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Best Nespresso-compatible pods for 2019

By Tom Morgan

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 machine - and save money on your morning brew - we'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.

Best compostable Nespresso pods 

If you're keen to go plastic-free in 2019, or are concerned about the waste created by your Nespresso habit, the good news is that a whole raft of exciting coffee brands have started selling compostable pods.

These can either be added to your food recycling bin, if you have one, or go on a home compost heap.

We've tested compostable options from big-name brands including Dualit, Eden Project, Blue Goose, Grind, Roar Gill Coffee, Halo, Volcano Coffee Works and Rave. We've 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 reveal the results in the table below.

 

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
£12 for 21 pods (57p 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
£36 (pack of 100), 36p per pod Home composting, box is recyclable Subscriber only content

One of our expert tasters rated this coffee as thin and 'fairly ordinary' but others enjoyed the earthy flavours and firm tannins. You can sweeten it by adding milk.

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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
£12 (tin of 21), 57p 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
£3.30 (pack of 10), 33p 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
£3.90 (pack of 10), 39p per pod Industrial composting, recyclable and/or compostable packaging Subscriber only content

This coffee has hints of blackcurrant, berry and spice notes. It lacks sweetness but produces a decent 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
£4.90 (pack of 10), 49p per pod Industrial composting, recyclable and/or compostable packaging Subscriber only content

Our expert tasters picked up spicy, ginger and licorice notes in this coffee. This is a full-bodied coffee, but our panel were in agreement that it lacks a distinctive aftertaste.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£5.90 (pack of 10), 59p per pod Industrial composting, recyclable and/or compostable packaging Subscriber only content

One taster described this coffee as 'nutty and brisk', while another felt it lacked balance or complexity. It's not our lowest-scoring coffee pod, but our tests prove you can do better.

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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£24 (pack of 40), 60p per pod Industrial composting, box is recyclable, bag is compostable Subscriber only content

This coffee lacks body, and has quite a thin crema. In terms of flavour, it has a hint of caramel and malt, and is better with milk.

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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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Subscriber only content Price Composting method and packaging Overall score
£3.70 (pack of 10), 37p per pod Industrial composting, compostable packaging Subscriber only content

Lacking in flavour and body with a crema that fades fast, this coffee finishes at the bottom of our table.

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Table notes: Results published April 2019. All pods are available to buy online, Eden Project pods can also be found in Waitrose stores.  

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

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 high street Nespresso pods 

If you're heading out on your weekly shop and want to know which Nespresso-compatible coffee pods are worth picking up, you'll find our top picks from last year's taste test below. 

We rated pods from popular brands including Lidl, Aldi, Asda, Cafépod, Café Royal and Sainsbury's.

 
 
Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
30p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

A rich and inviting aroma greets you with this drink, which is covered by a golden pillow-like crema. It's sweet, delicious taste makes this coffee a surefire recommendation. Our tasters admired the smooth, firm body with its nutty flavour and pleasing aftertaste. Great for coffee purists.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
31p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

The judges were enticed both by the textbook golden crema and aromatic smoky fragrance of these coffee pods. It's firm and full-bodied - one judge happily noted the flavour had a pleasant, slightly burnt tone, but without being too bitter. If you find it a bit much, milk will soften the taste without sacrificing the flavour.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
30p per pod Recyclable packaging and pods Subscriber only content

Great all-round coffee; rich and long-lasting flavour, some complexity, works with milk or without. A decent choice for your daily cup. The coffee is sourced in partnership with Conservation International.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
30p per pod Recyclable packaging, pods not recyclable Subscriber only content

Strong to taste, this coffee was judged as smooth and firm, with a clean acidity. The flavour held well with milk added. Another good all-rounder. Capsules are UTZ sustainable farming certified.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
33p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

The crema might have been a bit thin, but the coffee was smooth and rounded, although it lacked the kick you might want or expect from espresso.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
25p per pod Recyclable packaging, pods not recyclable Subscriber only content

Need your mule kick in the morning? This espresso is strong, clean and acidic with a thick crema. It divided our panel, though, and some found it too harsh.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
17p per pod Recyclable packaging, pods not recyclable Subscriber only content

This coffee's aroma appealed to the nose, but our panel found the flavour a bit flat and generic. Not necessarily unpleasant, but there's tastier coffee to be had.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
29p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

Although this coffee has a sweet, malty aroma, a couple of our experts found the taste a bit sour. Light-bodied with a bitter aftertaste. Not what you want first thing in the morning.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
17p per pod Recyclable packaging, pods not recyclable Subscriber only content

These Aldi coffee pods were an opinion-divider. While some fancied this brew as an everyday coffee, others found it to be bland, as it lacked character and sweetness. Not offensive, just forgettable.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
62p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

No better than OK, the bitter-without-acidic taste made the judges think the coffee had been over-roasted, making for a flat, plain espresso.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
25p per pod Recyclable packaging, pods are recyclable if cleaned Subscriber only content

Judges felt this coffee was smooth but heavy, and ultimately mediocre. Milk might help a little, but the panel found this espresso adequate at best.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
28p per pod Recyclable packaging, pods aren't recyclable Subscriber only content

It may have been covered with a thick crema, but underneath this espresso was bitter without being spicy; the body thin and lacking appeal.

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Table notes: Availability last checked April 2019. Results are from 2018 taste test. Most pods are compatible with Nespresso Original line machines (not Vertuo, commercial or built-in models), but check the packaging for any exclusions before you buy.

Best online-only and artisan Nespresso pods 

Last year, our panel also reviewed compatible capsules from online-only pod retailers to see how they measured up against high-street offerings.

The quality of the online retailers' pods impressed our panel. While some divided opinion, they felt that overall the selection of coffees showcased some interesting flavours. 

If you're keen to branch out, it's worth giving some of our top selections a try - one recommended pod is also great value at just 20p a capsule.

 
Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
45p per pod Recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

Our experts loved this coffee pod. It might be expensive, but it's an impressive and full-bodied espresso that's strong without being harsh or bitter. It feels smooth in the mouth and the taste combines a touch of sweetness with interesting fruity tones. Works well with or without milk. 

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
20p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

'Quite a kick', one judge commented. This is for a coffee lover who wants an intense, dark espresso. It has a clean feel, with nutty and sweet flavours throughout, which also makes for an enticing aroma. At just 20p a pod, it's great value too.

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
35p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

It wasn't as strong-tasting as the rest of the coffees in this batch, but our experts found this espresso to be a clean, flavourful coffee with a full body and sharp undertones. It's a good option for cappuccino fans, as the judges rated it even better with milk. The crema looks good, and the aftertaste is pleasantly balanced. 

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
28p per pod Recyclable packaging  Subscriber only content

This capsule divided our panel. The espresso had a sour fruit tang which gave it a distinctive quality. You'll either love it or hate it as it is a very individual style of roast. 

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
27p per pod Recyclable packaging Subscriber only content

This coffee is woody and smoky, though one of our panel felt the wood and smoke were too much, giving it a slightly burnt taste. Though well-balanced when taken black, it wasn't strong enough to hold up to milk. These coffee pods are Fairtrade certified and organic. 

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Subscriber only content Price Recycling info Overall score
32p per pod Recyclable packaging and capsules Subscriber only content

This coffee was seen as middle of the road by our panel. It was perfectly drinkable, but had no remarkable characteristics. It fell flat once milk was added, though, as it lacked in flavour intensity. These coffee capsules are made with Fairtrade certified and organic coffee. 

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

Nespresso taste test - what we did 

We asked four coffee experts to blind-taste a range of Nespresso-compatible pods. For 2019 we focused on compostable pods, but we've also tested popular high-street options.

Our panel of four independent coffee experts included:

  • Giles Hilton – panel head, coffee specialist with 40 years’ tasting experience
  • Marc-Pierre Dietrich - 30+ years in coffee and head judge for UK coffee tasting events
  • Charles Love – tea and coffee product expert and trainer
  • Charles Metcalfe  – expert taster, Master of Wine and co-chair of the International Wine Challange

We made dozens of espressos using a Best Buy Nespresso machine and asked our experts to taste them with and without milk.

Each coffee was given a rating for aroma, flavour, overall appearance and crema (the golden foam found on top). These ratings were then combined into an overall percentage score.

Our top-rated coffees won praise from the panel for complex and well-rounded flavours.

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 instense smoky or woody notes.

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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