Lavazza a modo mio coffee system – review

English: Lavazza cup with little spoon in café...
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UPDATE: I’ve added reviews of some of the actual coffee here and here

Coffee pod systems are all the rage, and we all know they’re expensive and wasteful in comparison with just using ground coffee. On the other hand, they take the guesswork out of making a decent cup of coffee and they’re considerably cheaper than buying coffee in one of the high street chains.

I’ve been using the Philips Senseo system for a number of years now (on my second machine). It’s the second oldest system, the first being the Nespresso system, which is far more expensive. Although the number of Senseo coffee varieties in the UK is limited, there is a vast selection of different blends, flavours and drinks available in French supermarkets. Since I visit France at least three times a year, I can always stock up.

But although Senseo is okay, it doesn’t make a proper cup of espresso and it’s crema is a bit of a cheat, caused by forcing the coffee through a very small nozzle rather than as a natural by-product of the bean.

I’ve been considering a Nespresso machine for a while, and very nearly bought one last year, but what stopped me was the ridiculous “club” system of buying the expensive coffee pods. It’s true that you can now buy 3rd party capsules in French supermarkets, but in the end we’re dealing with Nestlé here, and what the hell do they know about good coffee?

Recently, and rather tardily, both Lavazza and Illy have started offering pod systems. In my heart, I’m Illy to the core but the machines are silly expensive things designed by Francis Francis (I’d feel a bit of a cock buying one of those) and the pods are only available online.

Which brings me to my recent purchase: an AEG/ELectrolux Favola Lavazza a Modo Mio machine. I bought mine in France, so it’s branded Electrolux, but you can buy the same machines in John Lewis. And the good news is that you can buy at least two varieties of the Lavazza pods in Waitrose. How does it work?

Fill the tank with water, switch the machine on, and the coffee button flashes while the thing warms up. Doesn’t take long. Lift up the lever, insert a pod, force the lever back down, place a cup under the spout, push the button. When there’s enough coffee in the cup, push the button again (some machines offer automatic dosing so you don’t have to push a second time).

You’ll probably want to warm the cup, because the coffee comes out at the right temperature, which means that the water isn’t boiling. The quick way of warming a cup is to use the hot water/steam system to squirt some hot water into the cup. Or you could just put some water in the cup and heat it in the microwave.

There are currently 8 varieties of capsule, including one decaffeinated blend (the blue ones). Most are 100% pure Arabica, though a couple blend in some Robusta beans. The difference in taste is down to how roasted the beans are, and how finely ground. For example, use the capsules designed for a lungo (which means pushing more water through the coffee), obviously have a coarser grind, which allows the extra water to pass through quite quickly. Try to make a lungo with one of the more finely ground capsules, and you’ll wait longer for the cup to be full.

Most of the coffees are designed to make espresso or ristretto. How much water is up to you, but you can actually judge by eye when the fluid coming from the machine is no longer coffee coloured and you’re basically adding bitter hot water. So it’s also possible to just push through an espresso amount and then top up using the hot water/steam spout.

You can use the spout to froth milk if you like that kind of thing.

I like the system and it makes a very good cup of coffee. I don’t regret not buying the Illy system. After all, I already have the Lavazza cups

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