Best pod coffee machines – the top espresso makers for your caffeine fix

These are the best pod coffee machines to get your caffeine fix, pronto

While the weekends allow time to faff around grinding espresso beans, during the week we need our cappuccino a bit faster Taking the time and mess out of brewing an espresso with a silky smooth crema, the best pod coffee machines deliver a barista-worthy cuppa every time.

Making café-style drinks something you can enjoy at home, many coffee machines go further still. As well as including devices for warming and frothing milk, some can produce hot chocolate, tea and cold drinks. In this way one machine can ensure an entire household can enjoy their favourite beverage.

Why do I need a pod coffee machine?

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Image credit: Claire Lloyd Davies

Anyone who’s ever tried to use an espresso machine only to end up with soggy grounds and a dribble of brown liquid will have learnt their lesson. The biggest appeal of pod coffee machines is that you don’t need expertise to make a great espresso. Instead, each capsule contains exactly the right amount of ground coffee, arranged so all you need to do is press a button.

Less costly and bulky than bean-to-cup machines, pod coffee makers also often take up less room on a worktop. This makes them a good fit for small kitchens, home offices and even bedrooms.

How much should I spend on a pod coffee machine?

Around £50-£80 should secure you an entry-level pod coffee machine but the thing to be most aware of is the system you’re buying into. None are compatible with the others, so investigate the cost of pods when looking at coffee machines. Spend more than £100 and you’re likely to have the option of frothing and warming milk, either in a separate appliance or with a wand. Premium pod coffee machines can cost up to £400, thanks to additional features, a more robust construction and eye-catching design.

Best pod coffee machines

1. Nespresso Inissia coffee machine by Magimix – best for small spaces

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Available in eight shades and billed as the smallest and most colourful of the Nespresso range, the Inissia is a stress-free pod coffee machine. Not only fantastically compact, taking up a mere 12cm of width on the worktop, it’s light enough to move around as required. However, its diminutive dimensions impact on its water tank size, which is only 700ml. The shape of this pod coffee machine is also quite basic, given the choice of striking statement machines on the market.

Design aside, it’s a functional coffee machine with 19 bar pump pressure and an internal container that can take 11 used capsules. It has an automatic shut-off function after nine minutes. There are only two dispensing buttons to get to grips with, for espresso and lungo/Americano, which can be altered to suit. Both produced good quality coffee with a rich crema during testing.

Compared with other Nespresso coffee machines, capsule ejection is manual as opposed to automatic. A slight downside. As there’s no milk facility, it’s better for black coffee. However, you can always add a separate Aeroccino for lattes and flat whites.

Ideal Home’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Nespresso Inissia coffee machine by Magimix, £80, Amazon

2. Eclipse automatic pod coffee machine by Nescafe Dolce Gusto – best for versatility

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What do you do when everyone in the house likes a different beverage but you’re still a coffee purist? The answer is the exhaustive Dolce Gusto system. Specifically, one of its design-led coffee machines, the easy to use, feature-packed Eclipse. Designed in a stylish loop that opens at the touch of a button, it manages to squeeze in a generous one-litre water tank. Its moveable cup platform is unencumbered by the rest of the machine, so it’ll accommodate everything from a dainty teacup to a mug.

Its auto-off is five minutes and the only niggle is that the loop doesn’t close itself automatically after use. While it’ll brew tea and hot chocolate, coffee is the machine’s speciality. With 15 bar pump pressure, there’s an option to position the cup platform just below the spout for espresso. A touch-control slider dictates how much water is dispensed from the coffee machine, with the option of XL for longer drinks.

The choice of hot or cold allows you make a chilled cappuccino as easily as a warm one. During testing, the Eclipse coffee machine heated up quickly, in around 30 seconds. It made faultless, consistent coffee, although its milk pods tasted overly sweet.

Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Eclipse automatic pod coffee machine by Nescafe Dolce Gusto, £69.99, John Lewis 

3. Tassimo Vivy 2 coffee machine by Bosch – best for beginners on a budget

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Whatever your coffee of choice is, investing in a Tassimo machine will keep you supplied with all your favourite blends. As one of the smaller coffee machines in the range, the Vivy 2 is everything that’s great about the T-Disc system in a simple to use package. Each coffee capsule is barcoded so the machine knows how much water to dispense and all you need to do is push a button. There’s descaling and water tank refill alerts, too.

It’s also an eco-friendly design, with fast heat-up at the start, reverting to a standby mode after each drink. Where it differs from other coffee machines is its lower 3.3 bar pressure. How the coffee tastes will have more to do with the selected disc rather than the brewing process. In tests, the espresso was rich but with only a hint of crema, while the hot chocolate was indulgent and frothy.

Once or twice it had trouble reading the barcodes. However, this is a good coffee machine to go for if your household has a higher proportion of non-coffee drinkers who don’t mind regular refilling of its smaller-than-average 700ml tank.

Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Tassimo Vivy 2 coffee machine by Bosch, £55, Amazon

4. Fantasia Plus coffee machine by Lavazza A Modo Mio – best for convenience

If you’re keen to curtail how much you spend at cafés, the Fantasia Plus is the pod coffee machine for you. Dispensing shots that could easily be freshly ground, it’ll also create foamed milk with its Plug and Play steaming frother. Helpfully, the frother is dishwasher-safe. Its touch controls correspond to 36 different settings of hot and cold drinks. This means you can make everything from a lungo to a latte without skipping a beat.

A large 1.2-litre water tank means this coffee machine’s great at pleasing a crowd, while a descale light and option to set the water hardness means it’s easy to keep in tip-top condition. One thing to be aware of is that this is a machine for the dedicated coffee drinker. There are around 15 varieties of A Modo Mio coffee capsule but no other pods.

However, in tests, it produced some of the most authentic coffee drinks. Think espresso with a thick aromatic crema and cappuccino that balanced depth of flavour with warm foamed milk. Play some soft jazz in the background, and you’re not far off creating the café experience with the Fantasia Plus pod coffee machine.

Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Fantasia Plus coffee machine by Lavazza A Modo Mio, £132, Amazon

5. Nespresso Expert&Milk by Magimix – best for gadget lovers

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Putting the connectivity into coffee, the Expert&Milk pod coffee machine is sleek in both looks and the way it operates. Not only can you push a button to produce a smooth shot of espresso, aromatic lungo or steaming Americano. You can actually do so from a Bluetooth Smart app. This means that as long as you’ve put in a capsule beforehand, you can brew your coffee from the comfort of your own bed. What better way to wake then to the smell of fresh coffee?

Beyond its app, it has everything you’d expect from a stylish Nespresso coffee machine. That includes innovative flat design that allows it to sit flush against a wall, and 19 bar pump pressure. With slightly more than a litre water tank, it even has an integral Aeroccino for frothing milk, meaning you’ll only need one plug socket.

A few other features justify the premium price tag of this pod coffee machine, too. These include a two-part used capsule holder, magnetic cup platform, choice of three temperature settings (for extra hot espresso) and automatic capsule ejection. In tests, both the coffee and the warm, frothy milk were consistently smooth. However, pairing it with an Android phone resulted in multiple failed attempts.

Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Nespresso Expert&Milk by Magimix, £274, Amazon

6. Dualit Espress-Auto Coffee and Tea Machine – best for commitment-phobes

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Are you the sort of person who likes the idea of a pod coffee machine but you can’t fix yourself to one system? Those clever folk at Dualit have the answer for you. The Espress-Auto is a multi-brew 19 bar pump pressure pod coffee machine. This means that not only will it make coffee from Nespresso capsules and ESE pods, you can also pop in alternatives. This includes tea capsules, its own NX capsules or even ground coffee, giving you freedom those with a single-pod system don’t benefit from.

There’s two buttons for single or double espresso and one for tea (which raises the temperature of the water and extracts for longer). This can be altered for warmer or cooler, too. An easy to clean steam wand is on hand for frothing milk and the water tank is a generous 1.5 litres. There’s even a handy ‘drip tray full’ indicator to let you know when to empty the coffee machine dregs.

Its auto-off is a rather long 30 minutes, however, so it’s probably best to remember to switch the coffee machine off after use. During testing, using the ground coffee was the most tricky and messy part. However, aside from that, all the coffee brewed was velvety smooth and of a consistently high quality.

Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Dualit Espress-Auto Coffee and Tea Machine, £182, Amazon

7. Artisan Nespresso coffee machine by KitchenAid – best for retro style

 



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Ticking the box for two covetable brands in one, this stylish pod coffee machine demands your attention. Rather than plastic, its body is glossy die-cast metal. Rather than light and compact, it’s a weighty 8.9kg – because, well, why would you ever want to store such a glorious machine in a cupboard? Find space for it on your worktop and you’ll discover that this coffee machine is every inch a modern marvel, brewing six pre-programmed cup sizes.

It operates its capsule holder by way of a chrome lever that closes with a satisfying thud. The Artisan also learns what your favourite coffee is by switching on at the setting selected most over the last 11 uses. As one of the most expensive pod coffee machines on the market, it’s more of an investment than most.

You’ll need to find a home and a socket for its separate Aeroccino if you like milky drinks – the Artisan is solely a coffee maker. However, it does make coffee very well, thanks to a 1.4-litre water tank, 19 bar pump pressure and drop-down chrome cup platform. In tests, its ristretto was as sweet and flavourful as its lungo. Both came with an intoxicating crema. Beautifully designed and as robust as they come, this is a pod coffee machine built to last.

Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buy now: Artisan Nespresso coffee machine by KitchenAid, £389, Amazon

What are the main features of a pod coffee machine?

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Image credit: Dualit

1. Tank size

Every pod machine will have a refillable water tank so check its size before you buy. Anything less than a litre will require more frequent topping up, especially if you prefer long drinks. Some can be filled in-situ (for moments when you realise the water’s about to run out). Others will need to removed – if you have a small kitchen sink or short tap, check that you can fit the tank below the spout easily.

2. Bar pressure

This is how much force the machine uses to pump the water through the pod. Look for a minimum of 15 for a pro-style crema, though machines designed to handle a wide range of drinks can be lower.

3. Milk frothing

There are two ways a pod coffee machines can make frothy cappuccinos, lattes and flat whites. The first is by using dried or UHT milk pods – these are great if you don’t have access to a fridge but may not be to everyone’s taste. The other is by a separate or conjoined milk frother, such as the Aeroccino that often accompanies Nespresso machines.

4. Drink size

Great for those who like an espresso in the morning, but a latte at weekends, some machines have a choice of different-sized beverages. Often there is the ability to adjust the amount of water dispensed to suit your taste. You may also be able to save your favourite settings to create easily reproduced personalised drinks. The latest crop of coffee machines can even be controlled by an app, so you can set them to brew the moment you step out of the shower.

5. Spout size

Check there’s enough room for your favourite cup beneath the spout. Some pod coffee machines have narrow platforms that won’t accommodate big mugs. Espresso fans should look for spouts that drop down or adjustable cup platforms that raise smaller cups towards the spout. This not only helps prevent splashes on the worktop, but makes for a thicker crema on your espresso.

What drinks can your pod coffee machine make?

Most of the mainstream pod coffee machines can make basic milky drinks, but it’s common to find those that can produce anything from a chai latte to a caramel macchiato. Some coffee machines can also make cold drinks, such as chilled tea or coffee. There’s the option of branded drinks with the Tassimo T-Disc coffee system.

Machines that use ESE pods (which resemble a round teabag) will only brew coffee or tea, while other systems favour a variety of single-origin coffee types rather than a range of drinks.

What other key questions do I need to ask?

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Image credit: Darren Chung

1. Can you recycle the coffee machine pods?

Check if your coffee pods can be recycled to help cut down on waste. For example, Nespresso coffee pods are made of infinitely recyclable aluminium.

2. How about descaling your pod coffee machine?

If you live in a hard water area, make sure your coffee machine has descaling alerts. Regular descaling is essential to keep your pod machine running smoothly.

3. Do pod coffee machines use a lot of energy?

Your pod coffee machine’s thermoblock (the part that heats the water) can be an energy guzzler. Choose a model that will switch itself off after a few minutes of non-use. This may be referred to as an eco mode.

4. How easy are pod coffee machines to clean?

A clean coffee machine is a happy one, so buy one that’s easily maintained by a rinse cycle and with removable parts for cleaning, such as the drip tray. This will be especially relevant if your coffee machine uses milk pods, which can smell if not regularly cleaned away.

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