If you’ve considered purchasing a Nespresso single-serving coffee maker even for a moment, surely the most critical question you’ve asked is “does Nespresso actually make good espresso coffee?”
Since the whole point of a Nespresso machine is to get great quality espresso without the time and hassle required to pull a traditional espresso shot, it makes sense that your primary concern with Nespresso would be the quality of the brew it produces.
So, before we drill down into all the particulars, let’s try and get a decent, basic answer to this question at the outset. Well, perhaps a couple of basic answers, depending on your preferences and tastes.
If you are a true espresso connoisseur, someone who has experience with different coffee origins, roast levels, brewing methods, and the like, then Nespresso’s mimicry of traditional espresso will probably disappoint you.
On the other hand, if you love coffee, can tell the difference between really bad and really good espresso, but perhaps don’t have quite the refined palette of our espresso aficionado mentioned above, then the convenience, consistent quality, and variety of Nespresso capsules will likely make a Nespresso machine a good investment for you.
Finally, if you don’t like coffee, espresso, or any of the things we’ve mentioned thus far…well, this article probably won’t do you much good either way.
In this article, we’ll dig into the similarities and differences between Nespresso coffee and traditional espresso, considering their respective extraction methods, flavor profiles, and other topics that will give you a better understanding of these two brewing options.
Related – Click through to see what the best Nespresso machines of the year are! I’ve compared them all!
Is Nespresso Real Espresso?
An obvious place to start our conversation about the quality of espresso you can get from a Nespresso machine is to consider whether Nespresso coffee is actually real espresso in the first place! But before we can even get that far, we should clear up some misconceptions about what traditional espresso is and isn’t.
What Is Espresso?
Before we get into the details of what espresso really is, we should first take a look at the word itself: espresso. Like most coffee-related terminology, the word espresso is Italian in origin. While there’s no direct translation in English, espresso essentially means something like “express.” There are differing views on why this word was chosen for this particular coffee beverage, but the most common one suggests that the “express” idea refers to the fact that espresso shots are always “pulled” and then immediately served to the patron. Thus, it’s a quick, “express” service (source).
But that doesn’t do much to explain what it actually is, does it? So, let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
What Are the Components of a True Espresso?
If we really want to get a firm grasp on what traditional espresso is, though, we have to return to the beautiful Italian language. In fact, there is a clever mnemonic device in Italian that lays out all of the necessary parts, ingredients, equipment, and skills to produce a shot of true espresso coffee: the ‘Four Ms’. Let’s look at each ‘M’ in a bit of detail.
1. Miscela – “The Blend”
The first, and possibly most important, factor when it comes to making espresso coffee is the coffee you’re using to make it! While it is a misconception that you need “espresso roast” coffee to make true espresso, it is still crucial that you get quality beans for your cup. Indeed, any kind of coffee bean will work for espresso, it’s often better to use a blend of beans from different origins in order to maximize the complexity of the espresso shot (source).
2. Macinazione – “The Grind”
Once you have your coffee blend sorted out, then comes another absolutely essential step to get right: the proper espresso grind. In order to extract the coffee fully and effectively, you must ensure you use a rather fine grind size—almost to the level of a powder. The settings and adequate grind will vary from grinder to grinder and espresso machine to machine, so this often takes a bit of experimentation when you have new equipment or are simply inexperienced (source).
3. Macchina – “The Machine”
After grinding the coffee and tamping it down in the portafilter, you then insert the portafilter into the machine to begin the extraction process. This extraction process is really what makes espresso the drink it is. A standard double espresso is typically extracted as the machine forces hot water through the packed coffee in the portafilter at about 9.5 atmospheres of pressure. The process should take about 25-28 seconds, total (source).
4. Mano – “The Hand”
The final element has less to do with the process of pulling espresso shots and more to do with the art. The “hand” in question is that of the skilled barista, who has the skills and experience to pull the perfect shot (source).
The result of all these factors is a rich, robust, almost syrup-like beverage with a strong aroma and a powerful flavor.
So, what about Nespresso, then? How does it stack up?
How Does Nespresso’s Brewing Method Compare?
Nespresso brewers (specifically, OriginalLine brewers) use a proprietary design to mimic the coffee extraction process of traditional espresso machines, but with some crucial differences. Most obviously, while a standard espresso maker requires the use of a portafilter to hold the coffee and bring it into contact with the hot water, a Nespresso machine uses capsules with pre-ground, pre-dosed coffee.
Once you insert the capsule into the Nespresso machine’s chamber and close the lid, a group of needles puncture the capsule, allowing pressurized water to be forced through the ground coffee, extracting your espresso shot.
Flavor and Texture Comparison: Espresso vs. Nespresso
There’s just no way around it: while a shot of espresso from your Nespresso machine is going to be satisfying and delicious, it simply can’t quite measure up to the intense, complex, and multi-faceted flavors of a traditionally-pulled shot of espresso.
Why would this be?
More than any other factor, the freshness of the coffee itself is to blame. Despite the valiant efforts of Nespresso and other coffee capsule producers, there is just no way to lock in coffee’s freshness after it has been ground. In order to really get the most out of any kind of coffee, you must use the freshly-ground beans immediately, as the freshness and flavor profile diminishes rapidly.
Nespresso capsules may use high quality grind and the pressure of the brew may be up to the standard required for espresso but the freshness of the grind leaves a lot of room for improvement in the taste department and I even think the staleness of the grind inside the capsules negatively effects the crema produced as well.
See this for more on what makes good crema in espresso.
So, while you can certainly get a top-notch shot of “espresso” from a Nespresso machine, it will always fall short of the silky and eye-opening complexity of freshly-ground, freshly-extracted espresso made in the traditional mode.
Nespresso vs. Espresso: Which Is Better?
Now, this question is actually a bit more complicated. We’ve already argued that traditionally-extracted espresso is going to give you more robust and multi-faceted shot, but does that necessarily mean traditional espresso is better than Nespresso coffee?
Well, as you might expect, the answer comes down to your personal tastes, preferences, and budget.
If you really want the full espresso experience, there’s simply no other way to get it besides investing in a quality espresso machine, a burr grinder, and top-notch coffee beans. Nespresso machines make a great cup, but it will pale in comparison to true espresso.
On the other hand, if it’s convenience you’re after, there’s no beating a Nespresso machine. As far as we know, there is no more convenient alternative available that can match Nespresso’s quality. It doesn’t get much easier than popping a capsule into a machine and pressing a button for on-demand espresso. When you compare that process to the detailed and often cumbersome and time-consuming process of pulling a traditional espresso shot, the winner in the convenience competition is clear: Nespresso gets the job done quickly and effortlessly.
Here again, Nespresso is the clear winner. While some Nespresso machines come at a premium price, there are many more affordable options available. And even the high-end Nespresso machines won’t set you back as much as a quality espresso machine. With traditional espresso, you’ll also have to factor in the cost of a capable burr grinder. Ultimately, Nespresso machines, as pricey as they can be, are still going to be far less expensive than the upfront costs of an espresso set up.
To Sum Up…
It’s true that Nespresso makes excellent quality espresso-like coffee beverages. Indeed, most people will be supremely satisfied with the coffee they get out of their Nespresso machines. And yet, if you are a truly hardcore espresso fiend, do yourself a favor and invest in the real thing. If you want to take your coffee game to the next level, a top-notch espresso machine is the obvious next step. Better yet, if you have the budget, why not get both and have the best of both worlds?
Why Don’t You Learn A Little Bit More About Nespresso and Pod-Based Espresso Makers
► Is Nespresso Worth It Or A Waste Of Money?
► The Best Espresso Machines That Use Pods
► Best Nespresso Machine For A Latté
► The Quietest Nespresso Machines
► Can You Use Other Pods In A Nespresso Machine?
► Are All Nespresso Machines Basically The Same
► Can Nespresso Machines Make Regular Coffee?
► How To Reprogram Nespresso Machines For Larger Shots
► Nespresso Espresso vs Lungo vs Ristretto
► What The Intensity Numbers Mean on Nespresso Capsules
► Can You Use Your Own Coffee In A Nespresso Machine?
► How Much Caffeine Is In Nespresso Capsules
► What’s The Difference Between Lungo And Espresso
Is Nespresso Actually Real Espresso or Strong Coffee? Top Machines Compared
I’ve often found myself wondering about the differences between the Nespresso and the Traditional Espresso Machines. Have you ever been in the same situation? When I asked my friends this, some of them replied that they had thought of it earlier. Some others, who didn’t think of it, told me that it made them wonder about it the moment I mentioned this.
And that is exactly why we’re here today, to take a look at the main differences between Traditional Espresso and the Espresso that Nespresso makes you. The differences between the two kinds of machines, as well as the two kinds of systems. While they attempt to bring you to the same ultimate product, -your wonderful cup of espresso- it seems highly unlikely that both of them provide you with the same things.
So, don’t forget to read this article till the very end to know the main features of each of them and to find out which one, then, would be the best choice for yourself! So, what are we waiting for?
What is the Traditional Espresso Brewing System?
Traditionally, espresso is made from roasted coffee beans. These beans are available for sale in the market even now, naturally, since a lot of people still stick to the traditional method because of the simple fact that some people don’t love any other taste at all! Anyway, these roasted beans are then ground, and then they are brewed to get the coffee extract, which is prepared just the way you want to.
However, the main features of this system might be summed up in a few points as follows:
- In this system, most of the work is manual or done by machines under manual supervision. Given the fact that you aren’t just using something like instant coffee, grinding and brewing are actually important parts that you must pay attention to. Click here to read our article on the best Manual Coffee Grinders for espresso available out there.
- Roasted beans of several kinds are available in the market and the differences between these actually make a difference when it comes to your coffee, making it really important to seriously consider the beans you’re using. Click here to read our article on the best Coffee Beans available for making Espresso!
- Next in line is the simple fact that since a lot of this system depends on the person, their measurements when it comes to sugar, coffee and the time given to boiling and all things like that make a lot of difference in the taste.
- It is easily evident, thus, that the best way to make the best Espresso here is not by relaxing, but by actually mastering the art of making Espresso! And that is why professionals prefer this way, they strongly believe that if made perfectly, this system can make the kind of espresso that other systems, like the Nespresso, cannot even come close to in terms of anything; and we’re talking all the way from flavor to aroma!
- Finally, this process, although more demanding in terms of personal presence and efforts, is also comparatively cheaper as long as you don’t intentionally go for the most expensive models out there. There are a lot of economically viable models available out there that do the job perfectly!
What is This Nespresso?
Nespresso is a comparatively modern technology, that uses specialized and ready-made capsules to make the espresso. This machine boasts of bringing comfort levels to you that were not imaginable earlier. All you have to do is just put in the capsules and relax, because the machine will prepare the Espresso by itself.
Please keep in mind here, that the Nespresso has two kinds of products, the Original line and the Vertuo line. Click here to read our article on the differences between the two.
But, regardless of that, let us take a look at the main features of the Nespresso, which are as follows:
- The Brewing system being fully automated, the person making the Espresso doesn’t even have to know anything about making it! All you need is the capsule and the Nespresso machine, and you can prepare your own Espresso!
- Another fun thing in this case is that some machines don’t let you make Coffee. Only the Vertuoline machines such as the Breville Vertuo let you make coffee, the other models being mostly restricted to only espresso.
- Since some machines read bar-codes and prepare your coffee the way it’s really supposed to, there’s not even much room left for you to change it even if you want to! This is by far one of the biggest drawbacks of Nespresso: Modernization gone wrong.
- Finally, the Nespresso machines are comparatively more expensive. However, this is understandable given the amount of automation these machines provide you with. However, that’s still a negative point when viewed from the market perspective.
The Differences: Which one to go for?
As you can see, there are quite a few differences between the two systems. As I remarked earlier, they are actually entirely different systems attempting to reach the same ultimate product. Anyway, the main differences between the two might easily be summed up in the following points:
- The Traditional Espresso Machines rely more on Individual skill while the Nespresso machines rely on automation. Only people with the ability to make espresso can prepare espresso in the traditional way, while anyone can do that with the Nespresso Machines.
- The Traditional machines, however, if used correctly, can provide you with a way better taste at the end. This is something that there’s no room for when it comes to the Nespresso, because it’s all pre-programmed for you.
- Another huge difference is the exact flavor, while both of them offer you with several varieties, the flavor you get from directly brewing coffee is almost always different than what you get from capsules that are ready-made to be prepared at the touch of a button.
- Again, the Nespresso Machines are comparatively more modern and so offer you with a more aesthetic aspect, which, while not entirely absent in the traditional models as well, are pretty much available in the upper ranges.
- Finally, the Nespresso machines are much more expensive than the traditional espresso machines. While it certainly is still cheaper than just going out and spending all your money in an overpriced Cafe, the traditional machines bring along another traditional trait with them: Conservatism when it comes to money.
The Verdict: While largely dependent on personal factors such as time, will, and taste preferences, I personally would like to opt for the Traditional Espresso Machines if I had to, and this is because of the fact that there’s actually room for your own touch there. And as I said earlier, if made perfectly, you can make way better espresso with it, so that’s what I’d go for!
Well, so now you know the differences between the two and when which one would be the better choice. Now it all depends on you, and all you have to do is understand your needs, judge the models perfectly, and take your time to think well before you make a choice! It’s surprisingly simple and you can easily make a smart purchase if only you keep these points in mind!
Don’t forget that we’re always here for you; we always try to help you out with articles such as this, and we really hope that you would reach out to us if there’s any query. Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you soon again!