If you’re a busy household and you want your coffee fast and hassle-free, a pod coffee maker is the way to go. Getting your caffeine fix is just a matter of inserting a capsule and pressing a button. And that’s something anyone can deal with first thing in the morning.
But choosing the pod coffee maker that’s right for you isn’t such a simple matter. Once you buy, you’re tied into the brand’s capsules for the life of the machine. Very few pods are cross-compatible. And different brands have different types of pods and different flavours of coffee.
For example, Tassimo’s T Discs and Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto capsule range includes milk capsules, so you can make lattes and cappuccinos directly from the machine. Nespresso Vertuo capsules are black coffee only, but they’re not just espresso based: you can opt for a big mug of coffee.
And Lavazza A Modo Mio capsules make not only make a very good espresso, but they’re industrially compostable too, so you can chuck them out with your food waste, rather than gathering them up for recycling.
But there are big difference between machines as well. Some are completely automatic, some give you options for tailoring your coffee, some have inbuilt milk frothers, some are espresso only and a few have smart features as well.
For help choosing the brand of capsules that are right for you, have a look at our buying advice after the chart. Otherwise read on for our recommendations: we’ve reviewed some of the best machines on the market.
1. Lavazza Deséa – Best all-round capsule coffee machine
Four coffee length options
Milk frothing and heating
Control panel more complicated than rival machines
The Desea is an attractive, shiny machine with a large chrome lever you use to open the capsule container slot. It comes in three colour options: black, brown and cream. It’s the most comprehensive pod espresso maker that Lavazza offers. You can select from espresso, long espresso, long coffee and free pour – but it also heats and froths milk with an inbuilt beater and milk wand.
This extra functionality means that it’s a bit more complicated to get to grips with than most pod machines but on the other hand, you can make cappuccinos, lattes and more with it, which is unusual among pod machines. It’s quiet in use as well.
It’s not available in the US, but the closest equivalent is Lavazza’s Classy Plus machine.
This is a good looking machine that’s a pleasure to use. Turn the chunky, chrome-effect lever and the capsule head springs up, catapulting the used pod back into the reservoir. It’s a really enjoyable mechanism. There are plenty of colour options as well, across three different models with tiered price tags: the Vertuo Next, the Vertuo Next Premium and the Vertuo Next Deluxe.
The pluses and minuses of this machine really amount to the same thing: it is fully automatic. A barcode reader inside analyses the capsule and automatically pre-wets, infuses and dispenses the correct volume. You can stop the flow or add more water but there are generally no settings to fiddle with to tailor coffee, which will frustrate some. For others, the hassle-free, hands-off automation is exactly what they want.
It dispense coffee lengths from espresso to carafe, but it’s all dependent on which pods you use.
The Vertuo Next has smart features as well but these are really focused on ordering and recycling capsules, rather than remote operation or adjusting settings, so they will be of more use to busy people who want to automate their deliveries, or get reminders when they’re running low on capsules.
3. The Morning Coffee Machine – Best independent capsule machine
Can save personal settings
App and manual control
Doesn’t froth milk
If you want the ability to tailor your coffee but not the mess of an espresso machine, this could be for you. The Morning Machine is independently made and offers far more brewing options than rivals from the big brands. Rather than just the standard ristretto, espresso and lungo options, it has a flagship Bloom & Brew setting that pre-wets for a stronger cup, as well as higher temperatures, varying bar pressures (up to 20), and recipes that get the best out of capsules by reproducing drip and filter-style drinks.
It’s a lovely machine as well: pared-back and almost severe in its minimalism, with a high quality build and matching features, including an OLED screen and a scale beneath the cup stand for weighing out coffee. It has smart features as well, with a focus on finessing the coffee output to your taste.
It’s not flawless, however: navigating the menus can be less than intuitive and we found the automatic cup detection to be a bit spotty during testing.
This pod coffee machine is one of the most compact and easiest to use. Pop in a pod and it reads the barcode and dispenses the correct amount of water automatically. However, its flavour boost function means you can press a button and get a stronger, more intense drink. This gives it an edge over fully automated machines and makes a nice compromise between hands-off and customised coffee.
It has a 0.7 litre tank and a pretty functional design, but buy it in the cream or lupine blue colourway and it has a lot more personality.
Tassimo T-Discs are like Dolce Gusto capsules, in that you can make milky coffee drinks, hot chocolate, tea and specialist coffee drinks thanks to the two pod system (one for coffee, one for milk). This means you’re not limited to black coffee, nor do you have to fuss around with milk frothing. There are coffees from L’Or, Kenco and Costa, and hot chocolate from Cadbury and Milka.
This is a handy little machine but don’t buy it at full price: snap one up on sale.
5. Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio S Plus – Best for tailored Dolce Gusto coffee
Temperature, volume and strength customisation
Automatic dispensing setting
Water tank at the back isn't easy to reach
Dolce Gusto capsules aren't for everyone
If you’re a fan of sweet, milky or flavoured coffees and hot chocolate, the Dolce Gusto range is the quickest and easiest way to make them. Unusually, Dolce Gusto pods offer mixed drinks. If you buy a box of cappuccino capsules, for example, half of the pods will be milk and half coffee. This means that there’s no need for a separate milk frother.
Of the Dolce Gusto coffee makers, the Genio S Plus is one of the best. It’s compact (27.1 x 27.2 x 11cm), easy to use and best of all, it has more customisation options than any other machine in the range.
You can adjust the water temperature, add an espresso boost, and choose from seven volume options. But you can also opt for the automatic settings, in which case making coffee is as straightforward as can be.
It’s not available in the US, but you can buy the Dolce Gusto Genio 2, which has a similar design and the same feature set.
The Lavazza A Modo Mio Voicy is a two-in-one device. Not only is it a pod espresso machine but it also contains an Amazon Alexa smart speaker.
On the coffee-making side of things, you insert a pod and then choose an espresso or a long drink (and there are two cup tray positions to match). There is no milk frothing option and A Modo Mio capsules are coffee-only. Simple.
The smart features don’t complicate matters either. You can ask Alexa to make you a coffee (once you’ve added a pod and water IRL, so it doesn’t really save you much time or effort) or jump on the app to track your coffee consumption, check your stock of capsules or order more.
But the real benefit of this hybrid appliance is that it’s a space-saving way to bring a smart speaker into your kitchen, without having to find a dedicated spot for it. This means you can play music, check the weather, set timers and more – all while drinking a very nice espresso.
If you’re a Nespresso lover, the Vertuo Plus provides a compact, easy way to get your fix. It’s a slim machine (14 x 32 x 43cm), with a 1.8 litre water tank that pivots out from the back so you can refill it easily. It also means you won’t need as deep a countertop spot for it.
Unlike classic Nespresso capsules, Vertuo pods aren’t just espresso-based. You can opt for a big mug of coffee, although you can’t fill a carafe as you can with the Vertuo Next. But it’s all done automatically, with the machine reading a barcode on the pod and pre-wetting, infusing and dispensing the correct amount of water automatically. This means that customisation is limited.
The machine opens and closes automatically as well, in response to a touch to the chrome lever, which is pleasing to use.
Bear in mind that it doesn’t include a milk frother, although you can buy the pint-sized Aeroccino separately.
8. Lavazza A Modo Mio Jolie – Best small capsule coffee maker
Industrially compostable capsules
600ml tank limit
Small disposal drawer
No pre-set dispensing volume
This machine is one of Lavazza’s smallest (33cm x 13cm wide x 21cm), so it’s a good option if you have limited space. But it’s also one of the most stylish, with a chrome lever to operate it and three colour options for the front plate: black, white and red – if you’d like a splash of colour in your kitchen. There are two drip tray heights: espresso and cup.
The space saving does come at a cost: its water tank is only 600ml and there are no pre-sets for dispensing volume, so you need to be on hand to stop the flow when you judge it’s enough. But if you’re an espresso drinker, you could easily find a spot for this handy little machine on a desk or bedside table and it’ll amply repay you with its easy, fuss-free operation.
9. Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS – Best budget Dolce Gusto machine
No automatic volume dispensing, so you have to guesstimate volumes
The Piccolo XS is the smallest, simplest and most budget-friendly Dolce Gusto machine. The price has dropped even further since we reviewed it, making this a good option for students or anyone for whom space and cash is an issue.
The only drawback with the Piccolo XS is that it is so simple that it doesn’t even feature automatic volume dispensing. That means you have to control the volume of water using a lever and can’t wander off while your coffee is brewing.
The nature of the Dolce Gusto system also means that making a cappuccino or latte involves going through the process twice: once with a coffee capsule and once with a milk capsule. But it’s still faster than frothing milk separately.
The Piccolo XS can be used to make both hot and cold drinks. It’s not available in the US, but the Piccolo is.
The Infinissima Touch is the machine to go for if you’re after an eye-catching design. Its unconventionally shaped tank can hold 1.2 litres of water and it has a touchscreen at the front that you can use to adjust volume from 40ml to 300ml of coffee. There’s also a lever to switch between hot and cold drinks.
There are three height options for the cup tray: base level for a long latte glass, mid-level for a conventional cup and high for an espresso cup. But changing the height can be fiddly. We also found that the pod drawer can get stuck, so we have a few concerns about the longevity of this appliance.
Once you buy a pod coffee machine, you’re tied to that brand of pods for as long as you own the machine. As capsules from different brands can vary hugely, it’s a good idea to start off by finding the kind of coffee you prefer. Here are some pluses and minuses for each brand.
Lavazza A Modo Mio
High quality espressos
Industrially compostable pods you can dispose of in food waste or return
Fewer options than Nescafe/ Nespresso
Espresso-based drinks only
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Espressos and long drinks
Over 40 varieties
Black coffee only
You have to return the capsules to recycle them
Emma Rowley / Foundry
Nescafe Dolce Gusto
Milk capsules for mixed drinks
Cheaper, compatible capsules widely available
45 official varieties
Hot chocolate, tea and Starbucks coffee also available
You have to return the capsules to recycle them
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Tassimo T Discs
Over 50 options, including coffee from Jacobs, Costa, L’Or, and Kenco
Milk-based drinks available
Hot chocolate options from Cadbury and Milka
Tassimo tea range and decaffeinated coffee options
Frequent offers on pods
You need to return them to recycle them
Alex Greenwood / Foundry
Independent brands can give you high-quality, fresh options but they can be pricier and less widely available than capsules from big brands.
For recommendations across all types of coffee machines, from espresso makers to bean-to-cup machines, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we’ve tested.
Emma is Home Tech Editor at Tech Advisor. She covers everything from kitchen appliances to smart home devices, from floor care to personal care to air care technology. She’s particularly interested in environmentally conscious brands and products that save people time and money.