What Do Nespresso Intensity Levels Mean? (A Complete Guide)

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nespresso intensity levels

What is the meaning of Nespresso intensity levels? Discover everything you need to know about the different intensity levels of your Nespresso pods.

With tons of Nespresso pods available, choosing one is not an easy task.

To make it easier, Nespresso ranks each pod by intensity.

But to be frank – that doesn’t help much unless you understand what intensity means. 

And trust me, it’s not as straightforward as it seems. Only after a thorough research have I actually figured out how Nespresso intensity levels work.

Today, I’ll make your job easier and share my findings with you.

Let’s begin!

The Meaning of Nespresso Intensity Levels

hot nespresso
For most people, intensity is equivalent to a strong, caffeine-packed brew

I must admit, Nespresso intensity levels can be quite confusing for someone who’s using a Nespresso coffee machine for the first time.

For most people, intensity is equivalent to a strong, caffeine-packed brew. 

But that’s not quite the case here. In fact, a 9-intensity Nespresso capsule can have less caffeine than a 4-intensity one. 

How is that possible?

Well, because Nespresso takes other factors into the equation when determining the intensity level, such as:

  • Roasting
  • Body
  • Bitterness
  • Concentration

Sounds confusing, I know. But actually, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. And to make it easier for you to understand, I’ll team up the levels into three groups first.

Low Intensity: Levels 1-5

Low-intensity Nespresso pods are for those who enjoy a bright cup of coffee. Pods with intensity levels at this range are typically lightly roasted – just enough to bring out the smooth flavors of the coffee beans.

Given the type of roast, it’s no surprise that these pods have a certain acidity to them, which makes the flower and fruity notes more prominent. 

The flavor profile, together with a light body, make these pods ideal for making regular espresso or Americano. Smoothness and slight sweetness really come out when they’re not mixed with milk.

Medium Intensity: Levels 6-8

As the name suggests, medium-intensity Nespresso coffee pods fall somewhere in the middle.

For the most part, these pods are made with medium-roasted coffee. There are some exceptions, like Paris Espresso and Stockholm Fortissio Lungo. These two pods use a dark roasted coffee bean, but their flavor profile is still closer to this intensity category. 

So, what do medium-intensity levels taste like?

Well, they’re well-rounded, with a balanced blend of acidity and bitterness. This makes them suitable for practically any type of drink, be it plain coffee or made with milk.

High Intensity: Levels 9-13

As we get into the high-intensity levels, we can only find dark-roasted coffee.

This category is for coffee drinkers who enjoy their brew bold, full-bodied, and slightly bitter

These pods are ideal for making a true espresso, ristretto, or lungo. But not just that. The strong flavor comes to shine even when you add milk, so I usually use these pods for making anything from cappuccino to flat white.

Original Line Pods Intensity Chart

nespresso original pods
Source: nespresso.com

Here are all Original Line Nespresso coffee capsules, lined up from the least to most intense.

Original PodIntensityCup SizeTasting Notes
Ethiopia4EspressoFruit Jam & Orange Blossom
Buenos Aires Lungo4LungoSweet & Cereal
Cosi4EspressoMild & Delicately Toasted
Volluto4EspressoSweet & Light
Tamuka Mu Zimbabwe5LungoFruity & Flowery
Esperanza De Columbia5EspressoFruity & Balanced
Capriccio5EspressoRich & Distinctive
Shanghai Lungo5LungoFruitiness & Fine Acidity
Nicaragua5EspressoHoney & Sweet Cereal
Hawaii Kona5EspressoNutty & Exotic
Vienna Linizio Lungo6LungoRound & Smooth
Peru Organic6EspressoFruity & Complex
Genova Livanto6EspressoRound & Balanced
Paris Espresso6EspressoCereal & Citrus
Colombia6EspressoWiney & Red Fruits
Tokyo Vivalto Lungo6LungoFlowery & Complex
Kahawa Ya Kongo7EspressoOrganic & Fruity
Indonesia8EspressoTobacco Leaves & Woody
Honduras8EspressoCereal & Cocoa
Venezia8RistrettoBalanced & Thick
Stockholm Fortissimo Lungo8LungoRich & Full Bodied
Roma8RistrettoFull & Balanced
Istambul Espresso8EspressoRipe Fruits & Nutty
Rio De Janeiro Espresso9EspressoHerbal & Sandalwood
Miami Espresso9EspressoCereal
Firenze Arpeggio9RistrettoIntense & Creamy
Ristretto Italiano10RistrettoPowerful & Contrasting
Capetown Envivo Lungo10LungoIntense & Roasted
India Ristretto11RistrettoWoody & Spicy
Palermo Kazaar12RistrettoIntense & Syrupy
Napoli13RistrettoDark & Creamy

Vertuo Line Pods Intensity Chart

nespresso vertuo pods
Source: nespresso.com

If you own a Vertuo machine, check out the Vertuo capsules and their intensity in this chart.

Vertuo PodIntensityCup SizeTasting Notes
Solelio2CoffeeFruity & Light-Bodied
Alto Ambrato4AltoHoneyed & Delicate
Voltesso4EspressoLight & Sweet
Inizio4Gran LungoFloral & Cereal
Ethiopia4Gran LungoFloral & Complex
Esperanza De Columbia5CoffeeFruity & Sweet
Colombia5CoffeeWashed Arabica
Half Caffeinato5CoffeeSweet & Velvety
Tocanto5EspressoBerry & Winey
Double Espresso Dolce5Double EspressoCereal & Malted
Kahawa Ya Kongo6CoffeeOrganic & Fruity
Peru Organic6EspressoFruity & Complex
Arondio6Gran LungoCereal & Mild
Melozio Boost6CoffeeSmooth & Balanced
Orafio6EspressoCaramel & Roasted
Alto Onice7AltoRoasted & Woody
Odacio7CoffeeBold & Lively
Costarica7Gran LungoMalty & Sweet
Mexico7CoffeeIntense & Spiced
Stormio Boost8CoffeeRich & Strong
Double Espresso Chiaro8Double EspressoDense & Wild
Fortado8Gran LungoIntense & Full-Bodied
Intenso9CoffeeDeep & Dense
Altissio9EspressoFull-Bodied & Creamy
Double Espresso Scuro11Double EspressoDark & Bold
Cafecito De Puerto Rico10Double EspressoDark Cocoa
Il Cafe11EspressoIntense & Velvety
Diavolitto11EspressoIntense & Powerful

Intensity Levels & Coffee Characteristics

While the actual rating system of Nespresso intensity levels is confusing, pods by themselves aren’t.

In other words, each type of pod is described so that you know exactly what you’re drinking. So, here are the three characteristics that best define how each pod should taste like.


Every coffee lover knows that roast plays a very important role in determining the flavor, aroma, and body of the coffee.

Light roast is light, bright and retains most of the beans’ original flavors. Mild – but at the same time complex – the light roast is slightly sweet, with prominent acidity and high caffeine content.

Dark roast, on the other hand, is strong and rich, with a slight bitterness to it. The roasting process kills acidity and some caffeine content, so dark-roasted coffee has the least of both.

Medium roast really comes in the middle. It has more body than light roast but less acidity. Likewise, it has less bitterness but more caffeine compared to dark roast.

When you know the flavor profile of each roast, it’s relatively easy to presume how each Nespresso pod might taste. But of course, you need to take the other two elements into consideration, so let’s talk about them.

Type of Beans

As you know, there are two main types of beans used for making coffee – Robusta and Arabica.

In general, Arabica coffee beans have a smoother flavor, with prominent notes of chocolate and sugar. Robusta, on the other hand, is rather bitter, with strong smoky notes.

Of the two, Arabica is considered to be of higher quality, given it has a more well-rounded profile.

Nespresso pods contain 90% to 95% Arabica beans, which contribute to flavor and acidity. But the rest consists of Robusta, which is responsible for body, texture, and aroma.


Did you know that coffee origin can tell you so much about the actual flavor of the coffee?

Actually, a lot of specific factors go into the equation, like:

  • Soil
  • Altitude
  • Climate 

You know how they say – you are what you eat?

Well, that’s true for coffee as well. The plant takes nutrients from the soil, and you really do taste them in the cup.

Do you know how coffee grown in volcanic soil has a deep and rich flavor with pleasant acidity? That mostly comes from the soil composition.

I say mostly because other factors are also important.

Altitude affects how fast coffee beans ripen. The higher the altitude, the longer it takes them to reach maturity. As a result, those beans grow denser and sweeter, with a more complex profile and higher acidity. 

Finally, we have the climate, which is closely related to altitude.

How much sun, wind, and rain coffee gets is yet another factor determining the flavor. 

Cooler temperatures also mean slower growth, so the beans are more complex in taste and aroma. 

Knowing where the coffee comes from gives you a pretty good idea of how it might taste.

For instance, Nicaraguan coffee is known to be mild, with low acidity and hints of caramel. Kenyan coffee, on the other hand, is sweet and fruity, with notes of berries and wine.

Which Nespresso Vertuo Pod is the strongest?

nespresso diavolito
Source: nespresso.com

Among currently available Vertuo pods, Il Cafe and Diavolito are the strongest ones. 

Their intensity is labeled as 11, which falls in the middle of the high-intensity ranking. And while it’s definitely strong, both pods make a smooth and velvety cup of coffee.

They’re great on their own but even better when paired with milk.

To Sum Things Up

As you can see, the intensity has very little to do with the actual caffeine content.

Instead, Nespresso uses this ranking to refer to how the coffee actually tastes.

Therefore, the intensity level of a certain Nespresso pod is determined by its roast, bitterness, body, and concentration. With such an explanation, you know exactly what to expect from each pod.

Wondering which Nespresso pod will give you an energy boost? Check out our guide to the caffeine content of Nespresso pods.

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.