Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy

Nespresso, Tassimo or Dolce Gusto?

By Sarah Sysum

We compare the major coffee pod brands, from the type of drinks they make and the price of pods to which brand makes the best coffee machines.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

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

Nespresso, Tassimo and Dolce Gusto may be the best known capsule coffee brands around, but there are other options worth considering, including Dualit, Illy and Lavazza.

Below, we compare all the main capsule brands and explain what they offer. Some are widely available and include a variety of drink options, while others can only be bought from specific retailers and focus on coffee only, so the right one for you depends on the kind of coffee you like and your lifestyle.

On this page you can: 

  • Find out how much the coffee pods typically cost for each brand, the range of drink options you get, and how easy the pods are to get hold of.
  • Get the lowdown on the coffee machines that work with each brand and how much they cost.
  • See pros and cons for each capsule brand to help you choose the right one for you.

Just want to know about a specific capsule brand? Jump straight to the good stuff: Dualit, Illy, Lavazza a Modo Mio, Nespresso, Nescafé Dolce Gusto, Tassimo.

Logged-in Which? members can use our overview table below to quickly compare key specs and average scores for each brand in our coffee machine tests, including how well each capsule brand scores on taste when rated by our independent coffee expert. Not yet a member? Sign up for a Which? trial to get instant access.

To get straight to the top-scoring model for your budget, head to our coffee machine reviews.

Coffee capsule brands compared 

Capsule brand What you get Number tested/ Best Buys Average taste test score Average overall 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 built-in frother is needed for latte-style drinks.
Nespresso
Krups Nespresso Pixie table 3

Two capsule systems available. 

Original - 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 built-in frother is needed for milky drinks. 

Vertuo - designed for espressos and longer coffees, no compatible capsules or milk frothing.

Lavazza a Modo Mio
AEG Espria LM3100 table 3
Small range of own-brand coffee capsules. A separate milk frother or machine with built-in frother / steam wand is needed for latte-style drinks.
Nescafé 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 or Nespresso/Nespresso-compatible capsules to make espressos. A separate milk frother or a machine with built-in frother is needed for latte-style drinks. Some machines can be used with loose ground coffee too.
Table notes
Information, including total tested and number of Best Buys online, are correct as of November 2017. Colour variations of the same model not included.

Key

Member Content

Which brand of coffee pod system is right for you? 

If you mainly want to make espresso-based drinks - you'll probably want to choose from Illy, Lavazza or Nespresso, as these brands stick to espresso coffee drinks, focusing on the range of blends they provide, rather than other hot drinks. You can buy a machine from these brands with a milk-frothing option if you're keen on milky coffees, such as cappuccinos and lattes.

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

See below for more on the different types. Once you know which brand you want, use our coffee machine reviews to compare compatible models and find the best coffee machine for you.

Nespresso 

  • Capsule price range: 29p - 35p (own brand), up to 60p for larger Vertuo capsules
  • Available from: Nespresso boutiques and online at nespresso.com
  • Machine price range: £70 - £450

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 DeLonghi, Krups, Magimix and Sage.

What can I drink?

Pretty much every strength and length of coffee is catered for in the own-brand Nespresso range. In addition to the standard flavours, there are:

  • Pure origin ranges with coffee flavours unique to their country of origin.
  • Capsules specifically for brewing iced coffees.
  • Interesting flavour combinations, such as licorice, snowball and orange, along with more common favourites like caramel and chocolate.
  • The new Vertuo system uses different capsules and machines that cater to those who like a longer coffee drink. Three different pod sizes.

Nespresso pods are only available to buy in Nespresso boutiques or online via the Nespresso website, and you have to buy capsules in sleeves of 10. You can buy Nespresso-compatible capsules in supermarkets and online for most of the 'Original' line of machines, but not for Vertuo capsules.

See which popular Nespresso and Nespresso-compatible capsules impressed in our taste tests - go to 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 the stop button when the drink is to your requirements.

The Vertuo system uses centrifugal force to spin the capsules as the hot water passes through them, creating an extra-frothy crema.

What about recycling?

Nespresso will collect its aluminium 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 

  • Capsule price range: 28p - 60p
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide
  • Machine price range: £30 - £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 Oblo, to design-led models such as the Drop

Most Dolce Gusto machines are made by either DeLonghi or Krups.

What can I drink?

The own-brand capsules are readily available in the supermarket and online, and offer a huge variety of drink options.

  • Trendy coffee shop-style drinks, such as a caramel macchiato or mocha. 
  • Exclusive flavours and limited editions available online, including flavoured teas. 
  • Options for non-coffee drinkers, including chai tea and hot chocolate.

Milky drinks require an extra separate milk capsule, which uses dried milk, as there's no steam pipe or milk frother on Dolce Guston machines. There isn't really much in the way of compatible capsules, so you'll be limited to the brand itself.

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 adjust the settings, and the machine does the rest. 

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 

  • Capsule price range: 28p - 66p 
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide, online
  • 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 the range of T-disc pods. They also differ in another important way - while other machines use high pressures of 15-19 bar 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 40 flavoured capsules available, including:

  • A full range of coffees, including cappuccino, espresso and latte from brands like Costa, Jacobs and Kenco. 
  • Herbal and black teas. 
  • Hot chocolate and chai tea.

As with Dolce Gusto, the milk and coffee capsules are separate. To make a latte, for example, you use the latte coffee 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 capsule's 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

  • 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 much smaller than other coffee capsule systems, but still offers a range of options: 

  • Like Nespresso, Illy offers single-origin coffee capsules. Single-origin coffee aims to capture the unique flavour of each country's beans. 
  • Illy offers a lungo capsule. This means a longer drink that doesn't compromise on flavour or crema. 

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, and the water 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 

  • Capsule price range: 28p - 35p
  • Available from: Large supermarkets nationwide, online
  • Machine price range: £45 - £170

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

What can I drink?

There are more than 12 coffee capsules in Lavazza's range: 

  • Lavazza, like Nespresso, offers a range of coffee intensities. Its scale starts at an intensity level of 5 and goes up to 13.
  • You can also chose from a couple of single-origin coffees.
  • Lavazza really caters for espresso drinkers, and many of its capsules are designed to be enjoyed black.

The whole range is widely available from high street stores and supermarkets, although you can also purchase online.

How does it work?

You insert the capsule into the machine, which pierces the upper foil of the capsule and the bottom in several places. The preheated water from the attached water tank is pumped through the pod with 15-bar pressure, flowing through the ground coffee and exiting the capsule at the bottom. 

What about recycling?

Although the pods aren't currently 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 

  • Capsule price range: 29p per capsule  
  • Available from: Stores including John Lewis and Lakeland, 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, and vice versa, although not in all older machines. Some older Dualit machines require you to pre-pierce the capsules before you insert them, as the design has changed over time.

What can I drink?

Dualit NX coffee pods are available in more than 10 coffee blends. 

  • Dualit's small range offers a classic espresso, and intense espresso, a lungo and a decaf option. 
  • Dualt also makes a couple of compostable options, which are also Nespresso compatible.
  • There is also a range of tea pods.

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.

Choosing the right capsule machine for you

Now you've got the lowdown on the different capsule machines out there, you can pick the right one for you. Head to our coffee machine reviews to find the best machine for your chosen brand.

Still not sure what you want? Try our coffee machine buying guide for more on the different types available.

SHARE THIS PAGE

Related products

See all coffee machines