Reasons Why Your Nespresso Coffee Suddenly Tastes Bitter, Burnt & Bad

Mike C
Written By Mike C

I've been writing about coffee and espresso machines for 3 years. My goal is to provide you with helpful content that you can trust based on my own personal experiences, information from manufacturers, and tips and tricks I've gathered from other coffee and espresso machine users.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

4 Reasons Why Your Nespresso Coffee Might Taste Bitter, Burnt or Bad

We all have our favorite go to Nespresso pods that take us to a happy place in the mornings. But what happens if one day that Nespresso coffee pod tastes “off”, maybe bitter, burnt or just plain bad? There are four possible reasons why this may be happening to you. Keep reading to learn more and what you can do to fix them.

Reason 1: You Are Over Extracting The Coffee

You can skip this section if you own a Vertuo machine. The newer Vertuo models have barcodes on pods that automatically tell the machine how long to brew each pod for. Unless you are trying to use pods twice or using some kind of unapproved refillable or reusable pod, you won’t need to worry about over extracting your coffee. If you accidentally changed any cup size settings, you should just reset your machine.

Vertuo pod barcode
Vertuo pod barcode prevents you from over extracting the pods unless you manually program a new size

This is more likely to be an issue for owners of Original line machines, especially if you have the Essenza, Pixie, Inissia, or CitiZ model. There are two cup sizes you can choose from on these machines, a smaller one on your left and a larger one on your right if you are facing the machine. The smaller one is an espresso pour and the larger one is a lungo pour. Espresso pours are 1.35 oz, while Lungo pours are 3.7 oz.

If you want to make a larger cup of coffee, you should know that only certain pods should be brewed as Lungo. You want to look for pods that have “Lungo” in their name, like the 4 below. If you try to brew other pods as a Lungo, you will end up with a cup of Nespresso coffee that tastes bitter, burnt or bad. That’s because you will end up letting more than the intended amount of hot water pass through the pod.

Original Lungo PodsIntensityCaffeine ContentFlavor Profile
Tokyo677 – 85 mgFlowery & Complex
Vienna677 – 85 mgRound & Smooth
Stockholm877 – 85 mgRich & Full-bodied
Cape Town1077 – 85 mgIntense & Roasted
Nespresso Originalline Lungo Variety Pack
  • Contains 50 Nespresso Capsules in 4 popular Lungo blends for the Original Line System
  • Includes mild medium & dark roast coffee with intensities ranging from 4 to 9
  • Lungo range capsules brew large 3.7 oz servings of espresso
  • Aluminum capsules are fully recyclable through Nespresso’s recycling program
  • For use only with Nespresso OriginalLine machines not VertuoLine

Reason 2: You Are Using Expired or Unsealed Pods

Are you experiencing this burnt or bitter taste with old pods you may have discovered somewhere in your kitchen? If so, they may be past the expiration date. The expiration date is printed on the sleeve (example below).

Nespresso pod expiration date

To check if your pods are unsealed, gently push on the foil. If it bounces back, the seal is tight. If not, then there is a hole somewhere that has been letting oxygen in. This cause the Nespresso coffee grinds to produce a drink that tastes bitter.

Reason 3: You Have Not Regularly Cleaned Your Machine

It is very important that you take the time to clean your Nespresso machine. If the water coming out of your machine when you run a water only or cleaning cycle has a brownish tint to it, then a dirty machine is likely your issue.

First, no matter what type of machine you have, it is important that you try to remember to eject the used capsule right away when you are done making your coffee. If you leave the used pod in the brewing chamber, used coffee grinds can end up building up around it. Then, when you go to brew pods in the future, those used grounds will get mixed in and maybe even end up in your cup. This will give your Nespresso coffee that burnt, bitter or bad taste.

nespresso vertuoplus cleaning
old coffee grinds stuck in the brewing chamber can be removed by running a weekly cleaning cycle

In addition to removing the pods right away, you want to run water only cycles to rid the machines of any coffee bean oils, grinds or residue left in the machine. If you have an Original machine, place an empty glass on the cup holder and just run a brew cycle (either espresso or lungo) without any pod into the chamber. If you have a Vertuoline model, you should run a cleaning cycle every week, following the instructions for your model.

In addition to this frequent cleaning, you will want to descale your Nespresso every at least every three months (more often if you have hard water). Never use vinegar as that could also have a negative impact on the taste of your coffee. Follow these instructions to descale your Vertuo or Original machine.

Nespresso Descaling Solution, Fits all Models, 2 Packets
  • Official Nespresso Descaling Solution
  • Compatible with all models (Vertuoline and Original line)
  • Includes 2 packets for 2 total uses

If you will be away from your coffee maker for a week or longer, you should also be sure to empty the internal tank of any water. If you don’t, limescale could build up while you are gone. When you come back, run a cleaning cycle.

Reason 4: Machine Defect

If you would describe the taste of your coffee as metallic or like plastic, it is possible that there may be a defect with your machine, especially if you have a Vertuo Next. There is a component inside called a thermoblock that regulates machine temperature and it may be overheating. I’ve also seen reports with photos of some plastic pieces inside the Vertuo Next model melting.

If you have ruled out Reason 1 and Reason 2, your best bet may be to contact Nespresso support. If you bought your machine in the last twelve months, it should still be under warranty if you registered it. They may give you an option to send the coffee maker in for factory service, or even better, you may be able to get a replacement machine.

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