Since writing this review, Starbucks has cut the price of the Verismo 580 to $149. While this might make the Verismo an even more justifiable temptation for Starbucks devotees, for everyone else, our recommendation to stick with a brewer that's less limited remains unchanged.
Starbucks has a devoted following that's even more robust than its beans, and many of these loyalists will likely be interested in checking out the Verismo 580. With the pull of a lever and the touch of a button, the java giant's initial entry into the world of single-serving home coffee brewing promises to bring the Starbucks experience into your kitchen, delivering fresh brewed coffee, shots of espresso, and even lattes in less than a minute, all for a suggested retail price of $199.
The Verismo is attractive and easy to use, but it uses the Starbucks-specific Verismo Pods, meaning that you'll only be able to use it to brew Starbucks coffee. This puts it at a huge disadvantage against models that brew K-Cups and Vue packs, both of which offer a wide variety of coffee brands to choose from – including options from Starbucks. And, unlike some of these very models, the Verismo has no reusable filter capable of handling your own fresh grounds. If you were to grind up some Starbucks beans, the Verismo wouldn't be able to brew them.
Fortunately, the flavor you get from the Verismo Pods is almost shockingly close to what you'd get from those fresh ground beans, and the convenience of brewing a cup at the touch of a button in less than a minute is tough to match. If you're the kind of coffee-drinker who can't make it through the workday without at least one stop at Starbucks, then the Verismo could very well be the machine of your dreams.
Construction and Design
The Verismo sports an eye-catching minimalist design, and manages to cram quite a bit of tech into a very compact little package, making it ideal for space-conscious shoppers. It was the shortest unit that we tested and also the most narrow, beating every other model with inches to spare (5.9-inchesx14.9-inchesx11.7-inches, WDH.) Even more impressive is the Verismo's lightweight build. At just 8.4 pounds, it's about as small as you're going to get from a single-serve coffeemaker, and yet it still feels tough and durable, with the sort of high quality construction you'd expect from a unit in the $200 price range.
With multiple color choices available, all of which look great, the Verismo will complement practically any kitchen. It's hard not to be impressed with the unit simply from looking at it and handling it. It looks fancy. It feels fancy. There's nothing superfluous about it. Starbucks even showed restraint in its corporate branding with the Verismo – you'll find no logo, not even the word "Starbucks" anywhere on the machine.
The minimalism of the Verismo translates well to the user experience. Aside from the power button on top, the has just three buttons, one for each type of Verismo Pod. The black cup button is for coffee, the white cup is for milk, and the little cup is for espresso. You don't get much simpler or more intuitive than that.
The minimalist approach works so well because the Verismo is a very limited machine. Your only options are Starbucks coffee, Starbucks espresso, or a Starbucks latte. Sure, you can choose which kind of Starbucks blend you'd like – Blonde, French Roast, House Blend, and so on – but in the end, this is a Starbucks delivery device. You're even locked in with the milk pods. Forget skim or soy, your only option is 2%. And unlike most single-serve coffeemakers, there's no reusable pod for you to put your own fresh grounds into, not even from from third-party manufacturers. You can't adjust the temperature or the size of your beverage. Unless you're willing to buy mocha powder to mix into your espresso or caramel sauce to drizzle over the top of your latte, you're really stuck with the most basic Starbucks offerings.
There are also minor issues with the general usability of the Verismo. The lever on top can be a little hard to press down on after you've loaded a pod, and a nonfluid pressing motion can cause the pod to drop prematurely. Also, putting the water reservoir in the back might have helped the design achieve an attractive level of symmetry, but loading and unloading a rear-mounted reservoir isn't always practical – especially if you keep the back of your Verismo flush against the wall.
(Shorter bars indicate faster brewing)