1: Nespresso is Not Espresso as we Know it.
Nespresso may call their pods “Espresso pods” (along with Ristretto, and Lungo pods) but is it actually espresso?
No. Nespresso is not espresso, well, not espresso as we know it, anyway.
While there’s no law on what you can or can’t call espresso, espresso as we know it is made using a certain set of parameters (which I’ll explain shortly), and the parameters for Nespresso are different, as is the resulting coffee.
I’m not putting Nespresso down, not at all, I really like Nespresso machines actually, for lots of reasons.
- It’s ultra convenient, even faster than a really, really fast thing.
- It’s relatively inexpensive for the Nespresso machines and the pods (you can get compatibles from around 17p each if you want).
- There’s a huge amount of variety thanks to the wide range of Nespresso pods plus the huge range of Nespresso compatible pods available including from UK coffee roasters including these new ones from Pact Coffee (use the discount code NEWPACTPODS to get 50% off your first order!)
- For some, it’s more enjoyable than true espresso.
But with all that said, it’s not espresso in the traditional sense, when you look at how it’s produced.
Regarding the last point – not everyone wants the intensity and the mouthfeel that is particular to true espresso. Some coffee lovers just want a short shot of strong coffee, and to them – Nespresso ticks the boxes. If you love espresso, as I do, then Nespresso probably won’t quite cut it for you, but not everyone loves true espresso, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
What Éric Favre created wasn’t just a new, smaller & faster home automatic Espresso machine without the need for a coffee grinder.
What he invented was a whole new thing, a new kind of coffee machine which works along similar principles to espresso machines, but not exactly the same – which produces short coffees, very quickly, which are similar traditional espresso but not quite as intense.
Given the immense success of Nespresso, it’s clear that a big percentage of consumers prefer Nespresso’s much faster and more convenient yet slightly less intense version of espresso, either because they prefer the taste, or because convenience is the most important factor for them when making coffee at home or in the office.
The parameters I mentioned earlier are namely: grind size & profile, pressure, brew temp, flow rate, ratio of dry coffee to liquid coffee.
With Nespresso, many of these parameters are quite a bit different.
The pressure is 19 bar with Nespresso, vs 9 bar with traditional espresso.
The brew ratio is much higher with Nespresso, rather than the more traditional 1:2, 18g of dry ground coffee to 36g of espresso for example, it’s more like 1:8, 5g of dry coffee to 40g of liquid coffee.
The flow rate is far faster with Nespresso. While we’d expect to get to 1:2 with espresso in around 28-32 seconds (well, that’s what I was taught when I did my Barista training anyway), with Nespresso 1:8 is achieved in around 12 seconds.
For a really in depth analysis of Nespresso extraction, see an analysis of Nespresso by Square Mile Coffee founder James Hoffman.
2: The History of Nespresso is an Amazing, Inspirational True Story!
Think of Nespresso, and most of us think of Nestlé, the huge conglomerate behind Nespresso. But we’re only seeing the end of the story. When you also learn the beginning and the middle of the Nespresso story, it’s actually a brilliant, inspirational tale, that I’m surprised hasn’t been turned into a movie…yet.
Éric Favre, a graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the son of an inventor, in his mid to late 20s, gets fed up of taking stick from his Italian wife about “bland Swiss coffee”, and decides to invent a way for consumers to make Italian coffee shop style espresso in their homes.
He scours Italian coffee shops, speaking to baristas to try to get some idea of how he can possibly deliver on his plans. He thinks he has the answer, and unlike most people who invent stuff and forget about them (I’ve invented all sorts in my head how about you?) Favre acts on his ideas, and follows through by producing a prototype.
Then, get this… he gets himself a job in the packing department at Nestlé, so that he can start learning about the workings of multinational corporation from the inside, also presumably to get him into a position where he may be able to eventually pitch the decision makers with his inventors.
He did – and guess what?
Not only did Nestlé not have any interest in this invention, believing at the time that there was no market for expensive coffee machines, they even feared that this new machine could negatively impact on sales, so it wasn’t just a no, it was a “Hell, No!”.
When they turn this into a movie, by the way, this will be the first real adversity we’ll experience through the eyes of Éric Favre, the part where we feel his frustration, after all his hard work and perseverance, he face-plants into a brick wall.
But he continued to persevere, and continued to climb the ranks within Nestlé. 8 years later, he’s a Nestlé food scientist, a more important role. Crucially, he’s given an assignment at the Japanese Nestlé factory, where he gets in front of the decision makers there & pitches his new coffee machine.
Breakthrough! This is the moment in the film where we will experience the relief and excitement of Eric’s eventual success, as this time, the pitch is successful, and Nespresso is born – of which Éric becomes the CEO.
The story doesn’t end there of course, there’s more adversity, but ultimately as we know, Nespresso became a huge household name in several countries.
3: Nespresso Pods Don’t Contain Instant Coffee
Some people assume that Nespresso capsules, and other coffee pods and disks such as Tassimo disks, contain instant, soluble coffee.
I can understand why people might think that with Nespresso, as it’s just so fast – it is almost instant, how can that be possible with ground coffee? If you think about it, it’s quite amazing that water flows through the coffee so quickly (it’s all done in around 12 seconds) and you’re left with strong coffee – considering that most people think of proper coffee as filter coffee or cafetiere coffee which can take several minutes to brew.
But no, Nespresso pods don’t contain instant, soluble coffee – it’s proper finely ground coffee beans. The super fast flow rate I expect is to do with the super high pressure at which the water is passed through the coffee grounds.
The only capsules I’m aware of that have contained instant, soluble coffee, by the way, are some of the Nescafé Dolce Gusto pods, such as their Cappuccino Ice, Mocha and Café au Lait pods.
4: Using a Nespresso Machine Doesn’t Have to be Damaging to the Environment.
The one thing Nespresso machine inventor Éric Favre has admitted he regrets, is the potential ecological damage done by so much aluminium being used for the coffee capsule industry he created.
This is apparently one of the reasons he left Nespresso, to work on his next machine “Monodor” which uses pods which aren’t made of aluminium. You may not have heard of the name Monodor – but this machine has been sold under license worldwide since the early 90s, under various names – including the Lavazza capsule machines.
The main issue is that Nespresso machines have been dependent on Aluminium for the capsules, and this causes an issue both in terms of destructive mining for the materials, and the disposal of the used pods into landfil (as they’re mixed with plastic, meaning they be recycled at the standard recycling plants.
Bauxite is used to make Aluminium, and this mineral is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions. The huge demand for Bauxite ore as a result of tens of billions of coffee pods being made each year, means more destruction of rainforests.
In addition, pods are made of Aluminium plus plastic aren’t recycled. They end up in landfill, where they can take up to 500 years to degrade. Even if you take the time to clean out a standard Nespresso pod, and put it in your recycling bin, it will end up in landfill.
So they create a problem when they’re made, and another problem when they’re used, a double whammy to the environment.
Nespresso are putting effort into the recycling side of things, with their recycling bags & that can be dropped at any of the thousands of CollectPlus collection points throughout the UK, or which can be dropped off at a Nespresso Boutique.
While Nespresso state on their website that Aluminium is “infinitely recyclable”, the issue is that the mix of Aluminium and plastic mean that the pods aren’t recyclable at standard recycling plants, which is why you need to get them back to Nespresso so they can take them to a special plant to be recycled.
But you can now be a responsible and eco friendly Nespresso machine owner, by buying alternative Nespresso compatible capsules.
Some compatibles manufacturers are taking action with regard to the recycling issue.
Pact coffee, for example, have just released their new 100% Aluminium capsules, this means that you can empty the used coffee from them into your compost, and then put the Aluminium empty pods in with your standard recycling. Pssst. Use the discount code NEWPACTPODS at pactcoffee.com for 50% off your first order!
They explain that huge areas of rainforest are being cleared to make way for more Bauxite mines, and also that the smelting of bauxite is both energy-intensive and harmful to the environment. They state that rivers are being diverted, dams being built to generate the electricity required for the smelters, huge areas of rainforest being cleared or submerged in reservoirs, and indigenous people are being forced off their land.
There are manufacturers of Nespresso compatible capsules who’re working on this. For example, check out these Eden Project fully compostable Nespresso compatible coffee pods – they don’t use Aluminium, or plastic, and you don’t have to empty them, just chuck the whole thing into the compost or food recycling bin.
You can get these on Amazon, also in Waitrose, and the Eden shop.
Nespresso themselves are sticking to Aluminium at the moment, but if more and more users choose to buy eco friendly Nespresso compatible pods, I’m sure this is something they will have to address at some point.
5: Nescafe’ and Nespresso Don’t Have Much in Common
Most people are aware that Nestlé is the owner of Nespresso, and that Nestlés other brands of course include Nescafe’. For this reason, some people make the assumption that Nespresso machines deliver the same Nescafe coffee via capsules.
This isn’t the case at all, in fact Nescafe’ and Nespresso employ quite different business models, and they don’t use the same coffee beans for their instant brands and for their Nespresso capsules.
Nescafe’ had been around quite some time when Nespresso was created, and they were keen not to allow Nespresso to negatively impact on their instant coffee sales. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the first time Nespresso was pitched to Nestlé, they turned it down for this reason. I suspect that the reason Nestlé finally decided to go forward with Nespresso, 8 years after the initial pitch, was that by this time they’d come to understand that the market they would be targeting with Nespresso would be an entirely different market.
By the way, it seems they were right. Instant coffee sales don’t appear to have been negatively impacted since Nespresso was created. In fact, sales of instant coffee in the UK is currently growing at a rate of 5.9% according to statistics firm Statista.
6: We Have Dualit to Thank for Nespresso Compatible Pods.
British firm Dualit stood up to Nestlé back in 2013, in a real David vs Goliath court case in which Nestlé sought to stop Dualit from selling compatible capsules (they sell compatible machines too), on the basis that their compatible pods were infringing their patents.
Despite Nestlé’s legal council completely dwarfing that of Dualit, with Dualit’s MD commenting that Nestlé outnumbered them five to one in terms of the number of lawyers they had thrown at this case, Dualit walked away victorious.
Dualit had some balls to do that. They had a net worth of just under 8 million at the time, so we’re not talking a one man band here, but they may have well of been compared to the likes of Nestlé – who made a net profit of about 8 billion in 2013.
It cost Dualit about a million quid in legal costs, so they really risked a lot to defend their right to produce compatibles.
If they hadn’t done this, though, or if they had lost the case, I would expect that we wouldn’t have the same range of compatibles available to us that we do today. Winning this case meant other smaller firms including small batch coffee roasters, could go ahead and produce Nespresso compatible capsules without the fear of being sued by Nestlé.
Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on Twitter, and that’s all I have to say about that.