Stark Insider

Comparing espresso pod systems from Nespresso and Illy

I recently received a brochure in the mail from Illy, slick as always, promoting their new espresso capsule system, crazily called iperEspresso. I’m not even sure how to say that. It piqued my interest as I know and enjoy Nespresso capsule espresso. So I wondered how this new system from Illy would stack up. The […]

illy-iperespresso-coffee-francisfrancis-x8-espresso

Can Illy's new Alien-looking espresso machine beat Nespresso at its own game?

I recently received a brochure in the mail from Illy, slick as always, promoting their new espresso capsule system, crazily called iperEspresso. I’m not even sure how to say that. It piqued my interest as I know and enjoy Nespresso capsule espresso. So I wondered how this new system from Illy would stack up.

The so-called single serve coffee market has been growing by leaps and bounds as us self-described busy people seek new ways to save a second or two here and there, without compromising our love for fine things like espresso. Okay, for me more functional than fine: it gets me going in the morning.

For manufacturers it can mean a new, enticing revenue model. I can just see sales and marketing folks light up: “Aha! Another shaver cartridge business model… I like it, let’s create revenue streams”. The model — like shavers, like video game systems, like cell phones, and like so many other new “service-based” consumer based pricing models — is all about a cash flow annuity. Sell the hardware cheap, in this case $150 for the Illy machine. Then keep them coming back for refills. Also important: make sure those refills use proprietary technology so they can only come to us, and only at a premium price. Think profit margin.

By the way, I should mention I’m not opposed to this type of approach. It lowers the entry price and often, like this new Illy machine, provides great convenience. It’s all a matter of preference.

Enough preamble, how does this new Illy machine stack-up against the market leader in single-serve espresso, Nespresso?

In a word: so-so.

Keep in mind I need to wait for a hands-on test before comitting a final score, but my initial reaction is underwhelming for a few reasons.

First, the design of the machine. It’s larger than the Nespresso’s tiny, sexy footprint (I’m referring to the compact C100 and realize Nespresso also makes larger, more feature laden models). Granted it does include a steaming wand for cappuccinos and lattes (but if past experience with bar pump machines is a guide, I bet it’s underpowered and slow). Part of the reason is Illy partnered with FrancisFrancis to make the machine. Smart thinking though. Back to aforementioned business model discussion, the real money is in the cartridges. 

The FrancisFrancis X8, the machine designed for Illy, comes in black only. And to my eyes it looks like a combination of 1950s retro and a space creature from the movie, Alien. Just oddball really. 

Regarding the pods themselves, Illy is only offering 4 choices (medium, lungo, dark roast and decaffeinated) which pales in comparison to the wide selection of 16 colorfully described, and tasty blends from Nespresso.

nespresso-c100-aeroccino-espresso

Nespresso's C100: a svelte, market leading choice

It goes without saying that Illy’s pods, like its peers, are proprietary. But I was suprised to see them almost gloat on page 2 of the brochure: “It’s an easy-to-use system combining a proprietary capsule for use exclusively with iperEspresso machines.” Someone needs to tell their marketing people that proprietary is good for them, bad for us. Or perhaps they’re confusing the notion of “exclusivity”.

On price, I was again surprised to see Illy come in below Nespresso, especially considering their premium brand positioning. $150 gets you the machine (plus $25 for handling). You are required though to purchase at least two cans of iperEspresso capsules ($16 each). So your total would be $207. 

The Nespresso C100, which to me looks most comparable, starts at $249. It offers more power (19 bar vs. 15 bar), but requires a separate steaming device (Aeroccino). You can get a bundle for $299.

Illy refills are $16 per can, and $11 per can of decaf. That works out to .76 or .79 per serving respectively. Apparently not getting the jolts will cost you .03 extra every day. So much for sacrifice.

I believe Nespresso still includes a 40 capsule box with every new system, but I could be wrong about that. I couldn’t tell from their web site if this is still the case.

Nespresso refills range from .55 to .62 per serving depending on the type.

So while Illy initially looks like a sweet deal, over the long haul you’ll be better off with the Nespresso.

For price, let’s compare shipped to your door (tax extra):

  • $305.95 Nespresso C100
  • $207.00 Illy Francis Francis X8 iperEspresso

The difference is $98.95. 

Let’s assume you drink 1 cup per day of the .62 Nespresso pod. How many days to break even versus the .76 Illy pod? Quick tablecloth math says it’s about 705 days, or almost 2 years. But, if you drink 2 cups per day, then it would be about a year, after which you will save more every day with the Nespresso.

HEAD TO HEAD: Espresso Capsule Systems

Illy FrancisFrancis X8 iperPresso ($150 machine, $16/can 21 capsules, .76 each)
illyusa.com/welcomebackX8 

  • Cheaper initial cost. More expensive refills. Odd retro/Alien design. Less power. (note: we have not yet conducted a hands-on review)

Nespresso ($299 machine, capsules .55 to .62 each)
nespresso.com

  • More expensive machine, but lower cost refills. Larger selection. Nicer design. More power. Market leader.

Verdict

Go with the Nespresso. It’s a fun machine, reliable and been in the marketplace longer. The espresso selection is much broader too. The competition is welcome though, and I expect to see more choice for us espresso lovers in the coming years.

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  • Baja Barry

    Have you ever looked at the Tassimo (<a href="http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?</a>" target="_blank">http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?</a></a>

  • Baja Barry

    Have you ever looked at the Tassimo (<a href="http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?</a>" target="_blank">http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?</a></a>

  • Baja Barry

    Have you ever looked at the Tassimo (http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?

  • Baja Barry

    Have you ever looked at the Tassimo (http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?

  • Baja Barry

    Have you ever looked at the Tassimo (http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?

  • Baja Barry

    Have you ever looked at the Tassimo (http://www.tassimodirect.com/tassimo/index.aspx)?

  • Mike Carrall

    I've seen it in stores and heard good things about it. Reasonable price too around $170. My only concern is if its espresso quality is up to the standard of the Illy and Nespresso systems.<br />
    <br />
    Do you have one? Let me know what you think. <br />
    -Mike

  • Mike Carrall

    I've seen it in stores and heard good things about it. Reasonable price too around $170. My only concern is if its espresso quality is up to the standard of the Illy and Nespresso systems.<br />
    <br />
    Do you have one? Let me know what you think. <br />
    -Mike

  • Mike Carrall

    I’ve seen it in stores and heard good things about it. Reasonable price too around $170. My only concern is if its espresso quality is up to the standard of the Illy and Nespresso systems.

    Do you have one? Let me know what you think.
    -Mike

    • Baja Barry

      I ordered one today. It makes espresso, lattes, cappuccino, tea, and hot chocolate using bar-coded T-discs. There are T-discs by Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, etc. The new version, made by Bosch, is superior to the older one made by Braun. There are two models, the more expensive one includes a filter for the water tank. Macy’s is selling the filtered version for $139 via Amazon. Target was selling the non-filter version (TAS1000UC) for $99, but it appears they are in the process of converting to the filter version at $129. I found quite a few TAS1000UCs on eBay and bought one for $66 with free shipping.

  • Mike Carrall

    I’ve seen it in stores and heard good things about it. Reasonable price too around $170. My only concern is if its espresso quality is up to the standard of the Illy and Nespresso systems.

    Do you have one? Let me know what you think.
    -Mike

    • Baja Barry

      I ordered one today. It makes espresso, lattes, cappuccino, tea, and hot chocolate using bar-coded T-discs. There are T-discs by Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, etc. The new version, made by Bosch, is superior to the older one made by Braun. There are two models, the more expensive one includes a filter for the water tank. Macy’s is selling the filtered version for $139 via Amazon. Target was selling the non-filter version (TAS1000UC) for $99, but it appears they are in the process of converting to the filter version at $129. I found quite a few TAS1000UCs on eBay and bought one for $66 with free shipping.

  • Mike Carrall

    I’ve seen it in stores and heard good things about it. Reasonable price too around $170. My only concern is if its espresso quality is up to the standard of the Illy and Nespresso systems.

    Do you have one? Let me know what you think.
    -Mike

    • Baja Barry

      I ordered one today. It makes espresso, lattes, cappuccino, tea, and hot chocolate using bar-coded T-discs. There are T-discs by Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, etc. The new version, made by Bosch, is superior to the older one made by Braun. There are two models, the more expensive one includes a filter for the water tank. Macy’s is selling the filtered version for $139 via Amazon. Target was selling the non-filter version (TAS1000UC) for $99, but it appears they are in the process of converting to the filter version at $129. I found quite a few TAS1000UCs on eBay and bought one for $66 with free shipping.

  • Mike Carrall

    I’ve seen it in stores and heard good things about it. Reasonable price too around $170. My only concern is if its espresso quality is up to the standard of the Illy and Nespresso systems.

    Do you have one? Let me know what you think.
    -Mike

    • Baja Barry

      I ordered one today. It makes espresso, lattes, cappuccino, tea, and hot chocolate using bar-coded T-discs. There are T-discs by Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, etc. The new version, made by Bosch, is superior to the older one made by Braun. There are two models, the more expensive one includes a filter for the water tank. Macy’s is selling the filtered version for $139 via Amazon. Target was selling the non-filter version (TAS1000UC) for $99, but it appears they are in the process of converting to the filter version at $129. I found quite a few TAS1000UCs on eBay and bought one for $66 with free shipping.

  • Baja Barry

    I ordered one today. It makes espresso, lattes, cappuccino, tea, and hot chocolate using bar-coded T-discs. There are T-discs by Starbucks, Seattle's Best, etc. The new version, made by Bosch, is superior to the older one made by Braun. There are two models, the more expensive one includes a filter for the water tank. Macy's is selling the filtered version for $139 via Amazon. Target was selling the non-filter version (TAS1000UC) for $99, but it appears they are in the process of converting to the filter version at $129. I found quite a few TAS1000UCs on eBay and bought one for $66 with free shipping.

  • Baja Barry

    I ordered one today. It makes espresso, lattes, cappuccino, tea, and hot chocolate using bar-coded T-discs. There are T-discs by Starbucks, Seattle's Best, etc. The new version, made by Bosch, is superior to the older one made by Braun. There are two models, the more expensive one includes a filter for the water tank. Macy's is selling the filtered version for $139 via Amazon. Target was selling the non-filter version (TAS1000UC) for $99, but it appears they are in the process of converting to the filter version at $129. I found quite a few TAS1000UCs on eBay and bought one for $66 with free shipping.

  • daniele

    It’s hard to believe that the author wrote the whole article and forgot to mention the taste of the coffees…. all these details about how many cents you’ll save with one pod vs the other… but is it worth it? If you don’t do it for the taste, why are you looking at these expensive coffee machines anyway? Get a dripper and some maxwell coffee

    • KAMiKZ

      “without compromising our love for fine things like espresso.”
      Completely agreed. How can the taste not be discussed.

      I disagree with the argument for Nespresso b/c it’s been around longer. FrancisFrancis has been making premium espresso maker for a very long time as well and they are near top on the list in their art. Certainly the only aspect of difference with a capsule system is the capsule for the systems will do their regular espresso making by interacting with the powder that’s in the capsule. So the fight area is more weighted in who does better vacuuming. And once the capsule is pierce and we’re in the area of squeezing through espresso powder, FrancisFrancis definitely wouldn’t be incompetent.

      Though I have not the chance to look into how pressure affects the taste. But I dare say that there’s little chance for a claim like ” more the better ” to be true in espresso making. Not even ” more tends to be better “. I feel not the urge to try to boil everything down to 1 single number and to judge things with it. Aren’t you sick of things like that work like this in life? SAT score, GRE score, credit score. I thought we’re here to enjoy life a bit more. For instance, more gigahertz = faster comp, more megapixel => better photography and so on. You know it can’t *simply* be.

      I hope someone with both systems would give a candidate review of the taste of the coffee.

  • daniele

    It’s hard to believe that the author wrote the whole article and forgot to mention the taste of the coffees…. all these details about how many cents you’ll save with one pod vs the other… but is it worth it? If you don’t do it for the taste, why are you looking at these expensive coffee machines anyway? Get a dripper and some maxwell coffee

    • KAMiKZ

      “without compromising our love for fine things like espresso.”
      Completely agreed. How can the taste not be discussed.

      I disagree with the argument for Nespresso b/c it’s been around longer. FrancisFrancis has been making premium espresso maker for a very long time as well and they are near top on the list in their art. Certainly the only aspect of difference with a capsule system is the capsule for the systems will do their regular espresso making by interacting with the powder that’s in the capsule. So the fight area is more weighted in who does better vacuuming. And once the capsule is pierce and we’re in the area of squeezing through espresso powder, FrancisFrancis definitely wouldn’t be incompetent.

      Though I have not the chance to look into how pressure affects the taste. But I dare say that there’s little chance for a claim like ” more the better ” to be true in espresso making. Not even ” more tends to be better “. I feel not the urge to try to boil everything down to 1 single number and to judge things with it. Aren’t you sick of things like that work like this in life? SAT score, GRE score, credit score. I thought we’re here to enjoy life a bit more. For instance, more gigahertz = faster comp, more megapixel => better photography and so on. You know it can’t *simply* be.

      I hope someone with both systems would give a candidate review of the taste of the coffee.

  • daniele

    It’s hard to believe that the author wrote the whole article and forgot to mention the taste of the coffees…. all these details about how many cents you’ll save with one pod vs the other… but is it worth it? If you don’t do it for the taste, why are you looking at these expensive coffee machines anyway? Get a dripper and some maxwell coffee

    • KAMiKZ

      “without compromising our love for fine things like espresso.”
      Completely agreed. How can the taste not be discussed.

      I disagree with the argument for Nespresso b/c it’s been around longer. FrancisFrancis has been making premium espresso maker for a very long time as well and they are near top on the list in their art. Certainly the only aspect of difference with a capsule system is the capsule for the systems will do their regular espresso making by interacting with the powder that’s in the capsule. So the fight area is more weighted in who does better vacuuming. And once the capsule is pierce and we’re in the area of squeezing through espresso powder, FrancisFrancis definitely wouldn’t be incompetent.

      Though I have not the chance to look into how pressure affects the taste. But I dare say that there’s little chance for a claim like ” more the better ” to be true in espresso making. Not even ” more tends to be better “. I feel not the urge to try to boil everything down to 1 single number and to judge things with it. Aren’t you sick of things like that work like this in life? SAT score, GRE score, credit score. I thought we’re here to enjoy life a bit more. For instance, more gigahertz = faster comp, more megapixel => better photography and so on. You know it can’t *simply* be.

      I hope someone with both systems would give a candidate review of the taste of the coffee.

  • daniele

    It’s hard to believe that the author wrote the whole article and forgot to mention the taste of the coffees…. all these details about how many cents you’ll save with one pod vs the other… but is it worth it? If you don’t do it for the taste, why are you looking at these expensive coffee machines anyway? Get a dripper and some maxwell coffee

    • KAMiKZ

      “without compromising our love for fine things like espresso.”
      Completely agreed. How can the taste not be discussed.

      I disagree with the argument for Nespresso b/c it’s been around longer. FrancisFrancis has been making premium espresso maker for a very long time as well and they are near top on the list in their art. Certainly the only aspect of difference with a capsule system is the capsule for the systems will do their regular espresso making by interacting with the powder that’s in the capsule. So the fight area is more weighted in who does better vacuuming. And once the capsule is pierce and we’re in the area of squeezing through espresso powder, FrancisFrancis definitely wouldn’t be incompetent.

      Though I have not the chance to look into how pressure affects the taste. But I dare say that there’s little chance for a claim like ” more the better ” to be true in espresso making. Not even ” more tends to be better “. I feel not the urge to try to boil everything down to 1 single number and to judge things with it. Aren’t you sick of things like that work like this in life? SAT score, GRE score, credit score. I thought we’re here to enjoy life a bit more. For instance, more gigahertz = faster comp, more megapixel => better photography and so on. You know it can’t *simply* be.

      I hope someone with both systems would give a candidate review of the taste of the coffee.

  • momos

    We have the Pro Nespresso system at work, and it is wonderful. The ristretto pod flavor is go to, and i have sometimes have 5 pods a day. Delish!

  • momos

    We have the Pro Nespresso system at work, and it is wonderful. The ristretto pod flavor is go to, and i have sometimes have 5 pods a day. Delish!

  • momos

    We have the Pro Nespresso system at work, and it is wonderful. The ristretto pod flavor is go to, and i have sometimes have 5 pods a day. Delish!

  • momos

    We have the Pro Nespresso system at work, and it is wonderful. The ristretto pod flavor is go to, and i have sometimes have 5 pods a day. Delish!

  • Derek

    I just purchased the illy X7 yesterday after doing a side-by-side taste test between the Nespresso and iperEspresso single serve pods. Even with a Nespresso sales rep pressuring me to change my mind, the illy coffee tasted much more bold and rich. Compared to the watered-down Nespresso shots, the choice to go with illy was easy.

    Agreed with Daniele – this should be about the quality of the espresso, less about the cost per shot.

    • Richard Kraus

      There are many machines available now ranging from $100 to $1300 that use ESE pods.
      They can give espresso shots that taste fabulous. Choices in brand and type of pods are huge and the price on fine quality ones are between .30 and .50 per pod.
      Being a slave to a particular brand of pod or capsule is restrictive and completely unnecessary.

  • Derek

    I just purchased the illy X7 yesterday after doing a side-by-side taste test between the Nespresso and iperEspresso single serve pods. Even with a Nespresso sales rep pressuring me to change my mind, the illy coffee tasted much more bold and rich. Compared to the watered-down Nespresso shots, the choice to go with illy was easy.

    Agreed with Daniele – this should be about the quality of the espresso, less about the cost per shot.

  • Derek

    I just purchased the illy X7 yesterday after doing a side-by-side taste test between the Nespresso and iperEspresso single serve pods. Even with a Nespresso sales rep pressuring me to change my mind, the illy coffee tasted much more bold and rich. Compared to the watered-down Nespresso shots, the choice to go with illy was easy.

    Agreed with Daniele – this should be about the quality of the espresso, less about the cost per shot.

  • Derek

    I just purchased the illy X7 yesterday after doing a side-by-side taste test between the Nespresso and iperEspresso single serve pods. Even with a Nespresso sales rep pressuring me to change my mind, the illy coffee tasted much more bold and rich. Compared to the watered-down Nespresso shots, the choice to go with illy was easy.

    Agreed with Daniele – this should be about the quality of the espresso, less about the cost per shot.

    • Richard Kraus

      There are many machines available now ranging from $100 to $1300 that use ESE pods.
      They can give espresso shots that taste fabulous. Choices in brand and type of pods are huge and the price on fine quality ones are between .30 and .50 per pod.
      Being a slave to a particular brand of pod or capsule is restrictive and completely unnecessary.

  • Richard Kraus

    There are many machines available now ranging from $100 to $1300 that use ESE pods.
    They can give espresso shots that taste fabulous. Choices in brand and type of pods are huge and the price on fine quality ones are between .30 and .50 per pod.
    Being a slave to a particular brand of pod or capsule is restrictive and completely unnecessary.

  • Richard Kraus

    There are many machines available now ranging from $100 to $1300 that use ESE pods.
    They can give espresso shots that taste fabulous. Choices in brand and type of pods are huge and the price on fine quality ones are between .30 and .50 per pod.
    Being a slave to a particular brand of pod or capsule is restrictive and completely unnecessary.

  • wrcardon

    Wow, worst review I have ever read. What about the most important thing… how the espresso tastes?

  • wrcardon

    Wow, worst review I have ever read. What about the most important thing… how the espresso tastes?

  • wrcardon

    Wow, worst review I have ever read. What about the most important thing… how the espresso tastes?

  • wrcardon

    Wow, worst review I have ever read. What about the most important thing… how the espresso tastes?

  • JoAnne

    Agreed with wrcardon. How does the taste compare?

    @ Richard Kraus, Illy was claiming that their iperEspresso capsules are made in such a way that it produces better coffee (also with more crema) than ESE pods. Not sure if this has merit but if someone has experience that can attest to this please share.

  • JoAnne

    Agreed with wrcardon. How does the taste compare?

    @ Richard Kraus, Illy was claiming that their iperEspresso capsules are made in such a way that it produces better coffee (also with more crema) than ESE pods. Not sure if this has merit but if someone has experience that can attest to this please share.

  • JoAnne

    Agreed with wrcardon. How does the taste compare?

    @ Richard Kraus, Illy was claiming that their iperEspresso capsules are made in such a way that it produces better coffee (also with more crema) than ESE pods. Not sure if this has merit but if someone has experience that can attest to this please share.

  • JoAnne

    Agreed with wrcardon. How does the taste compare?

    @ Richard Kraus, Illy was claiming that their iperEspresso capsules are made in such a way that it produces better coffee (also with more crema) than ESE pods. Not sure if this has merit but if someone has experience that can attest to this please share.

  • Loni Kao Stark

    The Nespresso does a great job in terms of taste. A lot of this I think is dependent less on the machine than the capsules of roasted and ground up beans. So when you are considering different machines, check out the availability of the capsules.

    My favorite part of the Nespresso machine is actually it’s sidekick – the milk frother. It makes the best microfoam.

    When done well though, I still like to old-fashion manual espresso machines. The Pasquini is a gorgeous piece of equipment. It does take more time and a bit of practice.

  • Loni Kao Stark

    The Nespresso does a great job in terms of taste. A lot of this I think is dependent less on the machine than the capsules of roasted and ground up beans. So when you are considering different machines, check out the availability of the capsules.

    My favorite part of the Nespresso machine is actually it’s sidekick – the milk frother. It makes the best microfoam.

    When done well though, I still like to old-fashion manual espresso machines. The Pasquini is a gorgeous piece of equipment. It does take more time and a bit of practice.

  • Loni Kao Stark

    The Nespresso does a great job in terms of taste. A lot of this I think is dependent less on the machine than the capsules of roasted and ground up beans. So when you are considering different machines, check out the availability of the capsules.

    My favorite part of the Nespresso machine is actually it’s sidekick – the milk frother. It makes the best microfoam.

    When done well though, I still like to old-fashion manual espresso machines. The Pasquini is a gorgeous piece of equipment. It does take more time and a bit of practice.

  • Loni Kao Stark

    The Nespresso does a great job in terms of taste. A lot of this I think is dependent less on the machine than the capsules of roasted and ground up beans. So when you are considering different machines, check out the availability of the capsules.

    My favorite part of the Nespresso machine is actually it’s sidekick – the milk frother. It makes the best microfoam.

    When done well though, I still like to old-fashion manual espresso machines. The Pasquini is a gorgeous piece of equipment. It does take more time and a bit of practice.

  • Mario

    You just can’t compare Illy coffee with Nestle coffee, they are not even in the same league. The Nespresso might be “sexy” but Nestle’s espresso coffee is just awful. The Swiss have never made and will ever make good coffee.

  • Ryansl600

    So you felt compelled to review the Illy machine against the Nespresso based on reading a brochure rather than trying one out? 

  • Nina Cioffi

    I have the nexpresso in one house and I thought to try the Illy in another.  THE ILLY IS A PIECE OF JUNK!!! Delicious expresso, yes. However, the machine broke after just 6 months. A hose popped off.
    Try getting anyone to answer the phone was worse than pulling out my own teeth. I called, I emailed, everything.  Then , once a rep finally answered, I was placed on hold and the call was disconnected .Horrible horrible horrible experience. Now I have 10 cans of pods, a broken machine, and higher blood pressure.  
    I know I have to buy a nexpresso machine, but just can’t bring myself to anty up the $$.
    If anyone bought the illy iper pod machine, I have a few cans of expresso for you!