While purists may turn their noses up at them, pod (or capsule) coffee makers are one of the easiest ways to get good quality coffee fast. No messing around with grinders, no fuss about pressure levels or particle size - just a pre-packaged serving of ground coffee you can place into the machine to get a perfect cup of coffee. Simple! So today we’ll be running down some of the best pod coffee makers you can buy in 2020
A quick note on pod compatibility. Unfortunately there is some segmentation in the pod coffee market - different manufacturers have made their machines only compatible with certain brands of pods, and frequently other brands won’t work. This usually doesn’t matter, since each brand has a good collection of different drink types, but it’s worth double-checking if you have a particular favourite. The 3 main brands are:
Let’s start with an excellent pod coffee maker - the Krups Lumio. The first thing you’ll notice about it is the unusual design - the curved design is definitely eye-catching, and will look good on your kitchen counter. It is also quite compact - the small footprint is a boon for those of us with small kitchens.
Drinks wise, the Lumio makes a good powerful espresso, with a thick crema on top. The Nescafe ‘Dolce Gusto’ brand carries a large amount of different drinks, and this machine handles them all just fine! It also has the ability to customise drinks - so either add more or less water depending on your preference.
However it’s not perfect - the Lumio is quite noisy when running, and the cost is fairly expensive given the size. It also doesn’t have a steam wand or any way of frothing milk - you’re entirely dependent on what the pods dispense. Luckily the pods themselves taste excellent, and if you want an unusual design to spice up your kitchen, this is a good option!
Krups Dolce Gusto Lumio
4 / 5
No steam wand
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Let’s go even smaller! The Magimix Nespresso Essenza Mini is, surprisingly, a smaller version of their main pod coffee makers. With an even smaller footprint than the Krups Lumio, this is definitely designed for apartment living, or maybe to have on your desk so fresh coffee is never too far away! It is designed to be stylish, simple, and effective - a one-button operation with a very quick warm-up cycle. You can also get an optional ‘Aeroccino’, which is Nespresso’s version of a milk frother - rather than a steam wand, the milk is frothed and dispensed from a single sealed unit.
However the much smaller size means the Essenza Mini doesn’t have a large water tank - only 600ml vs the 1l capacity of the Lumio. This means that you will have to refill it more regularly - which could become a pain, especially if multiple people are using the machine at once. However, the price is slightly less than the Lumio - it still isn’t particularly cheap, but if you are certain you want to drink Nespresso coffee, this is one of the cheapest ways of pretending you’re George Clooney!
The Bosch Vivy 2 is our budget pick on the list - unlike the Lumio or Essenza Mini, it doesn’t concentrate on being ultra small or have a super-stylish design. Instead it does one thing well - make coffees cheaply. It doesn’t have a particularly large water tank, and it lacks the ability to customize drinks (e.g - to add more or less water), but the price is under half what you would pay for other machines - which is definitely an important consideration!
While it may be lacking in extras, the Vivy 2 handles drinks well. It uses a barcode-based system that scans the pod to work out exactly which one is being used, then modifies the brewing/pouring time to create the perfect cup. This makes the Vivy 2 very reliable with lots of different types of drinks - no need to modify settings, just press a button and let the appliance take care of the rest!
The Vivy 2 also lacks a milk tank or steam wand, but handles this limitation by packing milk-based drinks such as capuccinos in 2 pods - one for the coffee, the other for the foamed/heated milk. This system works well, but is a bit of a faff, and creates extra waste from all the extra pods used.
In the end, we can overlook a lot of the negatives on the Vivy 2 because it does the basics so well and so cheaply - and the hot chocolate is especially good! If you’re looking for an entry-level pod coffee maker, this is a good option.
Lavazza are an old name in Italian coffee - started 125 years ago in a small grocery store in Turin, their coffee is now enjoyed worldwide, and with good reason - it’s really tasty! The Idola is their pod coffee maker: a medium-size machine designed for one thing - strong black coffee. The espresso dispensed from the Lavazza pods is strong with a thick crema, but may be a bit too strong for some palettes - it’s powerful stuff!
The machine is very quiet when running, and the design is simple and clean. Likewise the controls are uncomplicated - a small collection of buttons allow you to pick from a limited selection of drinks - espresso (single or double), ristretto, Caffè lungo, etc. Unlike the rest of the pod coffee makers on this list, the Lavazza pods aren’t made for a specific type of drink - they just contain different types of coffee grinds that give a different flavour profile to the resulting espresso.
The specialisation on black coffee means it doesn’t contain a milk tank or steam wand - if you want a cappuccino or macchiato you’ll have to provide the milk yourself. In this way, this is probably the closest to a traditional espresso machine that a pod coffee maker can get. So, for the purists who want a good wake up call easily, this is an excellent purchase. If you need foamed milk, caramel sauce or cinnamon sprinkles on your coffee, you may want to look at another option.
This is from the same makes as the Lumio, and it shows - the Oblo has a unique, futuristic design that makes it look like a spacecraft has landed in your kitchen! It’s definitely an eye-catching design, and the machine underneath is not too shabby either! An excellent pod coffee maker that makes a good strong coffee - as expected from the Dolce Gusto pods.
The Oblo has a convenient lever on top that allows you to change the water temperature of the machine - very helpful if you like your Americanos extra hot, or for making iced coffee in the summer! However, it does have a few flaws. Because of the unusual design, the water tank isn’t as big as it could be, and is rather awkward to refill. It is also fairly loud while running - not enough to cause real issues, but annoying if you make lots of coffee.
As with the Lumio, you’re paying a premium for the interesting design, but there is a good pod coffee maker here as well - and the ability to make iced coffees is a real bonus!
Finally, let’s look at the deluxe option. Magimix’s Nespresso Citiz & Milk is an upgraded version of their annoyingly-spelt Citiz pod coffee maker - so called because the design is inspired by modern architecture and the skyline of major cities.
The Citiz & Milk improved on the original model by adding a milk frothing device - an ‘Aeroccino’ similar to what could be added to the Essenza Mini. This allows the Citiz & Milk to create expert milk-based drinks - frothy cappuccinos and wonderful hot chocolates! It also has a fleet of welcome extras - a large 1l water tank, a storage for used capsules, and very fast heat-up time.
As you would expect from such a fully-featured machine, it’s expensive - easily the most costly of the products we’re looking at today. It is also large - the big water tank and milk frother mean a large footprint on your kitchen surface. I can’t recommend it unconditionally, but if you want the biggest and the best from a pod coffee maker, this is an excellent choice!