Welcome to pod coffee heaven
Easy-to-use pod systems mean you don't need to mess around with buying coffee beans and grinding them. That's questionable in terms of the expense and waste, but on the other hand, it's incredibly convenient.
Whether you're after easily available capsules like Tassimo and Dolce Gusto, which offer a load of drink varieties, or something more exclusive like Nespresso, we've rounded up the best coffee machines you can buy right now.
It used to be the case that Nespresso capules were only available online or in the brand's own shops, so you if you ran out you'd be without your morning lift. However, they are now becoming available via other means. Interestingly, for instance, artisan coffee delivery service Pact.com UK now sells Nespresso pods filled with its own freshly-ground bean blends, with a box of 40 pods costing £14.95 including delivery
It's also important to note that many of the milkier and more novelty type drinks from pod machines are not amazing. If you want richly textured milk in your flat white, cappuccino or latte, these aren't going to satisfy, although you can greatly improve matters by getting a milk frother from Dualit or Nespresso itself.
Of course, for Americanos, espressos and other, more purist drinks, results range from good to excellent.
These machines can also serve as a "gateway drug" to a more heavy-duty, non-pod coffee maker. Some of our favourites are here.
Lavazza A Modo Mio Magia by AEG
The Modo Mio system lets you enjoy a cup of café-style Lavazza at home without the fuss of coffee beans being splattered all over the worktop. With AEG's Fantasia machine seemingly now off sale, the cheaper Magia fills the (very compact) gap.
Simply pop a capsule into its slot, pull down the handle, tap the touch-control buttons and let the machine do the rest; the process starts automatically once it's warmed up.
Want cappuccino? You'll need a separate milk frother then, as unlike the Fantasia, there's no clip-on milk unit here. Which is no bad thing, to be honest.
At just 12.8cm width, the Magia is easily narrow enough to fit on any worktop without taking up too much space. Despite that, the rear-mounted water tank is a sizeable 1 litre in capacity, and easy to remove and refill.
Lavazza capsules (available online and via John Lewis) cost around 26p a cup – among the cheapest on the market – and there are eight great-tasting blends to choose from.
T3 rating: 4/5
£130 | John Lewis
Illy Iperespresso Y5 Milk
Any discerning coffee aficionado will agree that Illy makes one of the best coffee blends on the market. Well here’s a way to make an authentic Illy espresso without the hassle of loose grounds and an overly complex production process.
This particular FrancisFrancis-branded model is one of the most attractive in this roundup. Granted, it takes up a sizeable chunk of worktop space but, trust me, this will get looks aplenty. The strangely-named Iperespresso Y5 makes espressos, lattes and cappuccinos with the tap of a touch-sensitive button.
Although the notion of a machine that automatically dispenses pre-frothed milk sounds appealing, in practice it doesn’t work that well. True, you will get a head of froth on your cappuccino but, because the milk is added before the extraction process, there’s not much peak to it and it certainly isn’t as smooth and velvety as a manually-produced froth scooped on with a spoon.
Also, you will have to remember to decant or chill the unused milk or it’ll be yogurt next time you come to use the machine.
If I were to review this with my green hat on, I’d have to say that the Illy capsule design is among the least environmentally friendly on the market. They're also the most expensive at about 35p per capsule. Furthermore, the official Illy online store only offers the pods in large consignments of six tins of 21 capsules apiece, at £45 a pop. But, hey, at least you’ll have enough coffee in your larder to see out periods of flooding or civil war.
T3 rating: 4/5
Nespresso has it all: adverts featuring George Clooney, a carefully cultivated area of premium mystique, and pods that start at 29p per cup… actually, Nespresso is quite an irritating brand, isn't it?
However, if you can get past that, its machines do produce very good coffee… And they now come with smartphone control, no less.
Heading up the new breed of connected coffee makers for Pod people is the Nespresso Prodigio. The machine is controlled via an app and Bluetooth, letting you brew up from the couch or your bed. Although you will then have to go and collect the coffee, so maybe that isn't so amazing.
The app will also tell you when tank-filling (the capacity is 0.8 litres), capsule bin-emptying and servicing are required, lets you set a timer and, of course, order new capsules.
As cappuccino lovers, we'd recommend getting the Prodigio&Milk version, because then you get an Aeroccino milk frother thrown in, and they are excellent. Pricing is unusually keen by Nespresso standards, too.
T3 rating 4/5
£199 (Prodigio without milk frother £159) | Nespresso
Nespresso KitchenAid Empire
What happens when one of the world’s most ubiquitous coffee capsule brands hatches a plan with one of the world’s most respected kitchen appliance manufacturers? The Nespresso KitchenAid Empire, that’s what.
As you would expect, this 9kg kitchen corker sports all the tell-tale olde-worlde design flourishes of KitchenAid’s vast range of Artisan food prep machines: the heavyweight die-cast construction; the curved, ultra smooth enamelled exterior; the reliable componentry; it’s all here. It’s a big thing, mind – bigger than it needs to be – so clear the worktop of all those other small kitchen appliances you’ve only ever used once because you’re going to use this one every day.
Capsule-based espresso coffee is more expensive to buy than the packet variety but because the machine and the pods are designed to work together, there’s far less mess to deal with – yay, no more coffee granules being splattered all over the place – and the coffee itself is far more consistent. And consistency, as any mortal espresso fan will know, is something inherently difficult to achieve using most loose-ground machines.
The sturdy Empire warms up in a thrice and comes with a removable 1.4-litre clear plastic water reservoir and a large used-capsule container with capacity for up to 14 expended Nespresso pods.
The espresso extraction process is a breeze: lift the oversized lever, load your favourite blend of Nespresso (from a bewildering choice of 24 different strengths and flavours), pull down on the lever, choose between the six pre-programmed extraction settings and hit the button. Setting one produces a short, powerful hit while setting six is for those who like a long, mild brew.
Nespresso pods aren’t as big in size as some other brands on the market so load a couple in succession if you’re still suffering from the previous night’s excesses.
T3 rating 4/5
£309 | Nespresso
Nespresso Latissima Touch
Nespresso is the most ubiquitous capsule brand on the market; in fact, many upmarket hotels have started installing them in their guest rooms. This attractive, well-designed DeLonghi-branded unit takes up very little room and is a dab hand at whipping up espressos, lattes, and to some degree, cappuccinos.
I say to some degree because, like the new Illy Iperespresso Y5 Milk, the Latissima Touch comes with an automatic milk frother that dispenses a quantity of the foamy stuff before the coffee extraction process and, as any aficionado will testify, a proper cappuccino should have the milk spooned onto the espresso right at the end, just before serving. But hey, mustn’t grumble, my trial cappuccinos at least tasted authentic.
Aside from providing its customers with an unnecessarily bewildering 18 different blends, the biggest problem with the Nespresso system is that the coffee measure in each capsule (it starts at 29p but you can get varieties for 33p per cup and more) is very small, so you might need to use two pods in a row to get a decent morning kick up the pants.
T3 rating: 4/5
£279 | Amazon
The Tassimo system offers the widest variety of hot beverages, from coffee (including Costa Coffee, Kenco and Carte Noire) to tea and hot chocolate. A shame then that few of the drinks it dispenses taste especially good.
Indeed, most of the coffees I sampled, Costa notwithstanding, tasted like they’d been dispensed by a vending machine: Succhard’s hot chocolate was far too sweet and the tea, well, what’s the point when you already have a kettle and some teabags on the shelf? I wouldn’t advise the Costa Latte capsules, either, since they include powdered milk, and that’s just not latte in my book.
Thankfully Bosch’s Tassimo Joy is very easy to use but that’s because it has only one button. Simply load a ‘T Disc’ (Tassimo’s proprietary capsule design), hit the aforementioned button and that’s it. You’ll need to manually remove the disc after each cup, which isn’t the end of the world, though other units automatically eject the pod into a collection tray. Expect to pay about 28p a disc.
Tassimo products may be more readily available than other capsule brands (pretty much every supermarket stocks them) but the flavours and blends Tassimo aligns itself with don’t taste particularly pleasant. That said, if you have a family with differing beverage desires then by all means give this a whirl.
T3 rating: 3/5
£129 | tassimo.co.uk
Dolce Gusto Jovia by Delonghi
Dolce Gusto capsule system based coffee machine that packs 15 bar pressure, an auto-off energy saving function and a stylish, compact design. On the back there’s a 0.8L tank, which means you’re not constantly filling it up.
Dolce Gusto may not have quite the exclusive nature that Nespresso has, yet wide availability is also handy if you run out of capsules one morning – plus it has loads of varieties and you're not limited to just coffee.
Specially designed for those folk who love their coffee topped with swirls of frothed milk, the AEG Favola lets you create a traditional Italian style cappuccino thanks to the Lavazza A Modo Mio capsules.
It may not be quite as elegantly designed as the Maestria Crème, but it does have a sort of industrial look that wouldn’t look to out of place on the kitchen surface. Lavazza's patented Click 'n Cappuccino technology, which is included in this machine, is meant to simulate the same gesture made by an Italian barista when he is prepping the perfect coffee – pretty nifty, eh?
Bosch Tassimo Joy
Tassimo machines are far more comparable to the Dolce Gusto ranges, rather than Nespresso – they’re styled quite simply, offer a variety of drinks types and the capsules themselves are available everywhere.
This Joy machine from Bosch has an extra large water tank, automatic cleaning, de-scaling system, and gets hot very quickly – great if you’re in a rush in the morning. Tassimo capsules include everything from Costa coffee, Milka hot chocolate and Carte Noire espresso, along with a varieties of tea from Twinings.
Definitely one to consider if you're planning on making a wide variety of drinks.
FrancesFrances illy X7.1 Iperespresso
Ditching the plastic of some of the previous machines in this list, FrancisFrancis has created a swish, colourful chrome machine that boasts a Pannarello steam wand for frothing milk.
The best designed machine on this list, it wouldn’t look out of place in the finest of Italian coffee shop. illy’s take on the coffee capsule craze is the Iperespresso, which puts a few different varieties of illy coffee into recyclable containers.
Enjoy Italian espresso and cappuccino with iperEspresso, the capsule system that lets you prepare 'café-quality' espresso at home with the touch of a button. The beautiful retro design by Francis Francis features advanced technology, including a steel internal thermoblock, and a Pannarello steam wand that froths milk for creamy cappuccino and latte.
£180 | Illy