Lifehacker Tests The Aldi Expressi

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Lifehacker Tests The Aldi Expressi


Coffee is one of the staples of my diet, but on a journalist’s salary, the costs of café coffee quickly becomes prohibitive. Instant coffee will do when I just need a caffeine fix, but it’s never very good. Aldi’s Expressi line of pod-based coffees is meant to solve that issue affordably, providing good quality coffee at a cheap price. But does it?

The Expressi unit sits in the same pod-or-capsule-based coffee space as more premium-priced units such as Nescafe’s Nespresso pods or Philips’ Senseo coffee pads. It’s certainly possible to get cheap Nespresso machines — Kogan’s Ez-Press comes to mind — but you’re still stuck within the Nespresso system. Aldi’s pitch for the Expressi is that it’s not just cheaper for the base coffee machine, which Aldi sells for $79, but also for the pods. Like many things Aldi-specific, it’s a case of re-branding; in this instance it’s an Aldi-badged K-Fee coffee system.

There is a catch here, however. Like Aldi’s other in-house ranges, the Expressi coffee machine itself isn’t always available. At the time of writing it doesn’t appear on Aldi’s web site, although I have seen it in some stores. Mine happened to be a post-holiday gift from my in-laws that surprised me when I returned home a month or so ago.

Aldi is still heavily promoting the coffee pods it uses, which is a good thing, as they’re not the same dimensions as Nespresso ones. Internet research suggests that the system that Officeworks sells may be compatible — I’ve not tested for that — or that you may be able to force Nespresso pods into the shells of the Aldi ones. Quite why you’d do that escapes me. A 16 pack of any of Aldi’s nine coffee blends will set you back $5.99, making each cup just shy of 36c to produce, not including electricity and water costs.

The entire premise behind any coffee pod machine is that things should be simple and the coffee should be good. Actually running the Expressi is quite simple; you power it up, make sure the rear water tank has plenty of water, and run a cleaning cycle before choosing your coffee pod. Drop a pod in the top, push the handle down and then select your coffee size with a cup placed below. This video (not mine; it was shot by Victorian Adam Thomas Shaw) shows the Expressi in action:

It’s certainly quite easy to do, and I have taken to using it most mornings before heading in to work, simply because it’s easier to press a few buttons while checking other things than run through the process of making proper coffee, or for that matter forgetting that I’ve boiled the jug for instant. Coffee quality is generally fair, but that’s about as good as it gets; I’d never call it café quality, but it’s still a fair step above instant coffee, and that’s surely the kind of market this is pitched at. If you’ve got the time and inclination to make proper coffee, you will get better results without a doubt. The simple fact is that there’s a large part of the market that’s not so fussed about that.

So, has Aldi cracked the perfect budget coffee machine? No, not quite. There are still a few things that could be improved. The holding mechanism for the pods involves a drop-down arm that pierces the pods, but every once in a while you’ll find the pod just drops instead, at which point you’ve got to retrieve it from the dead ones that collect inside the mostly hollow Expressi machine body.

It’s also got a slight tendency to leak; while at first I thought this was just a matter of removing the dead pods and drip tray more frequently, even doing so I’ve spotted some water coming out of it. My ad-hoc solution for this has been nothing more sophisticated than putting the whole thing on a tea towel and changing that regularly.

The unit itself is made of glossy plastic, which means that it picks up dust and grime at an astonishing rate. For the purposes of photography I gave my unit a serious dusting, but within minutes of finishing shooting, it was back to looking a bit seedy again.

There’s also the issue of waste, although this is hardly unique to Aldi. Any pod-based machine requires a lot of plastic for each pod, and they’re not designed to be re-usable. Having said there, where there’s a will, there’s a way — and once again there’s video (also from Adam Thomas Shaw) showing you how this can be done. I like the idea of being able to use my own coffee to suit my own tastes within pods, but there’s not a small amount of work involved here. You could make actual coffee in less time, and equally I do wonder about the effects of hot water on all that clingfilm:

If you spend a lot of money in coffee shops there could be some genuine economy in the Aldi Expressi, but as with many cheaper alternatives, it’s not without some concessions.

Comments

  • I have a Nespresso machine but I’ve tried the Aldi coffee – Nespresso wins out with a wider range and the quality is much better. For the price though, the Aldi one will produce much better coffee than bags, instant, drip or plunger.

  • I bought one on New Years Eve while grocery shopping and I haven’t looked back. It’s hard to remember which kind I like, so I sometimes buy the wrong sort by mistake, but generally it tastes alright. Usually I press the large-cup button 2-3 times to fill up a regular coffee mug. They say you shouldn’t do that (as it makes the coffee bitter and yuck) but it still tastes good to me!

    • Yeah I’ve found the same, I normally have to press the “large” button 2-3 times as well… I was wondering if it was something to do with the type of capsule I was using (some of them are labelled “lungo” which I’m led to believe produces a larger amount… or something…) so I’ve picked up a different box of capsules this time, and will have to test it out.

      • The espresso pods are for just that; espresso. That means a regular shot (which is actually very little liquid). Pressing the small cup button once is the intended use of those pods. Lungo means a larger shot; if you have a lungo pod, press the bigger cup button once.

        The intention is to get coffee in its proper form; too much water, as Grayda has done, dilutes the coffee excessively and overextracts the coffee beans, causing bitterness. The same goes for using too little coffee in a plunger. If you want more coffee, use lungo pods and use milk to taste. At the cafe, they fill up after the shot with microfoam for a cappuchino (the coffee content itself is equal to a single nespresso shot).

  • After brewing your coffee eject the pod and hit rinse. When finished lift the handle and replace. You’ll find excess water will come out. This seems to have cured the leaking issue for me.

    I find the coffee ok, certainly better than paying $4 a pop. I used to pick up a coffee every morning now ioad my travel mug.

    Worst case.
    1 machine a year – $79
    Cost per coffee, pod $0.36 and say $0.14 for milk water and electricity. Say $0.50 per cup by 220 working days = $189 per year.

    Fancy coffee = 220 x $4 = $880. Therefor saving around $700 a year.

  • With the Nespresso machine you can adjust the quantity of water delivered for the “small” and “big” buttons, is this the case here too?

    36c a cup is pretty good value, Nespresso is almost double that at 68c. Both are still much cheaper than buying a coffee from a cafe. All the Nespresso coffees I’ve had have tasted fine, certainly as good (or better in some cases) as what you’d get from any cafe in the CBD. I wonder how the Aldi and Nespresso coffee’s compare?

    • I did read somewhere that the volume could be adjusted. I’ve never bothered as my portion is exactly 2 hits.

      Re-usable pods are available for other brands I would be interested to know if any of them work the Expressi.

    • Yes, you can do the same thing with the Expressi machine. You basically hold the button in while it pours to set the quantity and then it remembers it from that point, until you set it again of coruse.

      As for the quality of the coffee, I have to agree with Nespresso owners that the variety and quality of coffee is better on the Nespresso machines but I’ve found a few of the Expressi flavours to be quite decent.

  • Bought one for my wife for Christmas (along with the accompanying milk frother) as she struggles with the ‘proper’ espresso machine. She is more than satisfied with it; the in-laws have bought one as well, and my 10 year old daughter who likes to play ‘cafe’ can make Mum & Dad a coffee on the weekends!

    Go for the strong roast pods (at least 8) and you have a good cup for a decent price…

  • First of all, if you’re getting “drop throughs” ring or email the customer support and they will send you a replacement machine. Like anything in life, nothing is perfect and there are going to be manufacturing issues.. if you have a problem, do something about it. They sent me a replacement for the same issue, no questions asked.. couriered it to my front door and collected the old machine the same day. I didn’t need to produce a receipt, didn’t need to take it back to the store etc. That’s service! 🙂 Again, if it’s leaking and not just because the hopper is full, it’s a defect.. do something about it. Mine has never done this, nor has my father’s.

    Another good thing about this unit is it only takes 10 to 20 seconds to heat up. Basically the time it takes to grab a cup and place it under the outlet. The range of coffees is quite decent, allowing for a bit of variety, and as you mentioned the price of the pods is the cheapest on the market currently. Add the milk frother to the equation (also available for cheap at Aldi) and it is a match made in, albeit sub-cafe quality, heaven.

    Florenzi is my favourite flavour. It says it’s only strength 3 but the taste is better than some of the higher numbered ones. Milano is my 2nd favourite.

    • And for the record, my parents owned a much more expensive Nespresso machine but due to the cost of the pods have happily switched to the Expressi. They are the ones who got me on to it.

      • What I did was contact K-Fee and then they referred me to the Aussie people.. I’ll check for their address.. one sec (seems instant to you)….

        [email protected]

        I just told them where and when I had bought it and the problems I was having and what I had done already to solve the problem (including checking online for solutions) and that nothing worked to fix the problem.

  • Bought an Expressi a few weeks ago . Have saved at least $80 through not having to buy that first life-giving morning cup from a cafe. Instead I heat up some milk in a microwave, add it to my expressi (‘Tauro’), chuck it in a travel mug and away I go.

  • The coffee that came out in both those videos did not look very appealing at all. Not sure of the exact weight of those pods, but extracting any more than 30ml from 7g of coffee is going to taste horribly burnt, bitter, and watery. Not to mention that even the first 30ml that comes out of that machine is not going to be very tasty either.

    I have had nespresso quite a few times, and while these pods are still quite cheap for a single coffee, they really aren’t making anything close to a nice coffee.

    You can definitely have the best of both worlds, with cheap coffee, that also tastes great, by buying yourself a Clever Coffee Dripper and some filters for about $30 or so, and learning how to make great filter coffee. You can get some light roasted beans for $15/250g. If you get them ground and keep them sealed, they should last you about a week. You can even buy a cheap burr grinder if you want to be able to make the best filter you can. It’s also quite quick to make, It only takes me about 5 mins, from boiling the kettle to ready to drink, including grinding the beans.

    • That’s what I thought too, knowing commercial machine operation, but there are a few differences that mean you can extract a bit more (but not 2 or 3 lungo like some here are suggesting)

      with a steam based machine, you are pressing extremely hot steam through the coffee, this can lead to the ‘burnt’ taste if you overdraw, where as these pod machines only pass through water that is not significantly hot(~70c), and at lower pressure, so the coffee extraction is closer to filter than espresso

      • Steam based machine? In a commercial coffee machine (or home machine), steam is only used to texture milk. Any water that is passed through coffee grounds is around 92-98c. Steam is not used to extract coffee in any coffee machine I have heard of.
        Sorry to say, and I know you were siding with me, but you don’t know ‘commercial machine operation’ at all. You should go and read up on how an espresso machine works before spreading any more misinformation about ‘steam based machines’.

  • I have a Stella stove-top espresso pot (also called moka pot for some reason) which I use at home, and a Nespresso shared with all my colleagues at the office. Both are more than adequate for me and the only reason I buy coffee “out” these days is if I’m far from home or I crave … not caffeine but … what is it exactly? Not space, not table service, but the feeling of having some share of public space to relax in. I do this in the park if it’s not raining.

    The Stella is a tiny bit more work (you have to load it carefully, and clean it manually) and the coffee is not quite as good for an espresso purist (though it’s actually nicer to my everyday taste). FWIW I load it almost exclusively with Aldi coffee these days (the “just organic” fairtrade one). I can’t imagine it would be worthwhile getting anything at home that doesn’t make substantially better coffee than the Nespresso.

    • I’ve got a plunger, one of those Sunbeam coffee machines that Kmart etc sell, & the Kfee.
      The K-fee wins hands down for ease of use & cleaning. Sure it has limited flavours, probably doesn’t taste quite as nice as the others, but it is decent, quick, & easy. No cleaning coffee granules out is a win from me. I suppose I’m exactly the sort it is marketed at.
      The Officeworks (Map coffee) pods do fit, but are slightly dearer. Map have a hot chocolate which might appeal to some.

  • I have had an Expressi since Christmas and it is fantastic. If you experiment a little with the pods and the amount of water you will get a very good cup of Jo’. I also have the milk frothier and it is a great (inexpensive) way to start the day. I have had a “real” coffee machine that meant grinding, packing and extracting. Life’s too short to do this at home! Aldi’s machine is a ripper. It takes Map capsules available at Officeworks, and ou can get de-caf and hot chocolate. A great machine, good price! Go get one, and I am a coffee snob!

  • I love that nonsensical term ‘Cafe Quality’
    Which Café? Compared to what part of the world?
    Coffee can taste different from country to country and it’s all ‘Café Quality’

    In this case however as it is a POD base system I would not so much blame the machine I would try a different brand of pod if possible which is probably an unlikely option as the whole idea of the pod system is to try and tie you to the manufacturers brand in the first place.

    Me personally? … I wouldn’t buy one, as there are a lot of cheap barista style machines out there which will not only provide superior results but also allow you to use what ever brand of coffee and blend that appeals to your palette.

  • Wow. That annoying sidebar on the right, with ‘most viewed’ and an Ad, is very annoying as I scroll and stop to read all these comments. It disappears (white screen) when I scroll and reappears (black screen) when I stop. WHITEBLACKWHITEBLACKWHITEBLACK. It’s like a flashing light. I can’t believe I made it this far!

  • Wow. That annoying sidebar on the right, with ‘most viewed’ and an Ad, is very annoying as I scroll and stop to read all these comments. It disappears (white screen) when I scroll and reappears (black screen) when I stop. WHITEBLACKWHITEBLACKWHITEBLACK. It’s like a flashing light. I can’t believe I made it this far!..

    • Buddy Dude, I totally agree with your logic – damn those Internet adverts! and why doesn’t the money come straight to my botnet?!?
      However, in what way shape or form does this relate to the discussion of Expressi vs Nespresso. That’s what I took the time to read this forum for including most of its comments until I got to yours. At this point I thought WTF.
      More relevant facts please for all future forums.
      All the best.

  • Can someone outline step by step how to clean (descale) the expressi machine? I may be a bit simple but I need sentences as well as pretty pictures to help cklean the machine as shown on pg. 9 of the booklet) Maybe there is a video(site) I can refer to. Thanks.

  • i have tried both machines aldi/map\the MAP machoines DO NOT TAKE aldi caps
    reaon the map capsule has a filtration built in. both ends. if you use the aldi caps you get a
    cup of coffee granules.i tried and its orrible like drinking sand.
    open up a MAP capsule and filter will be revealed
    clive haddock

  • I am very happy with my Aldi machine, but does anyone have any advice for getting the most chocolate out of the hot chocolate pods? Tends to leave a lot of chocolate behind, so is not strong enough for me.

    • For the chocolate pods I usually do two lungo shots with a 10 sec wait between. Either into one massive cup or making two cups of chocolate or mochas. There is a small amount of choc left but not enough to make a third short shot.

  • The reality is, that nothing will beat your favorite cafe’s coffee. I have only a few coffe shops that I go to, because their quality is outstanding!

    I have been a barista, and after using comercial machines can say that none of the cheaper (Under $500) expresso machine produce good froth, they just don’t build pup enough pressure.

    Got an aldi one the other day to save buying takeaways (which are never as nice as instore, in a proper cup)
    I use this one for my daily coffee, but still go out for a proper coffee on my baby free days (have three littlies under 5)

    I find it a pretty good replacement, will try the MAP ones

    Also, my three girls LOVE babychinos from the additional milk frother, and at .50c-$2 per babychino in most cafes, its saving me a lot of money!

  • I love my Expressi. The only problem was the leaking. I spoke to the manager at Aldi and they said it was a paticular batch that had the leaking problem. The new improved model is out which fixes this problem. I took my machine back and they did a swap over whih was great coz i didn’t have to deal with warranty. Now my bench is dry:))

  • Can anyone tell me if it is possible to remove a jammed pod from the aldi coffee machine. Used a map which i was told was compatible and it is well and truly stuck.

  • The point about waste isn’t true for nespresso machines. The pods are aluminium through and through, and thus recyclable. In fact, at nespresso stores they actually have a bin for your used pods to recycle them into new pods. Doubt anyone’s would bring their bag of waste into the store, but that’s beside the point

  • I have an Aldi machine and use it every day. One thing I did find was that it does not make piping hot coffee. Solution….put your milk and sugar in your mug first and nuke it for 45 secs or so depending on how grunty your microwave is. Then make your coffee as usual…much better. 🙂

  • I thought the aldi was a great little coffee machine too and in the price range I wanted. BUT, after having 4 – yes 4! – machines in a row fail disamally – I certainly can’t recommend them. To be fair, Aldi took them back and replaced them each time, but really …… The problem was the lever wouldn’t go down and pierce the pods, It would work alright for a few times and then you couldn’t put it down no matter what. Also, the leakage issue was continual and I could never find where it was coming from. So in a nutshell, no, I don’t recommend an Aldi coffee machine

  • For what it’s worth, the K Fee machine also takes capsules designed for the Caffitaly machines available from Woolies; Lavazzo, Gloria Jean and Woolworths Select.

    • Hope you are right about these alternatives because I’m down to my last 4 days of Expressi pods & Aldi tell me they don’t do online sales & have no plans to open a store any closer than the current 250kms.
      But then I guess it doesn’t matter if they don’t work, because either way – as I said to the customer service person at Aldi, “it looks like the machine is just going to be an expensive paper weight”.

  • I have bought the Nespress for my mother and now I also use the Aldi’s at work…

    And briefly, you get what you paid for!

    While both Adli’s machine and pods are cheaper, so is the quality!!
    For instance, I find it annoying the cup tray is much lower on Aldi’s and therefore there’s coffee spills everywhere when you pour a short black into an espresso cup.

    And although this is not a major issue, for a bloke, who doesn’t use a kitchen bench often, other than when pouring a coffee, I find all that bench wiping simply annoying and unnecessary – On the Nespress’, the tray lifts up to allow room for taller cups and drops down automatically as soon you remove the (tall) cup.
    Again, not a performance issue, but rather a design feature, but here (on the Nespress’) there’s no coffee spilling all over the bench when I pour a short black into a tiny ristretto cup, which is what I do 95% of the times.

    Although the Aldi machine is much newer (only a few months old) it has now stopped working efficiently. And I can only pour a coffee out of the 3rd button at the bottom, which, in reality is supposed to pour only hot water!
    Again, here, the Nespress has simpler way of doing things – you either press button №1 for a short coffee or button №2 for a long one!

    Oh, and also, not to mention the HUGE variety of Nespress coffee pods available, I also use 3 or 4 other 3rd party coffee pods on the Nespress machine (one of them is from a supermarket brand – Aldi’s competitor) So the possibilities on the Nespress, are a lot more unlimited, really.

  • Lift the lever and take out the drip tray. Shine a bright light down through the top so you can see the stuck pod. Get a short sharp knife like a paring knife and go in through the drip tray opening, put the point just under the flange on the pod, and carefully lever it out. Might take a few goes but it works. Then go to Aldi and get the right pods (it worked for me).

  • Café quality makes no sense, café in french means coffee, so if it’s not coffee quality, what is it. Maybe a better way of putting it is saying “café shop quality”. Also saying Café coffee is saying coffee twice but in french then english… maybe I’m over analyzing the definition of café.

    Other than my little rant, I find the coffee not too bad, although one thing I wished Aldi would sell is sample boxes with range of different pods so that we can find the ones we like.

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