Looking for a great espresso maker that uses pods? Some of the best espresso machines let you use either pods or ground espresso depending on whatever you want to use at any given time.
For the most part super-automatic espresso machines make the use of pods unnecessary as they grind the beans, and dose the grind without human assistance. At a cost though – they are quite pricey.
Most of the pod or capsule based espresso machines still run in the hundreds but they tend to be well cheaper than popular bean-to-espresso all-in-one units like the Delonghi Magnifica which are well above the budgets of most families.
If your budget doesn’t allow for the extravagant purchase of an expensive automatic machine then pod espresso makers are a great affordable alternative. They take all the “skill” of making espresso out of the equation but at a fraction of the price.
The Main Types of Capsule-Based Espresso Machines
Most capsule espresso systems fall into one of just a few categories or brands. There are the many Nespresso based systems to choose from which are industry leaders right now but alternatives include a number of quality machines made by Keurig, Nescafe, & Tassimo.
Over the years Tassimo and Nescafe machines have become nearly extinct in the market with Nespresso capsule systems and Keurig K-Cafe systems taking a near monopoly on the market. Customers have chosen the winners I believe.
If you have used a Tassimo or Nescafe machine in the past you can still buy replacement machines and capsules though.
Going forward however it’s hard to actually recommend any of those machines or systems when the Nespresso machines and the affordable K-Cafe from Keurig are so much better and the coffee pods are so much easier to find.
Nespresso has become the enormous elephant in the room for touch-button espresso.
You have bestselling entry level machines like the Essenza Mini which do wonderful for the price, mid-range Pixies are customer favorites and built to last while higher end models like the Lattissima Pro or the Creatista Plus bridge the gap between capsule systems and high end super automatic options like the aforementioned Magnifica.
Of all the Nespresso machines on the market my favorite by far though is the Nespresso Expert because it is a really fancy Pixie that can also make true Americano’s rather than just extra-long lungo shots. In fact it’s a lot like the new Keurig K-Cafe machines except it makes better espresso while the K-Cafe is better at making coffee and has adapted to make a decent shot as an “up-sell”.
Having said that I don’t want to imply that the Keurig K-Cafe, K-Cafe SE, or the stripped down K-Latte models are not good. I believe they are but they are better basically coffee makers that brew pod-coffee first. In fact they don’t even have espresso capsules at all. To make a latter for instance you brew a short coffee (a shot) using a regular K-cup and then it is transformed into your mixed espresso like drink with steamed milk.
If you know anything about the differences between coffee and espresso you’ll know that espresso is brewed under high pressure with fine ground coffee. The grounds inside regular K-cups are of a medium grind however and the machines don’t achieve nearly the same pressure levels to achieve true espresso. They don’t add any pressure to the brew actually, just a 2-ounce shot of strongly brewed coffee.
Related: See my comparison of the Keurig K-Duo, K-Duo Essentials, & K-Duo Plus here.
More Benefits to Capsule Espresso Machines
With a pod or capsule espresso machine you don’t have to have your own high end coffee grinder. You don’t have to have your own tamper. You don’t have to buy beans roasted within the past two days! You don’t have to practice pulling thousands of shots just hoping the whole time that you’ll get super good at making espresso.
With a pod machine you just insert the coffee pod and hit the brew button. That’s it.
Sure the coffee is pre-ground and packaged so it may not be as fresh as what you’d get from a traditional espresso machine but for convenience you can beat it. Most people can’t really tell the difference anyway… coffee snobs aside.
What’s the cost? Simple.
It’s slightly less good espresso and a new bill – you have to continually buy new pods all the time rather than cheaper roasted coffee beans. Basically, the cost of your daily cup goes up while your entry level investment in equipment goes down. For the select few this is not worth it but I would argue that it is worth it for the vast majority of coffee drinkers nationwide.
Generally speaking people who are looking for espresso machines that use pods rather than conventional means are novices and they probably buy specialty coffee drinks at Starbucks a lot. In my opinion any espresso made from a single serve machine at home will rival Starbucks any day of the week and you’ll save a tone of money over the long run anyhow.
These are the Best “Pod” Espresso Machines Sold Today
Because I’ve been very interested in espresso this past year I’ve started exploring the home espresso machine market and have come across a few really excellent options that use pods.
Below I’ve listed (in my opinion) the best pod-supported espresso makers for sale today.
Whether you’re looking for something budget oriented or a bit more expensive one of machines on this page should be exactly what you’re looking for.
My Favorite Pod Espresso Makers
You can also see this page for more options in the automatic espresso category.
What’s the Difference Between Pod Espresso and the Real Thing?
Now that we have that list out of the way the most natural question (and most common question) I get is what is the difference between the two and is the difference worth it?
On the whole a pod based espresso maker will make a shot similar to some of the lower end or entry level espresso machines but it will pale in comparison to something made by an artisan on a top of the line commercial piece of equipment.
The funny thing is though that even the most inexpensive espresso makers – the steam pump machines that generally cost something in line with a moka pot or a french press – can make extraordinary espresso. The catch is that the barista has to have extreme skill to do so.
The vast majority of consumers will not have the skill to master a pump espresso maker nor the funds to invest in a top of the line super automatic model.
The only thing similar in quality and price will come from a moka pot made by Bialetti or it’s competitors. Moka is espresso like coffee brewed under low pressure – the main difference however is that you must babysit a moka pot. If you walk away you can burn your coffee easily.
Around here I firmly believe that owning a pod espresso machine is best for the majority of consumers despite the fact that they’ll have to buy pods all the time going forward. Let’s face it – the majority of people just want quick coffee, they don’t strive to win awards in the quality of coffee they make.
You gotta buy coffee anyway don’t you? You might as well buy Nespresso pods instead!