Today is a big Starbucks day! The new Verismo machine by Starbucks launches, and all the new MyStarbucksRewards start today. For those who don't recall, about a month ago Starbucks announced a major changes to their loyalty rewards program known as MyStarbucksRewards. As of today, (October 16, 2012) customers earn a free drink (or free food item with limited exclusions) every 12 stars. Soy milk and syrups are no longer free. And rewards go 100% digital today - no more postcards in the mail. Those are the major changes, though for all the details, check the official website. A large number of Starbucks stores begin selling the Verismo machine today. This is an ultra-simplified way to be able to make a latte, cup of coffee, shot of espresso, or an Americano at home. The entry level machine is priced at $199.00. There are only three buttons for three different functions: The top button is for a shot of espresso. The middle button is for a cup of brewed coffee. And the third is for milk. You simply drop in an espresso pod, a milk pod, or coffee pod, depending on what it is you want.
Here's the machine making a cup of Verona. You can see the middle button is lit up:
Today (October 15, 2012), I caught the tail-end of an in-store demonstration of the machine at the Olive Way Starbucks here in Seattle. Today really was the first time that I got to experience this new machine. So here's my review of what I tried:
It takes just a couple of quick steps to make a latte. You just use one milk pod, and one espresso pod, and in what seemed like less than one minute, you've got a latte. I was pleasantly surprised with this. I was suspicious that the milk would taste odd, but the milk pod really does make a very nice steamed milk. I liked the temperature quite a bit also. It was definitely a hot latte, but not too hot. The milk pod and the espresso pod pair together very nicely - of course they do, that's a latte! This was two thumbs up.
The thing that I'd be very tempted to try is combining the steamed milk pod with a packet of Pumpkin Spice Via Ready Brew. I have a feeling that would be delicious.
I can see that there is something to the idea of having an incredibly easy way to produce a nice cup of milk at home - whether to combine with your favorite chocolate sauce, or what have you. Just taking a cup of milk and throwing it in the microwave won't produce this. For Chai Latte drinkers, I would think this would be an incredibly easy way to make a Chai Latte at home. Starbucks sells their Chai mix, and you just pour a little bit of that with your steamed milk, and I bet you have something delicious and very fast.
The solo shot of espresso:
I drank a solo shot of espresso too. This was interesting. It was good. Was it great? I'm not too sure about that. Here's my espresso shot:
It wasn't quite as caramelly and sweet as I wanted. I am puzzled because I have no idea what gets lost in the translation between this brew method and the store. It IS good, but a nice freshly-pulled espresso shot from the Mastrena at Starbucks is better. Before I left Olive Way, I ordered a solo shot in a demitasse cup, just to refresh my memory of what that is like. The Starbucks espresso shot is better. My solo shot was truly perfect.
I inquired with the barista at the Mastrena, asking if he'd done anything special to my shot. The bar barista was "Josh" and it turns out he's a fairly new partner. We'd never met before. I could tell he was puzzled when I was pressing him for details about my shot. He looked at me funny and said that he'd 'pressed the button and made it with love.' I kid you not. As a new partner, he's already got Starbucks down pat.
My review - one thumb up, one thumb down. If only it were just a tad bit caramelly-ier. (Sorry, not really sure if that's a real word, but you know what I mean.)
By the way, I noticed in the booklet brochure about the machine that you can buy Guatemala Antigua as an espresso pod at other retailers and/or at StarbucksStore.com. I have to wonder if that produces a nicer shot of espresso! I doubt I will ever know. Those pods aren't in the Starbucks stores, and unless Santa Claus is super generous, I doubt I'll get a Verismo for Christmas.
The cup of brewed coffee:
Last but not least, I tried Verona brewed coffee from the Verismo:
One can get Pike Place Roast, Caffe Verona, House Blend, or Veranda Blend as coffee pods. I'm quite a closet fan of House Blend too. I still buy Starbucks House Blend now and then at the stores. And of course, I love Verona. The cup of coffee was quite good. It was nice size cup of coffee - I normally only order a short brewed coffee. And it was delicious. There really can't be an easier way to make brewed coffee.
Two thumbs up for brewed coffee.
This is an open thread. Feel free to weigh in on the Verismo home brewing machine. I know that some of my readers have already got one (or will have one shortly). Or, feel free to weigh in on anything Starbucks-related. As mentioned earlier, today is the big day for the new rewards launch too.