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The story begins in Switzerland. The year, 1975. A Swiss engineer named Eric Favre was working for Nestlé when his wife, Anna-Maria, joked that her home country of Italy produced far tastier coffee. Whether it was sheer inspiration or a spark of competition, Favre began designing the first pod-based espresso maker. The married couple even traveled throughout Italy to study all things coffee during the prototype phase. Thus, Nespresso was born.
Half a century later, it’s one of the world’s largest coffee manufacturers, known for convenience and craftsmanship. The company’s signature capsules come in a variety of blends, from light roast to dark to decaf, and we’ve rounded up our favorite ones below. Newer customers might want to double check what type of Nespresso machine they have, as VertuoLine machines only take Vertuo pods and OriginalLine machines only take Original pods.
For quick, delicious coffee, here are the best Nespresso capsules.
Best for Lattes: Nespresso Ispirazione Ristretto Italiano
Available in decaf too
Occasional shipping issues
The Nespresso Ispirazione Ristretto Italiano is tasty enough to enjoy on its as own as a simple espresso shot or blended with steamed milk for a creamy latte. Each little capsule contains a powerful and unique blend of flavors. The coffee's aroma is slightly fruity—a sensation that comes through when sipping too—but the overall flavor is smoky with a hint of dark-chocolate bitterness. It's no wonder so many customers call this their go-to Nespresso capsule.
With an intensity rating of 10 out of 13, the flavor is strong enough to stand out even when mixed with milk. Factor this in with its mild sweetness and you have an excellent base for a latte.
Ispirazione Ristretto Italiano capsules are designed for OriginalLine machines, and there is a decaffeinated version available for those who want rich taste without the jitters.
Category: Original | Intensity: 10 out of 13 | Cup Size: 0.85 and 1.35 ounces | Origin: South America, East Africa, and South India | Roast: Medium-dark
Best for Americanos: Nespresso OriginalLine Ispirazione Firenze Arpeggio
100 percent Arabica beans
Slight bitterness is acquired taste
If your favorite coffee is a classic Americano, give Apreggio capsules a try. With an intensity rating of nine, this can be used for either .85 or 1.35-ounce cups. Made from a mix of Central American and South American Arabica coffee beans that have been intensely roasted to produce both fruity and malted flavor profiles. The flavor of the coffee is described as intense and grilled, with cocoa notes and some woodiness as well.
The order comes with five boxes with 10 capsules each, but you can order in larger quantities if you prefer. These capsules are not compatible with Nespresso Vertuoline machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 9 out of 13 | Cup Size: 0.85 and 1.35 ounces | Origin: Costa Rica | Roast: Dark
"Coffee pods use pre-ground coffee, and it's hard to know how fresh it is. As such, it will usually have a little less flavor than a pot brewed from freshly ground coffee in a high-quality drip brewer. The number one benefit of using a pod coffee maker is convenience. In general, choosing a pod-based machine means sacrificing some flavor for the sake of an easier cup of coffee." — Patrick Cotter, Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear
Best for Cappuccinos: Nespresso Ispirazione Italiana Venezia
Delicious morning coffee
Possibly too mild for some people
Available at fewer retailers than average
This blend of Brazilian and Colombian Arabica beans is ideal for a cappuccino, latte, or any milk-based coffee drink, frothed or not. Tasting notes include caramel and cereal, as well as a light fruitiness. With an intensity rating of eight, this capsule provides just enough coffee flavor when mixed with milk but won't overpower the sweeter elements that make for a great cappuccino, like cinnamon, brown sugar, etc. Nespresso even uses the Ispirazione Venezia capsule to make a special tiramisu cappuccino—a recipe that can be found on the company's website.
The Venezia capsule is relatively new to the Nespresso line and isn't as readily available as other varieties, but it comes at the same price point and can be ordered in any desired quantity off the brand website. Note that these capsules are not compatible with Nespresso VertuoLine machines, only OriginalLine.
Category: Original | Intensity: 8 out of 13 | Cup Size: 0.85 and 1.35 ounces | Origin: South America and Africa | Roast: Medium-dark
Best Variety: Nespresso OriginalLine Ispirazione Espresso Variety Pack
Terrific for beginners
Covers wide range of flavors
Same price-per-capsule as single sleeve
If you haven’t yet picked a favorite Nespresso capsule, a variety pack lets you sample different espresso varieties without committing to one of them. It’s also great for guests, who can choose different coffees to suit their own preferences. This pack comes with a total of 100 capsules, with 10 of each type of coffee. The varieties include Capriccio, Fortissio Lungo, Roma, Vivalto Lungo, Volluto, Cosi, Firenze Arpeggio, Ristretto, Ristretto Decaf, and Livanto. The intensity ratings in this collection range from four to 10, and each capsule brews a 1.35-ounce cup of coffee.
These capsules are not compatible with Nespresso Vertuoline machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 4 to 9 out of 13 | Cup Size: 0.85, 1.35, and 3.7 ounces | Origin: Various | Roast: Light to dark
Best Bargain: Bestpresso Variety Pack
Thorough coffee descriptions on packaging and website
If you love your Nespresso machine but wish the capsules were just a little less expensive, these Nespresso-compatible pods by Bestpresso can save you some money. This kit comes with 120 pods, with 20 of each variety. They are certified kosher, have no preservatives or sugar, and when you’re done making coffee, the capsules are recyclable. The included varieties are Ristretto, Intenso, Arabica, Espresso, Lungo, and Verona with intensity ratings ranging from six to 12. These capsules are not compatible with Nespresso Vertuoline machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 6 to 11 out of 11 | Cup Size: 0.87, 1.35, and 2.87 ounces | Origin: Various | Roast: Medium to dark
Best for Vertuo: Nespresso VertuoLine Variety Pack
100 percent Arabica beans
Not the widest variety of flavors
All designed for same cup size
If you’ve purchased one of the newer Vertuo machines, this variety pack will give you three different types of coffee to sample and savor. The pack includes 10 capsules of each variety, for a total of 30 capsules, so you’ll have enough for about a month of coffee. The first variety is Stormio, which is made from Guatemalan washed Arabica beans and Nicaraguan Arabica beans and has an intensity rating of eight.
The second variety is Odacio, which is made from roasted Central American Arabica beans and lightly roasted East African Arabica beans, with an intensity rating of seven. Its flavor is described as full-bodied with a slight fruitiness.
The third variety is Melozio, which is made from Central American Arabica beans and Brazilian Bourbon coffee beans, resulting in an intensity of six. The beans are split roasted which gives them sweet cereal notes and a smooth texture with sweet notes of honey.
These capsules are only compatible with Vertuoline machines and will not work with the original machines.
Category: Vertuo | Intensity: 6 to 8 out of 13 | Cup Size: 7.77 ounces | Origin: Various | Roast: Light to dark
Best Dark Roast: Nespresso OriginalLine Ispirazione Palermo Kazaar
Enjoy with or without milk
Caffeine content may be too high for some
Bitterness is acquired taste
With an intensity rating of 12 out of 13, the Nespresso Ispirazione Palermo Kazaar makes a darkly delicious cup of coffee. The blend contains three different types of coffee beans, two of which are sourced in South America and the third from Central America. The resulting flavor is extremely bold and the shot itself is super rich in body. There's also a mild spiciness that sets the capsules apart from many other dark roasts. Brace yourself for the scrumptiously bitter aftertaste, almost like eating dark chocolate. The Palermo Kazaar capsules will wake you up in the morning with a punch of caffeine or give a taste of late-night decadence. Keep in mind that these capsules are only compatible with OriginalLine machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 12 out of 13 | Cup Size: 0.85 and 1.35 ounces | Origin: South America and Latin America | Roast: Dark
Best Light Roast: Nespresso VertuoLine Voltesso
Unique compared to other capsules
Delicious morning coffee
Too mild for some people
It may be slightly counter intuitive, but light roast coffee often offers more intricate and layered flavor profiles than dark roast coffee. (We're all familiar with an overly smoky dark roast that blocks out any other flavor.) This light roast is widely popular precisely because it features a unique blend of tasting notes. On one hand you get hints of creamy biscuit and, on the other, a subtle sweetness. Nespresso gives the Voltesso an intensity rating of four out of 13, and the beans are sourced from Brazil and Colombia. These gentle capsules are delicious whether they are used for an espresso shot or latte.
Category: Vertuo | Intensity: 4 out of 13 | Cup Size: 1.35 ounces | Origin: Brazil and Colombia | Roast: Light
Best Decaf: Nespresso Ispirazione Ristretto Decaffeinato Italiano
Close in flavor to regular version
Great for decaf latte
If you like coffee, but you’re cutting back on caffeine, Nespresso has you covered with these Ristretto Decaffeinato capsules. With an intensity rating of 10, the tasting notes include strong roasted notes and hints of chocolate, thanks to the mix of Arabica and Robusta beans. Each capsule makes .8-ounce or 1.35-ounce cups. The coffee in these capsules is made from Latin American and East African Arabica beans that are blended with Robusta. The beans are all slowly roasted for fruity and acidic notes, resulting in an Italian-style coffee that’s rich and full.
You'll get three boxes with 10 capsules each. These capsules are not compatible with Nespresso Vertuoline machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 10 out of 13 | Cup Size: 0.85 and 1.35 ounces | Origin: South America, Central America, East Africa, and South India | Roast: Medium-dark
Best Lungo: Nespresso OriginalLine Stockholm Fortissio Lungo
Appeals to many different palettes
Moderate caffeine content
100 percent Arabica beans
Occasional shipping issues
When you're in the mood for more than a few quick sips of espresso, lungo is the way to go. The word translates to "long" in Italian and denotes a larger style of coffee. Nespresso's Fortissio Lungo capsules are an excellent starting point because they are designed to brew 3.7-ounce cups of coffee. The flavor is described as rich, malty, and toasty with a hint of bitterness and a smooth texture. They have an intensity rating of eight out of 13. The coffee is made from Monsooned Malabar Arabica beans from southwest India along with washed Colombian Arabica beans that provide intense flavor. Both beans are split-roasted, giving the coffee a great body and bold taste without feeling overly roasted.
This order includes five boxes with 10 capsules each; you can also choose larger quantities if the variety becomes one of your favorites. These capsules are not compatible with Nespresso Vertuoline machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 8 out of 13 | Cup Size: 3.7 ounces| Origin: Colombia, Costa Rica, and India | Roast: Light and dark blend
Best Flavored: Gourmesso 50 Fairtrade Flavored Espresso Capsules
Cheaper than Nespresso-brand capsules
Low-quality capsule design
Some flavors are too sweet
Coffee has great flavor on its own, but sometimes you want just a little something extra. These capsules give you extra flavor without resorting to sweet syrup or flavored coffee creamer, and you can try a new flavor every weekday with these capsules from Gourmesso.
You'll get a generous amount of capsules, with five boxes of ten pods of each flavor for a total of 50 capsules. This includes Carmello (caramel), Cioccolato (chocolate), Nocciola (hazelnut), Vaniglia (vanilla), and Noce di Coco (coconut). All flavors have a relatively low intensity rating of five.
These capsules are not compatible with Nespresso Vertuoline machines.
Category: Original | Intensity: 5 out of 7 | Cup Size: 0.85 and 1.35 ounces | Origin: South America and Asia | Roast: Dark
What to Look for in Nespresso Capsules
Identifying the type of roasts you like—light, medium, or dark—is a great place to start when trying a new coffee. But it can get even trickier than that. Keep an eye out for a blend's tasting notes, usually written somewhere on the bag. With a dark roast, for instance, you might like one that has notes of chocolate but not notes of smokiness, or vice versa.
Nespresso labels the intensity of its capsules on a one to 13 scale. Lower numbers are on the lighter side while higher numbers are darker. This is a quick and easy to identify the kind of capsules that are best for you. It's worth experimenting with a few different intensities, of course, especially if you're interested in making different drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
Vertuo or Original
Nespresso manufactures two different types of machines: VertuoLine and OriginalLine. The former brews drinks in larger sizes and the latter focuses on smaller, espresso-sized beverages. Each one requires its own kind of capsule which cannot be used in the other machine, so check what kind of Nespresso maker you have before purchasing capsules.
Can Nespresso capsules be recycled?
Yes! Nespresso capsules are made from recyclable aluminum, and the leftover coffee grounds inside the pods can even be composted. To make the process easier, Nespresso offers free capsule-recycling bags that can be dropped off (also for free) at any UPS location or Nespresso boutique. The bags hold up to 200 OriginalLine capsules or 100 VertuoLine capsules. There are two stipulations, however: the recycling bags can only be ordered from Nespresso’s website, not third-party retailers, and customers must purchase a separate item, whether it be capsules or a Nespresso machine, to receive the bags. New York City residents have the option to recycle Nespresso capsules via normal recycling bins.
"Coffee brands that utilize reduced packaging or refillable models would be the most eco-friendly option. However, glass and aluminum are both 100% recyclable without any resulting loss in quality and should be the first options considered by a coffee brand looking to reduce its environmental footprint." — Alexander Payne, Manager of North American Public Relations at TerraCycle
What’s the difference between Original and Vertuo capsules?
The main difference between the two types of Nespresso capsules, Original and Vertuo, is that the former brews espresso, while the latter brews espresso and larger coffee-style drinks. The capsules are not cross-compatible, so Original capsules only work in Original machines and vice versa. For prospective buyers, deciding which type to go with largely comes down to personal preference. Nespresso manufactures a similar number of Original and Vertuo capsules, but third-party brands are allowed to sell capsules that work with Original machines, which gives that category more flavor options and the chance for cheaper prices. Vertuo capsules, on the other hand, offer a wider variety of drink options, from espresso to cappuccinos to 14-ounce drip-style coffee.
How much caffeine is in a Nespresso pod?
A single Nespresso capsule can contain anywhere from 55 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. This is certainly a wide range, but it makes sense considering Nespresso capsules are designed to make all sorts of different drinks. Original capsules generally have less caffeine than Vertuo because they are designed for smaller portions. That being said, some Original capsules, including Napoli and Palermo Kazaar, surpass 100 milligrams of caffeine. (For comparison, a 6-ounce cup of drip coffee contains roughly 110 milligrams of caffeine.) Vertuo capsules designed for large drinks like lungo and alto contain the most caffeine. Fortunately, Nespresso does an excellent job of labeling caffeine content on the brand website.
Do Nespresso capsules expire?
Yes, Nespresso capsules do expire, but it takes a long time for that to be a concern. The brand guarantees its capsules are usable at least one year after production. Such longevity is due to their hermitically sealed packaging. Of course, the date you receive capsules could be months after they were made, so it’s worth checking anyway. Keep your capsules in a dry, mild-temperature place to extend shelf life, and make sure not to freeze them!
What does capsule intensity mean?
Nespresso labels all of its capsules with an intensity rating on a scale of one to 13, with 13 being the most intense. What does intensity actually mean? Well, Nespresso bases intensity on four factors: the coffee’s degree of roasting, its body, its bitterness, and the concentration of coffee. If a coffee is high in even one of these categories the intensity rating goes up; for example, an extremely bitter coffee may have a high intensity rating even if it isn’t strongly roasted or thick in body. One last detail to note is that a capsule’s intensity rating is not related to its caffeine content.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a freelance food writer who specializes in product reviews and recipes. Her work has appeared on Serious Eats, Fine Cooking, and her own recipe blog, Cookistry.com. She's also the author of "Make Ahead Bread," a cookbook meant to simplify the bread-baking process.
This piece was updated by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. At home, he typically makes coffee with the Bodum Brazil French Press—a great budget option, especially for those who prefer non-electric brewers.
Patrick Cotter, the Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear, was interviewed for this piece. He manages the company's blog, social media, and content pages. Founded in 2005, Seattle Coffee Gear is a retailer that focuses on coffee education.
Alexander Payne, Manager of North American Public Relations at Terracycle, was also interviewed for this piece. Founded in 2001, TerraCycle is a U.S. organization that focuses on recycling hard-to-recycle waste.