Even though there's a Starbucks location on nearly every corner, the company has now made its coffee even more accessible with the release of Verismo, a sleek Keurig-type machine for your home that brews pods into "Starbucks cafe quality lattes, espresso and brewed coffee using Swiss engineered high-pressure technology."
We know that most coffee drinkers complain about the taste of Starbucks coffee, saying it's too darkly roasted (okay, burned) and that it leaves something to be desired. But statistics speak the truth, and Starbucks made $11.7 billion in revenue in 2011 -- so someone must be drinking the stuff.
Unlike the single-pod machines of yore, Verismo features three different pod types -- espresso pods, coffee pods and milk pods that can be combined in a number of ways to make your own custom drinks. We have to admit the design is pretty sleek, probably fitting on even the most crammed countertops. The cost of the basic 580 model is $199, with the more expensive 585 model coming in at $399 (it has temperature controls and custom controls for drink size).
We at HuffPost Taste were lucky enough to get our hands on a Verismo, and were pleasantly surprised with its success. It was easy to operate, actually sort of fun to play with, and we were particularly surprised at how quickly the machine heats up your water -- the wait between plug-in to pour is only about one minute, which beats the heck out of Keurig machines.
But the real question is, how much does Verismo coffee taste like Starbucks coffee? Here's what our tasters thought.
- "The design is beautiful, I love the idea. I love that it steams milk, and my caffe latte tastes just like it came from a Starbucks store. Which would be great if I didn't think Starbucks' coffee always tastes burnt, overly bitter and far too acidic."
- "Somehow Starbucks has learned the art of coffee making through this machine. It made a latte better than I've ever had in a Starbucks coffee shop."
- "The latte was milky and smooth."
- "I tried the espresso and the house blend. I'm not someone who's that familiar with Starbucks espresso, but I would say the espresso from the machine tasted as genuine and close to the real thing as I could ask for. At no point did I feel the slightest inkling of being duped into drinking fake or knock-off espresso. It was tasty, and I already feel slightly more productive at work."
- "I give it an 8 of 10 on a scale of all things that have ever existed... War, small pox, sliced bread, etc."
The verdict: We were a little surprised at how much we liked this machine. If you like Starbucks coffee and you want to drink it at home, this is the ticket.
In the mood for coffee now? Try these recipes.
Chocolate Fudge Pudding Cake
This pudding cake just oozes chocolate -- it includes cocoa powder and chocolate chips. The addition of brewed coffee helps heighten the chocolate flavor. If you prefer, the recipe can be made with sugar substitute. <em>Use coffee.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chocolate-fudge-pudding-c_n_1049100.html" target="_hplink">Chocolate Fudge Pudding Cake</a> recipe</strong>
This recipe is great for using up leftover bread, but it's also a good excuse for creating an easy chocolate dessert whenever the moment calls for one. The bread cubes are soaked in a melted chocolate mixture that includes espresso and rum. Layer the bread cubes into glasses with whipped cream and toasted almond flakes. <em>Use espresso or strongly brewed coffee.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chocolate-bread-parfaits_n_1058312.html" target="_hplink">Chocolate-Bread Parfaits</a> recipe</strong>
Frozen Chocolate-Chip Meringata
This elegant cake features frozen whipped cream studded with chocolate chips, sandwiched between two discs of meringue. The finishing touch is a warm chocolate-espresso sauce, which contrasts nicely with the icy dessert. <em>Use espresso.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/frozen-chocolate-chip-mer_n_1058398.html" target="_hplink">Frozen Chocolate-Chip Meringata</a> recipe</strong>
Chocolate-Espresso Cupcakes With Cocoa Whipped Cream
Coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate in this recipe for cupcakes. Sour cream makes them extra moist and tender. Top the cupcakes with cocoa-whipped cream and garnish each with a chocolate-covered espresso bean. <em>Use instant coffee.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chocolate-espresso-cupcak_n_1059639.html" target="_hplink">Chocolate-Espresso Cupcakes with Cocoa Whipped Cream</a> recipe</strong>
Red Chile-Spiked Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate and chiles isn't a new combination, but it's one that still excites people when they hear it. This chocolate mousse features both red chile powder and instant espresso powder for a unique flavor combination. Using gelatin in the recipe ensures the mousse sets nice and firm during chilling. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/red-chile-spiked-chocolat_n_1062252.html" target="_hplink">Red Chile-Spiked Chocolate Mousse</a> recipe</strong>
Italians don't like to waste their leftover coffee -- instead what they do is freeze it to create a granita. Top the icy dessert with dollops of sweetened whipped cream and you've got a refreshing dessert with an energy boost. <em>Use espresso.</em> <strong>Get the Recipe for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/sicilian-granita_n_1049593.html" target="_hplink">Sicilian Granita</a></strong>
Coffee-Streusel Bundt Cake
In this cake recipe, the coffee flavor carries through every component, including the batter, the streusel filling and the sugary glaze. Chopped hazelnuts also go in the streusel and serve as a garnish on top. The cake makes a terrific afternoon pick-me-up with a cup of coffee. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/coffee-streusel-bundt-cak_n_1062427.html" target="_hplink">Coffee-Streusel Bundt Cake</a> recipe</strong>
Coffee Panna Cotta
This silky smooth Italian dessert would make a stunning dinner party dessert. Typically made with cream, this recipe instead takes a lighter approach and uses low-fat milk, vanilla yogurt and just a bit of cream. Coffee and brandy flavor the dessert as well as the serving sauce. <em>Use brewed coffee.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/coffee-panna-cotta-_n_1062426.html" target="_hplink">Coffee Panna Cotta</a> recipe</strong>
Fallen Mocha Souffle
With only five ingredients you can make this dessert quickly and easily. Beaten egg whites help the souffle rise without the use of leaveners. Instant espresso powder brings out the chocolate flavor. The recipe is completely flourless, so the texture is as rich and dense. Serve with ice cream for a finishing touch. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/fallen-mocha-souffl_n_1056869.html" target="_hplink">Fallen Mocha Souffle</a> recipe</strong>
Vietnamese Coffee Sundaes With Crushed Peanut Brittle
A Vietnamese coffee typically blends very strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk. This recipe turns the drink into a sundae with the addition of ice cream. Plus there's peanut brittle to crumble on top for extra texture. <em>Use instant coffee.</em> <strong>Get the Recipe for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/vietnamese-coffee-sundaes_n_1058773.html" target="_hplink">Vietnamese Coffee Sundaes with Crushed Peanut Brittle</a></strong>
You don't need an oven to make these chocolate cookies, just a waffle iron. The batter includes instant espresso powder and cocoa powder for great flavor. Dust the waffles with powdered sugar or drizzle with chocolate for even more decadence. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/boot-tracks_n_1061627.html" target="_hplink">Boot Tracks</a> recipe</strong>
Dark Roast Crème Brûlée
This lightened version of the famous French dessert uses low-fat milk. Dark roast ground coffee adds an intensity that turns this dessert into an extra special treat without a unique flavor. Bake the ramekins in a water bath to ensure they come out silky smooth. <em>Use coffee beans.</em> <strong>Get the Recipe for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/dark-roast-creme-brulee_n_1049101.html" target="_hplink">Dark Roast Crème Brûlée</a></strong>
This recipe doubles a standard brownie recipe and bakes it in a 9-by-9-inch square to create jumbo brownies that might require a fork and knife to eat. Mix-ins include chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, but you can omit either if you prefer. A few spoonfuls of brewed espresso adds flavor. <em>Use espresso.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/jumbo-brownies_n_1058509.html" target="_hplink">Jumbo Brownies</a> recipe</strong>
Chocolate-Espresso Cream Pie
This is the classic chocolate ice box pie made with a chocolate wafer press-in crust and filled with a rich chocolate pudding that's been infused with espresso flavor. Top the pie with lots of whipped cream for an elegant finishing touch. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chocolate-espresso-cream-_n_1059559.html" target="_hplink">Chocolate-Espresso Cream Pie</a> recipe</strong>
Have a hankering for tiramisu? You don't need to make a huge recipe to satisfy your craving. Instead try this "baby" version, which uses just 12 ladyfingers soaked in espresso, ricotta cheese and melted chocolate to make six dainty servings. <em>Use espresso or strongly brewed coffee.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/baby-tiramis_n_1061873.html" target="_hplink">Baby Tiramisu</a> recipe</strong>
Coffee Crème Caramel
This classic French custard dessert gets a coffee lovers' upgrade with the addition of ground coffee simmered with the custard base, which is later strained. You can also use instant coffee in a pinch. <em>Use coffee beans.</em> <strong>Get the Recipe for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/coffee-crme-caramel_n_1049954.html" target="_hplink">Coffee Crème Caramel</a></strong>
Bittersweet Chocolate Glazed Espresso Brownie Bites
A little bit of instant espresso powder takes these brownies over the top in flavor. Spread the brownies with a rich chocolate glaze, cut them into tiny bites and stud each with chocolate-covered coffee beans to let everyone know what to expect. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/bittersweet-chocolate-gla_n_1059536.html" target="_hplink">Bittersweet Chocolate Glazed Espresso Brownie Bites</a> recipe</strong>
Affogato With Amaretto And Amaretti Cookies
An affogato is a beverage of espresso topped with ice cream, but this version takes it into complete dessert territory by making it into a sundae. The dessert is topped with Amaretto liqueur, amaretti cookies and shaved chocolate. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/affogato-with-amaretto-an_n_1057074.html" target="_hplink">Affogato with Amaretto and Amaretti Cookies</a> recipe</strong>
Mini Molten Chocolate Cakes With Mocha Sauce
The famous molten chocolate cake is really just a mini under-baked cake with an oozy center. Instant espresso powder adds an oomph that elevates the chocolate flavor. Reserve a bit of the cake batter and mix with hot water to use as a finishing sauce. <em>Use instant espresso powder.</em> <strong>Get the Recipe for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/mini-molten-chocolate-cak_n_1049840.html" target="_hplink">Mini Molten Chocolate Cakes with Mocha Sauce</a></strong>
These playful cupcakes truly capture the flavor of s'mores with a graham cracker crust, chocolate cake and billowy, marshmallowy frosting. To give the cupcakes an authentic s'mores appearance and flavor, broil them briefly to brown the tops. <em>Use brewed coffee.</em> <strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/srsquomores-cupcakes_n_1311450.html" target="_hplink">S'Mores Cupcakes</a> recipe</strong>
WATCH: Paula Deen's Coffee Chocolate Mousse
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/chocolate-mousse-recipe/index.html" target="_hplink">Coffee Chocolate Mousse</a> recipe</strong>