Nespresso coffee & espresso on the go with Wacaco and Barsetto

We had a Valentine’s Day date at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco a couple years ago. In addition to the club level treatment, excellent housekeeping, wonderful bed, and courteous staff throughout the property, we were particularly impressed with the Nespresso coffeemaker in the room.

Seems like a small detail, but it’s a consistent luxury experience that was like a touch of home away from home. And we usually can’t fit a Nespresso brewer in our carryon suitcases and still have room for anything else.

Well, today we’ll look at two options that we’ve tried this year for brewing Nespresso Originaline capsules on the go.

In this post (it’s a lungo!):

  • Getting into hot water
  • Carrying your capsules
  • Wacaco Minipresso NS
  • Barsetto Tripresso ES
  • Barsetto brew experience review
  • Expanding the Brew-off to include the Minipresso
  • Bring it home for us?

Getting into hot water

Note that neither of these options heats water, and while both include a cup, you may still want a regular cup (or two, for a travel companion).

You can use an in-room hotel coffeemaker (or hot water at a conference or event), or you can bring along something like the Bodum Bistro 17oz (0.5l) kettle we use on trips. As for cups, any travel-friendly (i.e. relatively unbreakable) mug should work; you’ll brew into the included cup and then make your Americano or double shot by pouring the espresso into the cup of your choice.

One other caveat is that neither of these devices is licensed by, sold by, or authorized by Nespresso. In reality this doesn’t matter too much, but if you buy one and expect Nespresso to support it, you’ll be rightly disappointed.

I have used them with official Nespresso capsules as well as the recent Peets Coffee line of compatible capsules. Other third parties should work as well.

Carrying your capsules

As far as stocking and stashing your actual coffee, you have two options unless you want to buy the capsules upon arrival. Many major cities have a Nespresso boutique; the one in San Francisco was walking distance from our hotel, and for Silicon Valley visitors, there’s a convenient boutique in Macy’s Men’s Store at Valley Fair in Santa Clara/San Jose. Many other stores including Peets Coffee shops and many grocery-carrying stores (including Target) will sell compatible capsules as well. However, you might be too far from a convenient location.

One option is to buy the boxes or sleeves from your usual home source and toss them in your suitcase. If you have a subscription through Nespresso’s website, you can just grab a sleeve or five from your shelf at home. However, they may get damaged depending on handling (and your suitcase’s structure). Your suitcase will smell nice but it won’t help with making your morning cup.

Romaunt protective carrying case for Nespresso capsules, two sizes (4+packets and 8)

The other option (which I’ve chosen) is to get a specially-designed hard case to carry an assortment of capsules. For $20 at Amazon you can get a carrier for 8 capsules along with a carrier for 4 capsules plus sugar or tea bags. The foam inserts are removable, so you might be able to cram another 3 capsules in the larger one, or put more sugar or even mini-moo creamer in one.

But on with the brewers themselves.

Wacaco Minipresso NS

This device has been on Amazon for a while, and we found a deal through MassGenie to get a few bucks off. The Minipresso NS is currently about $41 at Amazon, and Wacaco sells travel cases for it for about $20.

The Minipresso is designed exclusively for Nespresso capsules, and uses a hand press on the front (that round disk pops out when you’re ready to brew). There’s a 70ml (2.35oz) water reservoir on one end, and the espresso cup on the other. A cleaning brush and travel pouch are included.

Barsetto Tripresso ES

The Barsetto Tripresso has been listed on Amazon for a while, but they did a crowdfunded “ES” revision of it earlier this year which allegedly improved the design. They’ve upgraded the base and pumping system, and while they say it now supports Nespresso capsules, a number of people report that (as advertised) the previous version does too. The previous version isavailable for $50-60 depending on color, and the manufacturer also sells a travel case for it for about $13.

Barsetto pumps from the top (like an Aeropress or MyJo device). This brewer includes both a Nespresso capsule adapter and a ground coffee “capsule,” so you can use fine ground coffee as well as the Nespresso capsules. The cup has a lid on the bottom, in case you’re drinking outside and don’t want leaves in your coffee. It also leaves room for sugar or milk. The brewer itself is designed to handle a regular espresso or a lungo (up to 80ml/2.7oz) with water reservoir marks for two cup sizes.

Note: The version reviewed in this post is allegedly different from the one available on Amazon. I’ve reached out to the manufacturer to see if the ES model is available for sale to the general public yet.

Barsetto brew experience review

Since I was in the backers group for the latest version of the Barsetto brewer, I wrote up a review for them based on my experience. I’ll put it here as originally posted.

WARNINGS: Remember that there are sharp blades inside the capsule container/brewer base (pictured above) to pierce the capsule. Don’t put your fingers in there. Also note that the metal brewer shaft that pushes the water through will get very hot (as you’d expect metal in contact with boiling water to do). Let it cool before cleaning.

I ran a tank of 212F water through the system to make sure it was clean and clear. Then I put a Nespresso Kazaar capsule into the brewer base, with 212F water midway between the first and second lines.

The instructions say to pump every 2-5 seconds. I went with 3 seconds, and the first drops came out after five pumps. Very nice and early crema. Kept pumping until I ran out of water. You’ll see the result in one of the photos, with AA batteries for scale.

I brewed a cup of Kazaar in my Kitchenaid Nespresso machine, fourth setting (pictured in the glass cappuccino mug above) which ended up being a bit more espresso than I got from the Tripresso). The strength was very similar and very strong as you would expect from a strength 12 Robusta coffee. The capsules were pierced and abraded in pretty much the same way between machines. The result was tasty espresso from both machines.

You will want to experiment with the amount of water and the strength of your coffee capsules. If I were doing this again with Kazaar, I’d almost certainly fill the water tank up, but with a lighter or flavored coffee (this past winter’s praline, or Cioccatino, or last winter’s orange or snowball), halfway between the level marks would be just about perfect.

One thing I discovered is that the “Cup lid” seemed to be missing, but it turned out it was on the bottom of the cup. The instructions were unclear to me (“The cup lid is placed at the back of the cup”). Note that it is not a spillproof lid; it’s more to keep bugs and leaves and stuff out of the cup, rather than to protect your espresso from spills.

Expanding the Brew-off to include the Minipresso

As the Wacaco purchase was more of a retail one rather than a social one, I did not document it quite as thoroughly, but I conducted a side-by-side comparison with the Kitchenaid Originaline and the same capsule in the Minipresso. However, I wasn’t sure that would be enough, so I got both devices out recently and did a brew-off between all three devices.

Above you’ll see comparison photos for the two devices. I don’t expect anyone will travel with the heavy metal Kitchenaid device.

For this test, I brewed a size “2” water (1.35oz espresso, about 40ml) from the Kitchenaid Nespresso brewer into a glass measure, right before testing each device, to get (presumably) the same volume and temperature of water to brew in all three devices. The capsule used was a Peets Espresso #9 “Scura,” purchased from Peets (although you can also find them on Amazon for about the same price).

With the Barsetto, I got crema at 5 pumps and it settled out and finished brewing after 20ish pumps.

With the Minipresso, the crema was thicker and lasted longer, but the first drops came through at about 10 pumps. The taste was very similar, and very strong.

Then I brewed the same capsule with the same water setting on the kitchenaid, and ended up with twice as much espresso. That was a bit of a surprise, and explains the strength of the other two.

My guess is that, while the hand-operated machines claim “up to” espresso pressure (15 bar for Barsetto, 8 bar for Minipresso NS), it’s not as consistent and depends on the amount of water and speed of pressing. The Kitchenaid, having a bit more machinery behind it, pushed the water through at higher pressure and less was absorbed by the grounds in the capsule.

Based on this, for travel use I would definitely use more water, but as with the original comparison test, I found the beverage to be predictable and consistent from both machines.

A word of warning for either machine: Be sure to rinse, cool, and dry all the parts before putting them away. Below is a photo of a full batch of 200F water run through the machine after brewing one capsule. I got the same sort of result from the Kitchenaid, but it’s not packed in a suitcase for several hours after use, so I’m not quite as worried.

Always rinse your espresso machines after use, whether on the road or at home.

Bring it home for us?

Both the Barsetto and the Minipresso NS espresso brewers will produce a drinkable, enjoyable espresso or lungo, and provide the basis for a respectable short Americano, when you’re on the road and don’t feel like venturing out of your hotel or conference for a real coffee shop. Neither is likely to replace an electric Nespresso brewer at home, but you could use it at home of course.

Your choice will likely be based on price (they’re close, and will vary over time, but the Minipresso is usually a few bucks cheaper), size (the Minipresso is a bit smaller, with a smaller built-in cup), and preference for pumping style (the Barsetto pumps vertically like an Aeropress, while the Minipresso pumps horizontally).

I’m inclined toward the Barsetto, partly because the cup has room for cream (or alcohol), and partly because I prefer the vertical pump style. Of course I don’t necessarily have to choose, and you could easily purchase and travel with both for about the cost of a dozen drinks at a hotel or airport coffee shop.

If you’ve used one of these devices, or found a convenient way to travel with an electric Nespresso machine, chime in on the comments below.

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Quick take: Las Vegas Benefits for Military/Veterans? Yes!

A question came up last week on a travel forum we participate in–it started out as a general status question, but the poster dropped mention of being a military person. In digging for answers, we remembered seeing the Caesars Rewards “Salute” card offer, so we’re sharing a couple of options here.

Some of these offers may apply outside Las Vegas, and there may be others we don’t know about. You will likely need military or veteran ID or a DD214 as proof of military/veteran status, and as with the non-military programs, you will need to sign up in person at a loyalty desk at one of the properties in the program you are interested in.

Feel free to share in the comments if you know of any other veteran or military options in Vegas, and we’ll update the post. And of course, thank you for your service to the United States of America. Continue reading “Quick take: Las Vegas Benefits for Military/Veterans? Yes!”

Newsflash: Caesars Rewards adds extra tier credit benefit for direct bookings

Caesars Entertainment rebranded Total Rewards as Caesars Rewards as of February 1, 2019. They added free nights at their Dubai location and a free night in Las Vegas or Atlantic City for every 5000 tier credits (TC) earned.

Now, as of March 1, 2019, they’ve enhanced the program a little bit more. With any paid stay booked directly with Caesars (online at their website, through the app, or through their call center), visitors will earn 5 tier credits per dollar spent on room rate and resort fees. (Facebook, Twitter)

Based on the email they sent to members on February 27, this applies to any direct-booked stay with a check-out date of March 1, 2019, or later. This shouldn’t require rebooking, if you have an existing reservation booked directly with Caesars.

This is a good enhancement for Caesars Rewards members who pay for their rooms, and will help people attain higher status levels without (as much, if any) gambling spend. Specifically, you can now earn Platinum status with $1,000 in room rate and resort fees, or Diamond status with $3,000 in room rate and resort fees, in a given calendar year, not including any other spend that earns tier credits.

The emperor confirms, no rebooking needed.

You still earn 1 TC per dollar on eligible room charges as before (including dining and entertainment), and you still earn 1 reward credit (RC) per dollar on all of that spend.

And if you have the Caesars Rewards VISA credit card, you will still be earning a total of 5 RC per dollar on your charges at Caesars properties.

Obviously, if you get comps, you won’t really earn 5x TC on the $0 you spend on those, and if your resort fees are waived due to existing Caesars Rewards status, you won’t earn 5x TC on those. But you weren’t earning 1x TC on those $0 amounts before, so it’s not a loss. (Not that keeps people from whining on social media that they’re not getting bonuses on top of free rooms, of course.)

What do you think of this change to Caesars Rewards? Will it make you more likely to stay at Caesars Resorts?

How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?

A few months ago, we looked at up-front justification (or at least softening the blow) of the annual fees on some premium credit and charge cards. This was mainly intended to show that most of these cards have up-front benefits that compensate for the $450+ annual fees.

Several conversations on online travel and rewards forums have shown that the distinction between the annual fee and the potential value of the card are not as clear as they could be. And some people are looking solely at the sign-up bonus vs the annual fee.

So today we’ll take a deeper look at how to determine if one or more of these cards is for you.

Spoiler: If you don’t travel in a way that you can use your own cards, odds are none of these cards will be of much use to you beyond the first year, if that. 

Recap

We reviewed the American Express Platinum charge cards (both personal and business), the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, and the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card.

Continue reading “How much do I have to spend to make a premium card break even?”

Newsflash: Updates to Caesars Rewards (formerly known as Total Rewards) effective TODAY

Welcome back to rsts11travel. Today we’re going to look at changes in the Caesars Entertainment rewards program, which many of you traveling to Las Vegas take advantage of.

The program, known for years as Total Rewards, is officially rebranded as Caesars Rewards as of today, February 1, 2019. No re-registration or member interaction is required for the change, and your number and point balances will remain intact. You can pick up a rebranded card at any Caesars Rewards desk in a Caesars property though. Mobile app, Comenity’s Total Rewards VISA, and other collateral will be updated in the coming months.

If you’re not a member of Total Rewards/Caesars Rewards yet, join through this link for 500 bonus Tier Credits to get you started (we also get 500 bonus TCs). You don’t get a card in the mail, but you can pick them up at any Caesars Rewards desk on property when you visit next.

Changes to Tier Benefits for 2019

What does this mean for you as a Caesars customer, other than one fewer word to name the program? Let’s take a quick look.

Continue reading “Newsflash: Updates to Caesars Rewards (formerly known as Total Rewards) effective TODAY”

Trip Report: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Marina Del Rey, Southern California

We recently had the opportunity to try a second Ritz-Carlton hotel during a visit to the Los Angeles area. The Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey is directly on the waterfront, with available rooms featuring a partial or full marina view.

This would not normally be a likely choice for a work trip, but redeeming Marriott Rewards points made the stay competitive with typical “moderate” hotels in the area.

See also:

Quick Take: Who needs a phone in a hotel bathroom?

Trip Report: Learning Experiences with LAX lounges and Southwest Airlines

A look at the redemption

The Ritz-Carlton is a part of the Marriott family. The Points Guy values Marriott Rewards points at 0.9 cents per point. Nightly rates for a basic room at this property come up in the $400-500/night range, with an option to apply 25,000 points per night to reduce the price by half. The redemption value is pretty close to TPG’s estimate (25,000 points being about $225). While it’s not necessarily the best case for using a redemption, we wanted the experience in between work activities.

We could have spent 50,000 points plus $400-500 a night to get a Club Level room. Having stayed on the Club Level at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, we can say that if you’re going to spend time around the hotel, this can be a very luxurious experience–we’re already looking for an excuse for a mid-week mini-vacation to try the Marina Del Rey Club Level. However, traveling solo for work didn’t justify the expense or the experience.

We were lucky to get a points + cash rate under $200/night, which falls within most corporate travel guidelines. With Marriott Platinum Elite status, we received a 50% Platinum bonus , plus 1,000 bonus points as a welcome gift. There may also be a 2,000 point bonus coming from the current Megabonus program.

Continue reading “Trip Report: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Marina Del Rey, Southern California”

Trip Report: Learning Experiences with LAX lounges and Southwest Airlines

Last week was a busy week for us at rsts11travel, with a few topics around a two day trip to Los Angeles, California.

This was going to be a “quick take” post, but like the trek to an available lounge, it ended up longer than expected. Here’s why.

For the last 8 years or so, we’ve had a pretty consistent airline plan for various reasons. For flights from the Bay Area to Southern California airports other than LAX, or to Las Vegas, we generally fly Southwest. Otherwise, we fly American.

And when flying American into or through LAX, the lounge choices are pretty obvious; with Admirals Club membership through the Citi AAdvantage Executive MasterCard, we visit one or more of the three Admirals Clubs here: Remote Terminal’s mini-lounge, or Terminal 4 or Terminal 5 full size lounges. They’re pretty good, with predictable offerings and reasonable space. Last year we started using Priority Pass for the restaurant credits at Campanile (which has since left the program).

The terminals that American Airlines flies to are all connected airside by walkways, tunnels, or the Remote Terminal shuttle. So we’ve never had to go through security more than once, even if visiting more than one lounge.

This trip was a bit different, in that we flew into LAX on Southwest, a barely-over-$100 round trip fare from SJC which left some budget space for other things. Arriving at Terminal 1 was a bit of a change.

Continue reading “Trip Report: Learning Experiences with LAX lounges and Southwest Airlines”

Quick Take: Amex Centurion Lounge temporary closures coming soon to LAS, MIA, SEA

For our lounging hour, the American Express Centurion Lounge is the place to be while waiting for a flight at any airport that has such a lounge. It’s even worth an extra security screening at SFO, if you can believe it.

Last year, the DFW lounge closed for a few months and relocated. You can read a review of the new lounge here at The Points Guy.

Well, in an effort to modernize and expand offerings in more locations, American Express will be closing their locations at Las Vegas (our most frequent Centurion Lounge) and Miami.

What are the closures?

American Express announced that their Miami location will close on January 14, 2019, for “a short period” to “upgrade and expand the space.” They remind that you can use the Delta Sky Club if flying Delta, or use Priority Pass otherwise (enrollment required, of course).

They will also be closing Las Vegas as of the same date for a “short period” to “renovate and improve the space.”

A short closure with the same phrasing as Las Vegas is also announced for Seattle, coming in March.

How can I get my lounge fix?

The American Express Lounge Collection includes several other networks not operated by Amex, so you won’t be lost or gatebound if you have a layover or an extra hour or two at these airports.

Continue reading “Quick Take: Amex Centurion Lounge temporary closures coming soon to LAS, MIA, SEA”

Quick Take: Who needs a phone in a hotel bathroom?

A recent business trip brought to mind one of the most baffling concepts we’ve had to consider while traveling:

Why do so many hotels have telephones in their bathrooms?

Update: We got an answer to the question! See the end of this post.

The hotel we stayed in this week had a washroom in the entryway and the full bath, and both toilets had handy wall-mounted corded telephones. This was in addition to the bedside phone and the desk phone.

We can understand a television or a music player, especially with a luxurious bathtub to relax in after a long day of work or sightseeing.

We can almost understand a charging port for a phone or tablet, although we wouldn’t necessarily want an expensive mobile device connected to power in close proximity to a toilet or shower.

We could even accept a speakerphone, for those romantic nights whispering “no, you hang up” when you’re apart from your beloved, or when you need to learn what your children have done with the dog in your absence.

But the thought of the toilet phone is just downright disturbing. Is it just us?

Even if the phone is cleaned regularly, you never know who’s done what in there, and if it’s not sanitized between every guest, do you really want that appliance that’s 2-3 feet from the toilet touching your face?

And while our last hotel did not have this anachronistic feature, we’ve seen some hotel toilet-phones with modem jacks. We’ll admit to taking a cell phone in to keep those social games going or read Twitter or our blog comments, but we’ve never thought “hey, I need to dial into Compuserve while I’m on the toilet.”

This one we really want to hear from you about. Have you seen phones in the hotel washrooms you’ve been in recently? And when was the last time you used one of them?

As an aside, we could see the need to get help if one had an incident in the bath… but in those cases, having the phone as far from the tub or shower as possible, while good for protection from water damage, seems counterproductive. Maybe retrofit the phones with intercom functionality or a simple call button?

Whoa, an answer?

Update: Shortly after posting this, we heard from our friend Howard Marks of Deep Storage who had a logical and accurate answer. Here it is (expanded a bit; any details and links are not his fault).

The American Automobile Association and affiliated clubs have a well-known Diamond Rating system that has been operational since 1976. Until recently, the standard for a 4-Diamond or 5-Diamond rating included a specification that there would be a telephone in the bathroom. We found this in a version of the guidelines posted on the Canadian Auto Association Quebec website.

aaabathroom

This requirement is a qualification for 4-Diamond status, and 4-Diamond criteria are a prerequisite for 5-Diamond.

A newer version of the guidelines was posted in April 2018 and appears to adapt for the changes in technology. There is no mention of a phone in the bathroom section at all. In fact, even the guest room descriptions no longer mention telephones (but they do mention USB charging ports from the 3-Diamond level up).

It’s unlikely that hotels will rip out the phones even if they are no longer required for this status, but I would guess that new properties being built to these aspirations will be less likely to be littered with telephones.

 

 

Quick Take: The Energizer XP20001PD Type-C 45W Power Bank/Battery Pack

Here’s a quick battery review for you. We got the Energizer XP20001PD Ultimate power delivery battery pack on sale at Fry’s Electronics last week. With the 20Ah power in a convenient form factor, it looked tempting.

The packaging is very enthusiastic, referring to the pack as ULTIMATE and calling it a “PD RocketHub.” As far as we can tell, there’s no USB hub functionality to be found. There are a pair of short charging cables included though: One USB-A to Micro-USB B and one USB-C to USB-C. There’s also a tiny instruction sheet.

Specifications:

The XP20001PD has a 74Wh/20000mAh battery with four USB-A ports (5V, max 4.2A over 4 ports) as well as a Micro USB input for charging (5V/2A). The distinction for this pack is a bi-directional USB-C port, supporting 5V/3A, 9V/3A, 12V/3A, 15V/2.4A both ways, as well as charging at 36W with 20V/1.8A and outputting 45W at a 20V/2.25A profile.

 

Testing:

We only tested USB-PD use cases, in and out, since there are many better options if you only need to charge USB-A type devices (like the RAVPower 22000mAh 5.8A three-port pack or the Anker Powercore 20100 4.8A two-port pack).

Continue reading “Quick Take: The Energizer XP20001PD Type-C 45W Power Bank/Battery Pack”