I use a Nespresso Machine and an Espresso machine. I’ve had my Espresso machine for a couple of years, and I got my first Nespresso machine sometime last year, when I discovered that there were an increasing number of sources of compatible Nespresso pods, including some UK roasters.
I love Espresso, and I also very much enjoy Nespresso coffee, I think it’s absolute genius that I can switch on a machine and have a shot of very nice coffee within under a minute, with little or no clean-up involved, and now that there are lots of different options for pods rather than only Nespresso, having a Nespresso machine is great!
But what I wanted to point out in this post, is that Nespresso Espresso is different to traditional Espresso. It’s made differently, and it tastes differently. I’m not saying it tastes worse, by the way, that is a subjective thing, and depending on your preferences you may well prefer Nespresso coffee to true Espresso. The point is, they’re not quite the same.
I actually think that the difference in taste between traditional Espresso and Nespresso Espresso probably favours the taste preference of the average consumer. What I mean by this is that Espresso connoisseurs know what they’re looking for in an Espresso, they crave that intense hit & the unique mouthfeel. Give someone who drinks great Espresso regularly, a Nespresso, and the chances are that they won’t enjoy it quite so much if they’re expecting it to be an Espresso.
On the other hand, give the average coffee drinker who mainly drinks instant coffee full of milk and sugar, a fantastic shot of Espresso, and they’ll quite possibly pull a face and make a strange noise – as true Espresso is an acquired taste. Nespresso Espresso is similar in looks to Espresso, it has crema, it’s a short coffee, it ticks all of the right boxes for the majority of the coffee drinking world, and there is no hobby element involved.
Coffee is a Hobby?
For the average consumer, coffee isn’t a hobby, it’s just a drink they enjoy. So if you suggested to the average coffee drinker, that he or she may want to spend anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand on a grinder and Espresso machine & accessories, and then spend time learning to use it properly, possibly taking days or weeks until they’re happy with the results – they would probably send for the folks in white coats.
But this is what it takes to make decent espresso at home (the equipment I mean, not the guys in white coats). So if you’re not wanting a hobby, then making traditional Espresso at home probably isn’t for you.
There are alternatives, one is Nespresso, others are: cheap Espresso machines (but there will still be a learning curve, and it still won’t produce quite the same as a proper commercial or prosumer espresso machine with a decent grinder), Aeropress, stove top coffee pots – hand operated machines such as The Rok, Minpresso, and other pod/disk machines such as Tassimo & Dolce Gusto.
Among all of the alternatives to traditional Espresso at home, Nespresso is probably the most convenient. Just walk up to a cold (switched off) machine, press the button, pop the pod in, and walk away in under a minute with your coffee, and the only clean up required is to lift the handle to drop the used pod into the container to be emptied later.
What is the taste difference?
Firstly it’s important to point out that I’m referring here to the difference between a Nespresso Espresso which has been made simply by inserting a pod and pressing a button, and a well-made shot of Espresso using good coffee, freshly ground, made by someone who knows how to do it.
If I were to compare Nespresso to many of the so-called Espresso I’ve had at restaurants after meals, Nespresso would come out on top. I’ve also made some terrible Espresso myself, thanks to getting the grind wrong usually, in which case just sticking in a pod and pressing a button would have provided a better result.
This goes back to my point that there’s no hobby element required with Nespresso, there’s no more skill involved than picking a pod up and putting it in the machine, then pressing a button.
My experience with making Espresso is that usually when I’m using coffee beans I know, I can usually get a good shot and occasionally get an incredible shot, and when I’m dialling in new beans (which means finding the right grind) I can easily make three or four or more pretty terrible shots of Espresso before I get it right. My experience with making Nespresso is that I know I’m going to get a fairly enjoyable coffee very quickly, it’s not going to knock me off my feet, but I can’t mess it up and make it taste really under or over-extracted either, and it’s very fast – and clean.
I personally find that Espresso is usually more intense and has bolder more defined flavours than Nespresso. A good Espresso is intense, full of flavour, and you really know you’ve just had an espresso when you’ve finished. Nespresso by comparison is less intense, weaker, more easy going. But just to reiterate the point above, it’s very easy to get consistent results with Nespresso, the user can’t mess it up – it’s quite easy for a novice or intermediate home barista to make quite a bad tasting Espresso.
What About Cost?
In terms of the price of the machine, Nespresso machines can be purchased from around the same price as the cheaper espresso machines – from around £50 upwards, see best Nespresso Machines.
When it comes to the price of pods, you can pay anything from around 15p per pod up to about £1 per pod depending on which pods you buy.
Actually, if you were to work out the cost of the coffee per kilo based on the price of Nespresso pods, it works out very expensive, up to £50 per kilo or more, but because there’s only around 5 grammes of coffee in each pod, the price per cup is similar to other brew methods.
When you’re comparing the cost of a Nespresso machine to an Espresso machine though, just remember that cheaper domestic Espresso machines are also different to commercial or prosumer Espresso machines.
I’ve tried some of the cheap espresso machines, and while I’m impressed by some of them in terms of what they produce for the cost of the machines, when using freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee – they don’t produce the same level of Espresso, especially when used with pre-ground coffee or ESE pods.