Price (RRP): $349; pods from $6.99
Manufacturer: Nescafe / Delonghi
A little bit more fancy than the Nescafe machines you’ll find in your local supermarket, the Circolo is the premium model in the range, bringing with it a bigger tank for less water refills per cup, heavier parts, and a design that can fit in with a more modern kitchen.
The fourth model in the Nescafe line-up launched last year, the Dolce Gusto Circolo exists to provide more than just a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate without the fuss.
This model brings with it a premium look, while still containing the same basic parts that allow it to remain in the Nescafe Dolce Gusto system.
Those parts are quite specific, with a 15 bar pump for the water, a tank for the said water, a dial-in system to decide how much water you want pumped through the pod (made of an LED and scroll wheel), and a pod tray, with a mechanism that locks this in place.
As per most of the Nescafe and Nespresso machines released in Australia, this one is manufactured by Delonghi locally, and is offered with a two year warranty.
Aside for the dial wheel, there are three buttons on this machine, with the power button, hot button (for hot water and hot drinks) and cold button (for cold water and cold drinks). A lever locks the pod in place and pierces the pod with the built-in drink needle.
A stainless steel grill covers a drip tray, which itself is height adjustable throughout the machine.
Included as a bonus is a container for spent capsules.
We’ve said it before, but coffee machines don’t have to do much more than work, provide coffee, and for something like the pod machines, it’s really just a variation on a theme.
In the case of the Dolce Gusto line-up, that “theme” is a 15 bar pump machine that drags water from a tank and pushes it through a small needle that punctures a beverage pod, with the water filling up inside each pod, and pushing the desired liquid through the bottom.
As we reviewed in the Genio model, this isn’t the same technology at play inside a Nespresso unit, but it can still offer a decent cup of joe, just a different style.
Instead of the pure coffee aluminium pods you get for the Nespresso system, Nescafe uses larger plastic capsules with different types of drinks, not just coffee. There’s hot chocolate, iced tea, chai, and several types of that caffeinated pleasure that we call coffee, many of which have pods specifically for milk.
To use these in the Circolo, you simply need to grab one, place it in the pod tray, lock that in place, pull down the lever, and then – as it was on the Genio we checked out last year – dial in the amount you want (or the amount it says on the box) using the simple green LED and dial, and follow it up by hitting either the hot or cold button for desired water temperature.
Technically, the process here is the same as it is across the entire Nescafe range, with the machine switching on, dragging water in, filling the pod up, and dispensing your drink.
As with all of these machines, it’s not a quiet device, though the hum being emitted from the machine doesn’t last long, and can provide you with a drink in less than a minute.
For the most part, the Circolo doesn’t do anything different, though it does come with a few extra niceties.
The water tank is bigger, for instance, with 1.3 litres available to you, far more than the Genio, which offers just half of this capacity.
There’s also an LED inside to show you the drink you’re preparing, lighting up the cavity inside the machine. Delonghi has thrown in a magnet in the capsule tray, so that when you put it back in place, the magnet pulls it in and closes it up for you.
And there’s even a little spent capsule container included, so you can make your drink, take the glass away, put the container in the place, and empty the pod into it.
It won’t throw it out for you, nor will it empty the pod tray automatically, but it’s a whole lot nicer than carrying a dripping pod tray over the kitchen floor to the garbage bin for every cup, and helps make the Circolo feel more like a premium package.
It also carries the benefit of being better built, and that’s something that is quite noticeable. From the metal pulling mechanism on the tray, the heavier plastic used in the shell, and the less obtrusive design, the Circolo is really the nicer Dolce Gusto machine out there.
Some people might find the circular design not to their liking, but it seems to integrate into smaller spaces better than the Genio did, keeping an elegant circular design, as opposed to an appliance that looks like a hobbled penguin.
One thing we did notice, however, was that if you put in a longer glass – say you’re making an iced tea – the liquid coming from the machine can spit a little. Even with a moveable tray, able to be shifted higher under the nozzle to prevent this sort of thing from happening, you can still find it happens.
It is by no means as annoying as the vibrations that caused our cups in the Genio to do a little dance, but it’s still worth noting.
Sitting at the top of Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto line, the Circolo manages to bring a premium feel to a coffee machine that does more than coffee, not just increasing the quality of components, but enhancing the design and adding a few bonuses in the process.
Dedicated coffee drinkers still won’t necessarily find themselves happy here, as the Dolce Gusto machines are more for fans of multiple drinks, not just the specific flavours of coffee.
Still, this is the best of the Dolce Gusto line that we’ve seen, and given the $100 price difference between this and the Genio, is probably worth it for people who desire a better design and build quality.