Nespresso, what is it?: The perfect guide for 2021

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You may be looking for a machine to make great coffee at home but be put off the price of expensive coffee makers. Maybe you do not have the time taking ages to make one. Nespresso is a very popular type of coffee that attempts to solve these problems. Read further to find out why you should buy a Nespresso machine. Or why you may want to try an alternative option.

What is a Nespresso? Is it just coffee?

There are so many options for making a coffee that it can get confusing at times. Each method has its own trade offs so it depends on what you are looking for in a coffee. First I will explain what a Nespresso is and then I will break down the pros and cons so you can decide what it is right for you.

What is it?

A Nespresso machine is a coffee maker that utilises ‘coffee pods’ to make a drink that attempts to mimic an expresso shot. The coffees themselves are capsules with coffee inside of them. All you have to do to make coffee is put one of these inside the machine and press a button. Making one of these coffees is simple and quick.

Convenience.

There is no getting around the fact the Nespresso machines are a super convenient. Making a coffee usually takes no more than a minute. Unlike other coffee makers you do not have to worry about brew times or coffee grind sizes. Clean up is super easy compared to most coffee machines.

Taste.

The main trade off you will have to sacrifice is taste. If you are super serious about your coffee then then there is no denying that Nespresso pods probably will not compare to the best coffee beans.

For many people this may not matter as Nespressos still make a decent cup of coffee. If you have milk or sugar with your coffee you may not notice the difference at all. They are usually much better than instant coffees.

Cost.

Some Nespresso pods may seem fairly pricey depending on where you look but this depends on your perspective.

Another benefit of getting a Nespresso machine is that they mimic the foamy shot of coffee you can get with an expresso. Many also come with milk frothers if you like drinking lattes. Nespresso can provide a similar style of coffee to espressos but at a fraction of the cost of getting a proper expresso machine.

If you usually buy store bought coffee then you will save a lot more money by making your coffees with this machine at home.

Ultimately you are paying for convenience but at a cheaper cost than the initial outlay of an expensive coffee machine that requires ongoing maintenance.

Control.

If you decide that you did not want to make any compromises on taste then you may not have read this far but I will dig a little deeper into this topic to discuss another important trade off.

The beauty of using many coffee makers that use coffee beans is the degree to which you able to control the variables. At home I have a French press coffee maker and a coffee grinder.

Not only am I able to control the grind size of the coffee beans but I can also decide what temperature I want to brew the coffee at, the brew time and so on. All of these factors can affect the taste of the coffee.

Contrast this with a Nespresso machine where you have no control over anything apart from pressing a button. What you taste is what you get and you may have to shop around until you find the right coffee for you.

How does a Nespresso coffee machine work?

Nespresso machines are a cinch. In case you are curious, here are the 6 essential steps to making a Nespresso coffee. Making a coffee is so simple that you should be done in no more than a couple of minutes:

How to make a Nespresso coffee:

Step 1: Put your coffee in front of the machine underneath where the coffee comes out.

Step 2: Grab your coffee pods.

Step 3: Open up the compartment where you can put your coffee pod inside. In the above picture this can simply be lifted up and then closed after you have placed the capsule.

Step 4: Press the button on your coffee maker to warm up the water.

Step 5: If you have milk with your coffee then you may want to use the milk froth compartment to give your coffee that foamy, latte style texture. Depending on your machine you may need to heat the milk beforehand. Skip this step if you drink your coffee black.

Step 6: Press the button to pour your coffee. The machine in the above picture has two buttons. One for an expresso and one for a lungo (larger volume of water).

Step 7: The machine will pour the coffee, giving you a drink that mimics an expresso at a fraction of the cost and effort.

Is a Nespresso real coffee?

This depends on what you mean by ‘real.’ Nespresso pods contain ground coffee so in that sense they are just as much coffee as anything else.

Standard advice regarding coffee is that the fresher the better and so in most cases this means grinding the coffee beans just before brewing the drink. Nespresso capsules attempt to get around this by being sealed airtight. This makes their ‘freshness’ last for longer but more processed compared to their whole coffee bean counterparts.

What is the difference in Nespresso pods?

The machines that produce them use pre-prepared shots of coffee that look like espresso shots and require a lot less effort to use so those are the main distinguishing features.

It is worth noting that there are other types of coffee pod machines available that can provide a similar cup of coffee such as Tassimo or Dolce Gusto to name a few. The main difference is that these pods are incompatible with each other. Other machines such as Dolce Gusto have a wider a range of different drinks such as tea. Nespresso tends to mainly specialise in coffees.   

Can I use Nespresso pods twice? Can they be reused?

Unfortunately most Nespresso pods are designed for single use only. A Nespresso pod has a lining that is punctured upon use. This renders the coffee pod useless for multiple goes. Drinking used Nespresso pods is essentially the same as drinking used coffee beans. If you do want to try it for yourself then prepare to be disappointed with the taste.

Alternatively you can buy re-useable coffee pods. They are usually made of stainless steel. Instead of having your coffee pre-filled you put your own ground coffee inside of them. In some ways this defeats one of the main attractions to buying a Nespresso machine (convenience). To save on time you could pre-fill several coffee pods in advance if you are interested in this option.

Which coffee pods fit Nespresso machines

There are loads of different coffee pods that are able to fit Nespresso makers. The important thing to check before you buy is to make sure they are ‘Nespresso compatible.’ There are different types of pod machines and not all of them are compatible so if you see pods that are for Dulce Gusto or Tassimo then these will not work. Nespresso themselves supply their own range and they have a wide of coffees available. Alternatively there are plenty of Nespresso compatible options if you do not like what Nespresso themselves sell.

Are Nespresso pods filtered?

No. Nespresso machines are similar to Expresso makers in that they use high pressure on the coffee pods to make a concentrated shot of coffee. This is in contrast to other coffees that use filters and do not require the same kind of high pressure. Take this coffee maker for example:

Ground coffee is placed at the top. Water is then poured in. The filter separates the ground coffee granules and at the end you are left with a tasty hot drink after the coffee has dripped through.

By contrast, a Nespresso machine works by heating up its water tank. Once the water is heated, a hole is punctured through the coffee pod and hot water is poured through. The result is an expresso style shot of coffee.

Why is Nespresso so foamy?

It mimics that espresso ‘look’ by using pressure to release the coffee from the capsule. This pressure creates the foamy effect that mimics what you see in expresso shots. The reason this happens is that this high pressure creates an interaction between the ground coffee and the water, which creates bubbles caused by carbon dioxide.

Why are Nespresso pods so expensive?

This depends on what you are comparing Nespresso pods to. Compared to coffee beans, Nespresso pods are highly processed. The coffee is ground, placed into capsules and sealed. This process is added labour and machinery on top of sourcing the coffee itself. However, Nespresso pods are still considerably cheaper than store bought coffee and could save you a considerable amount if you bought them instead. I you are looking for alternatives to Nespresso branded pods there are plenty of ‘Nespresso compatible’ pods out there.

Is Nespresso worth the money? What is so great about it?

In order to know this you need to assess what your motivations are for buying a Nespresso machine. If you want to control every aspect of your coffee then you would be better off buying a coffee maker where you can utilise fresh coffee beans.

Nespresso machines are quick and easy to use. They are also cheaper to buy than top end expresso machines although the taste of Nespresso coffees are usually not as good.

Is Nespresso stronger than coffee?

Nespresso capsules contain coffee and it depends on what you mean by strong. In terms of caffeine strength this will be variable depending on what coffee capsules you choose to buy as they all come with different coffee strengths. Unlike coffee beans you do not get to choose how much coffee is in each capsule. You could get around this by using more than one capsule if you wanted a stronger coffee although this would be more costly.

In terms of flavour you can definitely get a bold taste with some Nespresso capsules. In general however, you are more likely to be able to taste richer flavours by drinking coffee made from fresh coffee beans.

What does Lungo mean?

‘Lungo’ is Italian for ‘long.’ In the context of coffee this simply means a longer shot of coffee than an expresso shot. The recommended amount of water for this type of coffee is 100ml if you prefer drinking coffee this way.

Do Nespresso pods have sugar in them?

Your average Nespresso pod will just have ground coffee in them and so you would have to manually add sugar yourself. Alternatively, you could buy flavoured shots of coffee that do contain sugar in them and so it depends on what you buy.