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Best Nespresso-compatible pods for 2020

Discover the tastiest coffee capsules for your Nespresso machine, including the best cheap and eco-friendly Nespresso pods

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To help you find the best coffee for your Nespresso machineand save money on your morning brewwe've put Nespresso-compatible coffee pods to the test, asking a panel of independent coffee experts to blind-test them and rate how tasty they are.

Whether you prefer a flat white or a straight-up espresso, we’ve uncovered pods that will get your taste buds tingling. And if you want to switch to a cheaper or compostable pod, we've uncovered the best of those too.

Read on to find out which capsules impressed our expert tasters, and which ones you should leave on the shelf.

In this guide: 

Need to decide which Nespresso machine to buy first? Our handy Nespresso buying guide explains how to choose one which will suit your needs – and your budget – perfectly. Or if you're not totally sold on Nespresso, check our round-up of the best coffee machines from our tough independent tests.

Best Nespresso pods 

Our expert tasting panel have blind-tasted and rated Nespresso and compatible coffee pods from popular brands such as Costa, Starbucks and Lavazza. We've also reviewed supermarket own-brands including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's and Aldi.

We’ve found three top-scoring Best Buys, plus a great value option for less than half the price of Nespresso branded pods.

Log in or sign up to Which? to reveal the results in the table below.

 
 
Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3.60 for 10 pods (36p per pod) Drop off, or arrange a free collection Subscriber only content

These pods produced a rich, full-bodied espresso that was smooth and creamy, with a dark coffee flavour and notes of caramel. The chocolate sweetness balanced the fruity acidity well. One expert described it as a ‘very good all-round espresso coffee’.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£2.79 for 10 pods (28p per pod) Not recyclable Subscriber only content

This coffee had a pleasing, nutty aroma, and an excellent crema (the layer of creamy froth on top of the espresso). It was soft and light, and had a nice fruity flavour with a milk chocolate sweetness, although it's best enjoyed black - adding milk washed out the flavour a bit.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3 for 10 pods (30p per pod) Recyclable once emptied and cleaned Subscriber only content

Our panel were big fans of this coffee’s fruity flavour, which had hints of red wine. They thought its nice bright acidity balanced the sweetness well and its aftertaste drew praise all round. The thin, pale crema was a little disappointing though.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3 for 10 pods (30p per pod) Recyclable via drop-off points Subscriber only content

This smooth, rich coffee had a lovely dark gold colour and a pleasant, balanced flavour. However, some members of the panel picked up a slightly woody taste.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£1.65 for 10 pods (17p per pod) Not recyclable Subscriber only content

This coffee had a good thick crema and an intense, slightly sour taste with fruity sweetness. Some of the experts found it a little bitter though. It wasn’t rated as well when combined with milk, so it’s one that’s best to drink black.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£2.65 for 10 pods (27p per pod) Recyclable once emptied and cleaned Subscriber only content

Our tasting panel were impressed with the appearance of this coffee, praising its rich colour and full crema. It was full-bodied, with a dark, slightly bitter, flavour.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£1.35 for 10 pods (14p per pod) Not recyclable Subscriber only content

Smooth-bodied and sharp in flavour, this coffee had dark fruit notes, but lacked sweetness. The aftertaste was a little too harsh for some of our judges.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3 for 10 pods (30p per pod) Recyclable via Terracycle Subscriber only content

This coffee had a pleasingly thick crema and a rich aroma, although its intense flavour was a little bitter.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3.30 for 10 pods (33p per pod) Drop off or arrange a free collection Subscriber only content

This coffee had a rich, full crema and a smooth mouthfeel. Some experts liked the flavour, while others thought it was bitter, with one expert describing it as ‘ashy’.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3 for 10 pods (30p per pod) Compostable via industrial recycling facilities (eg local kerbside food waste collection) Subscriber only content

This coffee lacked character - our panel described it as plain and ordinary, although it improved when milk was added. It was heavy with a dull edge, and fruity acidity.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3 for 10 pods (30p per pod) Not recyclable Subscriber only content

This coffee had a very thin crema. It lacked body and became watery when combined with milk. The panel weren’t big fans of the flavour, with one expert complaining it was quite sharp.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£8.10 for 60 pods (14p per pod) Not recyclable Subscriber only content

Our tasting panel classed this as a medium-strength coffee. It had a good crema, but it failed to impress on the flavour front and lacked sweetness. The judges also noted a thin mouthfeel.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3.09 for 10 pods (31p per pod) Recyclable once emptied and cleaned Subscriber only content

The crema on this espresso broke down quickly and its woody flavour notes and thin mouthfeel disappointed our panel. One expert said it lacked character.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£2.50 for 10 pods (25p per pod) Recyclable once emptied and cleaned Subscriber only content

A weak aroma, thin mouthfeel and bitter flavour made this our joint lowest scorer. It didn’t improve much when adding milk, with some experts saying the milk made it taste bland.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
£3.30 for 10 pods (33p per pod) Recyclable once emptied and cleaned Subscriber only content

This coffee received low scores from our experts, placing it firmly at the bottom of the table. It was thin, flat and lacking character. Some members of the panel thought it became even more washed out when milk was added.

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Table notes: Results published April 2020. All pods are compatible with Nespresso Original machines, but not built-in, Vertuo or commercial models. Check the packaging for any other machine exclusions before use.

Best compostable Nespresso pods 

While Nespresso has its own recycling system for its branded aluminium pods, things get a bit more complicated with compatible pods from other brands. 

Some are recyclable and have their own schemes, others are theoretically recyclable via your local authority, though in practice this means dismantling and cleaning out each pod and there's no guarantee the council will actually be able to recycle them.

Last year, our panel reviewed compostable Nespresso pods from big-name brands including Dualit, Eden Project, Blue Goose, Grind, Halo and Volcano Coffee Works. These can either be added to your food recycling bin, if you have one, or go on a home compost heap.

We named three tasty pods Best Buys, one of which could save you over £50 a year versus your usual Nespresso pod.

Log in or sign up to Which? to see the results for eco Nespresso pods in the table below.

FT= fairtrade, DT = direct trade, O= organic. Direct trade is where coffee roasters buy direct from farmers rather than buying from an importer. 

 

Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£12 for 60 pods (20p per pod) Industrial composting, box recyclable Subscriber only content

This is a strong, full-bodied coffee with some complexity of flavour and a mild sweetness. It’s robust and may not be for all tastes, but milk adds roundness. One expert praised its pleasantly rich flavour with notes of dark chocolate. Another commended the lovely aroma and crema.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£10 for 20 pods (50p per pod) Home composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

This toasty, flavoursome coffee has a good crema that reforms after stirring. One expert picked up notes of malted biscuit and a hint of Brazil nut, while another complimented this coffee on the smooth, rich aftertaste. The flavour is softened, but not lost with the addition of milk.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£18 for 40 pods (45p per pod) Home composting, recyclable packaging (tin) Subscriber only content

Fruity acidity, a toasty aroma and a pleasing sweetness characterise this milder coffee, which is typical of the region it’s from. One expert praised the lingering aftertaste but some experts thought adding milk could overshadow the sweetness, so this might be best served black.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£3.50 (pack of 10), 35p per pod Home composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

These biodegradable coffee capsules split the panel: most enjoyed the delicate nutty aroma, but one expert felt the coffee was over-roasted and lacking sweetness.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£18 (pack of 40), 45p per pod Home composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

Our tasting panel thought this Fairtrade coffee had a good rounded flavour that improved with milk. The sweetness of the coffee, which is finished with a golden crema, helps to balance the tangy tannins.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£12 (box of 60), 20p per pod Industrial composting, box recyclable, inner packaging compostable Subscriber only content

Our tasting panel noted a mildly acidic taste with a malty sweetness but a feeble crema. One expert loved this coffee but most scored it just above average.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£10 (pack of 10), £1 per pod Home composting, recyclable and/or compostable packaging Subscriber only content

This light coffee has subtle undertones of dark berry fruits, but a fairly weak crema. Our tasting panel agreed that it would make a good breakfast coffee.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£7 (pack of 10), 70p per pod Home composting, recyclable and/or compostable packaging Subscriber only content

Our tasting panel class this as a medium-strength coffee that's best as an espresso. It loses flavour as it cools or when you add milk. The crema is weak.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£10 for 20 pods (50p per pod) Home composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

All experts on our tasting panel agreed this milder coffee was best served black. It has a juicy acidity to it, with a hint of spice on the nose.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£10 (pack of 10), £1 per pod Home composting, recyclable and/or compostable packaging Subscriber only content

This coffee has a pale crema and you'll pick up on notes of blackberry when you take your first sip. Milk adds a hint of biscuit flavour.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£2.99 (pack of 10), 30p per pod Industrial composting, recyclable box, inner packaging is not recyclable Subscriber only content

Most of the expert tasting panel agreed this fairtrade coffee tastes better with milk. It has an almond-like flavour paired with good crema.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£3.50 (pack of 10), 35p per pod Home composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

These compostable coffee pods have a smoky, woody aroma. The dark roasted flavour is improved with milk. You'll notice a lingering aftertaste.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£28 (pack of 40), 70p per pod Industrial composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

There's an excellent sweetness to these coffee pods, but some taste testers felt them lacking a rich, full flavour. These pods have a high acidity and agreeable aftertaste.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£26 (pack of 40), 65p per pod Industrial composting, recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

This mild coffee has a slight sweetness to it. One taster described the flavour and aroma as 'Marmite-y' while another noticed a peanut-like aftertaste.

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Table notes: Availability last checked April 2020. Results are from 2019 taste test and aren't directly comparable with 2020 results above. All pods are available to buy online, Eden Project pods can also be found in Waitrose stores.  

All pods are compatible with Nespresso Original machines, but not built-in, Vertuo or commercial models. Check the packaging for any other machine exclusions before use. 

Nespresso taste test - what we did 

We asked a panel of coffee experts to blind-taste and rate a range of Nespresso-compatible pods.

Our 2020 panel of independent coffee experts included:

  • Giles Hilton – panel head, coffee specialist with 40 years’ tasting experience
  • Colin Smith – artisan coffee roaster and former president of the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe
  • Charles Love – tea and coffee product expert and trainer
  • Mike Nunn – head of training at Monmouth Coffee Co, which has been roasting and selling coffee since 1978

We made each coffee using a Nespresso machine that had performed well in our coffee machine tests, and asked our experts to taste it both with and without milk.

They rated the aroma, appearance, flavour, mouthfeel, sweetness and aftertaste of each coffee. These ratings were then combined into an overall percentage score.

(2019 eco-pod results were judged by Giles Hilton, Charles Love, Marc-Pierre Dietrich and Charles Metcalfe).

Get the best from your Nespresso-compatible pods with our guide to using compatible coffee pods

Coffee tasting notes explained

Here are a few of the things our experts look for and what they mean:

  • Acidity – a bright, tangy and dry wine-like taste that adds life to a coffee
  • Tannins – can add bitter notes to the flavour
  • Crema – the golden foam on top of an espresso, should be creamy and consistent
  • Body – the feel of a coffee in the mouth. Full-bodied brews will be strong, creamy and pleasant, others may be thin and watery
  • Clean taste – tasty, but without any particular flavour notes coming through
  • Sweetness – essentially a milder, smoother coffee flavour

Need a new machine? See our top five best Nespresso coffee machines

Choosing the best coffee for you 

Aren't sure what makes a Sumatran coffee different from a Columbian? Check out the map to find out.

Where coffee comes from and how it is harvested will make a big difference to the taste; here's an overview of the various regions:

 Different roast levels and what they mean

  • Light roast – produces a milder coffee. Tend to be brighter, more acidic and have a toasted, grainy flavour. Retains the original flavour characteristics of the beans well.
  • Medium roast – a medium-intensity coffee with fuller body. A good balance of intensity and flavour.
  • Dark / Italian roast – stronger, more bitter-tasting coffee, often with intense smoky or woody notes.

Making flavoured coffee with your Nespresso machine

If you want to re-create some tempting coffee shop favourites, there are plenty of flavoured Nespresso pods to try - including caramel and chocolate variants. 

Alternatively, you can make flavoured coffee by adding a shot of syrup to a drink make with your favourite Nespresso pod.

We asked our expert panel to try a caramel-flavoured Nespresso pod alongside a standard Nespresso coffee made with caramel syrup and found the syrup to have a stronger caramel flavour compared with the pods. However, the pods were quicker and easier to use.

Want to make frothy coffees such as macchiatos, flat whites and cappuccinos with your machine? Check our video guide to making fancy coffees at home.

There's a wide range of interesting and unusual compatible coffees to try in your Nespresso machine. See our comparison of major coffee pod retailers to get a feel for how they compare to branded pods on price and range.

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