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Senseo and other Coffee Pod Systems


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#1 andiesenji

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Posted 30 July 2004 - 07:39 PM

The Brown Camel (UPS) arrived at my door today with a large box sent by one of my gadgeteer buddies. He tests small appliances for some publication and often sends me the "extras" he gets because the company doesn't want them back and he has only a finite amount of room.

I opened the box and found one of the new Senseo pressure brewing coffee machines made by Phillips/Douwe Egberts.

He said he had tried it with all three of the coffee types (Dark Roast, Medium Roast and Light Roast) and found it made a pretty decent cup of coffee and came very close to making a very fair substitute for espresso with the Dark Roast.
I am not a coffee person per se, usually preferring tea, but I decided to give it a try and by golly, he is right.
I have an espresso machine, one of the superautomatic monsters, mainly because I have a lot of friends who like it and when I entertain it is very popular.
For many years I had an ancient (and huge) Gaggia that was kind of a running joke, it sounded like it was going to explode every time I operated it, and people who were not familiar with it would run outside.
Jerry had forgotten that I had replaced the Gaggia earlier this year and thought he would do me a favor and give me something that was a little easier to operate and had a much smaller footprint.

This certainly seems to be a foolproof machine. No complicated tamping of the grounds as in the cheaper espresso machines, no diffculty with cleaning the thing. The pods are pre-measured, use one for one 4 oz cup, two for 2 cups or one larger mug. The crema that forms on top is as perfect as any produced in any of the espresso machines I have used. The flavor of the coffee is very nice, however, as I mentioned earlier, I am not a coffee aficionado but I do like good coffee at certain times and this is just about as good as I have had.

There is of course, no steam frothing with this machine, but nowadays you can get all kinds of little gadgets to froth milk, heating it in the microwave takes less than a minute so that should not be a deterrent .

I have no relationship with this company so do not stand to gain by promoting this appliance but I thought that some of you who are coffee/espresso addicts might be interested.
I checked on a couple of web sites and apparently it retails for somewhere around $70.00

Gadget madness has a review
here and they mention the cost of a cup using the pods works out to 22 cents a cup.

This place sell them at a bit of a discount:
coffee pods

Jerry sent me 6 packages of the pods so I doubt that I will be making any purchases any time soon but I seem to recall seeing them at Target and will probably shop there as they often have the best prices on such items.

In any event, this might be just the ticket for people with little space and a great desire for a special cup.

Oh yes, there were two small cups included in the box, slightly larger than regular espresso cups, these are 6 ounce cups.
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#2 Katherine

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Posted 30 July 2004 - 07:55 PM

Is there any way to tell the roast date on the pods, or not?

#3 andiesenji

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Posted 30 July 2004 - 11:45 PM

No, there is no date, at least I have not found one.
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#4 bainesy

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Posted 31 July 2004 - 02:04 AM

I had heard of this machine, and must admit to dismissing it out of hand. However, perusal of the various coffee authorities (alt.coffee, Coffeegeek) reveals quite a few positive mentions for it. The consensus is it's easy to use, and makes passable coffee (with a pod system you're never going to get anything amazing). Randy Glass's review is perhaps the best.

...but I won't be replacing my Gaggia just yet :cool:

Edited by bainesy, 31 July 2004 - 02:09 AM.

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#5 andiesenji

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Posted 31 July 2004 - 11:22 AM

That review mirrors what I said in my post. If you have an espresso machine (I have the Saeco Royal Digital Plus) this is not going to replace that. However for people who live in tiny apartments where space (and money) is at a premium, this makes a very acceptable cup with no difficulty, no special training and with excellent safety features (automatically turns off after an hour, signals when water is low, etc.)
Virtually foolproof, the directions are very simple.

I am going to get one for a friend's daughter who is going away to university at the end of next month, leaving on her birthday, and must drink 20 cups a day. She has baby sat my dogs many times when I have been away from home and will never take any money so this way I can give her a birthday gift and pay her back.
I may also buy one for the office. One of the "girls" has a coffee maker in the kitchen next to my office that gurgles and spits and makes too much noise for far too long and she is the only one who can stand to drink the output, no one else will touch it.
My boss likes coffee too but has taken to drinking instant because it is safer than the stuff in the coffee maker.
I think this will work out fine because he has to have decaf and this way everyone can have the kind they want in their own mugs.
Since it brews so rapidly there will be little delay in everyone getting a cup.
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#6 phaelon56

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 06:12 AM

I've read a fair amount about this system - I think it comes in a variety of shapes and colors with a couple competeing products that are either the same thing with a different brand name or else a clone sort of product. Reviews have generally been good in that it is very good at what it does. The output is not really espresso just as the output of a moka pot is not espresso but Senseo makes a good cup of what might be considered as close to Cafe Crema. I think the cost of the pods would be an issue for some of us.

I'm curious - are the pods the same as the ones used in pod style espresso machine portafilters or could espresso pods be adapted somehow for use in a Senseo? There are some excellent espresso blends now becoming available in pod form (Intelligentsia's Black Cat among them).

#7 andiesenji

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 08:25 AM

I can't answer the question as to whether other pods will fit the Senseo. I believe there is a caveat that the guarantee is void if non-branded pods are used in the unit.

Jerry Able, the friend who sent me the Senseo, told me last night that he has been told that the company will probably expand the line of coffees offered if sales of the Senseo and its current offerings become popular enough and there are requests for different varieties. If the demand is there, eventually it will be met. After all, it wasn't that many years ago when ground coffee in the tins were just about all people knew about and only one person in one hundred thousand had any idea that coffee was grown anywhere except in South America!
(And a pound was actually a pound.....)

As I stated in the beginning, I am generally a tea person, hot tea mostly, only rarely iced. However I have really taken to this stuff, it tastes better to me than regular brewed coffee and doesn't have the bitter base note that is an integral part of regular espresso. I have a lot of friends who are real connoisseurs of espresso and can determine the degree of roast, the type and grade of the coffee bean and so on, from just a taste.
I doubt that they would consider this an acceptable substitute for the real thing but knowing how much they like cofee per se, they would probably drink it happily if nothing else were available.

I think for people with less money, not a lot of room (my monster machine takes up a lot more room, probably close to 18 inches square, and also weighs close to 40 pounds), this little machine, smaller than some coffeemakers, and brews a cup very rapidly, this is an excellent compromise.

I can see it becoming very popular among college kids, singles with limited income, people in offices with not a lot of time for lunch breaks.

There is a similar machine (Black & Decker Home Café) being heavily advertised but it has a larger mug and appears to make regular coffee, however I haven't actually looked at one.

In any event, I think this is a rather novel idea and should do well.

Often things appear when the time is ready for them. I have a coffee maker that I bought in 1969 called an Expressolator, made by Corning. It is very similar to a French press but has an electric element at the bottom that heated the glass carafe and also has a cloth filter that was supposed to go over the press plate and filter the coffee. It was discontinued within a few months of its introduction and not many were sold. That was the era of the stovetop and electric percolator or the Silex, etc., vacuum coffee makers and people were comfortable with those. Something too different was not accepted. It was not until many years later that French press pots became the thing to have and they sold well. Their era had arrived. Now there are as many ways of preparing coffee as there are types of coffee, even the electric percolate is making a limited comeback.
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Edited by andiesenji, 03 August 2004 - 08:26 AM.

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#8 phaelon56

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 09:17 AM

My local Wegman's grocery has the Senseo product marked down because it's not selling (I'm pretty sure that's what they have - I don't think it's the Black & decker product). I recall reading commentary a few years ago from someone who'd tried it on a trip to the Netherlands, where it's very popular. They raved about it but suggested that best results were obtained with the Douwe Egbert's brand of pods. When I visited ireland last year the onoy good coffee I could find was in convenience stores in a machien that ounctured and brewed the coffee from individual plastic pods that one purchased at the register. IIRC that coffee was the Douwe Egbert's brand and was a darn good cup (unlike the swill i was served everywhere else).

#9 Chef Shogun

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 07:12 AM

These pod-systems interest me as a convenience (Most of my espresso problems are due to bad ratios,which this would fix), but I've been worried about the quality of the espresso in the pods. Are you stuck using the pods, or can you use loose coffee in them as well? We have a Keurig pod coffee system here at work, which I love (again, ratios, and the result is much better than your standard festering pot of office coffee), but that's coffee, not espresso! You need quality coffee, but you NEED quality espresso! Do the pods deliver?
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#10 bbqer

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:05 PM

These pod-systems interest me as a convenience (Most of my espresso problems are due to bad ratios,which this would fix), but I've been worried about the quality of the espresso in the pods. Are you stuck using the pods, or can you use loose coffee in them as well? We have a Keurig pod coffee system here at work, which I love (again, ratios, and the result is much better than your standard festering pot of office coffee), but that's coffee, not espresso! You need quality coffee, but you NEED quality espresso! Do the pods deliver?

The Senseo system delivers...to a point. I recently bought one and have tried a few of the Egbert pods (medium and dark roast) thus far.

First, do not confuse this system with espresso pod systems. The coffee delivered is not espresso, but it is fairly decent coffee. The foam delivered on the top is not crema...it is foam and is nothing to write home about. You are indeed stuck with the Douwe Egbert Senseo coffee pods; however, I've heard that the pods for the Black & Decker machines (Folgers and Millstone) are pretty much interchangeable. The Millstone Columbia is supposed to be pretty good, I've read. No, you can't use your own favorite coffee in the machine; it's designed to use those pods. However, there is another Netherlands company that offers a refillable pod...but it's pricy and there's the shipping, too.

The beauty of the Senseo system -- and why I'll probably use it to some extent and enjoy it -- is the speed, ease, and quick cleanup of the system. I'm only a couple of minutes away from a nice, hot, and fresh cup of coffee. It's not espresso, it's not Starbucks, it's not even comparable to freshly ground coffee from a good drip machine. But it's a decent cup of coffee (smallish though -- 4 ounce or 8 ounce) when I want it without a lot of fuss. And maybe in the future there'll be more brands of coffee to choose from.
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#11 andiesenji

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:47 PM

The beauty of the Senseo system -- and why I'll probably use it to some extent and enjoy it -- is the speed, ease, and quick cleanup of the system. I'm only a couple of minutes away from a nice, hot, and fresh cup of coffee. It's not espresso, it's not Starbucks, it's not even comparable to freshly ground coffee from a good drip machine. But it's a decent cup of coffee (smallish though -- 4 ounce or 8 ounce) when I want it without a lot of fuss. And maybe in the future there'll be more brands of coffee to choose from.

Actually I like it better than Starbucks and it is a heck of a lot cheaper. I took it in to the office yesterday and between the two doctors and their 5 employees who drink coffee, they went through 3 bags (18 each, a total of 54) of the pods, two dark, one medium. They would have used more but I only took three bags with me.
One of the docs was going to stop at Target on the way home and buy one for the office. At least one of the "girls" is also buying one. She wants something that is foolproof and turns itself off automatically so this fills the bill. She said she was tired of brewing a pot of coffee, drinking half a cup and throwing out the rest. She said that for what she has been spending at Starbucks, she will have the unit paid for in three or four weeks!

It doesn't pretend to be espresso, in the brochures that come in the box it states it is coffee, just an easier way to prepare it almost instantly and have a fresh-brewed cup every time.

Actually it is faster than instant coffee unless you already have hot water prepared.
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#12 Moopheus

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 06:27 PM

The foam delivered on the top is not crema...

"unique frothy coffee layer"
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#13 phaelon56

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 07:41 AM

The "unique frothy coffee layer" is most likely a result of a "crema anhancing disc". Most espresso pod machines have these as do the lower end superauto espresso machines. It delivers somethign that looks great and is an enhancement for a cup of "regular" coffee but you're right - it's not real crema. real crema is an emuslification of the crucial coffee flavor components in a dense sort of creamy foam layer. It has a mouthfeel and intensity of flavor (if it's a good crema) that can't be duplicated by anything else.

andiesenji said

doesn't have the bitter base note that is an integral part of regular espresso.


There are espresso blends that don't have a bitter base note - some are actually sweet (in a way but not in the sugary sweet sense). The challenge is not only being able to consistently roast and blend so that sweetness is present - it also takes good equipment and a motivated, experienced barista to pull shots that have this sweetness. Bitterness or sourness are the two most common artifacts resulting from a shot that is pulled incorrectly - could be overextraction, beans that are roasted too dark or ground too fine... there's a panoply of possible reasons. A bitter note to the flavor is in fact so common in commercial cafes that most peopel automatically think espresso = bitter. It takes a motivated, patient and determined cafe owner to change people's thinking and careful attention to process control to keep them believing (i.e. if you pull a great, sweet espresso shot for your cusotmer one day and one of your part time baristas pulls them a crappy, bitter shot the next day you've lost the opportunity).

Knowing that there is usually a bitter base note in espresso (some people, especially many Italian blenders, actually want to include a bitter base not), I take my straight shots with a bit of raw sugar stirred in. I look for fruity and/or chocolate undertones in the flavor profile to balance the bitterness.

#14 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 06:15 AM

For those that can't get to Target, or just want the convenience of free shipping, here's a link to Senseo products on Amazon. BTW, there are now 100% pure Kona pods available.

#15 andiesenji

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 01:48 PM

I just learned that there are some espresso "pods" that will fit the Senseo. However I am not sure how well they will do.
One reviewed complained that even with one Senseo pod and a double dose of water the coffee was too bitter for him and in fact he liked it better on the second extraction.
I tried it this way and got mostly colored water that had practically no coffee taste at all.

There were two new ones at the office yesterday and everyone had to "play" with them. The doc even brought one of his patients back to see it and have a small cup.
I think it is the "gimmick" effect. Something different that looks cool and that works the first time with no difficulty.
Not everything is so fool-proof, I guess it is fun to have something work the way it should right out of the box.

I know when I got my first espresso machine (back in the dark ages) I must have made 20 or 30 (or more) really bad pulls before I learned the correct tamping method and got a half-way decent cup.
It took a lot longer to get proficient at it so it worked every time.
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#16 malachi

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 03:00 PM

However I have really taken to this stuff, it tastes better to me than regular brewed coffee and doesn't have the bitter base note that is an integral part of regular espresso.

if there is any "bite" (be it bitterness or other) in the low-end of the espresso flavour profile, then you're talking "regular espresso" in the sense that the vast majority of beverage sold as espresso in the US is (in the words of Dr. Joseph John) "strong coffee made from an expensive machine."

in certain types of espresso (Neapolitan style for example) the roast is so dark that there is a bitter bite in the high-end of the flavour profile. but in well extracted espresso of the more common "speciality" styles (Northern Italian, PNW) the overall bass tones tend towards sweetness, earth and chocolate and tend to have little to no bite. in these styles, in fact, you're more likely for the bite to be sour or acidic/bright rather bitter.
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#17 malachi

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 06:16 PM

another similar product...

https://www.greatcof...chen_bundle.cfm
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#18 phaelon56

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Posted 07 August 2004 - 12:41 PM

but in well extracted espresso of the more common "speciality" styles (Northern Italian, PNW) the overall bass tones tend towards sweetness, earth and chocolate and tend to have little to no bite.


It's fodder for an entirely separate thread but you've touched on the fundamental problem that exists in North America at present.... outside of a few spots in the midwest and east coast... perhaps a smattering in other isolate areas.... the PNW (Seattle, Portland etc.) is the only place where you'll routinely find well extracted espresso. Even Seattle probably has more bad espresso than good but there's so much good stuff there that it's a moot point.

In a sense it's a Catch 22 because most people won't buy much espresso until they've actually tasted the good stuff. The perceoption that "espresso is bitter (in a bad way) is still rampant. Progress is moving along but it remains a challenge.

#19 Dahomechef

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Posted 11 August 2004 - 04:11 PM

I just bought one of these machines a few days ago at Macy's ($69.99). Actually, I was trying to buy a replacement 8 cup carafe for my french press, but that's a different story. As I'm also setting up a new office, and trying to find a system that would satisfy the coffee drinkers here, I saw the Senseo and thought "This is perfect!"

Indeed, the machine itself is great, as noted by many above. Simple, fast, pretty foolproof, convenient, easy to clean. But the coffee was pretty disappointing. It came packed with "Mild" and "Medium" roasts, and nothing I could do would produce a decent cuppa. Next two days, running around trying to find the "Dark" roast pods, to no avail. Got online, ordered them from Amazon, ordered the Kona pods from Amazon (thanks, Rachel), and ordered from a company in Holland (through a site called knivesandtools.com) a plastic "pod" that's supposed to allow you to put your own coffee in the Senseo (Peet's, here we come!). Whether any of these will result in a decent cup of joe, who knows? But the machine is so seductively easy and fast, thought it was worth the effort to find out.

BTW, the normal "ESE" espresso pods apparently will not work in the Senseo. There's also a place in the UK that has an entire line of pods for the Senseo, which I may try as well. Will report back for those interested.

#20 andiesenji

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Posted 11 August 2004 - 08:00 PM

I just bought one of these machines a few days ago at Macy's ($69.99). Actually, I was trying to buy a replacement 8 cup carafe for my french press, but that's a different story. As I'm also setting up a new office, and trying to find a system that would satisfy the coffee drinkers here, I saw the Senseo and thought "This is perfect!"

Indeed, the machine itself is great, as noted by many above. Simple, fast, pretty foolproof, convenient, easy to clean. But the coffee was pretty disappointing. It came packed with "Mild" and "Medium" roasts, and nothing I could do would produce a decent cuppa. Next two days, running around trying to find the "Dark" roast pods, to no avail. Got online, ordered them from Amazon, ordered the Kona pods from Amazon (thanks, Rachel), and ordered from a company in Holland (through a site called knivesandtools.com) a plastic "pod" that's supposed to allow you to put your own coffee in the Senseo (Peet's, here we come!). Whether any of these will result in a decent cup of joe, who knows? But the machine is so seductively easy and fast, thought it was worth the effort to find out.

BTW, the normal "ESE" espresso pods apparently will not work in the Senseo. There's also a place in the UK that has an entire line of pods for the Senseo, which I may try as well. Will report back for those interested.

I haven't tried any except the dark roast but one of the girls in the office is using the medium.
She likes it and has gone through a lot of the pods.

Target had a good supply of the dark roast but most places tell me they can't keep it on the shelf, it is gone almost as soon as they put it out.

We only use two pods at a time. My boss used two pods for a single shot.

They like it because it is fresh every time, the coffee drinkers among us think that brewed coffee goes stale within a few minutes.

Do post what your experiences are with the other pods.
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#21 phaelon56

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Posted 12 August 2004 - 05:54 AM

ordered from a company in Holland (through a site called knivesandtools.com) a plastic "pod" that's supposed to allow you to put your own coffee in the Senseo (Peet's, here we come!). Whether any of these will result in a decent cup of joe, who knows?


Please update us. If you can put your own coffee into a plastic holder and use the Senseo, I'll be inclined to get one for those mornings where I want regular coffee instead of espresso and need to jet out the door shortly after arising. I suspect that the plastic holder system will benefit greatly from using coffee run through a good quality grinder (i.e. consistent particle size in the grind).

#22 richw

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Posted 12 August 2004 - 06:03 AM

I have heard that purchasing Senseo pods at Costco gets the unit cost down to around US$0.18.
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#23 phaelon56

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Posted 12 August 2004 - 07:39 AM

I have heard that purchasing Senseo pods at Costco gets the unit cost down to around US$0.18.

That's way cheap. It's tough to get ESE style espresso pods for much under 40 cents each even in quantity.

#24 Dahomechef

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Posted 12 August 2004 - 04:57 PM

I did find the dark roast at Costco yesterday--they had skids full, but the dark seemed to be going fastest. I paid $7.99 for 36 pods. Hey, that's about $.22/pod, not bad. The dark roast was good enough that I decided to keep the machine, and brought it into the office today. Training took about 1.5 minutes, people seem happy. It's quite drinkable, IMHO.

Got an email that my Kona pods shipped yesterday, can't wait to try them. I believe this company only makes double pods, about 14-15 gms. Should be interesting. Will update when I get a chance to try them.

BTW, at Costco the machine is $67.99, and they had stacks.

#25 andiesenji

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Posted 13 August 2004 - 09:13 PM

If anyone is interested, Sam's Club has the Deluxe model with the extra large water tank for $66.63. They also have the coffees, 2 bags to a box, each box 6.68.

Edited by andiesenji, 13 August 2004 - 09:13 PM.

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#26 Dahomechef

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Posted 17 August 2004 - 02:02 PM

Kona pods arrived, about twice as thick as the Senseo pods, each nicely and individually wrapped in a foil pouch. (These babies ain't cheap, either.) They come with instructions that each pod makes 2 cups, with the suggestion that if you just want one cup, leave the pod in and make another cup later with the same pod. Tried that. Wow... best cup by far to come out of the Senseo, the most like a real cup of rich dark roast coffee. This makes me happy. I haven't figured the per cup price but it's obviously a lot higher than the Senseo pods.

knivesandtools.com informs me that my reusable pod has shipped from the Netherlands and will be reshipped once it hits the US. Cost of the pod was 16.39 euros, shipping 8.05 euros, total cost 24.44 euros. Probably could buy a decent plunger for that, but can't wait to try it.

Anyway, if you're serious about getting a good cup of coffee out of your Senseo, do try these Kona pods--they are on Amazon and are 100% Kona, not a blend. Will report back when I receive "the Dutch Solution."

#27 andiesenji

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Posted 12 September 2004 - 06:29 PM

[quote name='Dahomechef' date='Aug 17 2004, 02:02 PM']
knivesandtools.com informs me that my reusable pod has shipped from the Netherlands and will be reshipped once it hits the US. Cost of the pod was 16.39 euros, shipping 8.05 euros, total cost 24.44 euros. Probably could buy a decent plunger for that, but can't wait to try it.
Will report back when I receive "the Dutch Solution."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Have you received the reusable pod for the Senseo or is it still in transit?
I have been waiting to see if you received it and had any success with it.

Andie
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#28 edsel

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 10:49 AM

I came across a DIY pod page that looks interesting. Certainly cheaper than the plastic refillable pod from the Netherlands.

#29 Lesley C

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 07:31 PM

I first tried out a Senseo at a friend's house in France in summer 2003. She had different pods from Maison du Cafe, which has now added three new coffees to its lineup (Vienna, Rio de Janeiro and Milano). I wonder if the French pods would work in the US machine? If so, it would be worth picking up pods on a trip to France. I remember the coffee being pretty good. The french like their coffee pretty strong.
Now too bad the bloody machine isn't available in Canada yet!

Oops, edited to add seseopods.com has an interesting selection of European pods for sale.

#30 daniellewiley

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 10:57 AM

Joining this discussion late, but Michael just got a Senseo for Christmas. The man is obsessed. I quit coffee drinking a few weeks ago, so he's been flying solo, and this is perfect for that! He just ordered a case from Podhead, and is excited to try that. Just found out that he's been making two trips a day to Starbucks at work, so he'll be getting a Senseo for the office as well. Two trips a day!! I'm thinking the Senseo can pay for a trip to Europe by replacing that! :biggrin:
Danielle Altshuler Wiley
a.k.a. Foodmomiac