Updated: February 8, 2022 by Owen Richardson
Nespresso vs espresso machine! Which makes better shots? I know you would prefer a quick answer now so you can finally get yourself a proper coffee machine and go on to live happily ever after.
I also know you may be here for other reasons, probably to convince yourself that you made the right decision by buying a Nespresso or espresso machine. Well, it’s going to be a sad ending for some and a happy one for others.
But don’t get nervous. Having used both for ages, I can assure you that these two are heroes in their own right. Even though the goal is the same for both (to brew you a perfect shot of espresso), each uses a different path to arrive at that. That’s where the differences come in.
For the rest of this article, that’s what I’ll be letting you in on, plus a lot more subtle stuff you may not know about these two. Let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
Main Differences Between a Nespresso vs an Espresso Machine
The main differences between Nespresso vs espresso machines are:
- Nespresso machines are easy to use, whereas espresso machines, especially the manual and semi-automatic units, have a steep learning curve and can be problematic for a novice.
- You have very little control over the brewing process of a Nespresso machine, whereas espresso machines give you the freedom to change grind size, brewing time, and coffee strength.
- Most Nespresso machines cost less than $200, whereas espresso machines are quite expensive, with prices ranging between $100 to $2,500.
- Nespresso machines can brew a decent shot of espresso, but espresso machines make more flavorful, rich, full-bodied coffee.
These two types of machines fulfill different needs. An espresso machine would be a perfect choice for a coffee connoisseur with no strict budget who wants to be fully immersed in the brewing process and prefers a more intense shot. But if you are a beginner and would love a cheaper coffee machine that guarantees a consistent taste, look no further than a Nespresso machine.
There’s still more about these two you do not want to miss out on. Keep reading to find out.
Nespresso vs Espresso: An Overview
As you may have noticed, the name Nespresso is a combination of Nestle (the parent company) and espresso. Nespresso is a brand well known for making coffee machines that use their own proprietary capsules.
There are different varieties of capsules to match your unique taste, from standard and decaffeinated to flavored ones. The same goes for the machines which fall into two categories: OriginalLine and VertuoLine.
Espresso machines, on the other hand, aren’t made by a specific brand. Some popular makers include Breville, De’Longhi, Gevi, and Gaggia, just to name but a few. Nespresso has espresso machines too, but as I already told you earlier, they don’t work exactly as other espresso machines (more about this shortly).
I delved deeper into the differences in an effort to have a better understanding of these two units.
1. Ease of Use
When they get down to work, both of these two units force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, but they do it at different pressures. How do they arrive at that, you may ask? Well, one is easier to use and the other is a bit difficult.
Nespresso machines use capsules that you have to buy separately and then insert into the unit. A needle then pierces the capsule, allowing hot water to pass through the grounds at high pressure (19 bars). This results in the extraction of flavor compounds that dissolve in the water and are then released through the other end as coffee.
It’s that simple! Now, your only job is to insert the capsule, press a button, and wait for your drink. Some models, particularly from the Nespresso OriginalLine series, froth milk. However, for the majority, you will have to buy a milk frother if you wish to brew espresso-based milk beverages such as lattes and cappuccinos.
In most cases, there’s a bit of work involved before espresso machines force water through your finely ground beans at high pressure (9 to 15 bars). You may have to grind and tamp the grounds, choose brewing time, and even determine the size and amount of water to use. It all depends on the kind of espresso machine.
Manual and semi-automatic units are a bit hands-on, while the super-automatic ones do most of the labor, almost the same way Nespresso machines work. A good number come fitted with a steam wand for milk frothing, but there are also those without one.
Nespresso machines are clearly the easiest to use. Espresso machines, on the other hand (especially the manual and semi-automatic units), have a steep learning curve and can be problematic if you are just starting out.
Our taste preferences are so unique. Maybe you prefer a single shot to a double one or vice versa. Or you love the espresso-based drinks more. Customization steps in to ensure you get what you need.
There’s very little you can do to modify your shot when using a Nespresso machine. Some units may allow you to adjust the size of your brew, but most don’t. Once you insert the capsule, the next thing is to press a button and leave the machine to complete the process.
Even though this gives you unmatched consistency, the downside is you can’t customize your drink to your liking.
Customization is one area espresso machines thrive in. Manual and semi-automatic varieties take the lead. You can change brewing time, grind size, choose single or double shot, froth milk for different specialty coffees… the list goes on. Even the super-automatic ones still offer you a bit of control when it comes to personalizing your drink.
Espresso machines win hands down on this front. You have control over the brewing process and the chance to brew a beverage of your liking.
The price range for Nespresso and espresso machines varies. You may find some units sharing prices, but they may not be similar in how they work. Only settle on a unit that satisfies your needs and gives you the best value.
The majority of Nespresso machines cost less than $200. There are a few units that go for as high as $500. It all depends on available features and the machine’s capabilities.
Prices for espresso machines range between $100 to $2,500. Semi-automatic and manual devices fall on the lower side of the price range while the super-automatic ones dominate the higher side. Keep in mind that you may have to buy a grinder if you go for models that come without one.
Since even the best Nespresso machines are still way cheaper than some espresso machines, this makes them a suitable option if you are looking at ultimate value for money (assuming you are satisfied by their shots and don’t mind anything else). But keep in mind that the recurring costs of buying capsules will be higher in the long run compared to buying whole beans.
This is an easy guess. On one hand, you have a well-thought-out machine that brews a typical espresso shot from pre-ground coffee beans, and on the other, you have a traditional unit that uses fresh beans and lets you control the brewing process. So which machine does it better?
Nespresso machines can no doubt brew a decent shot of espresso, but it’s not going to be as intense and flavorful as what you would get from a controlled brewing process. The great thing is you are assured of a consistent taste all through.
Because they use fresh, properly ground beans, espresso machines can brew a more flavorful, full-bodied, rich shot. If your skill (and knowledge) about the espresso-making process is as good as that of a barista, then you can even make something better than best satisfies your palate.
So if you guessed espresso machines make better-tasting espresso, then you are right. But as you have noticed, you can only achieve such a taste and maintain consistency if you have barista-level skills and are using fresh, proper espresso beans.
Nespresso vs Espresso: Winner
Finally, we get to the most-anticipated part: Who takes the crown, and who goes home trophyless? Well, the winner is the unit you have just realized satisfies your needs and can make you happy.
Assuming you are a discerning espresso drinker wondering which unit between the two makes a more delicious shot and lets you have more control over the brewing process, then the winner for you is an espresso machine.
If you want a simple, affordable machine you can count on for consistently great shots, Nespresso is the way to go.
But don’t forget that Nespresso machines will cost you more in the long run because of the recurring costs tied to capsules. And if you choose to go with an espresso machine, remember that the learning process never stops. In fact, that’s the only way to make your espresso better and more consistent.