When you’re planning a brunch party, hosting stayover guests, or simply trying to wake yourself up in the morning after the office holiday party, there are few things more important than having a good cup of coffee available quickly. Most folks know that the best coffee requires careful grinding, ideally right before brewing, and a slow brew method like a Chemex pour over for optimal extraction and flavor. That’s also not the most common way to get your java fix, because it’s time-consuming and awkward.
The Starbucks Verismo V system is fast and simple, as easy as could be, and is the latest capsule-style single-cup brewing solution. An update to their lineup that dates back to 2013, this one is smaller than ever. Our complete package came with a really nice milk frother, allowing you to make decent cappucinos and lattes by using some hot or cold milk- and we’re pretty picky, as our editor owns a coffee shop complete with Baratza grinders and a La Marzocco espresso machine. We’ve tried most of the pod and capsule systems too, including some that aren’t widely available, and this one scores top marks for it’s small footprint, quiet operation, and quick speed. We liked the easy controls too, and the sleek aesthetic.
The drinks taste like classic Starbucks too. We got a chance to try a pretty wide lineup of the Verismo-compatible coffees, including their classic Pike Place Roast and House Blend as well as their less-common single-origin Sumatra and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. In each case, the beans were pretty high quality, and the pods seemed fresh, but there was only a small amount of grounds in each capsule. That led to fairly weak drinks, even in smaller sizes- we typically want 12-20 ounces of coffee in our first cup and this machine maxes out at 10, and it’s a bit watery at the larger size too. Espresso shots, in turn, looked great- lovely crema thanks perhaps to the 19 bars of pressure- but were slightly weak; enough that two made for a good 10-ounce cappuccino but not a great 16 ounce latte.
Unlike some competitors, there’s no option to use your own coffee grounds, so you’re tied to the fairly limited Starbucks options. There are the usual ecological issues with using pods, though you are of course much less likely to waste coffee and these are recyclable in some areas if you remove the lid and clean them. The pods aren’t cheap either- expect to spend around 80 cents to $1 each- but that’s definitely cheaper than buying a drink at Starbucks! Our favorite part of the bundle was probably the frother, which efficiently heated the milk to a good temperature and did a remarkably consistent job- plus it was easy to clean. Available separately for around $59, the complete package runs about $169 online and in stores- a solid price, making the Verismo V a perfect gift for the Starbucks fan in your life.