Short vs long exposed on Nespresso’s coffee capsule machines

Here at GadgetGuy, we’re avid coffee drinkers. We have to be, what with reporting on technology, so we need to be wired. And we like our coffee long, because it essentially means more caffeine. But something about the Nespresso machines has us wondering… outside of the amount, what exactly is the difference between the short and the long cups?

The Nespresso coffee pod machines all have similar controls, allowing you to easily pick which type of cup you want at that moment: short or long.

When you’re buying a sleeve of pods, Nespresso’s system tries to make it clear which pod you should buy, with specific words explaining the different amounts of coffee on its pod sleeves.

Most varieties of the pod seem to be made for ristretto (25ml) or espresso (40ml), with the long or “lungo” (110ml) pod having its own specific type, which you can generally see when the word is tacked on to the end of a coffee variety.

The same pod run through two different coffee sizes. Outside of the volume, what changes?

We’re still not really sure what the difference is, outside of the lungo varieties packing in more coffee and therefore needing to be run through the longer variety, unless you like your short coffees with an insane amount of impact.

At one of Nespresso’s many Sydney outlets, though, one of the store representatives told us that if we ran a short pod through the longer lungo setting, it would essentially make the coffee burn.

So we decided to try it, after all, what’s a little more caffeine going to do to us except make us write more quickly?
(In all seriousness, try not to drink excessive amounts of coffee; it may result in heart palpitations)

We grabbed one of our favourite short varieties – Dulsao, with an intensity rating of four – from our little pod selection in the GadgetGuy kitchen and set the Nespresso Maestria (our current review machine) to the top setting for the biggest espresso and lungo coffee amounts we could muster.

The result was exactly what we expected: a regular espresso on the short, and a slightly weaker coffee in a larger supply in lungo. Maybe it’s our tastebuds, but we just couldn’t pick up on the so-called burn taste that Nespresso says we should be able to detect.

There’s no doubt that the Lungo variety of pods are made for the longer cup, but we’ll probably just keep running the regular capsules through on the full cup just so we can have more of the blends we like, even if they are a touch weaker.

UPDATE (August 14): Nespresso has given us an official comment on the sizes:

Nespresso offers a unique choice of Grand Cru coffees to satisfy every taste. The Nespresso Grands Crus capsules contain between 5 grams for the Espresso range and 7 grams for the Lungo range of highest quality roast and ground coffee. Our Espresso coffees are designed for maximum enjoyment in a 40ml cup, while Lungo coffees are best enjoyed in a 110ml cup.

Extracting each coffee using the appropriate setting on your Nespresso machine will ensure that you keep each Grand Cru’s unique taste and sensory profile. It will allow you to get the best experience and guarantees the pleasure of a coffee, rich in aroma with a dense crema.

While Nespresso says its capsules are designed for a specific type of coffee, you’re still fine to use them however you want. We’ll keep throwing our short variety through the long, and you definitely could too.

  1. Nespresso’s comment and advice to you was CORRECT. NEVER run a capsule intended for use as a ristretto on the Lungo setting. REASON: True ristrettos (such as the Nespresso Ristretto capsule) are ground MORE FINELY than the true espresso or lungo capsules, and lungo capsules are ground more coarsely than the espressos. If you use the more finely ground capsules on the Lungo setting you will wear out the pump prematurely due to clogging of capsules’ built-in filter. SERIOUSLY. Note this applies to NESPRESSO-brand aluminum capsules and not necessarily the cheaper plastic, “off-brand” capsules.

  2. Their official response stays positive and doesn’t spell out the actual difference.

    If you use a long extraction on an intended short extraction espresso pod, it can “over-extract”.

    This means the water passing through the coffee often dissolves more flavours out of the coffee than intended. This includes flavours that can negatively impact the coffee, often making it more bitter. Check for a bitterness creeping into the long coffee when next you test this.

    If you do notice a bitterness in there, one thing you can do is do the short extraction, drop out the espresso pod, then hit the long extraction button to continue to fill with hot water to make a full cup. This should give you the best of both worlds – more coffee without the unwanted flavours.

    1. I spoke with a Nespresso rep who explicitly told me that Arpeggio and Roma are “great in Lungo”… I have a question – my Risretto capsules – how can I possibly get25ml if “short” gets me 40ml?

      1. Yup, so some machines have two different short buttons: one for a 25ml ristretto and another for a 40ml espresso, with a third button being lungo’s 110ml.

        If your machine lacks this — I think the CitiZ and Pixie lack the extra short button — you can program the strength by reprogramming how much water goes through, or alternatively just stop the water by pressing the button again when it’s making the coffee for you.

  3. ::gulp:: I’ve been buying some knock off pods from Bed Bath & Beyond for US$5/10pods. Using 1 intense (5 star) pod with the long milk steam and then a lungo on top. Lots of caffein, no burn

  4. Thanks guys!

    This actually helped answer our question – “why does the coffee taste burnt?”. We always use the Lungo setting (is there any other way to go?!?) but noted that some of the pods tasted a little burnt on the initial sip. We thought maybe it was too hot and were looking for ways to turn the machine down. Now we know why + don’t need to change any settings on the machine + going to keep drinking everything Lungo anyway!

  5. Yup, def agree with previous comments & reviewer – LUNGO size is the way to go. I think I’ve only drank in ristretto or expresso sizes for less than 10 times, I always have mine in Lungo. Got their Lungo glass as well – very nice looking thingy…wish they make larger Cuppacino size soon in same glass design….( I dont like the look of their current ceramic Cuppacino cups…)

  6. I ran my espresso through the Lungo setting by mistake, once, and I never stopped making that mistake again. It just tastes more awesome this way and there’s more coffee to dunk.

    1.  Long does not mean strong. Nespresso is not for baristas but for those who don’t want a lot of control or freshness. Sure it may be quite nice but a bit lazy (and expensive per cup).

  7. I agree. It doesn’t burn the coffee, what a stupid piece of misinformation the staff member has been taught. I do all my nespresso coffees long and then I add hot water on top (Americano) as that’s how I like my coffees. Perhaps the cheaper machines might result in burning though? I have the $700 latissima, because, you know, what better way to say F%$K YOU to the third world.

    1. Burning means the grinds have been in contact with hot water too long. The taste changes because the long exposure to hot water extracts some Not
      so palatable oils and flavors.

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