We tasted Starbucks’ newest home coffee system alongside the real deal

Oct 26, 2016 at 5:53 p.m. ET
Image: Frank Lanigan/Unsplash

When we were offered the chance to try out the new Verismo V system by Starbucks, we kind of had to say "yes." Play our own barista — why not? So we ordered up some pumpkin spice and chocolate sauces and fired up the handy milk frother that came with the Verismo and set about making some of our favorite drinks.

Then we picked up the real things from Starbucks to compare.

More: Behold, Starbucks bestows upon the people Pumpkin Spice Latte K-Cups

First, at the risk of doing their advertising for them, we really liked the Verismo. It sets up easily and it's so freakin' quiet. Seriously, it's a purr compared to your typical K-cup machine roar.

But how does it taste? Our totally unscientific panel came up with mixed results.

Pike's Place Roast Coffee: Surprise! Verismo won. Starbucks' coffee was deemed "brown water" by one discerning taster, who found the homemade version more flavorful if also bitter (in a good way).

Espresso: The Starbucks-brewed espresso had a slight edge over the Verismo, mostly for its complexity of flavor. The Verismo seemed more one-dimensional, though without the acrid taste you usually get from K-cup drinks.

Mocha: A tie. This came down to personal preference. The quality of coffee was the same in both cases, but some like a sweeter, more chocolaty mocha while others like theirs more subtle.

PSL: Another tie. Again, this came down to personal preference, though one taster said she thought the homemade Verismo PSL tasted more naturally pumpkin spice than Starbucks'.

More: How to make espresso drinks at home without the fancy machines

So what did we learn? For the most part, the Verismo makes a quality cup. But what stands out to me is the way it lets you customize your flavored coffee drinks your way.

Speaking for myself, I like the idea of ordering a PSL or a salted caramel macchi-whatsit on a frosty-cold morning. But I hate how sweet those drinks all are. Like, beyond toothaching. They're verging on can't-taste-anything-else-but-sugar sweet. It's not even the health issue for me. I just don't have a sugary palate. And yes, you can ask the barista at Starbucks to use half the syrup, but then you also have half the flavor. Having a DIY Starbucks situation at home, on the other hand, lets you experiment with different syrups and flavorings to come up with the drink of your dreams, the one no one (for some reason!) believes Americans want to drink.

I should also mention the milk frother works with all kinds of milks, not just full-fat dairy. And it's absolutely fabulous.

More: 20 boozy coffee drinks guaranteed to perk you up

That said, this coffee playset for grownups is going to cost you. Here's the breakdown:

  • Verismo V Brewer, $149 (SRP)
  • Verismo Milk Frother, $59 (SRP)
  • Verismo Pods, $9.95 – $12.95 (SRP)

Not as much as the Breville Infuser ($500 SRP), but still, maybe this is one to put on your Santa wish list.

If you use both the brewer and the frother every time for an entire year, that would add up to about 57 cents per cup. Pods cost just under a dollar per cup. So that's just under $2 per cup of frothy, milky coffee drinks. That's a deal compared with the café versions, though still very much a luxury. But maybe someone's been a very, very good girl this year.

verismo
Image: Verismo

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