Coffee snobs and/or aficionados aren’t usually fond of Nespresso capsules for their coffee. Various reasons, more related to taste than actual quality of the coffee involved in our opinion. But that’s not the point we want to make today.
Some claim that Nespresso capsules cannot produce a real espresso but something similar, that can’t be called “espresso” though. That involves two different conception of what espresso is: a method of brewing coffee and the result of such a method.
In the first case, an espresso machine as can be found in any bar works by pumping hot water through grounded coffee at high pressure. Any Nespresso machine works like this too. Pressure are similar too. The only great difference is that a classic espresso machine has freshly grounded coffee while a Nespresso one comes with prepackaged coffee in capsules. That may make a big or not difference in the final taste but doesn’t change the method of brewing. Therefore, that’s not the issue here, the methods are similar enough to both be considered “espresso brewing”. Similarly to modifying a Moka pot to make foam, and thus a drink more closely resembling an espresso, the method are close enough to be considered of the same category.
The quantity of coffee used for a Nespresso is generally lower than what is used for a single serving in an espresso machine at a bar. Even significantly lower, like one third. Is an espresso considered such by the quantity of coffee involved too? Where is it written that at least x amount of coffee should be used in order for a drink to be called “espresso”? What we consider it matters is the final result. If a brewing method can reach a similar or even equal result with less coffee, all the better, no?
The same critique is not done towards a coffee made with an Aeropress vs a pour over or a moka pot. It’s all allowed to be called “coffee”, a generic term for drinks brewed with wildly different quantities of water and coffee (and temperatures even). Why a Nespresso machine shouldn’t be considered being able to make an espresso when the method, quantity of water and coffee are closer to a classic espresso machine? It doesn’t make much sense to me, unless those claiming it’s not an espresso are being just snobbish.
Thus we are left with the final drink. Generally speaking an espresso is composed of a defined quantity of liquid coffee, a pretty high temperature of it, and a foam. Any Nespresso machine is able to generate such a quantity of coffee, actually they can be customized to make any quantity of coffee at all, can output a very hot drink and have all a variably-sized foam. By all aspects and considerations, the final drink IS an espresso. By the look of it, there can be no way to distinguish a cup of coffee made with an espresso machine and one made with a Nespresso one. Only taste is different, not the look.
Does it matter?
Probably not. Choose the brewing method that produces the best coffee for your taste and ignore if it can be considered a pour over or an espresso or any other kind of coffee. We like the Nespresso coffee and we have ostensibly found it to be on par or superior to a large percentage of coffee produced in bars, with a more professional espresso machine. It is not the brewing method, nor the look nor the quality that would eventually make it “not an espresso”. It is your own taste. But that it is completely subjective and impossible to calculate before hand.