Should I buy a pod coffee machine? Experts explain

pod being loaded into De'Longhi Vertuo Lattissima Espresso Machine during testing
(Image credit: Future)

It's no secret that pod brewers are one of the most popular ways to enjoy coffee at home. Machines from the likes of Nespresso and Keurig live in many households around the world, and for good reason. They're easy to use, quick to pour, and there are countless variations of pods to choose from. 

But that's not to say that pod brewers are for everyone. The best Keurig coffee makers, for example, offer very different brewing capabilities to the best espresso machines. It's worth weighing up what a pod coffee machine can do before investing in one. 

Saying that, pod brewers are among some of the best coffee makers out there these days. The more advanced machines offer features like milk frothing and rapid heat-up times. 

Removing used coffee pod from Nespresso machine

(Image credit: Future / Alexandra Pamias)

Should I buy a pod coffee maker?

Whether or not a pod coffee machine is right for you depends on what you value and are willing to sacrifice. Pod coffee machines offer unparalleled convenience, providing a quick and hassle-free way to brew a consistent cup of coffee. The pre-measured coffee pods eliminate the need for precise measurements and the potential mess associated with traditional brewing methods, making them an ideal choice for those with busy lifestyles or limited time in the mornings. The wide variety of available pod flavors caters to diverse taste preferences, ensuring an enjoyable coffee experience for various palates.

But one must consider the environmental impact of single-use coffee pods. Many of these pods are not biodegradable and contribute to the growing issue of plastic waste. Environmentally-conscious consumers may find it difficult to justify the environmental footprint associated with the convenience of pod coffee. Some brands have introduced methods to combat the waste associated with disposable pods. Nespresso has a pod recycling program where customers can drop off their used pods so that the aluminum can be reused for car engines, bicycles, computers, soda cans, or even new capsules. You can also use reusable coffee pods, such as as these Keurig-compatible ones at Amazon, to reduce waste, so it is possible to be environmentally conscious as a pod coffee machine user. For example, the relatively new pod coffee machine brand Bruvi created their B-pods, which are designed to substantially break down much more rapidly than untreated plastics. 

“The primary advantage of pod coffee has always been convenience. For millions of consumers, that convenience - including simplicity and speed of use - is really important. But with traditional single-serve brewers, it has traditionally come with trade-offs in terms of taste and sustainability,” says Mel Elias, Co-Founder of Bruvi, which launched in 2022. 

Headshot: Mel Elias of Bruvi
Mel Elias

Mel Elias, Co-Founder of Bruvi, has over two decades of experience in the coffee industry. As the former CEO of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Mel grew the company to over 1,000 stores with over $500 million in systemwide sales. His latest venture, Bruvi, is a breakthrough single-serve coffee system with tastier coffee and eco-conscious pods which aims to upgrade the at-home coffee experience. 

Elias added, “Now with Bruvi, there is no compromise. First, Bruvi brews high quality, great tasting coffee. It also brews regular coffee, high pressure espresso and Americanos, even cold brew. And with Bruvi Guilt Free Toss B-Pods, you can simply throw away used pods because they are made to degrade in a landfill, without leaving microplastics behind. Recycling coffee pods has never been easy nor that effective, but Bruvi offers a more practical, simpler solution."

Some coffee purists argue that the flavor and aroma achieved through pod coffee machines might not match the quality of freshly ground beans brewed using traditional methods. If you value the nuanced characteristics of a finely crafted cup of coffee and are willing to invest time and effort into the brewing process, a pod machine may not align with your taste preferences.

The decision to buy a pod coffee machine ultimately depends on one's priorities. If you value convenience and a quick cup of coffee, a pod coffee machine would be right up your alley. However, if you are someone who prioritizes environmental sustainability or is passionate about the art of coffee brewing, then pod coffee may not be for you. You can be more sustainable by using reusable coffee pods or degradable pods like Bruvi’s, of course, but if you are interested in greater customization and a richer flavor and aroma, you might consider purchasing machines that you can use freshly ground beans with.

Keurig k-duo pouring coffee on review

(Image credit: Future / Casey Clark)

Which are the best brands?

From sleek aesthetics to state-of-the-art technology, these machines promise to redefine your coffee experience, ensuring that your morning routine or afternoon indulgence is not only convenient but also an exquisite journey for your taste buds.

The OG pod coffee machine brand is Nespresso, which introduced its first pod coffee machine and coffee capsules in 1986. Currently the brand offers two types of brewers, the Original Espresso machines and the Vertuo Coffee Machines. Nespresso offers a wide variety of Original and Vertuo capsules you can buy in stores or online. Coffee companies, such as Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee, have also created Nespresso compatible pods you can buy. If you are looking for a wide variety of coffee and that perfect espresso crema, I recommend purchasing a Nespresso machine. With its extensive range of machines catering to diverse coffee preferences and priorities, you're sure to discover one that aligns with both your budget and personal taste.

On the simpler end, you can get the Nespresso Essenza Mini Coffee and Espresso Machine by De'Longhi ($179.00 at Amazon) which uses Original capsules and makes espresso (40 ml) and lungo (100 ml). If you’re interested in the Vertuo line, the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville ($149.25 at Amazon) has the capacity to make single and double espresso as well as 5 oz and 8 oz coffee.

Keurig is another brand that revolutionized pod coffee. While Nespresso's influence dominates in Europe, Keurig’s popularity in the United States is unmatched. As the commanding force in the US market, Keurig offers a wide range of machines compatible with their K-Cup pods, providing a diverse selection of coffee, tea, and specialty beverages. If you are looking to brew a regular cup of coffee, then Keurig is your brand. A multitude of brands create K-Cup pods that are compatible with Keurigs and you can even make tea and hot chocolate. Unfortunately, if you are looking to brew espresso, this likely isn't the brand for you.

Pod coffee

(Image credit: Alamy)

If you want to conserve counter space, the Keurig K-Mini Single Serve Coffee Maker ($59.99 at Amazon) is their slimmest model yet and can brew any cup size between 6 oz to 12 oz with Keurig K-Cup pods. If you’re an iced coffee fan, the Keurig K-Iced Single Serve Coffee Maker ($69.99 at Amazon) was made for you. In iced-coffee mode, this brewer will brew the coffee at the usual hot temperature but cools it down before dispensing for less ice melt. 

Bruvi, a pod coffee machine brand that launched its new brewing system and coffee pods in 2022, prioritizes sustainability without sacrificing flavor. “With Bruvi, our Auto Optimized brewing technology includes unique recipes for every individual B-Pod,” says Co-Founder Mel Elias. “The brewer scans the pod, and then adjusts the brewing recipe for that specific coffee, allowing for ideal extraction, temperature and other variables - ensuring an optimal brew. That means we can brew light roasted coffees as well as medium and dark roasts --and showcase each as it should be. There’s no guesswork and the result is coffee house quality coffee.”

Until now, Bruvi has only been available in off-white with bamboo accents but this month customers can now buy it in a sleek black too.

Verdict

Naturally, the decision comes down to preference. Pod coffee machines offer unrivalled convenience and speed when brewing a cup, with most machines able to pour a coffee within minutes and at the touch of a button (or two). 

But with this convenience comes a higher environmental impact. Even with brands improving their recycle schemes or biodegradable materials, many pods end up in landfill due to the nature of how easy they are to throw away. 

Pod brewers can produce delicious coffee (we know, we've tested a lot), but they offer limited customization compared to other coffee makers like bean-to-cup and espresso machines. It's definitely something to consider if you like to mix up your morning coffee with drinks like lattes or cappuccinos. 

So, as always with coffee, it comes down to personal taste. If you're looking for a quick, easy and convenient coffee machine, that you can trust will produce consistently tasty coffees, then maybe a pod brewer is the one for you.

Alexandra Pamias
Contributor

Alexandra Pamias is a freelance writer residing in vibrant New York City, specializing in all things kitchen and home appliances. With a passion for cleanliness and order, she turns her compact studio apartment into an organized haven, proving that big city living can be both stylish and practical. Alexandra is your go-to source for tips on keeping your space spick and span while making the most of it! She has reviewed kitchen and home products for Homes & Gardens, Real Homes, Tech Radar and Top Ten Reviews.