I’m never one to buy a product and then instantly pitch it our IRL strand, because I’m always worried that I’m still in the honeymoon period. I much prefer to use something that I’ve bought for months, or years, before I feel compelled to tell the world if it’s any good. But while I’ve had my Sage Creatista Plus for, now, just over a month, I already think it’s one of the better gadget purchases I’ve made in a while.
From 2011 to 2021, I didn’t really drink caffeinated tea or coffee, opting instead for green tea as my hot drink of choice. For many reasons, I was finding it harder to function in the morning, so I decided to make myself a single, at-home latte to start my day. Since I was out of practice, I just made my latte with a shot of instant coffee added to microwaved milk. After a while, however, I started to hunger for something that tasted a bit more like the real thing.
This March, I received a nice little £300 bonus in my wage packet, and thought it was high time I got myself a little Grown Up Treat. I started looking around for affordable bean-to-cup machines, devouring James Hoffman’s YouTube channel to look for his guidance. Hoffman, however, said that buying a bean-to-cup machine was going to become a hobby in itself, not ideal when I was looking for something more, not less, efficient than my current setup.
Since all I wanted was coffee with a little more flavor and some steamed milk in the morning, my friend urged me to try Nespresso. He said the convenience of a higher-quality drink (and he is a coffee snob) is worth the price, especially if you subscribe. And you could pick up an entry-level machine for either £150 at retail, or far less if you opt for a pod delivery subscription. To be fair to him, I did explore this possibility, but decided against it for two reasons.
First, I’m not a big fan of Nestle as a company given its fairly sordid history of controversial business practices. Its Wikipedia entry has 16 subheadings under the title “Controversies and Criticisms,” including the baby milk scandal, the use of slave and child labor and the union busting. In my mind, it’s second only to Coca-Cola and Uber on a list of companies I won’t buy from unless there’s no feasible alternative.
And then there’s the issues around the creation, consumption and recycling of the aluminum pods. Making them for a single-use purpose seems massively wasteful when you look at the energy cost involved to produce, ship and recycle them. And there are plenty of reports saying that only a fraction of the pods purchased and used are even sent back to be reused.
But after a long session inside an internet rabbit-hole, I did learn that you could swerve paying Nestle almost entirely. It was news to me to learn that there’s a whole world of third-party companies that make pods compatible with Nespresso machines. And many of those are made from plant materials that are compostable, and can be recycled in your household food waste.
So I took a look at some machines, and knowing that James Hoffman always spoke highly of Sage / Breville’s hardware, examined those pretty closely. Its Creatista series looks less like a futuristic pod-meal machine and a bit more like a real coffee machine, which helped. And I was on the hunt for a model with its own steam wand, because while I could use a standalone milk frother, I didn’t want to buy two appliances if one could do the job.
As I said, the Creatista and its Plus-named sibling are functionally identical, but the Plus has a more professional stainless-steel alloy look. I’m not particularly obsessed with one aesthetique but, I figured, I’m 38, damnit, if I want a fancy coffee machine, nobody can judge me. (It’s also pleasingly narrow, which enabled me to slide it into an otherwise-empty space on my cramped kitchen countertop.)
But there was no way that I was going to spend north of £400 for one, and so for a few days, I decided to abandon the plan. That was until I realized that European second hand gadget marketplace BackMarket has a dedicated section for refurbished coffee machines. A British company had a refurbished, nearly-new Creatista Plus for £249.99, a much easier pill to swallow. Especially since I wasn’t so much dipping a toe into this world as the whole foot and hoping for the best.
Rather than press buy, however, I decided to see if that same company was offering its wares on other sites for less, and it turns out that it was on eBay. The same eBay that had sent me a 20-percent off voucher that I’d forgotten all about until a menu item on the listing asked if I wanted to knock some cash off the price. That took the product down to £179.99, not much more than a low-end Nespresso machine, and an offer I quite literally couldn’t refuse.
Beyond the aesthetique, there’s a lot to love about the Creatista Plus, including being able to program in your settings for the perfect latte. A small display and push-down crown lets you select your coffee shot volume, milk temperature and froth level. Now, rather than microwaving my milk, I can just put my cup under the coffee nozzle, pour milk into the steamer jug, press the button and let it do its thing. (Well, in part – you have to come back to activate the milk frother once the coffee shot has been poured.) I like the fact that it’s very easy to clean, too, and the steam wand will purge itself after every use, so that I’m not getting nervous about built-up gunk.
And the end result is far better coffee than the stuff I’d been willingly slurping down for the previous two years. It may not hold a candle to a proper Barista-made cup, but it’s more than enough for me to start my day. The fact I was able to do so cheaply, buying a nice refurbished model and avoiding giving any money to Nestle at the same time isn’t a bad thing either.