Nespresso Coffee: Overpriced Rubbish?

A blind taste-test conducted by consumer organisation CHOICE has found Nespresso coffee capsules to be among the worst tasting, with coffee experts describing the flavour as “underwhelming”, “musty” and “watery”. The George Clooney-fronted coffee placed nearly rock-bottom, despite being the most expensive brand.

Photo: Getty Images

CHOICE enlisted three "coffee experts" to blind-test five different coffee capsule brands: Coffee Capsule Delights Indian, Best Espresso Mercurius Intenso, Piazza D’Oro Superiore, Caffe Vergano 1882 Intenso and Nespresso Roma. Each shot was assessed for crema thickness, colour, aroma, mouth feel and aftertaste.

The three taste-testers were Scott Robertson, master roaster at Double Roasters in Marrickville, Sydney, Fiona Mair, CHOICE home economist and Benjamin Stronach, an independent barista trainer and coffee roaster.

Coffee Capsule Delights Indian came out on top with the judges describing it as nutty, having a good aroma and no bitter aftertaste. At 58 cents per pod, it was also one the cheapest brands tested, besting Nespresso Roma by ten cents.

Nevertheless, Nespresso remains the fastest growing brand in Australia, with global sales reaching $US 3.2 billion in 2011. It's also Nestlé's fastest growing operating unit worldwide.

“The low ranking of [Nespresso] coffee capsules in our taste test is a reminder to consumers that an expensive, exclusive product isn’t always necessarily the best,” Angela McDougall, food policy advisor for CHOICE said in a statement.

As CHOICE points out, coffee capsules tend to be weaker in flavour due to the smaller amount of coffee in them. "An espresso from a café usually has 11 grams while the capsules tested by CHOICE ranged from 5 to 5.8 grams," the organisation explains.

While these kinds of surveys are totally subjective, it's comforting to know that cheaper brands can hold their own in a blind taste test. Personally however, we'd be more interested to hear how the various coffee pod machines, such as the budget Aldi and Kogan offerings, affect the flavour of Nespresso.

See also: How To Brew The Perfect Coffee: Lifehacker’s Complete Guide | How Do You Store Your Nespresso Capsules?

Do you use coffee capsules? Is it just about convenience or do you think the taste roughly compares to a traditional brew? Let us know in the comments section below.


Comments

    I use them at work, mainly for the caffeine, which they seem to provide enough of. They lack 'body', taste very watery and lack the oil/feel of a cafe/home prepared espresso. Without milk, they are intolerable.

    The proliferation of these wasteful pods makes me sad and angry. Why are people generally so convenience-obsessed and technically backward? It's fun to explore the zen-like art and funky cool machinery of good coffee and it's not that flamin' hard!

      You can return empty pods to the Nespresso store for recycling.

        There have been reports that Nestle just bin the things and don't recycle them.

      You mean like the fact that the majority of Americans drink terrible stale dripolator coffee?

      I think the evidence as to why people do it is everywhere - because they don't know better and they still get caffeine out of it. There was a great show on SBS about the history of coffee where early American coffee makers pre-staled their coffee because otherwise the bags puffed up and popped whilst being stored. And so Americans were raised on stale coffee...

      A few of us clubbed in at work to buy a cheap Caffitaly system. It was either that or put up with 1) The cockroach infested automatic system in the canteen or 2) instant. We figured it was the lesser of the evils.
      For the record, I usually drink tea (loose leaf) at work and have the Breville Dual Boiler with Smart Grinder for home. I get my beans from Bay Beans.

      A decent machine, even for domestic use, can be very expensive. Capsules > instant coffee.

        True, decent machines are expensive. You don't really need a machine though. We make fantastic coffee at home with an AeroPress. Takes all of a minute or two and tastes magnitudes better than that hideous capsule coffee.

          I have an Aeropress at home and one at work. I also have a simple ceramic burr hand grinder at home so I can have fresh ground coffee - something that no prepackaged pod system can provide.

          Aeropress for the win!

            I'd love to see you prepare a cappuccino with an Aeropress.

        A Nespresso machine isn't cheap either mind.

      Because some of us aren't pretentious douche bags who give a crap about "the zen like art"...it's coffee, it's better than instant & it's fast.

        Well you obviously don't like coffee and probably eat macca's.......

          You've bolstered SB's point. Mary hipster cheeseburger in Newtown costs $16 and tastes precisely like Macca's. Capsules are probably 70% as good as an espresso from a cafe and 100% better than instant. Great invention.

        Love your response -- and concur that this guy sounds like a pretentious douche!

    Wow - it took a choice survey to determine that Nespresso tastes awful?
    its "expresso" and "Cup of chino" for instant coffee drinkers
    /dryreaches

      I think the term you're looking for is 'dry retch' as retching is the act of convulsing or gagging, whereas i'm sure you are aware of what reaching involves :)

      The "cup of chino" misnomer isn't helped by the fact that a lot of cafes call a large cappuccino a "mug-o-cino".

    I bought the Lavazza Modo Mio system. I've tasted "on many occasions" the Aldi, Nespresso & Gloria Jeans systems. In my opinion the Lavazza produces a very satisfying and professional tasting coffee. I agree with denonymous, as I also have a wonderful Italian coffee machine, and do enjoy the Zen like experience of a freshly ground and brewed coffee. But as an emergency first response worker, I like a nice coffee and don't always have time to brew it. I hate instant and at 3 am there are not many great coffee shops open. Agree! But sometimes you do the best you can with what is available.

      Bob, spoken like the voice of reason.

    Oddly enough, the Roma capsules (according to my cross-referenced spreadsheet comparing each pair of non-decaf capsules - yes I am a little OCD, why do you ask? ;) are one of the worst-tasting Nespresso capsules... only Dulsao is worse, in my opinion.

    Deriding all Nespresso caps on the basis of one of the worst is poor form, IMHO... they could have at least tried a variety of each style. Indriya is a decent heart-starter, Livanto has a nuttier taste, Ristretto makes a decent espresso, and Arpeggio is a pleasant sweeter coffee.

    (No, I'm not saying that any of the Nespresso coffees are better than anything else. But they're quick and convenient and the resultant taste - for me, at least - is better than anything else with the same time commitment. That time saving carries with it some trade-offs, and for me the Nespresso system - with the abovementioned capsules, at least - is a reasonable compromise.)

      Came here to say this, I don't mind Roma myself but it is duplicitous to pit *one* coffee from each brand against each other.
      They all have ranges, and while Nespresso has a bigger range than the rest they could have at least contacted each company to find out which pod was their best seller for the test, or at least asked a staff member in store for their anecdotal "best seller" if the company refused to provide it.

      Not to mention tRoma is rated at an intensity of 8 where the others are rated 10, of course it will taste weak and watery by comparison.

      Agreed, this blind test was blind in vision and execution. All in all, they have good aand bad coffees capsules for all systems.

      My personal favourite is the rosabaya, but then again, my partner works for nespresso. So, I guess her 200 capsule per month allowance makes it taste even sweeter.

      If you need to save time, why not just drop a couple of NoDoz for caffeine and be done with it?

      Drinking Nespresso because it saves time is like drinking cask wine because it takes too long to open a bottle each time.

        Worst. Analogy. Ever.

      moobaa, I totally agree. IMOH they couldn't have chosen a worse nespresso pod to run the test against. I like some of the new ones they have created, the orange pod called Linizio Lungo, and the Limited Edition 2013 series Napoli.

        Yep - the Linizio is quite nice - I've heard that's going to become one of the Grand Crus? I've not tried the latest limited editions yet, though...

    I just spent a few days on one of the plantations that Nestle sources it's coffee from, and I was surprised at the quality of the beans. The process however, of making these pods IMHO destroys the character of the coffee. I understand why the farmer is selling to Nestle, but it's such a shame for people who actually know and understand coffee.
    I bought some coffee from the Co-op next door - it just looked divine and it got better from there...

    wow. no s#hit Sherlock!

    You can get pretty good consistent shots from Nespresso pods. As has been mentioned, Roma is a pretty ordinary blend and it would be interesting to see a blind test with one of the better varieties - such as Arpeggio (although this is all subjective). When I used to use Nespresso pods I still got a better shot than a lot of the coffee shops I visit. I think it is cool to rubbish their pods but compared to most other pods I've tried they have been the best.

    I think a lot of the problem is that people will pull too large a shot of coffee out of one of the pods. Because they have a smaller amount of coffee you can't pull a double-shot from a single pod. Doing so will make it a watery mess every time.

    Having said that I'm not a fan of their pods and I'm against the wastage they create and the culture they promote. I order freshly roasted beans and grind and fill my own pods. While it won't match a good espresso machine it is still a lot better than the Nespresso varieties and better than most of the shots I get at coffee chops.

      "Arpeggio"

      All I drink. it's a good one of the lot. I have two caps in the morning, coffee is $5 at work so I'm saving $25 a week, $100 a month or more.

      Spot on, except for the waistage bit, as someone pointed out above they are recyclable.

      I would love to see nespresso use Hyrogen gas to seal the pods, thereby retaining much more freshness in each pod.

        You don't have to return the pods anywhere to recycle either...peel the top off, rinse (or tip the grounds in the compost) & throw in the yellow lidded bin...done & done...

      So true. All people seem to know is the "big" button. I've TRIED explaining, hell, even simply asking about the other ("small") button. It's beyond them. It could be the world's best coffee, and they'd turn it into liquid dirt. I absolutely love what my machine does for me. They've bridged the gap SO much. Yet 2 buttons is still too hard for many.
      /facepalm

      Hi rv
      How do you fill and seal? and make The pod suitable for usage

    I have a Nespresso machine. I chose Nespresso because it's quick to go from 'machine off' to 'coffee ready', there's a lot of choice in coffee (for the record, I use Arpeggio and Fortissio Lungo), you can get compatible capsules from the supermarket, and if you buy a manual machine as I did you have control over the amount of coffee extracted and can, through trial and error, make a pretty decent cuppa. If it took any longer to make a coffee first thing in the morning, as it would with a proper espresso machine, I probably wouldn't bother.

    Questions: What are the chances that the barista they got to extract the capsules has EVER made a capsule coffee before? Even if he has, what are the chances that he made it right, when the total mouthbreathers in the Nespresso store on Bourke St, Melbourne can't even get it right? And what are the chances that these coffee were made without milk (since, as Bob Kelso above states, Nespresso is pretty intolerable without milk)? All pretty poor.

    I can't vouch for or against the quality of the Roma-style capsule, though. I picked Arpeggio because a clear vase of purple capsules looks good in my kitchen, and lucked out with taste.

      @liraniel - what machine did you buy? Just curious :)

        I got the Delonghi Essenza EN90 Manual. Got it at New Year's, $160 at The Good Guys and $60 cashback from Nespresso. Bam. Highly recommend.

        I've considered buying the refillable capsules and grinding my own, but it just adds too much bother, and I can't see too much gain from it. There's a lot of snobs here bitching about mouthfeel and sourness but the capsules taste fine. You can try them in store too. You get one of each capsule with the machine too.

    Love my Nespresso pods.

    Taste is subjective fortunately.

    I have a DeLonghi/Nespresso Essenza model and use refillable pods and grind the beans myself which I get from a local roaster.
    Makes a good cup of coffee.

      -

      Last edited 17/09/13 9:28 am

        I've never owned any other coffee machines, but I've used them in various offices and I would say it's on par if not better than most I've come across. A big part of it is using quality beans to begin with, then it's just a matter of trial and error to find how fine a grind you need to get a good cup.

    Personally I am a big fan of the Nespresso system, however I live in Singapore and it's quite hard (and expensive) to find good coffee. Would have second thoughts about using the system in Australia though, where good coffee is pretty easy to find...

    I've read at least 5 reveiws of the system that places the Nespresso system at the top of the list in comparisons (against other pod systems).

      It depends on where you are in Australia...Melbourne absolutely. Sydney yes. Newcastle maybe. Rural areas probably not! I live in a rural area & the cafes in the nearest town don't seem to know how to use a milk thermometer & always seem to burn the coffee as well. Given a choice between INSTANT & the swill that passes for a coffee in our local cafes I'm going instant every time!

      Talk about finding good coffee in SE Asia! Doesn't exist, I've found one decent cafe over the years in Thailand.. Nespresso and Buon Cafe (sp) machines are the saving glory here otherwise you're saddled with pimply teens making burnt and purely awful swill that makes your three in one sachets taste like heaven....

    At between $100 and $116 per kilo for the coffee beans!!! Get outta here...you are being seriously ripped off for very poor coffee. Even Pine Nuts cost less per kilo

    The african baby debacle is enough to put me off supporting Nestle even if they had the best pods, which from the sound of it they don't so I'm happy with this outcome

    We have a Vibiemme Domobar manual levetta and Mazzer Mini grinder at home. With some care and good fresh beans, this setup turns out an outstanding cup. I love the artisanal feeling of control over every stage of production, from the grinding and tamping into portafilter down to managing the perfect extraction based on flow rate, volume, and colour. Because it's all manual the equipment is nothing but a raw conduit for my own skill and instinct. When I make a good coffee, it's very, very good. When I make a bad coffee, I only have myself to blame.

    IMO, pod systems remove all the passion and craft from coffee (not to mention the poor results). But at least they're a big step above instant and drip. I think anyone truly passionate about great coffee will outgrow their Nespresso before long.

    its coffee....who cares....get over it....

      I only thing I'm getting over is your stupid comment!

    I have had xpressodelight coffee at work and love the taste. No bitterness and full bodied flavour and taste. You want good coffee than try xpressodelight. check out their website also, the machine is free just pay for the coffees.

      My local petrol station has one of these machines (of something very similar).
      Of the 8 shops in my small town that sell espresso, it's the best and cheapest coffee in town.
      It's not great, just better than espresso made by some shop worker who has no idea.

    But that's just it Shuggins...first thing in the morning, who wants to think and concentrate on getting the grind right, tampering the head, steaming the milk and then cleaning down the wand and machine down. Absolutely you can't beat a hand made brew, but it requires skill and concentration...who has that 530 in the morning?

    Absolutely rubbish, regardless of price.

    Cafe's do not use 11 grams of coffee for a single espresso they use 7-8 grams for s single shot, where do these "experts" come from. I do agree that any capsule coffee is rubbish though.

      There is a range of grams used.

      If you are going by traditional italian espresso blends, where the roast is darker and there may or may not be the presence of robusta, or some big crema coffees in the blend then 7-8g is sufficient.

      If you are going by the trend that's been sweeping the australian and new zealand coffee scene, then you will notice that people are roasting lighter, using very expensive greens, and running them through machines that have triple baskets while dosing anywhere between 18g to 24g into these baskets. It will depend on the place, the work processes and last but not least, the baristas there.

      Please keep in mind that I am not saying either way is right or wrong. It just depends on what you like.

    So, style over substance? Shell out for famous actors to put in your ad to convince people the product is good, but phone in the actual making of the product?

    Fiona Mair, CHOICE home economist ...... what the HELL makes this housewife a coffee expert ??

    Could I also give a thumbs up to the idea of comparing to other systems too?

    I'd like to know how Aldi's or CafeItalia compares.

    I would love to see nespresso use Hyrogen gas to seal the pods, thereby retaining much more freshness in each pod. Before I bought our DeLonghi Nespresso machine, I was spending $5-10k a year at coffee shops. These machines have been a blessing.

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