Which Pod Coffee Machine is Better?


In the battle for pod coffee supremacy, it comes down to Keurig or Nespresso. It is highly likely you’re looking for a pod machine for the convenience they offer, but there is plenty more you should consider before choosing between the brands. In our opinion, Nespresso reigns supreme, in terms of quality, but read on to learn more as we dive deeper into the highs and lows of Nespresso and Keurig so you can make the right choice.

An Introduction to Nespresso and Keurig

Keurig is an American company originally founded to provide office coffee makers. They soon expanded into the home market and now offer dozens of models. It’s estimated that 25% of American households possess a pod coffee machine, the vast majority of which are Keurig (1). If you’re looking to join in, check out our review of the best Keurig coffee makers. You should also check out our video guide into the Keurig K-15.

Though Switzerland-based Nespresso is less of a household name in North America, it holds considerable market share throughout Europe and Asia. They often partner with other brands to build their machines, including well-established names like Breville and DeLonghi. Nespresso is widely regarded as one of the best ways to get a decent espresso at home, without having to buy expensive fully automatic machines, or get to grips with the intricacies involved in pulling espresso yourself. (2)

Specialty coffee doesn’t offer anything to the consumer who wants to drink great espresso at home but doesn’t want a new hobby.

Nespresso recently released a new line, Vertuo, which brews larger coffees to satisfy the North American market. In this duel, Nespresso stands out for its quality, both in the Swiss-manufactured machines and in the delicious espresso and coffee Nespresso pods produce. In comparison, Keurig machines offer affordability and variability, both in their line-up of brewers and their available K-Cups.

Now, we’ll look at these features in a little more detail. Read on to learn more.

Keurig vs Nespresso: A Features Face-Off

Let’s have a look at some of the key features across both Keurig and Nespresso machines that will help you decide which is right for you.

Price

When it comes to a coffee maker, you get what you pay for. While both companies offer models at a range of prices, Keurigs are consistently more affordable, though Nespresso’s Vertuo line approaches the same price point. The trade-off is durability. Nespresso’s Swiss-built machines will last longer than Keurig’s plastic components.

Nespresso is marketed as a high-end product and often bears a price that reflects this image.

Keurig coffee is also less expensive per cup. Thanks to their third-party partnerships, K-Cups are more widely available and cheaper than Nespresso capsules. The Nespresso Vertuo line uses barcode scanning technology available only with select pods, making it even pricier. Likewise, Keurig has a 2.0 line with a scanner designed for proprietary pods, but the system is easy to circumvent (3).

Both brands offer the option of a refillable pod, which will save money but eliminate some of the convenience for which these machines are known.

Winner: Keurig takes this one offering both cheaper machines and cheaper K-cups.

Taste

For many prospective buyers, this is the most important category. There’s a lot between what’s on offer too. Although both companies use a pod system, the way they extract coffee is quite different.

In a Keurig, the pod is pierced at the top and bottom, and water is forced through, yielding a result akin to drip coffee. In contrast, a Nespresso capsule acts like a tiny espresso machine. It’s pierced 3 times, and the machine pumps hot water at 19 bar, pressurizing it until the broader side foil ruptures, allowing water to flow through the grounds at a controlled rate, for better extraction and rich crema.

Vertuo brewers scan the unique barcode of each pod to learn the time and temperature required, then use a patented Centrifusion process to yield the perfect cup.

Winner: Nespresso wins on taste offering rich and complex coffee and espresso.

Types of Drink Available

The winner of this category will depend on your preferences.

If you want espresso or espresso-based beverages, opt for a Nespresso. It crafts legitimately tasty espressos and many models come with a milk frother. Coffee lovers can either brew an Americano or get a Vertuo machine for a great cup of coffee. To learn more about one of our favorites, check out our Nespresso Pixie review.

Though Keurig’s K-Cafe has the option of an espresso shot, it just produces a small serving of strong coffee, not an espresso.

But if you’re not interested in espresso, and particularly if you enjoy beverages beyond coffee, a Keurig will suit you better. Hundreds of available K-Cups offer a broad selection of coffee roasts and flavors, and Keurigs can also brew tea, hot cocoa, and cold drinks, or dispense hot water.

Winner: This one is a tie for us. If you want your machine to specialize in making a small amount of certain drinks well, Nespresso wins hands down. If you want a versatile machine that can make almost every type of hot drink, Keurig will win.

Sustainability

Keurig has received a lot of criticism in recent years for the environmental effects of coffee pods and their growing presence in landfills. The commonly cited chilling statistic is that the number of K-Cups manufactured in a year could circle the planet 10 times. In response, Keurig has promised to deliver fully recyclable K-Cups, a goal they hope to achieve this year. (4)

They’re slowly chipping away at the problem trying to make things less terrible. Reusable and refillable options are the wave of the future.

Nespresso’s aluminum pods are already recyclable, so they’re focused on making recycling as easy as possible. They’ve set up a network of capsule recycling stations and accept used pods at a number of retail outlets. They also offer a prepaid shipping envelope so customers can recycle by mail. Ultimately, the most sustainable solution is to use the refillable pods now offered by both companies.

Nespresso is also striving for environmental and socioeconomic sustainability throughout its supply chain via its Ecolaboration and AAA Sustainable Quality programs (5).

Winner: Nespresso is a clear winner here, but we hope to see Keurig pushing hard to try and take this one too. Watch this space.

Stand-Out Features

  • Programmability – Keurigs offer more programmable features than Nespresso machines, which usually just have the option to brew. Many Keurigs are equipped with an LCD touch screen that offers a clock, timers, and the ability to adjust brew strength and temperature.
  • Automatic Capsule Ejection – When you open a Nespresso to insert a capsule, any used pod in the machine is automatically ejected into a separate bin. This saves time between brews and means you won’t burn your fingers removing the hot capsule.
  • Water Reservoir and Carafes – Unlike the exclusively single-serve Nespresso machines, most Keurigs have a large water reservoir, and some can brew a full 30-ounce carafe at a time. While this makes them a bit bulkier on the countertop, it’s worthwhile if you want a lot of coffee.
  • Cleaning – Both brands are easy to clean, but only Nespresso features a built-in descaling mode. And while the Keurig’s puncturing needle needs regular cleaning, the Nespresso design eliminates this requirement.

The Verdict

From this head-to-head showdown, it’s clear both Nespresso and Keurig contribute unique and valuable products to the marketplace. So which is the one for you?

You should buy Keurig if:

  • Affordability is a priority
  • You want a bigger selection of coffees, teas, and other drinks
  • You want to brew full carafes of coffee

Keurig Machines

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Many different models available
  • Huge variety of K-Cups, including tea and cocoa
  • Can brew larger sizes, including carafes

Cons:

  • Not very durable
  • Poor environmental record

You should buy Nespresso if:

  • You want to drink espresso or espresso-based drinks
  • You’re willing to pay a premium for better taste
  • You want a more durable machine

Nespresso Machines

Pros:

  • Makes coffee or espresso
  • High-quality manufacturing
  • Easy to clean
  • Significant recycling infrastructure

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Fewer pod options

Of course, depending on your budget, neither brand is particularly expensive, so if you can’t decide, why not get both?

FAQs

No, K-Cups aren’t compatible with Nespresso machines because of the size and shape of the pods and the technical aspects of the machines.

You can use a Nespresso pod twice. Just reinsert the used capsule in the machine and brew again. The second cup will inevitably be weaker, but many users claim it’s still tasty.

  1. Ferdman, R.A. (2016, February 3). America’s favorite coffee trend may be coming to an end. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/03/down-go-coffee-pods/
  2. Hoffman, J. (2015, May 21). An analysis of Nespresso Part 1. Retrieved from https://www.jimseven.com/2015/05/21/an-analysis-of-nespresso-part-i/
  3. Storm, D. (2014, December 10). Keurig 2.0 spoofing vulnerability: Hack bypasses coffee DRM, allows brewing of any pod. Retrieved from https://www.computerworld.com/article/2857708/keurig-2-0-spoofing-vulnerability-hack-bypasses-coffee-drm-allows-brewing-of-any-pod.html
  4. Brown, D. (2019, March 13). K-cups and coffee capsules: Is your quick java fix killing the environment? Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/03/13/heres-why-your-used-k-cups-coffee-pods-arent-usually-recycled/3067283002/
  5. Nespresso Ecolaboration Program. (n.d.). Retrieved From https://www.nespresso.com/pro/us/en/pages/ecolaboration





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