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Best Overall: Breville 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.
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.
Best Budget: Keurig K-Classic
Value for money
Large, removable water reservoir
There are certainly cheaper pod-based coffee makers on the market, but the Keurig K-Classic delivers reliable performance along with its comparatively low price. This is a straightforward, bare-bones model. It offers little versatility—all you have is a choice between three different drink sizes—but it makes coffee fast, and you can depend on the taste being the same with every cup.
There are a few convenient sensors on top, including lights for when it’s time to refill the water or descale the machine (i.e. clean to remove mineral build-up). As expected, the K-Classic receives high customer ratings for its ease of use, aided by its removable water tank and automatic shut-off feature.
Best Splurge: De'Longhi Nespresso 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.
"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 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.
Best Dual Brewer: Hamilton Beach 2-Way Brewer with 12-Cup Carafe
Takes ground coffee and coffee pods
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 2-Way Brewer is a wonderful alternative option.
On one side of the machine, you can use soft pods 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 budget price, cheaper than the vast majority of pod coffee makers.
Best Space Saver: Keurig K-Mini Plus
Must fill water before every use
Coffee could be hotter
At less than 5 inches wide, the Keurig K-Mini Plus is the perfect coffee maker for those who dream of an uncluttered countertop. Despite its diminutive stature, 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.
The item can even brew bold coffee—an option which some of the larger Keurigs don’t possess. One minor inconvenience is that you have to refill the water tank before each use, but this is a natural consequence of its unbelievably compact (and adorable) design.
Best Portable: STARESSO Portable Espresso Machine
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 the perfect way to get your caffeine fix 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.
Best Sustainable: De'Longhi Nespresso Vertuo Next
Partially made from recycled materials
Connects to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Nespresso capsules can be pricey
Coffee could be hotter
One of Nespresso's newest additions, this machine is compact, easy to use, and made from 54 percent recycled materials. Its focus on sustainability stands out among competitors, especially considering the amount of waste produced from all those thrown-away coffee pods. Like all Nespresso machines, you can also get free recycling for your used capsules.
The Nespresso 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 two top picks are quite similar as far as their value for money and the versatility they offer. The Nespresso Vertuo and Milk Frother (view at Amazon) 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 (view at Amazon).
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.
Pod variety: 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.
Versatility: 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.
Size: 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.