If, as many of us, your time needs to be spent wisely, then brewing your espresso in your Nespresso or other capsule machine is the easiest way to obtain a consistent brew very quickly. Along with the many varieties of Nespresso capsules available, a number of manufacturers also produce Nespresso compatible capsules which can save you some money on your coffees, as well as offer more choice of brews.In this review we look in detail at Nespresso and compatible capsules, including how capsules work and the different is between the different types of coffees available. As well as reviewing some the best Nespresso capsules available, we also offer tips to help you get the best from compatible capsules as well as looking into some of the historical legal debate around Nespresso capsules. We discuss concerns around the use of aluminum in capsules and consider how green capsules coffee really is, compared to other ways of brewing. We also delve into Nespresso’s sustainability, including some recent concerns around the use of child labor on some of its farms.
The Nespresso VertuoLine variety pack is our best pick as an ideal way to experience a selection of Nespresso brews in a larger 7.8 oz serving.
The Bestpresso Nespresso compatible capsules is our kosher and budget pick for offering six different blends to try out in OriginalLine machines.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Nespresso Capsules
- 1. Nespresso Capsules VertuoLine Variety Pack
- 2. Bestpresso Nespresso Compatible Capsules
- 3. Gourmesso Nespresso Compatible Capsules
- 4. Starbucks Nespresso Capsules
- 5. Nespresso OriginalLine Ristresso Intenso Capsules
- 6. Nespresso VertuoLine Decaffeinato Capsules
- 7. Nespresso OriginalLine Fortissio Lungo Capsules
- 8. Lavazza Espresso Coffee Variety Pack Capsules Compatible
- 9. Nespresso Capsules Variety Pack by CAPSUCUP
- 10. Peet's Coffee Espresso Capsules Variety Pack
- Things to Consider Before Buying Nespresso Capsules
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Nespresso Capsules
1. Nespresso Capsules VertuoLine Variety Pack
The Nespresso VertuoLine variety pack contains 30 espresso capsules in a selection of pure arabica medium to dark roasts. The Stomio (intensity 8) coffee is a rich and strong blend sourced from Central American beans, the Odacio (intensity 7) is a long, bold and lively blend from Central American and East African beans while the Melozio (Intensity 6) is sourced from South and Central American beans to give a balanced and smooth brew.
These capsules will brew the larger 7.8 oz serving and are for exclusive use with Nespresso VertuoLine machines. As aluminum capsules, these are fully recyclable, and Nespresso also offers options for recycling to help protect the environment. Much of the coffees produced are sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified or AAA farms.These capsules will only work in VertuoLine machines, not other Nespresso machines such as OriginalLine and there is a risk that the capsules may be damaged during shipping.
2. Bestpresso Nespresso Compatible Capsules
The Bestpresso Nespresso compatible capsules are suitable to use in Nespresso OriginalLine machines. These capsules come as a 120 pack of six coffee blends, including Ristretto which is an intense coffee with body and prolonged acidity, chocolate and sweet notes and Intenso which is mild acidity with important body and notes of berry. The Arabica blend is a balanced coffee with an intense aroma and floral and citrus notes, the Lungo is also a balanced brew, with accented acidity and Verona is vibrant with subtle spices, and fruit acidity. The sixth coffee is a full bodied and balanced Espresso that has notes of cocoa and berry.
These compatible capsules are certified kosher and over 50% of the coffee produced by this manufacturer is Rainforest Alliance Certified. These capsules also come with a 60 day satisfaction guarantee and are recyclable. These capsules cannot be used in VirtuoLine machines and some buyers consider the flow to be slower and the coffee yield less than Nespresso capsules. Although these capsules are recyclable, they are also made from plastic which some buyers have been disappointed to find.
3. Gourmesso Nespresso Compatible Capsules
Suitable for using in Nespresso OriginalLine machines and other machines that accept OriginalLine capsules, the Gourmesso Nespresso compatible capsules are flavored espresso capsules available in various counts. The flavor bundle of these capsules include Cioccolato (chocolate), Caramello (caramel), Vaniglia (vanilla), Noce di Cocco (coconut) and Nocciola (hazelnut).
All of these flavored coffees are an intensity 5 and the flavors have been developed using natural aromas during the roasting process. The coffees are also sustainably sourced from across the globe and the capsules are made from BPA-free plastic. These are not suitable to use in VirtuoLine machines and some buyers consider the flavors of these can taste a little artificial and the coffee in these may not be as strong or full bodied as you would like.
4. Starbucks Nespresso Capsules
The Starbucks Nespresso capsules have been developed with Nespresso to work with OriginalLine machines and other machines that take OriginalLine capsules. This pack of 50 capsules contains ten of each of the five Starbucks roasts from the Caffe Verona and single-origin Sumatra dark roasts, to the House Blend and Pike Place Roast up to the Blonde Espresso Roast.
All of these are arabica coffees are grown sustainably and the aluminum capsules are fully recyclable. These can brew as espresso, ristretto or lungo brew sizes. There can be a risk of receiving these capsules damaged and some buyers have been disappointed to find that these capsules have not worked well in their machines. These may not always give the same taste that you would expect from the Starbucks roasts.
5. Nespresso OriginalLine Ristresso Intenso Capsules
Containing a blend of South American and East African Arabica beans, the Nespresso OriginalLine Ristresso Intenso capsules also contain a little Robusta to take these up to an intensity 10. This helps to give a coffee that is intense with fruity and acidic notes along with a subtle contrast of bitterness and strength. Many of the coffees are sourced from AAA or Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.These capsules will brew ristresso (1.35 oz) and as aluminum capsules are fully recyclable. There is a risk of receiving the packaging and/or capsules with some damaged, this can make them difficult to use in your machine.
6. Nespresso VertuoLine Decaffeinato Capsules
Able to brew 7.8 oz, the Nespresso VertuoLine Decaffeinato capsules are decaffeinated capsules with an intensity 6 made from a blend of Costa Rican and South American arabica beans to give a smooth and rounded blend with notes of malt and cereal. The aluminum capsules are fully recyclable and much of the coffee is sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified or AAA farms.
The coffee is decaffeinated by either soaking the green coffee beans in hot water to dissolve the caffeine or soaking the beans in water after carbon dioxide has been used to remove the caffeine. These caffeine extraction methods allow the coffee to keep its aromas as well as variety and strength.Some buyers consider these capsules to be on the bitter side and some recent buyers have found that these capsules lack crema when brewed.
7. Nespresso OriginalLine Fortissio Lungo Capsules
The Nespresso OriginalLine Fortissio Lungo capsules are a rich and full bodied coffee with notes of cereal and malt with a round and smooth texture. An intensity 8, this blend includes Latin American arabica beans and Indian robusta. Able to brew a lungo measure (3.7 oz), much of the coffee is sustainably sourced and the aluminum capsules can be fully recycled.Suitable for OriginalLine machines and machines from other manufacturers which accept OriginalLine capsules, these capsules come as a pack of 50. As with other aluminum capsules, there can be a risk of receiving these damaged which means they may not work well in your machine without some manual straightening out of the capsules.
8. Lavazza Espresso Coffee Variety Pack Capsules Compatible
OriginalLine machines. This variety pack includes five boxes of the following coffees roasted in Italy: Leggero coffee, which is an intensity 4 and has floral and fruity notes, Avolgente coffee which is intensity 5 and has notes of spice and cocoa. It also includes Armonica espresso which has flavors of caramel, hazelnut and roasted cereals and is an intensity 8 and Deciso espresso which is an intensity 10 with spice, cocoa and wood notes.
This set also includes Decaffeinato which has cereals and dried fruit notes and an intensity 5. This decaffeinated coffee has been carbon dioxide processed. These capsules are plastic and foil sealed for freshness and some buyers have found they do not appear to contain as much coffee as Nespresso capsules. Some users also consider the plastic capsules are more problematic to use than the aluminum ones.
9. Nespresso Capsules Variety Pack by CAPSUCUP
The Espresso Italia Nespresso compatible capsules (strong selection) includes Cremosa, an intensity 8; Intenso, an intensity 9 and Deciso, an intensity 10. These capsules contain coffee which is roasted in Italy and are compatible with OriginalLine machines.These capsules are made from plastic and have been hermetically sealed for freshness. Some buyers have had problems using these in non-Nespresso machines that are able to use OriginalLine capsules and some consider that the plastic is too thick to be pierced properly in the machine.
10. Peet's Coffee Espresso Capsules Variety Pack
The Peet’s Coffee espresso variety pack is compatible with OriginalLine Nespresso machines and other machines that take OriginalLine capsules. This pack of 40 capsules are rich and intense blends and includes Richezza, which is an intensity 8 and has notes of berry, blossom and brown sugar; Crema Scura which is intensity 9 and is a full bodied coffee with earthy and nutty tones and a creamy finish; Ristretto which is smooth with notes of rich fruit and crushed spice and an intensity 10 and Nerissiomo, a bittersweet espresso which is an intensity 11.
Based on Peet’s signature espresso, these pure arabica blend capsules are aluminum and have been hermetically sealed to give intense flavor and a rich crema. These can be brewed to a 0.85 oz or 1.35 oz sizes and are certified kosher. These can be recycled either locally or through Peet’s recycling program.Some buyers have found these espressos to be much weaker tasting than they would have expected from Peet’s and as these appear to be made from a softer aluminum, you will need to take extra care when inserting them as otherwise there is a risk that they will crush when brewing.
Things to Consider Before Buying Nespresso Capsules
The Nespresso system by Nestlé S.A. was actually invented and patented back in the mid-1970s but at that time had little commercial success. The system was then tried out in a small number of countries in 1986 when it became more popular and its popularity continued to increase with the introduction of the ‘Le Club’ community.
The first patent for brewing espresso for capsules was filed by Nespresso (nestle) in 1996 and nowadays, over 40% of US households own a single cup brewing machine.
The capsules usually contain between 5 and 7 grams of coffee and depending on the type of machine used, they can produce various sizes of brew ranging from a single shot up to a full cup of coffee.
Capsules actually work in a similar way to the espresso machine. When a capsule is placed into a machine, it is pierced on its smallest side allowing the machine to push water through at 19 bar and 199.4°F. The pressure of this water forces the foil cap of the capsule to rupture so the water can then flow through, brewing the coffee and exiting into the coffee cup.
The machine also contain a safety pressure valve which will initiate if the coffee path becomes blocked for any reason.
The newer VirtuoLine machines from Nespresso also use ‘centrifusion’ a Nespresso term for the process of spinning the capsule in the machine up to 7,000 rpm to blend the coffee and water. The machine knows how fast to spin the capsule as the VertuoLine capsules contain barcode information that the machine is able to scan.
The use of capsules gives a consistent brew every time as the brewing conditions remain the same, unless the cup size is altered.
While Nespresso machines were under patent (1,700 patents in fact!), the capsules could only be sold by Nespresso. Because the patents have since expired on the OriginalLine capsules, and because Nespresso lost a number of law suits in different countries around exclusivity of the capsules, it meant that other manufacturers could start to produce the capsules.
Other legal disputes meant that Nespresso could no longer impose a condition that only Nespresso capsules should be used in Nespresso machines and that any limits on this in the machine’s warranty were to be removed; along with warnings about using capsules from other manufacturers.
To date, patents still remain on VirtuoLine machines and this along with the barcoding system used on the capsules means it may be some time before other manufacturers can provide VirtuoLine compatible capsules.
Choosing the Right Nespresso Capsules for Your Tastes
If you are new to the Nespresso brewing system, then its capsules or Grand Crus are split into six different ranges.
The Espresso capsules are often one of the most common, ideal for drinking as espresso or using in milk-based coffees. These espressos can vary in strength and are usually blended. Some of the Intenso coffees used to be grouped in with the Espressos but have now moved into their own category. Usually blended, these are fuller flavor.
The Lungo coffees are designed for larger drinks as more water is added to the capsules to reveal some of the more subtle tastes of the coffee without reducing the intensity of the flavor.
Pure Origin coffees use single source beans and so depending on where they are sourced from, will have a distinctive and unique flavor.
The Variations are based on Espresso capsules but have additional flavors for a different tastes and the Decaffeinators are a mix of coffees from the other five groups which have been decaffeinated.
The intensity of Nespresso capsules and often the compatible capsules are graded by intensity. This scale runs from the less intense 1 to the most intense 12 and is determined by the degree of roasting, the body and the bitterness of the coffee. The intensity does not refer to how much caffeine there may be in that particular coffee.
Sustainability of Nespresso Capsules
Nestle paired up with the Rainforest Alliance to create the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program to combine knowledge of sustainability and best farming practices with coffee expertise.
When the AAA program was created, there were around 300 farmers, but this has now grown to over 100,000 farmers in 14 different countries. These farmers embed the AAA standards into their practices and the extra income gained through being part of the program is then invested in the workers and the local communities. A number of these farmers may also be able to work towards Rainforest Alliance Certification – further embedding sustainability within coffee farming.
Around 95% of Nespresso’s permanent coffees are sourced from AAA farms while over 56% is now sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.
However, a recent investigation by the UK’s Channel 4 found evidence of child labor on some farms supplying coffee to Nespresso. In immediate response to this, Nespresso stopped purchasing coffee from all farms in the region and will continue this until their investigations into child labor have been completed. Nespresso has confirmed that as a company, there is zero tolerance of child labor.
As part of their response and action plan, Nespresso is also doubling the number of agronomists in the region and have stepped up the unannounced visits to farms to check for compliance.
If you are choosing compatible capsules instead of Nespresso, then you may also prefer to buy sustainable coffees. These may be Fairtrade certified, or even carry USDA Organic certification, which as well as confirming organic farming practices also means that aspects such as promoting ecological balance and conserving biodiversity, are also used when farming the coffee.
Concerns Around the Use of Aluminum Capsules
There is some concern over the use of aluminum coffee capsules. Most Nespresso capsules are lined with a food grade lacquer, so the coffee is not in direct contact with the aluminum. Other manufacturers use lined or unlined aluminum but many use plastics as this is a key way to reduce the costs of the capsules. If you do choose plastic capsules, then you may want to confirm that the plastic is food safe and BPA free.
When aluminum is recycled, it uses just 5% of the energy required to produce new aluminum from ore. At first, there was no recycling for Nespresso capsules, which meant that unless users recycled locally, 1 gram of aluminum waste was produced for each capsule going to the landfill.
Nespresso eventually introduced a recycling program for capsules but at present, not all purchased capsules are recycled, although in 2015 it was estimated that more than 80% of the Nespresso capsules produced were made with recycled aluminum.
Some other manufacturers of compatible aluminum capsules have also introduced recycling programs, so do take advantage of these if available.
Interestingly, aluminum capsules can be more eco-friendly than other capsule materials and indeed coffee capsules appear to be greener than other methods of producing coffee with the exception of instant coffees, as processing for instant coffee obtains the most from the coffee beans.
When espresso is brewed from a traditional machine, or from a stovetop espresso maker, it uses more energy to brew the shot compared to the capsule machine that flash heats the amount of water needed just to brew the shot.
Those of us who make drip coffee often leave the pot on until empty, or if it doesn’t all get drunk, then it ends up being poured away and this along with the fact that more beans are needed to make a filter cup of coffee means it is more of a resource waste.
Aluminum is found throughout our environment; indeed, it is the third most abundant element on earth. As well as being found in many household products, traces or aluminum are in our water supplies and crops.
As we are exposed to aluminum on a daily basis, some are concerned that the build-up of aluminum in the body may contribute to poor health. Indeed, some research has shown that there are higher levels of aluminum in the brains of people who suffer with Alzheimer’s Disease, compared with those who do not suffer with it, although there may be other aspects such as lifestyle or even genes which can contribute to conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Some children who have taken medicines with aluminum or who suffer with kidney disease have been found to have bone disease caused by high levels of aluminum in the body. The bone damage occurs because aluminum in the gut prevents phosphate – needed for bones – from being absorbed by the body.
At present, no research has been found linking aluminum with birth defects in humans or animals, although animals whose mothers were exposed to high levels of aluminum while pregnant and nursing appear to be less active, weaker and have memory problems.
Those with kidney problems may also have higher levels of aluminum in their bodies as it cannot be removed from the body as easily in the urine.
Limits are set for aluminum exposures in workplace air and drinking water and at present, the FDA has determined that aluminum as food additives and in medicines are generally safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) also estimates that adults can consume 50 milligrams or more of aluminum per day without harm.
Pros and Cons of Compatible Capsules
One of the main advantages of using Nespresso compatible capsules is they can often be less than half the cost of Nespresso capsules. They can also be easier to obtain as are often available with next day delivery, or even in your local grocery store and you do not need to order a minimum amount or join a subscription-based service.
Compatible capsules can also offer more variety, giving you a good reason to try out something a little different. If you are new to compatible capsules, then you may want to consider buying a variety pack as at least, if there is one or two flavors you are not keen on, you will still have the rest of the pack to try out.
When the first compatible capsules were introduced, there were issues around them not working very well, or even causing damage to the machine. As with most things, over time, they have improved considerably and will mainly work exactly as they should.
There are some ways to get the most out of compatible capsules though.
Always double check to make sure that particular brand of capsule will work in your machine before ordering. Compatible capsules can be shaped slightly differently to the Nespresso ones, so insert it slowly and make sure it is lined up properly in the machine. If the machine will not close easily, then check the alignment of the capsule and try to close it again. With some capsules you may need to use more pressure on the capsule lever as you would with Nespresso capsules, so a little trial and error may be necessary.
As with any capsules, always empty the waste regularly to reduce the risk of it stopping the new capsules from loading properly.
Depending on the laws of your State, it is worth checking if the compatible capsule supplier has a Return & Refund policy in place, as you may be able to use if the seller or manufacturer says that particular capsules should work in your model of machine and they do not.
The cardboard packaging on capsules is always recyclable and the aluminum capsules can be recycled either locally or through the manufacturers program – if available.
Some plastic capsules may be recyclable and if these have aluminum foils, then these can be recycled separately. Some may also be compostable. If you do buy compostable capsules, avoid buying in bulk as the capsules are more prone to flavor degradation than other capsule materials. Storing compostable capsules in an airtight container in a cool and dark place will also to help to keep them at their best.
Whatever material the capsules are made from, do remember that the used coffee grounds from them can be used for composting in your garden!
In this review we have looked in detail at Nespresso capsules, from their original conception, to how they work and some of the links between aluminum and ill health. We have also looked at the evolution of compatible Nespresso capsules and offered a little guidance on how to get the best from them, as well as considering some of the sustainability issues of the capsules themselves as well as the coffees contained within.We hope that you have enjoyed reading this review and that if you did have some questions around Nespresso capsules that we have provided some of the information you were looking for. If you have a new capsule machine or just want to try some different coffees, then we also hope that you have found our reviews of some of the best Nespresso capsules helpful.