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Nespresso, Tassimo or Dolce Gusto?

By Sarah Sysum

Find out how coffee pod brands compare, from capsule price, range and quality of coffee to which brands make the best coffee machines.

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Coffee capsules

Capsule coffee machines are a quick, easy way to make coffee at home. But, while you can get compatible capsules for some models - particularly Nespresso machines - you'll usually be restricted to a specific brand, each of which has its own pros and cons.

Below, we explain what you'll get with each coffee brand, how much capsules typically cost and how widely available they are. Members can log in to see which capsule coffee machine brands score highly in our tests in the table below, as well as which brand of coffee capsules our coffee expert has consistently rated the best for taste. Not yet a member? Sign up for a £1 Which? trial today.

Alternatively, you can get straight to all the best capsule machines by heading to our independent coffee machine reviews.

Coffee capsule brands compared

Brand Capsules Total tested/No. of Best Buys Average Taste Test Score Average Test Score
Illy
FrancisFrancis Y36754F table 3
Small range of capsules of varying strengths, plus single-origin coffee capsules. A separate milk frother or a machine with frother is needed for latte-style drinks
Nespresso
Krups Nespresso Pixie table 3
Uses own-brand and compatible capsules, for a range of espresso and lungo (larger coffee) drinks and teas. A separate milk frother or a machine with frother is needed for milky drinks
Lavazza Moda a Mia
AEG Espria LM3100 table 3
Small range of own-brand coffee capsules. A separate milk frother or machine with frother / steam wand is needed for latte-style drinks
Nescafe Dolce Gusto
Dolce Gusto Oblo table 3
Uses own brand capsules. More than 30 different drinks can be made, including green tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Milky drinks use powdered milk capsules and need two capsules per drink
Tassimo
Tassimo Vivy table 2
Own-brand capsules only. More than 30 drinks, including latte, hot chocolate and tea. Milky drinks require additional UHT milk capsules
Dualit
Dualit 3 in 1 84440 table 2
Uses Dualit NX capsules to make espressos. A separate milk frother or a machine with frother is needed for latte-style drinks
Senseo
Senseo Twist table 2
Uses own-brand pods only. Coffee flavours only, including lattes - which use a mixture of coffee and dried milk
Table notes
Information correct as of September 2016

Key

Member Content

Which coffee machine pods are right for you? 

If you want to mainly make espresso-based drinks, and are a coffee purist, you'll probably want to choose from Illy, Lavazza or Nespresso. You can buy a machine from these brands with a milk-frothing option if you're keen on cappucinos, lattes and more. 

If you're interested in a wider range of drink options, including cafe-style coffees such as caramel macchiatos, or hot chocolate and teas, a Dolce Gusto or Tassimo machine is more likely to suit your needs.  

Each brand has a range of machines to choose from, so make sure you use our reviews to compare models and find the best coffee machine for you.

Nespresso

  • Per capsule price range: 29p - 35p (own brand) 
  • Available from: Nespresso boutiques and online at nespresso.com
  • Machine price range: £70 - £430

Nespresso machines start from a reasonable £70, although the ongoing cost of capsules can add up. There are machines to suit every decor, and you'll have plenty of options to choose from. 

Most machines come with the option of buying as a bundle with the Nespresso Aeroccino milk frother, which usually adds around £50 to the price. Some pricier models include a built-in milk frother or steam wand.

You can get Nespresso machines from a range of brands, including Krups, Magimix and Delonghi.

What can I drink?

Pretty much every strength and length of coffee is catered for in the own-brand Nespresso range from pure origin, to flavoured coffees. Nespresso pods are only available to buy in Nespresso boutiques or online via the Nespresso website, but you can buy Nespresso-compatible capsules in supermarkets and online. 

See which popular Nespresso and Nespresso-compatible capsules impressed in our taste tests by seeing our full review of Nespresso coffee capsules.

How does it work?

Simplicity is key with Nespresso machines. Most have few buttons or controls - you simply pop in the capsule and go. Some allow you to select your drink size before starting, while with others you simply press stop when the drink is to your requirements.

What about recycling?

Nespresso will collect its aluminum pods for recycling – but only when you order more from its website. Otherwise you can recycle at its UK stores.

See all our Nespresso machine reviews.

Nescafé Dolce Gusto

  • Per capsule price range: 49p - 60p
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide
  • Machine price range: £40 - £145

Dolce Gusto machines are compact and relatively affordable although, as with all pod coffee machines, the ongoing cost of capsules can sting. There is a range of machines, from compact models such as the Piccolo, to design-led models such as the Drop. They all work in fundamentally the same way, but you have the option of either simple manual controls or a digital interface.

What can I drink?

The own-brand capsules are readily available in the supermarket and online, and many aim to emulate trendy coffee shop-style drinks, such as a caramel macchiato. Online you will find exclusives and limited editions (even flavoured teas). Milky drinks require an extra separate milk capsule, which uses dried milk, as there's no steam pipe or separate milk frother. There are fewer compatible capsules around, but some can be found online.

How does it work?

Dolce Gusto machines use either simple manual controls to start the flow of hot water through the capsule and control the size of your drink, or a digital system. Barcodes on the capsules tell you what setting to adjust controls too, and the machine does the rest. Milky drinks usually require two capsules - one for the coffee, one for the milk.

What about recycling?

Although the technology exists to recycle Dolce Gusto mixed-plastic capsules, it's not widely available in the UK. Nestlé is 'exploring a number of possible solutions'.

See all our Dolce Gusto coffee machine reviews.

Tassimo

  • Per capsule price range: 50p - 66p 
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide
  • Machine price range: £40 - £145

Tassimo machines make more than just coffee, covering the full spectrum of hot drinks, such as hot chocolate, tea and cafe-style coffee drinks, with their range of T-disc pods. They also differ in another important way - while other machines use high 15-19 bar pressure to make espresso, Tassimo machines use just 3.3 bar pressure to make hot drinks. 

Pressure, measured in bars, varies between machines - a higher pressure usually means good crema (foamy head) on the espresso. Use our coffee machine reviews  to see how these pod machines fare in our tests.

What can I drink?

There are more than 35 different-flavoured capsules available, including Carte Noire coffee, hot chocolate, Costa-branded capsules and various teas. Similar to other brands, the milk and coffee capsules are separate. To make a latte, for example, you use the latte disc first, followed by the milk disc which uses UHT milk.

How does it work?

The capsules use a barcode recognition system: the machine scans the capsules barcode and adjusts the brewing time, water quantity and drink stream (flow) accordingly. Each T-disc is programmed to complete the cycle with a gust of steam at the end of each drink to remove residue between drinks. So you should be able to follow a hot chocolate with a green tea without danger of flavour contamination.

What about recycling?

Tassimo T-Discs are 'fully recyclable with Terracycle', so far there are more than 200 UK recycling points.

See all our Tassimo machine reviews.

Illy

  • Per capsule price range: 43p - 45p (own brand)
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide, online
  • Machine price range: £65 - £140

Illy Iperespresso capsule machines are for dedicated coffee fans, focusing purely on espresso-based drinks. Illy coffee machines are made by several brands, including FrancisFrancis!, Hotpoint and Illy. Depending on the brand and model some include an integral steam wand or built-in milk frother.

What can I drink?

The Illy range is limited to less than 10 different strengths and origins of coffee, including ‘long’ (higher-volume espresso without sacrificing crema) for machines with the lungo function. A limited range can be found in some supermarkets with the whole range available online.

How does it work?

Illy claims that the 'magic resides in a revolutionary two-phase extraction process'. Unlike other capsules that are pierced, the flow of water is controlled through a top opening that gradually infuses its way through a compressed block of ground coffee and releases slowly through a filter and hole at the bottom of the capsule, to produce the espresso.

What about recycling?

While the polypropylene plastic casing is recyclable, the capsule and the coffee must first be separated and cleaned.

See all our Illy coffee machine reviews.

Lavazza a Modo Mio

  • Per capsule price range: 26p-33p (own brand)
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide, online
  • Machine price range: £45-£170

For serious caffeine lovers, the A Modo Mio range of coffee machines are designed to produce espresso-based drinks only. Some machines have a steaming wand or integral milk frother for fans of milky coffees such as lattes. 

What can I drink?

There are 10 coffee strengths in the range, all made with 100% coffee embodying a different flavour from floral to full-bodied. Decaf is also catered for. The whole range is widely available from high street stores and supermarkets, although you can purchase online.

How does it work?

The capsule is inserted into the machine and the upper foil of the capsule and the bottom get pierced in several places. The preheated water from the attached water tank gets pumped through the pod with 15 bar pressure, flowing through the ground coffee and exiting the capsule at the bottom. 

What about recycling?

While currently the pods are not recyclable, Lavazza is working on compostable capsules made from Mater-Bi material, a patented bioplastic created from a thistle-based biopolymer.

See all our Lavazza coffee machine reviews.

Dualit

 

  • Per capsule price range: 29p per capsule  
  • Available from: Stores including Lakeland and John Lewis, and online
  • Machine price range: £50 - £170

Dualit has a small range of compact coffee machines that give the flexibility of using either ground coffee, ESE pods and Dualit NX coffee pods, which you use with a specially adapted portafilter. 

Dualit's NX capsules are also Nespresso compatible, so can be used in other Nespresso machines, but Nespresso capsules won't work in Dualit models.

What can I drink?

Dualit NX coffee pods are available in more than 10 coffee blends, including decaf and lungo. Dualit also makes a range of tea capsules, including herbal and breakfast teas.

How does it work?

Unlike other machines, you place the coffee capsule into a specially adapted portafilter attachment, which is then fitted into the machine. This can then be switched for a different attachment when you want to use ground coffee for a manual espresso.

What about recycling?

Whilst most capsules are still not suitable for recycling, Dualit has launched a small range of 100% compostable capsules made from corn starch.

See all our Dualit coffee machine reviews.

Senseo

  • Per pod price range: 17p - 20p (own brand)
  • Available from: Limited range available in large supermarkets, wide variety online
  • Machine price range: £80 - £120

Senseo machines make a range of coffee types using an ESE-pod style system. Unlike other pod coffee machines which largely use plastic capsules, Senseo machines use tea-bag-like pods. They have limited availability these days, but you can still find some machines online.

What can I drink?

The pods come in a variety of coffee strengths. Milky-based drinks are made by mixing together instant coffee and milk powder in the same pod. A wide variety of pods can be bought online with the most popular coffee lines available in some supermarkets.

How does it work?

Senseo pods consist of a pre-portioned serving of coffee wrapped in paper filter, ready to be infused with water. These pods are intentionally designed to have a quicker flow rate to improve consistency from shot to shot. However, the quicker flow rate is caused by less resistance to the water during the brewing process and this in turn leads to a lower brewing pressure, resulting in a lesser extraction. 

What about recycling?

Fully recyclable, the pods are made with oxygen-bleached filter paper that can be composted in normal garden compost.

Check out our review of the Philips Senseo Twist coffee machine.

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