If you want a delicious coffee drink but don’t have the time to stop by a coffee shop or prepare it at home using a traditional system, Nespresso coffee capsules are for you.
Nespresso capsules allow you to easily create your own specialty coffee drink at home or in the office between meetings, producing a quick espresso with a rich crema in less than half the time of a traditional machine.
With a variety of intensity levels and flavor profiles, it is sometimes difficult to sort through the different options but hopefully this guide will make it easy to pick the best Nespresso capsules for you!
Best for lattes: Ristretto
Lattes combine steamed milk with rich espresso, topped with a touch of froth to create a rich and creamy coffee drink. Depending on whether you follow European or American traditions, the ratio of coffee to milk can vary greatly, but a latte is still considered to contain far more milk than coffee. Since the milk ratio is so high, you want a strong bold espresso to pair with it.
A great choice for lattes, Ristretto capsules contain dark-roasted arabica coffees from Central and South America. It has a dense body, distinct cocoa notes, and intense roasted flavor that allows it to stand strong next to the addition of steamed milk.
These capsules have an intensity rating of 10 out of 12 and are for use in the OriginalLine machines only and are not compatible with VertuoLine machines.
Best for americanos: Arpeggio
If your coffee of choice is the Americano (half espresso and half water), we suggest Arpeggio capsules. Containing Arabica coffees from Central and South America, they have a fruity or malted flavor profile with an intense bouquet of cocoa and roasted notes. A long roasting time allows the aroma to fully develop making it a great choice for a classic Americano.
These capsules have an intensity rating of 9 out of 12 and can be used in either a .85 or 1.35 ounce cup and are for OriginalLine machines only and are not compatible with VertuoLine machines.
Best for cappuccinos: Fortissimo Lungo
The cappuccino is similar to the latte in that it is a combination of espresso, milk, and froth but that is where the similarities end. The cappuccino has a much stronger milk to espresso ratio and typically follows the rule of thirds: ⅓ espresso, ⅓ milk, and ⅓ foam.
Because the espresso ratio is higher in the cappuccino, it is complimented by the milder espresso of the Fortissimo Lungo capsule. Split roasting gives this West Indian Malabar Arabica a full body while retaining a rich coffee flavor that is not overshadowed by roasted notes. This full-bodied Lungo has a distinguished aromatic profile combining sweet cereal and malt notes balanced with a pleasant bitterness and smooth texture.
These capsules have an intensity rating of 9 out of 12 and are for use in the OriginalLine machines only and are not compatible with VertuoLine machines.
Best variety pack
If you are new to nespresso and just aren’t sure which flavor profile and intensity suits your particular taste, this variety pack is for you. It provides 100 capsules; offering 10 capsules each of Capriccio, Fortissio Lungo, Vivalto Lungo, Volluto, Cosi, Roma, Arpeggio, Ristretto, Ristretto Decaf, Genova Livanto.
The variety pack allows you to sample each coffee without committing to an entire box and since it offers a range of intensity ratings from 4 to 10, it is great for guests or the office since it allows the individual to choose a coffee to suit their own preference.
These capsules are for the OriginalLine only and are not compatible with the VertuoLine. If you have a VertuoLine and want a variety pack, we recommend the Indulgent sampler pack
Best for those on a budget: Bestspresso Variety Pack
Nespresso coffee capsules are great but they can be rather pricey. If you love your Nespresso OriginalLine machine but want to save a little money, we recommend this Bestpresso variety pack. This independent company offers a variety pack of 120 OriginalLine compatible capsules at a fraction of the price. As a bonus, they are kosher!
The capsules contain no preservatives, sugar, or added flavoring and contain over 50% Rainforest Alliance Certified Sustainable coffee. Bestpresso also offers a 60 day satisfaction guarantee so there is no risk in giving it a try.
These capsules are not produced by Nespresso so they do not use the same intensity rating scale but with 6 varieties to choose from, they are a great budget friendly alternative to stock the office coffee bar.
These capsules are compatible with OriginalLine machines but unfortunately are NOT compatible with the VertuoLine.
Best decaffeinated: Arpeggio
If you love coffee but want to cut back on caffeine, Nespresso has you covered. They offer four varieties in their Decaffeinato line: Ristretto, Allegro, Volluto, and Vivalto. Our favorite is the Arpeggio Decaffeinato.
These decaffeinated capsules offer the flavor of Arabica coffees from Central and South America and have fruity or malted profile. This coffee has a distinctive Costa Rican vibe and a long roasting allows each flavor aspect to develop into an intense bouquet of cocoa and roasted notes.
These capsules are for the OriginalLine only and are not compatible with the VertuoLine. Have a VertuoLine and want a great decaf? Try the Decaffeinato Ontuoso Gran Lungo capsules.
Best flavored coffee: Gourmesso Variety Pack
If you are looking for a great flavored coffee, you will have to go with a Nespresso compatible brand. Gourmesso, an independent company not associated with Nespresso, offers a variety pack of flavors that will suit any palate.
The Gourmesso variety pack provides you with 10 capsules each of Chocolate, Coconut, Hazelnut, Vanilla, and Caramel. It is a perfect choice for those who love to mix up their morning coffee flavor or to offer variety to guests.
These capsules are compatible with the OriginalLine only and are not compatible with the VertuoLine
Best for the VertuoLine
If a VertuoLine machine is more your style, we recommend this Nespresso variety pack. This coffee assortment offers 30 Nespresso capsules in a 3 of their best selling blends: Stormio, Odacio, and Melozio
Stormio features highly roasted coffees from Niaragua and Guatemala and offers an aroma that evokes spicy, woody, and cereal notes.
Odacio combines a blend of Arabica coffees from Nicaragua and Ethiopia to form a full-bodied coffee with cereal notes, accented by a slight East African fruitiness.
Melozio is a smooth and balanced blend of Brazilian Bourbon and Central America Arabica coffees, lightly roasted to create a rounded coffee with biscuity notes.
Including coffees with intensity levels from 6 – 8, this pack offers a distinct range of flavors that will please any coffee lover. These capsules are intended for use in VertuoLine machines only and are NOT compatible with OriginalLine machines.
What is nespresso
Nespresso is a Swiss company who makes coffee and coffee machines. It is owned and managed by the Nestlé group and is available in over 60 countries. Their coffee machines use an original, patented capsule system to consistently make cup after cup of high quality coffee. Nespresso ensures this quality by producing every capsule in the world at one of its three production centers in Switzerland.
Simply load the selected capsule into the machine, press the start button and wait. The machine will prepare your coffee by extracting it from the coffee capsule as the hot water passes through. Similar to the Keruig brand, you can select the size of coffee mug you are using and adjust the strength of the brew to your particular taste preferences.
The Nespresso system also has an attachable milk steamer which can be used to make latte and cappuccino beverages.
A brief history of the nespresso capsule system
Coffee pods are found in most households throughout the United States but the concept of placing coffee into a capsule to make a consistent, quality cup of coffee every time started in the 1970s with the Nestlé research and development team. Their idea was simple: to enable anyone, in their homes and work places, to make the perfect espresso coffee, just as those served in the best Italian coffee bars.
In 1986 their concept became a reality. With a team of five employees, the product launched its first test markets in Switzerland, Italy, and Japan. The machine had a manual capsule holder that mimicked a traditional barista movement. They began a Nespresso club concept to provide a range of services to their customers, and finally started to expand to France and the United States in 1991.
In 2001, Nespresso launched the concept machine that would eliminate the need for a manual capsule holder which soon led them to become a global brand. In 2012 they reach a 76% capsule recycling capacity and in 2014 they launched their sustainability vision called The Positive Cup, which targets coffee sourcing, social welfare, aluminium sourcing, and resilience to climate change.
How the nespresso system works
Nespresso capsules are essentially small pressure vessels which function in a similar way to the manual operation of an espresso machine The capsule is placed in the Nespresso coffee machine and is pierced by several small needles.
Nespresso machines force water, at 199.4 degrees, through the ground coffee using a high-pressure pump. The pressure of up to 19 bars generates a crema incomparable to other coffee machines.
Crema is the foam that sits on top of an espresso and consists of small particles of oil suspended in water. Since crema is a by-product that only occurs under high bars of pressure, many coffee lovers use it as a measure of the quality of the espresso.
OriginalLine vs. VertuoLine
Nespresso coffee machines come in two distinct lines: the OriginalLine and the VertuoLine.
In short, the OriginalLine can only be used to brew espresso while the VertuoLine can be used to brew espresso and coffee. Keep in mind that the capsules for these two lines are NOT interchangeable.
The OriginalLine only brews espresso and uses 19 bar pressure to extract the espresso creating a rich crema on top while the VertuoLine can make espressos to larger cups, up to 17 ounces, and brews everything from a short espresso to a smooth Gran Lungo or a regular coffee. Instead of the high pressure used by the OriginalLine, the VertuoLine uses a modern Centrifusion system that creates holes in the top of the coffee capsules, injects hot water and then spins the capsules extremely fast (up to 7,000 rpms) to extract all of the brewed coffee.
When choosing a machine, keep your personal coffee preferences in mind. If you drink mostly espresso, go with the OriginalLine but if a wider variety of coffee drinks is more your style, the the VertuoLine may be your best bet.
What exactly is inside Nespresso coffee capsules?
A Nespresso machine can pump out a nice shot of espresso in under a minute, complete with a nice foamy layer of crema. Many assume that the capsules contain instant coffee, and because this rich layer of crema is created in such a short amount of time, circulating rumors claim that Nespresso capsules contain a “foaming agent.”
Let’s put these rumors to rest. Nespresso capsules contain nothing but 100% plain coffee grounds. The coffee is kept fresh by hermetically sealing it in aluminum capsules. The rich foamy layer, called crema, is created because hot water is pumped into the small capsule at very high pressure.
Some of the coffee flavor descriptions refer to “malt,” “milk,” or “cocoa” notes which are components of the aromatic profile of the coffee, but do not actually suggest their presence in the coffee itself.
Benefits of capsule coffee
Because coffee capsules are hermetically sealed at the time of packaging, the coffee in them stays fresh. When you open a bag of coffee, the beans or grounds are exposed to the air and they immediately start to lose their aroma. Nespresso capsules maintain the flavor and aroma they had at the moment of packaging even a year later.
Nespresso has taken the “guess work” out of the coffee making process. Each capsule contains the exact amount of coffee grounds to make the perfect up every single time.
Ease of use and brewing speed
No more measuring out coffee or cleaning grounds out of your coffee maker. You simply put a capsule into the machine and in about a minute you have the perfect cup of coffee to start your morning or compliment your afternoon!
Disadvantages of capsule coffee
Brands are incompatible
Coffee machine brands and capsules are unfortunately incompatible so the consumer is obliged to use coffees made by the manufacturer of the device. For example, you cannot use a Keurig K-cup in a Nespresso machine and you cannot use a nespresso capsule in a Keurig.
With Nespresso, the capsules aren’t even compatible between the different lines. The capsules for the OriginalLine and the VertuoLine are different so when purchasing, make sure you buy the capsule for your particular model.
Coffee capsules are about twice the price per cup than a bag of ground coffee. While capsule coffee is more expensive than regular ground coffee, it is still far less than a daily trip to a coffee shop.
Not easily accessible
When you walk into a grocery store, you will see an entire wall of K-cups but only a couple of Nespresso capsules, if any. While Nespresso capsules are not in shortage, they are also not widely available so don’t let yourself run out. Make sure to order more well before you are down to your last few capsules.
Any capsule or pod coffee will result in more packaging materials than regular bagged coffee and many are concerned about quickly filling landfills. Fortunately, Nespresso has a recycling program for its capsules.
Enter your zip code on their website and they will direct you to the nearest recycling center. Nespresso will then compost your used coffee grounds and the capsules will be given a second life as other products.
Can capsules be reused?
There are a number of hacks out there that will explain how to empty your used capsules, fill them with coffee, and cover them with foil so they can be reused in your machine but this method is risky at best. You could end up with a substandard cup of coffee or you could damage your machine.
If you truly want to use your own coffee, there are other options. Refillable cups for Nespresso machines are available in both a reusable version and a disposable version. It should be noted that these reusable cups are produced by third party manufacturers and not by Nespresso. While they do allow you to use your own coffee, we recommend you stick to the Nespresso manufactured cups designed for your machine.
Types of nespresso capsules
There are a variety of different capsules coffee types available for the Nespresso machines and each one will give you a distinctly different coffee style and flavor.
Ristretto Capsule – Dark-roasted arabicas from Central and South America make Ristretto a coffee with a dense body and distinct cocoa notes. A fine grind makes this coffee full-bodied and the intense roast enhances its flavor.
Arpeggio Capsule – Arabicas from Central and South America with fruity or malted profiles give this coffee a Costa Rican vibe. A long roasting allows each flavor aspect to develop into an intense bouquet of cocoa and roasted notes.
Roma Capsule – A light roast coffee that leaves a pleasant, lingering flavor on the palate. The short roast time gives this coffee woody and cereal notes with a hint of acidity.
Dulsão Do Brasil Capsule – This Arabica coffee is a delicate blend of red and yellow bourbon beans from Brazil. It has the sweet aroma of honey and maple and a satiny smooth flavor with a hint of toasted grain.
Rosabaya de Colombia Capsule – This pure origin espresso is cultivated by small coffee growers in the highest region of Colombia. It is hand-picked using the wet method to intensify its aromas and then dried in parchment and transferred to the Paramo de Letras region where the cold, dry climate preserves it. This blend has notes of red fruit jam and wine. Split roasting gives fruity and acidic notes to the coffee while still maintaining body.
Indriya from India Capsule – The blend of Arabic and Robusta coffees from Southern India make this a powerful and spicy espresso. Its quick roasting balances its strong character by bringing out a cocoa flavor along with spicy notes of cloves, pepper, and nutmeg.
Fortissimo Lungo Capsule – West Indian Malabar Arabica beans are exposed to monsoon winds after harvest to bring forward a distinguished aromatic profile. Split roasting gives this coffee a full body while retaining a rich coffee flavor that is not overshadowed by roasted notes. This full-bodied Lungo has sweet cereal and malt notes balanced with a pleasant bitterness and smooth texture.
Vivalto Lungo Capsule – A complex yet balanced blend of Arabicas cultivated at high altitude from South America, “Cerrado” from Brazil, and East African Arabica. This split roasted coffee combines a light woody roasted flavor with subtle floral notes.
Linizio Lungo Capsule – This well-rounded blend combines pure Arabicas from Brazil and Colombia. Split roasting gives it a cereal, malty note typical of the Bourbon variety while keeping a mild and smooth flavor.
Volluto Capsule – This combination of Brazillian and Colombian Arabicas is lightly roasted to create a round bodied coffee with sweet biscuit and light fruit notes.
Decaffeinato Capsule – Decaffeinated versions of other Nespresso coffees. Decaffeinato versions of the Nespresso capsules include Ristretto, Arpeggio, Volluto, and Vivalto.
Where and how to purchase capsules
Capsules are widely available in both grocery stores and Nespresso boutique shops. Unfortunately, not everyone has a Nespresso boutique shop near them and most grocery store aisles offer only a few varieties.
Luckily, Nespresso capsules are readily available online through a variety of retailers, with the most common two being the Nespresso website itself, and Amazon.
Best holder for pods
Now that you have selected the Nespresso capsules that best fit your personal preferences, how are you going to store them? Of course, you could just store them in the box they came in but many prefer both the aesthetic and convenience of a capsule storage system.
We recommend the NIFTY capsule storage drawer for the VertuoLine capsules. You can organize and store up to 40 of your favorite flavors in this space saving drawer designed to fit right under your VertuoLine machine. The drawer has 4 rows of up to 10 storage spots and offers a smooth glide drawer that quietly opens and closes with ease.
For you OriginalLine owners out there, we recommend this flagship coffee pod holder. Stylishly display your coffee capsules right in their box with this convenient dispenser. Made from durable cast iron, this capsule dispenser has a non-slip rubber base to prevent it from sliding around on your countertop. We recommend you put the sleeve of capsules in the dispenser before opening to save yourself the headache of capsules flying all over the counter.
There are a lot of Nespresso capsule options out there but now you have a comprehensive overview of all things Nespresso!
Still can’t decide which Nespresso capsule is for you?
You are in luck! Nespresso offers a Grand Sampler pack that will give you 70 varieties to try for yourself without committing to an entire sleeve of each. I am sure you will find at least one favorite (or maybe more). When in doubt, go with variety!