Friday Favorites: Coffee and Circle Lenses

Meet Tux, the fighter penguin.

I've been coffee-obsessed the past couple of weeks. I have a Braun coffeemaker, but I find that if I only brew two to three cups at a time, the resulting coffee is mediocre at best. I could always brew more cups, but as I have already moved past my Japanese company ways I no longer require half a liter of coffee to power me through the day. The office does have a coffeemaker, but it spews out this dark, vile sludge that does not change its color even after several tablespoons of creamer. 

I actually toyed with the idea of getting an Aerobie Aeropress; supposedly it brews a mean cup of java and it looks like such a nifty little device. But after two failed attempts at acquiring it, I gave up. Partly because after watching YouTube demos I realized that no way in hell would my pre-caffeinated self be able to operate that thing. And partly because it seems to work more for people with a coffee palate far more sophisticated than mine (which is currently stuck at Starbucks level). 

After the second failed attempt I ended up wandering aimlessly in Vivo City. I passed by the Nespresso booth at Best Denki and they had several Dolce Gusto machines on display. I asked the sales assistant if they had any promotions, and what do you know, the Penguin Piccolo was on sale, because they're launching a new automatic model (whose extra features I don't need). Apart from the discount, I also get two extra boxes of coffe pods. And the sales assistant was nice enough to show me how the machine works by making a cup of chai latte for me. And she was wearing gray circle lenses. This last part is important because as I recall from our Bangkok trip, Chelo and I were suckered into buying a couple of boxer shorts by a very cute ate who was also wearing circle lenses. Coincidence?

Anyway, long story short, I went home with a Krups Dolce Gusto Piccolo. I excitedly opened the box and took pictures (which Puck and Eeyore dutifully photobombed).

And because I'm a responsible owner (naks), I read the instructions before operating. Only there was nothing to read - the manual is all pictures!

I know pictures are supposed to paint a thousand words, but would it kill them to at least include a short explanation, just so we can confirm our interpretation of the picture? I mean, some people think the Piccolo looks like a duck, but I think it's a fighter penguin. See the problem we have here?

Anyway, for first time use you're supposed to fill the tank with water and just let it all back out again. So I followed the picture book as accurately as I could, switched the lever to the left, and... no water. Just a loud humming noise. Scary. I moved the lever to the right, and still no water. Shit. I did this a couple more times and gave up. And slept. And the next morning I did the same thing. Nada. So I repacked the defective fighter penguin and trudged back to Vivo.

I had to wait for twenty minutes before someone finally approached me, the lone person at the customer service area at Best Denki. So I was already feeling a bit cranky. I explained the problem (no water! no water! :p) and the staff just gave me this patronizing look and said, "well you know you're supposed to tilt it forward." I'm sorry, but there is not one diagram (out of the hundred or so) that shows the penguin being tilted forward. So I asked her if she could show me, and so she did. She tilted and tilted and shook the hell out of the machine and guess what? No water. And from this point forward she never looked at me nor addressed me again; she just kept staring at the machines as I was waiting there. I should've gotten her name; she just reeks of politeness and customer service. She just motioned for the staff to get me a new one.

And guess what? The second penguin refused to spew out water as well. Hah. So now there are two machines on the table, both making furious noise, both not working. Since the first staff has gone mute, the second staff had to take it upon herself to talk to me, and as it turns out, it was the circle lens girl from the day before. She got me yet another penguin, and third time really is the charm, because it finally worked. Sigh of relief.

All that "no water" stress aside, it is a very handy machine to have. It takes less than a minute to brew a cup of coffee, and that's from start-up. All you have to do is fill the removable water tank, turn the machine on, wait for thirty seconds (the light will turn to green), put the coffee pod in, turn the level right (or left, if you're making iced coffee), and out goes your coffee. Very fuss free. And cleanup is a breeze! All you have to do is remove the pod, and rinse the pod holder and the drip tray with water (or with soap maybe once a week).

There are a couple of pods to choose from, ranging from mochaccino to peach iced tea. So far I've only tried the espresso and the latte macchiato. The espresso requires only one pod per drink, the stuff with milk require two, so they're double the price (it's 10.90 SGD for a box of 16 pods of any variant). I'm not too fond of the latte macchiato; I think it's mediocre at best, but you do get a lot of foam (and if you have a clear mug it looks pretty!). I do think that the espresso pods produce a good cup of americano (I just use more water than instructed); it's what I've been enjoying for the last couple of days. And I must say, I thought I inherited my mom's habit of preparing a full mug but drinking only half before leaving for work, but ever since I got this I have drained my coffee cup every single time before running off to catch the bus. I have yet to try out the other flavors but the espresso pod is enough to make this worth it (at least for me).

It's not something I would highly recommend, because of the water spout issues and the dissatisfaction with some of the flavors (and you can only get pods from Nescafe), but I do think the Dolce Gusto is worth checking out, if you happen to be on the market for a compact coffee machine.

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