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 machines 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 or pod into the machine, press a button, and around 30 seconds later your espresso is ready.
Capsules from brands such as Nespresso can often only be used in specific coffee machines, though, so use our guide to find out more about the different capsule machine brands and what they offer.
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 to get a decent capsule coffee machine?
If you're looking for a simple model that can make espresso you shouldn't need to spend more than £100. In fact, we've uncovered a few Best Buy capsule coffee machines that cost less than £50.
If you'd like to be able to make cappuccinos, you're likely to need to spend around £130 to get a model that can froth milk.
Most capsule machines cost less than £150, but some can cost more than £400. Pricier models are usually made of premium materials, in a luxury finish. They may offer more flexibility in the choice of drinks you can make - as well as memorising your preferences - but often the capsule system is exactly the same as cheaper models from the same brand.
Capsule coffee machines: pros and cons
Capsule coffee machines - also known as pod coffee machines - are easy to use and clean, extremely convenient and usually cheaper to buy upfront than other coffee machine types. However, they can be more expensive in the long run.
Most only take one type of capsule or pod (eg Dolce Gusto, Nespresso, 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 50p – whereas a typical espresso shot made with ground coffee is around 7p.
If you're a fan of cappuccinos and lattes, look out for a capsule machine that comes bundled with a milk frother, such as the Nespresso Aeroccino or the Dualit Cino (these can also be bought separately). Some brands, such as Tassimo and Dolce Gusto, use milk capsules to make milky drinks. This usually requires using two capsules per drink though, so don't forget to work this into your budget.
Pros: Usually small, light and affordable. Convenient, mess-free and not much maintenance needed. You can have lots of different flavour options to hand at once (with capsules).
Cons: Tied to one capsule brand. Compatible capsules don't always work. Some capsules aren't available in supermarkets. Expensive compared with using ground coffee.
If you're keen to buy a capsule or pod coffee machine, take a look at our round up of the top three best Nespresso coffee machines to see our pick of the best Nespresso machines, as well as high-scoring alternatives that use Dolce Gusto, Illy, Lavazza and Tassimo capsules.
Dolce Gusto, Nespresso or Tassimo?
There are five key brands to choose from: Dolce Gusto, Illy, Lavazza, Nespresso and Tassimo. Dualit also make capsule machines, as well as Nespresso-compatible capsules.
Most capsule brands offer a range of coffee capsules, based on different roasts and bean origins. You can expand into milky coffees by buying machine with milk frother, or buying a separate frother.
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.
For more information on how these brands compare, visit our page on Nespresso vs Dolce Gusto and Tassimo coffee machines.
Capsule coffee machine brands
Coffee machines for capsule brands are often made by several manufacturers. For example, Nespresso machines are made by Delonghi, Magimix and KitchenAid, and Dolce Gusto 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 fail again and again.