What do the Numbers Mean on Nespresso Capsules?

What The Numbers Mean on Nespresso

Nespresso coffee capsules have quickly made a huge splash in the individual serving coffee market. Nespresso has made a name for itself with its high-quality single serving coffee and espresso makers and capsules.

But if you’ve ever shopped for Nespresso capsules, you may have noticed that each one has a number associated with it that is largely unexplained on the Nespresso website.

These numbers range from 1 to 12, and the only guidance Nespresso provides for what they mean is that the numbers refer to “intensity.” “Intensity,” of course, is a pretty vague term and doesn’t offer much help in determining what the numbers really mean.

So, what do these numbers actually refer to?

We’ll get to the bottom of this caffeinated conundrum in this article.

Does “Intensity” Mean Caffeine Content?

While, in some instances, a higher number for the Nespresso capsule does seem to correlate with higher caffeine content, this is not what the number is referring to.

In fact, for some reason, Nespresso doesn’t list the caffeine content of their coffee capsules on their product pages at all.

Not to worry! If you’re looking for information on the caffeine content of Nespresso capsules, we’ve done the research for you in this handy guide!

Related – Make sure to see this comparison guide to the best Nespresso machines sold this season!

What Do the “Intensity” Numbers Mean, Then?

The ultimate answer to this perplexing question lies in the way the coffee beans are roasted, which has a significant impact on the flavor profile and richness of the coffee brewed from each type of Nespresso capsule.

The Importance of Roasting

Now that we know the intensity number of a Nespresso capsule is determined by the process of roasting the beans before packaging, let’s take a look at this roasting process to find out how different “roasts” lead to these variable intensity levels.

How Are Coffee Beans Roasted, and Why?

When coffee beans arrive at the roaster’s, they don’t look much like what most of us think of when we picture them. In fact, before the roasting process, coffee beans are usually quite green!

That’s where roasting comes in. The process of roasting things greenish coffee beans involves heating them to create chemical reactions that pull from the beans all of the characteristic aromas and flavors hiding inside (source).

What Are the Different Kinds of Roasts?

There are four basic “roasts” for coffee beans (source):

  • Light roasts
  • Medium roasts
  • Medium dark roasts
  • Dark roasts

Generally speaking, the darker the roast, the higher the intensity of the brewed coffee. That is, a dark roast is going to be much richer and more bitter than lighter roasts.

I don’t always buy Nespresso branded capsules so the intensity numbers don’t usually apply to the non-Nespresso branded options. This for instance is a very intense dark roast capsule that I’ve bought a few times for my Essenza Mini. It would correlate to an intensity 12 but it’s not labeled as such.

And that leads us to a common question:

What’s the Strongest Nespresso Capsule?

For many questions in life and coffee there simply aren’t easy answers. We live in a complicated and increasingly complex world, after all.

Luckily, when it comes to finding the strongest Nespresso capsule to give you the rich, bold flavor you need, there is a very simple answer.

Nespresso’s “Intensity” Scale

If you’ve ever visited the Nespresso website, you’ve probably noticed that you can sort the results for their coffee capsules based on “intensity” (source). Really, this term is just another way of talking about the coffee’s strength, and the scale runs from an intensity level of zero through twelve.

But here’s the point: if you do sort the results by intensity, there is a single clear winner that is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of strength.

Kazaar: “Turn It Up to Twelve”

Nespresso’s Kazaar capsules are easily the strongest capsules available for your Nespresso machine.

Not only do the Kazaar capsules get a full intensity rating of twelve out of twelve, but they also produce some of the best tasting Nespresso brews you could imagine.

What’s in the Kazaar Capsules?

The ground coffee inside Kazaar capsules is made up of a blend of the following coffee beans:

  • Robusta from Brazil
  • Robusta from Guatemala
  • Arabica from South America

The robusta in these capsules adds extra caffeine and crema while the arabica ads the necessary sweetness.

How Are the Coffee Beans in the Blend Roasted?

Nespresso takes an ingenious approach to roasting these beans.

Instead of batch roasting all three types together, they instead “split-roast them.” That is, they use a much more intense roasting process for the Robustas and a more delicate but longer duration roasting method for the Arabica.

What Does Kazaar Taste Like?

Well, to put it simply, it tastes like intensity!

Due to the split-roasting process, each of the beans in the blend is able to develop its own character, providing an almost shocking bitterness and a robust body from the Robustas, but also a hint of sweetness from the Arabica.

Indeed, this coffee isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you like your coffee to hit you like a slap in the face, Kazaar is the capsule for you… but of course there are other options too.

Are There Different Types and Sizes of Nespresso Capsules?

One of the best thing about owning a Nespresso single-serving coffee maker—besides the convenience and high quality—is the great variety of capsules available. Indeed, no matter how you like your coffee, there is sure to be a Nespresso capsule that will satisfy your particular preferences.

Below we’ll cover the main types of Nespresso capsules and what makes each one unique. Some of course are more strong than others.

A Nespresso Capsule for Everyone—A Guide to Capsule Types

There are six primary categories of Nespresso capsules, each with very different characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

The Espresso Capsules

These are, more or less, the “standard” Nespresso capsules. They produce high-quality short brews, and they come in six different styles with various levels of intensity. Here’s a list of the current Espresso capsules currently available from Nespresso:

  • Cosi (Costa Rica, Kenya) – Light-bodied, fruity, and balanced
    (Intensity: 4)
  • Volluto (Brazil, Columbia) – Light-bodied, slightly sweet, and yeasty
    (Intensity: 4)
  • Capriccio (Brazil) – Lightly acidic, savory, and bright
    (Intensity: 5)
  • Livanto (Costa Rica, Columbia) – Medium-bodied, toasty, and well-rounded
    (Intensity: 6)


The Intenso Capsules

Nespresso’s Intenso line of capsules gives itself away with its name. These capsules are for those looking for stronger, more robust brews, and there are currently five offered by Nespresso:

  • Roma (Central America, Brazil) – Complex but well-balanced, earthy, and nimble acidity
    (Intensity: 8)
  • Arpeggio (Central America, Costa Rica)– Bold, with silky crema, and beautifully roasty
    (Intensity: 9)
  • Ristretto (Brazil, Columbia) – Balanced fruitiness and acidity, roasty strength
    (Intensity: 10)
  • Dharkan (Costa Rica, Java) – Powerful, pleasantly bitter, with notes of cocoa
    (Intensity: 11)
  • Kazaar (Brazil, Guatemala) – Exceptionally strong, full-bodied, with hints of black pepper
    (Intensity: 12)


The Lungo Capsules

Nespresso’s Lungo capsules are designed to brew a “longer” cup, as the name suggests. These are meant to be brewed with more water and a longer brewing time. Nespresso currently offers four Lungo capsules:

  • Linizio (Brazil, Columbia) – Light- to medium-bodied, smooth, with yeasty notes
    (Intensity: 4)
  • Vivalto (Brazil, Ethiopia) – Rich and earthy, slightly sweet grain notes, hints of flower
    (Intensity: 4)
  • Fortissio (Columbia, India) – Full-bodied, lithe bitterness, yeasty sweetness
    (Intensity: 8)
  • Envivo (India, Mexico) – Full-bodied, with woodsy notes and hints of gingerbread
    (Intensity: 9)


The Master Crafted Single Origin Capsules

As the name implies, these capsules contain coffee from a single origin, produced to provide a glimpse into the characters of each region. There are five available:

  • Ethiopia – Exceptionally aromatic with pleasant fruitiness and floral notes
    (Intensity: 4)
  • Nicaragua – Velvety mouthfeel with delicate sweetness
    (Intensity: 5)
  • Columbia – Pleasantly acidic with hints of red fruit
    (Intensity: 6)
  • Indonesia – Woodsy and rich, with subtle hints of sweet tobacco
    (Intensity: 8)
  • India – Robust and woodsy with hints of spice and long, mouth-coating finish
    (Intensity: 11)


Decaffeinato Capsules

If you are avoiding caffeine, Nespresso has you covered there as well. They currently offer decaffeinated versions of four of their most popular varieties: Ristretto, Arpeggio, Volluto, and Vivalto.

Flavored Capsules

Finally, Nespresso even offers a few options for those who like a bit of sweet flavoring to their coffee. Flavors currently available include Ciocattino (chocolate), Caramelito (caramel), and Vanilio (vanilla).

Bottom Line:

What Does All This Mean for Nespresso Capsules?

With all these options to choose from, you’re certain to find at least a handful that you’ll fall in love with.

The intensity numbers you’ll see associated with different Nespresso capsule varieties can give you some idea of how “strong” the coffee brewed from them will be but flavor is a good thing to keep in mind too!

And for that you have to try them.

Just keep in mind that “strength,” though, shouldn’t be confused with caffeine content. Rather, the intensity of a Nespresso capsule is simply a general guide to the richness, boldness, and roast level of the coffee grounds inside.

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
Does Nespresso Make Good Enough Espresso?
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
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

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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