With the rising popularity of single- serve coffee capsules and machines, it was only a matter of time before market leader Nespresso would see competition here.
Thanks to home-grown company Owl Coffee, local coffee fans now have more brewing options.
Owl recently partnered with Italian coffee brand Cagliari to bring in beans from this 100- plus-year-old company.
PRICE: $ 199
PUMP PRESSURE: Max. 19 Bars
WATER TANK CAPACITY: 800 ml
MILK FROTHER: 150ml for hot and cold frothed milk, and hot milk
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
Owl is also selling Cagliari single-serve machines and capsules, which are compatible with the Nespresso system. The machine is meant for businesses, but consumers can make an appointment to pick one up at the Caffè Cagliari showroom at Southbank, 833 North Bridge Road, #01-15/14, Singapore 198785.
Cagliari coffee pods are priced similarly to the Nespresso ones.
However, the company's Nespresso-compatible machine Carina is cheaper than any of Nespresso's machines.
Nespresso-compatible machines can be used with Nespresso capsules, as well as with the dozens of third-party coffee brands that make compatible capsules.
The cheapest Nespresso Inissia machine goes for $238 here, and it dispenses coffee in only two sizes: espresso (40ml) and lungo (110ml).
The $199 Carina offers the smaller ristretto (25ml), on top of espresso and lungo sizes. It also comes with a built-in milk frother that not only warms up milk, but can also froth hot and cold milk.
I own an Inissia and found that the Carina took about the same time - under 30 seconds - to warm up.
The Carina comes with a small latch at the top which reveals the slot for the individual capsule. The latch is identical to the one used in the Nespresso Citiz model, which is currently not sold here.
Once the latch is closed, users choose which of the three size options to dispense the coffee, and opening the latch after this causes the spent capsule to be dropped into a capsule tray.
There is an extendable nozzle for dispensing coffee into small, shorter espresso cups.
Like the Inissia, the capsule tray can be removed and washed.
What appeals most about the Carina is its inclusion of a built-in milk frother, despite being cheaper than the Inissia.
The frother can be used to heat up milk, froth cold milk, and also heat and froth milk at the same time. The result I got with the Carina is no different from that with other home milk-frothing machines.
What is different is the temperature of the brew.
My Inissia produces espresso shots at 83.6 deg C. Using the same type of Nespresso capsule, the hottest cup produced by the Carina was 77.8 deg C.
The quiet hum generated by the Carina is much softer than the loud buzz of my Inissia.
Because all Nespresso machines are made to produce the same quality cup of coffee, the bigger difference is in the type of capsules used.
Both machines produced similar markings on aluminium capsules from Nespresso, which means that Cagliari is using a similar single- serve process to pump out each cuppa via the capsules.
One difference with the capsule is that Cagliari capsules are made of plastic, not aluminium.
• Verdict: For those who enjoy Nespresso coffee, the Carina is an affordable all-in-one coffee system that comes with more features and at a lower price.