For pure convenience, it’s hard to beat a coffee pod machine. Although you are perhaps sacrificing a lot of the control in terms of the coffee output, you certainly gain on the speed and the ease of clean up. And taste-wise, although very little beats a proper cup made with an espresso machine or other method utilising fresh ground beans, pod machines typically produce a very decent cup of coffee and is certainly a step up from most instant coffees. If you want more information on what a coffee pod machine is exactly and how they work, you can find this at the bottom of the page, but otherwise lets jump right into the reviews of the machines.
The best coffee pod machines for 2020 – quick summary
To conduct this review, we’ve hand-selected the best-reviewed pod machines out there – utilising Amazon reviews, other 3rd party review lists and coffee pod comparisons. We then tried each of them making detailed notes along the way about what we liked and what we didn’t like. You can see the results in our quick summary table here – with any one of these making for a great purchase, but read on beneath for the full reviews and to see which machine floats your boat.
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|Dolce Gusto Jovia
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Last update – 8th January 2020
Compact, good-looking machine that costs in the region of just £60 and produces great tasting coffee every time. Minor niggle with the waste capsule drawer means it needs emptying regularly, but this is a minor issue in an otherwise superb machine. Great all round choice.
Lavazza is a well-respected brand within the coffee industry and for good reason – quite simply they make great coffee. This machine uses Lavazza pods which come in a variety of different flavours (you can take a look at a selection of the variety here) and are available at most major supermarkets for around 27 pence per capsule. You can also buy in bulk online of course, but we found that the savings were pretty modest (a couple of pence per pod).
The machine itself is really nice and compact at just 12cm wide and the silver finish looked great on our kitchen worktop. The Jolie is very quiet in operation and the 0.6 litre water reservoir is fairly small, but big enough to make around 6 cups before it needs to be refilled. It’s easy to keep clean too as the drip tray, and used pod drawers will happily go in the top of a dishwasher.
Used capsules are deposited into a waste drawer and this is the source of our only real criticism of the Jolie – as 5 pods will fill it up, to the point that you may not actually be able to get it open to empty it without some brute force, so be sure to empty regularly. But if you can live with this minor annoyance then at less than £60 this is a fine machine and worthy of your money.
Completely manual operation may be a bit of an annoyance for some, but Dolce Gusto pods come in a great range of flavours and produce great tasting coffees. At under £50 the Jovia is a bargain.
Nescafe Dolce Gusto pods have been around for a while now and boast 40 different flavours and coffee types. At 28 pence per pod they are slightly more expensive than the Lavazza pods shown above. Also, some drinks require 2 pods (one for the milky part of the drink and one for the coffee part) but they are still the same price per pod. This of course means that if you want to make an Americano for instance (which uses one pod) then your drink will cost 28 pence, but if you wanted to make a Cappuccino (two pods) then your drink will cost 56 pence. The coffee is very good however so shouldn’t be a deterrent, but if you exclusively drink Cappuccinos then this will probably need to be factored in.
At less than 50 quid the Jovia is one of the cheapest pod machines around and is really good value for the money. Operation is manual, meaning that you need to start and stop the hot water yourself once the right amount has been dispensed, but the instructions are clear and once you have made a couple of coffees it’s a cinch and actually gives you a small sense of being an artisan barista. The machine heats water really quickly and is ready to go in seconds. The water reservoir is a decent size at 0.8L so you won’t be constantly refilling between drinks and this model is also available in white and red. For the money, a great pod machine.
Huge range of pods mean you can make drinks from brands such as Costa and Carte Noir, and also hot chocolates from Cadburys and Oreo. Operation is super simple as you just need to scan a barcode on your pod of choice. Let down a little by its bulky size and the coffee produced isn’t as good as some others, but a great choice if you want to make a variety of different drinks.
This Tassimo is a small step up in price at around the £110 mark and for the extra money you get some convenient features including an extra large 1.4 litre tank and energy efficient water heating and auto-off. The best feature though in our opinion is the intelligent brewing system. You simply scan a barcode on the selected drink pod and the machine will then automatically take care of dispensing it correctly. It really couldn’t be simpler.
Another plus for the Tassimo is the huge range of pods available including those from brands such as Costa and Carte Noir and it can even make hot chocolate via pods from Cadburys and Oreos. Pods are widely available and cost in the region of 28 pence. It can also make tea which is great if a little pointless.
As far as downsides go, the coffee produced isn’t as good as some of the other pods trialled in our opinion. Also, at 27cm wide it’s pretty bulky, and while it looks nice enough aesthetically it could impinge on countertop space. But if you want a big choice of drinks and hot chocolates then this Tassimo could be the perfect pod machine for you.
Stupid name – great coffee. The Fantasia is the second Lavazza machine to make this list and costs around £150. As already discussed above, the pods are around 27 pence each and come in 16 different flavours, with all of the ones we tried tasting really good. So what do you get for £150? Well a couple of things stand out here. The first is ease of use. Just pop a capsule in, pierce it by pulling down the handle, then press a button and the machine sets off to work. But the real bonus for us was the milk frother. For an excellent Cappuccino, you can fill the separate milk reservoir with milk, choose from three foam consistencies and you get an authentic great tasting foam to pour on top of your beverage.
On the negative side, it’s a bit bulky and unattractive, maybe even verging on ugly. But hey, this is meant to be functional, not a piece of art right? And if cappuccinos and other frothy drinks are your thing, you’d be hard pushed to find a better pod-based alternative for the money.
And so we come to the Rolls Royce of coffee-pod machines. Let’s get the price out of the way first – it’s approximately £300. But before your jaw drops all the way to the floor let’s look at what that buys you. There is a lot of shiny metal on show here and everything about the unit looks and feels premium. There is an LED display on the top of the unit which makes choosing a coffee beautifully simple. There are just two buttons – a small scroll wheel to page through the various options and a start button. And that’s it. The machine whizzes into life and starts creating your brew. The same two buttons can also be used to tweak your milk temperature and frothiness which is produced by the excellent frothing wand.
Nespresso is the most popular pod brand on the market and so capsules are widely available in 26 different flavours – although at 31 pence per pod they are also some of the most expensive around. This machine is blessed with espresso options so the coffee aficionado will be right at home here. There is only one real drawback which is the price, but this is definitely the coffee pod machine James Bond would own, and if you can afford it it’s a great investment.
What is a coffee pod machine, how do they work and why should I buy one?
Quite simply, it is a coffee machine that uses pre-purchased coffee pods like this:
These pods or capsules are placed into a drawer or capsule holder in the machine. The machine then heats cold water from a refillable reservoir…
…passes this hot water through the pod – and voila! Out pops your coffee. All you need to do is pop the pod in and keep the reservoir topped up.
A variety of different pods can be purchased to produce a wide range of different drinks quickly and simply – often with just the touch of a single button on automatic models. And this is one of the big advantages of a pod machine – you can quickly make a whole heap of different drinks without any barista knowledge whatsoever. For example here is a list of all of the Dolce Gusto pods available at the time of writing:
- Café au lait decaffeinated
- Café au lait intenso
- Café au lait magnum pack
- Café au lait
- Cappuccino ice
- Caramel latte macchiato
- Chai tea latte
- Chococino caramel
- Citrus honey black tea
- Espresso caramel
- Espresso decaf
- Espresso intenso
- Espresso macchiato (cortado)
- Espresso macchiato decaf
- Essenza di moka
- Grande intenso
- Grande magnum pack
- Grande mild
- Latte macchiato unsweetened
- Latte macchiato
- Lungo decaf
- Lungo intenso
- Lungo magnum pack
- Magnum cappuccino
- Marrakesh style tea
- Nestea lemon
- Nestea peach
- Preludio intenso
- Ristretto ardenza
- Skinny cappuccino
- Skinny latte macchiato
- Tea latte
- Vanilla latte macchiato
Phew! As you can see – there are a lot! Learning how to make all of those, and then actually making them to a standard where they tasted good would take you a long time.
Another major benefit of pod machines is consistency. Every time you make one of these drinks it’s going to be exactly the same. There really is very little room for error. Add to that the fact that there is little to no mess to clean up and you can start to see why they are so popular.
As mentioned at the head of this article, it would be rare for a pod coffee to match up to an espresso-based coffee made from freshly ground beans, but for pure convenience and choice – they take some beating.