Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Carte Noire Espresso Capsule Review

It might not surprise you to learn that having been no stranger to sleep deprivation over the past thirteen years of child rearing, I am a lover of all caffeinated beverages.  In fact I don't just love them, I adore them.  Coffee is my preferred way to start every day.

Most of my coffee drinking tends to be of the instant variety these days - I swing from drinking cheap as chips instant coffee one day to barista style "posh instant" the next.  I also own a Nespresso* machine too although its use has been reserved for high days and holidays more recently.  This is because the coffee, lovely as it is, is fairly expensive.  When we first bought our original machine 12 years ago I must confess that I didn't think about how much it was going to cost me in terms of restocking it and delivery charges for doing so every few months.  Over the years we have tried bulk buying the coffee (which then goes out of date), visiting their boutique at the Trafford Centre (which works OK if we're headed out that way anyway but is not worth the visit for just coffee) and ordering smaller amounts online (OK but they need ordering in multiples of 50 and they still charge the same delivery for 50, 100, 150 so not very cost effective).

By last Christmas I had almost run out of capsules and so started looking at other alternatives.  Happily there are a few out there these days.  I managed to find two websites offering compatible capsules, one YouTube video explaining how you can refill your old capsules (so messy!) and a refillable capsule on Amazon (again, messy).  Most of the compatible capsules that you can buy online for Nespresso machines still have some of the same drawbacks, namely price per capsule and online delivery.

Wouldn't it be so much easier if you could go to the supermarket and just buy 20 or so capsules with your shopping?  Well,  I was very excited to learn that Carte Noire have launched a brand new range of Nespresso compatible capsules that are available in supermarkets!  Even more exciting still, Carte Noire sent me some capsules to try out in my machine at home, so that I can tell you what I think of them!

My wonderful box of goodies from Carte Noire

First Impressions

The capsules come in boxes of 10 and unlike Nespresso branded capsules they are individually wrapped in foil pouches inside the box.  The first thing that hit me on opening the pouches up is the wonderful coffee aroma.  It is just like opening a bag of ground coffee.  I suppose this helps keep all the smell and taste of the coffee in, keeping the capsules extra fresh.  Another thing I noticed are that the best before dates are quite long on these.  Compared to my current batch of Nespresso capsules purchased at the end of last year with a best before of September 2014, the Carte Noire capsules have a date well into the middle of next year.  This is a major thumbs up for me because when we buy coffee there is inevitably one type that we don't always use up straight away, causing it to be pushed to the back of the cupboard for a while.  It is nice to know that if that happens with these, I won't necessarily be throwing out coffee with a vastly expired date when I realise it is still there.

My "Coffee Cupboard" stocked up with Carte Noire

There are four different intensities of capsule offered in the range.  The higher the number, the higher the intensity, with 3 being the least and 9 being the strongest.  There is something for everyone here and I wasn't disappointed with any of the flavours.  Also, worthy of note is that the intensity number is printed on the outer foil pouch.  I must admit that having been a Nespresso customer for many years I should know which colours of capsule are which, but I did find it much easier to select the correct flavour with the number printed on the outside of each one.

Individually sealed capsules inside the box

The capsules fit our machine with ease, although I did feel like I was forcing the closing mechanism down a fair bit compared to with my usual capsules.  Our machine (A Magimix Citiz) brewed the coffee with no trouble at all and ejected the capsules well (rather more effectively than the Nespresso ones which quite often get stuck!).  All in all I am impressed with both the packaging and usage.

So, how did we use them?

As I say, we love a good cup of coffee here.  DH and I don't always sit down together for a coffee, being quite a busy household we tend to grab drinks at various times of the day.  That's why we bought our Nespresso machine in the first place, so that we could prepare a really good cup of coffee on the fly or when we have five rare minutes to ourselves to enjoy.  I think that the Carte Noire capsules complement our drinking habits very well, here's how we tried ours out:

1.  The "I'm going to be late for the Train" Coffee

DH had overslept slightly and needed a quick wake up before running for the train to work.  "Fire up the Quattro!" he said to me (Yes, really he did, it may have been early in the morning but I do remember thinking "What??").  Now, he's no Gene Hunt (unfortunately) and rather than a fast Audi what he really wanted was a cup of decent coffee.  Nothing too strong but something tasty nonetheless.  So on went the Quattro Nespresso machine and in went a Carte Noire Capsule No 3 (Elegant).  "Nice coffee" he said - he's a man of few words, so this is a real compliment.  I had one too and would agree.  It was a nice easy drinking coffee which is light with cereal notes to the flavour.  It is really similar to one of my favourite breakfast time Nespresso pods but, as DH revealed later in the day, the flavour is really long lasting and stayed with him all the way to work, which he liked.

Firing up the "Quattro"

2.  The "Just a quick one before the School Run" Coffee

I had five minutes before we needed to leave.  Amazingly we were all on time for once and the kids had their stuff ready.  What a luxury, five minutes to myself?  I made a quick cup of coffee before I ran the gauntlet delivering the children to their various places of education.  For this quick treat I chose Carte Noire Capsule No 5 (Delicat).  The crema on top of the coffee was really thick.  It looked like I was drinking a little glass of Guinness in fact!  It is velvety and fruity in flavour.  This would normally put me off as I'm not fond of more acidic coffee blends but this was different, moreish even.  I made myself a second one soon after I returned from the school run because well, I really wanted to have another taste, simple as that!

3.  The "I'm all alone in the house with some cake" Coffee

I found Carte Noire Capsule No 7 (Aromatique) to be a perfect companion for something chocolatey.  I made mine into a cappuccino, which is possibly sacrilege of some sort as far as real coffee connoisseurs are concerned, but I don't care, it was delicious!  I tried it as an espresso too and it really is very good either way.  The flavour was just as described, hints of cocoa with nutty and caramel undertones.  It turned my left over chocolate fudge cake into something special and I'd go as far as saying that this was my favourite out of all the coffee we tried.  I have to say I savoured every mouthful, which is not something I get the chance to do very often!

4.  The "Sunday morning lie-in" Coffee

This is really my bedside table, complete with coffee

What's that?  A lie-in?  Yes really!  I have to confess that I do get these very often at the weekends now that the children are getting older.  DH is very good to me and supervises the breakfast situation so that I can stay in bed, which makes it even better.  This weekend was different however, because I decided to make myself a quick coffee and then return to bed to enjoy it in peace.  I chose a Carte Noire Capsule No 9 (Intense) to make into a latte.  I thought that the stronger flavour would come through the milk better than one of the lower numbered intensities and I wasn't disappointed.  If I am being totally honest it was better as an espresso, but is did make a very acceptable latte all the same (of course, even better on Sunday morning while sitting in bed!).

I didn't get the chance to use any of our coffee in any recipes, but I plan on using the rest of our No 9 capsules for a tiramisu at some point.  I think the earthy tobacco taste would be great in a creamy dessert.  I was cheered to find out that our local supermarket has some of the Carte Noire capsules in stock already.  I'm sure some will find their way into my shopping basket over the coming weeks.

This post is an entry in the Foodies100 Espresso Collective Challenge, sponsored by Carte Noire. Each box of Carte Noire Espresso capsules contain 10 single servings and are available in supermarkets at an RRP of £2.79 and are available in four intensities. To find out more about the new Carte Noire Collection Espresso click here

*Nespresso® is a registered trademark of a third party without any link with Mondelez International group. Compatible with all Nespresso®* machines bought before July 1, 2013. After that date, compatible with most Nespresso®* machines bought. For additional information regarding compatibility, please see UK: www.CARTENOIRE.co.uk/compatibility


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