I have had to explain on several occasions what it takes to get started with a Nespresso machine, so I am just consolidating that information here in one place. Easier than explaining everything repeatedly. At first anyone reading this is probably wondering, “Why does this need to be explained?” Realistically it doesn’t, but there are some good to knows about a Nespresso machine. Nothing harmful if you don’t know, but doesn’t hurt to find out earlier rather than later about a few things.
The machine I am going to be talking about is the Nespresso Pixie which is the original model. The distinction matters because the Pixie uses the original line of Nespresso pods versus the newer Vertuo pods which are not compatible and vice versa. I have never used the Vertuo, but I would imagine there isn’t really any difference other than form factor and quantity since the the Vertuo pods are larger (that’s what it looks like to me anyhow). There are many different types of Nespresso machines, but at the end of the day you are paying for features, colors, materials, form factors – I am not going to discuss any of that and for argument’s sake I am choosing this generic machine:
This is a Pixie Espresso machine manufactured by Breville (left) and/or De’Longhi (right). What’s interesting about this, is these machines are basically 99.99% identical. I don’t understand the deal that Nestle has with these manufacturers, but basically it’s exactly the same machine, just different manufacturers make it and put a small personalized touch on it. The silver panels you see on the sides are decorative and can be removed and replaced with different color panels if that’s something that matters to you. Personally, I own the De’Longhi because I got it on sale for like $89 or something like that. Breville is an excellent manufacturer too. My recommendation is just get it at a good price, you shouldn’t pay more than $120 for either of these machines. Look around to see if you can get them used if you find it for a good price.
What is this machine good for?
For making coffee!
If your immediate thought to this was, “Well it’s for making coffee!” – yes it is! However, that’s not all there is to consider for obnoxious coffee drinkers like myself. So just a heads up the rest of this is kind of nerdy. If you really enjoy coffee, then you will enjoy the rest of this. If not, no hard feelings if you stop reading here this might get boring.
This machine is excellent for getting your fix to feed your addiction, but in my opinion it is absolutely not a replacement for a nice mug of coffee. Just know that if you are drinking Nespresso, you are drinking Italian form coffee. You are taking shots essentially and adding more or less water. There are literally only three buttons on this machine:
- Small cup
- Large cup
- Power button
It seriously doesn’t get simpler than that. That being said, I think this is an awesome office accoutrement if you need to pay homage to your inner coffee demon. It will stop the caffeine headaches from occurring. No I am not addicted, shut up I can stop when ever I want I just don’t want to. I don’t have a problem you have a problem. No you!
I love the small compact design, I enjoy not having to deal with grounds sometimes and this machine is pretty fast at producing a cup with a nice crema layer every single time. This machine will produce a consistent coffee experience and flavor. The other benefit and where Nespresso makes all of their money on these loss-leader products are the flavors available to you. I really do enjoy the wide range of Nespresso flavors I can choose from and that I can mix and match.
What this machine is not
Before I continue with the finer details surrounding the coffee and some things I don’t love about the machine, I just want to point out that this is absolutely not a replacement for:
- Moka pot (Cafetera para los Cubanos leyendo)
- Pour over (Chemex etc…)
- If you want a mug of coffee, you can make it happen with Nespresso, but get used to using two pods every time you want a mug of coffee. If you have two a day (like I do) then you will be using four pods a day.
- You will start producing a bag of waste pods. These waste pods can be recycled which I will talk more about below.
- Each pod costs about 10 to 25 cents a piece. This is not cheap in the long run especially if you are knocking out two at a time. Putting things into perspective, it’s still cheaper than going to Starbucks or even Dunkin Donuts for a coffee.
- You might get palette fatigue if you consume these coffees too often. I go through phases where I don’t consume any Nespresso for a long time because I just get over it. These coffees are very rich in flavor and other things I am sure. It’s a creamy coffee and it has a nice body most of the time, but I won’t say full body. The best way I can describe it, is if you have something high in fat every day, at one point you just want a salad because you have had too much fat.
- In my opinion, this coffee is not a replacement for a cafecito, whether it is a cafe Cubano tinto or a cortadito. Nespresso sells Havana pods, but they are meh. Nothing beats a nice Moka pot coffee.
Things to know about Nespresso pods
You can purchase pods in what is called a sleeve. Each sleeve is a single flavor and contains ten pods. Again, if you consume two to four pods a day, then you are killing off a whole sleeve in 5 to 2.5 days accordingly. If you want to get a starter pack I recommend getting the basic one from Amazon the first or second time until you know what you like:
What you see on the left are five sleeves (fifty pods) of what is referred to as the original line. The flavors included are:
Each one of those has a longer name, but in my opinion these are the parts of the name that matter and are most distinguishable. Each pod has a color to help you identify which is what. The name is also imprinted on the aluminum foil of the pod.
Once you start producing pod waste you need to consider a few things that no one tells you when you buy these machines:
- Find a place for the waste pods to dry out. I strongly recommend getting a container and storing your used pods in there until they are finished drying out.
- Don’t close the container, let it air out.
- Don’t put it in a dark place, that will encourage mold growth.
- DO put it in a cool place so it can dry properly.
- When it is dried out transfer it to your recycling bag.
- If you don’t let them dry out, or you stick them in the recycling bag and in a drawer, you are going to have a bad time.
- The waste pods are going to produce mold no matter what and it smells pretty terrible.
- Don’t attempt to completely fill up a recycling bag, it’s not worth it and you really want to avoid containing too much mold.
- Every time you buy pods, get at least one recycling bag. Recycling bags are free! I consider one purchase batch (like 50 pods) to be enough for one recycling bag. It’s not going to fill it up and that’s totally fine.
On to the more fun stuff. There are tons of flavors to choose from. I am not going to list any of them here because that’s what the Nespresso website is for. That brings me to when to start buying directly from Nespresso versus Amazon. Once you figured out if you like Nespresso and you tried the original line, I recommend buying directly from Nespresso. The prices are basically the same and Nespresso accommodates you mixing and matching sleeves for purchase. It is just more convenient for those of us that are particular about our flavors. The only thing that sucks is that shipping is not free and it takes a bit to get to you, but whatever, just plan ahead.
The most important thing to know about pod flavors is where does it fall on the flavor wheel and how strong is it?
Original line flavors and strength example
As you can see below, each pod is not made equal! Each pod is unique not only in flavor. Therefore, if you are looking for a pick me up, you probably don’t choose Cappricio. However, if you mix Cappricio with Ristretto that could be tasty! This is what is fun about Nespresso.
This is the flavor wheel to help you figure out what you like. It’s organized by strength/intensity. The Ristretto is the strongest and going clockwise the intensity is reduced and the flavor changes as well. I don’t believe this flavor wheel was produced by Nespresso, I think it is a user creation as I have never seen it on the Nespresso website (I think? I can’t remember…). Here is where I got this image, all credit goes to them as far as I know:
For context, I live in the espressos and I don’t really like anything below Roma. If you like sour coffee then you will enjoy things like Cappriccio which is a light roast. Light and blonde roasts are typically more sour.
But wait, what is a Lungo?
AH! You have a keen eye. At the bottom of the wheel we have what are called “Lungos” pronounced “Loon-go” which in Italian means long. This is not a coincidence and is significant. This takes us back to the two buttons on the machine.
Italian coffee, like I said before, produces shots of espresso. You add hot water to stretch it out. Therefore, you can make a corto or short, button on the left – or – you can product a lungo or long, button the right. This is literally the difference in how much water is added to your coffee. I will always reject that espresso combined with hot water is the same as an American coffee, because it isn’t. It’s a work around, that’s all.
Therefore, there are Lungo capsules which you can use for a base for your coffee. They are not very flavorful on their own, they aren’t totally necessary and you are not obligated to use them. The Italian coffee police isn’t going to arrest you for using a Lungo cap together with the corto button. This is all about preference. I tried the Lungo capsules for a while and realized I just didn’t care for them. I still recommend giving it a try, mixing and matching everything.
If you want to get into Nespresso coffee, I think it’s fun and breaks up the monotony of every day coffee. However it will never replace my whole bean coffee. I hope this was helpful for anyone looking to get into it.