A special edition pen made from recycled Nespresso coffee capsules
The Caran d’Ache Nespresso 849 ballpoint pen is an aluminum bodies variant of the standard 849 pen. It has an excellent manufacturing story, pretty looks, and an acceptably performing ballpoint refill.
My morning ritual includes getting up early, brewing a Nespresso coffee (Alto Dolce is my current brew of choice) and spending some time planning my day (fountain pen and notebook at the ready) while cuddling with the puppy and waking up. The delicious Nespresso coffee is a critical part of my routine and has been since I first tried Nespresso coffee in grad school years ago. I was curious about the subject of an HBR Business Case. One morning, while drinking my coffee, I received an email from Caran d’Ache advertising a collaboration with Nespresso, and I was instantly sold - even though the pen was just a rebranded 849 ballpoint and I am not a huge ballpoint pen enthusiast.
The Caran d’Ache Nespresso 849
The collaboration pen is an aluminum-bodied 849 ballpoint made from aluminum generated by recycled Nespresso capsules. Having returned many used capsules back to Nespresso - who run their own recycling program for their customers - I was excited to see the used coffee pods being used to make something that also touches on my stationery passion. I love this cross-over idea.
I quickly emailed my local pen store and asked them to hold one for me. The pen cost $60 CDN, which seems a little steep for a ballpoint, but is not bad for an aluminum pen. I am not out of touch with the ballpoint pen market prices though so this may be in line with competitive offerings.
In keeping with the recycled aluminum theme, Caran d’Ache packaged the pen in a combination of recycled cardboard and paper. The pen was packed in a laminated cardboard protective box which was then wrapped in a thick recycled cardboard sleeve with the Nespresso capsule design cutout of it. The packaging was right on point with the recycled concept but seemed a little underwhelming for a $60 pen.
The Caran D’Ache Nespresso pen appears to be from the standard 849 pen line, except for the material, colour and branding. The aluminum is a matt-finished blue-grey that matches one of the coffee capsules produced by Nespresso. Unfortunately, this isn’t a flavour of coffee I usually drink so I couldn’t say how accurate the pen is to the colour. I do like the colour choice of the pen. It is attractive and yet professional enough for office use. The matt-finish is excellent for use, and the grip does not get slippery with use.
The pen style and size is similar to a pencil - it has a thin hexagonal barrel blending to a tapered grip. The ballpoint refill uses a click mechanism which feels relatively soft to use; it doesn’t have a sharp or loud click and could be considered meeting friendly. The click mechanism does feel like a high quality system though. The click button at the back of the pen unscrews to remove and replace the ballpoint refill. It took me a couple of quick tries to close it again, as the button had to be pushed in and rotated at the same time.
The pen is fitted with a chrome clip. It seems to be friction fit tightly onto the pen, and the wings of the clip nicely compliment the lines of the pen.
The pen is quite small. It feels short at only 5” long with the ballpoint tip extended, however, the length is very similar to a Retro 51. The Caran d’Ache is much thinner, which I believe gives it almost an uncomfortable feeling in my larger hand. My problem with the size of the pen is the short length that puts the clip right into the web of my hand. I find that I rotate the pen as I write and this causes the edge of the clip to sit uncomfortably on my hand, which drives me nuts. I find I spend more time rotating and adjusting the pen than I spend enjoying the writing experience for anything longer than short notes. Despite the small size, the aluminum body gives the pen sufficient weight to avoid it feeling cheap.
The labelling on the matt-blue finish is printed in a soft white colour. The Caran d’Ache logo is mostly hidden by the clip, but the Swiss Made logo shows proudly of the clip at the end of the pen. Printed on the opposite side from the clip is “Made with Recycled Nespresso Capsules” highlighting my reason for purchasing the pen.
The Writing Experience
The Caran d’Ache 849 contains an 8422 Medium Blue cartridge, amusingly named “Giant Cartridge Goliath” given my above comments on the small size of the pen. The ballpoint writes well from a high-angled writing position but sometimes feels scratchy when writing at a lower angle. The ink lays down lightly unless you press your writing into the page. I felt like I had to push the tip of the pen into the paper quite hard to get a good dark line.
This refill is not bad for a Ballpoint pen, but the effort required to get a good line can become tiring if you are not used to ballpoint writing. Unlike many ballpoints, I did not find any skipping or blobbing of ink. and I felt that the tip of this pen wrote more finely than I expected of a medium tip.
The writing experience is generally good for a ballpoint, but the occasional scratchiness may bother some writers.
I the love story of the pen - my recycled coffee pods being made into a pretty pen. This is strangely gratifying for me - to know and be able to touch a recycled product made from something I have held in my hands compared to the usual generic recycled products that exist in our lives. I felt good about this pen purchase.
I also love the colour and the visual design. I don’t find the thin barrel pen to be particularly comfortable as it easily rotates, and the ballpoint refill is not smooth enough to get me to use it on a daily basis. But if you need a Ballpoint pen, this is a good choice, especially if you can justify the price with the recycling angle. If you can try one first before purchasing, I do recommend it.