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Nespresso unveils VertuoLine espresso-and-coffee machine at Chelsea Market

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During a pop-up breakfast event at Manhattan's Chelsea Market on February 19, single-serve espresso giant Nespresso unveiled and demonstrated its latest product extension: the VertuoLine system. The new machines and associated coffee capsules expand Nespresso's capabilities into the large-cup coffee segment.

Nespresso's machines have focused on producing espresso through a proprietary extraction system. And though the machines can be programmed to pour small (ristretto) regular or "long" (Lungo) esspressos--with most the brand's various coffees specifically designed to a specific size pour--the ideal serving sizes were still no larger than four ounces. For Americans raised on Ventes and Grandes (or even a cup of diner joe), a two- or four-ounce cup of coffee might not always cut it.

In contrast, most of Nespresso's at-home competitors, like Keurig, are largely designed to focus on brewed or drip large-cup coffees, and not espresso.

In response to this perceived crossover "vacuum," Nespresso's VertuoLine series is designed to provide options for both espressos and large-cup (8 oz) coffees. Featuring a new technology Nespresso calls Centrifusion which maximizes contact between the water and the coffee, the machine also offers an "intelligent" extraction system that reads barcodes on the coffee capsules to brew each blend in the collection at what Nespresso has identified as its most optimal size and style. Because each coffee expression is built with a certain intensity and concentration, a Nespresso Grand Cru designed as an ristretto or espresso may not taste as good in a lungo pour. Bar codes on the capsules (which are dome-shaped rather than the conical shape of the existing capsules, to avoid confusion) are identified by the machine and the "correct" pour (espresso verus large cup coffee.

"Despite a number of in-home offerings in the U.S., there is no system that delivers the quality and taste for which Nespresso is known, but in a large-cup offering," said Nespresso USA president Frederic Levy, who echoed the company's marketing in calling it a coffee "revolution". "We see this as an incredible opportunity to pioneer an entirely new segment."

During the tasting and breakfast in NYC, celebrity chef Marc Forgione (American Cut Steakhouses) was on hand to demonstrate and discuss the machine's versatility.

For the initial launch, VertuoLine offers a range of four espresso blends and eight large-cup coffees. One perk of using the Nespresso technology is that even the 8-oz pour of "regular" coffee is finished off with a foamy head or "crema," like a coffeehouse coffee. The Aeroccino Plus milk foamer, which can be purchased as a package with the VertuoLine machine, also allows users to add as much or as little foamed milk (hot or cold) as they like to any espresso or large-cup pour.

To help promote the new machine and coffee line, the company is setting up a 108-day, 17-city tour of pop-ups around the country. The boutique pop-ups will feature something called a Nespresso Dome (we've got no idea). Cities on the tour include New York City, Washington D.C., Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Newport Beach, Minneapolis, Scottsdale, Denver, Austin, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta and Miami. Tasting venues will be set up at malls and transportation hubs, like Union Station in D.C. and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The Nespresso VertuoLine machine is available in three colors (red, black and chrome) and retails for about $300 ($350 when bundled with the Aeroccino Plus milk frother). It will be available for sale at Nespresso Flagship boutique stores starting March 1st, at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Bloomingdale's and Macy's beginning February 20th, through other retailers starting April 1st, and online at www.nespresso.com on February 20th.

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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author received no comps or samples in connection with this article. He was invited to attend a local press event to promote the launch. It took three cups of coffee just to get there on time.

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