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Hands-on with the Verismo System: Brew Starbucks quality lattes at home

K. T. Bradford

Ever since Starbucks began its reign over the hearts and minds of American coffee-lovers, many have lamented having to leave the house in order to enjoy quality lattes, macchiatos, and espresso. While there are many countertop espresso machines, some with steam wands for foaming milk, they require an awful lot of work to operate and keep clean.

For caffeine addicts who want a simple, one-step path to the perfect Starbucks cup, there's new hope on the horizon: the Verismo. This new single cup coffee maker is available today online at and at specialty kitchen stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Williams Sonoma for $199 and $399. In October you'll start to see it in participating Starbucks locations.

The Verismo System offers features rarely seen in coffee machines of this type. To start, a single machine can make espresso and brew coffee. Usually you have to choose one or the other when buying. In addition to pods containing espresso, dark, medium, or light roast coffee, there are also separate milk pods for making lattes.

This is made possible thanks to internal wizardry inside the Verismo itself. Depending on what you're making, the machine adjusts the temperature and pressure, which is different depending on the type of coffee or milk.

Making a cup is pretty easy, especially if you're familiar with Kuerig and K-Cup coffee makers. Drop a pod into the top of the Verismo, press the corresponding button (espresso, coffee, milk), and wait a few seconds for it to finish.

Making espresso or brew coffee is a one-step process. If you want a latte, you drop the milk pod in first, then the espresso pod once the milk is finished. In-between it takes a few seconds for the Verismo to cool down and get ready for the next pod, but it really is just a few seconds.

The milk pods contain real dairy — no artificial additives or preservatives. And when the Verismo reconstitutes it with water, it does so at a temperature designed to heat but not scorch. You even get a small bit of foam on top.

For lovers of foam, the Verismo might not give as much as you want. It's just enough for a latte, not enough for a cappuccino.

The resulting coffee tastes just like a Starbucks cup to me, though I'm not a connoisseur, I freely admit. Add flavored syrups, chocolate, or caramel and you can make a mocha, caramel macchiato, or vanilla latte easily. Starbucks includes helpful recipe cards so you'll know how to do it.

Pods collect inside the machine and need to be emptied periodically. Cleaning the machine itself is easy and doesn't need to be done too often.

Starbucks has two Verismo Systems. The $199 Verismo 580 comes in a range of colors from black and silver to burgundy and wine.

The $399 Verismo V.585 is larger and can hold more water and more empty pods. It also has other upscale features, such as a built-in water filter, temperature control, and a digital display which will let you know when to change the filter, add more water, empty the pod catcher, and other information.

The temperature "control" only allows you to switch between two temps, but may prove useful down the line. Though the Verismo System is all about coffee right now, Starbucks may decide to add tea to the line.

The pods themselves will cost $11.95 for a 12 count of espresso or brew coffee, $12.95 for a latte pack (8 milk, 8 espresso), and $9.95 for a 12 count of milk. Espresso lovers will have a choice between Espresso Guatemala and regular or decaf Espresso Roast. Brew coffee choices include House Blend, Veranda Blend, Pike Place Roast, and Cafe Verona.

Have the Verismo's charms caught your attention? It may not have as many options as a K-Cup machine, but is more versatile than most of what's out there. Is it worth the premium price for the ultimate Starbucks at home experience plus convenience?

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