I Tested Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso Coffee

by Nigel Ong

Starbucks coffee can come in many formats – whole beans, grounds, instant coffee, RTDs (Ready-To-Drink), and capsules like Nespresso pods. 

While some versions of Starbucks can be far from the original, Nespresso capsules generally do well, at least in my experience. Will the Espresso Decaf Nespresso do the same?

I picked up some Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf in Nespresso capsules to try this out. I’ll brew it in several popular espresso coffee formats and sample them. I’ll also compare it with the regular Espresso Roast Nespresso to see if the flavors differ.

About Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso

Starbucks does not need much introduction. Founded 1971 in Seattle, Washington, it grew from a small coffee store to a multinational coffee chain store. Starbucks also offers its coffee in many forms, from beans to RTDs.

Starbucks Espresso Roast, introduced in 1975, is one of their longest-offered and most popular blends, ranking as a top seller. 

It’s made by blending high-quality Arabica beans from Latin America and the Asia Pacific, resulting in a balanced espresso. The beans are roasted to a deep brown color, giving them an oily appearance.

Flavor-wise, it is a strong, full-bodied espresso with hints of caramel and smokiness. On Starbucks’ roast darkness scale from 4-12, the Espresso Roast is very dark, with an intensity level of 11.

You can purchase Starbucks Espresso Roast in many forms:

  • Whole bean
  • Ground
  • Capsules
  • Decaf.

First Impression

My Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso pack comes in a tube-shaped box with 10 capsules. This is probably the older packaging – newer ones come in chocolate-bar-shaped boxes. 

However, a quick check with my local Starbucks barista confirms that tastes should be the same. 

You can quickly tell that this box of Espresso Roast is decaf, as there’s a teal-ish color label and silver metallic writing to let you know. 

The packaging gives out a premium feel, and the good news is that the pricing is rather OK – there are more expensive Nespresso pod coffees out there.

The coffee pods themselves look the same as other Nespresso pods, and since the coffee grounds are in the pods, I can’t really see what they are like. Nothing much to talk about here. Let’s get brewing.

How Does Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso Taste?

With Nespresso capsules, you will require some sort of Nespresso-compatible brewer to brew the coffee. 

There are Nespresso machines out there, but they are a bit expensive. If you prefer something more affordable, consider picking up a Wacaco Minipresso NS instead. 

The Minipresso is a hand-held, portable espresso maker about the size of your palm. It is manually operated, which means you don’t need electricity or charge the Minipresso to use it.

To brew Espresso using Wacaco Minipresso NS:

  1. Add hot, off-boil water into the water tank.
  2. Put on the main body. Place it on top of the water tank and twist it slightly. 
  3. Now drop in the coffee pod on the top end of the main body. T
  4. Screw in the outlet cap. You may need to push down slightly before twisting the top cap in. 

The assembly is now complete. Time to move into the brewing:

  1. Push down at the piston, then twist anti-clockwise to release the piston. 
  2. Turn the device upside down. This means the water tank faces up, and the outlet cap is at the bottom. 
  3. Start pumping. It may take about 8-10 pumps to build enough pressure inside the Minipresso NS. 
  4. Continue to pump until the pushback force gradually disappears and the espresso slows down to very slow drips. 
  5. You now have a fresh cup of Espresso! 

OK. Enough with the brewing. Let’s get to the tasting.


The crema on my Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso looks beautiful, rich, and thick. The color of the crema is darker brown, which is expected from an espresso roast. The Espresso has a sweet aroma with hints of cocoa.

The Espresso is light on my palate and not as strong as your regular Espresso. The bitterness and earthiness are intense but not as rough as a French or Italian roast. 

As I sip my Espresso, I can clearly tell that the Espresso has a cocoa note. Once it goes away, you may pick up flavors of sugarcane and caramel.

Once I swallow the Espresso, the aftertaste on my palate is quite long, with some lingering sweetness. 

I think this Espresso can be enjoyed as a sipper. It is not too smoky to the point you can only just gulp it. 


Next up, an Americano. A more diluted form of espresso coffee, American soldiers made it popular during World War 2. 

As they fought through Italy, the local Italians learned that these soldiers like their Espresso diluted with water into softer cups of coffee, like a regular cup of joe. 

To make Americano, I first pulled out a shot of Espresso using my Minipresso NS. Then, I added two shots of hot water to the Espresso. This style preserves the crema, unlike Long Black. 

My cup of Americano has a beautiful layer of crema on top. When I sip the coffee, the crema gives the coffee an additional dimension of flavor that I greatly appreciate. The crema also likely helps give the coffee a stronger, sweet aroma.

The crema itself is mild, with notes of chocolate. Once the coffee is in my mouth, I can pick up some sweet notes after the softer knock of smoke and earthiness has gone away. 

Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso should make stronger cups of coffee that you can sip and enjoy. It is stronger but more flavorful than your regular dark roast coffee.


Next up, let’s marry some of these Espresso with milk. First up, Macchiato. Macchiato means ‘stained’ in Italian, likely to mean how a regular cup of Espresso is ‘stained’ with just a dollop of milk. 

The recipe was first invented in 19th-century Italy. Many were farmers working in hard physical labor, and many seemed to want a softer espresso in the afternoons after a long day at work. 

Baristas learned they can soften the Espresso with a splash of milk, and these workers love the milder, creamier taste.

I largely replicated the same recipe. I pulled a shot of Espresso with my Minipresso NS. Then, I scooped in a spoonful of steamed milk on top, careful not to disturb the crema too much. I use whole, UHT, cow’s milk.

True to the reason Macchiato has become popular, I also find the softer Espresso a lot more enjoyable. The small addition of milk means I can enjoy it with ‘less effort’ as the coffee glides down my throat more easily. 


How can I try an espresso coffee without turning it into a Latte? This is, after all, one of the most popular milked coffee recipes. 

I retained the traditional formula here – using one part espresso and two parts of steamed milk. Then, I topped it up with a bit of milk foam.

I like what I see. The crema and milk foam blended well and produced a cup of coffee with a rich, creamy aroma and some sweetness.

As I took in my first sip, my first impression was the smoke and bitterness of the coffee, softened by the creaminess of the milk. The milk also helped to turn the cocoa-like notes into something chocolatey.

Starbucks Espresso Decaf is strong enough to absorb the milk and not lose its flavor. I cannot say this with many other coffees, which sometimes become too mellowed by milk when served as a Latte.

Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso vs Regular

The most direct comparison many will think about the Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso will be against the regular version. 

So I pulled out my regular Starbucks Espresso Nespresso and made a shot of Espresso. I then sipped it side by side with the decaf version. 

For many, the general impression is that decaf coffee is usually less flavorful than regular coffee, as decaffeination usually may remove some flavors from the beans.

I am happy to report that I did not notice much difference in flavors here. The decaf espresso tastes similar to the regular ones. The crema’s consistency, color, and aroma are similar, without any major noticeable difference.

Perhaps Starbucks has changed the coffee blend to ensure the flavors remain consistent. 

This means you can enjoy your Starbucks Espresso Roast in Nespresso pods without the caffeine. 

Is Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso For You?

There’s a reason why Starbucks Espresso Roast remains popular in the market after several decades – it is an enjoyable espresso roast. Not too strong, but not too mild either. Enjoying it in Nespresso form will likely extend its popularity, too.

Starbucks Espresso Roast Decaf Nespresso roast would be a ‘comfortable’ package. Nothing too smoky, acidic, or edgy in flavor, to the point that it turns off some drinkers. 

I can see myself relying on this to kick start my day or dilute it into a cup of stronger Americano to push through an afternoon slump. As iced Americano, it should work well, too, in the afternoons, after lunch.

A coffee enthusiast, Nigel Ong, Ph.D enjoys black coffee, specifically single-origins from Ethiopia and Indonesia, brewed using a French press. Nigel primarily reviews coffee roasts here, although he also tries out coffee gear and experiment with brewing styles.

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