With Starbucks coffee shops closed or with limited occupancy, we wondered if Nespresso compatible coffee pods were as good as the in-house brew. We tested several varieties of our favorite coffee to make both an espresso and an Americano and drove by our local Starbucks to get drive-through coffee for comparison. Starbucks was not brewing all varieties on the days we drove by. As a result, we tested with packaged beans. We ground them at home and brewed the coffee on a Breville espresso machine.
The Espresso Roast pods is rated 11 for their dark roast and more intense flavor. these pods have a nice balance and have a richer body than the other coffee pods that Starbucks sells for the Nespresso machine. The Espresso Roast pods have a subtle caramel flavor and work well as a ristretto or espresso. We found they work well in cappuccinos and lattes.
Pike’s Place roast is Starbuck’s staple blend. It is a signature smooth and balanced roast with some chocolate undertones and a nutty sensation, with a medium body. If you go to a Starbucks store and ask for a coffee, most likely you’ll get this variety. The coffee pods produced a good replica of the brewed beans’ experience when we made it into a lungo (3.7 oz). For a regular coffee, we added hot water thus making it an “americano.” Prepared like this, it was too weak, so we recommend you brew the pods following the recommended 3.7 oz max.
Starbuck’s House Blend pods use a medium roast (rated 8 on their scale) coffee with a medium body. They produce a nice aroma and some toffee notes. It produced a pleasant lungo (3.7 oz) with some hints of chocolate and, like the Pike pods, was not appropriate for a larger cup. Therefore, these pods were good for a mild cappuccino or latte, because of the slightly more intense flavor.
Starbucks Blonde coffee pods are rated at a level 6 in intensity. They are a blend of Arabica coffee from Africa and Latin America. The pods produced a nice light crema and had a sweet aroma. Starbucks recommends brewing them as a ristretto (0.85 oz) or as an espresso (1.35 oz). The coffee has a smooth body and some sweet notes that worked best by itself. Still, we found it a little bit too gentle for a cappuccino or latte.
The pods are delightful in short cups and the varieties follow the taste profiles of the beans. However, these pods do not make a good tall coffee, they are meant as espressos, ristrettos or lungos. The darker varieties can make a nice short americano, but that is the limitation.