Nespresso Intensity Levels: What Do the Numbers on Those Pods Mean?

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Every Nespresso pod has a number on it, ranging from 1 to 13. But what do they mean, and how can you use them to pick out your new favorite coffee?

Those numbers are the Nespresso intensity levels, also referred to as the Nespresso number scale. They indicate the coffee’s degree of roasting and the strength of its flavor. Higher numbers mean coffee with a darker, more intense flavor.

In this article, we’ll look at why you should care about your Nespresso’s intensity. We’ll also look at common misconceptions about the Nespresso number scale, like its relation to caffeine content.

What Does Nespresso Intensity Mean?

The roast of a coffee describes its brew strength – whether it qualifies as mild or light, medium, or dark. The SCA created a brewing control chart that measures strength by the total dissolved solids (TDS) in 11.5 to 13.5 grams per liter. The TDS describes how much coffee flavor ends up in the coffee cup with the coffee.

That bold cup of coffee you enjoy probably rates in the strong or dark roast category. In Nespresso terms, that could mean an intensity of 10 (like the Ristretto pods) or even a 13 intensity (like Napoli Espresso pods).

The official definition probably varies from your personal definition since what each person considers strong coffee depends on where they grew up. In Columbia, they drink bitter coffee, but in Italy, they prefer an acidic taste. That qualifies as strong coffee to them.

In Japan, where they prefer tea and typically only enjoy a coffee when entertaining clients from countries who drink it regularly, any coffee tastes strong.

Why the Nespresso Guide Helps

The Nespresso number scale helps those from throughout the world understand how strong the coffee will taste without knowing the context of its name. A child running to the grocery for their parents might not understand the selection of coffees. If told by their parents to pick up anything with a five or less on the package, they can pick up any coffee and have it appeal to their parents’ taste buds.

The scientific method created by the SCA lets coffee professionals easily describe the coffee beans or grounds they create. The Nespresso scale makes it simple to explain the coffee’s strength to consumers without them needing to understand how the scale is determined or why it works.

Nespresso Intensity Scale and Caffeine Content

So, does Nespresso intensity mean more caffeine? No, the intensity scale only refers to how intense the coffee tastes.

There is a strong correlation between intensity and caffeine, but it’s not exact. If you want the highest-caffeine pods, you should rely on the Nespresso caffeine content chart instead of the intensity scale.

The Breadth of the Nespresso Scale

Maybe you only buy your favorite Nespresso coffee and have not explored the rest of its flavors. The intensity scale provides an indicator of how diverse the company’s coffee selection is.

The scale ranges from 1 to 13, but Nespresso divides its coffees into three categories:

  • Not intense: 1–5 on the intensity scale, similar to a light roast
  • Medium intensity: 6–8 on the intensity scale, similar to a medium roast
  • Intense: 9–13 on the intensity scale, similar to a dark or French roast

When you see a Nespresso with a rating of 11, you can know that it will brew a bit bitter with a strong taste and a heavy body. You can also expect more coffee solids in the cup and a thicker crema in most cases.

Coffee Intensity Ratings for Third-Party Pods

Other coffee companies make pods that fit the OriginalLine Nespresso machine, but their rating systems don’t always use the same scale as Nespresso-branded pods.

For this reason, you shouldn’t directly compare the numbers on Nespresso pods and third-party pods. Some companies use a scale of 1 to 5. In that case, their five might be a Nespresso 13, but there’s no way to be sure without trying them out.

What’s Next?

Your newfound knowledge about the Nespresso intensity scale should help you find the right pods for your taste buds. If you love a dark roast coffee, choose a pod with a number above seven. If you love a light coffee that requires no additives like sweetener or sugar, choose a pod with a five or below.

Whether you have an Original or Vertuo Nespresso Machine, there are lots of pods to choose from across the entire intensity range. Some of these are ideal pods for Nespresso lattes and cappuccinos. Others are perfect for an iced Nespresso coffee or an Americano.

Now that you know what the Nespresso scale means, get to discovering your new favorite Nespresso pods. You have coffee to drink!

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