chocolate – instantly reminded me of that hot chocolate machine in Rome. And I really liked that machine. And by ‘liked it’, I mean that every morning at the breakfast buffet I’d consume at least three hot chocolates. (Oddly enough, the hot chocolate machine in the Roman hotel was far better than the one in the hotel in Paris).
Unlike many hot chocolates, the Chocoletto isn’t insanely sweet and has a good hit of chocolate. Often I’ve bought a hot chocolate from a cafe, or from a coffee chain, and found it had a terrible milk-to-chocolate ratio. Luckily, the Chocoletto has enough chocolate for my dark chocolate-loving self.
Lungo and Americano
I’m not a straight coffee drinker, but I do love these with some almond milk. They’re smooth, not overpowering, and so much better than instant coffee. I’ve also received positive reviews from folks who drink black coffee, who said these coffees were ‘good without being too strong or bitter’ and ‘not oily at all’.
The Lungo and Americano coffees are ideal for using in recipes, as they add a hit of coffee that you can actually taste. Plus, if you select bar four on the machine, you’ve got half a cup of coffee all measured out for you.
But that’s not the best part. The absolute best part is this: you can make cold coffee!
Not only is this ideal if you’re after an iced coffee (or are making your own frappuccino), but it’s also perfect for recipes. If you’re baking with coffee, adding it to pancakes, making tiramisu, or using it in overnight oats, then you need the coffee to be cold. Far too often I’ve made hot coffee (using my Nespresso machine) and then have had to wait for it to cool down. Hot coffee takes ages to cool down. And I refuse to use instant coffee in recipes. So this machine has seriously sped up my prep time for caffeinated recipes.
- Easy to set up and use
- The machine is compact and isn’t heavy, so it can be stored easily
- You can make cold coffee, which is a serious plus for making recipes
- The coffee (or tea, or hot chocolate) comes out nice and hot
- It’s convenient if you don’t have any milk – or don’t want to clean a milk container
- The base of the machine can be moved to suit the height of your cup/mug/glass
- Nutritional information per serve provided
- A little awkward if you can’t have dairy
- Slight milk powder taste in the cappuccino
Since I have coffee on the brain at the moment, I’ll be sharing a few recipes that involve coffee. So stay tuned because some coffee pancakes will be heading your way very soon!
As mentioned in the post, I received a Dolce Gusto ‘Stelia’ machine from TerraCycle (Australia). You can find out more information about the coffee capsule recycling program on their website. All opinions are my own (except I did receive help from family members to review the machine).