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Starbucks Verismo Review and Price Breakdown: Is It Worth It?

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By the dealnews staff

Verismo review This past fall, Starbucks ceremoniously debuted the Verismo line, its first series of automatic coffee and espresso makers. The store's hook is that you'll not only be able to get the ease of single-cup, pod-brew coffee (the ultimate convenience for anyone that can't be bothered to spend time making a cup o' Joe the old fashioned way), but also the ability to make espresso and lattes just like the international coffeehouse.

Since the dealnews staff has its fair share of Starbucks coffee drinkers, we figured we were well suited to see how well the Verismo actually works. Is it worth your money?

The Grinds: Espresso Is the Way to Go

Verismo reviewAlthough a major marketing point for the Verismo is the fact that its pods use exactly the same brews as the baristas do in-house, you'll be disappointed if you're hoping for an exact replica. By virtue of the fact that the pods contain coffee that has been pre-ground, it won't taste the same as a freshly ground cup, regardless of who makes it. But the Verismo and its ilk (the Keurig and Tassimo machines, for example) are about convenience, so it's a trade-off that a consumer will have to weigh when considering the machine.

The coffee pods come in all the familiar Starbucks blends, and each actually features a built-in filter (you have to peel a foil cover off the pod before use), which is absent from Starbucks K-cups for the Keurig machine. This may be a gimmicky inclusion, but regardless, it did seem as if the resulting coffee tasted stronger overall than what you might get from a K-cup. Since weak coffee is a common complaint amongst pod system brewers, this is something to consider.

However, the bigger draw here is the espresso, which received much higher praise from our staff, as well as from reviewers online. Our resident espresso drinker even approved of the straight shots. The accompanying milk pods, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. The pods contain 2% powdered milk that's rehydrated within the machine, and this appealed to some more than others. Fresh milk will probably be preferable for most, but if you're using this machine in an office, and cold milk is your only option for your coffee, you might find the powdered milk version convenient. You can also avoid the pods entirely by nuking a cup of milk, or by purchasing the separate electric milk frother, as mentioned below.

The Equipment: A Slim Profile and Easy to Use

Verismo reviewWe tested the Starbucks Verismo 580 Automatic Coffee and Espresso System ($199.95 with free shipping), but the brand also offers a higher-end V-585 version ($399.95 with free shipping). The 580 model, pictured, features a pleasantly slim profile when compared to Keurig machines, although it's much larger than some Nespresso systems. Having the water tank in the back contributes to its form, although you might not notice that the tank is empty until you try to make a cup of coffee, which can result in confusion when nothing comes out.

Using the machine is about as easy as it gets, with just two sizes (espresso and coffee) and a milk button to choose from. Starbucks recommends "rinsing" between different types of coffee, and the machine goes so far as to force your hand occasionally by only lighting up the espresso-size button. (We had this happen pretty frequently when first turning on the machine.) You'll need to run it without a pod first before it'll allow you to select anything else. Beyond that, the utility is similar to every other single-cup machine you might have encountered.

One reservation we noticed is that, although it's not uncommon in many such machines, the Verismo seems to drip in between cups more than others do. The excess between brewing is caught in the drip tray or within the spent pod vessel, and this moisture can become sour if not cleaned out regularly.

Although not included with the machine, Starbucks also offers its own cordless electric frother ($59.95 with free shipping, a low by $15). We didn't review this accessory, but it appears to function in much the same way that Nespresso's standalone device does, allowing for heating as well as frothing. It's not cheap at $59.99, but that's the equivalent of six 12-pack milk pod boxes; with a daily latte habit, you'd come out ahead with the frother after 11 weeks, or just short of three months. Moreover, the Starbucks frother is $40 less than the retail price for Nespresso's own version, which comparatively isn't cordless.

The Cost: More Than Normal Home Brew, But a Savings Over the Coffeehouse

Verismo review Currently the Versimo machines sell for $199 for the 580 and $399 for the V-585. Reportedly, last month Starbucks knocked them down to $149 and $299 respectively, but they remain at retail price for the moment. The main difference between the 580 and the more expensive V-585 is that the latter has automatic cleaning, internal water filtration, a bigger spent capsule holder, a larger 4L water tank, and an LED display. Comparatively, standard coffee-only Keurig machines frequently come in under $100, while the brand's upcoming Rivo brewer (which will make both coffee and espresso) will cost $229.99. The latter will include an internal frother as well.

If you're considering a machine like this one, you're probably aware that the pods will result in a higher per-cup price than if you were to brew coffee on your own, whether it be drip, French press, or espresso. Prices will vary, but if you brew from grounds, it'll cost you less than 20 cents per cup. Alternatively, a 12-pack of Verismo coffee pods will run you $11.95 in-store ($11.99 with free shipping at Bed Bath & Beyond), or about $1 per cup. So a Verismo cup of Joe effectively costs about five times more than the cost of home brewing in the traditional sense.

However, the appeal to such a machine is its convenience, so it's important to also compare the opportunity cost: stopping at a coffee shop and having it made for you. A tall cup of coffee at the 'Bucks costs $1.75. You'd thus save 75 cents with each cup via the Verismo, and if you have a daily Starbucks coffee habit, the Verismo would eventually pay for itself after 9.5 months. A Verismo latte, which requires both an espresso and a milk pod, will run you about $1.60 via the combo pack ($12.99 with free shipping), resulting in a savings of about $1.40 over the coffeehouse.

Keep in mind that, unlike the Keurig machine, there's currently only one type of coffee pod that can be used with the Verismo, which means fewer discounts to choose from. If you were to buy K-cups strictly on sale, you'd pay about 50 cents to 70 cents per cup of coffee, compared to the $1 via the Starbucks machine. Thankfully though, the Starbucks pods are carried by several retailers, including Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, and Macy's, which means a shopper may be able to find a promotion or two on occasion.

Is the Verismo Worth It?

Brewing your own coffee at home with a drip machine or French press is obviously the cheapest way for a caffeine fix, but single-cup machines like the Verismo are tools of convenience. You will save money in the long run if you frequently order from a coffee shop, but the sacrifice for those savings might be taste. At the moment, however, it is the only major single-cup brewer that offers both coffee and espresso, and the espresso thus far has tested well. Ultimately, the verdict lies in your lifestyle and caffeine needs.

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Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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6 comments
Al Loret
I have a Verismo. Xmas gift.
(+'s)Convenient, very fast, good tasting coffee.
(-'s)Very expensive vs my regular machine, expresso pot, or my French Press. Not better tasting that any of those. Starbucks ONLY so far, due to a lack of others offering coffee in this format. Very limited selection of types currently available from SB's. Some of the Starbucks pod varieties are going for $25+/12pods online! Seriously? Want to spend $2/cup for coffee that you're making in your own home? The Keurig format currently allows many more choices of coffees from many sources, even allowing for the option of reuseable, refillable pods, for more variety and cost savings.
I'll keep the Verismo, because it was a gift, but, I really wish that I'd been presented with some form of Keurig instead. Hopefully, as time goes on, more purveyors will start offering other selections for it, to compete w/ SB's, increasing the variety and perhaps driving down the ridiculous cost of operating this thing!
Russharmon
I bought the Verismo at Christmas and after 5 months, I'm trading it in for a Keurig. 3 front switches are awkward to work, it's loud and water holder is difficult to refill. Biggest thing is limited to Veranda and Pikes Place coffee. Coffee is good but so is Keurig which is also easier to work and offers all kinds of coffee and tea flavors.
ronharp
We received the Verisimo machine as a Christmas present from our daughter. We head nothing but problems out of the box. The 3 front switches didn't always work. Eventually after searching and finding a Starbucks that carries the pods about 15 miles from home, the machine worked intermittently for around two weeks, then finally quit January 19, 2013. Went to local Starbucks and they couldn't help us without a receipt even though its under warranty. Now we have to call and wait for a box then ship it and wait for return. I think this is pretty crappy for such a big company. Considering all the drinks we've bought and continue to buy even with the machine at home. I would not recommend this product to anyone.
cyfan
I had a Tassimo maker in the same style as this. The better pods ("T-discs") were around $1.10-1.60 a cup as well. I also had to have a place on the counter for the machine and a descaler solution about once every 2 months. So I switched to a $25 french press and am very happy. Easy cleanup and the coffee is great...even from mediocre beans.
greatqueen
I challenge you to redo the math on your price breakdown. Unfortunately, the pods create a drink that is in most cases 7 ounces including the quoted coffee pod. So the cost of a tall coffee at $1.75 in stores (and this price is not universal - today in a Detroit area store it was $1.65) is 14.58 cents per ounce. The coffee pod gives you a 7 ounce cup of coffee or, if you brew two, you get a slightly larger than tall 14 ounce cup. In either case the cost is 14.23 cents per ounce. So the coffee that you brew at home is .35 cents per ounce less. The $1.65 cup of coffee costs 13.8 cents per ounce and is in fact .53 cents per ounce less at the store than at home. In both cases it is before the $199 cost of the machine. Sticking at your quoted $1.75 cost per cup of coffee, you must drink roughly 300 ounces of coffee to save $1 or nearly 60,000 ounces, or 5,000 tall coffees, to save the cost of the machine and begin saving money on your purchase. That's 6-7 years at 2 cups per day.
happyprof
I used to visit Starbucks daily until I got serious about sticking to my budget. After having some coffee made by a friend in a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker (not real espresso, but a darker, thicker coffee), I made the switch. It takes me 10 minutes at home to make the equivalent of a Grande Peppermint Mocha, non-fat, no whip, and I figure my costs to be 1.00 per drink, a savings of 2.89/day over the in-shop version. I use locally roasted beans (10 dollars/month), grind them myself, brew with the Bialetti, and add steamed skim milk (6 dollars/month), sugar-free hershey's syrup (3 dollars/month), and the Starbucks bottled syrup (10 dollars a month, can't find a good replacement). It's also lower in calories, coming in at 177 calories for 16 ounces. It is brewed from freshly ground beans roasted within the past couple of weeks (vs. centrally roasted in PA for Starbucks and stored for who knows how long), uses fresh milk, and requires less syrup because the coffee is less bitter.
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