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CHOICE finds top selling Nespresso pods not so tasty

18 April 2013

While George Clooney’s looks may have helped Nespresso explode into a billion dollar global brand, CHOICE has found the coffee capsules aren’t as hot as their competitors, placing fourth out of five in a taste test.
Nespresso coffee capsules – the most expensive in the survey – were described as “underwhelming”, “musty” and “watery” by CHOICE’s three experts, who blind sampled five shots.  Each shot was assessed for crema thickness, colour, aroma, mouth feel and aftertaste.

The top-tasting capsule was Coffee Capsule Delights Indian, which selling at 60 cents for 5.8 grams, was described by the testers as “nutty”, having “a good aroma” and “no bitter aftertaste” but “a very limited flavour”.   

The others ranked as follows:
  • Best Espresso Mercurius Intenso   58c / 5.6g
  • Piazza D’Oro Superiore     65c / 5.5g
  • Nespresso Roma 68c / 5g
  • Caffe Vergano 1882 Intenso 55c / 5.3g
“Nespresso has built its brand through its club and boutique stores, creating what is known as ‘premiumisation’.  However, the low ranking of their coffee capsules in our taste test is a reminder to consumers that an expensive, exclusive product isn’t always necessarily the best,” says Angela McDougall, food policy advisor for CHOICE.  
The Nespresso coffee capsule system was the fastest growing brand in the fresh coffee category in Australia in 2011, with global sales reaching $US 3.2 billion in 2011. According to Euromonitor, overall sales of single-serve packets – which include cups, pods and discs – jumped 31.3 % that year.
Since 2010, an estimated 50 competitors have entered the capsule market. These include Sara Lee’s Piazza D’Oro L’Or and the Ethical Coffee Company coming out with their Nespresso-compatible capsules while the likes of Aldi, Woolworths and Starbucks are now selling their own machines and capsules.
For fans of strong coffee, capsules can be insipid due to the smaller amount of coffee in them - an espresso from a café usually has 11 grams while the capsules tested by CHOICE ranged from 5 to 5.8 grams.  However, for some coffee drinkers, the attraction of pods is convenience and cost, with a capsule selling from 37c for Aldi Expressi to 68c for Nespresso.

CHOICE coffee capsule tips: 
  • Research which capsules will match your machine – once you’ve bought your new coffee maker, you are stuck with the flavours that are compatible with it.
  • Mixing and matching brands of capsules in one machine can be problematic as each has a slightly different design, which can affect the coffee-making process and hence the taste.
  • If you are using incompatible pods and your machine breaks down, your warranty rights could be jeopardised.
  • For consumers concerned about waste, the Ethical Coffee Company produces a compostable coffee capsule that is Nespresso-compatible and currently available on eBay.

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