How Nespresso pods work – The capsule coffee making process explained

how nespresso pods work

While the fancy, new coffee machines offer a variety of confusing buttons and the old machines make way too much coffee, the Nespresso keeps your morning nice and simple and offers you the one thing you need to get your morning going: a perfectly measured, freshly brewed espresso style drink or cup of coffee. Read on to find out how Nespresso pods work, how Nespresso works, and how Nespresso machines work.

Coffee capsules have recently received some flack; pro-capsule people love the convenience and taste of this perfectly packaged and tidy product, while anti-capsule people will tell you that capsules are one of the leading causes of landfills overflowing and exorbitant waste accumulating.

Both of these people are right. If you are a responsible capsule user, you’ll likely have collected all your used and empty capsules, and gone to have them recycled. Yes, some of the brands are non-recyclable, while others using recycling their pods as part of their brand activation, so choose wisely.

But what exactly goes into making your favourite coffee capsule? It’s all a very similar processes, with one or two differences between each, but generally the process is as follows:

Why Listen To Us? Well, because we KNOW coffee! In fact, we make our own coffee, coffee machine cleaners, and reusable capsules which we've sold to over 41 countries. Our team ouf experts include Tristan (an engineer), Claire (a food writer) and Richy (a barista). So, whether you're looking for a recipe or repair guide, we've got you covered 💚

How Nespresso pods are made

Your perfectly portioned cup of coffee or shot of espresso starts with the coffee capsule, also known as a coffee pod. The Nespresso name brand coffee capsules come from one of three factories in Switzerland. It is within these factories that the coffee beans are roasted, ground, and packed into the pods. Housed in each pod is 5-7 grams of ground coffee, just enough to make one perfectly portioned cup of espresso or coffee.

Nespresso pods are made from a lightweight aluminum canister, which is then capped with an aluminum lid in a process called hermetic sealing. This means it will retain its freshness for an extended period of time and won’t lose any of its freshness like an open bag of grounds will. Hermetic sealing is done by first filling the pods with nitrogen (an inert gas) and then the lid is quickly fused to the body, to prevent any oxygen entering the capsule and spoiling the coffee.

The capsules are finished by being painted in a food grade lacquer. This serves two purposes, firstly to color the pods in a way that the consumer can pick the flavor, and secondly to protect the aluminum from corroding and potentially disintegrating.

As you would imaadine, the manufacturing of coffee capsules is done on an industrial-scale; conveyor belts, heavy machinery – you get the idea. We’ve broken the manufacturing process down into 8 steps

  1. Firstly, and within an entirely different machine, your coffee beans are ground to one uniform size. This is one of the most vital steps, as consistency in your product’s quality is what really makes a brand stand out.
  2. On the assembly line, all the pre-form plastic “cups” (usually different colours to denote different flavours or variants of the coffee) are slotted into place on the packaging machine.
  3. Once all the cups are allotted to the right place, a conveyor belt moves the cups along the assembly line. The cups are filled with pre-ground coffee; while the cups are being filled, aluminium caps are being cut out, to be placed over the top of the cup and sealed immediately. This is usually done with laser precision, as sealing the capsule is the one and only way to guarantee freshness.
  4. Some coffee capsule manufacturers make use of internal plastic filter, which allow for a greater pressure to be placed onto the coffee brewing process when they are inserted into the capsule machine. Not all coffee capsules contain this mechanism. If the filter needs to be fitted: One filter is fitted with the pre-form plastic cup, and the other is added just after the cup is filled with coffee, before capping it.
  5. Once the aluminium top has been fitted, the capsule is removed from the assembly line and inspected for leaks, cracks, broken pieces and general defects. This inspection is performed with advanced tools, to check the Carbon Monoxide levels within the capsule (this is an indicator as to whether any air has been able to seep into your capsule and thus destroy the flavour of your coffee).
  6. Some of the capsules are actually fitted into a capsule machine and brewed, to ensure that the brewing of the coffee still produces top quality drinks. If any imperfections are detected – even until this stage – the entire batch may be pulled or recalled.
  7. Once this is done, they are packaged according to coffee type of capsule style into their respective boxes.
  8. Your coffee capsules are then delivered to you, and into your cup. Voila!

How Nespresso Pods Work

It is important to note that there are two different lines of Nespresso machines and they take different types of pods. The OriginalLine series of Nespresso machines take a cylinder shaped pod with a dome top. These pods look like the creamer pods you would find at a local diner. The VertuoLine series of Nespresso machines takes a pod shaped like dome or half circle. Whichever machine you choose; it is important to order the pods that go with that machine as they are not cross compatible.

What is the difference between Nespresso OrignalLine and VertuoLine

While the basic functions of the Nespresso machines are the same, there are slight differences with the two lines of machines. The Original line uses a high pressure hot water to ‘extract’ espresso coffee from the compact coffee grouds in the capsule. The pressure is typically 19 bar and the temperature is around 93-95 degrees Celsius. This process is identical to how baristas make coffee in cafes, just on a fancier machine.

The VertuoLine system has tried to revolutionized the espresso making process (if you;’ll excuse the pun) by rather than using a high pressure pump, it uses a centrifugal type system. This machine injects hot water into the middle of the capsule while simultaneously spinning the coffee capsule quickly at around 7000rpm. The high speed creates a centrifugal force, in theory equivalent to the 19bar applied by the normal Nespresso machine

How does the Nespresso system work?

So, how does Nespresso work? There are two lines of Nespresso machines with multiple machine options in each line. One line is the Original Series and the other is the Vertuo Series. Take a look through them and see which one will best fit your coffee loving needs as well as your kitchen decor.

Regardless of which machine you choose, they all offer the same options: a shot of espresso or a single serve cup of coffee. While the machines do make coffee, they are designed more for espresso type drinks, rather than multi-flavor specialty coffees. All Nespresso machines use coffee capsules also known as “coffee pods”. The Nespresso brand coffee pods can be ordered online through the Nespresso website itself or through your favorite online websites like Amazon or eBay. This makes them easily accessible and you can order them online so you never have to worry about running out of them and having a coffee emergency!

With the Original series line of Nespresso machines, you have the option just for espresso style drinks. With the Vertuo line, you get a few more options, which is important to note when making your decision. The Vertuo line gives you the option for espresso style drinks as well as “lungo” drinks, which are more like the standard coffee cup size. As mentioned earlier, the machines take different style pods and it’s important to pay attention to which line of machines you purchased from.

How Nespresso Machines Work

The Nespresso machines work much more simply than your standard coffee pot, and offer more options for your morning beverage. Like a new coffee pot however, the new Nespresso machine must be cleaned before you brew that first espresso shot. To do this, simply turn the machine on, allowing it to heat up, and then brew a few batches of plain hot water. This allows the hot water to run through, without collecting any coffee on the way, in turn cleaning the machine and getting it prepped for you to make coffee with.

Once the Nespresso machine is cleaned and you’re ready to make your morning coffee, simply push the “espresso” or “lungo” button on the Original series machines or the “on” button on the Vertuo series machines to turn the machine on. While the machine warms up, lights will flash on top letting you know that the Nespresso machine is on. The flashing lights on top will turn to a solid light once the machine is ready to be used. While waiting for it to warm up however, make sure the water reservoir has been filled up to the fill line so the machine will have water to pull for whichever coffee option you choose. For the water reservoir, tap water is perfectly acceptable, adding to the overall ease off the machine. However, the higher quality of water you use, the higher quality your coffee will taste.

Once the water reservoir is full, you can insert the coffee capsule into the machine. Depending on the Nespresso machine you have, the machine will pierce the capsule, creating either one hole on top or three holes on bottom. These punctured holes in the aluminum are for the water to enter into so your coffee can begin brewing. You have the option to choose if you’d like a shot of espresso or a full cup of coffee, so choose wisely! Once you make your selection, the machine will automatically collect the required amount of water from the tank. The water is then heated up using a heating element built into the machine. Once heated, the water enters into the coffee capsule through the punctured holes. The pressure from the heated water causes the bottom of the capsule to rupture. This rupturing of aluminum releases the brewed coffee from the capsule through a funnel on the machine, and into your awaiting cup! In general, the espresso option provides 40mL of coffee, while the lungo option provides 110mL. It’s important to note that if you are using a Vertuo machine, you may need to adjust the tray that holds your coffee cup, as it can move closer to the spout for the espresso style drinks. With the Vertuo machine, you can also press the coffee cup button to st0p and start the flow of coffee, allowing you to decided if you would like more or less than the standard 110mL.

As an extra step to care for your machine, you have the option of running a “rinse” cycle after you brew your espresso style drink. All you have to do is turn the machine on, but don’t insert a coffee pod. Allow the water to warm up and pass through the machine into a coffee cup, which you can then pour out. This will help keep the Nespresso machine running smoothly. It’s important to note that in the Vertuo line of machines, to use this feature, you must turn the lever on the head of the machine to the locked position. In addition to running a rinse cycle, wiping the tray down after making coffee will help keep the machine running smoothly and ready for the next cup.

Periodically, the empty coffee capsules must be disposed of. In both lines of Nespresso machines, the empty pods are collected inside the machine. To dispose of them, it’s as easy as pushing the lever and exposing the used pods for removal. Just be sure to relock the lever on the Vertuo machines before you use the machine again!

In addition to all this magical coffee creation, the Nespresso machine has a safety feature that allows you not to worry about your machine. Within the machine is a safety pressure release valve. This valve resides in the brewing chamber and keeps the machine flowing smoothly. On the off chance that a blockage occurs in the coffee spout, this valve will keep your Nespresso machine running safely.

With the variety of machines Nespresso provides, the variety of the Nespresso pods, and the ease of how the Nespresso machines work, you are sure to find a machine that fits your lifestyle and your coffee style!

  1. Casing: This is made from tough ABS plastic or stainless steel on the high end machines. It’s designed as a two-part clam-shell so the inside parts can be fitted together easily.
  2. Water heater (Thermoblock): In the original design, this is a 1550-watt heater (compared to the 2000–3000 watt heating elements in typical electric kettles). It can heat enough water to make a coffee from about 20°C to about 85°C (70°F to 185°F) in under a minute.
  3. Water pump: This powerful pump can move almost a liter of water in a minute; in practice, it doesn’t need to move anything like so much to make a single cup of coffee. Its job is to move the water from the (blue) tank at the back into the (red) water heater and then through the coffee pod. It works at a pressure of 1–2 bars (roughly 1–2 times normal atmospheric pressure). That might sound a lot, but it’s considerably lower pressure than in a typical espresso machine, which works at more like 8–15 times atmospheric pressure.
  4. Air compressor: After the coffee is dispensed, this blows pressurized air through the machine to ensure that all the pipes are clear, ready for brewing the next cup.
  5. Water tank: This holds roughly 1.5 liters of water. It sits on the back of the machine and has a spring-loaded valve at the bottom, where it clips onto the water pump.

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