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Nespresso Crema Fact From Fiction

An article I published concerning Nepresso’s efforts to be a greener company has become a comment battleground for questions and attacks about Nespresso and their coffee. As I read through the myriad of comments on that short, fairly benign article, I was amazed how much people really hate Nespresso and the mother company Nestle. I honestly never intended for that article to be home to all this back and forth however as I regularly answer certain questions over and over I felt it was time to deal with it in a full blown article.

I understand that people, mostly espresso or environmental purists, don’t like pod based coffee machines. I am not asking people to love the machines, but what I would expect is that people not spread lies and urban legends about Nespresso/Nestle because one doesn’t like what they do or how they do it.

Before I go any further, a point of clarification. I am not, nor have I ever been employed, compensated or in any way paid by Nespresso for the things I write on this blog. I have been accused by some of being a shill for Nespresso: this is patently false. While I respect what Nespresso does, I write honestly about the company and its products. In fact if people would bother to read the articles I have written about coffee machines, they will see that I don’t even consider Nespresso to be the maker of the best tasting pod-based espresso; that title belongs to the Francis Francis X7.1 iperEspresso from Illy. Furthermore, if I were to ever find out that Nespresso were guilty of trickery with their coffee, I would trumpet that information just as loudly, if not more, than anything positive I have written.

Nespresso Legends


As to the integrity of the information I received on this topic, I have spoken with multiple Nespresso sources, and even knowledgeable people outside the company whom I trust, to obtain the truth about the Nespresso pods.

So without further ado the three most infamous claims against Nespresso:

1) There is more than coffee grounds in the pods

2) There is some form of CO2 or carbonation in the lining of the pods

3) The pods contain allergens

Let me start with the first legend. A couple of readers have asked about the purity of the pod contents and I have confirmed from my sources that the Nespresso line of coffee does not contain soluble or powdered coffee. There is only 100% high quality coffee inside every Nespresso capsule. This legend may be due to the the fact that some people have confused the Dolce Gusto and Nespresso products. Nestle makes a lower tier line called Dolce Gusto. This line is branded as Nescafe and uses Nescafe products, which does include soluble or powdered coffee in limited amounts. The coffee for the Dolce Gusto line is made in a Nestle factory in England whereas the Nespresso coffee is produced in a Nespresso-only plant in Switzerland. I am not a fan of this lesser line, which is made by Krups in China. The machine isn’t as well made and the finished coffee doesn’t taste good. Also, Dolce Gusto uses powdered milk for its coffeehouse drinks which causes frequent clogs and excessive maintenance. I always recommend that people avoid the Dolce Gusto machines.

Legend #2: Nespresso uses CO2 or carbonation in the lining of the pods to enhance the espresso crema. This is simply NOT true. There is no “extra” or enhanced foam being generated by the use of carbonated soda or other elements. In my experience with espresso machines, I can say that crema is generated by correct pressure brewing. Why can’t people understand that capsule or pod based machines are capable of producing proper crema? One reader was unable to replicate the crema with her Nespresso machine using a reusable capsule and this frustration led her to believe the CO2 legend. It’s important to note that Nespresso does not currently make reusable capsules. That said, she did not indicate which brand she was using, but I assume it is the CoffeeDuck Refillable Coffee Capsules For Nespresso. As I told her, the comment boards on Amazon are rife with unhappy CoffeeDuck customers. I have not tested the product myself, but I do know that crema can be elusive. Good espresso and therefore crema, is a delicate balance between temperature, pressure, water, coffee type and grind and of course the tamp. If the coffee is not tamped or packed into the CoffeeDuck capsule properly, then the crema will suffer as will the overall extraction.

I have made espresso on every type of machine available to the consumer and can tell you that it can be a frustrating experience learning a new machine. I have made many undrinkable shots, drinkable shots with poor crema and all related combinations. I can imagine that it is challenging to make sure a reusable capsule is packed or tamped properly so that a machine such as Nespresso could produce a tasty espresso with good crema. But being unable to reproduce the same crema when not using the Nespresso pods does not mean that Nespresso is using some trick.

The best article I have seen on the subject of crema is on Sweet Maria’s coffee website. After you read that article, you will understand why espresso crema is a misunderstood and finicky beast.

The fact remains that Nespresso machines produce a good crema the correct way without the use of carbonation components in the capsule lining or in the coffee grounds.

Legend #3: The capsules or coffee contains allergens. The lining of the Nespresso pods are gluten free & free from soy or other possible allergens. The aluminum capsules are coated with a vegetable based coating on the inside to protect the coffee from any interactions with the aluminum. This is the same type of coating you find on vegan and vegetarian canned goods. Nespresso will not give out the actual formula of this lining as they consider it to be proprietary. If for no other reason than legal liability, Nestle, like any company, will do everything they can to ensure that no one has an allergic reaction. Also as mentioned before, the pods contain only coffee. The only exception would be the special flavored coffees that are offered during the holidays. These flavored coffees use all natural oils and flavors to achieve a certain taste profile and if someone has sensitive allergies, they should probably avoid the flavored capsules. Personally I never liked the taste of the special flavored coffees, not because they are unsafe, but I simply didn’t like them.

Other Complaints

While the above topics represent the vast majority of the legends/lies spread about Nespresso, there is one other area of contention that involves not only Nespresso, but all single serve coffee machines. This would be the environmental affects of creating the pods and the waste they create.

While Nespresso was first, and remains a leader in the area of capsule based coffee machines, all companies, Keurig, CBTL, Tassimo and now Starbucks are “guilty” of these so called offenses.

To quote one of my earlier articles, “Aside from the additional energy needed to create the capsules and the carbon gases generated by this process, there is waste produced by the spent capsules. Even though the manufacturers are attempting to deal with this capsule waste by using metals and plastics that can be recycled in community programs and establishing collection points regionally, the fact remains that very few capsules will make their way to a recycling plant. The main reason for this is that most of the capsules are still not recyclable. Even for those that are easily recycled such as Nespresso’s aluminum pods, the sad truth is that not enough of us take the time to recycle as we should.”

One reader (associated with the company?) left a comment about a company called Outpresso who manufactures a simple device to make the disposal and recycling of Nespresso pods easy. It is a UK company who now sells in North America, http://www.outpresso-usa.com and their product looks like something Nespresso users should own.

As I said, I cannot defend the green house gases or the waste problem with the spent pods, but I do know this: capsule based coffee machines are here to stay and no amount of lies are going to change that fact. Rather than casting aspersions on these companies, we should do our best to encourage people to recycle and reuse the empty pods. People can buy reusable pods/capsules for several of the brands and we can also compost the coffee grounds to minimize our affects on the environment.

I hope this summary helps clarify the issues surrounding Nespresso products but I know that it will not stop the attack comments on Nespresso in the other article. If nothing else, I now have a place to send the “haters” when new comments on the same subjects arise in the future.

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All links in this post are associated with affiliate partners who pay a commission to this site if you purchase products from them, except Sweet Maria’s and Outpresso. I receive no compensation or benefit whatsoever from these two web sites.

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9 Responses to “Nespresso Crema Fact From Fiction”

  1. Mikhail

    I used non-nespresso resealable capsules and I was able to achieve a comparable crema

  2. Mike

    Not, actually, a particularly detailed or knowledgeable writing vis-a-vis traditional crema extraction. Virtually all traditionalists, and even more so ‘purists’, will insist on crema through a non-pressurized portafilter (a portafilter is the filter head that holds the coffee in a traditional espresso machine). It has many fine holes, like a fine sieve. A pressurized portafilter has but one or two such holes to permit the coffee through and develops much of its crema through a kind of pressurized aeration. This is not so of non-pressurized (traditional) portafilter, which releases gases . And as a result, the chemical composition is different -and so is the taste. crema from a traditional portafilter has smaller, finer bubbles and lasts longer in the cup. The taste is, in fact, creamier and sweeter.

    That said, Nespresso is a different process -but uses something technologically akin to a pressurized portafilter. Herein lies a certain failing, or limitation of Nespresso machines.

  3. KitchenBoy

    Thank you Mike, I appreciate your reasoning. But your explanation still refutes those who say that there is manipulation of the coffee via substances like sodium bicarbonate or CO2.

    I am the first one to admit I don’t understand the technical process as well as you seem to, I approach the machines that I use from the perspective of the end user. I read manuals and use the machines and suffer through the same frustration or elation as they do.

    Again, I have no problem with people not liking the machines or the resulting coffee, but what I am out to do is prevent lies from being told and spread via my website.

    The irony is that Nespresso themselves have been unwilling to be my aide in this quest. If someone had explained to me what you just did, I would have appreciated it greatly. In my estimation the things you just explained do not compromise their patents or processes to the point that it would hurt their profitability. These companies are often their own worst enemy with all this secretive behavior.

    Thanks again.

  4. Mike

    Yes, on that issue (bicarbonate,CO2) you were right -but, honestly, it’s a minor one. It doesn’t get at the main lines of criticism of ‘faux’ crema and untrue expresso making according to virtually all espresso enthusiasts. In talking about ‘crema’ this issue simply must be addressed. My remarks were intended to address the meaning of ‘crema’ and to show why Nespresso does not have it. In short, it results in a different, less fulsome and less sweet, taste. In this regard some enthusiasts rightly call the claim that Nespresso has crema a lie (or exaggeration, inasmuch as it may be part-and-part).

    I think you will find that among consumers concerned with making a true espresso, seeking ‘crema,’ and evaluating Nespresso, that this a much greater concern than the three ‘legends’ you discuss. There may not additives, or foreign matter in Nespresso, but the issue of crema is still largely decided against.

    Best,

    Mike

  5. Mike

    No, it is untrue to think that because a machine uses a ‘pod,’ it must use extra pressure to make espresso crema. Depends on the pod and the system. Many pods are designed to develop the amount of resistance and pressure without additional pressurization by the machine. That is true for many better espresso machines with ESE pod adapters; for example my Francis Francis. It is also true for the capsule-based Lavazza Espresso Point machine. I am sure there are many others.

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