You’ve purchased a Nespresso machine, or you’re thinking about purchasing one. You’re two very different people, and I can respect that. One of you scopes out your coffee choices before investing in the machines, one of you is entranced by the magical description about the Fountain of Coffee and just goes for it.
Either way, it’s time you heard all about the best Nespresso capsules in 2020.
There’s a chance that you’ve largely been consuming whatever coffee’s been handed to you — and that’s okay. When you don’t know better, that’s what happens.
There’s a world of caffeinated beverages, and many ways to consume them, so let’s take a look at what’s on the docket.
Despite what you may think, this isn’t even remotely off topic. When you buy Nespresso capsules, you have to determine how you want to drink your morning mud first.
Nespresso VertuoLine machines use codes on the capsules, and each comes with a different amount of beans, ground at various levels of coarseness or fineness.
You can’t just buy a standard type of pod and make espresso, coffee, or lungo — you have to make sure the capsule says just that on the code.
Here’s a simple chart:
A strong shot (1 ounce)
Brewed with the same amount of grounds but half the water, resulting in an intense pull of the good stuff
Brewed with the same amount of grounds but twice the water, resulting in a slightly more bitter shot of morning brew
This is a cup between the lungo and a cup of coffee. It’s compared to an Americano. About 5 ounces.
Traditional cup of the delicious stuff at just under 8 ounces.
For when you need that extra jolt at 2 pm, this cup has nearly double to enjoy since it clocks in at 14 oz.
This is a type of bean — typically considered a higher quality than Robusta. Most coffee is Arabica, and it’s grown at a higher altitude. It’s also more acidic, but less bitter.
This hardier type of bean is grown at a lower altitude and is considered inferior to its more cultured older sibling. More bitter, but also contains more caffeine.
When it comes to Nespresso machines, you also need to keep in mind whether you have a machine from the OriginalLine or the VertuoLine. The capsules aren’t interchangeable — and there aren’t reusable capsules made by Nespresso.
I’ve said it before but I’ll mention it again: you can buy knock-offs, but there’s no guarantee about how well the coffee comes out.
The OriginalLine of machines only makes espresso, while the VertuoLine makes both coffee and espresso.
If you’re really only in the game for the short shots, you’ll want to lean towards the OriginalLine — espresso pods are more expensive for the VertuoLine.
If you want to read more about Nespresso machines, you can check out our other article right over here.
Coffee beans, much like wines, have a number of professional descriptors that companies use to identify what a bean or blend is going to taste like. Sometimes those terms are kind of vague or result in a sort of furrowed brow effect.
If you’re from North America, you’re likely most familiar with Colombian coffees. They typically boast a strong caramel sweetness and a nuttiness with a medium body, so you can use this as a place to work off of.
Brazilian coffees have a peanutty taste, cacao, and tend to have a lingering quality.
All of those descriptors are still pretty straightforward, but then you’ll come across Ethiopian coffees, which can have distinctly floral notes and they are, in fact, more reminiscent of teas. Floral can indicate a hint of jasmine or nettles, but the taste can be stronger depending on the way the fruit is processed.
There are also Ethiopian coffees that can be heavy, even wine-like, which is an indicator that the fruit “note” is a more solidified flavor. It’s typically natural, or unwashed, coffees that boast the higher intensity and settle on your tongue thickly, more like wine.
Basically, you can get a basic understanding of what a coffee is going to be like based on where the fruit is picked from, but there’s still a lot that’s dependent on the brewers themselves. Do they pre-wet or dry their fruit? Do they split roast their blends or throw them all into the same temperature?
To pick a perfect coffee, you don’t need to know everything about the process (not unless you’re going to start your own business), but keep an eye out for buzzwords and high ratings — they can be a good indicator of what’s-what in the coffee world.
One last tidbit before we get into the capsules themselves: Nespresso rates all of their coffees on a scale from 1-13.
The top of that scale, 13, is the strongest of the strong. It’ll wake you up with some serious intensity before the caffeine has even hit your bloodstream.
On the other end of the spectrum, beans rated at 1 will cradle your senses gently as you sip your way through the milder drink.
Each Nespresso line comes with their own set of capsule types, too, so I’ll give you a quick breakdown.
The OriginalLine is interesting, largely because some of the labels refer to the type of beans in the capsule, and some of them refer to what type of coffee it produces.
Let’s take a look at which ones really helped folks shake off that morning grogginess and awaken the taste buds.
The beans for this capsule are slow roasted to bring out the flavor of this blend — since it’s a combination of Arabicas from Columbia and Brazil, along with Eastern Africa, this is the kind of half-shot that can really get your taste buds a-thinkin’.
Citrusy, chocolatey, fruity, and intense, your tongue will be debating over which flavor to highlight first, second, third, and last.
Arpeggio — it has a nice sound to it, partially due to its association with music. It’s long roasted with a very fine grind.
These beans come from South and Central America, making it intense. You’ll distinctly taste cocoa and woody hints.
This capsule can make you an 0.8 ounce ristretto or a 1.35 ounce espresso — whichever your 6-am heart desires.
If you appreciate well-balanced things, like checkbooks and diets, you’ll likely find Livanto very attractive. It’s a medium roast with roots in Central and South America. It’s malty and caramelized, balancing roasty and fruity in a delectable way.
This capsule is designed entirely to make espressos.
“Floral” is probably a word you associate more with tea, but, when taken advantage of appropriately, floral coffee tones can make a unique and desirable coffee experience.
Aromatically, it can smell like honeysuckle, dandelions, or a number of other sweet-smelling petals. Medium roasted, these Ethiopian and Kenyan Arabica beans are roasted in two splits for pique flavor.
This capsule can only make a standard cup of coffee.
You can get a good picture of this coffee by imagining warm brown colors: caramel, cinnamon, pecan, syrup. This capsule will only yield 7.77 ounces, but it’ll be a quality cup.
The Arabicas are cultivated from Brazilian Bourbon and Central America, which results in an even balance with sweet notes of honey.
This capsule boasts “cereal” notes, which, in layman terms, just mean it has a malty taste, with the aroma of bread. It takes advantage of highly roasted Nicaragua and Guatemala Arabica beans. It results in something spicy and woody in a full-bodied brew that will make it smoothly from cup to gut.
It’s treated to a long prewetting process, which increases the intensity of flavor, and then roasted at a high temperature to make just under 8 ounces of distinctive java.
We judge espressos by their crema. That fine layer over the top of the shot is a sight for sore eyes — eyes that have spent too many nights burning the midnight oil. So, rub the sleep from those peepers and bask in the highly-roasted beans of this Arabica-with-a-hint-of-Robusta blend. This 1.35-ounce of caffeine also has those “cereal” notes.
If I could put the shrugging emoji here, I would. The best Nespresso capsule really depends on what you want at that moment. If you’re adventurous, try the Giornio and find out exactly how you feel about combining the words “coffee” and “floral.”
If you’re looking to expand your horizons without jolting your taste buds into shock, the Livanto from the OriginalLine is a good espresso to start out with. The Melozia from the VertuoLine invokes an enticing coffee picture, and it’d be my personal preference.
You can buy variety packs to aid in your endeavor to try a whole slew of new coffees, but it can also result in a large number of wasted capsules if you find one type distasteful.
It’s all worth it, though, especially when you find the one true bean.