While several machines use the Nescafe Dolce Gusto pod system, the Piccolo is one of the most compact. Piccolo means small in Italian and everything about this machine conforms to that ethos – it’s slim from every angle, and even its price is comparatively dinky.
Fortunately, the range of drinks you can make with it is more substantial, as there are more than 30 pod varieties available, with some only available online. These range from espressos and cappuccinos (using a milk pod combined with a coffee pod), to iced drinks, decaf, ristretto and hot chocolate as well as teas.
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An inspiring combination of small and stylish, the Piccolo resembles its bigger brother, the Melody III, with a curved top that’s home to the pod holder and control lever, while the power button sits discreetly at the side. It’s short enough to sit below wall cabinets, slim enough to fill almost any recess and light enough (2.4kg) to be moved around the kitchen if required.
Its features are pared back to the fundamentals – while other Dolce Gusto machines come as automatic versions that dispense the right amount of water for each type of pod, the Piccolo is manually operated via its control lever. This means you can run more or less water through the pod, but also that there’s no walking away while you do so. There’s a guide on each box of pods detailing how much water to use, but it’s tricky to get it right every time. However, it does mean your drinks can be adjusted to taste by making them longer or shorter.
An adjustable cup platform can be set at three different heights for a variety of cup sizes, while there are no width restrictions, so it can accommodate even the largest mugs.
After running through a couple of tanks of water to clean it, the Piccolo is ready for use just minutes after getting it out of the box. Its thermoblock heats up quickly, with the on-off button changing from flashing red to green when it’s primed. The water tank is necessarily small, but it’s also awkward to fill directly from the tap and may need to be tipped at an angle to meet the spout. You're better off filling it with a jug to avoid spills.
Making drinks is straightforward – pods slot neatly into the pull-out holder, which then slides back into the machine. A clip then pulls down to pierce the pod and keep it in place. Instead of multiple buttons or dials, the control lever simply pushes to the left to dispense cold water for chilled drinks, or to the right for hot water from the thermoblock, returning to the centre once enough water's been dispensed.
The machine drips until the clip's released, but only a little. Fortunately, this is the only mess – all the coffee grounds, milk mixture or tealeaves are contained in the pod, and the machine can be wiped down to keep it gleaming. The Piccolo’s thermoblock recovers quickly between making drinks, so there’s no waiting around if you’re brewing several cups – though refilling the water tank may slow you down.
A maximum 15-bar pump pressure ensures a consistently rich crema on top of your brew, plus the coffee itself has a full flavour and is pleasingly hot. The Dolce Gusto companion ‘milk’ pods create a creamy froth for cappuccinos and lattes, and can’t be beaten for convenience. However, they may not be to everyone’s taste, so consider a separate frother if you prefer fresh milk.
The Piccolo is a good thing in a small package. It’s ideal as a first coffee machine because of its simplicity of use and minimal worktop footprint, and is sure to tick the right box for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the sheer choice of models available.
Its water tank size may end up being the biggest bugbear, as making a couple of milk-based drinks leaves it near empty, but it would suit a one or two-person household or espresso drinkers.
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A wide variety of drinks, compact size and uncomplicated controls outweigh its limited features, but serious coffee addicts may soon tire of refilling.