Hotel Chocolat is best known for making edible gifts and (thanks to the Velvetiser) incredible home hot chocolates, but I was surprised when they added a coffee machine to their lineup. The machine, called The Podster, is the result of yet another collaboration with Dualit. It’s compatible with Nespresso capsules, but the machine also launched alongside a line of Rabot Estate coffee pods, which claim to offer barista-quality brews, from home. These pods are recyclable with the rest of your home recycling, and come with a ‘Podcycler’ device that’s easy to get to grips with.
I tried the Hotel Chocolat The Podster coffee machine for two weeks, alongside a tasting selection of Rabot Estate coffees, to see if it’s a worthwhile investment as one of the best coffee machines on the market. It retails for £149.95 and currently only comes in one colour: charcoal.
Thinking of buying The Podster? Well, here’s what I thought in my Hotel Chocolat The Podster coffee machine review. It’s a good quality machine with some thoughtful features that make it a good rival for many of the best pod coffee machines, but I had a few issues with dripping, and would’ve liked if the design had been a more exact pairing to the Velvetiser.
Ideal Home rated: 4 out of 5 stars
Reasons to buy
- 9-bar pressure
- Eco-conscious design
- Decent used pod capacity
- Pairs with the Velvetiser
- Thoughtful accents, with soft-touch buttons and textured handle
Reasons to avoid
- The handle won’t work under counters
- Plastic finish
- Expensive for what it does
Hotel Chocolat The Podster
Unboxing The Podster
The Hotel Chocolat The Podster is a relatively lightweight machine. Its heaviest design feature is the handle, which is sturdy and echoes the handle of the Velvetiser, also designed by Dualit. Hotel Chocolat sent me a tasting assortment of Rabot Estate Coffee pods, from their classic ‘The One’ to mellow ‘Cashmere’ and my personal favourite, the bright and fruity ‘Oh, Hello’, to try with the machine. Included with every Podster is a ‘Podcycler’, which is designed to make the aluminium Rabot Estate pods recyclable.
It’s slimline and quite deep, with the perfect dimensions for small kitchens that don’t have the space foe a bulkier machine.
Assembly instructions were minimal, but the machine slots together intuitively. It has a fluted plastic water container which elevates it from a more basic machine, and the same plastic can be found on the used pod container. I like that this is see-through, which makes it easy to see when you need to empty your machine.
There is an on/off switch at the side of The Podster, as well as two drink sizes to choose from at the front of the machine. That’s it for controls, it couldn’t be more simple.
Hotel Chocolat launched three mugs alongside the new coffee machine, called Hug, Chat, and Spark. I really enjoyed these mugs, which cost extra but really complete the look if you plan on using alongside a Velvetiser which has tall mugs that are perfect for a serving of hot chocolate. They are the perfect size for a latte, and have tactile designs that really complement the drinking experience.
Using the Hotel Chocolat The Podster
To use The Podster, simply use the sturdy side handle to open the engraved slot at the top of the machine and drop your pod in. Pulling the lever down, which is a solid and satisfactory motion, locks the pod into place. Then it’s just a case of choosing between an espresso or a lungo shot of coffee. The pre-heat time sat at around the 8-second mark, which wasn’t long but also wasn’t the quickest of the pod coffee machines I’ve reviewed. The buttons are both soft-touch, with a flashing light that turns solid when the machine is ready to dispense coffee.
I first opted to make a lungo, and found that a little water dropped from the dispenser before the machine began to brew. This was a little disappointing, but it was followed by a two-second pre-dose that is perfect to develop the coffee flavour before it begins to extract. As expected, my coffee was hot and rich, with a thin layer of crema at the top of the drink. I did find that the coffee was a lot less strong by the end of the shot, which suggested to me that the pods are best suited for espresso, but I still enjoyed the taste and texture of my ‘The One’ house blend.
The espresso follows largely the same process, but I noted that some water still dripped into my glass before I pulled the shot. I did find that the intensity was a lot stronger, but the flavour was still great and the layer of crema was a lot thicker. When I positioned the machine under my kitchen cabinets, which is where I test appliances for prolonged periods of time, I found that the lever wouldn’t lift fully without hitting the underside of cabinets. I had to pull it out in order to add a pod, which got in the way of my daily use.
After my espresso had finished brewing, there was some more dripping that fell directly into the drip tray under the dispenser. This meant I needed to empty it regularly, but didn’t last more than ten seconds.
Using The Podster with The Velvetiser
The Velvetiser is designed to make hot chocolate (which is what I tested it for in my Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser review), but when it comes to making a latte, it creates a thick foam that’s not too rigid and has heaps of body. It was perfect for making a consistently creamy coffee, and the matching handle looks the part when the machines are side-by-side. If you already own the Velvetiser in the shade Charcoal, you’re in luck. The podster only comes in this colour, which pairs with a charcoal Velvetiser. I have the white one, which does not look quite so compatible when sat side-by-side in the kitchen. This duo is perfect for making lattes at home though, or even the occasional mocha.
While the Velvetiser is all smooth lines and metal exteriors, the Podster is comparatively plastic and a lot more streamlined. The one design element that does tie them together is a lovely textured handle. However, it would’ve been nice to see a little more continuity between the two products.
Using the Podcycler
The Podcycler comes included with every Hotel Chocolat machine, and it’s an innovation I’ve seen from Dualit in the past. The concept is simple but does involve a little extra work. The perk? You can stack your used coffee pods together and put them in the household recycling.
To use the Podcycler, I placed the used pods rim-side down on the bottom of the contraption and then pressed down using the top half. This pushes the pod inside-out, ejecting the used coffee grounds and leaving you with an empty aluminium shell. Give this a good rinse and stack the used pods together in order to put them through household recycling.
Is it as sustainable as using a bean-to-cup coffee machine? No. However, it’s a step in the right direction when compared to the legions of plastic pods on the market that claims to be recyclable, but require you to take them to sparsely-located recycling centres to get the job done.
Should you buy the Hotel Chocolat The Podster?
While I was a little underwhelmed by the look, I still think that The Podster is a decent coffee machine. For one, it’s backed by a quality Dualit design, and it also boasts an impressive nine bars of pressure that worked perfectly with the Rabot Estate coffee pods’ selection of blends. I really enjoyed this coffee, which had heaps of flavour, and I also enjoyed using the Velvetiser in the place of a milk frother. However, I did wish that the Podster and Velvetiser had a more compatible design profile to look like a complete set on the kitchen counter, and the dripping was an issue that detracts from the quality feel of the machine.
In terms of price, the £149.95 cost is actually pretty reasonable. The Velvetiser retails for £110, which is well above the average price for the best milk frothers, so I was expecting a more pricey coffee machine from Hotel Chocolat. The Podster is similar in price to the Lavazza A Modo Mio Deséa, and a lot less expensive than the Grind Pod Coffee Machine, which has a similar lever-style design. It’s a decent value machine, especially for the 9 bars of pressure that come included.
About this review, and the reviewer
Millie Fender is small appliances editor at Ideal Home. She reviews everything from coffee machines to air fryers from her own kitchen, meaning these tests have been carried out in the same conditions that you’ll be using the machine.
The Podster was kindly sent to Millie by Hotel Chocolat, and she tested it for two weeks before writing her review. This gave her the chance to test all of its functions as well as cleaning and check for any troubleshooting. While she prefers a frothy latte or an iced cappuccino, her partner is never running on less than three americanos, so the Hotel Chocolat The Podster was very thoroughly tested.