13 Nespresso Coffee Pod Flavors, Ranked Worst To Best

Nespresso has been a major player in the coffee industry for over 30 years. The first machine was created in 1986, and since then, the company has expanded and now offers many different machines at various price points and two styles of coffee pods to accommodate them. Nespresso currently offers 30 original coffee varieties, 35 coffees compatible with the Vertuo design, and limited edition coffees made for both styles. It's easy to see how overwhelming it can be to choose one.

Nespresso sells its pods in boxes of 10 of each variety, so finding out it isn't to your liking after one pod and realizing you still have nine more can be frustrating. We tasted and ranked some of the top varieties to sort the best from the rest. The list was determined by taste, aroma, and how well these aspects match the description of the coffee.

13. Firenze Arpeggio

Firenze Arpeggio is one of the varieties in the Ispirazione Italiana collection. The coffee was named after and inspired by the flavors of Florence. It is a dark roast coffee with an aroma to match. The brewed espresso has gentle hints of unsweetened cocoa, but nothing else is easily identifiable.

Nespresso rates this variety as having low acidity, but that does not accurately describe the bite that follows the first sip. What makes this coffee unique among all others in the tasting is that the flavor is extremely bold, with both sour and bitter notes. But as quickly as it registers, it dissipates. However, this does not come to the coffee's advantage, as our tastebuds are too overwhelmed initially to register much except the loudest flavors. Without the bridge between upfront and lingering tastes, Firenze Arpeggio becomes one-note in an unpleasant way. Ultimately, it drinks too aggressively to rank higher, with other coffees offering more balanced and pleasant-tasting brews.

12. Nicaragua

Understanding details about Nespresso's Nicaragua coffee takes some research and careful reading. Nicaragua is part of the Master Crafted Single Origin collection, which features a handful of coffees from specific places worldwide. Nespresso uses the word "honey" frequently to capture the coffee's texture, aroma, and taste. It also notes that the coffee has undergone black honey processing, which has nothing to do with honey being used as a sweetener. Instead, honey-processed coffee refers to a fermenting practice that occurs before roasting. It is a unique process, and Nicaragua is the only one in this ranking to feature it.

Some sharp, fruity notes in this light roast are more pervasive than in other dark coffees we sampled. Many of the coffees Nespresso highlights as fruity tend to be acidic, which is also true of Nicaragua. Despite only having an acidity level of two out of five, the coffee starts very sharp on the tongue and stays as bitterness builds. Both tastes linger significantly after each sip and cause a tannic dryness on the tongue. While there is a coffee for every set of tastebuds, this variety ranked low for us because it is hard to drink and far from the smooth brew it claims to be.

11. Volluto

Volluto is proof that Nespresso has something for every taste. The light roast coffee is an offering in the Espresso collection and can be purchased in both regular or decaffeinated varieties. With a level four out of 14 intensity, it is the mildest we tasted in this ranking. The aroma was different from the other coffees we sampled. It was lighter with bready notes, whereas others were dominated by roasted overtones.

The espresso was hard to drink because it was mouth-puckeringly acidic. There is no development of other flavors to soften the tartness or offer relief, so the sourness is the first and last thing you taste. It does not have a thick body either, so the combination of flavor and consistency makes the coffee taste a bit watery and more like weak, old office-pantry drip coffee than freshly brewed espresso. While this flavor may appeal to some, the lack of balance and underdeveloped flavors landed it towards the end of the ranking.

10. Roma

Another coffee in the Ispirazione Italiana collection, Roma is a moderately-intense, medium roast variety. Nespresso describes it as having a heavy bitterness and acidity. The aroma of a freshly brewed pod isn't unique. It smells mostly of, well, coffee. There are no specific indicators to foreshadow what is coming in regard to the flavor.

The espresso has a medium body, which is neither watery nor thick. The first sip packs a big punch of sharpness and it's hard to taste much else for the first few seconds until that flavor softens. Mild herbal and spicy notes can be detected on the finish, but they are not easy to highlight. Moreover, Nespresso describes this variety as having a woody undertone, and it may be that flavor, combined with the sour taste, that becomes reminiscent of fresh ginger. The combined effect isn't the worst of the ones we sampled, but it also doesn't give the coffee broad appeal. Since it is overall harsh and not a taste for everyone, it dropped into the bottom third of the ranking.

9. Shanghai Lungo

Shanghai Lungo is a light roast coffee and part of the World Explorations collection. Nespresso recommends brewing this pod as a lungo, otherwise called a long pull espresso. The coffee in a lungo pod is more coarsely ground than an espresso pod and will brew a cup yielding 3.7 ounces versus an espresso shot, which makes 1.35 ounces of coffee. We brewed it as both an espresso and a lungo to compare the differing strengths of the extractions.

Shanghai is described as having moderate intensity, low bitterness, and fruity notes. With that description, the bold, astringent aroma of the coffee was unexpected. As an espresso shot, the first sip starts silky and smooth before the acidity registers and spikes it into a pungent drink that is far from light. When we brewed it as the recommended lungo, we found that the additional water softens the sharpness but also impacts other aspects of the coffee. The body is no longer silky and instead leans watery. It may be a good choice for someone looking for a cup that drinks more like coffee than espresso, but overall, it lacks the balance to rank higher.

8. Corto

Corto is a dark roast, Spanish-inspired coffee blend in the Barista Creations collection. The photo of Corto on the Nespresso site includes a milk bottle, and the tasting notes encourage the pairing, stating that the milk will soften some of the espresso's intensity. No level of acidity is noted, but it does offer the highest roast level possible. 

A bitter grassy smell wafts from the freshly brewed espresso, which is not inviting. Tasted black, it is dark and inky, but there are no other remarkable flavor notes that come through. It is a middle-of-the-pack coffee, as it is not overly bitter or sharp but also not weak or watery. 

Adding the recommended milk was not a transformative experience. While the coffee can hold its own against some dairy richness, the milk enhances the mild acidity while diluting the more appealing, rich coffee flavor notes. Corto is an average choice and is tastier black than lightened with milk. While it would not be hard to drink through a sleeve of it, it is not remarkable enough to become a repeat order.

7. Vaniglia

Vaniglia is a best-selling Barista Creation coffee infused with vanilla flavor. Nespresso recommends brewing this medium roast coffee as a lungo or pairing it with steamed or frothed milk like a cappuccino or latte macchiato. We sampled it black to discern the undiluted taste of the coffee and then sampled it with steamed milk.

The first flavor you detect from the hot, fresh coffee is vanilla. This is mild, though, as the coffee flavor dominates over it. The vanilla in this variety tastes similar to caramelized butterscotch, but it is not a heavy artificial taste, which is appreciated. The vanilla gets lost in the steamed milk and becomes hard to detect. On its own, it's a smooth, easy-to-drink, lightly-flavored coffee, but the subtle vanilla flavor falls short as a composed drink and would not satisfy a craving for a vanilla-infused drink from a big chain coffee shop. The pros and cons land this variety in the middle of the pack. 

6. Paris Espresso

The most stunningly designed pod in this ranking, Paris Espresso, is chic, modern, and eye-catching. The intent, as part of the World Explorations collection, is for your coffee cup to transport you to France. However, the confusing description of the coffee stands in sharp contrast to the colorful pods. The website notes that it uses lightly roasted beans and that flavor note labels range from fruit to baked goods — but it gives it a high intensity rating. It is hard to know if the coffee will be heavy or mild and what tastes will come through the beans, as some of these descriptors listed seem at odds with each other.

The flavor starts out soft and builds in intensity as you drink it. It skews more bitter than sharp, and the bitterness stays on your tastebuds longer before fading. While the flavor notes did not seem particularly accurate (as there was no fruit or cookie to speak of), Paris Espresso is easy to drink and improves with each subsequent sip as the different tastes layer on top of each other. This espresso, which was worth reordering for both the taste and look of the pods, nudged ahead of others in the rankings to grab a solid spot.

5. Palermo Kazaar

Palermo Kazaar is not for the faint of heart or someone with weak tastebuds. Nespresso gives this a 12 for intensity, and it is easy to understand why. The freshly brewed espresso is very bold and evokes deep, dark flavors and elements like black licorice and wet soil. You know it will be strong before even trying it.

The first taste will shoot your eyebrows straight up as the flavor fills your mouth and does not relent. The dark roast is the main taste of the coffee and is too encompassing for more subtle notes to poke through. Despite the intensity, the beverage is very smooth and inviting. Truly, this brew will put a pep in anyone's step and is an ideal choice for someone who likes a very dark coffee. The formidable strength is both a pro and a con, depending on what someone can handle, but Palermo Kazaar crept up in the ranking because it is true to the description of the coffee and, ultimately, makes for a delicious cup.

4. Stockholm Fortissio Lungo

Stockholm Fortissio Lungo is a part of the World Explorations collection and a nod to Sweden. The dark roast is best brewed as a lungo and consists only of Arabica beans rather than a blend. Nespresso suggests skipping adding any cream or milk and instead drinking this variety black.

There is a bready and toasty aroma from the coffee that aligns with the malt reference in the tasting notes. It is the same, whether brewed as an espresso or lungo, but the lungo is dialed back a few notches in intensity and offers a lighter scent. The same goes for the taste. Stockholm is very smooth on the palate but still carries a hefty dose of bitterness. The lungo extraction softens the bitterness and allows some of the wheaty flavors to break through. Both experiences are delicious, full-flavored, and similar to one another. The taste and versatility of this variety gave Stockholm one of our top spots. 

3. Nocciola

This hazelnut-flavored coffee is part of the Barista Creations line. Nespresso recommends brewing Nocciola as a lungo or enjoying it as part of a cappuccino or latte. We tasted it black and with steamed milk to experience both. The coffee itself is a medium roast and at the mid-range for body, acidity, and bitterness.

This coffee smells like freshly toasted, buttery hazelnuts. A quick peek at the ingredients and allergens shows that the coffee contains artificial hazelnut flavors, yet the smell is very pure and reminiscent of real nuts. The hazelnut is upfront when we tasted it black before softening into a dark roast coffee. Hazelnut and coffee, in general, work so well together, and this pod is a perfect example of how to successfully marry the two. The flavor starts and ends with hazelnut, with smooth coffee popping into the middle. Adding milk enhances the nutty flavor and brings the hazelnut forward, but also reduces some of the potency of the coffee. Flavored coffee isn't everyone's cup of tea — or joe — but this variety delivers on exactly what it sets out to do, and for that, it ranks highly on our list. 

2. Ristretto Italiano

It is easy to understand why this coffee is a best-seller. Ristretto Italiano has a well-rounded, classic taste that is super easy to drink. Based on the description alone from Nespresso, which notes that the coffee has medium to high ratings on the bitterness, acidity, body, and roast level indicators, you might expect a heavy, over-roasted coffee. But it goes to show that sometimes a coffee is more about how all the elements work together than just each individual aspect.

This coffee has a toasty, slightly earthy aroma without any unexpected undertones. Some bitterness hits with each sip and lingers, but it does not dominate the palate. The coffee almost tastes like fresh dirt — but in a good way — that suggests vibrancy and depth rather than murkiness. It drinks smoothly, and while not thick, it is not watery. It is still a strong coffee, but it is the best option for a dark roast that straddles the line between just enough and too much.

1. Napoli

The most intense coffee in this tasting, Napoli, is rated 13 out of 13 by Nespresso on its intensity scale. The dark roast has high bitterness but is very low in acidity. You know something strong is coming by just the first whiff. There is a deep chocolaty aroma mingled with the java that is very inviting.

This espresso is thick, and each sip coats your entire mouth with its smooth, velvety texture. It's like a cup of European-style hot chocolate, except it's not sweet or milky. Despite the high bitterness indicated in the tasting notes, it is not overwhelming at all. The silky texture tricks the tastebuds into thinking the espresso is milder than it is. This makes the beverage easier to drink, despite its potency. It is a delicious, dark, well-balanced coffee that is a pleasure to sip on without any added sugar or milk, and ultimately, that is why it grabbed the top spot in the ranking.

Our methodology

I selected some of the best-selling pods on the Nespresso website to test and also added others from different categories to create a balanced sampling of coffees with different intensity levels and tasting notes. The ranking was determined by the overall taste and aroma of the coffee, in addition to how well it matched the description.

I tried the coffees over two days to avoid palate fatigue and caffeine overload. Before tasting any of the coffees, I cleaned my Nespresso machine, which uses the original pods, and reviewed tips for making the coffee taste its best. Each pod was tasted black within a few minutes of brewing, and if it was recommended by Nespresso, I also tested it with steamed milk. 

I did my best to judge each variety on its own merit rather than letting my preferences get in the way. My ability to do so stems from my long and varied history as a coffee drinker. I developed a taste for coffee over 25 years ago during a brief love affair with instant hazelnut-flavored coffee. In the years since, my love of all things java has expanded, and I have enjoyed everything from inexpensive New York City street cart cups to pour-over single-origin coffee. At home, I have used a French press, drip coffee machine, moka pot, pour-over set-up, and, of course, a Nespresso machine.