There are those mornings when everything just seems to go right – the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the fresh scent of coffee is wafting through the air. Then there are those other mornings where you groggily shuffle into the kitchen, still half-asleep, and hastily start your Nespresso machine only to realize a few moments later – you accidentally ran your Nespresso without water. Your heart skips a beat as you wonder, “Have I damaged my beloved coffee machine beyond repair?” Rest assured, you're not the first to make this mistake, and your Nespresso is likely stronger than you think.
If you run your Nespresso machine without water, don't panic. The first step is to turn off the machine immediately. Let it cool down for about 15-30 minutes before filling the water tank and running a few cycles with water only. This should clear any potential air bubbles.
So, let's look at what you should do next if you accidentally run your Nespresso without water.
Why Running a Nespresso Without Water is Bad
A healthy Nespresso machine is like a well-oiled car. It needs a certain amount of lubrication and fluid to run efficiently and smoothly each time you use it. You don’t just use water to make your morning cup of coffee, you also use it to help maintain all of the intricate inner workings of your Nespresso.
If you accidentally run your Nespresso without adding the water, it’s sort of like starting your car and driving it with no oil. The internal components will start to heat up very quickly due to the lack of cooling effect the water usually gives them. If it goes on, it could potentially cause damage or burn the machine's internal components. In extreme cases, running it without any water and allowing it to overheat can pose a fire risk, but this is extremely rare since the machine is manufactured with safety features to prevent this from happening. .
Another reason why running it without water is bad is that it could form an airlock or air bubble. Think of when you drink the end of a milkshake and start sucking up more air than ice cream. This is what happens when a Nespresso is run without water in the tank. It sucks air into the tubing. When air is stuck in the tubing, the machine will malfunction and refuse to brew.
Related: View our Nespresso descaling guide here to keep your machine clean so that it can make the best tasting coffee possible for as long as possible.
What Happens When You Run Nespresso Without Water
The sight of your Nespresso machine in action without water can be quite an alarming experience, especially if you're not familiar with what happens under these circumstances.
First, you might notice that your Nespresso starts to make a louder noise than usual. This unsettling sound is not your machine giving its final farewell, rather it's the result of the machine's pump sucking air instead of water. This phenomenon is similar to the gurgling noise you make when you're at the end of a drink with a straw. Once this happens, one of two things occur:
The Nespresso Machine Shuts Itself Off
Nespresso machines are cleverly designed with a self-preservation mechanism. If the machine detects that it's run out of water during the brew process, it will promptly stop brewing and give an error message. Afterward, it should be fine once you refill the water tank and reset the machine.
I love this built-in failsafe because I’m usually in a huge rush in the morning and I’ve forgotten to add water to my machine before switching it on and leaving the room. I come back to a stopped coffee maker and no coffee, but at least there’s no damage.
The Machine Gets an Airlock
If the machine doesn't shut off immediately, an airlock might happen. As I mentioned earlier, an air bubble stuck in the tubing can prevent the pump from sucking water into the machine. While it sounds severe, this is a fairly common problem and can often be resolved at home by running a few water-only cycles or by following a few troubleshooting steps provided by Nespresso's customer service.
In short, your Nespresso machine is well-equipped to handle running without water once in a while, but it's always best to ensure it's properly filled to maintain its functionality and performance over time.
How to Remove an Airlock from a Nespresso
If you've run your Nespresso without water and now it isn't brewing it's likely that an airlock, or air bubble, has formed in the system.
An airlock is usually a straightforward issue to fix. Running a few cycles with just water (no capsules) often does the trick, but if not, here are a few different methods you can try at home to fix the problem and get back to brewing your favorite coffee:
If you're interested in viewing the below airlock clearance methods in more detail and with pictures and video, check out our full article on 6 methods to clear a Nespresso air bubble here.
1. Ziplock Bag Method
This method involves using a ziplock bag filled with air to force water back through the system and push out any air bubbles. Simply fill the bag with air, seal it tightly, and push the full bag into your water reservoir to get a tight fit. Push at the middle of the bag to form outward pressure. Finish by closing the water reservoir with the bag inside, switch your Nespresso on, and brew.
2. Nespresso Official Method
Nespresso suggests a simple method to remove an airlock. If you have a CitiZ, Pixie, or Lattissima machine, fill the water tank, ensure there's no capsule in the machine, close the lever, and then press the large cup button. The prime feature will push the airbubble out and water will flow through the machine.
If you have an Essenza or Le Cube machine, lift the coffee lever and push it away from you. While you're applying that pressure to the lever press any cup button until water appears in the capsule chamber.
If this doesn’t work, I found a method on Reddit that is a little more involved, but it walks you step-by-step through the process to help get the water flowing and your Nespresso up and running in no time before you get too frustrated.
3. Infant Medicine Syringe Method
For this technique, you'll need a clean, unused infant medicine syringe. Remove the water reservoir, fill the syringe with water, and then inject the water into the water intake of your Nespresso machine (the area where the water tank water is sucked into), effectively forcing the air bubble out. Again, you may have to do this more than once before it starts running correctly.
4. Flexible Tubing Method
If you have some flexible tubing handy, this method can work too. Attach one end of the tubing to the water intake of the machine and hold the other end up. Squirt a small amount of water into the tube and then blow into the tube (from the end that's not connected to the machine), forcing water into the machine and helping to clear any airlocks. You want to go slowly with this method to ensure you don’t cause any damage.
Remember, if none of these methods seem to work, or if you're uncomfortable attempting them, it's always a good idea to reach out to Nespresso's customer service. They can give you advice tailored to your specific machine model and situation.
So there you have it – the quintessential guide to addressing that dreaded moment when you've accidentally run your Nespresso machine without water. From understanding why this isn't the best practice for your machine's health to handling a stubborn airlock, you've made it through it all.
Remember, your Nespresso machine is a reliable companion, designed to withstand the occasional morning blunders we all make. However, it's vital to avoid running your coffee maker dry to ensure its longevity and the continued quality of the coffee it produces.