As a technology professional, there a few things I consider as absolute essentials: a laptop, WiFi connection, and a cup of coffee. While some of us are content with intravenously injecting ever increasing amounts of ground instant coffee granules (or just drinking it, whatever), some of you no doubt go for the altogether more classy Starbucks. And then there are of those of us who hate Starbucks, but like good coffee, and wish we could have the Starbucks taste at home. This, dear readers, is where a Bosch Tassimo coffee machine comes in handy; and we’re giving away a brand new one at the end of this review.
Manufactured by Bosch, the TAS4011 (or TAS4513UC if you’re in the US) is designed to be used with the Tassimo range of single-use “pods”. The machine normally costs £120 or $169; not including the on-going cost of the coffee itself, obviously. There is a slightly more expensive T65 model which includes an LCD screen and illuminated cup stand, and a slightly less expensive model which has a smaller reservoir (and not very good reviews on Amazon). The Tassimo system goes up against quite a few competing single-cup coffee pod system from Keurig, Nespresso, Nescafé Dolce Gusto, and Senseo.
What makes the Bosch Tassimo so special?
There are a lot of coffee machines on the market, so why did I pick a Tassimo? Uniquely, Tassimo machines include a barcode reader.
Each time you insert a new T-Disc – the fancy name for the plastic pods of coffee or milk – it reads information from the barcode printed on the disc about how to ideally prepare that drink. I can’t figure out the exact code; but it’s a 6–10 digit number that controls the amount and the type of milk required (as in, frothy or not), and perhaps also temperature.
In addition, the Tassimo brand has the largest range of drinks to choose from. Other coffee makers are typically limited to one basic type; if you want a cappuccino, you need a cappuccino maker; or an expresso machine. Tassimo can make pretty much anything, but here’s a basic list:
- Hot chocolate
- Latte Machiato (and Caramel)
- Various Teas
Take a look at the Tassimo site to see a comprehensive list of 40 different drinks.
Design and Build
The Bosch Tassimo TAS4011 is a solid machine; curved but a little bulky feeling at L33cm x W21cm H26cm and weighing in at 3.6kg.
It has a 2 litre water reservoir – more than enough for quite a few cups – as well as easy pour opening at the top so you needn’t remove it each time (only for cleaning).
Also hidden behind the reservoir is a little holder for the cleaning disc. The cleaning disc is for flushing the system; you need to do this upon first use too, but the instructions explain that easily enough.
There are also instructions for using it in conjunction with some descaling tablets; the machine will tell you when this is needed, but if you live in a hard water area you may need to do so more often than usual. The main nozzle and T-Disc can also be removed for easy cleaning – the manual suggests you to do this after every “milky” drink, but I think we all know that’s unlikely to happen.
Three different cup sizes are also accomodated for, ensuring the least amount of backsplash. The cup holder is removed completely for use with tall latte cups; but for small espresso cups, the cup holder can be twisted around and locked into a higher position.
Making a Coffee with the Bosch Tassimo
It isn’t exactly “one touch” if the type of coffee you’ve chosen also needs milk or otherwise comes in two separate pods, as most of the drinks do. To make the coffee, just turn the machine on – no need to wait for it to warm up – and when the light is orange, open the T-Disc holder and place in the first pod – typically the coffee part. Push down the top to pierce the lid, then clamp shut.
Pro tip, or just obvious rookie error on the part of someone who knows nothing about how coffees are actually made: get the layered effect in lattes by inserting the milk first. Avoid mistakes by looking on the side of the packet first!)
The barcode reader should instantly read the details, and the button will turn green to indicate it’s ready. If the barcode reader needs cleaning or the barcode is somehow broken, it may stay orange, indicating a problem. Hit the button to start the process.
Once the default setting is done, you have about 10 seconds in which you can make manual adjustments (as in more water). Otherwise, wait for the indicator to turn orange again – NEVER open the machine while the light is still green, as there may still be a risk of scalding.
Remove the expended first T-Disk and place in the second; repeat the process to finish the drink.
Though each Tassimo pod comes with its own barcoded instructions for the specific amount of water needed, you can make manual adjustments shortly after during the 10 second cooldown window. However, bear in mind that each T-Disc contains a carefully measured “ideal” amount of ground coffee; so adding more water will water down the taste. You’re buying into a set menu, though the menu is admittedly quite expansive.
Costs vary wildly according to the tye of drink you’re making, but let’s look at a basic cappuccino. On Amazon, you can buy a pack of 80 Carte Noire Cappuccino T-Discs for exactly £19 (less if you use subscribe and save). The costs of the Bosch Tassimo machine I’m reviewing was £120. Let’s assume you want one cup of cappuccino a day for a year; that’s roughly four times £19 (call it £80), and we’ll divide the £120 cost of the machine over two years, for a total of £140 per year; that’s 38 pence a cup (or around 61 cents). The same cup at Starbucks will costs you around £2. Is the ambience of Starbucks worth that much? I doubt it.
The Caramel Macchiato Latte works out at around 56p per cup, as one of the most expensive drink types; others are less. No doubt, the Bosch Tassimo system is quite expensive. It’s an indulgence, so you do really need to consider if you can afford the on-going cost – there’s no point in getting one if you’re never going to use it.
Living With the Bosch Tassimo – Taste Test
The Cappuccino is spot on; the Caramel Latte is superb; the Espresso is suitably small and potent; and the Chai is deliciously aromatic. If I had one complaint to make, it would be that chocolate sprinkles and other toppings aren’t included in the pack – even the instant Cappuccino packs usually provide that. For a product aiming at presumably a premium market, it seems like an oversight. Then again, there are different providers making the coffee pod sets – the ones I tried were nearly all from Kenco, though many other brands exist in the Tassimo range. At one point, Starbucks even produced their own Tassimo pods, but these were discontinued for some reason. Nevertheless; there’s a huge choice, so I’m sure there’s a few you’ll like.
I’m certainly no coffee connoisseur, but if you are – you’re probably not going to take to heart the words of a technology writer anyway, so that doesn’t matter. Personally, I think the coffees are delicious. Other reviews have said the coffee is slightly watery, so if you can, do your own taste test first.
The pods themselves consists of lumps of plastic with seals on top; so you can’t recycle them domestically with your regular paper/plastic/cans/bottles collection, at all.
The environmental impact of this is quite disgusting, but there is a way to recycle them via a third party called Terracycle if there’s a collection point nearby; otherwise you’re out of luck. There aren’t any in the US it seems, and only 14 in the UK, none of which are near me. I feel pretty terrible for not researching this aspect more in advance, but there it is. Considering I grow my own veg and rear chickens, recycle 100% of everything else and never waste food, I think I have some brownie points to spend; you might not though.
Should You Buy It?
This Bosch Tassimo machine is an incredible luxury; an indulgence for coffee lovers who also have demanding wives and children that want hot choloate and other hot beverage nonsense like tea. The environmentalist in me is screaming though.
If you’re looking to replace your morning Starbucks routine, or work from home and miss a good coffee, a Bosch Tassimo is a luxurious indulgence. It’s also great to be able to offer visitors something more than your basic “two sugars and milk, dear?”.
Don’t buy it, unless you’re close to a recycling point, or they release biodegradable containers. The environmental impact is just too atrocious.
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