First off, the important info: I’m calling this a “mini” review because I don’t actually own a Verismo, nor am I high enough in Google rankings that I can get free stuff or loaners for reviews. This is based on my research and on a demo I got at my local Starbucks.

So, if you’ve been in a Starbucks this year you might have noticed the prominent advertising and display of the Verismo espresso machine. The ad copy says it’s Starbucks quality beverages in the comfort of your own home, super quick and easy. But what is it and how does it work?

The basics: This is a home espresso machine similar to a Keurig “K-Cup” machine — meaning, it takes handy little “pods” and makes drinks out of them, one at a time. What makes it different from a Keurig is that it makes espresso (I’ll admit, I’m not 100% sure whether it really fits the definition of espresso or whether it just brews super-strong coffee from the pods) as well as milk-based drinks like lattes. To make a latte, you put a coffee pod and a milk pod in the machine, push a button, and very soon after you’re sipping a small latte.

The coffee pods are available in several popular Starbucks coffee varieties, and the milk pods are, as far as I can tell, plain 2% powdered milk. There’s some packages that contain both coffee pods and milk pods, so you don’t have to buy them separately.

How does it taste? Not bad at all. My expectations were low — I mean come on, reconstituted milk in a latte? — but the latte itself was fairly tasty. I’ve been served worse by coffee shops with actual espresso machines. This is not a vending machine latte but a decently brewed drink.

The pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Very easy to clean up (just throw the pods away)
  • Makes pretty good drinks
  • Pods are available in different Starbucks roasts
  • Makes a single serving with no wasted coffee or milk
  • Looks nice on your countertop
  • Not too loud
  • Cheaper than buying the same drinks at Starbucks

The cons:

  • Throwing away used pods creates extra waste
  • You have to buy the pods from Starbucks, and you only get so many per package (compare this to buying a pound of coffee for a regular espresso machine)
  • If the pods become scarce or are discontinued, your machine is a paperweight
  • Not much variety in milk choices and little control over how the milk turns out (no extra-dry soy cappuccinos!)
  • Not the cheapest machine on the market

Should I buy one? It depends on your needs. This could be a very useful machine for situations in which you’d use a Keurig K-cup machine — in an office, for example, where having a full espresso machine with steaming pitcher and pounds of coffee is not very practical. It might also be useful for people with limited hand strength or mobility, who would like to make espresso drinks at home but can’t always wrangle the equipment necessary. Or if you just want a super-simple, fast, no-fuss way to get a nice drink.

Personally, I passed on it. The idea of having to buy the pods, and then throw the used pods away, wasn’t very appealing — especially at that price point. For all the hype I was expecting something a little more akin to the machines Starbucks itself uses, which automatically grind beans and pull shots. I’m sticking with my simple, inexpensive Delonghi espresso machine and the occasional … okay, more than occasional trip to Starbucks.