How to buy the best capsule coffee machine
By Yvette Fletcher
A capsule coffee machine offers a quick, easy way to make your morning brew. Find out how to pick the best type for you.
Capsule coffee machine systems such as Nespresso and Tassimo are popular because they offer the quickest, most fuss-free route to a homemade espresso. But the machine you choose determines what coffee you can use, and prices can vary substantially, so it's worth doing your research before buying.
Coffee fanatics might argue that using a capsule machine is cheating your way to a cup of coffee, but there's no denying their appeal if you're short on time or patience. Instead of faffing around with loose coffee, you simply pop a pre-packaged coffee capsule into the machine, press a button, and around 30 seconds later your espresso is ready.
In this guide we explain:
- how much capsule coffee costs
- the pros and cons of a capsule coffee machine
- what each brand has to offer, including the major brands - Nespresso, Tassimo and Dolce Gusto.
Just want to know which are the best capsule machines? Head to our coffee machine reviews to find which capsule models make the tastiest espresso and cappuccino.
How much do I need to spend on a capsule coffee machine?
Capsule machines are generally cheaper to buy than either traditional ground coffee machines or bean-to-cup machines.
- You can pick up some Best Buy capsule coffee machines for less than £50.
- If you'd like to be able to make cappuccinos, you're likely to need to spend around £100 to get a model that can froth milk.
- Most capsule machines cost less than £150, but premium models from brands such as Nespresso can cost up to £450.
Pricier models are usually made of premium materials, in a luxury finish. They usually offer more flexibility in the choice of drinks you can make - as well as memorising your preferences.
Some models offer smart features that will allow you to program you next drink from your phone or keep track of your capsule supply. Others have customisable drink-temperature and multiple milk-frothing options.
To see our best cheap options, and how the premium pod machines compare, head to our coffee machine reviews.
Capsule coffee machines: pros and cons
- Usually small, light and cheaper to buy.
- Convenient, mess-free and not much maintenance needed.
- You can have lots of different flavour options to hand at once (with capsules).
- Usually tied to one capsule brand and the coffee range it supplies.
- Compatible capsules don't always work.
- Some capsules are only available to buy online or from specific stores.
- Coffee pods are expensive compared to using ground coffee or beans.
Capsule coffee machines are easy to use and clean, convenient, and usually cheaper to buy up front than other coffee machine types. However, they can be more expensive in the long run.
Most only take one type of capsule (eg Dolce Gusto, Nespresso or Tassimo) and, although they offer a range of coffee varieties, you’re usually limited to the options they supply.
What’s more, the coffee you'll get from a capsule machine is pricey compared with other home brewing methods. Making a single cup from a branded capsule can cost anything from 23p to 60p – whereas a typical espresso shot made with ground coffee is around 7p.
If you want a cheaper way to your coffee fix, check our coffee machine buying guide for the lowdown on alternative options.
Dolce Gusto, Nespresso or Tassimo: which is right for you?
Most capsule brands offer a range of coffee capsules, based on different roasts and bean origins. You can expand into milky coffees by buying a machine with milk frother, or buying a separate frother.
There are six key brands to choose from:
- Dolce Gusto
Dualit also makes Nespresso-compatible capsules.
Tassimo and Dolce Gusto machines tend to have a smaller selection of coffee roasts, but offer a wider range of different drinks, including fancy coffee-shop flavours such as caramel macchiato - and even non-coffee drinks such as tea and hot chocolate. If you're looking for more varied hot drink options, these brands might be for you.
Tassimo and Dolce Gusto also use milk capsules, rather than a milk frother, to make milky coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
For the full breakdown on how these brands compare, include their average scores in our tests, head to our capsule coffee brands compared guide.
Reliable capsule coffee machine brands
Coffee machines for capsule brands are often made by several manufacturers. For example, Nespresso machines are made by DeLonghi, Krups, KitchenAid, Magimix and Sage, and Dolce Gusto machines are made by DeLonghi and Krups. These brands usually make slightly different versions of the same model - a different nozzle design or colour for example.
Before you commit to buying from a certain brand, take a look at our guide to the best coffee machine brands. It reveals which brands produce excellent machines that won't let you down, and those that are more likely to break down early.