Every Starbucks By Nespresso Vertuo Capsule, Ranked

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If you are a Starbucks coffee fan or enjoy a morning cup of joe or a shot of espresso after dinner, there's an easy-to-brew option at your disposal. Starbucks partnered with Nestle, the company behind the Nespresso appliance, in 2019 to create the capsules for the original machine. In 2021 when Nespresso launched the Vertuo style, Starbucks followed suit, updating the capsules for the new device.

The Nespresso Vertuo capsules take the guesswork out of coffee preparation, automatically adjusting its brewing process to create the desired drink based on the type of capsule inserted into the machine, whether for espresso or regular coffee. The Vertuo reads the capsule's barcode and automatically adjusts to the correct brew style.

The Vertuo machine allows you to brew a single or double espresso, a large cup of coffee, or even a whole carafe with an easy one-button touch based on the type of capsule used. The packaging for the brand's Nespresso Vertuo notes the cup size outside the box. Starbucks has seven offerings for the machine, with each rounded pod able to be recycled through Nespresso. These capsules are pricey (around $11 per box via Amazon), but for the most part, they're worth the investment. We taste-tested the full lineup to determine which beans are worth brewing.  

7. Veranda Blend

The lightest of Starbucks offerings, Veranda is a blend of arabica beans from Latin America. Ethically sourced arabica is purchased by following the principles of Starbucks Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices that ensure the bean's quality while promoting social, economic, and environmental standards within the farming communities. It is the coffee bean of choice for all of Starbucks' offerings, as the bean tends to have a smooth, mellow palate with a sweet, slightly sugary flavor. Arabica's acidity is higher, and the caffeine is lower than the other most common bean, robusta, creating higher complexity and refinement. 

In tasting the Veranda, we found it pleasant but somewhat lackluster. With its mild acidity, low intensity, and mellow flavor, Veranda is the style you sip if you aren't really a coffee drinker. The power of the Nespresso machine brings the full flavor of the barely roasted coffee to the forefront thanks to its high-pressure extraction. The device helps reveal the creamy richness of the bean with roasted grain and malty flavors. 

It isn't the worst cup of coffee we have tasted, but it is relatively flat and weak, lacking in the structure and character we expect, especially one from Starbucks. We suggest using it to create a Starbucks iced coffee, delivering a caffeine-infused burst while refreshing your palate.

6. Caffè Verona

Caffè Verona packs the punch of a shot of espresso in an entire cup of coffee. A blend of arabica beans from Latin America and Asia Pacific, this one has rich dark chocolate flavors reminiscent of coffees from Latin American beans, with toasted toffee and earthy, spicy flavors from the Pacific.

The full-bodied coffee is robust, revealing a burnt bitterness from over-roasting at high temperatures that is often associated with Starbucks coffees. However, as this is a full cup of coffee versus a small shot, the additional 6 ounces of recommended water softens the harshness. 

If your coffee preference leans towards the most extreme, this one is for you. The Vertuo machine brings out the natural richness of the coffee, revealing a creaminess in the full-bodied coffee, highlighting roasted caramel flavors. It reminds us of the coffee our grandfathers enjoyed back in the day, very dark, bold, and powerful; the type of coffee that would jolt you awake in the morning, giving you the energy to take on the day. 

According to Starbucks, the inspiration for creating Caffè Verona came from a Seattle restaurant where it often came with chocolate cake at the end of a meal. We agree that the sweet milk chocolatey goodness will mellow the intensity of the coffee.

5. Blonde Espresso Roast

Starbucks blonde espresso roast is for those who like espresso but prefer a weaker-flavored coffee. Traditional heavily roasted espresso produces a heartiness with a rich, velvety texture. In the case of Starbucks, that dark, bold flavor is highly intense, as the company is known for heavily roasting its coffee. 

Starbucks debuted the product to the American market in 2018 as an alternative to its deeply roasted traditional espresso, roasting the mellow, slightly sweet blend of Latin American and African beans for a shorter time. The length of time and the level of heat from the roasting machine transforms the coffee's flavors. Opting for a shorter roasting time accentuates the sweetness of the beans, producing a noticeable citrus and honey flavor. 

It is not an espresso for use in lattes or cappuccinos, as the lightly roasted taste is too subtle, causing the flavor of the beans to get lost in the drink. However, this is your option if you are a purist who drinks their coffee straight and wants a fruity, refreshing take on espresso. If you are deterred from trying the lighter blonde roast thinking it won't pack the punch of energy needed to wake you up in the morning, you are wrong. The roast affects the flavor of the coffee, not the caffeine. And this one packs a punch. 

4. Espresso Roast

The Starbucks espresso roast is the classic, deeply roasted coffee we associate with the chain. And if you love Starbucks coffee, you should be buying this for enjoyment at home. The roast of the beans is what makes espresso different from black coffee, along with the texture of the grind. Extensively roasting the beans brings out natural oils, creating a bold, rich flavor and robust structure.

And, unlike traditional espresso machines, Nespresso Vertuo allows you to craft barista-style shots at home with virtually zero mess. Conventional espresso machines will gum up from the dense oiliness of overly roasted espresso beans, requiring continual cleaning and maintenance. Instead, each self-contained capsule creates a shot with layers of dark chocolate, toffee, and toasted molasses flavors that border on over-the-top bitterness.

We love to pair the espresso with sharp, aged cheese like gouda or Irish cheddar at the end of a meal. The nutty, salty characteristics of the cheese and its creamy, fatty richness will balance the pungent intensity of the dark roasted coffee.

3. Pike Place Roast

We thoroughly enjoyed the Starbucks Pikes Place roast, finding it the most well-balanced of the options made using the Nespresso machine. The blend is named after Starbucks' original Pikes Place location in Seattle which began brewing its coffee over 50 years ago. While it's a satisfying morning cup, we think it is the coffee you can enjoy all day. 

It is smooth and refined while delivering richness and delicious flavors of toffee, milk chocolate, and roasted walnuts. The medium roast coffee has bright freshness inherent to the coffees of Latin America, with apparent but balanced acidity. The Vertuo brings out the tart bitterness of the coffee that is not too weak or too strong, keeping you returning for more.

Enjoying the coffee with a dose of sugar-free almond milk brought out the coffee's nuttiness, enhancing the blend's creaminess. We love it paired with Italian biscotti as the dry, crunchy cookie pairs well with the rich, chocolatey flavors in the coffee. The coffee's bitterness is balanced by the cookie's sweetness, creating a harmonious combination.

2. Colombia

If you are like us, your morning only begins once you have your first cup of coffee. If that is the case, Colombia is the option for you as it is an easy-drinking breakfast coffee that delivers a fresh flavor without the robust, over-roasted intensity often associated with Starbucks.

From high-elevation coffee farms in Colombia, the medium-bodied coffee is known for its freshness from a higher level of acidity, bringing a light, fresh flavor. The taste is a pleasing mixture of creaminess and bitterness with an earthy, toasted, nutty characteristic.

The Vertuo machine's extraction helps bring out fruity, sour notes within the coffee, revealing candied apple, cherry, and berry flavors. These juicy flavors combine toasted walnut and wild, woody herbs like wild thyme and sagebrush. The finish is smooth, with a tinge of the classic Starbucks bite. Still, it is much more subdued than other Starbucks offerings, with the Vertuo helping highlight the freshness of the coffee.

We love it with a classic French omelet prepared with a mix of soft herbs like anise-filled tarragon and oniony chives. The breakfast dish's herbal flavors bring out the coffee's herbaceous notes.

1. Sumatra

Starbucks Sumatra coffee's zesty spiciness and earthy herbaceous qualities immediately grabbed our attention and palates. The dark roast coffee is a single-origin coffee from the western Indonesian island in the Asia Pacific. The tropical volcanic island grows coffee beans with low acidity and bold, robust flavor, with women doing most of the work. Starbucks notes  that women account for up to 75% of the work done to grow the beans and produce the coffee.  

After brewing a cup, aromas of dried tobacco and toasted caramel mingle with bitter chocolate and truffle-like forest floor notes. The flavors mirror the aromas, revealing layers of cacao, dried leaves, pink peppercorns, and Asian spices like cardamom and star anise. 

Nespresso Vertuo brew brings out the structure and intensity of the coffee, extracting well-balanced flavors while highlighting the spiciness of the coffee with a welcome bitterness that is more subtle than the previously mentioned Starbucks offerings.

Sumatra is the most balanced, and refined of all of the selections from Starbucks for Nespresso Vertuo, with concentration, structure, and cultivated flavor. With its rich body and robust taste, it is easy to enjoy as the morning coffee to begin the day and delicious at the end of a meal paired with sweets like classic crème brûlée or spiced rum cake with vanilla ice cream.