Don’t let the name fool you. Although the word “pixie” is commonly associated with dainty fairies and forest sprites, the Nespresso Pixie isn’t some lightweight.
It’s a little espresso maker with a small footprint. Of course, a full-sized pro machine — the shining, hissing beast that belches steam as your bescarfed barista sweats over its many handles — will undeniably make better espresso than anything you can buy for less than a month’s salary. But as smaller machines go, the Pixie pumps out surprisingly tasty and well-structured shots of espresso.
Nespresso, the company that makes the Pixie, has a range of home espresso makers and coffee machines that utilize single-use capsules — little, prepackaged aluminum pucks with ground coffee inside. The Pixie is the smallest of the lot, though there is one model, the Essenza, that’s cheaper.
Preparing an espresso with this thing is dead simple. Fill the 1-liter, detachable water tank. Place a Nespresso coffee capsule in the top chamber, pull down the silver handle, press the power button, wait 25 seconds for it to warm up, and press either the Espresso or Lungo button. Your drink is ready in 10 to 20 seconds. Chose from the 16 different coffee capsules, each with a different character and flavor (but not flavored). Most are expressly for the 1.35-ounce espresso, and four are dedicated to the taller 3.75-ounce Lungo style. Capsules are 57 cents each and come in boxes of 10.
Lifting the handle ejects the capsule into a used capsule container, which has room for 10 of them. But make sure you have a cup or saucer under the spigot, as the last savory drops of coffee inevitably drip out as you’re ejecting the capsule.
You’re out of luck if you want to add foamed milk for a latte, macchiato, or cappuccino. You’ll need a milk-foamer, which can costs as little as two bucks or as much as $100.
Of course, to make a cheap and light machine that still contains a 19-bar pressure pump means you have to use less-expensive materials. The Pixie uses simple ABS plastic for the housing and the cup support. The side panels (available in six colors) are a combo of thin aluminum and recycled ABS plastic. And that silver handle-latch is made of a metal called Zamak, a fancy name for zinc-aluminum alloy.
It’s being marketed as a “green” machine that saves energy — the Pixie shuts off automatically after it goes unused for nine minutes. But the clear plastic water tank is “green” for a different reason entirely. Made of an even cheaper grade of plastic, a film of green algae developed on the bottom of my test unit after a week. I’d advise you to empty the reservoir and put in fresh water every couple of days instead of just topping it off once in a while.
Update: This review has been updated to correct the price of the capsules, and to note that the capsules are recyclable — the review incorrectly stated they were biodegradable.