If you want your morning coffee routine to be as simple and streamlined as possible, the Nespresso machine is pretty much a no-brainer. With literally just the push of a button, you can have a piping-hot shot of espresso ready in under a minute. But beyond the basic steps of filling the water tank, popping in the capsule, and letting it do its thing, there are plenty of easy ways to get more out of your machine.
Whether you want more control over the flavor and style of your coffee, you're hoping to save some money, or you just want to make each cup the best it can be, it's worth investing a bit of extra time and energy. These tips, tricks, and hacks will help you make the most of your Nespresso machine and ensure that it's functioning optimally.
Before we get into the details, it's important to note that there are various Nespresso machine models on the market. The main distinction is between the Original and Vertuo product lines. Original is the classic style of machine that's designed mostly for espresso drinks, while Vertuo models are slightly more advanced and can make larger drinks as well. Each type uses a different brewing system and requires its own capsules. Some of these tips work for both Original and Vertuo machines, while others are more relevant for one or the other.
Preheat The Machine
Of all the Nespresso hacks floating around online, this may be the most essential. Even casual coffee aficionados know that temperature matters when it comes to brewing. And although you won't have as much control over this element with a machine as you would with more hands-on methods like pour-over or immersion brewing, there's a simple shortcut: preheating your Nespresso machine.
All you have to do is run the machine through one cycle before you insert the capsule to make your drink. Make sure there's enough water in the tank, and place a cup on the drip tray to collect the hot water. As soon as the cycle finishes, insert a fresh capsule and brew your espresso — and see if you can detect the difference in flavor.
Although, in theory, the machine should be ready to go once you've turned it on and waited for it to warm up, this preheating trick provides extra assurance that it's at the optimal temperature. This improves the extraction process, which has a significant impact on how the coffee tastes. It does take twice as long, but unless you're running late and don't even have 30 seconds to spare, it's totally worth it. This tip is primarily for Original models, which will run a cycle without a capsule inserted. If you have a Vertuo model you might not be able to run a water-only cycle, but you can try running the machine with a used capsule or activating the cleaning cycle.
Choose Your Water Wisely
What kind of water do you put in your Nespresso machine? If you're not immediately sure how to answer that, it might be worth considering. Technically, you can fill the tank with whatever type of water you want — including straight from the tap. But depending on where you live and the quality of your tap water, it might be worth using filtered or bottled water instead.
The main reason is taste. You're probably aware that tap water tastes different depending on where you are — and in fact, the data shows that certain countries' tap water is superior. Since your average espresso is about 90% water, it makes sense that the taste of the water will have an impact on the taste of the coffee, even if it's a subtle one.
Another potential downside to using tap water is that it might lead to mineral buildup in your Nespresso machine. That's why it's usually recommended to use filtered or bottled water (note that distilled or demineralized water isn't advisable). But if you're lucky enough to have access to great-tasting, high-quality tap water, there's nothing wrong with using it for your coffee.
Another important thing to consider is water temperature. You might think that filling the tank with hot water would result in hotter coffee, but this isn't actually how Nespresso machines work. You'll get the best results by starting with cold or cool water and then letting the machine heat it up to the right temperature.
Customize The Buttons
Different Nespresso machines have different buttons, and each of those buttons has its own function. For example, the Pixie and Essenza (both Original models) have one button for espresso (1.35 ounces), and one for lungo (3.7 ounces), and other models have additional cup size options. But you're not stuck with the defaults; it's actually possible to adjust the settings for these buttons if you want to customize the size of your coffee.
You might have noticed that you can control the amount of coffee your machine makes by stopping it before it's finished brewing. For example, if you press the lungo button once to start the cycle, you can press the same button again to stop it before it reaches the full 3.7 ounces. Let's say you want to reset this button so that it brews a 3-ounce cup instead. The next time you make a cup, start the cycle by holding down the lungo button and release it when it's reached the right amount. From then on out, the button will automatically brew that quantity. This trick works for both Original and Vertuo Nespresso machines. If you want to return the buttons to their original functions, you can perform a factory reset. Check your machine's manual for instructions on how to do this, since it varies depending on the model.
Keep It Clean
It should probably go without saying that you need to keep your Nespresso machine clean. But let's be honest — this kind of maintenance can be easy to overlook, especially if there are no clearly visible signs that the machine is dirty. Even so, it's important to take good care of each component of your machine to keep dirt, dust, and bacteria from accumulating over time.
For the most basic Nespresso machines, there are just a few removable parts that need to be cleaned periodically. The water tank and drip tray should be removed and cleaned with soapy water every once in a while; always wash them by hand to avoid potential damage from the dishwasher. Some models also have steam wands or milk containers, which need to be cleaned every time you use them.
It may be worth checking the instruction manual to see if certain components are dishwasher-safe. For example, some Nespresso milk frother models can go in the dishwasher, while other models can't. To be on the safe side, you can always hand-wash any removable parts. And remember: The more often you use your Nespresso machine, the more often it needs to be cleaned.
Don't Skip Descaling
Descaling is basically a specific type of cleaning, but it's important enough to merit its own mention. It's also especially easy to neglect because it involves the interior components of your Nespresso machine — i.e., the ones you can't see at all. Descaling involves removing the mineral buildup, or limescale, from the inside of the machine.
Depending on the type of water you're using, you might need to descale more or less often; if you're using tap water with a high mineral content, limescale will build up more quickly. As a general rule, though, most machines should be descaled every three months or after 300 uses. The manufacturer recommends using a Nespresso Descaling Kit, which comes with two sachets of descaling solution, rather than DIY methods like vinegar or other products.
Each Original and Vertuo machine has a specific descaling mode, which is activated in slightly different ways for different models. The basic process involves filling the tank with water and the descaling solution and then running the descaling cycle a few times.
This might sound more like a necessity than a helpful Nespresso hack, but it can drastically improve the performance of your machine. If you notice that your coffee tastes a bit off or the machine isn't working as well as usual, there's a good chance that descaling will solve the problem.
Use More Than One Capsule
Everyone has their own coffee preferences, and for some people, one Nespresso capsule yields a perfectly fine brew. But if you're used to super strong espresso drinks or large portions of coffee, you might find that your machine leaves something to be desired (particularly if you're using an Original model). One easy — if admittedly indulgent — way to solve this is by using two capsules for one drink.
If you want to replicate a drink that usually involves a double shot, like a flat white or an extra large latte, try brewing two shots of espresso from two separate capsules. This will give you a larger volume of coffee without diluting its strength, ensuring that you don't end up with a watered-down drink or a cappuccino that tastes more like milk than coffee (unless that's your thing, of course).
Keep in mind that many of the newer and premium models have specific settings to brew larger quantities of coffee without sacrificing strength. But if you're using a relatively basic machine like the Pixie, CitiZ, or Essenza, this Nespresso hack can really upgrade the quality of your coffee.
Use The Same Capsule Twice
This one might be controversial, but it's probably the best way to literally make the most out of every single Nespresso capsule. If you want a slightly more diluted coffee — closer to filtered coffee or an americano than an espresso — one way to achieve this is by running the same capsule through your machine twice. If you find that two full cycles dilute it too much, you can also stop it partway through the second cycle by pressing the same button again.
To be fair, Nespresso capsules aren't designed to be used more than once, so the result might not be optimal — but then again, good coffee is in the eye (or palate) of the beholder. It's also worth noting that the practice of pulling an extra long shot or double shot of espresso is a common technique in the café culture of some countries. The result is a larger and less-concentrated coffee, similar to an americano or long black. However, because the excess water is filtered through the coffee grounds rather than being added separately, it's slightly stronger and more caffeinated. This style of drink is known as a caffè crema in certain parts of Switzerland and nearby countries and as an abatanado in Portugal.
Buy Reusable Capsules
There are multiple benefits to buying reusable capsules for your Nespresso machine. First of all, it cuts down on waste. But it can also give you a greater degree of control and creativity when it comes to your coffee. You can fill reusable capsules with whatever kind of coffee you want, giving you total freedom in terms of the brand, blend, roast, grind, and more.
Although reusable capsules might be more expensive upfront, in the long run, they'll also save you money since buying ground coffee or whole beans in bulk is much cheaper than buying capsules. If you're really trying to cut costs, some people claim you can also make your own reusable capsules by cleaning out and refilling the regular ones that you've already used, then covering them with foil (or reusable silicone caps, if you want to split the difference). That said, buying them is probably a safer bet to ensure the best results.
Try Different Capsules To Find Your Favorite
There's a whole world of Nespresso capsules out there to explore. If you've been using the same ones for a while, it might be time to branch out and try something new — and maybe even do some research before you hit the shelves (or online stores).
Nespresso makes its own capsules for the Original and Vertuo machines, which are completely different and can't be used interchangeably. Both kinds of capsules come in many different varieties that you can easily tell apart by color: red for super intense Napoli, orange for light Livanto, and so on. They're rated on a scale of 1 to 13 according to intensity and labeled with the type of drink they're best for. Some are specifically made to be combined with milk, and some are flavored with caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and more.
Vertuo machines only work with Nespresso capsules. But if you have an Original machine, there's no need to limit yourself to the manufacturer's brand; many other companies make their own compatible coffee capsules. Check to see if your favorite roaster sells Nespresso capsules or buy a few different brands to see which one you like best.
Get Creative With Your Drinks
As more advanced and complex Nespresso machines have appeared on the market, the range of drinks you can make with them has also expanded. But whether you have the simplest Original model or the latest Vertuo version, there's plenty of room for creativity when it comes to making your coffee.
If you have the kind of Nespresso machine that only has two settings (espresso and lungo), consider investing in a milk frother so you can make café-quality lattes and cappuccinos at home. Pour a strong shot of espresso over ice cream for a homemade affogato, or brew it over crushed ice for iced coffee. And if you have a machine with a built-in milk frother, it's worth giving each setting a try and experimenting with different types of milk.
If you have a Vertuo machine, you can also make larger quantities of coffee without milk. The machine's Centrifusion technology automatically brews each capsule the way it's intended to be brewed — but there's still room for customization. For example, some Vertuo machines have a concentrated extraction mode that allows you to brew a stronger coffee from any capsule by pressing the start button twice. On top of that, some Nespresso machines can prepare drinks without any coffee at all; certain Lattissima models have modes for hot milk and hot foam. You can also buy special capsules to make tea, hot chocolate, and other coffee-free drinks.
Recycle Used Capsules
One common criticism of single-use espresso capsules (and the machines they're made for) is that they cause a lot of waste. Different companies have adopted their own strategies to try to reduce the environmental impact of all those discarded capsules. Nespresso, for its part, uses recyclable aluminum — rather than plastic — for its capsules and operates its own recycling facilities.
If you want to recycle your Nespresso capsules, you'll need to separate them from the rest of your recyclables and then take them to a designated collection point or Nespresso store. In the U.S., you can also request a free Nespresso recycling bag that you can mail back once it's full of used capsules. If you live in New York City you don't even have to do this; the capsules can be put into the city's blue recycling bins. And in some other countries, postal workers even pick up the capsules straight from people's houses through the company's Recycling at Home service.
According to Wired, the waste from the capsules themselves is the most environmentally damaging aspect of this method of making coffee. But it actually requires both less energy and less coffee than most other methods, which are the main factors that determine the overall environmental impact — meaning it may be more eco-friendly. So, as long as you recycle your capsules, there's no need to feel bad about using your Nespresso machine every day.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.