Best pod coffee machine 2019: capsule machines mean great taste, no faffing about

The best pod and capsule espresso machines for making your own Lavazza, Nespresso, Illy, Costa and more

Best pod coffee makers 2018: Nespresso, Lavazza, Dolce Gusto, Illy and more

The best pod coffee machines mean you don't need to mess around with buying coffee beans and grinding them. Yes, that's questionable for some in terms of the expense and waste, but on the other hand, capsule coffee is clearly convenient. Woah, good alliteration. 

In the cause of strict fairness, in some respects – as each pod contains exactly one dose of coffee, and the capsules can be recycled – the waste issue is not as bad as it looks initially. Nespresso, for instance, runs its own recycling service. Simply fill the supplied bag they give you with used pods and send it back by post or drop it off at your nearest Nespresso bar.

Coffee pod machines also produce consistent results that are notoriously difficult to attain using standard espresso machines and most bean-to-cup models. With a capsule machine you simply load in the pod, hit the button and out comes a stream of crema-topped black gold every bit as good as the last one.

Looking for a cheap pod coffee maker at Amazon? This round-up has the best Prime Day coffee machine deals, some of which may not be appearing in the widgets below.

How to buy the best coffee capsule machine

When you purchase a capsule machine you’re essentially buying into a particular brand of coffee too. Having tried all the major pod brands, my overall favourite brand is Lavazza (from 27p), followed closely by Illy (from 37p per pod). Nespresso (from 33p) takes third place for having pods I feel are too small and therefore too weak. To illustrate this I cut open a Lavazza and Nespresso pod and measured the contents. The Lavazza contained 7 grams of coffee while the Nespresso came in at just 4 grams. 

However, Nespresso’s newly-introduced Vertuoline system is a whole different ball game.  Instead of just one standard pod size, it uses five different ones to satisfy a wide range of coffee preferences: Espresso, Double Espresso, Gran Lungo, Mug and extra large Alto. You’ll also be pleased to learn that the Vertuo’s espresso capsule’s contents weigh a much more appropriate 7g – just like the Lavazza pods – with the larger pods weighing in at substantial 13 grams.

Each size of Vertuo pod comes with its own unique barcode which tells the machine the amount of water required and the length of extraction. Unlike standard espresso machines that use steamy water under pressure to extract the coffee flavour and accompanying crema, the Vertuo system uses centrifugal spinning technology (7,000rpm) which creates the same strong flavour but with a much deeper and silkier crema. Whatever type of coffee you prefer, this system has all bases covered. Vertuo espresso pods start at a fairly reasonable 39p with prices rising to a rather steep 62p for the Alto blend.

As with any coffee-making machine, we would recommend using only bottled water with your pod system because a) it tastes better and b) there’s less chance of the internals getting clogged by limescale.

It used to be the case that standard Nespresso capsules – the most popular variety among poddists – 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, coffee delivery service Pactcoffee.com now sells Nespresso pods filled with its own freshly-ground bean blends, with a box of 40 pods costing £18.95 including delivery. So does the none-more-artisan Colonna coffee brand, from Bath.

It’s also important to note that many of the milkier and more novelty type drinks from some pod-related brands are not amazing. If you want richly textured milk in your flat white, cappuccino or latte, use proper milk because these aren’t going to satisfy. You can greatly improve matters by getting a high quality milk frother from Dualit, Lavazza or Nespresso itself.

For Americanos, espressos and other, more purist drinks that don’t rely on milk, results range from good to excellent. These machines can also serve as a "gateway drug" to a more heavy-duty, non-pod coffee maker.

The best coffee pod machines in order

best coffee capsule machine, Magimix Vertuo Plus M600

1. Magimix Vertuo Plus M600

The best capsule coffee maker on the market

Specifications
Capsule brand: Nespresso
Capsule cost: From 39p
Width: 11.5cm
Reservoir: 1.8 litre
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+Makes amazing espressos+Produces a deep crema+Easy to use+Huge water reservoir
Reasons to avoid
-Shiny surface attracts dust

•Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

If you find standard Nespresso capsules are simply too small in size to produce a decent caffeine hit, consider this new Vertuo machine from Magimix. Nespresso’s Vertuo pod system is completely different to the standard Nespresso capsule system. For starters, the pods are almost twice the size and shaped completely differently so you can’t use a standard Nespresso pod in a Vertuo machine, and vice versa.

The best thing about the Vertuo system is that it’s capable of using different sized pods and this makes it a great choice for those who like a variety of coffees throughout the day. There are five capsule sizes in all, from Espresso and Double Espresso to Gran Lungo, Mug and extra large Alto.

So, what’s so special about this machine then? Well it looks good for a start and comes with a monstrous 1.8-litre water tank that can be positioned behind or to either side of the machine depending on your worktop space. It also has the biggest used capsule bin in the business – enough for 13 large pods.

To use, simply tap upwards on the protruding silver disc and the whole lid moves up mechanically. Now pop in a pod blend and size of your choice and tap the top button. Every pod comes with its own unique barcode which instructs the machine to provide just the right amount of water and the optimum length of extraction. Uniquely, the Vertuo system uses Centrifusion technology (the capsule spins at up to 7,000rpm) instead of just steamy water under high pressure.

The result is the deepest, thickest, creamiest and silkiest crema you will likely ever get your lips around. Granted, some espresso purists will say it’s just a foam and not strictly a crema but this writer begs to differ because, to me, it has the same consistency of a genuine crema, only it’s much deeper – like the head of a well-pulled Guinness draft. In fact, it’s so rich and creamy that, if you add a drop of hot milk to it, it turns an ordinary espresso into a mini cappuccino. 

This writer received a variety box of 12 capsules with the test machine and can vouch that the Diavolitto Espresso and Double Espresso Scuro blends are strongest and by far the most satisfying. But if you prefer a weaker blend, then there are plenty of those to choose from, too. After all, the whole point of this system is to cater for as wide a variety of tastes as possible. In that respect the Vertuo system is a winner on all fronts.

Magimix has pulled off a doozy with this particular machine – it delivers consistent results and is just so easy to use. I also love the huge water reservoir, enormous capsule collector and its clever automatic capsule loading and unloading mechanism. Best buy by a long shot.

best coffee capsule machine, lavazza jolie plus

2. Lavazza Jolie Plus

Best low-cost pod coffee maker

Specifications
Capsule brand: Lavazza
Capsule cost: From 27p
Width: 12.4cm
Reservoir: 0.5 litre
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+27p per cup+Space-saving footprint
Reasons to avoid
-Tiny used-capsule drawer

The Lavazza capsule system makes it much easier to enjoy a cup of Italy’s favourite espresso blend at home without the fuss of coffee granules being splattered all over the worktop.

There are 18 blends in the roster and most of them taste great, especially the red labelled Passionale, which is closest to what’s served in most Euro caffs (or 'cafés' as they pretentiously insist on calling them).

This keenly-priced micro machine is the width of a coffee tin and couldn’t be easier to use. The 0.5-litre water tower is big enough for at least half-a-dozen cups (either long or short, depending on which button is pressed) but the used capsule collection drawer is tiny and only has room for five. If you step too far over the mark, I can guarantee the drawer will jam and you’ll struggle to get the damn thing open.

That aside, this little workhorse makes a bloody excellent espresso replete with lush crema and all for around 27p a hit – and even cheaper if the pods are bought from John Lewis, for some reason. Top blend, top podder…

best coffee capsule machine, illy Y3.2

3. Illy Y3.2 Iperespresso

Third best pod coffee maker, thanks to one of the best blends on the market

Specifications
Capsule brand: Illy
Capsule cost: From 35p
Width: 10cm
Reservoir: 1 litre
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+Superb espresso maker+Exquisite coffee blend
Reasons to avoid
-A lot of plastic in the pods

Any discerning coffee aficionado will agree that Illy makes one of the best domestic coffee blends on the market. Well, here’s a way to make an authentic Illy espresso without the overly complex production process.

This FrancisFrancis-branded model is available in the three colours – white, red and black – and at just 10cm in width, one of the slimmest. 

All pod machines take the guesswork out of making espresso and this is no different. Lift the top flap (which automatically ejects the previously used pod), chuck in a new pod (choose from nine different blends), close it and press either the big cup button or the small cup button. And that’s all there is to it.

The Y3 uses a unique two-stage extraction process and the coffee it dispenses is so rich and rewarding I bought one, despite the 37p cost per pod. Illy’s innovative capsules seem less environment friendly than others even though the polypropylene plastic used is 100% recyclable.

If full-bodied flavour and a strong, palette-smacking kick are your prerequisites to a good espresso then make this model among your first ports of call.

best coffee capsule machine, minipresso ns

4. Wacaco Minipresso NS

Best portable pod coffee machine

Specifications
Capsule brand: Nespresso
Capsule cost: From 33p
Width: 6cm
Reservoir: One cup
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+Truly portable+Uses Nespresso capsules
Reasons to avoid
-Strong finger muscles required

Once you have a taste for real espresso nothing else will do, least of all instant coffee. So, next time you’re on your travels, pack this remarkable little hand-powered invention and you’ll never have to endure an insipidly crap hotel coffee ever again. You can even take it camping.

This model uses fuss-free Nespresso capsules to produce espressos as rich and aromatic as any kitchen-bound Nespresso machine on this page, though you are advised to use two pods for a decent strength-to-volume ratio.

Just fill the small chamber with hot water (most hotels have a kettle in the room), slap in a pod, seal the lid and use a good dose of hand pressure to squeeze the piston closed. Presto, instant espresso replete with a proper dollop of crema.

Even if you're in the wilds, or a hotel that only serves insipid filtered coffee, pop one of these in the shoulder bag and you’ll never be without a proper caffeine fix again.

best capsule coffee machine, sage creatista black

5. Sage Creatista Black

Classy high-end model with top specs

Specifications
Capsule brand: Nespresso
Capsule cost: From 33p
Width: 17.7cm
Reservoir: 1.5 litres
Frother: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Intuitive controls+Great selection of espresso options+Excellent milk frother
Reasons to avoid
-More premium, price-wise

Sage has excelled with this stupendous, premium-priced addition to the Nespresso roster of third-party machines.

The Creatista is superbly built, with a reassuringly large amount of metal used in the construction, but what impresses most here is the typically Sage-like, intuitive interface. There’s an LED panel on top that displays one of eight coffee styles from short-shot ristretto to latte macchiato, and it's so easy to use, my cat managed to whip up a flat white without even looking at the instruction manual. 

The foaming wand, too, is excellent and almost entirely automatic – just set the amount of froth required and hit the button for anything from warm milk to a Matterhorn-style peak of rich, creamy froth.

Nespresso is the most popular coffee pod brand on the market, but finding the blend to suit your palette requires sipping through a chocolate box assortment of different flavours. Nespresso capsules are also the smallest on test so real fiends may need a couple of shots to get a decent morning buzz.

best coffee capsule machine, FrancesFrances Illy X7.1 Iperespresso

6. FrancesFrances Illy X7.1 Iperespresso

Italian Ultra packs a lot of flair, and a decent Pannarello steam wand

Specifications
Capsule brand: Illy
Capsule cost: 35p
Width: 33.5cm
Reservoir: 1 litre
Frother: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Well built but keenly priced+Easy to use+Excellent pods, albeit at the pricier end of the scale
Reasons to avoid
-You either love the look or you very much don't

Ditching the plastic of some of the more popular pod machines, FrancisFrancis has created a swish, colourful chrome machine with a fascia reminiscent of Wall-E the robot.

The X7.1 boasts an excellent Pannarello steam wand for frothing milk, a large one-litre water reservoir and an old-fashioned portafilter, but one that takes plastic Iperespresso capsules instead of coffee grounds. A simple touch of the centre button produces an exquisitely rich, aromatic Illy espresso with a lip-smacking crema.

Illy capsules are more expensive than other brands and they’re not as readily available but, boy, they sure as hell know how to make a gorgeously rich and velvety espresso blend.

best capsule coffee machine, Dualit Café Cino

7. Dualit Café Cino

Stylish podder with side frother

Specifications
Capsule brand: Nespresso
Capsule cost: From 33p
Width: 18cm
Reservoir: 0.8 litres
Frother: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Uses both Dualit and Nespresso pods+Stylish looker
Reasons to avoid
-Very noisy

This new standard Nespresso machine from Dualit doesn’t take up much space and is very easy to use – it comes equipped with a touch interface that provides a variety of extracts from espresso to Americano, plus a side-mounted milk frother for cappuccinos. It also heats up in 40 seconds flat – handy for those in a rush to get out of the house first thing in the morning.

On the downside, the Café Cino is noisy as hell and, worse, the metal cup tray rattles about, especially when used with a small espresso cup. On the plus side, it produces as good an espresso as most machines on this page, so it’s still worth a gander.

Incidentally, like many third-party Nespresso pod manufacturers, Dualit also makes its own range of reasonably-priced coffee – and tea – pods that are usually cheaper than Nespresso’s own. Just thought you should know.

best coffee capsule machine, Nespresso Latissima Touch

8. Nespresso Latissima Touch

Very compact and a dab hand at whipping up lattes

Specifications
Capsule brand: Nespresso
Capsule cost: From 33p
Width: 17.3cm
Reservoir: 0.9 litres
Frother: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Attractive design+Wide range of different blends
Reasons to avoid
-Single espresso dose a bit stingy

Nespresso is the most ubiquitous capsule brand on the market, with many upmarket hotels installing them in their rooms. No wonder, as this attractive, well-designed DeLonghi-branded unit would sit very well in a boutique hotel space, taking up very little space, yet whipping up excellent espressos, lattes and, to some degree, cappuccinos.

I say to some degree because 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 added to the espresso right at the end, just before serving. But hey, mustn't grumble, my trial cappuccinos did have an authentic taste and texture.

Aside from providing its customers with an unnecessarily bewildering 25 different blends, the biggest problem with the Nespresso system is that the coffee measure in each capsule is very small, so you might need to use two pods in a row to get what most British punters think of as a single espresso.

best coffee capsule machine, KITCHENAID ARTISAN NESPRESSO 5KES0503

9. KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso 5KES0503

Classic KitchenAid design and a wide choice of Nespresso flavours

Specifications
Capsule brand: Nespresso
Capsule cost: From 33p
Width: 20.8cm
Reservoir: 1.4 litres
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+Large water reservoir+Ultra smooth enamelled exterior+Six brew settings
Reasons to avoid
-Rather a substantial beast

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 in a choice of six colours, including the trademark red; the curved, ultra smooth enamelled exterior; the reliable componentry. It’s all here. 

It's a bigger thing than it needs to be, really, so clear the worktop of all those other small kitchen appliances you've only ever used once. You’re likely to use this one every day.

The sturdy Artisan warms up in a thrice and comes with a removable 1.4-litre 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, 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. This would sit perfectly next to your KitchenAid stand mixer, and is priced accordingly.

best coffee capsule machine, LAVAZZA AEG FANTASIA

10. Lavazza AEG Fantasia

King of cappuccino for under £150

Specifications
Capsule brand: Lavazza
Capsule cost: From 27p
Width: 18.5cm
Reservoir: 1.2 litres
Frother: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Excellent milk frother+1.2-litre reservoir
Reasons to avoid
-Unattractive design

This outgoing AEG model is quite an ugly unit with a front fascia that looks like it was bolted on as an afterthought. There are also too many loose fittings to keep tabs on. Just as well it’s so easy and efficient to use…

Simply pop a Lavazza capsule into the slot, pull down the handle, tap one of the six touch-control program buttons and let the machine do the rest; the process starts automatically once the machine’s warmed up. For cappuccino, fill the removable milk reservoir, clip into place and select from a choice of three foam consistency settings. Then pour on top. Voila, an instant, velvety, froth-topped pick-me-up. 

The Fantasia is designed to be narrow enough to fit on a work top without taking up too much space and the large water reservoir (1.2-litres) is easy to remove.

Lavazza capsules (available online and John Lewis) cost around 27p a cup – among the cheapest on the market – and there are 18 mostly great-tasting blends to choose from.

best coffee capsule machine, handpresso auto

11. Handpresso Auto

Portable in-car lifesaver

Specifications
Capsule brand: ESE
Capsule cost: From 32p
Width: 7.5cm
Reservoir: 40ml
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+Makes authentic espressos+Highly portable
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy-A bit fiddly

You’re in the car, stuck in a monumental jam on the M6. Everything’s ground (pardon the pun) to a standstill and, to top it off, you’re still 10 miles away from a motorway services. But you have a plan. You’ve still got half a bottle of Evian to hand, and a Handpresso Auto and a handful of ESE espresso pods in the glove compartment.

Fill the chamber with water, place an ESE pod in the cradle (or scoop in some pre-ground espresso blend), plug it into the cigarette lighter, close your ears while it emits its irritating miniature pneumatic drill-type sound and, voila, you now have a damn fine hot cup of instant espresso replete with obligatory crema. Cool car kit.

best coffee capsule machine, Bosch Tassimo Vivy

12. Bosch Tassimo Vivy

Best for a wide range of hot beverages

Specifications
Capsule brand: Tassimo
Capsule cost: From 28p
Width: 21cm
Reservoir: 0.7 litres
Frother: No
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use and cheap+Also makes hot chocolate
Reasons to avoid
-Not the greatest coffee in town-No used-pod collector

The Tassimo system offers the widest variety of hot beverages, from coffee to tea and hot chocolate. Aside from the Costa blend, it’s a shame that most of the available coffees – from the likes of Maxwell House, Grand Mère and Jacobs – taste like they’ve been dispensed by a vending machine. I wouldn't advise the latte capsules, either, since they include long-life milk, and that’s so not latte.

Bosch’s keenly-priced Tassimo Vivy is a fairly petite 21cm in width so it doesn’t take up much worktop space. It’s also extremely easy to use, because it has only one button. To use, simply load a ‘T Disc’ (Tassimo’s proprietary capsule design), tap 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 box.

You can expect to pay about 28p a disc, which makes it more expensive than Lavazza while not being half as good. That said, Tassimo capsules are far more readily available than other brands, with pretty much every supermarket stocking them. However, without wanting to seem like a ravening coffee snob, what comes out of the Tassimo just doesn’t taste sophisticated, or even especially pleasant. But, you know, horses for courses…