Weighing the value of a Nespresso machine purchase

Is Nespresso worth it?

I can’t blame you for asking. Use of single-serve coffee machines is rapidly rising, with 40 per cent of U.S. homes now reportedly owning one. Given their convenience and quality, I don’t see this trend slowing down.

I must admit that personally I’ve assumed these capsule coffee machines were a wasteful fad that couldn’t possibly make a decent cup of coffee. But given their popularity, particularly of Nespresso, I decided to challenge that assumption and find out if purchasing a Nespresso machine is really worth the investment. The answer surprised me.

Nespresso is worth it because the combination of ease and consistency simply beats all other options. These machines allow anyone to brew quality espresso in just over a minute. The machines cost less than half as much as a decent home espresso machine, and even the ongoing capsule costs are cheaper than a daily trip to the coffee shop.

Nespresso coffee and three coffee capsules at the edge of a table

They aren’t going to be for everyone. If you’re a top-level coffee geek, you’ll probably find a few flaws, but when it comes to the average consumer, you get a lot for your money.

Let’s break down the most important factors when considering a Nespresso machine, and you can see if it’s worth it to you. 

Taste

The taste of your coffee is arguably the most important aspect when considering a new brewing method. What people expect and enjoy, however, ranges greatly. It’s completely subjective.

I take this photo for a Nespresso contest (I don’t win ?) but I love it ? from r/nespresso

If you’re someone who can’t start your day without an espresso or cappuccino from your local artisanal coffee shop, or you’ve dialed in your AeroPress to the point of perfection, you might find Nespresso coffee to be a bit underwhelming. But if you typically buy lattes from a chain coffee shop, or have been drinking grocery store filter coffee for years, a Nespresso machine will be a major improvement in your morning routine.

Nespresso offers a wide range of coffee flavors and intensities, which means you can customize your brew and find one that suits your mood.

Nespresso capsules in a box
The number of coffees available to you with Nespresso is finite, but they do keep it interesting.

The ability to tailor how much caffeine you take in is a huge plus, in my opinion. Sometimes you need a full boost to get your day started, and other times you just want that light afternoon pick-me-up that won’t keep you up all night.

Each machine includes a mixed pack of capsules so you can try out a few different blends (and their varying intensities) before you commit. From there you can stock up on your favorites or continue to experiment with a different mixed-pack option. 

Exterior of Nespresso boutique store in San Francisco
You can order online, or pick up your pods from a Nespresso boutique store.

If you can’t find a Nespresso blend that hits the mark for you, there is now a vast market of third-party producers to try out as well, often at lower prices, but only for the Original line. The Nespresso Vertuoline can only read the Nespresso brand capsule, which means you’re stuck with the flavors they offer, at a somewhat higher price point. 

Ease of use

Nespresso machines are ridiculously easy to use, consistent, and simple to clean and maintain. If you’re a massive espresso connoisseur, you might be willing to shell out a thousand bucks on a high-end regular espresso machine and go through the arduous process of learning how to make espresso at home. You might end up with a higher level product eventually, but very few people have the time or desire to commit at that level. There is a steep learning curve with all espresso machines, both home and commercial, and a poorly pulled shot of espresso will be much worse than a Nespresso shot, which you get at the touch of a button. 

As mentioned, Nespresso has two lines: the Original line and their newer Vertuoline.

The Original line of machines brews only espresso, so you’re limited in your beverage options, but they arguably pull the better espresso shot. Nespresso makes higher-end machines that have milk attachments as well, but they tend to have a steeper learning curve. The separate, easy-to-use Aeroccino milk frother is widely regarded as the better option for both taste and ease of use.

The Nespresso Vertuoline, which costs about $100 more per machine, uses patented “centrifusion” technology and has the ability to brew five different coffee sizes. You can brew a full cup of coffee with these machines. Vertuo capsules have barcodes, which the machine reads so it knows which style of coffee to brew. Again, foolproof.

I saw someone post this setup and I thought it was a brilliant way to store pods. We spent the morning making this and it costs $10 in supplies at most. Thank you to whoever the original poster was! from r/nespresso

With Vertuo, the larger coffee options (“coffee” and “alto”) come out rather like a long espresso, with arguably too much crema on top, which can result in a bitter finish.

Considering Vertuo’s lack of versatility when it comes to buying third-party capsules, I’d say the Original line is the best option for true espresso flavor, and you can easily add hot water to make yourself an Americano-style coffee. 

If you straight up prefer the taste of a regular coffee—whether it be drip, French press or AeroPress—you might be happier sticking to your tried-and-true method.

If you’re looking to improve your espresso game at home and don’t have the time or patience to deal with the learning curve and mess of a home espresso machine, Nespresso is a great choice and couldn’t be easier to use. 

Cleanup

Cleanup is virtually non-existent with Nespresso. Push a button and go. All the machines have at least some capacity for spent capsules, so you can use it several times before you even need to empty the drawer.

Spent capsule compartment of a Nespresso Pixie
Spent capsules collect in the compartment of a Nespresso Pixie.

The machine might need a quick wipe or rinse every few days, and you should do a thorough rinse regularly.

You should also descale your machine every few months. Nespresso sells descaling kits. They’re priced reasonably, so you might want to add to your next online order.

The more fastidious your cleaning regimen, the longer your machine will last and produce great-tasting coffee. But really, Nespresso requires less cleaning and maintenance than almost any other type of electric brewing method.

Check out our full articles on How to Use Your Nespresso Machine and Cleaning Your Nespresso Machine for more details on both processes.

Cost

Nespresso machines aren’t cheap, but you get what you pay for. They outperform all other capsule machines and most cheap home espresso machines, which typically deliver lackluster pressure that results in disappointing espresso.

If it’s top-quality espresso you’re after, you’ll have to shell out far more than a Nespresso machine costs to get a decent home espresso setup. Some of Nespresso’s smaller, more basic models have actually performed the best in blind taste tests, and if it’s just espresso you’re after then there’s little benefit to purchasing a fancier model.

Boxes of Nespresso capsules
© Luca Mascaro | Creative Commons

The price of the coffee itself can add up, with capsules ranging anywhere from around 80 cents to over a dollar apiece. As with most things, you can save a bit by buying in bulk. The pods are made of aluminum and vacuum-sealed, so their freshness is locked in for quite a long time. When compared to whole bean or ground coffee used for other brewing methods, Nespresso will definitely generate a higher monthly coffee cost, but if you frequent coffee shops for your espresso hit, you’ll end up saving substantially in the long run. 

 Cost of machineCost of AmericanoWeekdays per yearFirst year costs
Starbucks0$2.25260$585.00
Nespresso$100-$200$0.80260$308-$408

Waste

This is one of the main concerns for a lot of people, myself included. It was the biggest deterrent for me personally in the past. I assumed the capsules were destined for the landfill, which seemed like unnecessary and abundant waste. However, after doing a little digging into Nespresso’s capsule recycling program, I found it to be quite robust and moving ever closer to a closed-loop system. Nespresso capsules are aluminum which is infinitely recyclable, a far cry from plastic which can find new life only a couple of times, and with intense energy required for each transformation. 

Nespresso capsules, when disposed of properly, are fully recycled. The aluminum becomes new items and the coffee grounds becoming nutrient-rich compost. Of course, a lot of resources go into making the capsules in the first place, but Nespresso has invested plenty of time and money into encouraging people to recycle them. They are working toward producing the capsules with recycled aluminum, some of which will come from used capsules themselves. The mining of bauxite for aluminum is an intense process, but nearly 75 per cent of aluminum in current use is recycled, and Nespresso is committed to continuing toward closing this loop.

People still have to do their part and actually recycle the capsules, which takes an extra step or two but is really quite simple. Unfortunately, the overall recycling numbers are still quite low with only 30 per cent of all capsules being recycled. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including lack of access in some countries and more remote areas, as well as education and awareness. Nespresso is committed to expanding both of these.

Several other aspects of single brew machines make them more sustainable overall than a lot of other brew methods, and it was this surprising revelation that really won me over. You can read our full article on the sustainability of Nespresso for a more in-depth recycling breakdown and look at Nespresso’s sustainability practices.

Is Nespresso good value?

Color me surprised. I wasn’t a believer, but I have been swayed. If you’re not ready to commit the up-front cost and months of learning to perfect a full home espresso setup, Nespresso is definitely your next best option.