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How Does a Nespresso Machine Work?

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By: Marina Maletic

Last Updated:

Nespresso machines are known for their ease of use. Add water, insert a pod, press a button, and you’re all done. But, there’s more to how Nespresso machines work.

Nespresso machines come in two versions: OriginalLine and VertuoLine. OriginalLine brews like a traditional espresso machine, pushing hot water through finely-ground coffee at high pressure. Meanwhile, VertuoLine uses a unique centrifugal technology that spins the pod to brew coffee.

I’ll include a graphic showing exactly how these machines work. I’ll also explain what you should know about Nespresso pods and what kind of drinks these machines brew.

How Nespresso Machines Work

Nespresso machines were originally designed like traditional espresso machines. Espresso is brewed using nine bars of pressure to force hot water through finely-ground coffee. It’s a very concentrated beverage with bold flavors and a fast brew time.

Nespresso machines work differently, using pre-packaged coffee pods and two distinct brewing systems. 

It’s important to discuss how the process differs for the two Nespresso models: Originalline and Vertuoline.

An infographic showing how a Nespresso machine works. The Nespresso Original brewing method on left and Nespresso centrifusion process for Vertuo machines on right.

Nespresso OriginalLine

OriginalLine Nespresso machines use a 19-bar pressure pump to extract espresso. 

You start by filling up the water tank. When you turn on the machine, the heating element warms the water in seconds, so it’s the optimal temperature for the best extraction. The machine is ready to brew when it’s done flashing. Then you insert a coffee pod into the pod holder and close it. Press a button corresponding to the drink you want to make. 

The Nespresso machine forces the heated water from the reservoir into the machine via a pump. The machine pierces three tiny holes in the top of the pod, so the water can drip through the pod and mix with the ground coffee inside.

The water is forced through the pod at 19 bars of pressure via a thin tube. Brewed coffee comes out on the other end of the coffee capsules into your cup. Nespresso pods have a filter inside that ensures no coffee grounds get into your cup.

Explaining how a Nespresso Original machine works

Once the coffee has been extracted, the machine forces air through the pipes to make sure there’s no more coffee left. Once this is done, the Nespresso machine is immediately ready to brew another cup of coffee without any leftover ground coffee from the previous cup.

Finally, Nespresso machines have a lever mechanism that transfers the pod into a built-in waste basket, so you don’t have to throw away the pod straight away.

Nespresso VertuoLine

Nespresso came up with VertuoLine coffee machines in 2014 to satisfy the demand for larger coffee drinks, mostly in the US market. This is also a pod-based system, but VertuoLine machines use different coffee pods and a totally unique brewing system (compared to any coffee maker available).

An important difference between OriginalLine and VertuoLine is the brewing technology they use. VertuoLine machines use patented Nespresso centrifusion technology, which is a combination of centrifugal and infusion. The name describes the movement of the pod during extraction.

The coffee machine injects a small amount of water into the top of the bowl-shaped pod, and the pod spins 7,000 times a minute to infuse ground coffee with water.

The process takes one minute, which is longer than Original machines or regular espresso. The time has an important effect on taste, as Vertuo machines operate more like an immersion brewing method, like French press. The longer brewing time extracts more of the coffee for a much richer taste.

VertuoLine machines are even easier to use than OriginalLine, thanks to the centrifusion technology. You don’t need to press a button to choose the drink size. Instead, every Vertuo capsule comes with a barcode. You insert the capsule into the pod holder and close it.

The machine automatically reads the barcode and optimizes all brewing parameters for that particular type of coffee — it adjusts the water volume, brewing temperature, and flow rate. 

How to Use a Nespresso Machine

Here’s how to use a Nespresso OriginalLine machine:

  1. Plug in the machine
  2. Fill the water tank
  3. Place the cup on the drinks tray below the coffee spout.
  4. Press the button to turn on the machine. The button will flash, showing the machine is warming up. You can use the machine once it stops flashing.
  5. Insert the pod into the pod holder and close it.
  6. The Nespresso machine will puncture the foil-covered size with three prongs.
  7. Press the button corresponding to the size of the coffee drink. The machine will push water from the tank through a line that goes around the heating element. Water goes through the capsule at 19 bars of pressure.
  8. The machine makes a delicious coffee drink.

You can also customize the amount of hot water in your drink. You do this by inserting the pod and holding down the required brew button. Release the button when the amount of coffee you want is done brewing. The coffee maker will remember your preference and dispense this amount of water every time.

Nespresso requires maintenance, just like a traditional espresso machine. You should descale the OriginalLine device every 100 cups, which prevents the build-up of limescale.

You also have to remove the spent capsules from the capsule container. 

Here’s how to use a Vertuo machine:

  1. Plug it in and switch it on
  2. Fill the water tank
  3. Place the cup on the drinks tray
  4. Turn the lever to unlock the coffee maker and lift the head to insert the pod.
  5. Insert the pod dome side down and close the lid.
  6. The machine automatically reads the barcode on the pod and optimizes the brewing parameters.
  7. The machine inserts water into the top of the pod and spins it 7,000 times per minute.
  8. The centrifugal system pushes water through several punctures along the pod’s edge. 
  9. When the machine is done brewing, turn the lever to unlock again, so the machine moves the pod into the waste bin.
Nespresso Vertuo Plus brewing coffee, with a few coffee pods on the side.

Vertuo device also has to be maintained the same as OriginalLine. You should occasionally descale it and empty the used pods’ container.

Nespresso Coffee Pods

You need pods to use Nespresso coffee machines. A pod is a small coffee container made from aluminum. It’s hermetically sealed, which means it’s airtight, so the coffee inside the pod stays fresh.

The pods are available directly from Nespresso on their website or through other major stores and retailers, such as Amazon. Nespresso has a large range of pods, from single-origin to flavored capsules. There are also seasonal and special releases throughout the year.

For Original Nespresso machines, many other brands package their ground coffee beans in pods. This started after Nespresso owner Nestle lost a patent lawsuit in 2013. The open-source model of pods has reduced the cost of Original pods too.

Nespresso still has the patent for Vertuo pods, so only Nespresso makes Vertuo pods, although these are still available at different retailers, including Amazon. We’ve ranked some of our favorite Vertuo pods.

Keep in mind, OriginalLine and VertuoLine machines have different pods, and pods are not cross-compatible. In other words, if you buy a Vertuo pod but you have an OriginalLine device, you can’t use it. 

Nespresso Original capsule next to a Vertuo capsule

OriginalLine Nespresso pods have a cylinder shape with a dome top. VertuoLine pods are bowl or dome-shaped and are a half-circle. 

Vertuo pods have a barcode that the machine reads and automatically adjusts the parameters. This is an advantage over other one-button brewers that only have one brewing mode. Nespresso recognizes that different coffee drinks need different coffee-to-water ratios.

Drink Options with a Nespresso Machine

Nespresso OriginalLine machines are specifically made for espresso. They can brew:

  • Ristretto — Uses the least amount of water out of the three coffee options. It’s very concentrated, and it gives a 0.84 oz shot.
  • Espresso — Makes espresso like a typical espresso machine. Gives a 1.35 oz of espresso.
  • Lungo — Means long. Gives 3.72 oz of espresso because it uses a large amount of water. Out of the three, lungo is the most similar to an Americano.

Note: to brew a ristretto, just stop the single espresso halfway through.

VertuoLine devices are newer, and they have more coffee options. A Vertuo machine makes espresso, double espresso, lungo, and regular coffee. The newer models can even make 12 oz Alto XL or 18 oz carafe-style pods.

Also, there’s a Latissima and Creatista line, which comes with a milk frother, so you can make milk-based espresso drinks, such as latte, cappuccino, macchiato, and flat white, by pressing a button on the coffee maker.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How to tell if a Nespresso machine is VertuoLine or OriginalLine?

Nespresso VertuoLine models have the word “Vertuo” in the name including the Vertuo, Vertuo Next, and Vertuo Plus, along with the Evoluo. Meanwhile, the OriginalLine includes all other models including Lattisima, Creatista, Pixie, Inissia, Essenza, and Citiz.

How does a Nespresso machine brew coffee?

A Nespresso machine uses pods to brew coffee, and Nespresso OriginalLine machines force hot water through the pod using 19 bars of pressure to brew in 20 seconds. Meanwhile, Nespresso VertuoLine machines use centrifusion technology, which spins the pod at 7,000 rpm to extract coffee.

Nespresso Machines: Final Thoughts

Both Nespresso Original and Vertuo devices will make a flavorful cup of coffee. The question is, what particular coffee do you like? If you’re more of an espresso fan, go for an OriginalLine. But, if you like a larger cup of coffee, VertuoLine is the device for you.

In case you’re in doubt if Nespresso or a regular espresso machine is a better choice for you, check out our Nespresso vs. espresso comparison. 

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Marina Maletic
Marina has written hundreds of coffee articles for publishers including Craft Coffee Spot, Gourmesso, and HomeGrounds. She comes from a family of coffee addicts but appreciated java fairly late — around 25 years old. Her coffee journey began with her passion for writing. Her first coffee assignments led her to fall in love with the drink that means so much to people all over the world. For the last six years, she starts every day by brewing a cup of coffee. Nowadays, if she’s not writing or thinking about coffee, she can be found trying out the latest social media coffee trend.
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