Why are pod coffee machines so popular?
Over the last 5 years or so they have exploded in popularity – all of a sudden most kitchens in the country have one of these strange little machines next to the kettle. So what is their appeal?
It all comes down to three main factors really:
- Quality coffee that you used to have to a specialist shop or cafe for
- Quick to make, so you don’t spend half your morning faffing around
- Easy to use so you don’t need months of barista training
These pod machines have ticked all of those boxes, and have changed how we drink coffee. It wasn’t so long ago that most of us exclusively drank instant coffee at home, and now we have cappuccinos, flat whites, lattes and so many more, all available at the touch of a button.
The only problem now is that the market is absolutely swimming with different coffee pod machines. They are all made to suit different tastes, budgets and even use different types of pod – all offering something different themselves. So how on earth are you supposed to know which one is right for you?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We have shortlisted the best coffee pod machines on the market for you to have a look through and pick the best one for you.
Top 9 Pod Coffee Machines
Having scoured the UK market for the top options and after spending hours upon hours drinking coffee and testing a wide range of pods, we have come up with a shortlist that contains 9 of the best coffee pod machines available today.
NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Mini-Me
Perfect for: A first pod machine for those that want a variety of coffees made simply.
First of all, it will show you how small and compact these machines can be. Measuring just 16 x 31 x 24 cm, with a sleek open design, this will slip into place on any kitchen counter – ready for action.
When it comes to ease of use, the Dolce Gusto pods take care of everything for you. Whatever your drink of choice, you will be able to find the pods that you’ll need to make it, all you need to do is set the volume bar to the correct setting (this is listed on the pods themselves, so it really is very simple). Everything else is automatic.
There is even a ‘cold’ setting, for those hot summer days when you just want a refreshing ice coffee – whatever drink you like, this machine can make it – and so simply as well!
With a 0.8l water tank, you will be able to fill it with enough water for 3-4 drinks, depending on what you go for. For a machine this size, that’s pretty good, and the tank is easily accessible for topping up.
At the lower-to-mid price range, this machine is a great introduction into the world of pod coffee machines.back to menu ↑
Tassimo Bosch Vivy 2
Perfect for: A quick and easy machine to satisfy the needs of non-coffee drinkers as well as coffee drinkers
There may have been some of you that read the previous product review and thought to yourself “wait, we’re expected to read what setting the drink needs, and set it ourselves?!”
Rather than worrying about how you dress yourselves in the morning, I thought I’d just show you a machine that doesn’t even require that level of thought – the Tassimo Bosch Vivy 2.
With the patented INTELLIBREW™ technology, this machine reads the barcode on each pod and automatically calibrates the settings to suit that drink – all you need to do is press the button and your drink will be made in seconds.
The Vivy 2 uses Tassimo pods, which are exclusively made by some of the leading brands in the coffee industry (Costa, L’Or, Grand Mere and Jacobs to name a few), and also specialises in other drinks – hot chocolate and even tea. Ideal if you need to justify another coffee machine to the non-coffee drinking members of your household!
As this is one of the cheapest models on the market, this machine represents incredible value.back to menu ↑
Nespresso Vertuo Plus by Krups
Perfect for: People who love strong, black coffee
Our first Nespresso machine is the Vertuo Plus – it is a fantastically sleek and stylish looking machine, that uses the newer, larger Nespresso coffee pods.
This enables you to make longer drinks than the original pods used to – from a 40ml espresso, all the way up to a 414ml Alto Coffee. The thing you’ll really notice with this machine though, is the crema.
It utilises ‘Centrifusion’ brewing extraction technology, which rotates the capsules as the water passes through it, which means that as much flavour and aroma as possible is integrated into your drink – and the results both look and taste incredible, with the thickest, creamiest crema I’ve seen on a coffee.
They, too, have a sophisticated barcode system that will automatically calibrate the machine to the drink you are making, so it is also incredibly easy to use. It doesn’t have an integrated milk frother, but some of the packages to purchase it do come with one. So it’s something to bear in mind if you prefer the fancier milk drinks.
This is towards the top end of the price range, and it produces quite stunning drinks – I’d perhaps even go as far to say the best I have seen from a pod machine.back to menu ↑
Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Oblo
Perfect for: Those that want a simple machine, but with the chance to experiment with their drinks
Another Dolce Gusto machine now, this one made by Krups. The first thing you will notice is that it is a completely different shape to most of the other machines on this list – it is flat and wide, rather than thin and deep.
This might not seem that important on the face of it, but when introducing a new appliance to your kitchen, knowing how and where it will fit should be a consideration. I really like the look of this machine as well, with the open face and backdrop of the water tank.
The other thing to note is that, despite using the same sort of pods as the Mini-Me listed above, you get quite a different user experience. You have much more control over your drink, as it is manually operated.
Don’t worry though, it’s not complicated. Basically, you move the lever on the top of the machine to start the water (left for cold water, right for hot), and then back to the middle to stop – sort of like using a tap, but less effort.
What this means is that you can vary the strength of your drink to your exact taste, and experiment with different drinks to get the perfect cup. This is quite a rare feature amongst the Dolce Gusto machines, and one that I really enjoy.
As another machine in the lower-mid price range, this is a great value machine which looks great and gives you much more control over the taste of your coffee.back to menu ↑
Tassimo My Way 2 by Bosch
Perfect for: Having the flexibility to switch between ‘classic’ pod coffees and experimenting with finding your perfect cup
This clever machine enables you to vary the strength, temperature and volume of your drink, with three easy-to-use settings buttons. This is a wonderful feature, which means you have so much more control over your drink than with most pod coffee machines.
This means you can make an extra-tall americano, or a powerful espresso with an extra kick, or even make a hot chocolate for a child that is a bit less hot when you present it to them. All of this control is right at your fingertips with the attractive user interface on the front of the machine.
It also has the capacity to store 4 settings in its memory, meaning you can save your favourite calibrations to action at the touch of a button.
Don’t worry though, because it also has the INTELLIBREW™ function, meaning it is also possible to just pop your pod in and press go – your drink will still come out exactly as intended by the manufacturer.
The flexibility of this machine certainly separates it from much of its competition, but it does come at a price as one of the most expensive Tassimo machines around. It produces excellent results though, so the cost is justified.back to menu ↑
Nespresso Creatista Plus by Sage
Perfect for: The person that just wants the best pod machine available
If you’re looking for the most complete coffee pod machine that money can buy, then look no further than the Creatista from Sage. Quite simply, it can do everything that you could possibly want a coffee machine to do.
First of all, well, just look at it. The stainless steel finish just looks incredible, and you can imagine that it would seem at home behind the counter of any coffee shop – it just oozes class.
Fortunately, it doesn’t just look like it belongs in a coffee shop, it acts like it too. As soon as you put a pod into the compartment, you will see the digital interface and steel dial, which you turn to set up the drink you are making, from an espresso to a latte or flat white.
Once you’ve hit the button to start, the exact amount of coffee will be poured, and you are guaranteed a fantastic crema. It will also have calibrated the milk wand, so you can fill the (again, stainless steel) jug with the required amount of milk, and hold it under the wand to create the perfect frothed milk for your drink.
If you prefer your milk made slightly differently (maybe hotter or with more volume), you can adjust the settings to suit your desires. There are 11 temperature settings and 8 volume settings to choose from – plenty of room for experimentation to get your perfect drink.
You can also have a lot of fun creating ‘coffee art’ with the milk – it takes a fair bit of practice, but it won’t be long before you’re producing beautiful patterns in your coffee!
Obviously, all of this comes at a price, and you won’t be surprised to learn that this is one of the most expensive pod coffee machines available – as expensive as some bean-to-cup machines. The thing is though, it’s probably the best.back to menu ↑
Nespresso Citiz by Magimix
Perfect for: People want excellent coffee with no training required!
This is another machine with a very sleek design, that doesn’t have a large ‘footprint’ on your kitchen counter. This, coupled with its stylish, yet unassuming design, means that it will slot into place nicely on any kitchen counter.
The water tank is neatly hidden away at the back of the machine, which looks great, but can be a little fiddly to reach when you need to fill it up if you haven’t got the space to reach around – not a huge problem, but something to consider when you’re finding a home for it.
In terms of functionality, we’re back to keeping it simple. There are two buttons on the main unit, which correlate to the size of drink you require (one for espresso, one for lungo). The pods that you buy will tell you which one to press to get the perfect strength for your drink.
The only other thing to get acquainted with is the milk frother, which is both easy to use and incredibly effective. Known as the Aeroccino3, all you need to do is fill up this attractive cylinder with the required amount of milk, place it in position, and press the button. The tiny motor will start whirring and within 60 seconds, your milk will be heated, frothed and ready to pour.
The beauty of having a milk frother is that you use fresh milk, rather than relying on the individual pods that you get with some other types of machine. Obviously, fresh milk will always taste better.
This is a machine that can do pretty much anything a pod coffee machine should be able to do, with the bonus of using fresh milk without having to be a trained barista.back to menu ↑
Tassimo Bosch Suny
Perfect for: The coffee drinker that loves a neat little gadgets
When I review coffee pod machines, and I’m not alone in this, I will often try to express how easy they are to use by employing the phrase “at the touch of a button”. I have always felt that to just press one button and get a drink is the very height of ease and convenience.
Until, that is, I used the Tassimo Bosch Suny.
Much like a lot of its competition, it has an in-built barcode reader (INTELLIBREW™ again), which will calibrate the settings to the requirements of each pod – which is nice and straightforward.
Where it goes the extra mile, however, is that all you have to do to start the drink-making process is place the cup under the dispenser. Once it makes connection with the front of the machine, it all kicks into life and your drink is on its way!
Is this necessary? Absolutely not, unless you are incapable of pushing one button. Is it fun? It sure is.
As with other Tassimo machines, you can choose from a wide range of different pods which will make the complete drink – no worrying about milk frothing and the like, so it really is as easy as putting in the pod and placing your cup.
You would be forgiven for thinking that a nifty little feature like this would come at a cost, but you would be wrong – the Suny is still one of the cheapest machines on the market.back to menu ↑
Nespresso Lattissima Touch from De’Longhi
Perfect for: People that love a range of coffee drinks and want them freshly made right before their eyes
In the world of coffee machines, a lot of attention is focused on design – you get all these sleek, stylish, curvy, shiny futuristic looking gadgets that wouldn’t look out of place in the trendiest of boutique cafe’s.
The Lattissima Touch from De’Longhi, then, stands out somewhat amongst its peers – it’s really just a box. That’s not to say it’s unattractive, it looks fine, but it is just a box.
So why has it made this list? Because of what it can do.
Unlike most Nespresso machines, there are six settings, rather than two. These all represent different drinks, and it may take a little bit of time to familiarise yourself with them all, but well worth the effort.
The integrated milk frother is what really separates this machine from most of the competition. Once you have selected your drink, it will automatically froth the correct amount of milk, and to the correct consistency, whilst simultaneously brewing the coffee. Then it will pour the coffee and milk at the right time, in the right order and in the right quantities to make the perfect cup of whatever you have selected.
Being able to use fresh milk in a drink is great – fresh is always best. To use fresh milk and not have to do any of the work yourself is just brilliant. All you have to do is make sure there is milk in the frother – you don’t even need to worry about measuring it out. It all just happens.
This is a great machine. While it is at the higher end of the price range, you absolutely get what you pay for here; a machine that can do everything and with minimal user input required.
What Are The Best Tasting Coffee Pods?
It’s becoming a catchphrase of mine, but your drink will only ever taste as good as the coffee you put into it, no matter what machine you use. This is particularly relevant for Nespresso and Dolce Gusto pods, as there is such an extensive range available.
Unlike Tassimo, these machines also use ‘compatible’ pods, which means you can get all kinds of different ones from all kinds of brands – from supermarket’s own to incredibly high-end that cost a fortune!
My advice is to experiment – with so many choices, all suited to different drinks, the only way that you are going to find your favourite is to try as many as possible. Find your favourite espresso, which may be different to your favourite cappuccino, which may be different to your favourite lungo etc.
Many leading brands make pods, so they may be a good place to start. Also, my advice is to look for compostable pods, or reusable ones. There are so many different options available that you can find the right one to suit your budget, taste and conscience.
Coffee Pod Machines – Are They Worth It?
I’ll be honest here – I was always a bit unsure about coffee pod machines. As a self confessed ‘coffee obsessive’ I was always a little put off by the idea of using little plastic capsules to make my drink – fresh coffee was always my preferred choice.
I have come to realise, though, that there absolutely is a place in my kitchen of one of these machines. Those mornings when you’re in a rush, trying to get everyone dressed, fed, organised and out the house – you desperately need a hit of decent coffee, but can’t justify the time to start grinding/brewing from scratch.
Or when you have a work deadline – you need to be working, but you also need a delicious cappuccino to kick you into life. Just nipping in and having a drink within a minute is just the ticket.
Not to mention the money you can save, say, on your commute. Take a travel mug with a coffee in, rather than nipping to that massive chain coffee shop on your way to work. It won’t be long before you’ve saved the entire cost of your machine, depending on which one you go for.
So, yes, coffee pod machines are a great way to get decent coffee quickly and easily, and most definitely worth it.
Tassimo Vs Dolce Gusto
These brands often get pitted against each other, largely because they do similar jobs. Namely, they make you a complete drink, solely from the pods. With the Nespresso machines, you need to add your own milk (in various different ways as discussed above), but with these, the milk comes from the pods themselves.
This all means that they are incredibly easy to use. But which one is better?
To be honest, I don’t think you’ll be able to tell the difference – they both use similar techniques, and even similar brands to make the pods. So you end up with incredibly similar drinks.
The biggest difference between the two, is that with Dolce Gusto, you can get ‘other’ pods that are compatible with the machines. This gives you more choice of taste, and budget – you can often get cheaper pods that work with these machines.
Tassimo, while quite limited with the pods they provide, work hard to make their machines stand out (thus the quirky features), and are incredibly affordable.
Both offer the main things you are looking for in a coffee pod machine (quality coffee, made quickly and simply), so it will just come down to personal preference from there – is the range of pods important to you? Or do you prefer the functionality of the machines?