In the world of modern coffee culture, pod coffee machines have emerged as a cornerstone of convenience and efficiency, revolutionizing how we brew and enjoy our favorite caffeinated beverages. From busy office break rooms to cozy kitchen counters, these easy-to-use appliances have found their way into countless homes and workplaces worldwide.
They're getting more advanced, too. Pod machines are becoming some of the best coffee makers out there, and chances are you've seen a few brand names come up more than others. Nespresso kickstarted the pod coffee movement back in 1986, and now the best Keurig coffee makers can be found all across the US.
To help discover which pod coffee brand is best for your home, we spoke with coffee expert Johny Morrison to bring the key differences in the machines and pods.
How do the different pod coffee machines compare?
The two major players in the pod coffee machine space are Nespresso and Keurig, both pioneers in pod coffee technology. Nespresso, which introduced its first machine in 1986, specializes in espresso-based beverages, offering a wide range of coffee blends and flavors. The brand’s machines are designed specifically for espresso, lungo, and craft beverages like cappuccinos and lattes.
On the other hand, Keurig machines offer a wide range of beverage options, including coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and specialty drinks. The company partners with various brands, offering a vast selection of pods compatible with their machines. Both Nespresso and Keurig are renowned for their simplicity and consistency. With the push of a button, users can quickly prepare their desired coffee drink without much effort.
Nespresso currently offers two types of espresso machine categories: the Original line and the Vertuo line. The machines in the Original line utilize a 19-bar high-pressure extraction system, mirroring the traditional method found in Italian espresso machines. This technology guarantees that every cup of coffee is crowned with a dense and lavish crema, preserving the distinct notes and aromas enclosed within each coffee capsule. Nespresso’s most compact Original line machine is the Essenza Mini ($179) that comes in six colors and offers two cup sizes. If you are looking for an espresso machine that will make your barista dreams come true, then the Gran Lattissima ($649) is for you. This machine comes with a milk tank that helps you make nine different recipes such as espresso, latte macchiato, cappuccino and more.
Nespresso’s Vertuo line was released in 2014 and features Centrifusion™ technology developed by Nespresso, which combines infusion with centrifugal force for optimal extraction. The Vertuo machines have a barcode recognition system that adjusts brewing parameters like temperature and flow, ensuring precise results for each coffee capsule. With an extraction process that spins capsules at up to 7000 rotations per minute, the Vertuo machine consistently delivers coffee with a luxurious crema, personalized to each blend. The Vertuo Pop+ ($129) is the brand’s smallest Vertuo espresso machine, and on the higher end, the Vertuo Creatista ($749) comes with a steam pipe for milk frothing and brews six cup sizes.
If you're not looking for a pod coffee machine that specializes in espresso, then Keurig is your brand. Keurig machines utilize a combination of water and air pump to increase pressure during the brewing process, which forces water through each K-cup and drastically reduces brewing time. The K-cups are packaging for the coffee grounds, a brewing chamber and coffee filter, all in one. Keurig offers a wide variety of machines to choose from, including the Keurig K-Iced ($79.99) that specializes in brewing for iced coffee drinks, the K-Café Special Edition ($199.99) that comes with a milk frother attached and the K-Mini Single Serve Coffee Maker ($59.99) that comes in seven different colors.
Bruvi, a relatively new pod coffee machine company, has created their own degradable pods called B-Pods (perfect for environmentally conscious individuals) for different beverages such as coffee, espresso, tea and more. The brewer scans the B-Pod and adjusts the machine settings for that specific recipe, ensuring ideal extraction, temperature, and other variables for an optimal brew. This meticulous process allows Bruvi to showcase light, medium, and dark roasts as they should be, delivering coffee house quality without any guesswork. You can purchase the Bruvi Bundle ($398 at Amazon), which includes the brewer in either Cream & Sugar or Black, a 20 B-Pod variety pack, a premium water filter kit and a reusable Japanese knot bag.
How do coffee pods compare?
Pod machines brands such as Nespresso and Keurig utilize pre-packaged capsules containing pre-ground coffee for brewing. While Nespresso employs high-pressure extraction akin to an espresso machine, Keurig machines operate closer to a drip coffee maker. Johny Morrison, founder and content creator at Coffee About, says that while “pod machines sacrifice some freshness and nuance of flavor in the name of simplicity, they have also advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years.”
“For instance, Nespresso now offers various single-origin and seasonal blends crafted through collaborations with skilled coffee farmers,” says Morrison. “Meanwhile, K-cup coffee pod innovators like Peets and Green Mountain use higher-grade Arabica beans and nitrogen-flushed capsules to maximize freshness.”
Johny Morrison is a founder and content creator at Coffee About, bringing passion and expertise to the world of coffee. His coffee journey began during his college days when he worked as a part-time barista. It was during this time that he learned the art of brewing the perfect cup of coffee and discovered the many nuances and complexities of coffee flavors.
However, according to Morrison “pods contain less ground coffee than what's typically recommended. For example, Nespresso pods contain about 5-6 grams of ground coffee, while a standard espresso shot uses 7-9 grams. And K-Cups have around 9-11 grams compared to 13-15 grams for a normal drip coffee cup. Since there's less ground coffee in the pods, the resulting drink tends to be weaker and less nuanced.”
Nespresso sells their brand’s capsules on their website and in stores, and the Original and Vertou lines use a different type of capsule each. Different coffee roaster brands like Illy and Starbucks have also developed Nespresso machine-compatible pods. Keurig also partners with various brands, such as Dunkin’ and La Colombe, offering a vast selection of K-Cups compatible with their machines.