Are you partial to a short shot of espresso in the morning?
If so, the cost of hitting Starbucks or your local coffee shop several times a week soon starts to mount.
One way to avoid this is by investing in an espresso machine.
Many people are put off the idea of making their own espresso since they don’t want to tangle with a semi-automatic machine but there is an alternative…
Have you thought about getting a single-serve pod espresso machine instead?
While you’ll sacrifice some control over the brewing process, if you’re primarily concerned with speed and convenience, single-serve machines are the ideal solution.
You’re in for a treat today, too. We’ve got capsule reviews of the best machines in this vertical. While Keurig machines are great if you want straight-up coffee, they don’t perform well with espresso.
Beyond that, we’ve got the usual detailed guide to simplify your buying decision every step of the way.
Now, to kick off we’ll look at what these machines and why you should care.
- I. Our Top 5 Picks for Pod Espresso Machines
- II. What is a Single Serve Pod Espresso Machine?
- III. Pod Espresso Machine vs Regular Espresso Machine
- IV. Single Serve Machines: Benefits
- V. Single Serve Machines: Drawbacks
- VI. Can These Machines Brew Cappuccino and Latte?
- VII. And How About The Price?
- VIII. Top 10 Single Serve Pod Espresso Machine Reviews
- IX. Conclusion
I. Our Top 5 Picks for Pod Espresso Machines
- Breville Nespresso Espresso Machine at Amazon Our #1 Pick
- DeLonghi America Lattissima Pro Espresso Machine with Milk Frother at Amazon
- Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker at Amazon
- DeLonghi Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Maker at Amazon
- Nespresso by DeLonghi VertuoPlus Coffee and Espresso Machine at Amazon
II. What is a Single Serve Pod Espresso Machine?
A single-serve coffee machine, as the name makes abundantly clear, delivers just enough coffee for one serving.
While many of these capsule-based machines make regular coffee, you can also find plenty capable of delivering espresso, too.
Using these machines couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is top up the water reservoir then insert a capsule. Press a button and the machine does the rest.
Now, espresso purists might insist that single-serve machines deliver poor results but we have to disagree here. A great single serve pod espresso machine gives consistent results in very little time.
When you’re investing in any type of coffee maker, all that counts is whether or not it gives you what you want. If speed and ease of use are uppermost in your priorities, you can’t go wrong with a single-serve machine. As an added kicker, you won’t be faced with any messy clean-up either.
III. Pod Espresso Machine vs Regular Espresso Machine
When you’re looking to bring the coffee shop home, you need to start by asking yourself whether you should invest in a pod espresso machine or whether a regular espresso maker might be a better fit.
We reiterate, there really is no right or wrong answer here.
How much effort you’re willing to put in to brewing your coffee will to a large extent dictate your decision.
Pod espresso machines exemplify ease of use. Fill up the water tank, pop in a pod and hit the button. In seconds flat, you’ll have consistently great espresso. Where a pod-based coffee machine uses hot water and a coarse grind, pod-based espresso machines call for a finer grind and shoot boiling water at speed through tightly-packed grinds.
What’s not to love?
Well, what real coffee purists don’t love is the fairly artificial taste of pod coffee. Only you know whether this is to your liking or something that has you scurrying off for a regular espresso machine.
When you start using a regular espresso machine, you’ll need to be prepared for a pretty steep learning curve. Even if the barista at your local coffee shop makes it look easy, don’t forget she’s had plenty of practice.
If you choose to sidestep pod-based machines in favor of a regular espresso machine, think about how much effort you’re prepared to put in. Manual machines are hard work. At the other end of the scale, a fully-automatic machine does pretty much everything for you. Super-automatics usually incorporate a grinder so you’ll get bean-to-cup espresso. Somewhere in between, a semi-automatic machine calls for a little user input in return for full flexibility over the brewing method.
Again, make your own mind up here. For raw convenience and consistency, there’s little to touch a pod-based machine.
The significant downside with a pod-based espresso machine is the lack of control you’ll have. While for many people, push-button simplicity is the key selling point of these machines, for others it signifies a fixed delivery that might not be ideal. Think about what appeals to you most, speed or control.
Before we look at the range of drinks you can make beyond simple espresso, we’ll break down the pros and cons of single-serve machines more generally.
IV. Single Serve Machines: Benefits
- Ease of Use
- Speed of Operation
- No Cleaning Up and Almost No Maintenance
- Wide Choice of Drinks At Your Disposal
- Reasonably Inexpensive
- Cuts Down on Wastage
- Consistency: Coffee Is Always Fresh
Ease of Use
Perhaps the primary draw of single-serve machines is their push-button simplicity.
While functionality and interfaces differ, all single-serve machines are incredibly user-friendly. If you have elderly relatives living with you, you’ll find it no problem to show them how to use your single-serve. You can also introduce your kids to the art of coffee making at a young age. These machines are very safe to use as well as straightforward.
Speed of Operation
Tied closely to ease of use, you’ll get great tasting coffee in a hurry with these machines.
Most single-serve machines harness Thermoblock heating systems so you’ll have coffee in your cup in less than a minute.
For many people with hectic schedules, being able to hit a button and enjoy espresso on demand is reason enough to invest in one of these machines.
No Cleaning Up and Almost No Maintenance
While more traditional brewing methods have their many advantages, they’re also messy.
Using a single-serve machine, you’ll have nothing to clean up when you’re done. Used pods collect in a chamber which you empty every few times you use the machine.
Aside from occasional descaling, there’s nothing to worry about by the way of upkeep either.
Wide Choice of Drinks At Your Disposal
Make sure you check out the range of pods available before committing to purchase.
The Nespresso pods are collected in Grand Crus and you can choose from the OriginalLine or VertuoLine collections depending on which type of machine you have.
You’ll be able to choose from a range of espresso in varying intensity along with a choice of other brewed coffee if your machine permits.
If you compare the cost of a pod-based espresso machine to a semi-automatic or super-automatic, pod machines come in at a much keener price-point.
The only thing to concern yourself with is the ongoing cost of pods when set against the cost of buying fresh coffee in bulk for alternative brewing methods like using a regular espresso machine.
Cuts Down on Wastage
Since you’ll only be making a single cup of coffee, you can kiss goodbye to those half-filled carafes of coffee past its best and thrown down the sink.
The on-demand nature of pod-based machines allows you to make espresso so quickly, there would no be point in making more than you need anyway.
Consistency: Coffee Is Always Fresh
While you won’t be able to control the brewing process, the flipside of this is enjoying consistent espresso each and every time. The machine will never misfire and pour a poor shot.
Sealed within the capsules, the coffee also stays fresh as it’s not exposed until the moment of brewing.
V. Single Serve Machines: Drawbacks
- Cost of Pods Can Be Prohibitive
- Damaging to The Environment
- You Might Not Find Your Favorite Blend
- No Control Over The Brewing Process
Cost of Pods Can Be Prohibitive
If you only drink a very occasional espresso, you might find the cost of pods for your machine to be reasonable.
If, on the other hand, your whole family drinks espresso heavily, the cost of those pods can soon spiral out of control.
As a rule, you’ll get far more economy if you use a regular espresso machines and buy bricks of coffee by the half-pound.
Only you know how much coffee you drink and what importance running costs assume in your buying decision.
Damaging to The Environment
Another trade-off when you’re using single-serve pods is the impact they have on the environment.
While many manufacturers are doing what they can to mitigate this, there’s one fact you can’t avoid…
Using single serve pods is responsible for a great deal of plastic and the pods are not always easy to recycle.
For many people, this will not form such a large part of their buying decision. That’s down to the individual.
If you’re concerned about the environmental footprint of single serve coffee, we’d advise you check out some of our reviews of regular espresso machines to avoid this.
You Might Not Find Your Favorite Blend
Although you can typically find a wide range of coffee for your pod machine, there’s every chance you won’t find your favorite blend.
Make sure you scope out the capsules on offer that are compatible with the machine you’re considering. You should make certain you have the coffee you want at your disposal before committing to purchase.
No Control Over The Brewing Process
As we’ve mentioned more than once, single-serve machines offer nothing by the way of flexibility. You push the button and your coffee is delivered. That’s pretty much the extent of user input required.
Like with many aspects of this buying decision, for some people that’s an advantage and for others a drawback. Many people don’t want the hassle involved with a method like pour-over and single-serve machines present themselves as a convenient alternative.
Whatever your preferences, it’s impossible to deny that you’ll have no control over the end results with a single-serve pod espresso machine. On the flipside, you’ll get great results every time!
As you can see, while this brewing method is not without its faults, the advantages dramatically outweigh the few minor downsides.
Although we’re looking at the best single-serve pod espresso machines today, is that the only drink you can hope to rustle up?
VI. Can These Machines Brew Cappuccino and Latte?
Most of the machines we look at today can make more than a short shot of espresso.
Many single-serve coffee makers come with a detachable or foldable drip tray designed to accommodate taller travel mugs. With most of these machines, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of drink sizes to suit.
Onboard milk frothers give you the ability to use your espresso as the base for other specialty coffees. Many of the machines below give you this option. You’ll often have the opportunity to choose the machine only or to add a frother into a bundled deal.
With some machines, you’ll be able to choose pre-programmed longer drinks when you’re not in the mood for a short shot of espresso.
VII. And How About The Price?
As with any product, you can expect pod espresso machines to vary quite widely in price.
At the lower end of the scale hovering around the $100 mark, you can expect pretty lightweight machines with a lot of plastic on display. Machines like this are not built for heavy, sustained use. Overall lifespan is also normally quite poor. As they say, you get what you pay for.
Step things up to the $150 to $200 price band and you can expect enhanced functionality. Many of these machines give you the freedom to make more than just espresso. Build quality and componentry are both improved and you can expect these machines to last the distance.
If you step things up beyond that price-point, you’ll be getting the best technology that single-serve has to offer from the market leaders.
And on that note, it’s time to get down to business with some short, sharp reviews of the 10 best espresso makers that use pods or capsules.
VIII. Top 10 Single Serve Pod Espresso Machine Reviews
1. Our #1 Pick: Breville Nespresso Espresso Machine
Nespresso has a range of licensing deals allowing selected manufacturers like Breville to produce branded versions of their classic Nespresso machines.
This compact stainless steel gem gives you the freedom to make espresso, latte or cappuccino thanks to the onboard milk frother.
Choose from ristretto, espresso, or lungo so everyone in the family has their morning coffee just the way they like it.
For single-serve efficiency and a range of drinks to choose from, this is one of the most adaptable and powerful capsule-based machines up for grabs. Road test one of these gems and you’ll never look back.
2. DeLonghi America Lattissima Pro Espresso Machine with Milk Frother
Build quality is uppermost with this design-driven pod espresso machine from DeLonghi.
As with most of the finest examples in this vertical, you’ll also benefit from a milk frother. Espresso is a great way to start the day but it certainly isn’t an all-day drink. Enjoy longer layered espresso drinks, too.
This machine accepts Nespresso capsules giving you a great deal of choice at a reasonable price-point.
3. Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker
Another Nespresso classic, this time the Pixie. Small but perfectly formed, you get little variety with this machine but it gets the primary job done well.
If you want a longer coffee, roll with a lungo. That, though, is the extent of the choice you’ll get here. There’s no integrated milk frother so avoid this machine if you’re not a committed espresso fiend.
4. DeLonghi Nespresso Essenza Mini Espresso Maker
Another magnificent partnership between DeLonghi and Nespresso, the Essenza Mini is perfect if you have a small, cramped kitchen but you don’t want to compromise on the quality of coffee you drink.
Choose from an espresso or lungo to get your day started the right way. All you’ll need to do is top up the water tank and slide in a Nespresso capsule. Essenza Mini does all the hard yards for you and there’s no messy clean-up either.
5. Nespresso by DeLonghi VertuoPlus Coffee and Espresso Machine
Another partnership between DeLonghi and Nespresso, this agile coffee maker gives you the option of drink sizes from a 1.35oz espresso through to a whopping 14oz alto.
This machine allows you to drink coffee or espresso so it’s ideal for all-day use. All you need to do is pop in a pod and you’re good to go. You won’t need to keep scurrying over to refill the water tank either. At 60oz, you’ll have enough water to caffeinate the whole family.
6. Nespresso by DeLonghi Original Espresso Maker
If you can’t get enough of the ease single-serve coffee machines deliver, this Nespresso and DeLonghi beauty is well worth popping on your shortlist.
While the water tank could be larger, in return you get a machine small enough for even small kitchens and cramped counters.
Quick to heat up and capable of powering itself down after 9 minutes of inactivity, you’ll get capsule-based convenience at a price you’ll love. Beyond this, you should spend far less in Starbucks once you’ve got a Nespresso machine in the kitchen.
7. Nespresso by DeLonghi Coffee and Espresso Machine Bundle
This bundle gives you the tools to make espresso or longer coffees thanks to the highly capable milk frother.
You’ll also get a choice of all staple drink sizes and you can even enjoy your favorite capsule coffee over ice with this pocket-friendly machine.
8. Nespresso by DeLonghi Lattissima Plus Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Another meeting of Nespresso and DeLonghi with the hard-hitting Lattissima Plus.
As with most of the stronger machines we highlight today, you’ll get the best of both worlds with espresso or coffee as you prefer. Choose from 3 milk and 2 coffee choices on the easily navigable interface.
This is a machine perfect for the whole family even if you have wildly differing tastes in coffee.
9. Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
Although this espresso maker has now been discontinued, it still makes a valid choice currently available at an attractive price-point.
The frother thrown in gives you the chance to make longer and creamier coffees when you don’t feel like a short shot.
Note this model will only accept VertuoLine capsules so make sure you don’t opt for the OriginalLine pods as they don’t fit.
10. Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker
If you’re interested in a Nespresso machine, it’s always worth investigating the discontinued lines. The Inissia is no longer in production but this means you can bag an incredible bargain.
Simplicity rules here. Punch one of the programmable buttons and you’ll have your morning espresso or afternoon lungo in well under a minute.
By now, you should have a solid idea of which single-serve pod machine would work best for you and your family. Stick with any of the options we outline today and you’re in safe hands.
Single-serve machines are by no means your only option if you want great espresso at home. Whether you want the ease of a fully-automatic machine or you’re prepared for the learning curve with a semi-automatic, choose in line with your preferences.
Bookmark La Mano Coffee as your go-to resource. We’ll be working on throughout the holiday season so come back soon for more great guides to help you choose the best coffee equipment on a budget. You can follow us on social media, too. Feel free to share any of our guides and we’ll see you soon!