11 best coffee pod machines for making quick and delicious coffee in 2021
Richly flavoured, crema-topped coffee in under 30 seconds without the faff of loose grinds. Interested? Us too.
Coffee pod machines are the ultimate shortcut to achieving quick, convenient coffees. All pod machines have a similar basic function: the user loads in a coffee pod, presses a button, and the machine then pumps hot water from an in-built reservoir, through the pod, and into a cup as coffee.
The best machines will brew intensely aromatic espresso in under 30 seconds, from capsules or pods containing the perfect quantity of pre-ground and dosed coffee for a single shot.
The great merit to these is that the 'messy bits' of coffee making are taken off your hands – namely the grinding, dosing and tamping of grounds. This in turn makes the whole process from start to finish quicker and removes the need for these gadgets to have sophisticated tech, like the burr grinders of bean-to-cup coffee machines, or espresso machine accessories like portafilters that must be cleaned free of coffee oils after every use.
Of course, these machines come with the heavy caveat of environmental impact. There are many types of coffee pods sold in UK shops and online, including, but not limited to, Nespresso, Dolce Gusto, T-Discs (Tassimo), Iperespresso (Illy), Lavazza, and Dualit NX ESE (easy serve espresso) pods. Whereas other coffee-making options simply produce used grinds as waste, the casings of coffee pods often contain both plastic and aluminium; recyclable alone but an environmental nightmare when mixed together.
Figures recently compiled by Halo Coffee revealed that for every 39,000 capsules produced around the world every minute, 29,000 end up in landfill. ESE (easy serve espresso) pods are a compostable alternative, consisting of dosed and tampered ground coffee sealed between filter paper. Many third-party brands are working to make compostable alternatives more widely available and for a cheaper rate.
Our reviews experts tested over 20 coffee pod machines with compatible eco pods as similar in variety and roast strength as possible, to bring you this list of the best currently available. We regularly update this guide with models that impress with their performance. Find out more about how we test products.
We test appliances every year to bring you impartial advice on the best products to spend your hard-earned cash on. For the full roster of our tried-and-tested coffee recommendations, visit our guides to the best espresso machines, the best coffee pod machines and the best bean-to-cup coffee machines. For more, visit our reviews section and find over 400 practical buyer's guides and product reviews offering unbiased advice on what equipment is worth investing in. For more on coffee, we've reviewed coffee grinders and reusable coffee cups, too.
Jump to section:
- How to choose the best coffee pod machines
- Best coffee pod machines at a glance
- Best coffee pod machines to buy in 2021
- How we tested coffee pod machines
How to choose the best coffee pod machine
Features to look out for:
- Dual coffee settings: Although coffee pods tend to be a single shot (Nespresso's dome pods being the big exception here), coffee pod machines should give you the option to pull a longer shot called a Lungo.
- Easily removable pod bin: for emptying used pods and easily cleaning the container.
- Programmable shots: For setting your machine to pull a certain amount of water through each pod.
- Dual-height drip trays: To accommodate both espresso cups and standard cups or mugs without letting espresso splash out.
- Automatic sleep setting: To save power between espressos.
The best coffee pod machines at a glance
- Best for pod versatility: Nespresso Vertuo Next, £149
- Best eco-buy: illy ESE coffee pod machine, £115
- Best affordable coffee pod machine: Lavazza Jolie, £79
- Best for retro styling: Lavazza A Modo Mio SMEG, £199.99
- Best all-round coffee pod machine: Lavazza A Modo Mio Deséa coffee machine, £199
- Best coffee pod machine for flavour: illy Iperespresso X7.1 coffee maker, £156
- Best cheap coffee pod machine: Bosch Tassimo Vivy 2 TAS 140X, £99.99
- Best versatile coffee pod machine: Lakeland 2-in-1 pod machine, £99.99
- Best coffee pod machine for busy households: Russell Hobbs 22630 Brew and Go, £37.99
- Best value coffee pod machine: IKHOS Potts capsule coffee machine, £84.95
- Best dual-purpose coffee pod machine: Dualit Espress-auto 4-in-1 coffee and tea maker, £199.99
The best coffee pod machines to buy in 2021
Nespresso Vertuo Next coffee pod machine
Best machine for pod versatility
- Reliable crema every time, no matter the drink size.
- Made from 54% recycled plastic
- Versatile range of Nespresso pods available
- Tad loud
- Takes Nespresso pods only
Star rating: 4.5/5
This coffee pod has a single button, but can make five different drinks. How? Because each has a bespoke barcode on the underside that the machine scans to know which drink to brew. Pop a pod into this machine, manually adjust the drip tray to accommodate your chosen cup and the machine whirrs into life, brewing espresso, double espresso, gran lungo, mug, and alto drinks, each with a thick layer of silky froth. It's the right hazelnut colour for a crema and although a tad foamy, is a reliable addition for crema lovers.
illy ESE coffee pod machine
- Available from illy (£115)
- Low wattage
- Flip-down espresso cup holder
- Easy serve espresso pods (ESE) compatible
- The lungo coffee isn't as long as we'd have liked
- The illy ESE pods were individually wrapped in protective sleeves
Star rating: 4/5
illycaffè is B-Corp Certified, which is one way in which a brand can show it's committed to reducing its negative impact on the environment, its workforce and chain of production. As part of its energy-saving range, this 800W appliance is compatible with ESE pods (easy serving espresso), with pre-dosed and tampered ground coffee compressed between filter paper. Being biodegradable, ESE pods are an excellent lower-impact alternative to even recyclable coffee pods. This is a slimline machine featuring a particularly satisfying flip-down espresso cup holder and produced richly dark espresso full of body and topped with crema.
Available from illy (£115)
Lavazza Jolie coffee pod machine - Star Buy
Best affordable coffee pod machine
- Small footprint and easy to store
- Does the basics well
- Manual stop for single espresso
Star rating: 5/5
For anyone who likes espresso or the slightly longer drink, the Lavazza is an affordable option that does the basics really well. Its footprint is only 3cm longer than your average 30cm ruler and at 12cm wide, is one of the smallest coffee pod machines on the market. The statement handle locks in the Lavazza pods and this is a versatile shape, as many independent roasteries sell compatible alternative roasts.
Lavazza A Modo Mio SMEG coffee pod machine
Best coffee pod machine for retro styling
- Removable dishwasher-safe components
- Adjustable cup holder
- 900ml water tank
Star rating: 3.5/5
For fans of SMEG's 1950s styling, this is the perfect statement coffee pod machine. It bares the iconic curves and logo across its front, along with that of Italian brand, Lavazza. The result of their collaboration brews excellent espresso, packed with body and flavour. Espresso or lungo drinks are on offer, brewed in 30 seconds. The only drawbacks of this machine are its chunky footprint on the countertop and price. Performance-wise, you can match it with a much more affordable machine.
Lavazza A Modo Mio Deséa coffee machine
Best all-round coffee pod machine
- Efficient milk frothing
- Eco caps can't be composted at home
Star rating: 5/5
The Lavazza Deséa is about as close to perfect as a pod coffee machine can be: feature-rich, user-friendly, and capable of making beautiful coffee. There are effectively two sides to its functionality: making coffee, and foaming milk. These features are enabled elegantly through a symmetrical control interface, with coffee controls to the left and milk controls to the right. Read our full Lavazza A Modo Mio Deséa coffee pod machine review.
Illy Iperespresso X7.1 coffee maker
Best coffee pod machine for flavour
- Excellent coffee
- Attractive materials
- Nifty steam wand
- A little wide in footprint
- Pods can't be recycled in the UK
- Interface could be clearer
Star rating: 4.5/5
The beautiful Illy X7.1 Iperespresso pumps out some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted from a coffee pod machine. It’s made with tough, attractive materials, and features a nifty steam wand for making lattes and cappuccinos. This isn’t the easiest pod coffee machine to master, but it’s also one of the best. If and when Illy rolls out pod recycling in the UK, as it has done abroad, this could become one of the best machines all round. Read our full Illy Iperespresso X7.1 coffee pod machine review.
Bosch Tassimo Vivy 2 TAS 140x
Best cheap coffee pod machine
- Easy to store
- Shallow footprint
- Recyclable packaging
- Easily marked with fingerprints
- Only compatible with Tassimo Pods
Star rating: 4/5
This is a clever beast. Using an in-built barcode reader, it scans compatible pods and adjusts its settings to suit each drink. This makes for a supremely easy coffee-making process, with next-to-no-chance of the drink coming out horribly wrong. On a more negative note, this does remove the small degree of personal input from the user which other machines still allow. Nonetheless, if ease-of-use is what you’re after, you can’t do better than the Vivy 2. Read our full Bosch Tassimo Vivy 2 TAS 140x coffee pod machine review.
Lakeland 2-in-1 pod coffee machine
Best versatile coffee pod machine
- Compatible with two pod systems
- Small footprint
- No milk frother
- Dull styling
Star rating: 4/5
Want the freedom to choose between Nespresso and Dolce Gusto pods? Lakeland’s 2-in-1 machine can make coffee from both systems, by way of two removable adaptors which can be switched easily between uses. This isn’t the flashiest option, nor the most feature-rich, but it does the basics effectively. Read our full Lakeland 2-in-1 pod coffee machine review.
Russell Hobbs 22630 Brew and Go
Best coffee pod machine for busy households
- For making tea and coffee
- ESE coffee bags are compostable
- Max fill indicator tricky to see
Star rating: 3.5/5
The Brew and Go is not strictly a coffee pod machine; rather, it uses ESE coffee pods and coffee bags, which both work like tea bags. They provide a similar experience to regular coffee pods: you fill the machine’s reservoir with water, add a bag, press a button, get a coffee. The drink produced is more akin to a filter coffee, though. As an added eco bonus, the bags can be composted at home. Read our full Russell Hobbs 22630 Brew and Go review.
IKOHS Potts capsule coffee machine
- Available from IKOHS (£89.95)
Best value coffee pod machine
- Great value for money
- Nice design
- Compatible with ground coffee in addition to Nespresso and Dulce Gusto pods
- No milk frother
Star rating: 4/5
This neat, versatile machine from chic Spanish brand IKOHS is up there with our favourites. It’s one of the best value machines we encountered, with good performance, attractive design, and the capability to make coffee from a huge array of pods. Read our full IKOHS Potts coffee pod machine review.
Dualit Espress-auto coffee and tea machine
Best dual-purpose coffee pod machine
Star rating: 4/5
Attractively designed, stoutly made and brilliant at making both coffee and tea, this is one of the best coffee pod machines money can buy. That’s just as well – it isn’t cheap. This machine makes a great hot drink: well-heated but never burnt. It’s highly versatile, with the capability, via its brew head and adaptors, to make drinks using various capsules, pods and even ground coffee. Read our full Dualit Espresso-auto 4-in-1 coffee and tea maker review.
How we tested coffee pod machines
The coffee pod machines in this guide were the best performing from the test, using as similar a roast strength and bean variety as possible across compatible eco pods. Our reviews experts marked against the following core and contributing criteria.
- Coffee quality
We looked for a dark espresso, richly flavoured with a strong aroma and hazelnut coloured layer of crema on the top.
- Quality of materials
These machines need to withstand daily use, so those with flimsy, cheap-feel or rickety components were drastically marked down.
- Value for money
Every criteria plays into this. The performance, coffee quality and feel of materials all had to be worth the quantity you fork out for investment.
- Assembly and packaging
This included set-up time and clarity of instructions. Those with an abundance of unnecessary single-use plastic packaging were marked down.
- Ease of use
Coffee pod machines are all about mess-free convenience so every stage of use, from filling the tank to selecting your coffee and emptying the pod bin had to be easy.
The following criteria also played into our decision-making.
● Extra functions e.g. milk frother, temperature control
● Kitchen footprint
● Ease of cleaning
● Ease of storage
● Eco-friendly credentials
We expect many pod coffee machine users will be seeking convenience above all other factors. Such buyers should look out for the functionality and ease-of-cleaning ratings in our individual pod coffee machine reviews.
Others may be looking for a little more finesse from their pod coffee machine, in which case we suggest looking out for the ‘results’ rating for each machine.
This type of buyer may also benefit from choosing a machine with a milk frother or steam wand, as having a good feature for foaming milk is essential to recreating drinks like lattes or cappuccinos.
Coffee recipes and tips
More gadget reviews
Best coffee machines
Best espresso machines
Best bean to cup coffee machines
Best coffee grinders
Best coffee gadgets
Best bullet blenders
Best bread makers
Best food processors
Visit our reviews section
If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What coffee machine would you recommend? Leave a comment below...