Nespresso No-Nos: ‘Ultimate Guide’ to elevate your coffee game

By Barath
Last Updated:

Do you own a Nespresso original or Vertuo machine? Then, I guarantee you are missing out on a lot of tips and tricks to improve your Nespresso brew every morning.

As many as 95% of Nespresso users do not know the different hidden settings that the machine has, nor do they know how to brew a perfect cup of Nespresso(barista style) without shelling out a lot of money on frother and other accessories.

An increasing number of people are trying out ‘dirty hacks’ that reduce the longevity of the machine and pay no attention to good maintenance for getting a tasty coffee at the end of the day.

There are 10 ‘No-Nos’ when it comes to your Nespresso, be it an Original line or a Vertuo line and I compiled this ‘Ultimate Guide’ to help you not make those mistakes. Additionally, I have also included tips on getting a tasty brew out of your Nespresso and some guidelines on choosing a good Nespresso capsule! Enjoy!

Vertuo Line Mistakes

Ignoring the Cleaning Alerts

In a Vertuo line machine, there are multiple blinking lights indicating that something isn’t right with your machine. Are you stuck with a Red light? or an Orange light? It is time to descale or clean your machine.

I strongly recommend descaling your machine properly every 2 months. The primary reasons for descaling are

  1. Better coffee flavor. Guaranteed improvement in the flavor of your coffee.
  2. Coffee is not watery. Finding that the coffee is lacking the texture it used to have? Time to descale.
  3. Coffee does not taste burnt. If you are feeling that the coffee is turning bitter or burnt, the machine is overworking! DESCALE!

On the other hand, cleaning keeps your machine from clogging up, giving a foul odor, and retaining the flavor of the capsule. I recommend cleaning your Nespresso

  1. If you have the habit of using multiple flavored coffee capsules, run a cleaning cycle once in the morning
  2. Remove stuck coffee debris. It also helps keep the capsule mouth, and needle head clean of any clogging.
  3. Keep the Nespresso coffee stain-free, especially the capsule holder. It starts becoming sticky after a while, manual cleaning is a better fit here.

Do not use Citric acid or Vinegar as a descaling agent, Use the Nespresso descaling agent (Recommended). Read the guide for proper descaling technique with Nespresso.

Following improper capsule hacks

Having used a Vertuo line machine for over 2 years (and breaking a machine), I primarily learned that Vertuo line is built so that you keep re-purchasing the coffee capsules. Is it good? bad? I don’t know, but the capsules themselves aren’t over-priced and you can think about buying an espresso for less than a dollar!

However, some have found Faulty hacks that use reusable capsules/capsule sheets to refill a used pod and brew. DO NOT DO THIS!

Why you ask?

  1. Firstly, the aluminum foil on your capsule needs to be nitrogen/hermetically sealed. So the slightest press with a needle pops the capsule in the optimal location and ensures that the coffee grounds don’t escape through the holes.
  2. The foil has to be a certain thickness to be pierced easily, if a thicker membrane or plastic capsules are used, it won’t pierce properly

Hacks like the one below, damage the needle by bending it to the side because it has to put a lot more pressure to pierce the covering.

Please do not do this with your Nespresso

Overlooking Water Quality

Impact of hard water on the insides of a copper tube
Impact of hard water on the insides of a copper tube. Source: Homecoffeewizard

Are you using unfiltered water? The impact is a lot more than you can imagine. Hard water that is usually available through the tap, can have a drastic impact on the copper tubes that are inside the machine.

Hard water forms the calcium scales faster and impacts the taste, flavor, and temperate of your coffee

Filtering the water is much easier than you think, include a simple water filter like activated charcoal or a filtering bag into the water reservoir.

Suppress the machine noise properly

In my experience, Vertuo line machines make a lot of noise when they brew. They are one of the noisiest machines I have owned. What has always helped is

  1. Remove the lid on the water tank when brewing! Even though it is counterintuitive, the lid produces some jarring noise when the brewing starts
  2. Place a piece of cloth or a paper towel under the machine. It reduces the tank noise and alerts you of any spillage or leakage.

Flush the machine for a better brew

Flushing the machine (10-15 second cleaning cycle) is a simple technique where you start the cleaning cycle wait for the water to heat up and stop the cleaning by pressing the brew button (for Vertuo models)

The flushing is a good technique to do a quick clean and also increase the flavor of the coffee because the water is hot enough for the immediate next brew.

Try the gourmet/barista capsules

  1. Check out the Starbucks capsule if you want to explore outside the “Nespresso” line capsules
  2. Check out holiday flavors or the barista brew capsules for a different flavor profile
  3. I have tried a lot of Nespresso capsules over 2 years, and have grown only to like 2 to 3 capsules. They vary based on the price, coffee strength, and overall flavor profile.

Don’t force the lid shut

Forcing the lid to lock is not a good sign. It should shut with minimal pressure and you should hear the capsule break almost instantly.
Forcing the lid to lock is not a good sign. It should shut with minimal pressure and you should hear the capsule break almost instantly.

If you begin to feel resistance when you are “locking” the lid (applicable for Vertuo Next and Vertuo Pop models), there is a higher chance of debris filling up on the mouth of the upper lid.

This is the time to clean the machine properly using a wet cloth/toothbrush and let it dry out. Clean the crevices with proper care and run 2 or 3 cleaning cycles.

Over-extending the “lever” might cause the Needle to bend if you are not paying attention. The moment you feel a lot of resistance when locking the lid is a cue for you to clean the machine manually.

Original Line machine’s mistakes

Avoid Thick or Sugary Fillings in Reusable Pods

Using thick or sugary filling (like extra strong chocolate coffee capsules) can clog the machine’s brewing mechanisms and obstruct water flow, leading to poor espresso quality.

These substances can also cause long-term damage to the machine, resulting in a need to replace your machine. To maintain optimal machine performance and longevity, it’s best to avoid adding anything that could interfere with its operation. Stick to recommended coffee grinds for the best results. For more coffee capsule options check the last section in this article.

Neglecting cleaning of the drip tray and capsule container

Neglecting to clean the drip tray and capsule container of your Nespresso machine can lead to hygiene problems and operational issues.

Accumulated spills and used capsules can foster mold and bacteria growth, posing health risks and attracting pests.

Additionally, this neglect can obstruct the machine’s function, potentially causing leaks or altering the taste of your coffee.

As a rule of thumb, manually clean your coffee container basket and drip tray every month. A lot of people complain that the capsule container starts smelling bad which ultimately results in a bad coffee experience.

Incorrect Cup Size Selection

Choosing the wrong cup size setting on a Nespresso Original line machine can drastically affect your coffee’s taste by causing under-extraction or over-extraction.

If too little water is used, the coffee will be weak and acidic, lacking depth of flavor. Conversely, too much water leads to a bitter, overly strong brew.

Matching the cup size setting with the capsule type is essential to unlock the full range of flavors Nespresso offers. Ensuring correct settings helps in enjoying the desired strength and richness in each cup.

I have talked about this in-depth in my guide to extracting the best coffee from Nespresso.

Forcing the Lever Closed on a Full Capsule Container

Forcing the lever closed on a Nespresso Original line machine with a full capsule container can damage its internal mechanisms. This excessive force can cause jams or break critical components, leading to expensive repairs or the need for a replacement.

You will find that the capsule starts jamming if the capsule basket becomes full. I have faced this issue in the Inizia model where the front basket is too small to hold more than 6-8 capsules. Don’t force it any further, and always keep an eye on the amount of capsules that have filled up in the basket.

Such actions also compromise the machine’s performance and coffee quality. Regularly emptying the capsule container is essential to prevent these problems.

Better Maintenance

Ignoring Regular Maintenance Alerts

Nespresso machines, both Original and Vertuo lines, issue maintenance alerts for tasks like descaling, emptying the capsule container, cleaning the drip tray, and checking the water tank.

Responding promptly to these alerts ensures optimal performance and longevity of the machine by maintaining hygiene and preventing mechanical issues.

Proper adherence to these maintenance routines guarantees the consistent quality of your coffee.

Know more about fixing all the Vertuo-related issues, believe me, there can be a handful that cause problems if you don’t act on them.

Recycle the Used Capsules

Nespresso emphasizes sustainability through its dedicated capsule recycling program, acknowledging the environmental impact of single-use coffee pods.

The company provides specialized recycling bags and collection points where customers can drop off used capsules. These capsules are then processed to separate the coffee grounds from the aluminum.

The coffee grounds are composted or repurposed for agricultural uses, such as natural fertilizer, while the aluminum is recycled to produce new products. This initiative not only reduces waste but also contributes to a circular economy, allowing materials to be reused and repurposed efficiently.

Nespresso’s commitment to recycling underscores the importance of making sustainable choices and encourages users to participate in these efforts to minimize their environmental footprint.

You can usually drop these capsules at a dedicated drop-off point. To know more use this official drop-of-point finder

Better Coffee Extraction

Concentrated extraction mode

If you are using Vertuo Pop, try the concentrated coffee mode. This reduces the water level but increases the rpm to produce a thicker brew that tastes concentrated.
However, Vertuo Next and Vertuo Plus variants do not have this option, instead, you can control the water level by pressing the brew button again to reduce the amount of water in your coffee. This is remembered by the machine and uses the same setting every time.

This option is unfortunately available only for Vertuo line machines. For a concentrated cup of coffee in the Original line machine, insert a lungo or double-espresso capsule but press the espresso button to brew a stronger shot of coffee.

Capsule Choices

Some awesome capsules that you should try at least once. These are crowd favorites, and also include some of my personal favorites!

Vertuo CapsuleOriginal CapsuleQuantity
Bianco DoppioItalian NapoliDouble-espresso/espresso
Bianco PiccoloIntensoEspresso
Double Espresso ScuroDouble-espresso
Golden CaramelFortissoMug/Reverso
Iced LeggeroMug
Starbucks Blonde RoastStarbucks Blonde RoastEspresso
Nespresso barista flavorsStarbucks Toffee NutEspresso/Lungo
Some of the most liked coffee capsules for first-time buyers!

Guide to choosing a good recipe for Nespresso capsules

There are over 100 recipes on the official Nespresso website to try yourself. If you have ever walked into the Nespresso boutique and asked for a sample to taste, they don’t just brew the capsule as it is and give it to you. They follow these recipes to make it taste better. These are hand-crafted and tested and I picked a few for you to try out.

That being said, not all recipes are mandatory for a good Nespresso brew. The only thing you need is

Moccha Latte – A simple livento/espresso capsule, some chocolate, and frothed milk. You get an awesome-tasting Moccha latte. I have tried this and it is amazing!!

Choco fudge Viennois – A rich alternative to a plain and simple coffee all the time. Enjoy with some pistachio and other nuts as per your taste

Gourmand Roasted Hazelnut – Another rich twist to your plain Roasted Hazelnut brew. Use agave syrup(used as an alternative to sugar) as given in the recipe or can also use a sprinkle of honey for a really gourmet brew

For more recipes, check the official page with 1000 more recipes

Barath is a coffee lover, who has been brewing his coffee at home for several years. He talks about coffee tasting, brewing guides and much more in home coffee wizard. Follow barath on X (twitter) @diputsC