There have been years since various capsule-based espresso systems became popular even in the poorest countries of the EU. I remember a certain moment when the Dolce Gusto Piccolo had an unbeatable price at one of the major hypermarkets of my country; and then there were several good deals at various retailers and online stores. But I resisted heroically–me and my ibrik, not counting the French press.

Even when not observing the original Turkish way of making coffee, the process tends to be tedious, impractical and, on the other hand, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the coffee blends and roasts I was able to find. I wasn’t even sure what grinding would best suit the way I make coffee: too often the coffee didn’t have enough flavor and taste, even if the bitterness was easier to achieve. Oh, and I forgot to mention: I almost always drink the coffee black–no sugar and no milk–except for when I order a 30 ml espresso.

With age come laziness, even for a Luddite, so when I noticed the deal of buying a KRUPS XN1001 Nespresso Inissia from Saturn for only 49.99 € (MSRP 99 €, typical price 65…79 €, now the Saturn price is 76.99 € and it went down to 68.99 € as I am writing this), with an extra mail-in 100-capsule sampler, I simply knew that I wanted it. The offer only covered the white version of the machine, but the color is just fine with me. And they had it in physical stock in my town, no need to order it and wait.

OK, but why a Nespresso machine, when there are so many other standards? Not counting the so many pad-based (cialda, dosette) machines of which I couldn’t mention a single make other than Senseo, there are at least 9 types of capsules or pods, of which a quick visit to the local Kaufland made me notice Tassimo T-discs, Dolce Gusto capsules, Tchibo Cafissimo capsules, Lavazza A Modo Mio capsules, Illy iperespresso capsules, and a number of Nespresso-compatible capsules most notably by Senseo and Dallmayr.

I decided I didn’t need the extra options made possible by Tassimo and Dolce Gusto, such as the ability to make tea, cappuccino, or “real coffee” (no crema), and that the choice of capsules for the Nespresso standard is (hopefully!) large enough. I’ve also read a number of (mostly positive!) reviews of this small and cheap machine, and I made my mind. By the way, here’s the review (in German) that persuaded me: Matthias Müllers Rezension von Krups Nespresso XN1001 Inissia Kaffeekapselmaschine.

It’s worth noting that Inissio is the cheapest brother in a series of extremely similar Nespresso machines. Counting from the most expensive to the least expensive one, the most observant of you would undoubtedly notice that, as a machine gets cheaper, it replaces some metallic parts with plastic. Here’s the lineage: Citiz (179 €); Pixie (149 €); U aka U Pure (139 €); Inissia (99 €). I only mentioned the variants that don’t include milk capabilities. Did I mention I find Pixie to be cute?

Another funny discovery is that half of the machines are made by Krups, and half by DeLonghi, the division being made by color. Citiz are made by Krups in silver and fire engine red; by DeLonghi in limousine black and white. Pixie are made by Krups in electric titan and red; by DeLonghi in electric aluminium and carmine red. U are made by Krups in cream, grey, and red; by DeLonghi in orange, black, and grey. As for Inissia, it’s by Krups if it’s in blue sky, white, or ruby red; and by DeLonghi when in black, vanilla cream, or orange. (Even with Dolce Gusto, the variants are equally split between Krups and DeLonghi. At least there are only two manufacturers, while the Italian mafia counts Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and other organizations…)

How does one tell apart a machine by Krups from one by DeLonghi? Elementary, by the shape of the dripping nose! (By the grille too, but the nose is the distinctive sign.)

This machine was made in Ukraine (so not being part of the EEA is not such a catastrophic situation), with a “My Machine” instruction guide that’s simply unusable. They didn’t want to print a bilingual leaflet (DE/EN or FR/EN are the most common ones), nor to include a 124-page global guide, so they made a 12-language leaflet in which all the instructions are given only through graphics. Even with the symbols cursorily explained at the beginning, some operations are too ambiguous. Thankfully, I could easily find DE/EN, FR/EN and EN-only “traditional” guides online. Nespresso also has a YouTube channel. E.g. Nespresso Inissia: How to program the cup size.

Two words on how long an espresso needs to be. Officially, an Italian espresso must have 25 ml, and it must be made from 7 g of coffee (properly roasted and grounded for espresso), in a machine at 9 bar, with a percolation time of 25 seconds.

That being said, outside Italy we can safely ignore that standard and stick to what a good barista knows:

  • espresso: 30 ml
  • ristretto: 15 ml (made with the same quantity of coffee)
  • lungo: 60 ml  (made with the same quantity of coffee)
  • doppio ristretto: a 30 ml espresso that’s twice as strong as normal, being made by two shots of ristretto, each using its own portion of coffee
  • doppio espresso: a 60 ml espresso that’s twice as strong as a lungo, being made by two shots of regular espresso, each using its own portion of coffee

When in a bar, I’d normally order a doppio espresso if they know what it is, but I usually end up ordering a lungo, which costs as much as a regular espresso, or 10% more. When drinking a lungo, I can drink it black, whereas an espresso and a double espresso require some sugar and possibly milk too.

Now, the Nespresso standard is different:

  • ristretto: 25 ml (not available on all machines)
  • espresso: 40 ml
  • lungo: 110 ml

I can’t even think what made it take such a decision, especially the “Americanized” lungo! Well, as I don’t use a “standard espresso cup” (mainly because it has to be preheated, otherwise the coffee would cool off too quickly because of the thick walls), and given that I’m normally a coffee drinker, I can surely appreciate a longer lungo, but… can the limited amount of coffee in a capsule offer me a satisfactory result?

As it happens, for the lungo range of blends, most manufacturers of Nespresso-compatible capsules use 5.2, 5.5 or 5.6 g of coffee (6 g for the original Nespresso lungo capsules), as opposed to 5 g for the normal espresso and for a ristretto, and this should help a bit. Still, the 2.75 ratio is far enough from 2 to be a challenge!

In the case of my Krups Inissia, I noticed that the factory preset for espresso was indeed of about 40 ml, but the lungo was more like 74-75 ml, even shorter than a proper lungo! It’s only after having read Stiftung Warentest’s magazine test 11/2015 that I noticed this is “an undocumented feature, not a bug” for Inissia: “mit dem Gerät von Krups: Wenn der Kaffee damit in Werkseinstellung zubereitet wurde, flossen im Durchschnitt 24 Prozent weniger in die Tasse als auf der Packung versprochen.” That means in their tests the lungo had 83-84 ml instead of 110 ml.

Let’s note that, without knowing beforehand, I’ve opted for an espresso machine that made the best espresso in their tests! (They tested each machine with 90 espresso and 60 lungo capsules of different brands. They also ranked capsules, but we’ll get to that later on.)

Note that, the best note being 0.5 and the worst note 5.5 (slightly shifted from the normal German system where 1 is the best note and 6 is the worst), while the U machine (a color made by DeLonghi) is overall slightly better than Inissia (by Krups), especially in the ease of use department, Inissia makes the best-tasting coffee of all, with sensorische Beurteilung “very good 1.5”!

Should you want to read some third-party reviews of Nespresso machines, here’s what I’ve consulted (in German): Inissia by Krups; another review of it; to be compared with Pixie by Krups; Pixie by DeLonghi. In English: Nespresso Inissia Exclusive ReviewNespresso Inissia vs Pixie – Which espresso machine is the best for you? In French: TEST / Inissia, la toute petite Nespresso.

I don’t remember where I’ve read that Inissia–being the cheapest of all!–has the rather unpleasant peculiarity of dripping a bit after an espresso is made, but I can live with that. On the other hand, it warms up in 25 second, then the percolating speed is quite good, and the crema is not bad either.

Back to the capsules now. Inissia comes with a 16-capsule sampler. Not counting the seasonal variations, Nestlé makes 24 different capsules, of which only 6 are lungo–but one is decaf, one is too weak (3) and two are too strong (8-9), which leaves us with only two varieties: Vivalto Lungo and Linizio Lungo, both having the strength of 4/12.

Vivalto Lungo is universally considered the best choice for a lungo from Nespresso, with Linizio Lungo being not much worse (only somewhat less convincing in personality; some might prefer it though). The price for a box of 10 is 3.70 €, but one cannot order less than 50 capsules (5 packs of 10) from Nespresso.com; and I don’t feel like purchasing them from Saturn or MediaMarkt, simply because I don’t buy food from Elektrohandel, not mentioning that they tend to be missing. Even worse, on Amazon.de the original Nespresso capsules tend to cost double the normal price!

What about the strength? While Nespresso ranks strength from 1 to 12 (with the weakest variation having 3), they once had a seasonal variation of strength 13, which makes me suspect they initially had a maximum strength of 10, only to be further extended to 12 at some point. When compatible capsules started to appear, most chose to mimic the same scale of 12, with the notable exception of Senseo (which goes up to 10) and the cheap discounter clones that sometimes have a scale of 1 to 5. For what it’s worth, I believe that 6/10 and 6/12 are pretty much the same, which strengthens my belief that Nespresso itself originally topped at 10.

The problem with the Nespresso-compatible capsules–which are however widely available–is that they strive not to infringe Nespresso’s patents, and therefore are not made of aluminium, and also they’re not having the exact same shape. This makes the compatibility issue rather problematic for some machines, but even reading a lot of reviews wouldn’t enlighten you completely: how is it possible for the same make of capsules and the same machine (mostly Pixie, Cityz, Latissima) to have exuberantly positive reviews and reviews that claim the capsules simply don’t work for one or more of the following reasons?

  • the water flow is too slow through the capsule;
  • the capsule doesn’t drop afterwards;
  • for some capsules (e.g. one out of two), the capsule breaks incorrectly, and mostly plain water goes to the cup;
  • the capsule breaks incorrectly, and too much water goes to the empty capsules container;
  • the capsule breaks the machine.

The capsules can indeed be very different, and they’re typically made of plastic, sometimes with a tinfoil where the original capsule needs to be punctured in three places (on the back). To be frank, no capsule gets punctured as well as an original capsule, and this is the major compatibility problem (where there is a problem). Here you have four possible capsule designs (from left to right: Nespresso, Senseo, Dallmayr Capsa, Lavazza):

They’re all compatible with my machine (more about this later). Note that Lavazza for Nespresso is a brand-new range; don’t mistake it for Lavazza A Modo Mio, which is a different standard.

Before listing the compatible brands, let’s talk Arabica. I simply refuse to drink Robusta, no matter what. Generally speaking, not all the Italians drink coffee that’s 100% Arabica, and two traditional Lavazza blends are 70% Arabica plus 30% Robusta, and 70% Robusta with 30% Arabica. I nevertheless don’t drink Robusta because it’s stronger in taste but not in aroma, it has a higher acidity and a higher content in caffeine. The purpose of drinking an espresso is to experience a coffee that:

  • has a strong taste, yet it’s not as bitter as the darker roast would suggest (the high pressure in an espresso machine allows for that, while a filter machine would only give bitterness from an espresso roast);
  • is highly aromatic;
  • has a nice crema;
  • has a lower acidity because of the dark roast;
  • has a low acidity because it’s Arabica.

Obtaining a lungo that’s not too aqueous is however a challenge. Using only Arabica, it’s difficult to get a strength beyond 6-7 unless the roast is too dark; therefore, a pinch (or more) of Robusta is normally needed for strengths of 8 and higher. But I only drink Arabica!

The Nespresso-compatible brands that I could find at Kaufland, EDEKA, REWE, LIDL, and Netto are listed below, with the price for a box of 10 and links to some reviews (most of them in German):

  • Original Nespresso capsules (not in the above stores) — review from 2013; Envivo Lungo (9) 2016; Bukeela ka Ethiopia Lungo (3) 2014; Vivalto Lungo (4, rating 2/5); Linizio Lungo (4, rating 4/5); Fortissio Lungo (8, rating 3/5); Envivo Lungo (9, rating 3/5); Bukeela (3, rating 3/5); Cosi (3, rating 3/5); Volluto (4, rating 3/5); Dulsão do Brasil (4, rating 3/5); Livanto (6, rating 4/5); Rosabaya de Colombia (6, rating 4/5); Roma (8, rating 3/5); Arpeggio (9, rating 3/5); Indriya from India (10, rating 4/5); Dharkan (11, rating 3/5); Kazaar (12, rating 5/5); 2009: Indriya; 2013: Dharkan vs. Kazaar, here, here and here; note that Dharkan is 100% Arabica, but Kazaar has more Robusta than Arabica.
  • Dallmayr Capsa (2.99 €); 10 blends, of which 4 are lungo: Lungo Azzuro (8), Lungo Belluno (5), Lungo Ethiopia (4), Lungo Mild Roast (4); the only lungo guaranteed to be 100% Arabica are Belluno (yellow box) and Ethiopia (orange box) — 2014; also 2014.
  • Lavazza Nespresso (2.99 €); 5 blends, of which 2 are lungo: Lungo Avvolgente (5) and Lungo Leggero (4); the only lungo guaranteed to be 100% Arabica is Leggero (yellow box); the only normal espresso that’s pure Arabica is Armonico (8, red box) — 2016.
  • Senseo by Douwe Egberts (2.99 €); 9 blends, of which 5 are lungo (but 1 is decaf); all lungo blends up to strength 8/10 are 100% Arabica; the best lungo choice is Lungo Fragrante (6, pink); 100% plastic capsules, individually wrapped — review for the first generation (different packaging, 2013); also 2013; 20142015.
  • Jacobs Momente (2.99 €); I refuse to drink Jacobs coffee, so I skipped this one completely — 2013; 2014: Fondo, Magnifico, Ristretto and Lungo Magnifico, Lungo Fondo und Espresso Ristretto; 2014 too.
  • Gourmesso (2.49 € to 3.29 €); out of the 24 blends (including decaf and caramel, etc.), 100% Arabica are only: Lungo Arabica Forte (9), Honduras Pura Forte (9), Tarrazu Forte (8); generally considered too weak — 2013; 2013; 2013Vaniglia, Cioccolato, Caramello2014; 2014; 2014Colombia Arabica Mezzo und Lungo Italico Forte; Lungo Latino Mezzo (strength 7/10, medium roast, rating 3/5); Colombia Arabica Mezzo (strength 7/10, medium roast, rating 5/5); Nicaragua Mezzo (strength 7/10, dark roast, rating 4/5); 2015; 2015; 2015; 20152016: 5 neue Kapselsorten im Test; 2017: Wintersorten.
  • Zuiano (2.99 €); only online, no more at EDEKA; therefore skipped; 9 blends, of which 3 are lungo (strength 5, 7, 9); no 100% Arabica guarantee — 2014.
  • Café Royal by Delica AG Schweiz (2.79 €); 17 blends in all (not all in physical stores), of which 3 are lungo (but also 3 “single origin” of… “universal size”); no Arabica/Robusta indication; strong compatibility problems according to many accounts, to be avoided2013; 2015.
  • Grandos Pronto (1.74 €); too cheap and questionable brand; their Lungo (strength 4/10) is 100% Arabica — 2014.
  • Kaufland Exquisit (2.49 €); originally 3 types: ristretto (strength 5/5), espresso (Tarrazu 4/5), lungo (Ethiopia Sidamo 3/5), now only 2, see UPDATE 6 at the end — no reviews.
  • EDEKA Gut & Günstig (1.74 €); 3 types, all 100% Arabica: espresso (roast 4/5, acidity 1/5), lungo (roast 3/5, acidity 2/5), lungo leggero (roast 2/5, acidity 3/5); no strength given, but apparently too weak — 2016.
  • REWE ja! (1.74 €); ristretto (strength 4/5), espresso (2/5), lungo intenso (4/5), lungo dolce (2/5); all include Robusta (no mention of 100% Arabica anywhere), but surprisingly good by some counts — 2015; 2016.
  • LIDL Bellarom (1.75 €); 6 blends, of which one lungo (5/10) and one lungo decaf (3/10); all are 100% Arabica; individually wrapped capsules — 2013; 2014.
  • Netto Cafèt (1.74 €); ristretto of 21 ml (9/10), espresso (6/10), lungo (4/10); no Arabica/Robusta indication; strong compatibility problems according to many accounts, to be avoided2014; 2014; 2016.
  • ALDI NORD Moreno (2.79 € for 16 capsules); dismissed, as I live in South Germany; here, ALDI SÜD doesn’t sell such capsules, for they have their own machine, EXPRESSI, with a different capsule standard (they seem to look very much like Tchibo’s Cafissimo) made by K-Fee and called ESPRESTO when it’s not ALDI-branded.

Reading reviews doesn’t help that much, but the things I couldn’t find myself without purchasing a box of capsules are about the taste and about the possible compatibility issues. With regards to compatibility, I’ve also read a lot on Amazon, but I had to discard many of the contradictory ones (“it’s great!”, “on the contrary, it sucks, I only get water on the same type of machine!”). The taste can also be different between different blends of the same maker, and here Amazon is even less helpful, as it groups all under the same roof. Still, some detailed reviews provided key information in some cases.

For compatibility reasons–capsules that break irregularly instead of getting punctured correctly–I’ve completely dismissed Café Royal and Cafèt; for various other reasons, I’ve disregarded Gourmesso, Jacobs Momente, Zuiano, Grandos, Exquisit, Gut & Günstig, ja! and Bellarom, and I decided to go for strengths between 4 and 6 of the following brands: Dallmayr, Lavazza and Senseo.

Left: a lungo made with Dallmayr Capsa; right: with Senseo

My quick assessments after a week:

  • Dallmayr Capsa Lungo Belluno (5): despite a review claiming that the strength is more like 7, I find the official strength as correct. It tastes quite well, it’s not too watery, and a slight bitter aftertaste only shows up at the end, when the coffee gets colder. A good alternative to Nespresso Linizio Lungo (4). I had no compatibility issues, but the water flow is thinner than with original capsules, and I get about 8 ml less than what I get with Nespresso (I didn’t investigate how much water drops in the bin and how much is captured in the capsule).
  • Lavazza Lungo Leggero (4): a bit too light, more like 3.5 in strength, tasting more like normal coffee, but with a good Arabica taste at that; a possible replacement for Nespresso Linizio Lungo (4). Bar a slight aftertaste, no bitterness whatsoever, which came as a surprise.
  • Senseo Lungo Fragrante (6): currently my blend of choice for lungo: the strength is optimal for my sugarless drinking, the taste is more like that of a coffee (no bitterness as far as I am concerned), the aroma is great, and no compatibility issues, despite the capsule being entirely made of plastic! A very good alternative to Nespresso Linizio Lungo (4). The technical solution is a bit kinky: nothing gets punctured in the process, the capsule already has 10 thin slits on the back and many thin perforations on the frontal membrane, which requires it to be individually wrapped in order to preserve the freshness. The results are very good, and the water flow is very satisfactory.

After already having decided what are the 3 brands considered for testing as replacements for the original ones, guess what I’ve noticed in the aforementioned magazine? Their capsules of choice were:

  • 1st place: Nespresso Vivalto Lungo, overall 2.1, taste 1.5.
  • 2nd place: Senseo Lungo Fragrante, overall 2.4, taste 2.0.
  • 3rd place: Dallmayr Capsa Lungo Belluno, overall 2.5, taste 2.0.

I’m happy I was able to make great choices only by reading many other reviews, and only getting such a confirmation at a later point. Note that at the time of their testing, Lavazza didn’t have any capsules for Nespresso.

But why not using strong espresso capsules for making lungo? That is, why not using a capsule of strength 9, 10, 11 or 12 to obtain a weaker lungo? I happen to have set my lungo to 120 ml, which makes it three times an espresso, but even with the intended 110 ml setting (or the factory-provided 74…84 ml one), the problem is that you’ll not only get too weak a lungo, you’ll get a lungo that lacks aroma and taste and is too bitter! (To be frank though, I can only drink an original Nespresso Ristretto, strength 10, as a 40 ml espresso; and a Nespresso Arpeggio, strength 9, as a diluted 110 ml lungo!)

The theory says that the longer an espresso takes to be made, the bitter it’ll get. With capsule-based machines, getting 110 ml instead of 40 ml through the same capsule will get a bit more in taste (the coffee in the capsule still holds enough taste after 40 ml of water flow) but, as the water keeps flowing, it will draw more bitterness than taste. That is to say that, compared to a normal espresso, a lungo is watery and bitter no matter what you do. Using a capsule meant for a normal espresso to make a lungo only makes things worse–and my own tests confirmed that. The bitterness was more of an aftertaste, but the taste and aroma were weaker than what I consider to be satisfactory. The result is not undrinkable, quite the contrary, and the crema is great with original Nespresso capsules. Note that the strength would at most reach 4 anyway (with Kazaar, strength 12 for a normal espresso).

When test 11/2015 reviewed 7 brands of Nespresso-compatible capsules with the machines of their choice, they noted that Inissia made lungo coffees that were somewhat stronger than with other machines, but also tasted as if they were heavily roasted (“Schmeckt mit Krups-Maschine etwas stärker als die meisten Kaffees, schmeckt auch stark geröstet.”) or had a strong bitter aftertaste (“Mit der Krups-Maschine zudem weniger Crema und im Nachgeschmack stark bitter.”). The bitter aftertaste claimed for Senseo Fragrante didn’t seem to get to my palate though.

A side note. One of the competing systems that have no alternative to the official capsules is Tchibo’s Cafissimo. One of their machines (Cafissimo Pure, test) was 49 € when I purchased the Inissia, so would it be a decent choice, after all?

Cafissimo machines are a bit weird, if you ask me. They have different buttons for different types of espresso, of coffee, hot chocolate, tea and whatnot. Note their different definitions: an espresso has 50 ml (40 ml for newer machines); a caffè crema (sort of a lungo) has 125 ml; a filter coffee (no crema) has 125 ml; and everything can be adjusted between 30 ml and 150 ml (300 ml for “XXL” drinks).

Even with a unique provider, the choice is however quite interesting, and the prices are deterring the competition. 10 capsules for espresso, caffè crema or filter coffee cost 2.69 € (7, 7.6 or 8 g each) or 2.99 € if they’re pure origins; 10 capsules for caffè crema XXL or filter coffee XXL (press the button twice, and the second time the water will go through the same capsule) cost only 2.99 € (8.2 or 8.4 g each); 10 capsules for fruit tea cost 2.69 € (2.5 g each); 10 capsules of limited edition caffè crema can cost 3.99 € though.

The problem is that the Stiftung Warentest’s magazine ranked Cafissimo as having the worst taste of all the tested systems, with a note of “satisfactory 3.0” for the taste! For the tested Tchibo Cafissimo Vollmundig Caffè Crema (strength 3/6), using a Saeco Cafissimo Tuttocaffè HD8602/81: “Schmeckt sehr stark, säuerlich, stark geröstet, deutlich verbrannt und stark bitter. Im Mund stärker adstringierend (zusammenziehend), etwas stumpfer. Im Nachgeschmack etwas stärker, säuerlich, stark bitter, etwas anhaltender.”

Bottom line: I’m happy with my choice and I’ve identified 3 satisfactory types of alternative capsules, since I’m not going to buy my capsules from Nespresso unless the delivery boy is… you know who*.

UPDATE 1: 

  • I have just noticed the Rossmann Laudatio capsules for Nespresso (1.99 €), Made in Poland. They only exist in three blends: Ristretto (strength 10), Lungo (5), Lungo Forte (8); each capsule has 5.3 g. Yes, there’s nothing for the 40 ml espresso! In that particular Rossmann store, they only had the two lungo variants (most likely the ristretto doesn’t sell that well). Another oddity: Laudatio Lungo (5) contains “etwas Robusta,” whereas Lungo Forte and Ristretto are Arabica-only; I thought it should have been the other way around! The few user reviews I could find are contradictory: someone claims that these capsules’ harder plastic is better handled than e.g. Dallmayr by his Nespresso machine that always twists Dallmayr Capsa, but other people say that the DeLonghi Latissima and Krups Pixie machines have serious problems with Rossmann Laudatio, so I’ll pass. The taste is said to be quite good though for the lungo varieties, almost on par with Jacobs Momente.
  • I also tested Senseo Lungo Profondo (8, violet box); this is still 100% Arabica. Note that while Lungo Fragrante (6) has a medium roast, Lungo Profondo (8) has a dark roast. It’s indeed is a bit stronger, yet it has less aroma than Fragrante; the almost unavoidable effect of a darker roast.
  • For a “normal” espresso, I’ve tried Lavazza Armonico (8, red box, 100% Arabica). I like it more than most original Nespresso varieties! It has an almost sweet aftertaste, being surprisingly smooth–my current choice for a normal espresso! It could have been more aromatic though. Note: if the machine is set for a shorter lungo (80-90 ml), one could use Lavazza Armonico even for a weak lungo, with very reasonable results.
  • I finally tried Senseo Splendente (7, red box): quite good, although a bit acid; possibly a replacement for the original Rosabaya de Colombia (6).
  • I’ve been a bit disappointed by Dallmayr Capsa Espresso Artigiano (7): sort of bitter. As a general rule, while Dallmayr’s capsules are the easiest to find (they’re in all the supermarkets in Germany), they have a tendency towards bitterness, and a slight acidity.
  • A last mention on the original Nespresso capsules: despite them being generally of a higher quality than the third-part alternatives, not all the blends are that great. For the normal 40 ml espresso, sometimes the weaker blends can be disappointing, and stronger ones are a better choice. I was particularly disappointed by Volluto (strength 4). Livanto (6) and Rosabaya de Colombia (6) are somewhat better, and Indriya from India (10) is a good choice for those who like it strong (it includes some Robusta too). As for the traditional lungo blends, I’m still not thrilled with the almost unanimously preferred Vivalto Lungo (4); I like Linizio Lungo (4) much more.

UPDATE 2: I’m not going to correct anything above, but I noticed that the original Nespresso capsules are using a strength scale going up to 13, although they currently sold varieties don’t go over 12. They indeed started originally with a scale of 10 (hence the first compatible capsules are having a scale of 10), and they’ve later created blends of strength 11 and 12. In 2013 the maximum strength was still 12, and then in 2014 they had the Cubania (13) Limited Edition. This confirms my assessment that Senseo’s ranking on a scale of 10 doesn’t need to be “translated,” and that their e.g. 6/10 and 8/10 are the same as 6/12 and 8/12 or 6/13 and 8/13. Nespresso is already making a mess of everything–for instance, Cubania was a mix of Arabica and Robusta with absolutely nothing from Cuba except that there is a “Cuban style” strong espresso made using a mix of coffees from Central and South America, heavily roasted; the Cuban coffee from Sierra Maestra is very mild in taste, but excellent. Oh, and, by counting the dots, I discovered that Lavazza too uses as scale of 13.

UPDATE 3: I just found about a few more brands of compatible capsules that should be wider available in I+DACH (Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland). Their makers are however utterly disorganized and unable to ensure a proper distribution of their entire range; they’re even unable to communicate the correct number of varieties throughout their own web sites!

  • Ethical Coffee Company capsules (2.99 €); company founded by an ex-CEO of Nespresso; on their website, Classical Range: 11 varieties, Supreme Range: 9 varieties; in other places, only 10 varieties (not 20!) that can be ordered here and here; there’s no 100% Arabica lungo. EDIT: These capsules were initially (2012) available at REWE; the fact that they’re nowhere to be found in a supermarket means that Jean-Paul Gaillard’s post-Nespresso company is a total failure. Other reviews: 2013; 2013; 2015.
  • Cellini (3.29 €); 10 varieties, of which 2 lungo: Vivace (4) and Delizioso (8); 100% Arabica is written on 2 varieties (including Lungo Delizioso), but Robusta is specified in the description of only 5 varieties, so the remaining 3 varieties (including Lungo Vivace) might be Arabica-only; I couldn’t find them in my local Edeka, but sometimes one can found some varieties of it on Edeka24.de.
  • Mövenpick by J.J.Darboven (2.99 €); 6 varieties for Germany (and Made in Germany!), of which 2 lungo (strength 4 and 7); in Switzerland there are 10 capsule varieties: 4 espresso, 3 lungo, and 3 single origin (100% Arabica); 4 varieties can now be found at Edeka and (more expensive!) on Edeka24.de.

UPDATE 4: Edeka being a franchise that allows a lot of differences between stores, not all of them carry the same products; my “EDEKA Baisch” (Leonberg) didn’t have any Mövenpick capsule before the last week of 2016, but I could find 4 of the 6 varieties at “E aktiv markt Dörr” (Höfingen): Classico Lungo (strength 4/10, Arabica, 5.8 g), Crema Lungo (strength 7/10, Arabica+Robusta, 5.7 g), Puro Espresso (strength 5/10, Arabica, 5.9 g), Intenso Espresso (strength 8/10, Arabica+Robusta, 5.7 g). The missing ones are Decaffeinato Espresso (strength 5/10, Arabica) and Ristretto (strength 10/10, Arabica+Robusta). I’ve tried the two lungo varieties, and they’re both underwhelming. I considered Classico Lungo (4, blue capsules) to be mediocre, but not that bad though; at the same time, I found Crema Lungo (7, orange capsules) to be more acid (possibly because of the added Robusta). On the technical side, the hard plastic capsules are properly punched by my Inissia, but the water flow is thin, and in the long run I fear that using such hard capsules might wear down the machine. Either way, I find it annoying that not all 10 varieties are available–they had plenty of time since the February announcement. The website for Europe only lists 6 varieties, although the others still exist, without link to them: e.g. Lungo Der Himmlische–a classical Mövenpick blend, only available on the Swiss website. Oh, and based on a promotion (2.49 €), I also tried Puro Espresso (5, green), which I found to be very satisfactory (and made only of Central and South American Robustas).

UPDATE 5: Brands that can be found around Germany (France, Belgium, Italy):

And there is definitely more…

UPDATE 6: Kaufland has updated its Exquisit line by replacing the huge, almost cubic boxes holding individually-wrapped capsules (Senseo-like) with slim packaging holding loose capsules (like Lavazza and many others). In the process, they ceased to offer a ristretto variety (Indien Karnataka), only preserving the normal espresso (Costa Rica Tarrazu) and the lungo (Äthiopien Moka Sidamo). This makes sense, as the mentioned varieties (Tarrazu and Sidamo) are available under the same brand as pads, whole beans and ground coffee, while the variety used for ristretto isn’t available at all anymore.

So I tried Äthiopien Moka Sidamo, and it wasn’t that bad. The 2/5 strength translates more like a 4 on the Nespresso scale, or even milder. The taste is unfortunately too bland, which is too bad, as otherwise the coffee isn’t too acid nor bitter, and the capsule is excellently designed, with a thin black aluminium or tin foil on the back that’s perfectly punched by the machine.

While testing all these capsules, I noticed something that annoyed me: the orange Mövenpick Crema Lungo almost always failed to get all the three punches correctly! Left to right, Exquisit vs. Mövenpick Crema Lungo:

Strange thing, the blue Mövenpick Classico Lungo were always almost correctly punched. Left to right, Mövenpick Crema Lungo vs. Lavazza:

One last comparison: Nespresso Vivalto Lungo, Dallmayr Capsa Lungo Belluno, Exquisit Lungo:

My advice: test your machine’s compatibility with Mövenpick and everything that has the back of the capsule entirely made of plastic, except for those pre-perforated à la Senseo! Notice how Mövenpick’s capsules have 4 reinforcing fins on the interior, and when the 3-pin puncher tries to do its job, there is a high risk that one punch is lost. Other plastic capsules have their own punching issues and, frankly, whoever didn’t bother to design a thin membrane for the back of the capsules doesn’t deserve to sell them! Winners in this case: Dallmayr, Lavazza, Exquisit.

Mövenpick also has an idiotic packaging: artificially longer than the standard size because of a false wall, it’s also narrower, so two capsules can’t sit alongside comfortably. The capsules are packed in a strange way that makes them difficult to extract; this is aggravated by the smaller opening of the lid.

UPDATE 7: As I was in a Müller Drogeriemarkt on Königstraße 5 in Stuttgart, I noticed the Nespresso-compatible capsules La Coppa (2.99 €), a brand that only sells through Müller’s stores in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Spain. The boxes are compact, very much like Dallmayr Capsa, so I purchased a yellow lungo (strength 4) one. 7 different varieties are available (of which one lungo and two espresso are BIO coffee): a ristretto (10), two lungo (both strength 4), four espresso (7, 7, 8, 9). All are 100% Arabica and slowly roasted, but there is no indication as to the origin or any other description of the blend.

The capsules look as if they were made of a hard plastic, but they’re actually biodegradable (EN13432) and made of “sugar cane and sugar beet concentrate.” (Similar claims of biodegradability are made by Ethical Coffee Company, see UPDATE 3.) It’s only after the purchase that I’ve read some reviews (here and here). One reviewer noticed that in the Nespresso U machine, the coffee was shorter, but he didn’t try to determine the cause (bad punching? some water going directly in the used capsules bin?). Many users commented though to state that La Coppa’s capsules weren’t compatible with Nespresso Latissima or Latissima Pro: the capsules don’t get perforated properly! There were also issues with Nespresso Pixie.

My experience with Inissia was that, while the capsules always got properly perforated and the quantity of the resulting coffee was as expected, the machine seemed to be noisier than usual while making an effort to get the water through it; also, the capsules are somehow a little too big, and closing the machine after inserting a capsule is a bit forceful. And the very first drip is of water, the coffee starts coming the next second.

The main problem is the taste though: for a lungo, the result is too aqueous, at least in taste if not in color. The first lungo seemed rather OK, possibly because I was badly craving for a coffee, but the subsequent ones were pathetic. Eventually, I discovered that using a lungo capsule to make a normal espresso leads to a much more reasonable outcome, and the reduction from 110 ml to 40 ml doesn’t make the coffee 3 times stronger–the proof that the included coffee is too weak and further letting the water through doesn’t result in a real lungo.

Bottom line: I hoped I would like it, but unfortunately I don’t recommend this brand to anyone.

Other brands I’ve heard of in the meantime:

  • Caffé Vitessa, 4 varieties; they don’t have a website, Amazon UK is the usual shopping place: how lame is that?
  • Caffè Ottavo (2.80 €), 10 varieties
  • Taylors of Harrogate Espresso Coffee Capsules (£2.99); 5 varieties, all single-origin, none of which lungo
  • Leysieffer is a special case: while they have their own Leysieffer Coffee System with different machines and different capsules holding 6.5 g each (apparently one can also use Cremesso capsules with such machines), they also sell Nespresso-compatible capsules (14 € for 40 capsules): a ristretto, an espresso, and a lungo (they planned a special blend with Ganoderma, but they seem to have given up)

Nothing of real penetration on any market.

UPDATE 8: This is a never-ending story. I needed a decaf, and I happened to know one of the very few physical stores that keep a very limited range of Gourmesso capsules, so I purchased some Gourmesso Decaf Perù Dolce (2.69 €, strength 3). Very weak indeed, but surprisingly drinkable! Obviously, the aroma is nothing to write home about, but it fits the bill for a quick evening fix. For a decaf lungo, I should probably order SFCC House Blend Decaf Lungo (3.29 €, strength 6), but I am hesitating, as one reviewer says the result is shorter than normal. Oh, and the “new” kind of Gourmesso capsules, which are not anymore foil-packaged in pairs but need to be punctured by the machine, seem to have absolutely no issues with Inissia.

Speaking of shorter coffees and a slow water flow through the capsule, I’ve acquired some experience even with the cheap Grandos Pronto (1.74 €). Here too, I noticed some new batches (judging by the expiry date), so I purchased two varieties: Lungo (orange, strength 4) and Lungo Crema (brown, strength 5). They’re both unspectacular, but very decent for the price, tasting more like Turkish coffee than like an espresso. Lungo is labeled “aromatic” and made of “premium highland Arabica beans”; Lungo Crema is for “full enjoyment” and made of “the best Arabica beans”; either way, Lungo Crema doesn’t have a richer crema and, frankly, the “normal” lungo tastes better. Both varieties had the capsules punctured rather well by the machine, however there is a huge difference between them. While the orange Lungo capsules offered a very good water flow, the brown Lungo Crema capsules almost don’t let the water through! Thinking it was about a questionable puncturing, I started to punch the capsules myself prior to inserting them in the machine, yet the issue has only marginally improved: now the coffee could indeed be prepared, but the water flow was still terribly anemic. Didn’t the manufacturers test their idea of a blend and the way they roasted and grounded it? It seems like the coffee absorbs the water in such a degree that it obstructs the water flow through the capsule!

All the three tested varieties taste better (even much better) than Kaufland’s Exquisit Äthiopien Moka Sidamo (lungo) and La Coppa Lungo. It’s difficult to make a proper lungo from exactly 5 grams of coffee, but for a strength of 4, Grandos Lungo kind of makes it; they however made a mistake while attempting to get a slightly stronger one, and Lungo Crema must be avoided at all costs!

Should I order some more Gourmesso varieties? Tough question… especially as they’re so stupid with regards to their varieties! While they have expanded their range, they have discontinued at least 4 varieties that were available in late-2013 and 2014, and I really wanted to taste the first two of them: Bolivia Pura Mezzo (7), Colombia Decaf Dolce (3), India Pura Mezzo (6), India Forte (8). Another thing I don’t like: Gourmesso Decaf Perù Dolce was made in Poland, the PL-EKO-06 label proving it!

UPDATE 9: Some more capsule brands!

  • Velibre (3.90 €/10 capsules, 18 €/50 capsules, 13.86 €/42 capsules): 5 Bio varieties (3 espressos und 2 lungos), 100% Arabica being only Allegro espresso (5) and Lento lungo (6); plus 5 “Klassiker” (3 espressos und 2 lungos), 100% Arabica all but Concerto lungo (7). It’s strange that they switched to using more Robusta, being it “bio”… And how are they surviving with only an online shop that is Germany-centric, yet almost nobody heard of it in Germany? (Gourmesso targets 6 countries with separate web sites.) They’re also expensive! Reviews: 2014; BIO; 2017: new design.
  • La Semeuse (5.95 CHF or 5.90 €), with very low acidity. 3 varieties: Mocca Lungo (5), Espresso Il Piacere (8), Mocca Surfin’ (7)–this one only in boxes of 33 capsules (19.70 CFH or 18.90 €). The espresso variety includes 10% Robusta from Cameroon. Online stores for CH, and for DE. Excellent reviews in Switzerland, but have you noticed the price?
  • Carasso (9.50-10 CFH or 10.90-11.60 € for 20 capsules), 7 varieties (1 ristretto, 2 espressos, 2 pure origins, 1 lungo, 1 espresso decaf). The lungo includes 4% African Robusta. Online stores for CH, and for DE. Expensive, and the packaging is uninspired.
  • Chicco d’Oro (3.39 €): 6 varieties (of which 1 lungo, 1 decaf), 5.5 g each. Official store (4 languages, but it ships from Germany). Also available at Kaffi Schopp (only the 4 classical varieties, and at 3.50 €).
  • Amann (Austria: 2.91-3.29 €): 2 espressos und 2 lungos. The official shop ships to DE for 11.77 €, so Kaffi Schopp is a better choice (3.95-4.20 €).
  • Tropical Mountains (5.90 CHF or 5.90 €): 3 varieties (2 espressos, 1 lungo). The lungo, Perla (4), has 4% Robusta. Online store for CH, and for DE. (Again, how are these microscopic entities surviving when they have almost no customers and being more expensive than Nespresso?!?)
  • Mocambo (2.99-3.20 €), 3 varieties (with 40%, 30%, 20% Robusta), e.g. here.
  • Pellini (3.49-3.89 €), 7 varietes, most of them pure Arabica. Their understanding of an espresso is 25 ml (ristretto by Nespresso’s standards). The official store sells in sets of of 12 identical packs. A few varieties e.g. here (3.79-3.99 €). Test from 2014.

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*that Up in the Air guy, I forgot his name

http://ludditus.com/ludditus/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/espresso-600x376.jpghttp://ludditus.com/ludditus/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/espresso.jpgBérangerMiscellaneacoffee,GermanyThere have been years since various capsule-based espresso systems became popular even in the poorest countries of the EU. I remember a certain moment when the Dolce Gusto Piccolo had an unbeatable price at one of the major hypermarkets of my country; and then there were several good deals...When more technology means many more broken things