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Capsule or pod coffee machines are a quick, easy way to make coffee at home, but you're usually restricted to a specific brand of coffee pod - each of which have their own pros and cons.
Nespresso, Tassimo and Dolce Gusto may be the best known brands, 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.
Watch our quick video guide to find out the three key things to consider when choosing between brands.
Best for espresso-based coffees such as espressos, americanos and lattes
Lavazza, Illy and Nespresso focus on espresso coffee drinks, with a range of blends and strengths available. Most machines which take these pods come with the option of frothing milk, so you can make lattes and cappuccinos too.
If you're keen on a wider range of drink options
Keen on café-style concoctions, such as caramel macchiatos, hot chocolate and tea? A Nescafé Dolce Gusto or Tassimo machine is more likely to suit your needs.
Coffee pods vary in price from around 20p per drink to more than 60p, a difference that can really add up over time. Depending on which pods your machine uses, you might be able to buy compatible capsules for less than the branded version.
Pod coffee machines make more waste than other types of coffee machines and some pods are tricky to recycle. Make sure you're happy with the recycling set-up for your choice of pod.
If you still can't decide, try answering these quick questions to find out which brand of pod coffee machine suits you best.
Get the lowdown on how the big brands compare in our table below, including the type and range of drinks they make and how well each brand typically scores in our tough coffee machine tests.
Best Buys/Number tested
Average taste test score
Average overall test score
Lavazza A Modo Mio
Nescafé Dolce Gusto
What you'll get:
Uses own-brand capsules, though cheaper compatible options are increasingly available from supermarkets and online. 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.
What you'll get: two capsule systems available
1.Original - uses own-brand and compatible capsules, for a wide 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.
2.Vertuo - designed for espressos and longer or bigger coffees, no compatible capsules currently, or milk frothing.
Find out more about what each brand offers in the sections below:
You can get Nespresso machines from a range of brands, including DeLonghi, Krups, Magimix and Sage, with plenty of styles, colour and sizes to choose from. Pricier models include a built-in milk frother or steam wand, whereas cheaper ones can bought with the Aeroccino milk frother accessory for around £50 extra (though check our for cheaper alternatives).
Pretty much every strength and length of coffee is catered for in the own-brand Nespresso range, including single-origin coffees and special edition flavours. You can also buy a wide range of Nespresso-compatible capsules in supermarkets and online for most of the Original-line machines. See which Nespresso and compatible pods impressed in our taste tests, including compostable options, in our .
Nespresso also sells Vertuo-line machines, which only work with its larger Vertuo pods. These come in three different sizes, and aim to cater to those who like a longer coffee. There aren't currently any compatible pods for this range.
Nespresso has its own recycling collection service for its aluminium pods. You’ll need to collect the pods in a special bag provided by Nespresso and drop them off at Doddle, CollectPlus or a Nespresso boutique – or you can arrange a free collection.
Nespresso-compatible pods are made by a range of different brands, some of which are recyclable or compostable but few of which have dedicated schemes, and you can’t send them to Nespresso. You may need to dismantle, empty and clean the pods for recycling.
Most Dolce Gusto machines are made by either DeLonghi or Krups. The range of drinks is broad and includes options for non-coffee drinkers such as tea and hot chocolate. Milky drinks require an extra milk capsule, made of dried milk, as there's no steam pipe or milk frother on Dolce Gusto machines.
Some cheaper compatible pods are from supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl, Asda and Sainsbury's, though the range of options is still relatively small.
Dolce Gusto runs a recycling scheme via CollectPlus. You’ll need to collect the pods in a special bag though, which you can only get by ordering your pods directly through the Dolce Gusto website.
Tassimo T-disc capsules cover the full spectrum of hot drinks, such as hot chocolate, tea and café-style coffee drinks. Like Dolce Gusto, Tassimo machines use milk pods instead of fresh milk.
There aren't any compatible pods available for Tassimo, so you're tied in to the branded versions, which limits your options a bit. It does have some household names in its range though, including Costa coffee pods.
Tassimo pods can be recycled if you take them to Terracycle drop-off points (a specialist recycling company). However, these locations are run by volunteers and aren’t that widely distributed across the country - so you may have to go far out of your way to recycle them.
Illy coffee machines are made by several brands, including FrancisFrancis! and Illy. Depending on the brand and model, some include an integral steam wand, for manual milk frother or automatic milk frother.
The Illy range is much smaller than other coffee capsule systems, focusing mostly on traditional espresso-based drinks, there is also a small range of filter-coffee-style pods, for longer black coffees.
Illy capsules aren’t currently recyclable in the UK, so if you are concerned about your coffee habit impacting the environment, they aren't the best choice.
The A Modo Mio range of coffee machines is designed to produce only espresso-based drinks. Some machines have a steam wand or integral milk frother for making milky brews such as lattes.
There are around 12 pods to choose from, including some single-origin pods. There aren't any compatible pods around, so you'll be limited to quite a small range of drinks.
Older Lavazza pods weren't recyclable, aside from the Ricco pods, but the current range are industrially compostable. This means they can go in your food waste collection, if your council provides one, but won't break down on a home compost heap.
Dualit's capsule offering includes coffee and tea options. It's NX pods are Nespresso-compatible, so can be used in Nespresso Original line machines and Nespresso-compatible models, as well as Dualit's own range. This also means you can use other Nespresso-compatible pods in your Dualit pod machine, giving you a wide range of coffees to choose from.
Dualit also makes a small range of compact coffee machines that give the flexibility of using either ground coffee, ESE pods or Dualit NX coffee pods, which you use with a specially adapted portafilter.
Technically, you can recycle Dualit’s plastic NX pods in your usual collection if you dismantle, empty and clean them out, though this is onerous, and plastic pods can be difficult for local authorities to recycle in practice.
Dualit also sells a range of compostable capsules. These need to be composted industrially using your local council’s food waste collection scheme (if available in your area).
Now you've got the lowdown on the different coffee pod systems, you can pick the best coffee machine for your chosen pod brand. Each has a range of options, and some proved much better than others in our tough tests.