Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsule comparison test/review

Original Nespresso capsules are delivered straight to your home or office door

Original Nespresso capsules are delivered straight to your home or office door. I ordered these Wednesday at 13:00 and they were delivered Thursday at 09:30!

It’s Friday and the postman rings the doorbell instead of just leaving the post. “That’s interesting,” I think. “What could this be?” To my surprise and delight it was a rather large package containing five boxes of 10 Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules by Fine Coffee Club. Wow, they mean to impress. (By way of comparison, Gourmesso sent me 8 single capsules, one of each of 8 of its flavours. They may not have the clout of the big coffee producers but they’re extremely friendly and very switched on.) This was handy because we had guests arriving Saturday evening so we could do a taste test and compare the Fine Coffee Club capsules with original Nespresso® capsules.

Fine Coffee Club capsules come in recyclable, reclosable sleeves

Fine Coffee Club capsules come in recyclable, reclosable sleeves

Fast forward to Monday, and once again the postman rings the doorbell instead of just leaving the post. “That’s interesting,” I think. “What could this be this time?” To my surprise and delight it was an even larger package containing five boxes of 10 Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules by Carte Noire in a luxurious, gold-ribboned presentation box, plus two double-walled espresso cups by Bodum, bearing the Carte Noire logo. Gosh, Carte Noire wants to impress even more. And yes, Dear Reader, this is a double-whammy sponsored post where I will give my honest opinion about the free samples of Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules that were sent to me. Do read on, you’ll find it interesting I think.

A generous and luxurious sample from Carte Noire

A generous and luxurious sample from Carte Noire

Back to the weekend taste test. First off, Fine Coffee Club capsules come in a recyclable cardboard box that you can actually reclose and neatly store, as opposed to the Nespresso® box that you basically have to rip open and then are left with this messy-looking ripped hunk of cardboard hanging off the end. So that’s one point for Fine Coffee Club, and a lesson for Nespresso®. Second, the first capsule I took out looked a bit dented but I tried it anyway. Fatal mistake. I mopped up water for ten minutes afterwards due to the damaged capsule getting jammed in my compatible machine. Oops, take that point away from Fine Coffee Club for not delivering undamaged capsules despite the heavy outer cardboard shipping box.

Hooray for Fine Coffee Club's reclosable sleeves!

Hooray for Fine Coffee Club’s reclosable sleeves!

 

Fine Coffee Club's capsules were designed to lock freshness in so you get the first fresh taste every time.

Fine Coffee Club’s capsules were designed to lock freshness in so you get the first fresh taste every time.

A good point for Fine Coffee Club capsules is that they have apparently been designed to protect the aroma, as are Nespresso®’s aluminum capsules. The coffee has a proper coffee colour, produces a fine crema and has a reasonable aroma once brewed. I thought the Fine Coffee Club capsules were better than the Gourmesso capsules previously reviewed, but there stops any comparison. In a side-by-side blind taste test between similar strength Nespresso® and Fine Coffee Club coffees, Nespresso® won hands down. Nespresso® coffees have more body, better taste, more aroma and a lovely lingering taste on the tongue. Fine Coffee Club ships to Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, the UK and the USA, plus to other parts of Europe. Their website states that you can “Save over 20% compared to the main brand” so if budget is your main consideration then Fine Coffee Club capsules are worth a try.

For us, Carte Noire is the best alternative to Nespresso capsules but this N° 9 Intense left us longing for a more lingering taste

For us, Carte Noire is the best alternative to Nespresso capsules but this N° 9 Intense left us longing for a more lingering taste

Now we come to another taste test, between original Nespresso® and Carte Noire Nespresso®-compatible capsules. Of all three compatibles I have had the good fortune to test, Carte Noire are the best alternative. I do worry that the Carte Noire capsules are individually wrapped because as soon as you open the cute little envelope you get a big hit of coffee smell, which means that less of that aroma stays in your cup. We blind tasted Carte Noire’s N° 9 Intense alongside Nespresso®’s Ristretto with intensity 10, and while the Carte Noire was a nice brew with good colour, reasonably strong aroma and lovely crema, the taste didn’t really go anywhere and left your mouth feeling abandoned. The Nespresso® Ristretto (brewed to the same 40ml espresso shot as the Carte Noire and therefore not a true ristretto and a fair comparison) had more body, a more intense aroma and a gorgeous lingering taste. This afternoon I brewed myself a Carte Noire N° 3 Elégant and I’m happy to say that it was really quite good, with reasonable body and a good length of taste.

Carte Noire is out to impress and to take the coffee capsule market by storm

Carte Noire is out to impress and to take the coffee capsule market by storm

Carte Noire’s selling point is convenience because their capsules are available in supermarkets across the UK. However, as Carte Noire capsules are only compatible with Nespresso® machines bought in the UK before July 1, 2013, you need to check your machine first. Despite my new Nespresso® machine being officially compatible, one of the capsules I used got stuck and made rather a bit of a mess on the coffee bar. Retailing at £2.79 for 10 capsules there is a small difference in price between Carte Noire and Nespresso® whose capsules retail from £2.90 to £3.50 per sleeve of 10 but for my money I will stick with the superior, consistent quality and taste of original Nespresso® espresso capsules.

Here is my ranking of the espresso capsules I have tested:

Ranking Brand Positive points Negative points
First place Nespresso®
  • Consistently excellent body, aroma, colour, crema, taste and length of taste across all varieties
  • Delivered straight to your home or office door. Shipping charge waived on orders of over 200 capsules
  • Freshness sealed inside recyclable aluminum capsules
  • Scruffy packaging!
Second place Carte Noire
  • Reasonable body, aroma, colour, crema, taste for most varieties. Good body and length of taste in N° 3 Elégant
  • Supermarket availability may be attractive to some
  • Not all machines are compatible
  • Freshness/loss of aroma; individual envelope creates additional waste
  • Risk of faulty capsules
  • Bulky packaging requires more storage space
Third place Fine Coffee Club
  • Well designed re-sealable outer packaging
  • Capsules designed to lock in freshness
  • Available in many countries
  • Price point at 20% less than Nespresso®
  • Makes a decent cup of coffee if you’re on a budget
  • Risk of faulty capsules
  • Not as high quality coffee or capsules as Nespresso®
Fourth place Gourmesso
  • Really friendly company with good customer service
  • Offers the widest alternative range with ten espressos, two Lungo offerings, three flavoured capsules as well as limited specialities
  • Free shipping on orders over £40
  • Price point at 30% less than Nespresso® Capsules
  • Makes a half decent cup of coffee if you’re on a budget or if your taste buds haven’t been spoiled by Nespresso®!
  • Freshness/loss of aroma; individual envelope creates additional waste
  • Bulky packaging requires more storage space
  • Not as high quality coffee or capsules as Nespresso®

Sponsored post; all opinions expressed here are those of the author and you are welcome to form your own. Why not order some capsules from each of these sponsors and let me know what you think?

 

10 Comments

  1. Caffè Nibes: Good Value Italian Roast Nespresso®-compatible Coffee Capsules Delivered to Your Door - Why is There Air?

    23 June 2017 at 14:19

    […] Italian company offering me a selection of their Nespresso®-compatible coffee capsules to review. I’ve done it before, twice, so why not do it again?, I thought. Some time later I gleefully struggled to retrieve from […]

  2. Madame Thermomix

    22 February 2017 at 08:37

    Thanks for your interesting comment, Bill. I haven’t yet heard of the brands you mention. What country are you finding them in ?

  3. Bill Gervasi

    22 February 2017 at 04:28

    I have found two brands that I prefer to Nespresso. Those are Lavica Italiano and Aldecoa Intense. I can’t say which of these two I prefer… Both are delicious but in different ways. Lavica is a bit earthier and the Aldecoa a bit bolder. As an aside, I also tried Rosso brand which I rank below Nespresso capsules, however as you say, the Rosso is kind to a limited budget.

  4. Madame Thermomix

    4 November 2015 at 07:55

    Thanks for your comment, Christine. We had an amusing time with our blind tasting, that’s for sure !

  5. Christine

    3 November 2015 at 17:26

    Thank you for taking the time to do a full-up blind taste test. Saved me a lot of trouble. I’ll stay with the Nespresso capsules for a while longer. Perhaps they will take a bit more care with the relentless price increases since coffee prices are NOT rising at the same rate.

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  9. Madame Thermomix

    3 November 2014 at 07:42

    Thanks for your comment, Robert. If you have not yet found the perfect substitute for Nespresso capsules, perhaps you should just stick with them? We have not identified a compatible capsule which delivers the same taste and texture as Nespresso and so are sticking to our original logic for buying and using the Nespresso system: really great coffee that is convenient, immediate and delicious – with no waste. Enjoy your coffee, whichever brand you drink!

  10. Robert

    2 November 2014 at 15:55

    I have been a fan and have owned a Nespresso maker for about 10 years. Like many others I have been put off by the rising capsule prices, and sought an alternative source. I tried the Gourmesso capsules, which indeed are compatible but I do note a loss of the smoother and creamier texture of the Nespresso capsules, which has to be a design difference. I prefer stronger coffee and the Gourmesso flavor and intensity are no where close to the Nespresso capsules. In fact I find myself using 2 capsules instead of one, but the flavor does not come close and it ends up costing more not less than the Nespresso. I also tried at least 6 different Gourmesso flavors and found them all lacking. So, I am still looking for that perfect substitute….

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