This is a common question we receive. Personally it’s one of the very first things I attempted to discover when I bought my first Nespresso machine years ago.
On the internet there are plenty of reusable pods. Pods made of metal or sturdy plastic that can be opened, filled with ground coffee, and securely closed. That is surely a way to follow if you plan to routinely use ground coffee instead of Nespresso capsules.
But the actual, original, Nespresso capsules can be reused? Well, yes. A bit.
Why the single serve capsule systems preserve the flavors of coffee
The single serve container, as Nespresso capsules are, is designed to preserve the freshness of coffee. That is because the coffee is packed into the single capsules for a single serve, thus not being opened again until the very moment you brew it; unlike ground coffee at supermarkets, where you usually open and close the package whenever you need, until it’s empty. Vacuum-sealed coffee is popular everywhere these days but the normal packages preserve freshness only until the first opening. Then, it’s up to you to keep it as air tight as possible thereafter.
The capsules are both air tight and vacuum-sealed. And there’s no coffee in contact with air at all until brewing time, and no more than what you actually need each time.
This advantage you lose when reusing the capsules. Let’s see why.
How to reuse a Nespresso capsule
The method more commonly used is explained very simply on Instructables. It is composed of a few steps:
- Cut out the aluminum cover of the used capsule. You can use a small, sharp knife. It doesn’t need to be done very accurately.
- Throw away or, better, compost the used coffee. We often use it as a fertilizer for the plants around our houses.
- Wash the capsule. Water only. Let it dry.
- Fill your capsule with ground coffee up to the rim (not over it!). Don’t press the coffee or the capsule will clog the machine. 2 teaspoons should suffice.
- Place aluminum foil over the aperture, covering it completely.
- Cut the foil in a circular motion so just enough of it is around the capsule.
- Tuck the foil under the border of the capsule so it won’t fall down and keep the coffee inside. Use only the strict necessary quantity to keep the aluminum foil firm and taught, nothing more or the machine could have issues.
That’s about it. It should work most of the time. We say “most of the time” because machines are a bit fickle when working both with Nespresso compatible capsules and even more with reused original ones. We had more than one occurrence of the reused capsule not being punched, brewing then just hot water, or being crushed instead of punched, causing an extremely weak cup of coffee to be issued. And a blocked machine.
Have a try with different types of aluminum foil. Some may work better than others. Some may fall quite easily and leave your machine filled with ground coffee (not something you want to explain to the tech support). We never had similar issues with original or compatible capsules, just with reused one.
How many times can a Nespresso capsule be reused?
A few. Very few, more like. We reached the fifth time once with a capsule but the coffee wasn’t good, too many holes from previous brews were being accumulated on the capsule. The brewing was too vigorous, too much water passed quickly through the coffee and it was seriously under-extracted. Not recommended.
Probably the right amount of reuses is 2, maybe 3. It depends on how picky you are about the quality of coffee. It is surely not advised to reuse any capsule if you want a perfect cup of coffee each time as there’s no guarantee as with new capsules that the brewing will be even and regular.
Also you should only pack the capsule before you want to brew it or the coffee will start losing flavors once exposed to the air (it’s not vacuum-sealed anymore). Fine coffee lovers should stick with proper reusable capsules or keep the capsules to their intended use: a single serve cup of coffee.
Can you break your machine with reused capsules?
Very possibly, yes. Use this method at your own risk. We had enough occasions when a reused capsule got stuck, opened too soon, didn’t open at all and various malfunctions that it doesn’t seem a method that can be stably implemented. Quite a few times the machine refused to brew altogether.
We then do not advise to reuse capsules often if at all. You can try once to see the results, perhaps because you have a very good quality ground coffee around you want to brew with your Nespresso machine. But be warned that this method may absolutely clog or even break your machine. Be safe, you and your machine, always.
Do you have a different method to reuse your old Nespresso capsules? Let us know in the comments. Let’s share some knowledge!