Nespresso offers dozens of different coffee capsules in its Original and Vertuo machines. Plus, third parties are offering Nespresso compatible espresso pods as well. The choice is always a good thing for the consumer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not overwhelming.
How are you supposed to find the right type of coffee for you?
We’re here to help! Home Grounds experts have taste-tested their way through too many Nespresso capsules to bring you this list of our top 7. Each has its unique selling point. So whether you love a dark roast with cocoa notes or a light roast with subtle sweetness, there’s the best Nespresso capsule for you!
The 7 Best Nespresso Pods in 2022
As much as we always recommend freshly ground and brewed coffee, we also understand the importance of convenience. Not everyone has time to make coffee a ritual each morning. These top-rated Nespresso machines are ideal if you need a coffee and its stat.
Unlike single-serve Keurig brewers, which use plastic K-Cups, Nespresso’s aluminum espresso pods are fully recyclable. And the company goes out of its way to make recycling as easy as possible for the consumer (1). This year, Nespresso has also achieved B Corporation status, a rigorous certification that designates them a force for good in the business world (2).
As long as you recycle Nespresso capsules, you can feel good about buying and using these products – and enjoy their incredible convenience. So without further ado, here they are, the seven best Nespresso capsules in 2022.
Nespresso introduced the Master Origin line of espresso capsules in 2018. It offers a selection of five single-origin coffees from the world’s premier growing regions, a welcome addition to the series of espresso blends for which the brand is better known. The result is a collection of vibrantly flavored coffee with much more complexity than the traditional Nespresso machine brew.
We particularly love the Colombia version, so much so that it is our top pick for Nespresso capsules this year. And even world-famous coffee expert James Hoffmann had some positive things to say about it.
That’s kind of nice. It’s kind of upfront roast, and a little acid behind, and a little fruit in there too.
The Colombia Master Origin uses late harvest 100% Colombian Arabica beans. The beans are designated high grown, which means they are grown at high altitudes, and this slows their growth, allowing them more time to develop complex flavors. Then they are harvested right at the end of the season, so they’ve had the maximum amount of time to ripen.
A sweet coffee with a wine-y aroma and flavors of ripe red fruits, like blackcurrant and cranberry. The roast is on the lighter end of medium, with an intensity of 6, perfect for highlighting but not overwhelming the delicate flavors.
You can find some bargains if you’re willing to stray from Nespresso brand capsules. We love this affordable 50-capsule variety pack from L’Or so much that we also included it in our list of the best Nespresso compatible capsules. It includes 10 pods each of 5 different coffees.
Here’s what you’ll get, from lightest to darkest. The Profondo Lungo blend is a spicy medium roast with an intensity of 8. Single-origin Colombia is another medium roast with an intensity of 8, but it features more nuanced and complex flavors. You can taste the unique origin. L’Or Absolu is a crowd-pleaser, a medium-dark roast with strong flavors and a classic espresso profile. The Ristretto and Onyx are both intensely roasted, with intensities of 11 and 12, respectively. They have strong smokiness and dark cocoa flavors and form excellent bases for espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
Equally impressive, all L’Or coffees are UTZ certified. Now under the umbrella of the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ certifications are an indication of sustainable farming practices. Requirements include “good agricultural practices and farm management, safe and healthy working conditions, addressing child and forced labor, and protecting the environment (3).”
For the classic dark roasted espresso, you might enjoy at a cafe in the heart of Rome, look no further than the Nespresso Ispirazione Ristretto Italiano. It’s an intense brew, with the bittersweet dark roast flavors you expect from a traditional espresso, but it also has some complexity – a hint of sweetness and fruit acidity.
It’s delicious when enjoyed straight, as an espresso, ristretto, or Americano. It keeps the balance you expect from an espresso blend without bland or one-note. But at the same time, a double espresso makes an excellent base for a latte macchiato, thanks to its powerful flavor. There is no worry that you’ll lose the coffee under all that steamed milk.
4. Nespresso Roma Intenso – Best Medium Roast
- Roast level: Medium
- Bean type: Arabica and Robusta
- Origin(s): South and Central America
The Nespresso Roma Intenso is a balanced but powerful medium roast featuring a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans sourced from Brazil and Mexico.
Interestingly, this blend is split-roasted, meaning that the coffee beans are roasted separately before being blended.
The Robusta beans and the Brazilian Arabica beans are given a darker roast, which provides a heavy body and rich flavors of cereals and earth. The Mexican Arabica beans are given a light roast, contributing brighter aromatics to the final brew. When combined, the overall effect of the split roast is a crowd-pleasing medium roast.
The resulting coffee is very versatile. It’s delicious as a ristretto, espresso, or Americano but also holds up nicely to the addition of milk or cream. If you want to buy one Nespresso capsule to satisfy most people, this is an excellent choice.
5. Starbucks Blonde Roast – Best Light Roast
- Roast level: Light
- Bean type: Arabica
- Origin(s): Latin America and East Africa
Starbucks lovers will be happy to know they can get their fix at home, and save some cash, by opting for Starbucks Coffee brand Nespresso pods. All your favorite Starbucks coffees are available, but we were especially impressed by this lighter roast option.
The Starbucks Blonde Roast makes for unique espresso shots, much mellower and sweeter than the more traditional darker roasts. If you aren’t a fan of that hint of toasty taste and bitterness that often characterizes Italian-style espresso, this is the one from you.
Made from a blend of 100% Arabica beans from Latin America and East Africa, it’s well balanced with just a hint of acidity and mellow flavors of toasted malt and milk chocolate. While you can use these espresso capsules to prepare a latte or cappuccino, we especially love this one black or even brewed over ice as an iced coffee. This allows you to appreciate the more subtle flavors.
If you own one of the Nespresso VertuoLine machines, this is the top pick. This variety pack of 30 Vertuo Capsules includes ten pods each of three best-selling coffee blends – the Stormio, Odacio, and Melozio blends – sized to brew 8-ounce coffees.
The Stormio is the darkest bunch, with an intensity of 8 and a heavy body. It’s a blend of Guatemalan and Nicaraguan Arabica coffee beans, providing tasting notes of spice and cereals.
The Odacio is a bit lighter, with a medium-dark roast and an intensity of 7. It’s a full-bodied coffee featuring a blend of Nicaraguan and Ethiopian Arabica beans, with cereals and ripe fruit flavors.
The Melozio is a medium roast with an intensity of 6. It combines Brazilian and Central American coffee beans for a smooth and balanced brew with cereal and honey sweetness flavors.
For all the intense flavor with none of the caffeine content, this intense dark roast is our top choice. It features a blend of Arabica coffee beans from South and Central America, with the dominant profile being the malty notes of coffee from Costa Rica.
You get a powerful and creamy brew that you would never guess is a decaf espresso. It has the rich dark chocolate notes you expect from an Italian espresso, with just a hint of toasted cereals.
How to Choose the Best Nespresso Capsules
Once you’ve noted what style of Nespresso machine you’re shopping for (Vertuo vs Original), choosing the right Nespresso pods for you comes down to your taste. Do you like dark and intense roasts? Do you like to add milk to your coffee? What flavors do you enjoy? This buyer’s guide will help you take your answers to these questions and turn them into the perfect morning cup of coffee.
Nespresso OriginalLine or VertuoLine?
A few years ago, Nespresso introduced the VertuoLine of machines, which offer more brew size options up to 14-ounce mugs of coffee. They were designed to appeal to the North American market, where people consume larger coffees more often than espresso.
The Nespresso VertuoLine machines use a different extraction method coupled with unique barcoded capsules to achieve this. In contrast, Nespresso OriginalLine machines are for ristretto, espresso, or lungo only.
If you have a Nespresso VertuoLine machine, you should buy VertuoLine capsules, and we’ve offered an excellent pick for a variety pack in this round-up. However, in this review, Home Grounds has chosen to focus more on the Nespresso OriginalLine style of espresso capsules.
The OriginalLine continues to be more popular because the selection of Nespresso machines in the OriginalLine is much more extensive, and the Nespresso Original pods are less expensive.
Intensity and roast level: what’s the difference?
When you buy coffee beans, you look for a particular roast level – light, medium, or dark – which directly relates to the body, mouthfeel, and flavors of your brew. But Nespresso offers both a Roast Level and an Intensity. So what’s the difference? Do you need to pay attention to both?
The two information pieces are correlated, but they aren’t precisely the same. And we think it’s pretty helpful that Nespresso offers both. The intensity rating, which operates on a scale from 1 to 13, gives you more information about the coffee than simply the roast level. More “intense” coffees have stronger flavors and aromas, a higher concentration, and a heavier body. As a rough guide, dark roasted coffees have intensity values from 9 to 13, medium roasts have an intensity between 6 and 8, and light roasts have intensities from 1 to 5. But of course, there is room for overlap.
It is worth looking at both roast and intensity when shopping for Nespresso capsules.
Arabica beans or robusta beans?
Arabica and Robusta are the two commercially grown varieties of coffee. Generally, coffee connoisseurs consider Arabica beans to be of higher quality, because they tend to offer smoother and sweeter flavors with more complexity. It is definitely a better choice for lighter roasts, which will showcase its subtleties.
But that is not to say that Robusta is inherently bad coffee or that it doesn’t have its place, according to Technical Director of the Coffee Quality Institute, Dr. Mario Fernandez (4).
[Robusta] has some attributes which makes it more attractive than Arabica for some growers, roasters, and consumers. Many people in the specialty coffee industry fail to understand that it is wrong to compare Arabica and Robusta in terms of quality.
Robusta coffee is most useful as a component in medium to dark roast espresso blends, and Nespresso knows this. Adding Robusta coffee to a blend gives it a heavier body, a richer crema, and those dark, earthy notes that characterize traditional Italian espresso. It also amps up the caffeine because Robusta coffee has nearly twice the caffeine content of Arabica (5).
Different origins for different flavors
Though the roast and processing method can significantly influence the taste of a coffee, different coffee-growing regions are also known for different flavors. This can be especially noticeable in lighter roasts, where the flavor of the roast is less likely to mask the inherent qualities of the coffee beans.
If you’re not sure what coffee to try, you can use your favorite flavors as a guide to help narrow your decision down to specific origins.
Here is a rough guide of typical flavors to expect from some of the world’s premier growing regions.
- South and Central American coffees are known for clean flavors of nuts, chocolate, cereals, and ripe fruit. They tend to be sweet, with caramel, honey, or brown sugar notes.
- East African Arabica beans are renowned for fruity and floral flavors. They are often described as wine-y or even tea-like.
- Sumatran coffee is often earthy, with a heavy body that results from its unusually damp climate (6). Other coffees from Southeast Asia often have a similar profile.
Many Nespresso capsules use blends of coffees from these different regions. The idea of a blend is to provide a cup with balanced flavors so that you won’t taste the specific qualities of the origin as much.
When it comes to choosing the best Nespresso brand capsule, it’s all about understanding your taste buds. Luckily, Nespresso makes it easy thanks to an intensity rating system that lets you dial in your preferences beyond just the roast.
This year, Home Grounds’ top pick is the single-origin Colombia Master Origin, with bright red fruit flavors that make it stand out from the crowd. But all 7 Nespresso pods on this list, which run the gamut of intensities and flavor profiles, are excellent picks. No matter your taste, you’re sure to find one you love.
Does Nespresso make regular coffee?
No, Nespresso doesn’t make a regular coffee, but you can make something very close depending on your machine. With an OriginalLine Nespresso machine, you can brew espresso and dilute it with hot water to make an Americano. With the VertuoLine, you can brew up to a 14-ounce coffee, but thanks to the unique Nespresso Vertuo extraction method, it will still have a foamy crema like an espresso.
Learn more in our article: Can Nespresso make regular coffee?
What’s the difference between Nespresso and espresso?
The difference between Nespresso and espresso is mainly in the preparation before brewing. Pre-ground coffee is encapsulated in an aluminum Nespresso pod in a Nespresso machine. But for an espresso machine, freshly ground coffee is densely packed into a metal filter basket. After this, both machines use pumps to force hot water through the coffee under high pressure to yield similarly small and intensely flavored shots.
How does Nespresso work?
A Nespresso machine works by taking cool water from the water reservoir, heating it with a heating element, and forcing it into an aluminum Nespresso pod full of pre-ground coffee under high pressure. Once the pressure is high enough, the capsule bursts, releasing the brewed coffee, which flows into the waiting cup topped with a foamy layer of crema much like an espresso.
- Breen, K. (2018, June 11). Nespresso introduces free coffee pod recycling by mail in Canada. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/4266434/nespresso-coffee-pod-recycling-canada/
- Global Coffee Report. (2022, April 27). Nespresso achieves B Corp certification. Retrieved from https://www.gcrmag.com/nespresso-achieves-b-corp-certification/
- Rainforest Alliance. (n.d.). UTZ Certification (Now Part of the Rainforest Alliance). Retrieved from https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/utz/
- Impallomeni, F. (2019, October 23). Can Fine Robusta Be Considered Quality Coffee? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/10/can-fine-robusta-be-considered-quality-coffee/
- The Roaster’s Pack. (2014, September 19). 10 Differences Between Robusta & Arabica Coffee. Retrieved from https://theroasterspack.com/blogs/news/15409365-10-differences-between-robusta-arabica-coffee
- Lynch, R. (2015, October 21). Indonesian Wet Hulled Coffee: Your One Stop Guide. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2015/10/indonesian-wet-hulled-coffee-processing/