It’s early morning and you’ve just woken up, excited to start your day with a fresh cup of Nespresso coffee. As you wait for your java to brew, you anticipate the rich, smooth taste of your favorite blend.
But as you take the first sip, you’re hit with a bitter, burnt aftertaste that lingers in your mouth.
We’ve also experienced this unpleasant sensation, and it’s off-putting.
After doing our own testing, and scouring the internet, we found the 9 most likely reasons your Nespresso tastes burnt are the following:
- The machine needs cleaning
- The machine needs descaling
- The temperature settings are off
- You’ve selected the wrong cup size
- You’re using robusta coffee
- Your tap water is hard
- You’re using poor-quality capsules
- You’re using expired or unsealed pods
- The machine is defective
Carry on reading to find out why burnt-tasting coffee happens and techniques to make it taste like it used to.
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 💚
Table of Contents
What We Mean By “Burnt Tasting” Coffee
“Burnt tasting” coffee has an unpleasant and overpowering bitter, charred, or smoky taste. Coffee beans that have been sitting around for too long can produce a burnt or bitter taste.
But there are several other factors that contribute to burnt, sour, or bitter coffee.
9 Reasons Why Your Nespresso Tastes Burnt, Sour, Or Bitter
Here’s what we found causes harsh and astringent-tasting coffee.
1. You have not regularly cleaned your machine
Any parts of your brewer that interact with grinds are bound to be tainted by coffee oils. If you put off cleaning for too long, flavors from the previous brew will transfer into your fresh brew. If you haven’t already, clean your machine using cleaning agents dedicated to your Nespresso machine.
2. Nespresso needs descaling
Similar to cleaning your machine, descaling removes residual coffee. Your machine should alert you when descaling is due, but Nespresso recommends you descale your appliance every 3-6 months.
If you have been neglecting this cue, it will be worth your while to set aside 30 minutes to an hour and give the appliance a deep clean. Descaling not only removes coffee residue, but it also gets rid of mineral build-up. Build-up can clog your machine, resulting in under-extracted coffee.
3. Nepresso temperature setting
Your machine’s temperature setting can have a significant impact on the taste of the coffee. If the temperature is too high, it can cause over-extraction, resulting in burnt-tasting coffee, while a low temperature can produce sour coffee from under-extraction.
Most brewers have preset optimum brew temperatures–82℃ (180℉) for the Original line and 78℃ (172℉) for the Vertuo line.
If this is not an ideal temperature for you, you can warm up the machine before brewing. For Original, leave the used capsule in the holder and run a single brew cycle, and for the Vertuo line, run a cleaning cycle 10-20 seconds before you brew.
4. Using the wrong cup size setting
When coffee is over-extracted, it can lead to a burnt or bitter taste. The reverse is also true. When not enough flavor and acidity are extracted, it results in a sour-tasting coffee.
If you brew Lungo with an espresso pod, more water interacts with the grounds, resulting in a burnt or bitter taste. And if you brew an espresso with a Lungo pod, too little water passes through, resulting in a sour or acidic taste.
5. It’s the Robusta coffee
The most prevalent coffee variety is robusta. It has low growing requirements, making it cheaper and readily available. Not only does it have a high caffeine content, but it also has a robust taste because of its high chlorogenic acid content.
6. Your water is too hard (check your water hardness setting)
Hard water is laden with calcium, magnesium, and carbonate, and Nespresso is well aware of how this constitutes a bitter, dull, and often chalky coffee. That’s why they provide a test sticker. You can configure your machine according to the results of your tap water on your first use. If you incorrectly calibrated your machine, double-check your settings and reset it.
7. You are using expired or unsealed pods
Pods are filled with regular ground coffee, and as with all fresh grounds, they do expire. Though Nespresso claims it’s safe to consume after the best-before date, the freshness and aroma get reduced.
You can check the expiry date on the capsule sleeves. Or, to truly test the freshness of your pods, gently press the aluminum cover. If it bounces back, they’re still usable. If not, they’re expired or there’s a hole that let oxygen in, oxidized the grounds, and increased their acidity, resulting in sour coffee.
8. You are using poor-quality 3-party capsules
While you might be tempted to try other brands because they’re cheaper, bear in mind, not all capsules are of the same quality.
Some manufacturers don’t roast their beans evenly, while some use cheap, low-quality beans to cut down production costs. Unfortunately, your taste buds pay the price. It’s best to invest in good-quality pods known to offer a decent cup of coffee.
9. It’s a defect in your Nespresso machine
When you’ve ruled out all the above as potential causes of vile-tasting coffee, then it might mean your machine is defective.
Dampening, we know!
If your machine is still within warranty, you can book it in for repairs.
If your machine is over 3 years old, it may be time for a new one. In this article we share our advice on the best Nespresso machines in 2023 and what we’d buy if we had to get a replacement. Or, maybe you want to check out their range of Vertuo coffee machines.
Our 3 Tips To Make Your Nespresso Coffee Not Taste Burnt
1. Descale your machine and clean the grind plate
The descaling process differs for every model, but here’s a general guide:
- Urnex or Nespresso’s Descaling solution
- 500ml (17oz) Water
- Large mug
- Fill the tank with water.
- Dissolve the solution in water.
- Place the mug on the drip tray. Select your machine’s descaling mode.
- Empty the mug, and place it on the drip tray.
- Pour 500ml (17oz) of clean water into the reservoir.
- Run a rinse cycle three times.
To clean the grind plate
- Jug filled with soapy water
- Clean soft or medium bristle toothbrush
- Open the lever.
- Dip the toothbrush in the jug and gently scrub the plate, making sure the bristles are facing the front of the machine
- Close the lever and press the large cup button
- Place a cup on the drip tray and run a rinse cycle.
- Repeat the rinse cycle until the water runs clear.
2. Use filter water
Hard water isn’t inherently a bad thing. The magnesium and calcium allow for even extraction for a balanced cup of coffee. But if you have extremely hard water, you can invest in a filter pitcher to pacify the mineral content.
3. Invest in good quality coffee
If you’re looking for a mild coffee that produces a balanced cup of joe, purchase Arabica coffee. Depending on the roast you choose, you can find strong and bold blends without the bitter aftertaste.
Burnt Nespresso Taste: Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why does my Nespresso coffee taste burnt?
The reason your Nespresso coffee tastes burnt could be:
1. The machine needs cleaning
2. The machine needs descaling
3. The temperature settings are off
4. You’ve selected the wrong cup size
5. You’re using robusta coffee
6. Your tap water is hard
7. You’re using poor-quality capsules
8. You’re using expired or unsealed pods
9. The machine is defective
Q. Why is my Nespresso still bitter after descaling?
Maybe you didn’t flush out all the residual solution from your machine or there’s still limescale lingering in the brewer. Run another descale cycle and rinse thoroughly.
Q. How do I make my Nespresso not taste bitter?
To prevent your Nespresso from tasting bitter, you can:
1. Clean and descale your Nespresso machine.
2. Use good-quality coffee.
3. Brew with filtered water.
Q. Which Nespresso Vertuo is least bitter?
The least bitter Nespresso Vertuo is Voltesso and Melozio.
Q. Which Nespresso pod is the least bitter?
The least bitter Nespresso pods are Ethiopia, Toccanto, and Indonesia Master Origin.
Q. Does descaling Nespresso improve taste?
Descaling does improve the taste of your coffee. The process removes limescale and coffee oil buildup.
Q. How do I know if my Nespresso capsules are bad?
You can check the expiry date on the sleeves. Or do a freshness test by pushing the aluminum foil. If it bounces back, the capsules are still safe to use. If not, discard them and get a pack of fresh pods.
Various factors can result in a burnt-tasting Nespresso coffee. These include the type of capsules you use, your water temperature, your tap water hardness, and the cleanliness of your machine.
To achieve a balanced and delicious cup of coffee, invest in the best-quality capsules, descale your machine regularly, and use a water purifying system to reduce the potency of the minerals in your tap water.