Speed is another reason to consider a pod machine. These machines force heated water from its tank into the coffee pods until they burst and release rich, quickly brewed espresso. Every machine will preheat after switch-on. From then, it’s possible to get an aroma-packed espresso shot or slightly longer lungo in under 30 seconds.
Another advantage of these machines is the mess-free approach. It removes many of the other aspects of coffee-making like the grinding, dosing and tamping of grounds which makes the whole process much more user-friendly.
There’s cause for a cautious approach to coffee pods that are made from aluminium or plastic. Although some big brands like Nespresso offer programs that allow you to return used pods for recycling, there are more environmentally friendly coffee pods to choose from. Discover coffee expert Celeste Wong’s picks of the best eco-friendly coffee pod options out there, from small coffee roasteries to major brand players.
Unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all design to coffee pods; different brands require different pods (Nespresso, Lavazza and ESE are the major three designs) so when it came to testing, we kept as much parallel in roast and bean variety as possible, focussing on espresso and lungo programs. Popular brands for coffee pod machines include Nespresso, Lavazza and De’Longhi.
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For more unbeatable savings on kitchen kit, take a look at our best teapots and best moka pots reviews, for unmissable handpicked deals.
How to choose the best coffee pod machine for your home
A coffee pod machine is an excellent entry into the world of reliably fast and delicious espresso. Before you buy, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
- Pod compatibility: Nespresso? ESE? Lavazza? Keep this in mind when looking for a coffee pod machine. Some will have eco capsule options available. You can buy pods from independent roasteries to fit most (but not all) machine types. Brands like Nespresso require buying into the brand itself.
- Versatile functions: although it’s often a single shot affair, most coffee pod machines offer a lungo function that draws a slightly longer shot than the traditional single espresso.
- App connectivity: more modern models are often accompanied by apps and can be connected to via smartphone.
- Coffee quantity programming: this will allow you to tell the machine how much to brew into your waiting cup so that it saves the quantity as your pre-set.
Best coffee pod machines at a glance
- Best for user-friendly variety: Morning Coffee Machine, £349
- Best for milky coffees: De’Longhi Nespresso Lattissima One, £259
- Best for user experience: Hotel Chocolat The Podster, £154
- Best blow-out coffee pod machine: Grind One, £295
- Best basic coffee pod machine: Lavazza Jolie, £65
- Best for retro style: Lavazza A Modo Mio SMEG, £199
- Best for energy efficiency: Illy ESE pod machine, £115
- Best for versatility: Nespresso Vertuo Next, £149
Best coffee pod machines to buy in 2023
- Available from Morning, £349
Best for speciality coffee and variety
Compatible with: Nespresso pods
New for 2022, the Morning Machine has levelled up what is possible to achieve from a coffee pod machine. Its sleek, compact design is both minimalistic and modern, oozing style without demanding attention. And behind the simplicity lies immense sophistication in the form of user-friendly precision controls. 10 ready-to-brew recipes are selectable by spinning the outer rim of its touchscreen frontage. Among them are a Kyoto drip coffee function for slowly brewing over ice in addition to Morning’s Brew and Bloom classic recipe for espresso.
It feels like the first time that certain features from professional espresso machines have been put into a coffee capsule machine. The extracted coffee is measured in grams rather than ml. And in addition to a manual function, coffee temperature, bar pressure and quantity are all adaptable. There’s even a small light to illuminate your espresso as it’s extracted. More barista recipes are available through the Morning app. The machine itself is both WiFi and Bluetooth connectable so if you want to brew your coffee from bed, you can.
De’Longhi Nespresso Lattissima One
Best for milky coffees
The big unique selling point of this coffee pod machine is the milk-frothing wand and single-serve milk container which pulls out from the front for easy filling and cleaning. It’s the result of a collaboration between Nespresso and De’Longhi, two superpowers of the coffee landscape so the technology to brew and extract richly aromatic shots of coffee.
The milk system offers four little notches for guiding you on the milk quantities for three milky drinks; espresso macchiato (30ml), cappuccino (60ml) and latte macchiato (135ml to max 165ml) in addition to black espresso and lungo functions and is dishwasher-safe when dismantled. It’s possible to personalise the settings of each coffee and save a favourite for quick-select. One of the drawbacks of this model is the price, sitting over £200. However, it’s a great option for a household with different coffee preferences.
Hotel Chocolat The Podster
Best coffee pod machine for user experience
Compatible with: Nespresso pods
Known for its diverse selection of chocolate, Hotel Chocolat has launched its sideways step into coffee with a collaboration engineered by Dualit. Named The Podster, this is a coffee pod machine compatible with Nespresso pods that’s a treat to use.
Single shot or lungo coffee options are on offer, which is standard with most machines. What makes the machine stand out are the little touches you appreciate more with every use: soft-touch buttons for selecting your coffee, a grippy statement handle with a softened lock for securing the pods and Rabot Estate Coffee finishing touches that add some glam to the the whole machine. We tested the machine with the brand’s tasting selection of pods and found The One blend to be perfect for a well-rounded cup, while the fruity Oh Hello made a refreshing change.
Also available from:
Grind One coffee pod machine
Best blow-out coffee pod machine
Cult coffee brand Grind have teamed up with Swedish experts Sjöstrand to create its Grind One machine, a sleekly paired-back gadget compatible with Nespresso pods, that’s as graceful as it is industrial. Manual controls make it an unusually hands-on experience that was the most gratifying of all we tested.
Despite its small footprint, the boxy design paired with three rails around its top means there’s a practical espresso cup warmer to take advantage of; an unusual feature for a coffee pod machine. Needless to say, with a five-star rating this machine impressed far beyond the richly dark and crema-topped espresso it pulled. Read our full Grind One coffee pod machine review.
Score: 4.5/5 stars
Best basic coffee pod machine
The Lavazza Jolie has been available for few years, but the combination of its design and performance has stood the test of time against newer models. A single button controls the two coffee functions; espresso and the slightly longer lungo.
The cup holder is specifically designed for espresso cups, but removable for standard cups and mugs. For those with smaller countertops after simple and delicious espresso, the Jolie is a diminutive and efficient coffee pod machine that’s great value for money. Read our full Lavazza Jolie coffee pod machine review.
illy ESE coffee pod machine
Best for energy efficiency
The slim new coffee pod machine from illy is an excellent option if good sustainability credentials are important to you. It uses compostable ESE pods that can be thrown into green waste collections, and at 800W was the most energy efficient machine we tested, still producing 20 bars of brew-pressure and an espresso in under 30 seconds.
The controls are nice and simple; espresso and lungo coffee functions are selectable by button. It has a power-saving mode that kicks in quickly. A large lid lever loads and locks the ESE pods into place. The fold-down espresso cup holder will also bring a little smile to your face. Read our full illy ESE coffee pod machine review.
Lavazza A Modo Mio SMEG
Best for retro style
This is a great step-up from the Lavazza Jolie if you’re a fan of SMEG’s 1950s design aesthetic. This model proudly displays the SMEG and Lavazza brands across its front and requires a dominant spot on your countertop. The drip tray lifts up and out to allow space for a large mug. Espresso and lungo coffee options are available. Its energy saving mode kicks in after two minutes of inactivity and standby after seven.
The only niggle we encountered was its water tank; tricky to fill once the lid has been removed. However, unlike other machines, it’s possible to program the brew-quantity of this machine. It will also tell you when the water tank is empty, when the used capsule tray is full and when descaling is required. read our full Lavazza A Modo Mio Smeg coffee pod machine review.
Nespresso Vertuo Next
Best for thick crema
Nespresso is a big brand player when it comes to coffee pod machines. On the Vertuo, unique coffee brewing technology means a a thick crema can be achieved even on filter coffee-quantities. This is more like a finely whipped foam, but still a welcome addition. The pods look like little space ships and vary in depth depending on the five coffee sizes you choose; espresso, double espresso, Gran Lungo, Mug and Alto.
Each capsule has a barcode on the underside which the machine reads before puncturing the cap in the middle and around the edges. The sound somewhat resembles that of a vacuum cleaner when it brews. Then the machine discards the used caps with a satisfying ping once the lid lock is released.
Although it’s larger than the others, you can’t go too far wrong with this coffee pod machine. There’s even an app to guide you through use. Read our full Nespresso Vertuo Next coffee pod machine review.
How we tested coffee pod machines
The coffee pod machines featured in this review were the best performing from a longlist of over 20. All were tested using compatible eco caps of similar roast strength and bean variety (excluding the Nespresso machine. The brand does a recycling service) and marked against a standardised criterion. The average score out of five decided each product’s overall star rating.
We looked for richly flavoured and aromatic espresso with a velvety crema.
Did the price feel right? Every criteria from coffee quality to design played into this.
Coffee pod machines are all about speed and convenience, so we looked for easy steps from setting up, and cleaning to easy programming.
Flimsy, rickety or cheap-feel components were a no-no.
- Design and aesthetic for keeping on the countertop
How it looked, and how much space it took up, in the kitchen were considered.
The additional criteria played into our decision making:
- Variety of functions
- Kitchen footprint
- Ease of cleaning
Want to learn more about becoming an expert at-home barista? Read our guides here:
Celeste Wong’s guide to becoming an overnight coffee expert
Celeste Wong’s guide on how to make iced coffee
Celeste Wong’s best moka pots
Celeste Wong’s best coffee grinders
Celeste Wong’s best decaf coffee to try
Celeste Wong’s best reusable and compostable espresso pods
Celeste Wong’s best gooseneck kettles to try
Celeste Wong’s best coffee beans to try
Celeste Wong’s best cafetières to buy
Celeste Wong’s best coffee bags
Best coffee subscriptions to try
Best bean-to-cup coffee machines
Best espresso machines
Best Nespresso machines
For coffee gifts and accessory guides, read on:
Best coffee gifts
Best coffee mugs
Best coffee subscriptions
Best coffee gadgets and accessories
Best coffee pod holders
If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at [email protected].
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