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Starbucks goes single-cup

Starbucks introduces a single-cup coffee-brewing system. Can you say
Starbucks introduces a single-cup coffee-brewing system. Can you say "Verismo?" And of you love espresso, do you want to?

Big news! But bad news for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Starbucks just announced that it will begin selling a single-cup home coffee-brewing system. This is from MarketWatch:

Starbucks said its brewer, called Verismo, will make coffee, espresso, latte and Americano drinks. Verismo will be available by the 2012 holiday season and be sold over the Internet, as well as at certain Starbucks stores and retailers.

In a statement, Starbucks didn’t give pricing information or indicate how this would affect its current relationship with Green Mountain, which this past fall began selling K-Cups with Starbucks coffee. In the first two months, Starbucks shipped more than 100 million of its branded K-Cup packs.

The single-cup coffee brewer market is growing fast, and Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz has been seeking to make a strong push into it.

“We have long believed that the biggest prize within the segment is a high-pressure system that would give us the opportunity to deliver Starbucks-quality espresso beverages at home and at work for customers who desire the Starbucks espresso experience outside of our stores,” he said in the statement.

What you need to know about Schultz's statement is that there are already quite a few "high-pressure systems" on the market. I personally have used two, both produced in connection with Illy, the Italian coffee company. The issue with them is that although they may mimic the retail espresso experience, they can't truly duplicate it unless you go for the very highest of the high-end machines. 

K-Cup brewers, marketed by Green Mountain, all sell for less than $300. I'm going to assume that Starbucks Verismo will be competitively priced. But at this price point, you're not getting the really robust type of high-pressue espresso-brewing hardware that you'd need to make coffee just like the baristas make it at Starbucks.

Furthermore, home espresso snobs look askance at premeasured, pre-ground pod systems. They're definitely good in a pinch, but for a great espresso — with that thick, foamy layer of mocha-colored crema on top — you need to grind you own beans in a special type of grinder.

So I'm going to call Howard Schultz out on this one. To create a "Starbucks-quality espresso beverage" at home, you'd need to spend at least $1,000 and really more like, um...$6,495, for the La Marzocco GS/3 1 Group Auto Espresso Machine, a commercial machine that can be obtained for the home.

The Verismo will likely brew a decent espresso. But it will be a pale shadow of what you get at a Starbucks retail location.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.