Bruce Dennill
2 minute read
12 Apr 2014
5:00 pm

Utilitarian utopia in a coffee cup

Bruce Dennill

For a machine that sounds like an instruction to a farmhand, the U Milk – one of Nespresso's latest models – is not only a very pretty piece of equipment, but a surprisingly practical one.

The machine produces coffee with a beautiful crema, as satisfying aesthetically as it is on the palate. Picture: Bruce Dennill.

The latter adverb has to do with Nespresso as a phenomenon, being a proudly top-end enterprise, generally more concerned with brand indentity and being cutting-edge rather than terribly practical. In that regard, the issues that have bothered many users before remain.

Firstly, these machines generate a large amount of non-biodegradable waste (you can take used capsules back to a Nespresso Boutique for recycling, but there aren’t many of those around and it’s a schlep). Secondly, with your three options being a 25ml ristretto, a 40ml expresso or a 120ml lungo, coffee drinkers who like a good, solid cuppa rather than an admittedly sublime couple of sips will remain frustrated. And thirdly, setting yourself up for the U Milk experience is an expensive exercise, with the machines going for between R2 600 and R3 000.

But the new DeLonghi U Milk machine does a couple of very simple things very well. For a start, it minimises the cables involved. Rather than having the Aeroccino milk frother as a standalone add-on – more difficult to store; extra plug points – the designers have fasioned a platform that holds both the water cylinder for the machine and the frother, and powers the latter. Importantly, the platform swivels, so instead of having to move other gadgets to accommodate an awkward Y-shaped contraption, users can try a number of configurations to suit their space.

The new Nespresso U Milk machine is one of the brand's most practical. Picture: Supplied.

The new Nespresso U Milk machine is one of the brand’s most practical. Picture: Supplied.

Furthermore, attaching odds and ends like the little platform on which the cup is placed (under the nozzle) via magnets makes everything neater and more likely to last than doing the same thing with plastic clips and rails.

The frother exponentially increases both the number of options coffee drinkers can consider and the ease of creating them. As with the old-fashioned stick-in-a-jug frothers, the type of milk you use has an impact on how good a froth you get, and you’ll need to play around for the best results.

Once that’s done, though, making a consistently enjoyable cup of coffee – with a good crema – is ridiculously easy. Cup under nozzle. Choose amount of coffee required. Insert capsule and close slider. While that’s pouring (it’ll stop automatically when it’s done; you don’t need to hover), open the lid of the frother, pour in milk up to the line on the side of the machine, close it and press go (it’s also programmed to stop when done). Marvel at how quiet the frother is, relative to those conversation-interrupting versions in your local coffee shop.

Picture supplied

Picture supplied

With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to synchronise these activities so that you can spoon your foam straight onto your shot of caffeine and be out halfway through your first cappuccino before the machine even has time to settle into standby mode.