Up until the end of 2016, we used a filter coffee maker to make a pot of coffee each day. The first cup in the morning was fine and the next cup near midday was so-so. By the afternoon, it was barely drinkable.
I researched various single-serving machines such as Nespresso, Tassimo and Dolce Gusto, but they have ridiculously expensive running costs. A bean to cup machine sounded like the answer, but it had a high upfront cost. Then someone from Germany mentioned about the Philips Senseo.
The Philips Senseo uses coffee pads, which resemble a around tea bag. Unlike plastic capsule based machines, the pads are biodegradable and can go in the garden compost.
Each pad costs around 10c to 15c when bought in bulk, including the Senseo brand. Compare this to 30c to 50c per capsule with other machines. Each coffee pad contains 7 to 7.5g of coffee, so 35 pads is the equivalent to a 250g bag of coffee.
Brewing is much the same as a capsule machine. Fill the machine’s water container, switch on and brew without a pad to warm the cup. Load a coffee pad, brew a cup, then toss away the used pad (in a garden composter). Rinse the pad holder and it’s ready for the next brew.
Although this is not an espresso machine, it produces plenty of crema on top, falsely giving the impression of a milky coffee. Unlike a filter machine, each cup tastes as good as the last. The above image is right after brewing, without any added milk.
Making a Cappuccino
For a Cappuccino, I have an electric milk frother from Aldi. In this case, I brew a coffee pad with the single cup setting and the frothy milk fills the mug to the top. I start the milk frother first as it takes just a little longer than the coffee machine to brew a cup.
Personally, this tastes as good as making a Cappuccino with my manual espresso machine at home. It’s also a lot faster and there is less clean-up.
Hotel coffee machine like Cappuccino
Many hotels provide push-button machines that produce a range of hot beverages. The Cappuccino most produce is basically a milky mix of frothed milk and brewed coffee. While the cappuccino they produce is no match for a proper Cappuccino, most people are happy with this coffee.
The Senseo can produce a similar Cappuccino without the need for a separate milk frother. Great for anyone who loves milky coffees, but not the tedious process of cleaning the milk frother.
Just half fill a mug or large cup with milk and microwave for 30 seconds. Then brew a coffee pad on the single serving into the heated milk and stir. When the frothy coffee mixes with the heated milk, it gives a similar coffee as what many hotel machines produce with the Cappuccino choice.
Making a mug of coffee
This HD7829 Viva Cafe machine I have has two cup size buttons. The single cup fills half a mug. For a ¾ mug, I press the double cup button and stop it once the cup is ¾ full. This makes the equivalent strength to the filter machine, with enough room for milk.
For two people, the machine includes a double pad holder. In this case, the 2 cup button fills them half way. I press the 1 cup after brewing to bring the level to ¾ full.
Making a cup of tea with the Senseo
The coffee pads gave me an interesting idea – What happens if I brew a tea bag?😋
I tried a square bag with the corners folded in. Surprisingly, it brewed with a similar strength to a few minutes in a tea pot, but with a taint coffee taste.
I purchased another single Senseo coffee pad holder for tea only and now tea tastes fine. By using ordinary single cup tea tags, this does away with waiting for a kettle to boil or the need to purchase expensive tea capsules. Just be sure to brew it empty first to clear out any coffee from the previous brewing cycle.
Cleaning the Senseo
Unlike a filter machine, there is no need to wash the coffee filter and the various parts. The coffee pad holder and drip tray just need a quick rinse. The outside can be periodic wiped down, as with any other appliance.
After about 100 uses, it lights up a ‘Calc’ light, which is a reminder to run a calcium cleaning cycle. However, we don’t have any calcium or limescale issue here. For example, the kettle element never had any build up.
What to watch out for
This is not a true espresso machine, so this will probably not please coffee drinkers who are serious about their espressos. There is an espresso Senseo pad holder available that brews a smaller cup at higher pressure, but I have not tried this.
I also suggest avoiding the Latte and Cappuccino pads. These reportedly use creamer instead of condensed milk. Instead, get an electric milk heater/frother, which uses ordinary milk. This also works out considerably cheaper at around 20c per Latte or Cappuccino.
This is my first Philips Senseo machine, so I cannot comment on how it’s “Coffee Boost Technology” compares to previous models. However, as for the coffee this machine produces, everyone that had a cup really enjoyed it.
The cheapest places I’m aware of to get a Philips Senseo is on Amazon Germany. For the pads, I recommend trying various compatible pads such as the Black ‘n White 100 pack when purchasing the machine from Amazon Germany.