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Nespresso Troubleshooting: Common Issues Preventing Good Coffee

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By: Marina Maletic

Last Updated:

Nespresso machines are easy to use with a clean design. But they’re also complex machines pushing out a lot of pressure to brew coffee, and can easily have problems. I’ve made plenty of Nespresso coffees and encountered my share of issues too. 

The biggest issue is a dirty or clogged machine. Do you have cold or bad coffee? It’s easily solved by flushing and descaling a Nespresso machine.

If you see a blinking red light on a Vertuo, that usually means it’s overheated, or there’s an error. Remove the pod, unplug the machine, and wait a minute before restarting. That solves it most of the time.

A blinking orange light usually means the Nespresso is in the special functions menu or needs descaling.

I’ll detail all the Nespresso troubleshooting solutions. You’ll know how to fix your coffee machine quickly and keep it running smoothly.

Nespresso Troubleshooting: Common Problems and Solutions

Coffee is Not Hot Enough

You can try a few fixes if your coffee isn’t hot enough:

  • Descale —  Descaling your Nespresso machine clears mineral build-up that makes the system less efficient. Sediment accumulates in the water tank and pipes and absorbs heat. 
  • Preheat the cup — A cold cup saps away the heat from your coffee, and the coffee cools down more quickly. You can fix this by pouring hot water into the cup and leaving it for about thirty seconds before emptying and brewing coffee.

If your coffee is always cold, it’s a sign the machine has broken. If you tried descaling, a new outlet, and other water fixes, the Thermoblock (it heats the water) or the thermostat (it regulates how hot the water gets) needs to be replaced.

Water is Leaking

Usually, a leaking Nespresso coffee maker is an easy fix because the water tank isn’t properly locked in. Check that the water tank is well positioned. Take it out and place it back in, making sure it’s properly aligned with the espresso machine.

Internal blockages can also back up water and cause leaks. You need to descale to clear out any sediment blocks and fix a water leak. 

Leakage in Capsule Area

If your coffee capsule area is leaking, you should first make sure the capsule is placed correctly in the capsule holder.

Another possible cause of leakage in the capsule area is when the water can’t enter or exit the capsule correctly. This happens when the grid plate has been blocked by the coffee residue build-up, which can cause spurts of leakage. 

The grid plate is part of OriginaLine machines where espresso exits the pod. The grid plate has many small pyramid-shaped holes that press against the foil lid of the capsule.

Here’s how it works: You push the brew button on the Nespresso coffee machine, and the pressure builds up inside the capsule. This pushes the foil against the plate’s raised profile, which bursts the foil and allows the coffee to get extracted through the tiny holes in the plate, through the spout, and finally into your cup.

Nespresso essenza mini with grid plate highlighted
The grid plate is behind the spout and collects a lot of coffee residue (Essenza Mini pictured)

The constant contact and pressure mean the grid plate is the dirtiest part of your Nespresso coffee maker. Coffee grounds and residue build on the grid plate, which can block coffee from flowing. A dirty grid plate brings old coffee into your cup. Worst of all, bacteria will grow there, ugh.

Cleaning the grid plate is simple – scrub it with a toothbrush. This will remove old coffee grounds. Then, flush the machine a few times (until clean water comes out).

Nothing Is Coming Out of My Nespresso

There are several reasons why nothing is coming out of your Nespresso machine:

  • Check that your water tank is filled and in the right position. Nespresso machines do not have low-water sensors (a design flaw, in my opinion), so you have to check the water level before using a capsule.
  • Check that the capsule is inserted properly, and the machine is correctly closed and locked.
  • Do a cleaning cycle and try descaling. As always, a rinse cycle usually solves blockages.

Air Pocket

Another common issue of nothing coming out of a Nespresso machine is that there’s an air pocket. This happens when you brew coffee, and the water tank runs dry. Your Nespresso machine will make a loud “whooshing” noise as it blows air through the machine. 

You’ll have the airlock issue even when filling the tank and running the next pod. You need to cycle the air out of the machine with the following steps. 

  1. Remove the capsule.
  2. Make sure the water tank is properly connected to the coffee machine.
  3. Press the button to brew coffee multiple times. Air will likely come out the first time, but after two or three tries, the Nespresso machine will change its sound and work properly. 
  4. Insert the capsule and brew coffee as usual.

Note: If you have a big air pocket in the machine, it’ll take longer for the machine to start brewing. You should keep pressing the button until the water starts coming through. 

Stuck Coffee Grinds

Coffee grounds can get caught in the small holes of the grid plate when you use a coffee machine for a long time. 

Pull up the lever and check the front of the machine. If the pyramid plate looks dirty, clean it with a toothbrush. Then press the brew button so the stuck coffee grounds come out with the water.

Check the grid plate section in the leakage section above for more details.

Blocked Coffee Spout

The coffee spout can also be blocked with coffee grounds. Use a paper clip and poke it up the coffee spout (you can insert the paper clip about 5cm). Keep poking until you find where the coffee grounds are blocking the coffee flow to loosen them. Then flush the water without an inserted capsule, and the coffee grounds will come out.

I find the coffee spout gets blocked when the capsule tears, which can happen if you’re reusing capsules.

The Nespresso Coffee Machine Doesn’t Pierce the Capsule

Nespresso makes capsule coffee machines, so if the coffee machine doesn’t pierce the capsule, it can’t brew coffee.

Here’s why Nespresso coffee machines can’t pierce the capsules and how to fix the issue.

Wrong Capsule Orientation

The capsule can get caught at an angle when loading the coffee machine, usually because the machine wasn’t opened or closed all the way. 

Make sure the lever is all the way up before you load a new capsule. Then, slowly lower the lever halfway to allow the capsule to fall into alignment. Then, open the lever once again and finally close it down, pushing hard.

Lever Not Down

Depending on which Nespresso machine you have, the lever needs more or less force to be pushed down. For example, the Citiz and Essenza Mini need more force.

Make sure you hear the click when you push the lever. This signifies that the lever is completely closed and the capsule is correctly inserted.

Clogged Grid Plate

I talked about how the capsule is pushed against the grid plate, where there are small openings in the shape of pyramids. The capsule is forced on these to pop open the lid. 

The pyramids can’t open the capsule if they are clogged with coffee grounds. Use soap, water, and a small brush (or a toothbrush) to unclog the plate.

Non-Compatible Capsules

Nespresso has two kinds of machines and capsules: OriginalLine and VertuoLine. These aren’t interchangeable, so you need to use the capsule that’s compatible with your machine.

But, there are many third-party manufacturers of OriginalLine pods. These should work on your Nespresso machine the same as the original Nespresso pods.

But some manufacturers make third-party pods slightly bigger or smaller than the original Nespresso ones, and your machine can struggle to pierce them. 

This can also happen with some reusable pods. In this case, a Nespresso refillable kit can work better as it reuses original Nespresso pods. 

Broken Punch Needle

You should also check the punch needle on Vertuo machines, which inject hot water into the capsule during centrifusion. The punch needle can break. You should contact Nespresso and send your machine to be fixed if this is the case. Unfortunately, there’s not much else you can do about this issue.

Nespresso Troubleshoot When the Machine Isn’t Piercing the Capsule

Here’s what Nespresso says you should do when the machine isn’t piercing the capsule:

  • Fill the water tank and turn the machine on
  • Run water without inserting a capsule by pressing the Lungo button
  • Check if the capsule container is full
  • Check for foreign bodies in the capsule chamber

Note: Capsule piercing depends on the pressure generated by the machine. If there’s scale build-up, your machine can’t generate enough pressure, so you should descale.

Too Long or Too Short Coffee Extraction?

Proper espresso extraction time is between 25 to 30 seconds for one shot. In case your extraction is taking longer or shorter than 20 seconds, here’s what you can do:

  • Clean and descale the machine.
  • Clean the spout of sediment build-up. Use a paper clip or a Q-tip and poke inside the spout. Then rinse with water without inserting the capsule.
  • Clean the grid plate. Use a toothbrush to get rid of old coffee grounds.
  • Check if you re-programmed the pour volume. This happens if you push the start button and press it again before the brewing process is completely done. You can do a factory reset to get back to the original pour volumes.

Why Is My Nespresso Blinking Red? (Red Light Problems)

Here are all the situations in which the Nespresso coffee machine light is on and what it means.

Blinking red light:

  • Steady light — Your Nespresso machine probably needs to cool down. Turn it off, unplug it, and wait 15 minutes. Then plug it in and turn the espresso machine on. If the machine has cooled down, it’ll show a steady green light. 
  • Pulsing red light — Cooling down after overheating. Wait until the coffee maker is done cooling down and shows a steady green light.
  • Regularly blinks once per second You probably just put the pod in improperly. Empty the coffee pod container, and open or close the head depending on its position. Nespresso’s technical term for this issue is “error.” 
  • Blinks two times, then shows steady green light — Empty water tank or no capsule. Refill the water tank, eject the used capsule, and insert a new one. Close the capsule head and push the button to start brewing. If this doesn’t work, it’s probably an airlock issue.
  • Blinks twice then shows steady orange light (for VertuoPlus) — Error in special function. You enable a special function menu when you press and hold the lever and the button for three seconds. Choose between resetting, descaling, or emptying by pushing down the lever:
    • Push down twice to descale
    • Push down twice for empty
    • Push down three times to rest
  • Blinks twice then blinks orange — Error while the special function is running. Open the head and eject the capsule. Press the button to restart the special function. 
  • Blinks three times every two seconds and shows a steady red light in between — Head in an unknown position. Press the lever up until the head stops moving. Remove any obstacles, or just empty the capsule container and push the lever down to close the head.
  • Steady red light and steady right green light — Descale to remove mineral build-up.

Why Is My Nespresso Blinking Orange (Orange Light Problems)

nespresso machine with orange light

If the Nespresso Vertuo light is orange, it typically means you’re in the special functions menu related to cleaning or descaling. Here are the reasons for an orange light:

  • Steady orange light — Entering the special function menu.
  • Regular blinking — Special function is running.
  • Blinks once every two seconds — Descaling needed.
  • Blinks two times every two seconds — Cleaning and emptying the system is needed.
  • Blinks three times every two seconds — Reset to factory settings ongoing.
  • Blinks three times in three seconds and goes to regular green — Reset to factory settings is done.

How do You Fix Your Nespresso Machine?

Overall, the most common fix for Nespresso coffee machines is descaling. You should descale your coffee maker about every three months for it to run without any issues. Other common fixes are cleaning the grid plate pyramids and the inside of the coffee spout. Finally, check the red and orange light guides to know what they mean and how to fix them.

If you want to learn more about Nespresso machines, read how they work or see our Nespresso machine comparison guide for the best options. 

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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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