• Weblog Maître-Sommelier

    Weblog Maître-Sommelier

    Dec 2011

    Training `Coffee Sommelier`

    Country Estate Duin & Kruidberg has been using the Swiss brand Nespresso for quite some time.  This is the well known coffee system with capsules for which George Clooney does a lot of promotion. Partly due to the scale of the Nespresso organisation I was suspicious in advance and wondered how they could guarantee their quality. The best way to find this out was to take a glimpse in the kitchen of Nespresso.  


    I was very lucky to receive an invitation from Nespresso Switzerland for a two day training to become ‘Coffee Sommelier’. The production plant of Nespresso is situated in the village of Avenches. It is indeed a large production plant, which did not give me the impression of quality. I was part of a group of international Sommeliers visiting from England, Austria, Italy and Greece.

    When we arrived I noticed a strict security system. Making photographs was prohibited, as well as carrying a mobile phone. We were told to stay together at all times: nobody was allowed to walk through the plant on their own. This is due to the great necessity for secrecy concerning the process of making this coffee. This typifies the large scale of the company.

    Green Coffee

    Every production step is strictly controlled by the Nespresso plant. They only use the very best coffee qualities. They begin with a selection of which only 15% passes the finishing line. Subsequently just 10% of this selected coffee is good enough for Nespresso. After the arrival in Avenches, the coffee will be controlled by the so called ‘Green Coffee tastings’ by a team of minimal six persons. They always test six different sorts of coffee, of which the left one has the function of ‘benchmark’, so that there is always a good reference. We also participated in such a tasting team. The great difference between the various sorts of coffee was quite remarkable. The main reason for this is the origin. For instance Ethiopian coffee is often fresh and coffee from India is spicier. Coffee sorts from South America are more nourishing.  All of this of course is roughly speaking because just as in the wine industry, every plantation has its own typical taste. At Nespresso they talk about ‘terroir’, just as they do in de wine trade.


    The roasting of the coffee beans happens very precisely. Nespresso works with 16 various coffee styles of which there are blends of various sorts of coffee from one single country. The roasting of the beans is prescribed per type of coffee from dark to light roasted. This process takes place by using hot air, with uniform roasting of the beans as a result. Former methods were based on direct contact, during which process the beans were unevenly roasted. After the roasting follows the blending. The aim of blending is to combine the various sorts of coffee, processes and ‘terroir’ to make a harmonious coffee. It is very important to blend the coffee precisely so that the taste of every type of coffee stays the same. Alexis Rodrigues plays an important role in all of this. He explained to the group in a comprehensive way about the Green Coffee tastings and how the coffee is being made. Actually one can call him the ‘Godfather’ of Nespresso. The ultimate taste is created by him and his team. His inspiration, knowledge and his way of thinking is remarkable. In spite of the huge organisation of Nespresso, he thinks ‘small’ and personal. This translates itself in the great care of all varieties of coffee, the way of processing in every section and controlling of every delivery.  


    After the blending follows the grinding of the coffee beans. This stage is also very important. The finer the grinding the more extraction for instance for espresso. The grinding for the lighter lungo is less fine to create a more fresh style of coffee. Another important element are the capsules. Right after the coffee is grinded it goes straight away into the capsules, thus avoiding the influence of oxygen.  This is the greatest problem with other coffee methods.


    Oxidation of coffee beans, coffee pads and grinded coffee starts already after one day being in contact with oxygen. Coffee becomes less intense and aromatic because of oxidation. This can be noticed by the difference in scent after one day contact with oxygen. With Nespresso the coffee comes only in contact with oxygen again in the Nespresso coffee machine.


    This brings us to the end product: the cup of coffee. Every cup of Nespresso coffee tastes the same because the coffee is brewed in certified coffee machines. Water between 83 and 89 degrees Centigrade, filter time between 20 and 35 seconds and the volume of water between 25 and 40 ml., all depending on the choice- ristretto, espresso or coffee. It is simply this end product, so consistent in flavour, which ensures for the superior quality of Nespresso. No other coffee system can make coffee of this consistent taste.  

    In conclusion I must say that I became enthusiastic about Nespresso. The whole process of coffee making and the great care given to the product results in every capsule containing the same quality with various flavours available for every personal taste. The enormous publicity campaign with George Clooney says nothing to me. I would rather talk about the quality of Nespresso but it seems that this message is not enough.  Now I think that the quality comes because of the large-scale production of Nespresso. Something I could not have imagined before my voyage to Switzerland.

    Kind regards,

    Maître-Sommelier of Restaurant De Vrienden van Jacob,

    Sietse van Zanten