Should I buy a Nespresso coffee machine? Let’s peruse the pod pros and cons…

Ready to join the pod people? We answer your Nespresso machine capsule questions

Should I buy a Nespresso machine
(Image credit: KitchenAid)

Nespresso has been a sensation since it launched, although not without controversy. This coffee pod system makes it easy for anyone to make good quality coffee quickly and without any mess. That's because the pods are sealed and contain a dose of coffee, so all you have to do is put one into a Nespresso machine, which then pricks holes in it, forces water through it under pressure, and then ejects it into a bin. A coffee pod's life is a tough one! 

The controversy comes with the question of what to do with the pods. If you are a two-person household that drinks just one cup of coffee per day, you'll have 60 used pods by the end of the month. There is a widespread perception that the pods cannot be recycled. In fact, this is not quite accurate – in some cases, it's not at all accurate – but we'll come to that shortly.

There are numerous other pod coffee systems – sometimes known as capsule coffee. If you want to know more you can read our best pod coffee machine guide and the self explanatory, What is the best pod coffee system? But for now we are mainly looking at the best Nespresso machines and asking, should I buy a Nespresso machine?

Are Nespresso machines any good?

As a great philosopher once said, 'Define good…' If you are into espresso and have a machine, chances are Nespresso is better than you probably think. If you've only had instant coffee or coffee from cheaper/older pod machines such as Tassimo, Flavia or Dolce Gusto, you will probably think Nespresso is absolutely amazing (assuming you like espresso, anyway). 

If you are a total authentic espresso or pour over coffee connoisseur who collects rare coffee bean types, you may be hard to convert to Nespresso. But again, it probably isn't as bad as you imagine it is. 

Put it this way: making coffee is all about precision. Real coffee experts and professionals will often weigh the exact amount of coffee used per shot, and time its extraction with a stopwatch, using water at exactly the right temperature and pressure. Well, Nespresso machines have exactly the same amount of coffee in every pod, and the process of forcing water through it to extract flavour is exactly the same every time. They are nothing if not precise.

The other huge benefit of Nespresso machines is that there is no mess and almost no effort. There are a few settings you can tweak but they're usually only accessible via a semi-secret menu, and I'm sure most Nespresso users never touch them. 

Nespresso makes a HUGE range of pods and since a series of law suits, third parties are now able to make the smallest form of Nespresso pod – Nespresso classic, let's call it – so there is even more choice. There are also larger Nespresso Vertuo pods that work with newer Nespresso machines. These are exclusively made by Nespresso itself, but there is still a very wide choice.

I can't claim to have tried anywhere near the full range of compatible pods but from what I have tried, almost all have been very solid quality espresso. I've had a few flavoured Nespresso pods that I thought were a little gross, but then I don't like flavoured coffee. I don't think I've ever had a cup of Nespresso that was as good as I've had from my various espresso and bean to cup coffee machines over the years, but come on – these things cost as little as £50. A decent espresso machine is usually hundreds of £/$/¥/€. 

Can I recycle Nespresso pods?

Contrary to what many thing, Nespresso pods can be recycled in many cases, but not without effort. Official Nespresso pods can be returned to Nespresso, who will sort it all out for you. 

Nespresso pods – and third party, compatible pods made of aluminium – can be recycled by you but you will need to clean them or chances are your local recycling service will dump them into landfill as they are deemed to be 'contaminated'. Hand cleaning coffee residue from hundreds of pods is nobody's idea of a fun time, so probably returning them to Nespresso is your best bet (opens in new tab).

Another increasingly popular option for those who are worried about their ecological impact is to buy compostable pods. These don't last as long as the standard pods but if you are drinking coffee every day, you won't have to worry about them going off. As the name suggests, they can simply be put on your compost heap or binned, and they will rot away to nothing. Or more accurately, they will rot away to nutritious compost that many plants will love. 

The other type of pod is the plastic kind that many third-party coffee capsule makers use. These are largely not recyclable and, as such, a bad idea.

What else do I need to know?

Perhaps the most important thing for any would-be Nespresso buyer is that although there are numerous machines to choose from, at all sorts of prices, the coffee that comes out of all of them is identical. Nespresso licenses its core technology to brands such as Delonghi, Sage, Krups and Magimix, and they can put them in whatever casing they like, add extra features such as milk frothers and sell them at whatever prices they like. However, whatever the machine looks like and costs, the coffee will always be the same. With that in mind, why not either scroll down to see today's best Nespresso machine and pod prices, or head over to our best Nespresso machine deals page…

All coffee machines should be used with filtered water and cleaned regularly. There is something about the the coffee-making process used that seems to make this even more essential for Nespresso machines. Whatever machine you get will tell you when it needs to be descaled, and do not ignore it when it does or your coffee will gradually get more and more unpleasant.

Finally, I expect you already know this, but there is not just one Nespresso system available. As well as the original, with its small pods and small machines, there is Nespresso Vertuo, which features slightly larger, saucer-shaped pods and slightly larger machines to accommodate them. If you favour a small espresso or Americano in the morning, the classic machines are great. However if you want a longer drink without the need to use multiple pods, you should definitely go for Vertuo instead. The machines are bigger, so measure up carefully, but they aren't huge by any means and should fit in most kitchens.

So, should I buy a Nespresso machine?

If you want the best combination of choice, convenience and recyclability – so long as you get the right pods and make the effort to recycle them – then Nespresso is a great option. I've found Nespresso machines of all prices also make very good espresso coffee, so long as you maintain the machine properly and use filtered water. No, it's not as good as what you'll get from a £1,000 bean to cup coffee machine but… of course it's not.

One final thing before you move to today's best Nespresso deals, though! Although Nespresso is the most popular pod system by a mile, the favoured pod machine of T3's resident expert coffee quaffers – ie: me and Derek Adams – is Lavazza's Mio Modo. This pod system serves up the best coffee, and the range of options available is kept down to a much more manageable level, which we happen to prefer. And you can get a Lavazza Mio Modo coffee machine with Alexa built into it. Take THAT, Nespresso!

However, if you're not tempted by that, you can't go wrong with Nespresso. Its pods are far more diverse and more widely available than those of any other system. Once you find a Nespresso pod or pods that you like from that big range, you'll enjoy excellent, fuss-free coffee forever.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.