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Nespresso vs Keurig: which pod machine is best for you?

Nespresso vs Keurig
(Image credit: Future)

The Nespresso vs Keurig debate has certainly been contentious over the last few years, with each pod coffee brand bringing more and more machines to the market and continuing to dominate. Many of these pod coffee machines sit among best coffee maker lists, and continue to offer excellent flavor, controls, and - crucially - the convenience that the night owls among us crave. 

Functionally, these machines may appear similar at first glance - they both produce high quality coffee from individual pods at the push of a button. However, if you're weighing up the pros and cons on each side of the Nespresso vs Keurig debate, there are a few differences that could make all the difference. 

We're telling you everything you need to know about the differences, and similarities, between Nespresso and Keurig machines, from price to ease of use to pod quality, so that you can find the best Nespresso or best Keurig for you.

Nespresso vs Keurig: at a glance

Nespresso

  • Higher quality coffee
  • Smaller form factor to save space
  • Recyclable pods

Keurig

  • More coffee pods available
  • Starts at a much lower price point
  • Wider range of features

Nespresso vs Keurig: price

It's worth noting that, while Nespresso machines are sold widely in the UK as well as the US, Keurig devices are less easy to find. If you're in the UK, then, we'd recommend sticking to Nespresso. 

In general, Keurig machines do tend to come out a little cheaper than their Nespresso counterparts, though the Keurig line overall focuses on breadth within the more affordable price range (under $100 / £100) whereas Nespresso firmly sets its sights over $100. 

You'll have far more choice with Keurig if you're shopping under this threshold, from the Keurig K Classic at around $89.99 to the K Mini at $79.99 in the super budget range. Even moving further up the feature list, you'll find that Keurig outpaces Nespresso in keeping that price low. The Keurig K-Elite offers far more settings and quality of life enhancements and still comes in under $150 due to regular discounts, even if the MSRP sits at $169.99. 

Meanwhile, the Essenza Mini is the cheapest Nespresso offering, with an MSRP of $149 that is regularly discounted throughout the year. While we do see cheap coffee maker deals on these machines, their MSRPs are starting far higher than those of Keurig, with the best model for most people, the Nespresso Vertuo Plus coming in at $179.99

Winner: Keurig

Nespresso vs Keurig: features

Keurig's cheaper machines can't keep up with the Nespresso Vertuo line, which is to be expected considering they are half the price. However, comparing the $169 K-Elite with the $179 Nespresso Vertuo Plus can show us where each brand is putting its focus in terms of its spec sheet.

While you're certainly paying a little more for a Nespresso machine, you're getting extra features that enhance your coffee's flavor to make up for it. Centrifusion brewing and automatic pod detection in the Vertuo line mean your machine will always produce a great coffee with a rich crema and well-balanced flavor -  guarantees that Keurig can't make with its more traditional pod system. Plus, you'll find a range of additional accessories like milk frothers available for Nespresso systems, unlike Keurig. 

Nespresso vs Keurig coffee quality

(Image credit: Nespresso)

However, you are getting a wider breadth of features by picking up a machine that might not get it right every single time. The K-Elite offers more brew size options, a cold setting for iced drinks, additional brew strength controls and a larger water reservoir. If you're after an all-in-one package, then, and you don't mind sacrificing a little of the coffee quality itself, then the Keurig is the better option.

It's worth noting, though, that at the sub-$100 end of the spectrum, you are stripping that Keurig spec sheet away considerably.

Winner: Keurig for range of features, Nespresso for coffee quality features

Nespresso vs Keurig: ease of use

Both Nespresso and Keurig machines are incredibly easy to use. You can operate both devices simply by inserting a pod and pushing a button, but Nespresso's pod detection system may seal the deal here. Vertuo line machines will recognize which coffee pod is inserted into the system and automatically set the coffee maker to the best possible settings for the type of coffee you have chosen. 

You sacrifice a little of the brew strength control you might find on higher end Keurig machines, but it makes the process of brewing a perfect coffee foolproof. It's also worth noting that Keurigs will take up more space on the countertop because of larger water reservoirs.

Winner: Nespresso

Nespresso vs Keurig: pod selection

That extra tech built into pod detection does cause Nespresso to fall behind in the pod selection category. Nespresso splits its machines into Vertuo and Original lines, which means you'll need to make sure you're buying the right pods for your device (pods for one machine won't fit into the other). Plus, you'll be paying a little more for Vertuo pods on average, but only by a few dollars per pack. 

Keurig, on the other hand, has a massive range of coffee pods up for grabs, from a range of brands that include Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Cinnabon and more. Not only that, but you'll find hot chocolate and tea options as well. These pods also come out a little cheaper than Nespresso's, even if connoisseurs may be sacrificing a little flavor. 

Nespresso vs Keurig starbucks pods

(Image credit: Starbucks)

Both brands operate pod recycling campaigns, though it's unknown whether Keurig successfully managed to make all of its K-Cup pods recyclable by 2020 as it pledged to do.

Winner: Keurig

Nespresso vs Keurig: which should you buy?

Nespresso and Keurig both offer excellent pod coffee systems, even if each brand's range is tailored slightly to different consumers. We'd recommend picking up a Nespresso if you're simply looking for high quality coffee and you're willing to spend a little more to achieve it consistently. 

However, when it comes to affordability Keurig easily wins out. If you need a pod coffee machine for less than $100 it's your only option (outside of sale periods) and pod costs are reduced while also offering a larger range as well. You're not getting the smarts of a Nespresso here, but if you don't think you'll need to taste the difference between a textbook espresso and a good cup of coffee in the morning the extra features on the Keurig will be well worth your time. 

We're also rounding up all the best Cuisinart coffee makers available now, as well as the best espresso machines if you're looking to get a little more hands-on. Plus, we're showing you how to clean a Keurig and how to descale your Keurig as well. 

Tabs is a deals editor on our sister site TechRadar. She spends most of her time searching for the best prices on top consumer tech, but has also written about everything from flower delivery to mattresses.