Nespresso machines of today come with plenty of features, a modern design and a simplicity of use that is the trademark of the Nespresso brand. And indeed, more than 30 years ago when the first Nespresso machine was released, the aim was to allow anyone to create a great espresso without having barista’s skills.
Since 1986, when the very first Nespresso machine was launched, a not very good looking C100, the efforts at recreating the bar’s quality espressos at home have made Nespresso both popular among coffee drinkers and worldwide leader in the single serve pods market.
The history of Nespresso’s machines is an history of achieving the right compromise between quality espresso coffee and convenience.
Such an history couldn’t be written without citing the origins that inspired Nespresso in making the first one. The inspiration for Nespresso lays in the espresso machines and the Italian coffee culture.
The espresso machine and the beginning of Nespresso
The story starts with Eric Favre, an engineer working at Nestlé. He was on a vacation from nearby Switzerland to Italy, in Rome, in the summer of 1975. He noticed that a café there was super-popular, way more than the others. People were queuing to enter it, despite existing thousands of other cafés around Rome. The espresso machine used there, one of the classic one with a lever and a piston to push hot water through the coffee grounds, was nothing special compared to the competitors. The baristas used it differently though: the operators pumped the piston many times for a single cup of espresso, instead of just once.
That allowed them to extract more from the coffee, stronger flavors, and a fuller crema. The Italians loved that and Favre’s attention was piqued by this particular way of operating what was in all other aspects a normal espresso machine, like any other at the time.
Back in Switzerland, Favre invented the coffee pod and the way to brew with it: a sharp-pointed spout would punch through the capsule, injecting pressurised hot water multiple times, extracting the coffee grounds present into the pods in a similar way to the one that the baristas at that café in Rome did with an espresso machine. He managed to patent the system in 1976.
As you can expect, the very first prototypes of a Nespresso machine were clunky, large machines with plenty of tubes and pumps. Not exactly machines that you could use at home without being an engineer. It was needed a full decade to perfect the machine into a somewhat-portable coffee machine for office use. Interesting to note that that was the intended market at the very beginning, not households.
In 1986 the first Nespresso machine was launched in Japan, Switzerland, France and Italy at the same time. It was not a success.
The Nespresso of those years was fully different from what we know it today. There were no Nespresso boutiques (the first would come to be in 2000, in Paris), no way to buy coffee online, no competition from the likes of Starbucks (only in the USA but that market wasn’t targeted by Nespresso at first). It was a wholly different landscape for coffee drinkers, with a larger share of traditional cafes and next to no one of the larger coffee houses we see everywhere today.
Thus, Nespresso machines were first launched as an office product, to have quickly good coffee for plenty of people sharing the same machine. Back then offices had quite mediocre coffee machines, with none of the fancy ways to brew often present today. A moderately good coffee with none of the efforts to brew required by an espresso machine was thought to be easily a hit in most offices.
Despite the convenience of the Nespresso machine, the price was in direct competition with a proper espresso machine, admittedly making better espressos. The first Nespresso machines struggled to make much of a market gain for the first years, despite being plainly much easier to operate. Households and offices alike preferred their simpler brewing methods or just going to a café outside for a proper espresso.
This until Jean-Paul Gaillard came up with the idea of the Nespresso Club, reduced the price of the machines while increasing the one of the capsules, and targeting more heavily households rather than offices. The exclusivity feeling that the Club gave to its members made the Nespresso machines of the time a sought-after object, a status symbol machine that differentiated “classy” people from traditional coffee drinkers. It was 1989 and finally the Nespresso machine became a successful product throughout the handful of European markets they were sold.
A limited success but which gave Nespresso momentum and the encouragement to insist in perfecting their system.
In 1990, the production was scaled up by a deal with the OEM brand Turmix, which provided the means to sustain the increased demand for Nespresso machines. Soon after other deals with the likes of Krups, Magimix, Alessi, Philips, Siemens and De’Longhi made Nespresso machines widely available, penetrating into more markets and shops.
In 1992 Nespresso launched its first recycling program, at first limited to Swiss customers only.
It was in those years, mid-1990s, that machines were first sold in two separate lines, one for consumers and one for professionals. The underlying system was the same, but professional machines were made to resist longer, prepare more cups of coffee per day, and have better customer support.
The inventor of the Nespresso Club and main actor behind the success of the entire system, Gaillard, left Nespresso in 1997, and not on good terms. He claimed that Nestlé had the project for a prototype of a Nespresso machine already in 1973, bought from somebody else and not thanks to the insight of Favre in Italy. Nothing is confirmed about this story though. Gaillard would go on its own to found a competing company in 2008.
The first Nespresso machines
Initially Nespresso made machines that looked much like small espresso machines. The very first Nespresso machine, the C100, was a squarish piece of metal with a notable handle for the portafilter, much like what you would find on a normal espresso machine to this very day. The handle was used to remove the used capsule after brewing, in the same exact way as it is used to clean the portafilter of used coffee grounds in a bar.
The inspiration was thoroughly to make a simpler to use espresso machine without compromising on quality. From 1986, when the C100 was released, to 1992, when its successor was launched, the C200, the identification with the classic shape of a small espresso machine for home usage was clear. The Nespresso C200 was not much dissimilar from the predecessor, with a larger switch on the front and more plastic compared to the C100.
Perhaps unknown to some, these machines can still brew the same capsules that you can buy today (Original line). The system of brewing hasn’t changed that much as to prevent these 3 decades old machines from working with modern capsules. If you manage to find one of those vintage Nespresso machines for a cheap price, they can still be made to work.
Both the C100 and the C200 were manufactured in Switzerland and were sold under the Nespresso brand only.
The beginning of the 1990s saw a spreading of Nespresso in multiple markets and sectors. In 1995 the Nespresso Aerolux machine, of which you can read an introduction in this pdf, was installed on Swiss Air airplanes to serve travellers while flying. It was still a machine very close in appearance to the C100 and the C200 but geared for use aboard planes. It was manufactured by Aerolux, the first and only time in the history of Nespresso.
The Nespresso C250 machine, coming in 1996, wasn’t much different from the earlier ones. A row of fancier-looking buttons on the front was the main aesthetic difference. More importantly, it was the first Nespresso machine that had a steam wand for steaming milk and making milk-based coffee drinks.
A similar-named and shaped machine, the D250, also was launched around the same years.
Meanwhile, the line of professional Nespresso machines was launched with the ES100 (pdf). A bulky, rectangular machine, with a large water tank and a steam wand, the ES100 was released in 1996 for small offices’ use. It featured a comfortable cup holder on the back to host two rows of espresso-sized cups.
The same year, the first Nespresso website was put online, providing sparse info on the machines and the pods. Those were the early days of the Web, and e-commerce was a concept still alien.
2 years onward and the first Nespresso machine that broke the mold created by the previous ones and looked truly different came to be: the Alessi Coban. Manufactured in collaboration with Alessi and designed by Richard Sapper, it was a model made for different types of brewing systems, not just Nespresso pods. It would brew coffee beans (with an integrated coffee grinder), coffee grounds, Nespresso and Illy pods. It had a curious-looking shape, still retaining the handle and simil-portafilter plus the steam wand, but was otherwise minimalist, with a large upper part protruding towards the user and a small water tank, fully transparent, put on top. The machine was not a monolithic body but a base with a top, connected by two sort of cylinders, one containing the water reservoir and the other the brewing system. Nowadays very few pieces exist of this model, which was anyway more of a design prototype than a mass-production machine.
A new millennium and a new Nespresso begin
If the 1990s saw slow changes, occasional machines’ releases and 1-2 new capsules per year, at most, from 2000 the rate of events related to Nespresso skyrocketed.
The first boutique was opened in 2000 in Paris, France. Nespresso wasn’t anymore just a brand that produced coffee machines and pods, but an actual brick and mortar store as well. The boutiques slowly grew to reach 816 in total, spread across 536 cities and 76 (as of 2021).
Meanwhile the production of new Nespresso machines expanded and grew as well. In 2001 the C190 Concept machine was launched, with a renewed look that did without the classic handle of an espresso machine but kept the steam wand. A sphere-looking machine, it was mostly, indeed, a concept one.
A collaboration with Saeco shortly followed it, making the Nespresso Saeco Automate machine. A sturdier, all metal machine that had a clear separation between the tray that hosted the coffee cup and the steam wand. It had the appearance of a professional machine, but it was still a consumers’ one.
The professional line of Nespresso machines would be enlarged in 2003 with the ES80 (pdf), the successor of 1996’s ES100 (pdf). Curiously more similar to the C190 Concept machine than to a professional one.
In 2004 we saw a launch of multiple machines, with one that would be a big hit for Nespresso. An unique idea for a built-in machine came out of a collaboration with the German appliances producer Miele and the Built-in Miele Nespresso machine was born. Encased within your kitchen, it provided a full set of features to brew coffee using the Original line of Nespresso pods, and steam milk. Automated and with a handy used capsules container and a drawer that could be integrated into any kitchen. It was clearly the least mobile Nespresso machine ever built, but undoubtedly a full coffee brewing system right within your kitchen, something that had rarely been done before and after.
The other Nespresso machines launched in 2004 were the SN70 Romeo (much like the Saeco Automate of a few years before) and one of the most successful machines of all time: the Essenza. The Essenza captured the desire for a small coffee machine that would brew good espresso or espresso-like coffee, for a low cost. Reduced to the minimum of functionalities but maintaining the same coffee quality as the larger machines, the Essenza was hugely successful. It sold over 200000 units across 12 countries in just 3 months. It is not in production anymore but can still be found as an used unit, sometimes under the name of “Essenza C100” (not to be confused with the original C100 machine).
Not just machines were launched though. As not all machines could steam or froth milk, some users would have liked an accessory to purchase separately for this task. The first Aeroccino was made available in 2006, making a perfect pair with the small Essenza to have a full coffee brewing system at a very competitive price tag.
In the same year, Nespresso produced the line of professional machines Gemini. Larger than before, capable of brewing two wholly separate coffee at the same time.
A curious-looking Nespresso machine for consumers was Le Cube (the Cube in french). Very much made as per its name in the shape of a cube, it had on the side the water tank and a cup holder but lacked a steam wand. The Aeroccino was needed to make milk-based coffee drinks. Probably the most unique-looking Nespresso machine ever.
Those who didn’t want to buy the Aeroccino or needed better milk steaming performances would be satisfied by Nespresso with the advent of the first Lattissima machine. Large, with a robust exterior, it would soon become outdated by the likes of Lattissima Pro, Gran Lattissima and so on but at the time, around 15 years ago, it was the first Nespresso machine that specifically targeted lovers of coffee drinks with milk. Not that the precedent machines weren’t capable of doing them but the name itself chosen by Nespresso was a marketing ploy to have a second line of machines specifically geared towards brewing coffee and milk drinks. A line that lasts to our days.
By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, a dozen or so machines were on the market, along with the first and second Aeroccino (launched in 2008 as the Aeroccino Plus or Aeroccino+). A few professional machines as well, for heavier use.
Machines were produced either still in Switzerland, by the large OEM producer Eugster/Frismag, and simply branded as Nespresso, or elsewhere, outsourced to the likes of Miele, Saeco, De’Longhi, Krups, Magimix. The latter would include the Nespresso branding and logo on them, but also the name of the actual producer, in a trend that continues to our days. Online and physical boutiques were in full bloom, and Nespresso was present in most of the developed world already. The next years would build on the successes of the early 2000s and further expand the line of Nespresso machines.
The modern Nespresso machines
The turn of the decades saw another large launch of new models, for different audiences. The first CitiZ was born in 2009, becoming another successful Nespresso machine in the furrow of the Essenza. You can often still find it in hotels’ rooms and small offices.
Those needing more horsepower and a greater output were better to go with another machine, released in 2011 as well, the Aguila 420. A true behemoth of a Nespresso professional machine, the Aguila 420 had two trays, both capable of holding 2 coffee cups, and therefore brewing up to four coffee at the same time, with fully independent settings. It lacked a steam wand though, making it a pure coffee machine. Sometimes it is still possible to find it, especially in Europe, in bars or hotels, easily mistaken for a traditional espresso machine due to its resemblance of one given by the four levers used to pull a shot.
Coming back to consumers’ Nespresso machines, the new Pixie and the successor of the first Lattissima, the Lattissima Plus or Lattissima+ were also launched along the time of the Aguila 420. By now it was clear to see how Nespresso had 3 types of machines for consumers: the small and cheap ones, like the CitiZ, Essenza and Pixie, the medium/large ones, like the Saeco Automate and SN70 Romeo, and the one in the Lattissima series. While the first and the latter were receiving regular, every couple of years, updates or fully new models, the second line was going to get multiple newly named machines throughout the 2010s.
The Maestria, released in 2012, would be the modern incarnation of a Nespresso machine that was larger and with more features than the smaller ones but not in the same line of the Lattissima machines. The Maestria had a larger body than the Pixie yet still with soft corners, coming in a few colors as well. It had a steam wand, unlike the cheapest Nespresso machines, yet space enough to accommodate next to it an Aeroccino, for those more inclined to use one instead.
A version with the Aeroccino was released in 2012 as well, and called Gran Maestria.
The CitiZ/Pixie type of machines would get their successor in the form of the Nespresso U. First released in 2012, it was a colorful, small, portable machine that lacked a few features compared to the Maestria. A version with an included Aeroccino was released the next year, named as Umilk. This Aeroccino wasn’t an old one, but the new Aeroccino 3.
By 2013 a revamp of the Gemini professional machines line was due and a few slightly different models were released: the Gemini CS 220 Pro, the CS 223 Pro and the CS 203 Pro. Neither of them distanced themselves much from the previous Gemini machines, design-like. The differences were minimal, with the numeration being just a way to separate them according to the target market.
A new line of medium-sized machines was introduced with the Creatista Plus and Uno. Both similar in features, with the steam wand being the prominent addition for milk-based coffee drinks, but quite dissimilar in look: while the Plus had an all metal exterior, the Uno was more conservative with a mix of metal and plastic.
2014: an important year for Nespresso
2014 was perhaps the most important year for Nespresso in terms of new machines. Not only was another of the most successful Nespresso machines released, the small, colorful, trendy Inissia, but the first pods of the new line of coffee became available. The Vertuo line was born, along with their first dedicated machine, simply named Vertuo. Not much different in design than the recent U and Maestria, the Vertuo machine had as main feature the implementation of the new Vertuo capsules: larger, proprietary, for big coffee drinkers. Unlike the Original line, the Vertuo capsules can brew in up to five sizes.
Nespresso specifically targeted the North American market with the Vertuo line. It was the only area of the highly developed world where Nespresso hadn’t a leadership position and the Vertuo machine was to attempt fixing this. As of 2021 the situation has only marginally improved for Nespresso in the USA.
Back to 2014: the most portable ever Nespresso machine was released. The Wacaco Minipresso is a handheld Nespresso machine, compatible with the Original line of capsules. It doesn’t heat water, it requires an external source to produce hot water. Once you have it though, by manually pressing a piston multiple times, an adequate pressure is achieved. A plastic cup is integrated in this cylindrical, light machine making it the best way to carry around a Nespresso machine there is.
In the same year, a collaboration with KitchenAid produced the Nespresso KitchenAid machine. A white, black, beige or red machine from the famous manufacturer, it featured a very 1950s inspired design, in line with the other products of the American company. Definitely the least “Nespresso-looking” machine ever released.
Those who wanted a larger Aeroccino found an alternative in the peculiar Cappuccinatore CS 20. An accessory as large as a small Nespresso machine, the Cappuccinatore was simply a milk frother but with a greater capacity than the classic line of Aeroccinos. It is rare to find it nowadays, but still sold, new, online.
Completing the range of new models introduced in 2014, the new Lattissima Pro introduced a more compact design for the milk-focused line, along with an enlarged milk tank and the capability of syncing the steaming of milk with the brewing of coffee. The sister Lattissima Touch featured a nearly identical design, but with touch buttons.
Fast forward to today: the last Nespresso machines introduced
By 2015, with both the Original and Vertuo line working alongside each other, multiple lines of Nespresso machines for consumers and a sizable range of professional machines as well, the offering from Nespresso in terms of coffee and machines was fully formed. The rest is very recent history and mostly consists of upgrading of previously released machines or new yet similar machines to those already present on the market.
The Vertuo line saw an immediate successor to the Vertuo machine: the 2015‘s Evoluo. Similarly, the Pixie Clips was featured as an evolution of the original Pixie, with customizable sides of various colors to personalize your machine. The professional line saw the Aguila 220 as its new entry. A slightly more compact version of the veritably huge Aguila 420, it could brew two coffee cups at the same time instead of four.
From 2016 to today, among the upgraded versions of older models, an exception was surely the Prodigio Nespresso machine. Compact and with a design remotely reminiscent of the first Essenza, the Prodigio introduced Bluetooth connectivity to the line of Nespresso machines. A feature that we find on many nowadays, yet the Prodigio was the first one ever for Nespresso, back in 2016.
The medium line of Nespresso machines, for the Original line of pods, found a new model in the Expert. A curvier machine in the tradition of the Nespresso U and the Evoluo, the Expert included the same Bluetooth connectivity as the Prodigio, just a bit later. A version including the Aeroccino 3 was sold as Expert & Milk (similarly as with other machines).
The last of the Aeroccinos, the 4, was also launched in 2016. With a little spout to pour the milk more accurately and a comfortable handle, the Aeroccino 4 is the natural, and so far last, evolution of the previous Aeroccinos.
A rebirth of the name Essenza occurred with the Essenza Mini. Not much different from the smallest Nespresso machines of the previous years, the Essenza Mini was again a colorful, tight and portable little machine. The Vertuo Plus Deluxe bundled the Aeroccino 3 with a machine in all respects identical to the Vertuo Plus. The Lattissima One added a smack of unsaturated colors to the Lattissima line, while the Gran Lattissima expanded on it, offering more preset recipes, a larger milk tank and being able to accommodate taller cups under it.
The Creatista line was upgraded too with the introduction of the Creatista Pro. Look-wise it built on the Creatista Plus rather than on the Creatista Uno, for a quite professional-looking Nespresso machine.
A rather squarish Essenza, breaking with the traditional aesthetics of the line, was the recent Essenza Plus. Larger too, nearly matching in size and features the middle line of Nespresso machines like the Creatista and the Maestria.
The last incarnations of the professional Nespresso machines were the Momento 100 and 200. Both introduced a touch display for a touchless experience (and in pandemic times that is a noteworthy feature). Modularly built, to easily replace every part, both the Momento 100 and Momento 200 are thought for a small office usage, with a recommended number of cups of coffee per month of 500.
Lovers of frothy coffee drinks that don’t own a Nespresso machine with a steam wand were introduced with the Aeroccino XL, a more powerful milk frother that was capable of having a little edge in terms of frothed milk compared to the previous Aeroccino 3 and 4.
The Vertuo machines line wasn’t forgotten in the last couple of years either. The Vertuo Next and Vertuo Next Deluxe both introduced modern machines for those loving the Vertuo pods, in a more compact package. These machines went into the direction of automating the brewing of complete recipes, including milk where necessary, at the pressing of a button.
A trend that was even more prominent in the last (as of 2021) Nespresso machine for the Original line of pods, the Nespresso Atelier. Implementing both water and milk tanks, with 7 preset recipes that the machine can brew for you at the pressing of a single button.
A complete list of the Nespresso portfolio of machines as of 2020 can be downloaded here (pdf).
A complete history of Nespresso and its machines is a task that in itself would require many book’s pages, and a deeper analysis of the market in which Nespresso launched and operated throughout these last decades. We believe it would be out of scope for this website.
Instead, we hoped to give you a crash course on how Nespresso was born and the evolution of the many Nespresso machines. Along with insights on how the different machines’ lines were borne and why, we hope that this Nespresso machines’ history can help you choose your new or first model.
A short closing disclaimer: don’t get obsessed about the dates as different markets had different launch dates for many of the machines we talked about. A year or two of difference, especially if you live in one of the minor markets for Nespresso, is to be expected. Most machines weren’t released globally, nor at the same time.
If you are sure that we made larger mistakes though, feel free to comment below and let us know how this history can be more accurate. We thank you in advance for your contribution to the Nespresso machines’ history.
For anything else, comments are open, as usual.