This is exactly how to use a Nespresso machine, according to a Nespresso chef

Everything you need to know to make coffee like a pro

How to use a Nespresso machine: A birdseye view of the Nespresso lattissima one coffee maker on a countertop with coffee and a pod at the side
(Image credit: Nespresso)

Learning how to use a Nespresso machine takes a matter of minutes. Whether you're brand-new to Nespresso or dusting off an old model, it won't be long before you're brandishing some barista-worthy skills using your shiny single-serve machine.

Luckily, all of the best Nespresso machines work in the same fundamental way: you put a capsule in, press a button, and then the machine does the rest. It doesn't get any more complicated than that. However, there are plenty of tips, tricks, and mistakes people make that you'll want to know about to make the most of your Nespresso machine.

I've spoken with baristas, Nespresso chefs, and coffee experts, as well as drawing on my own experience testing the best single-serve coffee makers on the market so that I can bring you a comprehensive guide to using your Nespresso.

The first time you use a Nespresso

Nespresso Vertuo Plus clearing out water

(Image credit: Future)

Once you've unboxed your Nespresso, the first thing you need to do is rinse it. This removes dust and dirt from your machine, ensuring you make a delicious cup of coffee from the get-go.

To rinse your machine, fill your reservoir with filtered water. This normally sits at the back of the machine. If it's not there, it'll be at the side (and you can't miss it). Place a container under your brew head, ready to collect any water the machine spits out in the rinsing process.

Next, hold down the button on top of your machine for seven to ten seconds. You'll hear your machine brewing water before you see it. The entire rinse can take up to ten minutes and will often require a full reservoir of water, but it's worth doing.

Understanding the Nespresso pods

Nespresso Vertuo Plus pod space

(Image credit: Future)

The most confusing part of using a Nespresso is the capsules. Here's the summary: Nespresso Vertuo coffee makers can only be used with Vertuo capsules and the same applies to their Original machines and Original capsules.

Within each capsule line, there is a range of names, colors, and roasts to choose between. The best resource I can offer you is the Nespresso coffee chart. This is a translation chart for all things capsule, explaining the colors and names, whilst explaining what to expect from your cup. 

Nespresso will give you a starter selection with a chart the first time you buy your machine, so you can work out what you like and then sign up for a Nespresso subscription on your favorite pods.

I spoke with an expert from the Nespresso Chef Academy, Galen Zamarra. He told me that 'the Vertuo capsules were originally introduced to North America because Americans drink larger-sized coffees than Europeans. They are not a substitute for drip coffee, because they still make coffee like espressos. If you drink mostly espressos, I prefer the Original capsules. These are more specific in terms of authentic espresso brewing. If you drink latte-style drinks, Vertuo pods will suit you better; they're stronger and you won't need to use multiple pods to get good flavors in your cup'.

Nespresso expert
Galen Zamarra
Nespresso expert
Galen Zamarra

Galen Zamarra is an award-winning chef who who was selected by Nespresso as the US representative to the Nespresso Chef Academy. He spent multiple days in the Nespresso Production Center in Romont, Switzerland. There, he, and a handful of other chefs from around the world learned the processes Nespresso use for their production, tasted coffee, and participated in friendly challenges using coffee as an ingredient with food. He is not a paid sponsor of Nespresso.

Using your Nespresso machine

Nespresso Vertuo Plus espresso

(Image credit: Future)

Before brewing, fill your water tank with fresh, cold water. Once your reservoir is full, press the power button on your machine, so that it warms up. The buttons will blink and, when they stop (normally after about 30 seconds), it's ready to get to work. If the buttons are blinking red and the machine is never warming up, you need to fill the water tank with water. 

Next, lift the lever of your machine, so that you can insert your pod. More modern machines, such as the Vertuo Plus and Creatista require you to push down on a button sat on the top of the machine instead of lifting a lever. These modern models will automatically lift up so that you can put your pod inside. Either way, place the pod into the compartment. It should sit snugly inside.

Nespresso Vertuo Plus brewing espresso

(Image credit: Future)

Then, close the lid, and close your lever (if you have one) to the horizontal position. Nespresso's site offers a top tip: 'When you open or close the lever, move it fully until it stops. Otherwise, the pod may fall down.' 

Before brewing, place a cup under the Nespresso brew head. Kayla Stavridis, former barista, recommends adjusting the drip tray (which doubles up as the cup holder) so that your cup sits as close to the brew head as possible.' The further your coffee falls, the more the crema will break and the less aesthetically pleasing it will look. 

When you're good to go, press whichever coffee button you need. Most Vertuo machines have one button, because the machine uses barcode technology to detect which coffee you're brewing. Original machines have different buttons for ristretto (small cup), espresso (medium, but still small cup), and lungo (big cup), so you'll need to press whichever coordinates with the kind of coffee you want.

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis

As a former Starbucks barista, Kayla has made thousands of coffees. She knows what good tastes like and has tinkered with her Nespresso to ensure she can make a coffee that tastes as good as it smells in one of these machines.

Texturing milk in your Nespresso or Aeroccino

Nespresso Aeroccino 4

(Image credit: Future)

Galen Zamarra, the award-winning Nespresso chef, has some suggestions for making cafe-style drinks. If you want an Americano, he says, 'extract a lungo, remove the capsule, and press the large cup button again. If you want a latte or cappuccino, extract two lungos (if they're Original pods, just one if they're Vertuo) and adjust your milk frother to suit your drink.'

If you have a machine with an integrated steam wand, such as the Lattissima or Creatista, your Nespresso will automatically texture milk. Make sure this is in place before you start brewing your coffee. 

If you don't have one of these features but want a milky coffee, you'll need to invest in a milk frother. Nespresso's own one is called the Aeroccinio, which is available at Walmart. Luckily for you, it's one of the best milk frothers on the market (although, I've included some alternatives below if it's not for you).

Brew your shot of espresso before using the Aeroccino. When your Nespresso is busy making coffee, you can turn your hand to the milk. The Aeroccino has simple settings: cold frothed milk, hot milk, slightly frothed milk (latte milk), and really frothed milk (cappuccino). Touch whichever you want and the Aeroccino will do the rest. When it automatically stops, you can pour your milk into the coffee. 

It's very easy. For the best results, use cold whole milk (or cold barista versions of plant-based milks), because this gives your Aeroccino plenty of time to texture your milk before it gets too hot and burns.

Tips, tricks, and common mistakes

Nespresso Vertuo Plus Americano

(Image credit: Future)

There are plenty of simple tips, tricks, and practices that you can follow to ensure that you're making the most delicious coffee in your Nespresso. Kayla Stavridis, recommends warming your coffee cups up before you use them. She says that 'A preheated cup will not only help to keep your coffee warmer for longer, it'll also help to preserve all the aromatic coffee flavors that are most potent on your first brew'. You can do this by running it under warm water and drying it, or keeping your best coffee cups in a warm (and safe) place. 

Once you're comfortable making coffee in your Nespresso, you've got plenty of fun ways to play with flavors. If you look at Nespresso's website, you'll see recipes for affogato, coconut-flavored roasts, and suggestions for syrups which you can add to your coffee if you want to switch up your flavors. Even on a basic level, changing the milk you add to your coffee can surprisingly enhance the different notes of your coffee bean.

Nespresso Vertuo Plus espresso

(Image credit: Future)

Everyone will tell you that filtered water is key to brewing consistently delicious coffees. Galen Zamarra, Nespresso specialist, has some slightly controversial, but effective recommendations. He says, 'Most people assume that using purer water will make them a better coffee. We always found that when you use filtered water, you take out minerals that naturally enhance coffee's flavors.  He recognizes that this, of course, presents a problem. Nespresso machines can build up limescale, which slows them down and can damage your machine. 

Zamarra explains that 'Nespresso's solution is desacling. Most machines will give you a light or app notification when it is time to descale. If you do this regularly, your machine will last a long time and you will enjoy better-tasting coffee and proper extraction times.'

Galen Zamarra also reassured me not to worry about the potentially wasteful capsules. Nespresso offers free recyclable bags and it's free to ship your used pods back to them. He says 'They turn the pods into cool things like Swiss Army Knives and Pens. They're even bringing compostable capsules to the US too.'


What can I make in my Nespresso?

Name a coffee and you can make it in your Nespresso machine. These single-serve coffee makers cover the basics and then your extra equipment (milk frothers, chocolate, coffee grinders, and perhaps even your latte art skills) can do the rest. If you want to make variations on espresso coffees (double espresso, ristretto, etc.) your best bet is the Nespresso Original. If you want to make milky coffees (latte, cappuccino, etc.) you'll want a Nespresso Vertuo.

How do you use Nespresso coffee capsules?

You don't need to do anything more than select which capsule you want, pop it in the pod slot, and close the lid. If you're struggling to work out what goes where and need some visual help, you might find this YouTube guide to using your Nespresso helpful.

How do you use Nespresso with milk and pods?

Different Nespressos follow different processes for making coffee with milk and pods. The Lattissima requires you to fill up and attach the milk carafe, whereas the Creatista needs you to fill up a stainless steel jug. If you don't have either of these, you'll need an Aerocinno and you'll be choosing which milk setting you want to use for yourself. Here's a video on how to use the Lattissima One and here's a video on how to use the Creatista. If you need help learning how to froth milk, I've written an extensive buying guide on the process.

Laura Honey
eCommerce Editor

Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.