Many coffee connoisseurs know Nespresso for its brand of rich espresso, but did you know that the Swiss company has also been recognized for the elegant, thoughtful design of its coffee machines? One of its most popular, the Pixie, is a pint-size powerhouse that brews as flavorful a cup of java as its bulkier counterparts while still maintaining an elegant, compact profile perfect for urbanites with limited kitchen counter space. In addition to their smaller size, the newest Pixie models also have side panels that are made of aluminum recycled from used Nespresso coffee capsules. We recently had the chance to test the Pixie out and see if it could provide us with the copious amounts of caffeine needed to write all these articles every day. Read on to see what we thought.

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First of all, we should say that as long-time french press users, we had our doubts about whether having a coffee machine was even necessary at all. After all, why take up valuable counter space with another appliance when you can just boil a kettle of water? But after unpacking the Nespresso Pixie, we were really surprised to see that a coffee maker could be so compact. At just 12.83 inches long, 4.33 inches wide and 9.25 inches tall, it’s about the size of two and a half french presses put together. And we have to say that it’s also really quite lovely to look at with its elegant, almost automotive design.

So the Pixie doesn’t use as many materials as other larger coffee makers might, but what about energy usage? Well, we can’t say that the Pixie uses less energy than boiling a pot of water (or perhaps it does but that would depend on how much water you’re boiling and what kind of stove you have), but according to Nespresso, it does use 40% less energy than a standard A class appliance thanks to its automatic power off mode, which shuts the machine down after 9 minutes of non-use. While we think that feature is great for users that aren’t already conscious about saving electricity, after using the Pixie, we think we should point out that the best way to minimize the energy it uses is to simply shut it off right after you make your cup of coffee. After turning it on, the Pixie only takes 25 seconds to heat up, and then another 30 seconds or so to make your coffee or espresso (depending on how much water you choose to add). If you turn the Pixie off right after your coffee is done, it will only have been on for a total of less than 60 seconds! The main advantage here is that unlike a traditional coffee maker that stays on all day keeping a pot hot, you only need to switch the Pixie on when you’re brewing a single cup.

Another point we pondered upon was the single-serving capsules, which are priced at about 55 cents each. While they are tiny, they certainly generate more waste than the giant bag of coffee grounds we usually purchase. Although there’s really no getting around that point, Nespresso is trying to do its part by encouraging its customers to keep and send in used capsules through its Ecolaboration program so that they can be recycled (oftentimes into new Pixie machines, which have panels made of about 100 capsules each). While Nespresso – very strangely – didn’t tell us about this program directly, a little research led us to find that there are Nespresso capsule collection points located all around the world. To find the one closest to you, click here.

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Of course, the main issue with the Ecolaboration program is that it requires Nespresso customers to actually collect their used capsules and bring them into a store, which unfortunately many people will be too lazy to do. For those who don’t want to trek it to a store, we did a little hunting to see if there were any options for home recycling of Nespresso capsules and found this nifty little device called the Outpresso, which separates the coffee grounds from the aluminum so that you can easily recycle it. Regarding the Ecolaboration program, our tip to Nespresso is why not give us an added incentive to bring in our capsules? Perhaps 10% off our next batch? It’s a smart way to sell more coffee too.

As for the taste of the coffee that comes out of the Pixie, we have to admit that joe made in our french press just can’t compare. Of course you can choose fromNespresso’s menu of different intensities, flavor notes and regions, which they call grand crus, but regardless of which one we tried (and we tried almost all of them), the richness, creaminess and quality of the product was superior to what we were able to replicate using other home brewing methods. And if you’re wondering about how Nespresso coffee is farmed, click here to find out more about their AAA sustainable quality program, which explains how the company pays premiums of around 30% to 40% above the standard market price for the highest quality coffee made using more sustainable farming practices. According to the site, the program “is about a long-term relationship and continued loyalty to the coffee farmers in the program. This approach enables Nespresso to safeguard the future supply of the highest quality coffee, while paying farmers a higher income and protecting the natural environment.” As of now, they are “on track to meet our goal of sourcing 80% of their coffee from the AAA Sustainable Quality Program by 2013 and they are already sourcing more than 60% of their coffee from roughly 40,000 farmers who are part of the program.”

So if you’re a coffee or espresso lover who also cares about the environment, the Pixie is a smart alternative to bulkier, more energy-intensive machines. We’re glad to see Nespresso working on expanding its sustainability initiatives, but it’s also important to stress that ultimately, the greenness of the Pixie is really up to the end user – you. By shutting the machine off after every use and doing your part to recycle your used capsules, you can take its earth-friendliness much further than just its recycled side panels.

The Pixie is priced at $179-$229 and comes in Electric Indigo, Electric Red, Electric Titan, Electric Lime, Electric Aluminum and Electric Steelblue as well as Brown and Carmine, which feature recycled aluminum side panels made from Nespresso pods.

+ Nespresso

+ Where to Recycle Your Nespresso Capsules