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The first wave of pod-based coffee came with Nespresso, the Swiss manufacturer that is still renowned for its well-built espresso makers. The second wave came with Keurig, which, of course, brought its single-serve spin on drip coffee to households across the world. Today, pod coffee makers are available in an array of prices, sizes, and varieties. We’ve rounded up our favorite options below, from simple and affordable devices to high-end machines that make lattes and cappuccinos.
For a quick, easy-to-make cup of joe, here are the best pod coffee makers.
Best Overall: Nespresso Vertuo and Milk Frother
Speedy drink preparation
High-quality coffee and espresso beverages
Beautiful, compact design
Includes 12 coffee capsules
Must use Vertuo coffee capsules
Coffee is on the stronger side
Makes only individual cups
Nespresso has been a preeminent manufacturer of pod-based coffee for decades, and the Vertuo stands out among the wide array of machines because of its versatility and value. Not only does it brew the rich, crema-topped espresso the company is known for, but it also offers a total of five drink sizes, starting with a single espresso shot and working up to a 14-ounce cup of coffee. Thanks to Nespresso’s many bundle deals, you can pair this already dynamic machine with a separate Aeroccino milk frother, creating a home coffee station worthy of your local café.
The water tank is moderately sized and removable for easy filling and cleaning, and the machine can store up to 13 used capsules before the container needs to be emptied. The only downside is that Nespresso capsules are expensive. Prices vary, but you can expect them to cost more per pod than K-Cups. If that can be overlooked, the Vertuo has exactly what you want in a pod-based coffee maker: great taste and convenience.
Compatibility: Nespresso capsules | Frothing: Frother available in bundle deal | Water Reservoir: 40 ounces | Dimensions: 8.32 x 11.91 x 11.93 inches | Warranty: 1 year
"For a great price, you get a return of high-quality espresso beverages, quick prep and cleanup, and a compact machine that takes up little counter space." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Keurig K-Café
Multiple drink options
Easy to use
Dishwasher-safe milk frother
Not "true" espresso
Takes up a lot of counter space
As an alternative to our best overall pick, the Keurig K-Café offers similar drink variety and even clocks in around the same price. The item includes a separate, dishwasher-safe milk frother, great for crafting specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. While it doesn’t make true espresso (that requires pushing hot water through fine grounds with enough pressure), there is a strong brew option for a few extra-concentrated ounces of coffee. Drink sizes include 6, 8, 10, and 12 ounces.
The K-Café is remarkably easy to use. The buttons are clearly labeled and kept to a minimum—quite the feat considering the many drink options available. The water tank is sizable (60 ounces) and removable for added convenience. You can even take out the drip tray to accommodate those tall travel mugs.
Compatibility: K-Cups | Frothing: Yes | Water Reservoir: 60 ounces | Dimensions: 12.5 x 15.3 x 11.7 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited
"The Keurig K-Café makes quality coffee beverages with the added benefit of being very low maintenance." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best Budget: Chulux Single Serve Coffee Maker Brewer
Easy to use
Not the strongest coffee
There are many affordable pod-based brewers on the market, but few come at a price as low as the Chulux Single Serve Coffee Maker. Even though it doesn't offer the performance and versatility of higher-priced machines, it delivers a single, straightforward cup of coffee with ease.
The device is compatible with K-Cups, so you'll have access to all your favorite kinds of coffee. Another major perk is its compact design. Smaller than most Keurigs, the Chulux Coffee Maker will fit in every kitchen, dorm room, and office. Its tiny stature unfortunately means the reservoir needs to be filled frequently, possibly before every use, since it only holds 12 ounces.
Brewing is a little slow compared to other pod coffee makers, taking roughly three minutes each time, but you can count on a consistent cup of joe to get your day started.
Compatibility: K-Cups | Frothing: No | Water Reservoir: 12 ounces | Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.3 x 9.06 inches | Warranty: 1 year
"Coffee pods use pre-ground coffee, and it's hard to know how fresh it is. As such, it will usually have a little less flavor than a pot brewed from freshly ground coffee in a high-quality drip brewer. The number one benefit of using a pod coffee maker is convenience. In general, choosing a pod-based machine means sacrificing some flavor for the sake of an easier cup of coffee." — Patrick Cotter, Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear
Best Splurge: Nespresso De'Longhi Lattissima Pro
Multiple functions for coffee and more
Nearly hands-off operation
The Nespresso Lattissima Pro is the type of product to utterly revamp your at-home coffee routine. Want a quick shot of espresso? No problem. Prefer a more intricate drink, like a latte or cappuccino? That’s easy, too, thanks to the machine’s integrated milk frother.
It has six drink options in total, all of which can be programmed with one touch of the digital interface. After testing the item, our reviewer commented on its ease of use, saying she “enjoyed the simplicity and the variety of coffees that are available in neat little pods.” She also praised its sleek, space-saving design, adding that her “first impression was that it was cute."
The main drawback is the cost, regarding both the item’s retail price and the added expense of Nespresso capsules. On top of that, there isn’t a drink option akin to drip coffee. Instead, a combination of espresso and hot water makes an Americano as a tasty replacement.
Compatibility: Nespresso capsules | Frothing: Yes | Water Reservoir: 44 ounces | Dimensions: 10.8 x 7.6 x 13 inches | Warranty: 2 years
"Efficiency is where this machine shines. It heats quickly and leaves you with virtually no cleanup and no wet, messy coffee grounds." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Dual Brewer: Hamilton Beach FlexBrew 2-Way Coffee Maker
Programmable up to 24 hours
Takes K-Cups and ground coffee
Two separate water reservoirs
Grounds occasionally spill and get into cup
Slow brew time
One downside to pod-based coffee machines is that they usually only make one cup at a time. If you want to make coffee for several people at once or multiple cups for yourself, single-serve capabilities won’t always cut it. That’s why the Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Coffee Maker is a wonderful alternative option.
On one side of the machine, you can use K-Cups to brew a single cup of coffee; on the other, you have a 12-cup carafe that uses ground coffee for a traditional drip brew. The layout is clean and intuitive, and the machine has several nice features, like 24-hour programmability and a setting for bolder coffee. Despite its dual capabilities, the item comes at a price that's right around the same as most pod-based machines.
Compatibility: K-Cups | Frothing: No | Water Reservoir: 12 cups on carafe side and 14 ounces on single-serve side | Dimensions: 11.4 x 12.2 x 13.7 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited
According to Patrick Cotter, one of the biggest tips when looking for a pod coffee maker is to, "Make sure the machine brews at the right temperature and doesn't scorch the coffee. This is the most important part of shopping for a drip brewer: ensuring temperature stability."
Best for Espresso: De'Longhi Dedica Pump Espresso Machine
Takes ground coffee and coffee pods
Integrated milk frother
Potential learning curve
Nothing can replace the taste of genuine espresso. Add the convenience of coffee pods and you’ve got the De’Longhi Dedica. This machine isn't quite as quick and easy to use as Keurig or Nespresso options, but many customers prefer the coffee it makes.
It should also be noted that the Dedica is not compatible with K-Cups or Nespresso capsules. Instead, you can use ground coffee or E.S.E. pods; standing for “Easy Serving Espresso,” the slim paper packets were invented in the 1970s by Illy and can be found in most coffee aisles.
The Dedica can make a single or double espresso, and it has an integrated milk frother for lattes and cappuccinos. Its design is surprisingly compact, measuring roughly 6 inches wide. Some customers noted leakage issues with the portafilter, but aside from that, the majority of online reviews are five stars.
Compatibility: E.S.E. pods | Frothing: Yes | Water Reservoir: 35 ounces | Dimensions: 13 x 5.9 x 12 inches | Warranty: 2-year limited
Best Space Saver: Keurig K-Mini Plus Single Serve Coffee Maker
Must fill water before every use
Coffee could be hotter
At less than 5 inches wide, the Keurig K-Mini Plus is made for those who dream of an uncluttered countertop. Despite its diminutive size, the item is surprisingly versatile and equipped with several convenient features. The water tank is removable. The drip tray can be adjusted to fit travel mugs up to 7 inches tall. And one of the most unique features is its built-in storage area for extra K-Cups, as well as a storage area for the power cord. A minor inconvenience is that you have to refill the water tank before each use, but this is a consequence of its unbelievably compact (and adorable) design.
The item can even brew bold coffee—an option which some of the larger Keurigs don’t possess. The bold setting generally means "using more coffee grounds or less water," says Patrick Cotter. "It depends on the machine," he adds. "Some might use less water, some might brew at a different temperature, and some might pump at a lower pressure to increase extraction time."
Compatibility: K-Cups | Frothing: No | Water Reservoir: 12 ounces (refill every use) | Dimensions: 11.3 x 4.5 x 12.1 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited
Best Portable: Staresso Portable Espresso Maker
Takes ground coffee and Nespresso capsules
Prone to squeaking
This coffee maker is the ultimate travel companion. Weighing about 1 pound and measuring less than 10 inches long, the Staresso Portable Espresso Maker is an efficient way to get your caffeine on the go. Camping trips, beach days, business trips. The item is easy to store in bags and suitcases, and it can be used with either ground coffee or Nespresso capsules.
One small hitch is that you’ll need access to hot water. However, many customers pour the coffee over ice for a delicious cold brew. Online reviews are glowing, with praise ranging from its ease of use to the shockingly rich crema this little brewer produces.
Compatibility: Nespresso capsules | Frothing: Yes (pump manually) | Water Reservoir: 3.5 ounces | Dimensions: 3.35 x 3.35 x 8.86 inches | Warranty: None
Best Design: Nespresso Vertuo Next
Elegant matte finish
Made partially from recycled materials
Brews quality espresso and espresso-based drinks
Easy to use
Leans on the expensive side
Difficult to close capsule door
Bulky with the milk frother
One of Nespresso's newest additions, this machine is compact, easy to use, and made from 54 percent recycled materials. Like with all Nespresso machines, you can also get free recycling for your used capsules. The Nespresso Vertuo Next is compatible with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which allows the machine to run updates without you having to lift a finger. Make sure to only use VertuoLine capsules with this product, not OriginalLine, and check out the bundle deal that includes an Aeroccino milk frother if you're interested in making lattes and cappuccinos at home.
Our tester said the machine really stands out for how quickly it brews coffee—you can make a delicious cappuccino in just a few minutes. It also received high ranks for "consistent, quality espresso-based drinks."
Compatibility: Nespresso capsules | Frothing: Frother available in bundle deal | Water Reservoir: 37 ounces | Dimensions: 5.5 x 16.8 x 12.4 inches | Warranty: 1 year
"All of these drinks had a robust espresso flavor, as all Nespresso drinks do. I also found the milk to be silky smooth, and just the right texture for cappuccinos in particular." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Our two top picks are quite similar as far as their value for money and the versatility they offer. The Nespresso Vertuo and Milk Frother wins out in the end because the coffee is generally considered to be tastier and of higher quality. But we all know taste buds vary, especially when it comes to coffee, so those who prefer Keurig can't go wrong with the K-Café.
What to Look for in a Pod Coffee Maker
K-Cup, Nespresso capsule, E.S.E. pod. These are the basic coffee pod varieties, and the brewer you buy will likely only be compatible with one of them. If you're partial to a certain type of pod, whether it be for taste, price, or convenience, this a great place to start narrowing down your buying options.
Some pod-based coffee makers only offer an option for different drink sizes, while others have multiple settings and can whip up an array of drinks. Consider what features are indispensable to you and which seem like frills. If you want to make lattes and cappuccinos at home, for example, look for machines that come with milk frothers. If you want a programmable brewer, maybe you need to open up your budget.
Coffee makers stick around for a long time, and they typically take up a prominent space in your kitchen, so the amount of counter space you have might dictate the best machine for you. While there are many exceptions, slimmer machines are often cheaper but come with fewer features and drink options.
Do coffee pods expire?
Coffee pods do expire, but it takes a long time before you need to worry about it. They are usually good for at least eight months to a year (as long as they aren’t punctured), and sometimes even longer than that. Brands should include a “best by” date either on the pods themselves or on the box you received them in. This is different from an expiration date, however, which denotes when food products should no longer be consumed. The “best by” date, on the other hand, reflects a standard of quality set by the brand, and coffee pods past that date may lose freshness and flavor but are not immediately harmful to consume.
Can coffee pods be recycled?
Yes, most coffee pods are recyclable. Detailed recycling information is generally provided on brand websites, but we’ll briefly cover a few popular options here. First off, Keurig. In 2020, the company announced its K-Cups were 100 percent recyclable after it began producing them with polypropylene (#5 plastic). As for Nespresso, its aluminum coffee capsules can be recycled, too. The Swiss brand simplifies the process by offering free capsule-recycling bags that can be dropped off (also for free) at any UPS location or Nespresso boutique. The bags hold up to 200 OriginalLine capsules or 100 VertuoLine capsules. Finally, Nescafé uses a similar shipping process to recycle its Dolce Gusto pods.
What are “soft pods?”
Soft pods are small, paper-covered disks designed to brew one cup of coffee each. They are usually sealed in individual wrappers to keep them fresh. Many different brands manufacture soft pods, which means they are compatible with a variety of coffee makers, including ones made by Bunn, Hamilton Beach, Black & Decker, and more. Soft pods are similar to Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) Pods because of their size, shape, and material, but the two are not one in the same. Soft pods are used to brew drip coffee, while E.S.E. pods are used to brew espresso.
What size drinks can coffee pods make?
Coffee pods are surprisingly versatile and can make beverages in a number of sizes, so the answer largely depends on the specific coffee maker you own. Some Keurig devices, for example, can brew cups in four different sizes (6, 8, 10, and 12 ounces), all with the same kind of pod. Nespresso machines are no different. The brand’s Original machines usually have two cup size options and its Vertuo machines can make up to six different drink sizes. There are some pod coffee makers that only offer one size, but if versatility is a priority then you should easily be able to track down a machine with multiple cup sizes.
What accessories complement a pod coffee maker?
One benefit of purchasing a pod coffee maker is that you don’t have to pay for certain accessories like a coffee grinder, scale, or canister. That said, there a still a few tools available to elevate your coffee game. The primary accessory is a milk frother (unless your coffee maker already comes with one). Many pod machines can brew either espresso or a bold form of coffee, both of which can be used to make tasty lattes, cappuccinos, and more. Another idea is a special mug or travel mug. Some people pick mugs based on aesthetic; others who are always on the go may prefer a leakproof mug; and there are those who might enjoy the many tech options today, like a mug that can heat your coffee at a specific temperature. One final accessory to consider is a storage drawer to keep your favorite coffee pods fresh and organized.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. He uses the Bialetti Moka Express (view at Amazon) at home, complementing it with a separate milk frother to make lattes and cappuccinos.
Patrick Cotter is the Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear. He manages the company's blog, social media, and content pages. Founded in 2005, Seattle Coffee Gear is a retailer that focuses on coffee education.