Do you need a coffee to function in the morning? Spend way too much of your salary in Starbucks and Costa? Then you need a pod coffee machine in your life. These easy-to-use machines are simple to set up, promise a consistently good cup of coffee and are easy to use compared to bean-to-cup coffee grinders. But with so many machines on the market, how do you choose? As part of the Real Homes Show, our online TV show, we've put leading Nescafe, Illy, Lavazza and KitchenAid machines – priced £50 to £300 – to the test, to reveal which is right for you.
For the best prices on all of these machines, check out our best coffee machines for 2020 buyers' guide.
- Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS (above far left), RRP £48.26 – one of the cheapest pod coffee machines on the market
- Illy Y3.2 Iperespresso (above second from left), RRP £110 – a slimline coffee machine that only serves high-quality espressos or Americanos
- Lavazza Desea(above third from left), RRP £199 – a mid-range coffee machine with an integrated milk frother for making lattes and cappuccinos
- KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso (right), RRP £309 – a high-end pod coffee machine offering a choice of coffee sizes
We wanted to know how how much each pod coffee machine cost to run, whether the pods can be recycled, how many used pods the machine can store, how many cups of coffee you can make on each tank and, of course, how good the coffee tastes.
1. Cost to run
Once you've shelled out for the coffee machine itself, you'll need a regular supply of compatible coffee pods. These are available in all supermarkets, but it's cheaper to bulk buy from the manufacturer. Here's the average price per pod for each of the machines we tested, plus an approx cost to run each month, based on drinking 60 cups of coffee, or two per day:
|Coffee machine||Approx cost per pod from manufacturer||Approx monthly run cost|
|Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS||22p||£13.20|
|Illy Iperespresso Y3.2||38p||£22.80|
|KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso||36p||£21.60|
Winner = If cost is your biggest concern, the Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS is the cheapest per pod.
2. Eco credentials
Until recently, all of those used coffee pods had to go straight to landfill, but manufacturers have, thankfully, cottoned on to our need to be more eco friendly. Most brands now have recycling schemes and Lavazza has even introduced compostable pods. You can also buy make-your-own reusable coffee pod sets from Amazon, but these require a lot more effort than the off-the-shelf pods.
|Coffee machine||Compatible pods||Eco credentials|
|Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS||Nescafe Dolce Gusto pods||Recycling scheme – send off for a bag and then return your used pods to the manufacturer|
|Illy Iperespresso Y3.2||Illy iperEspresso Capsules||None at present|
|Lavazza Desea||Lavazza A Modo Mio||Compostable pods - drop off at local recycling point or pop in your council food waste bin|
|KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso||Nespresso||Recycling scheme – send off for a bag and then return your used pods to the manufacturer|
Winner = It's a tie between Nescafe, Lavazza and Nespresso, the three brands that are taking steps to offer eco-friendly pod recycling.
3. Used pod storage
Every time you make a cup of coffee, you'll have a used pod (or two if you're making certain Nescafe drinks that combine a coffee pod with a powdered milk pod) to dispose of. The cheapest Nescafe machine is strictly one-pod-in, one-pod-out, but the others can all store used pods so you can clear them out less frequently. Here's how many each machine stores:
|Coffee machine||Number of used pods that can be stored|
|Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS||0|
|Illy Iperespresso Y3.2||8|
|KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso||14|
Winner = With storage for 14 empty pods, the KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso machine is the best for those who want to minimise clear outs.
4. Number of cups per tank
The size of water tank increases with the cost of the machine. It means the cheapest Nescafe machine will only make a couple of Americanos per tank, whereas the pricier KitchenAid machine can make up to five on a single tank.
|Coffee machine||Number of Americanos per tank of water|
|Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS||2|
|Illy Iperespresso Y3.2||2|
|KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso||5|
The winner = If you like entertaining or have a big family, then the KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso, which makes five coffees per tank, is the clear winner.
5. How good is the coffee?
Let's be honest, it doesn't matter how swanky your coffee machine looks, what really matters is the coffee itself. Of the machines we tested, only the Lavzza Desea comes with a fresh milk frother to make fresh lattes and cappuccinos. You can buy lattee pods with powdered milk for the Nescafe machine, but the KitchenAid
|Coffee machine||Drinks available||Fresh milk frother?||Taste test|
|Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS||Huge range of pods, including Starbucks coffee||No||Full bodied with a nice crema|
|Illy Iperespresso Y3.2||Limited to espresso and Americano pods||No||A rich, smooth taste – our favourite|
|Lavazza Desea||Four coffee sizes and five milk-based recipes||Yes||Smooth and slightly sweeter|
|KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso||Six sizes, from ristretto to lungo||No, but you can buy one for an extra £50||Smooth and slightly sweeter|
Which should you choose?
- With its cheap price, small footprint and huge range of compatible pods, the Krups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo XS is a great choice for a small family
- If you're a coffee connoisseur, the Illy Y3.2 Iperespresso machine came out top in our taste test. It's narrow footprint means it doesn take up much room
- If you love milky coffees, then the Lavazza Desea is the best-value machine with an integrated milk frother.
- For the design conscious, the KitchenAid Artisan Nespresso looks great and feels like a quality machine. It's a big machine, though, so the best choice for bigger households.