Keurig vs Nespresso: which coffee maker is best?

Pod brewing is becoming one of the most popular ways to enjoy coffee at home, but the debate over which machine is best often comes down to two brands: Keurig vs Nespresso. Simplicity and convenience have brought these coffee machines into our homes, but with so many choices, it can be tough to know which is right for you. 

Although both brands produce some of the best coffee makers on the market, Keurig and Nespresso do things very differently. From the brewing process and the coffee beans all the way down to the machines' builds, there's a lot to unpack to determine which brand is best. 

Keurig is an American company that owns a wide range of beverages like Dr. Pepper and 7up, so it's no surprise that there's such a huge variety when it comes to the pods available. Nespresso is owned by Nestlé, based in Switzerland, and they've been brewing espresso for coffee lovers for years with some of the best espresso machines.

These two distinct beverage brands have a lot on offer when it comes to brewing coffee, and we'll compare the design, features, performance, taste, care, and price factors that determine which is the best coffee maker for you. May as well grab a cup while you read. 

Keurig vs Nespresso: Design

To compare the two brands' designs, we take a look at Keurig's and Nespresso's coffee pods and the coffee makers themselves.

Coffee makers

Keurig's coffee makers are designed for speed and convenience. If you're a casual coffee drinker, they require very minimal effort to be able to brew a cup of coffee in seconds. On top of that, a lot of their models, especially the K-Mini and K-Express, are about as compact as a coffee maker can be, taking as little space as less than 5 inches in width. 

Saying that the smaller Keurig machines have very few of the features that the higher-quality models offer - even if you do opt for the slightly larger Keurig K-Classic. So, if you're investing in a decent coffee maker, they can take up about as much space as a more advanced drip coffee maker, which would likely produce a more enjoyable cup of coffee. 

Nespresso's coffee machines are built more sturdy than Keurig's, made of thicker plastic with a metal exterior (while Keurig's are predominantly light plastic). The primarily Swiss-made machines certainly have a higher-quality feel and are often as compact as their Keurig counterparts.

The two Nespresso ranges, Original and Vertuo, cater to coffee drinkers' varying tastes. Vertuo machines, such as the Vertuo Creatista, can brew a full range of cup sizes from 1.35oz to 18oz, whereas Original machines brew traditional espresso servings sized from 0.85oz - 5oz. A selection of the machines in the Nespresso Original range also comes equipped with a steam wand, which may better suit those who favor a latte or cappuccinos. 

Coffee pods

To brew coffee, both brands use pods covered by a metal film pierced by the coffee machine. Both Keurig and Nespresso's Original coffee machines filter hot water through the pod to brew coffee, while Nespresso's Vertuo machines push water into the pod, which then spins at 7,000RPM, producing a coffee with a thicker crema and body.

Keurig has often been criticized for its environmental impact, so as of 2020, it made 100% of its coffee pods out of recyclable plastic. But still, the combination of plastic and metal can make recycling a bit of a nightmare.

All Nespresso pods are made from recyclable aluminum, and the brand has even set up its own recycling system to make sure that the pods have a lesser impact on the environment. Nespresso offers customers a free recycling bag that can be filled with pods and then taken to one of Nespresso's many stores or dropped off at UPS with no cleaning required. The aluminum is compressed, melted, and used to make new pods and other products. 

Verdict: Keurig's advantages are ease of use, speed, and small size, but for a coffee maker with decent quality, it will likely be no more compact than any other coffee machine. Nespresso builds higher-quality coffee makers with pods that are better for the environment and easier to recycle. And with the Vertuo machines producing a thicker coffee, this is an easy win for Nespresso. 

White Nespresso Vertuo machine with a cream mug on the cup holder in a kitchen.

Nespresso coffee machine (Image credit: Holly Cockburn)

Keurig vs Nespresso: Features

Compared to most pod brewers, you won't get as much variety and customization as you do with Keurig. There's a load of Keurig machines to choose from, tailored to whatever type of brewer you need, and within them is the ability to customize heat, strength, cup size, and even the type of drink. Keurig machines can make coffee, tea, iced coffee (when brewed over ice), cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, and more. As there are over 400 types of K-cups by 60 brands worldwide, you won't run out of choice when looking for the perfect flavor. 

These unlicensed K-cup flavors from non-Keurig brands may not be around forever, though, as the 2.0 line of Keurig machines made it so that unlicensed cups couldn't be used. They've since discontinued this range, but there may come a time when future Keurig machines won't allow for all this wide variety. And if you're a coffee enthusiast, it is worth noting that Keurigs aren't currently able to brew espressos.

Both brands give you lots of choices in terms of flavors, but Nespresso focuses more on the taste, strength, and texture of the coffee itself, where the choice on offer is over 30 different coffee blends. Original Nespresso machines brew traditional espresso (which you can turn into other coffees like americanos or iced lattes), while the Vertuo machines can brew larger coffee drinks, too. 

The Nespresso coffee makers can produce a variety of cup sizes, similar to Keurig, but the Vertuo machines take it further by allowing you to brew whole pots. They also have blend-specific brewing, where they adjust to the optimal settings for each pod. Add that to the above-mentioned thicker crema, and Nespresso Vertuo machines are full of features to brew good quality coffee. 

Nespresso excels in brewing features, but Keurig takes the lead when it comes to customization features. Color touch LCD displays, temperature and brew-strength control, programmable clocks, auto-on, and larger water tanks are some of the many Keurig features that Nespresso currently doesn't offer. You can really tailor your beverages to your preferences with a Keurig and can spend a lot of time finding the best combinations of K-Cup, strength, and temperature. 

Verdict: There's a notable difference between who each machine is tailored to. Nespresso machines seem to be more for hardcore coffee lovers who want their cups brewed properly using high-quality beans. Keurigs offer more variety in terms of drinks and flavors, but when it comes to coffee, it's unlikely they can match the brewing process of a Nespresso. 

Close up of person with tattooed finger pouring milk from metal jug into glass of cafe latte

(Image credit: Getty; Mint Images)

Keurig vs Nespresso: Performance & Taste

With all of this freedom of choice, it's hard to imagine a Keurig pouring the wrong cup of coffee, as there could always be a different pod to better suit your taste. But the Keurig brewing process isn't designed to give coffee the best treatment. Brewing for too short a time can result in weak, under-extracted coffee, and K-Cups have built-in paper filters that strain out a lot of flavors. This could explain why many reviewers and users online don't sing praises about the quality and taste of Keurig coffee. 

Nespresso uses a higher coffee-to-water ratio and a finer grain size while making sure there's minimal filtering to maximize the release of coffee oils into your drink. Plus, the pods' aluminum bodies use a food-grade lacquer to protect the grounds. It's thoughtfully designed to get the most out of the coffee beans, especially when paired with the frother that Nespresso includes the option for. 

Nespresso is known for producing thicker and richer drinks, but they do take (slightly) longer to brew than Keurigs, so it largely comes down to what's important to you. If you're looking for a quick coffee fix on your way out the door, there's no denying the speed and convenience of owning a Keurig. And with the higher-end models offering more sizes like a travel cup, it can be ideal if you're often looking to save time. 

But if you're investing in a pod brewer for the quality of your coffee, it's hard to argue with Nespresso's brewing. Keurig coffee will likely be a step up from instant coffee, but Nespresso's 30+ available pods use beans from around the world to deliver distinctly enjoyable flavors. 

Verdict: This can really come down to preference. If you want a machine that will produce thicker and higher-quality coffee, then Nespresso is the one for you. But if you're looking for a quick and simple coffee fix, Keurig is easily the most convenient option. 

Keurig coffee machine and accessories on counter

(Image credit: Keurig)

Keurig vs Nespresso: Care & Maintenance

Pod brewers are known for their ease of cleaning, and Nespressos and Keurigs are no exception. They require very little maintenance and can be wiped down just like any other small appliance. Freshening the water tank won't be a long task either.

If you occasionally like to deep clean your coffee maker, it's worth considering that Keurigs don't allow access to the inner tank, and so cannot be thoroughly treated. This shouldn't have much of an effect on the coffee flavor, but for long-term investments, it may have an effect down the line. 

The biggest difference here is the warranty: Keurig's is one year, but Nespresso's is two years. There's comfort in knowing that your machine is proofed from accidental damage for two years, but one year is still reassuring considering the price of a Keurig. 

Verdict: Maintaining either machine will be a small task, but Nespresso's two-year warranty can make a big difference down the line.

Keurig vs Nespresso: Price

Keurigs are considerably more affordable than Nespresso. The K-Express is currently listed at $79.99, with the most expensive K-Cafe SMART costing around $249.99.

The cheapest Nespresso Original machine is priced at $179, and the cheapest Vertuo machine costs around $129, with prices going all the way past $800 for the most premium and feature-packed models. 

That's a pretty huge price difference, with the most expensive Keurig machines costing almost a similar amount to Nespresso's most affordable models. You get what you pay for with each brand: Keurigs are cheaper, easier, and simpler, and Nespressos are sturdier, slower, and can brew better coffee. Nespresso even have barista-level options. 

Nespresso pods are often more expensive than K-Cup pods, too. On average, K-Cups cost around 35 to 65 cents each, Nespresso Original pods cost around 70 to 85 cents each, and Nespresso Vertuo pods cost between 90 cents to $1.15 dollars. Over time, this can make a big difference to how much you spend on your weekly coffee. 

Keurig can use a reusable coffee pod that can save you money and let you choose your favorite coffee grounds. The K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter is currently priced at $15.99 on Amazon and is as easy as filling the plastic filter to the line and putting it into your Keurig. There are options out there for Nespresso reusable pods but none of them are licensed by Nespresso, so be wary of incompatibility.

Verdict: Keurig won on affordability by a landslide, but a Nespresso machine costs more for a reason. 

Keurig vs Nespresso: Which is best?

The two major players in the world of pod-brewing coffee makers both have distinct advantages. If you're not fussy about the quality of your coffee and instead prefer a quick fix in the morning with little effort or maintenance (and with little damage to your bank account), Keurig may be the one for you. 

But a Nespresso machine is a stronger investment if you're a true coffee lover and will make all the difference if you're willing to spend the extra money. You're more able to brew premium and indulgent coffee with the features on offer while having a much lesser impact on the planet. And on top of that, their pod choices let you explore coffee beans from around the world. 

Dan Fauzi
Features Editor

Dan Fauzi is the former Features Editor of Top Ten Reviews, with experience in digital product writing across all sorts - including tech, outdoor living, sports, and homes & gardens. Outside of work you'll find them at gigs, exploring creative spaces, or cooking up something good in the kitchen.