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How to use Nespresso compatible capsules

By Anna Studman

Our top tips on how to use compatible pods correctly in your Nespresso machine, and what to do if they don’t work.

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Nespresso-compatible coffee pods offer more variety if you want to branch out from your usual pod. Plus, there are some excellent cheap compatible capsules around, which can save you nearly £100 over a year if you switch from Nespresso.

Some early compatible pods worked erratically, or could even damage your Nespresso machine. Thankfully, 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 in our capsule taste tests.

Just want to see which coffee capsules we recommend? Skip to our full Nespresso capsule taste test results.

Why try compatible capsules?

Taste is likely to be your major factor when it comes to the type of capsules you buy, and you may have a favourite coffee that 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 Nespresso’s 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.

The savings you make could add up if you drink a couple of cups or more per day. Our top-scoring Best Buy from our 2017 taste tests could save you over nearly £100 per year if you switch from Nespresso, based on drinking two cups per day. Find out which cheap capsule made it onto our list of the best compatible capsules for 2017.

Tips for using compatible capsules

Some members reported issues using compatible capsules in their machines when we first taste-tested Nespresso capsules in 2016. In both our 2016 and 2017 Nespresso compatible capsule taste tests, we made hundreds of espressos using a wide range of popular brands, and found that every brand worked properly. However, taking a little extra care when inserting the capsule can pay 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. Some pods state they work best in specific machines. Most aren’t compatible with built-in or professional models. If you're in the market for a new machine, consult our Nespresso coffee machine reviews.

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 with a Nespresso pod.

5. Empty used pods 

Don’t forget to empty the container of used capsules frequently - an overfull 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.

Which capsules work best for longer coffee drinks?

A lungo capsule could be what you’re after. Lungo is a longer coffee drink where more water is added as the coffee is brewed. This is different to an Americano, which is made by creating an espresso and then adding extra water.  

We didn’t test long coffees in this year’s taste tests, but the best lungo capsule we tested in our 2016 taste test was Cafépod's Origin Guatemala Lungo coffee capsule; it scored 73% and the panel praised the coffee's smooth flavour. However as this score is from a previous round of taste tests it isn’t directly comparable with this year’s scores.

Can Nespresso pods be recycled or composted?

The mixture of plastics, foils and organic 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, 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, although these are only compostable via your household recycling service rather than your garden compost pile. Percol claims that their Nespresso-compatible capsules will compost fully in 12 weeks. Find out if Percol’s compostable pod impressed our experts in our Nespresso capsules taste test

Where’s the best place to buy compatible pods online?

In addition to buying your capsules from online supermarkets or Amazon, you could try a specialist coffee retailer. Retailers such as Gourmesso and Fine Coffee Club offer Nespresso-compatible pods, while The Coffee Pod also offers compatible pods for Dolce Gusto and Lavazza machines.  Some offer variety starter packs so you can try a range of different coffee types 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. We haven’t tested any of these at present but will be looking into them at a later date.

Will using Nespresso-compatible capsules affect your coffee machine's warranty?

Until a few years ago, Nespresso pods were the only capsules you could use in your Nespresso machine. But a 2014 French court ruling led to Nespresso sharing information on its coffee machines with manufacturers of compatible capsules, and you can now use Nespresso-compatible capsules in your coffee machine 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.

What about other brands of capsule machine?

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. 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.

Lavazza and Illy tend to focus on different types of black coffee, with an optional milk frothing accessory, so if espresso is your favourite tipple one of these machines could be a good Nespresso alternative. Dolce Gusto and Tassimo offer a wider range of drinks, including tea, hot chocolate and milky coffees (made with powdered milk capsules) like latte and cappuccino.

You’ll need to decide what coffee capsule brand you like the sound of before picking a specific machine, as each system only works for that specific capsule type. Our guide to coffee capsule brands has more information on how the brands compare to help you choose.