How to use Nespresso-compatible capsules
By Manette Kaisershot
Our top tips on how to use compatible pods correctly in your Nespresso machine, and what to do if they don’t work.
Nespresso-compatible pods made by third-party brands offer more variety if you want to branch out from your usual Nespresso coffee, and they can save you money too.
While some early compatible pods worked erratically, or could even damage your Nespresso machine, there are now plenty of compatible pods available that work well and can turn out a tasty coffee to rival Nespresso’s own offerings.
In this guide, we answer some common questions about using compatible pods and bring you our top tips for using them successfully, based on our experience making hundreds of espressos with compatible pods in our Nespresso taste tests. Click on the links below to get straight to the info you need, or read on to find out more.
- Tips on using Nespresso-compatible capsules
- Can Nespresso pods be recycled or composted?
- Where to buy Nespresso-compatible pods
- What to do if the pods don't work or affect your machine
Just want to see which coffee pods we recommend? Skip to our full Nespresso capsule taste test results to find the best-tasting options.
Why try compatible capsules?
There are three good reasons to branch out: variety, convenience and cost.
You may have a favourite Nespresso coffee you can’t do without, but it’s worth experimenting with compatible capsules. There is a huge range available, and they can be cheaper and more convenient to buy.
Nespresso pods need to either be bought at a Nespresso store (located in major cities) or online via the Nespresso website. If you order online, you'll need to buy a minimum of 50 capsules and pay a delivery fee, unless you order 200 capsules or more.
Nespresso-compatible capsules are more widely available – in supermarkets as well as online - so you could pop these into your trolley along with your weekly shop. Many are a similar price to Nespresso but some – particularly supermarket own-brands - are cheaper, plus you won’t have to pay for delivery.
In our three years of testing Nespresso-compatible capsules, we've made hundreds of espressos using a wide range of popular brands, and found that every brand worked properly overall, but there is an art to getting the best results. Taking a little extra care when inserting the capsule pays off, so make sure you follow our tips below:
1. Check your machine is compatible
If you have an older Nespresso machine, double-check the small print when you buy compatible pods. Some state that they work best in specific machines. Most aren’t compatible with built-in or professional models. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer.
If you're in the market for a new machine, check our Nespresso coffee machine reviews to find the best.
2. Line the pod up with care
Compatible pods can be shaped slightly differently to Nespresso-branded capsules, so the main thing is to take your time inserting the pod, and make sure that it’s lined up precisely in the machine.
3. Don't force it...
If the machine doesn't close easily don't force it down, but check the pod has lined up correctly.
4 ...but, press firmly
We found you may need to press the capsule lever more firmly than you would with a Nespresso pod.
5. Empty used pods regularly
Don’t forget to empty the container of used capsules frequently - an overflowing pod bin might stop new capsules loading correctly.
If you still experience problems, you can contact the capsule manufacturer for advice, or approach the retailer for a refund. For more advice see our troubleshooting section below.
Nespresso-brand pods used to be the only type you could use in your machine, but a 2014 French court ruling forced Nespresso to cooperate with compatible capsule makers, and you can now use Nespresso-compatible capsules in most Nespresso Original coffee machines without having to worry about them automatically voiding your machine's warranty.*
Damage that’s caused by compatible capsules won’t be covered by the warranty, but it’s the manufacturer's responsibility to prove that any defects that arise during the warranty period are the result of compatible capsule use, and not due to the machine’s materials or workmanship.
Always check that the pod you are using is compatible with your specific model of Nespresso machine. Most compatible capsules are not meant to be used with built-in or commercial machines, and some have additional exceptions.
Your rights if things go wrong
- Compatible pods don't work - if a compatible coffee capsule doesn't work with your Nespresso machine, but the manufacturer said it would (or didn't say it wouldn't), you are entitled to a refund.
- Compatible pod breaks your coffee machine - if the compatible capsule turns out to be not-so-compatible and damages your machine, you may be able to claim for consequential loss under the Consumer Rights Act.
For more advice on your rights, see our guide to refunds and faulty products.
*Check compatibility with your specific model first. Note: Nespresso Vertuo machines don't take compatible capsules. For more see our guide to Nespresso Original vs Vertuo machines.
The mixture of plastics, foils and ground coffee dregs can make used coffee capsules difficult to recycle, and many household waste collections won’t accept them. Some companies, such as Nespresso and Starbucks, have schemes in place to allow you to return your used pods to them for recycling.
Some compatible capsule brands claim their capsules are compostable. Dualit has a small range of compostable capsules, as do Percol and Colonna. These are only compostable via your local authority food waste recycling service rather than your garden compost pile, as they require the higher temperature of industrial composting facilities to fully break down.
We've recently tested a couple of compostable pods from brands including Percol and Colonna. Find out if the coffee these pods made impressed our experts by checking our full Nespresso capsule taste test results.
Which Nespresso pods can go on your home compost?
Some smaller brands claim to be fully home compostable, meaning you can chuck them in your home compost heap or bin, and they'll break down over time. Brands include Café Novell and Oquendo - both available online.
In April 2018, the Eden Project launched its own range of fully home compostable Nespresso pods. We'll be trying these out shortly to bring you our first impressions of the range.
Supermarkets stock a limited, but ever-wider, range of Nespresso-compatible pods - most of which we've tested. This is an easy way to try out a new flavour without having to commit to buying larger quantities as you do online.
Online, you can buy Nespresso pods via retailers such as Amazon, as well as specialist online coffee retailers such as Gourmesso, Fine Coffee Club and Real Coffee. Some offer variety starter packs so you can try out a range of different coffees and find your favourite.
When buying online there’s usually a minimum purchase requirement and delivery charges vary – but it’s often free if you buy more than a certain amount. To see how all the different pod retailers stack up against Nespresso on price, head our guide to coffee pod retailers compared.
We pitted coffee pods from online-only brands against high-street Nespresso offerings in our 2018 taste tests. See the full results to find out which are the best Nespresso-compatible capsules.
What about other capsule coffee machine brands?
The best-known capsule coffee brands outside of Nespresso are Dolce Gusto, Tassimo, Lavazza and Illy. Capsules from these brands are more widely available from supermarkets, so there’s less demand for compatible capsules, but a few are available online.
You’ll need to decide what coffee capsule brand you want before picking a specific machine, as each system only works with one capsule type. Here's a quick summary of the main differences, but you can see our guide to coffee capsule brands for more detail.
Lavazza and Illy
Like Nespresso, these brands focus on espresso-based coffee, with an optional milk frothing accessory for whipping up cappuccinos. If espresso is your favourite tipple then one of these machines could be a good Nespresso alternative.
Dolce Gusto and Tassimo
These brands offer a wider range of drinks, including tea, hot chocolate and milky coffees (made with powdered milk capsules) such as latte and cappuccino.
We’ve uncovered several Best Buy capsule machines from brands other than Nespresso that are easy to use, make great-tasting coffee - and cost less than their Nespresso counterparts, so check our coffee machine reviews to find the best option for you.
It's also worth considering the new Nespresso Vertuo system. This uses a different extraction method and new capsule design to original Nespresso models. Find out more about how the two Nespresso systems compare in our guide to Nespresso Original vs Nespresso Vertuo.