The Philips L'OR Barista Sublime is a new kind of Nespresso coffee machine that can accommodate two different sizes of pod – standard and double shot. The standard is a Nespresso-compatible 'classic' pod and the double shot is exclusive to L'OR. Nespresso has a large pod system of its own with its Vertuo range, but Vertuo machines can't also take standard-sized Nespresso pods, so the L'OR is pretty distinctive in this regard.
Presumably part of the reason for this is legal. Anyone can make standard Nespresso pods but, as their copyright exclusivity has not expired, only Nespresso can make the Vertuo pods. So Philips and pod-maker supreme L’OR have been obliged to come up with their own larger coffee capsule. Whatever the reasoning, it’s a welcome innovation for anyone who likes larger and/or stronger cups of coffee. People such as me, for instance.
We’ve reviewed a wide range of Nespresso makers in our guide to the Best Nespresso Machines but this is the first standard Nespresso machine to buck the capsule-size trend without ‘going Vertuo’. Let’s give it a whirl!
Philips L'OR Barista Sublime: Price and availability
The L'OR Barista Sublime is available direct from L’OR where it’s retailing at just £79.99. However, if you can stretch your budget to £99, you can take advantage of L’OR’s Bundle Offer – the machine and 100 pods. Alternatively, try Argos, where it’s retailing for £105.
If you live in Australia, you’re in luck because it was one of the first places to have it on sale. Try the L’OR store, where it’s retailing at A$159.
The L’OR Barista Sublime isn’t available in the US yet but you can buy their capsules direct from L’OR, priced around $6.90 for 10 capsules.
Philips L'OR Barista Sublime review: design and features
As you may have read in my guide to the Best Coffee Pod System, my issue with standard Nespresso pods is that they’re too small – just 5g of coffee per pod as opposed to, say, the Lavazza A Modo Mio which has around 7g per capsule. This means I’ve sometimes felt the need to extract two pods one after the other just to get a proper barista-style hit. The L'OR Barista Sublime, however, has been manufactured by Philips to accept two sizes of coffee capsule – and only L'OR makes them. This is music to my ears – or rather palette – because it means I can get a double-shot espresso with just one tap of a button.
Available in three colours – Satin Blanc (white), Sunset Rubis (dark red) and Piano Noir (black) – the machine itself is a bit chocolate box in terms of looks , which extends to the heavily italicised gold Lindt-like L'OR logo. Also, the casing is made from the type of plastic that loves attracting dust. It’s not an ugly machine by any means but it’s not exactly cool looking either, and certainly not in the same ball park as the stylish Grind One. At 40cm in depth and just 12cm in width, the Barista Sublime is about average size for a Nespresso machine so you shouldn’t have much issue finding somewhere on the kitchen worktop to put it.
Heading round the back, there’s a clear plastic 0.8-litre water container which is ample for about ten extractions while round the front, the empty pod collection drawer has room for ten to 12 used capsules. Mind, the base the used pod drawer sits on – which also contains the excess water container – is made from really thin, brittle plastic that reminds me of a chocolate box tray so don’t drop it or pull it out with an upwards motion or it could feasibly snap.
Most Nespresso machine capsule chambers use a simple lever that you pull up, put the pod into its recess and slam the lever down to engage it with the hidden group head. This machine has a much more complex pod-loading system and I love the way it works. You basically lift the top handle and the pod orifice articulates upwards. Now pop in either a small or large pod and close the handle – the machine can detect which sized pod is being used. It’s a lovely action but I do hope it’s never capable of jamming if, for instance, you load in a pod while the used-capsule drawer is full to capacity. This is because it ejects the previous pod when you lift the lever and, if there’s a used capsule in the way of the mechanism, it could feasibly jam. I should add that I haven’t had any issues in this regard.
The L'OR Barista Sublime has three different extraction buttons – Ristretto (or short espresso), standard Espresso and Lungo. Basically, you choose a pod – standard or large – load it into the machine and press a button of choice. For instance, if you select a standard pod and tap the espresso button, it will dispense enough coffee to fill three quarters of a standard espresso cup. But if you put in a large capsule and tap the same espresso button it will dispense almost double the volume.
Granted, it takes a few tries to find a personal favourite extraction length but you can also program every button to extract for longer or shorter periods simply by holding in the button of choice and releasing it when the coffee reaches your desired volume.
Philips L'OR Barista Sublime review: performance
I’ve been very impressed with this machine’s performance. It extracts all makes of Nespresso capsules really well, and with excellent levels of crema to boot.
Mind, since it takes about 30 seconds to warm up, it would be good to be able to preheat the boiler with a single tap while you pre-heat the cup or make a milky cappuccino froth using the Best Milk Frother, but you can’t have everything.
As is sometimes the case with capsule machines, quite a lot of water gathers in the tray beneath the used-pod drawer. Also, the twin-spout group head drips coffee for a few seconds after extraction. I haven’t found this to be the case with my favourite Nespresso machine, the Grind One, so I guess it’s a design thing.
On a very positive note, this machine is thankfully not too noisy – unlike the Nespresso Citiz which makes a right old racket – so it’s unlikely to wake up anyone in the household when you’re first out the door.
Philips L'OR Barista Sublime review: L'OR capsules
While this machine will happily accept any standard sized Nespresso pod – from both Nespresso and all third-party pod manufacturers like those I recently reviewed in my guide to the Best Artisanal Nespresso capsules – only L'OR produces the larger capsule size (Nespresso, I think you may have been beaten to the punch here and maybe it’s time you developed a similar two-tier system, too).
Thankfully, L'OR’s own brand of espressos and lungos are generally very good – rich and strong while not being too bitter, and with excellent dollops of crema on top – so I suggest giving them a whirl.
Philips L'OR Barista Sublime review: verdict
Although I’m not too enamoured of the styling and traditional chocolate box logo, I’ve been very impressed with this machine and, more importantly, its wherewithal to accept two different sized coffee capsules, something no other standard Nespresso machine is capable of doing.
Granted, using the large capsules means sticking to the L'OR brand but given that the coffees they produce have so far been up there with my favourite blends, Lavazza and Cafepod, I consider this a major bonus. The low price means it’s blooming great value, too.