Are Nespresso Pods Safe? A Guide to Capsule Coffee Health Risks

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Nespresso pods are so convenient that many of us drink several of them a day without even thinking about it. But wait, is that a good idea? Are Nespresso pods safe?

Nespresso pods are safe because the hot water and coffee don’t come in direct contact with the aluminum and instead get in contact with the food-grade shellac coating and only for a short duration. Nespresso pods are also BPA-free.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what Nespresso pods are made of and whether there is anything harmful in them. Grab a cup of coffee (yes, Nespresso works), and let’s dive right in.

What Are Nespresso Pods Made Of?

Nespresso pod cutaway showing the aluminum and food-grade shellac layers
Image courtesy of Nespresso

A Nespresso Pod consists almost entirely of three materials:

  • The lid and the pod are made from aluminum
  • There is a shellac coating present inside the cup. 
  • Inside the pod there is a paper filter.

The aluminum is used to keep any outside contaminants away from the coffee grounds inside the pod. Thus, it helps in ensuring that the coffee remains fresh and safe to consume. That also helps ensure that the coffee is flavorful and aromatic when you finally brew it.

Moreover, aluminum can be recycled infinitely. Using aluminum in the Nespresso pods eliminates the need to overwrap the pod. And aluminum is lightweight, so it makes transportation easier.

The role of the inner shellac coating is to prevent the aluminum from leaching into your coffee brew. If you’ve ever eaten candy that had confectioner’s glaze or taken a timed-release pill, you’ve probably had food-grade shellac before. Fun fact: Did you know that shellac is derived from a natural resin that lac bugs secrete onto trees? I’ll let you judge whether that’s gross or cool.

Finally, there is a paper filter inside the Nespresso pods. This filter prevents the coffee ground from spilling everywhere into the coffee brew, exactly like the filters you use in your drip coffee maker.

Are Nespresso Capsules Harmful?

Nespresso capsules are entirely safe and not the least bit harmful. Since the pods contain aluminum, I can absolutely understand your concern. But Nespresso pods are designed to prevent aluminum from leaching into the coffee.

During the brewing process, the water and the coffee in the Nespresso pod are prevented from contacting the Aluminum or plastic parts of the Nespresso capsule.

Instead, they come in contact with the inner shellac coating, which is food-grade and strong enough to hold the hot water away from the rest of the capsule. It helps that the hot water only remains in contact with the capsule for a short period of time. Moreover, the Nespresso Pod components are BPA-free and entirely inert.

Lastly, you don’t need to worry about the paper filters. Nespresso pod manufacturers use food-safe paper inside their capsules, just like you’d find in the paper coffee filters you’ve been using all of your life.

Are Nespresso Pods Carcinogenic?

If consumed in moderation, coffee can benefit your health, mainly because it contains caffeine, antioxidants, and minerals. However, coffee often contains a compound called furan, which can raise some concerns that I want to address here.

Furan is generated during the coffee roasting process, and it can linger in the beans and ground coffee. It’s an aromatic compound that is toxic and carcinogenic for humans.

According to ScienceDaily, espresso made from capsules contains more furan than other coffee brewing methods. The higher levels of furan are primarily caused by the sealing of the capsules. While this keeps the coffee fresher, it also prevents furan from evaporating away from the grounds.

Furan is also extracted more in espresso than in drip coffee because of the higher water temperatures and higher pressures. Like regular espresso machines, Nespresso machines rely on high pressures and temperatures, so that increases the furan risk slightly. 

So should you be worried? Absolutely not!

Before you back away from your Nespresso, here’s the final result from the study:

You’d have to drink at least 20 cups of capsule coffee per day to get a potentially harmful amount of furan. For comparison, it would take 30 espressos or 200 cups of instant coffee.

Now, I’m a big coffee drinker, but I can’t remember the last time I had 20 cups of coffee in one day. You shouldn’t be consuming anything at those levels! In other words: Nespresso coffee is safe and non-carcinogenic when consumed in normal (or even moderately excessive) quantities. 

If you’re still worried, you can always switch to reusable Nespresso pods. Since they aren’t hermetically sealed, Their furan content should be the same as that of regular espresso.

Are Nespresso Pods BPA Free?

A drawing of the BPA molecule, which is not food safe.

Nespresso pods are BPA-free. They don’t contain any type of Bisphenol, and they are in full compliance with food safety regulations from the EU, FDA, and related agencies.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, BPA (Bisphenol-A) is an industrial chemical used to make plastics. It’s mostly used for hardening polycarbonate plastics. Although it’s often used when making food containers, BPA is not considered food safe.

Pod Save My Coffee

As in all things, moderation is key. You could safely drink several cups of Nespresso coffee a day, so your 2-cup-a-day habit is certainly not a problem. If you’re concerned about things like jitteriness, you could check out the Nespresso caffeine content chart

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how to make sure your every cup of Nespresso coffee is worth it. Have you tried all of the best Nespresso pods for cappuccinos? There’s a reason that so many Starbucks drinks have milk in them.
If you haven’t picked out your Nespresso machine yet, my guide to the differences between Nespresso Vertuo vs Original machines is a great primer. You can also check out my detailed Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe review, where I highlight my favorite Nespresso machine.