Why Are Dolce Gusto Pods Numbered? (It’s Not What You Think..)

The green pods what do the numbers on dolce gusto pods mean

Dolce Gusto is a popular range of single use coffee pods made by NESTLE. They are cheap, tasty, and pack more coffee per serving than the more well-known ‘Nespresso’ pods (which we really like!)

But, In the rush for convenience, we often overlook some of the nuances on the packing such as what type of coffee it is, and how to best prepare it.

Do you know that they have a tiny number printed on the packaging? Or what the green bars mean? In this article, we’re going to explain two common questions about Dolce Gusto capsules.

  • What the numbers on the pods mean
  • What the bar scale icon on the pods mean

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 💚

Why are Dolce Gusto pods numbered?

The numbers on a Dolce Gusto pod refer to the “intensity” of the coffee, a straightforward visual scale, created by Nespresso, the most renowned coffee pod manufacturer, to facilitate the consumer’s purchasing experience. This number goes from 1 – 13 where the higher the number, the higher the intensity.

Does High Intensity Mean High Caffeine?

When we buy high-intensity coffee capsules, we tend to think that this is the most caffeinated option, the one that will give us more energy. Therefore, the one we want to start the day with. And it is only natural for us to assume that, due to the vagueness of the term “intensity”. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) has revealed in a recent report that this term is used by brands to classify all their specialties, but that it is relatively independent of the amount of caffeine in the product.

According to the experts, the reality is that intensity is a term that is only traditionally used in coffee tasting to determine its taste and olfactory characteristics, that is, the degree to which we perceive the aromas in the nose and mouth. Many consumers continue to think that very bitter and “powerful” coffee, that almost slaps you in the face when swallowing it, is better as it contains more caffeine. For this reason, roasted coffee continues to be overused worldwide.

What Factors Influence The Coffee Intensity?

The origin of the bean, the type of grinding and roasting, the extraction method, the water, the cleanliness of the coffee pot, the amount of ground coffee, and the infusion time are factors that influence both the “intensity” and the level of caffeine.

In Fact, the company itself says “they select the rating based on the grounds to water, ratio, roast, and bitterness.” Therefore, we can summarise ‘Intensity’ as the following:

  • Bitterness
  • Roast Level
  • Arabica vs. Robusta
  • Balance

1. Bitterness

A bitter coffee with a lot of body is considered intense by Dolce Gusto standards. Such coffees get a grade of 8 or higher on the intensity scale. The ones that are rated at 6 or lower are considered as “not intense”.

2. Roast Level

Darker roasts have more intensity. The longer and hotter the roasting conditions the more bitterness, smoke, chocolate, and other intense flavor notes are produced.

If you want intense coffee, look for a dark roast.

2. Arabica vs. Robusta Beans

The variety of coffee is another of the determining factors that influence the intensity, and the most common are robusta and arabica. The OCU explains that a 100% robusta coffee can triple the amount of caffeine, while the arabica is lighter, with a more acidic, fruity, and complex flavor. If both varieties are combined, the resulting product is usually more bitter and rougher, with earthy and nutty flavors.

4. Balance

Unfortunately, the scale says nothing of the balance of those attributes. So, a marking of 8 or 9 can easily mean that you are brewing a cup that has a lot of body but very fruity in flavor, or a rather bitter brew with little coffee solids.

Is the Intensity Rating The Same Between Brands?

Unfortunatly not.

Depending on the manufacturer, the intensity can be announced in different ways, either with adjectives (strong or intense, for example) or with numbers. However, as the term “intensity”, according to experts, is not a standardized parameter, each brand uses its own scale; which means that although they share numbers or adjectives, two coffees from different manufacturers can present a different intensity.

The OCU insists on the need to agree on a common system to indicate the intensity of coffee so that it can be easily understood how much it can vary. “The range of the scale varies according to the manufacturer’s taste and it is impossible to compare between products of different brands because there is no unified scale,” they warn in the report.

This can make it a challenge to choose which pods we want, how intense. But since each of us is accustomed to a particular brand, such as Dolce Gusto, for example, we can stick to our favorite brand’s guidelines.

What Do The Bars On A Dolce Gusto Pod Mean?

The next question we’re often asked about is the tapered bar graphic that’s printed on every pod. While obvious to some, this has caused a lot of confusion for others.

The bars on the Dolce Gusto capsules indicate how much water to set your Dolce Gusto coffee machine to extract. For example. an espresso-type capsule will show 1 or 2 bars shaded in, to extract only the smallest amount of extra strong coffee. Conversely, an americano type pod will have all of the bars shaded in, instructing you to set the water to the max and fill a full coffee mug.

The Green Pods Dolce Gusto Water requirement rating on the capsule

It’s important to note this is only a recommendation. While the pods have been designed for this specific brew ratio, coffee is coffee at the end of the day. If you want to draw an Espresso from your long black capsule that’s totally OK!


To summarise, the small integer number refers to the intensity, much like Nespresso use on their pods. This is an overall intensity to summarise roast, body, bitterness, and caffeination. The bar icons on the pods however represent how much water you need to set your dolce gusto machine to use when extracting the capsules.

We hope this helps. Let us know in the comments down below if you find the ratings helpful, or if you have your own way of judging what you get from each capsule.

Not sure what your Dolce Gusto coffee is tasting so.. average..? Check out this guide as to why do dolce gusto dods taste bad? And how to fix it!

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