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Best coffee pods 2021: The best pods and capsules for great-tasting coffee

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Offering consistently tasty coffee with no fuss, these are the pods and capsules that need to be in your coffee machine

If you're looking for your new favourite brew, our roundup of the best coffee pods is here to help. Finding a coffee blend that suits your personal tastes is a total game-changer. Like your favourite tipple, coffee is an incredibly personal thing and with such an array of beans, roasts and flavours to choose from, it's likely you're yet to find your ideal match.

Of course, you can always head to your favourite coffee shop or grind your own beans at home but you want to save money or haven’t got time for manual espresso machines, then coffee capsules are the obvious choice. If you need some help selecting your ideal machine then head on over to our best coffee pod machine article, where you’ll find our shortlist of the finest machines. After this comes the fun part, selecting your perfect style and flavour of coffee.

There’s an overwhelming choice of coffee pods and capsules available – we’ve seen everything from caramel flavoured capsules to pods that claim to make your coffee taste like apple pie. So if you’re struggling to decide on the best coffee capsules, then you’ve come to the right place. Below, you'll find our buying guide that should answer all of your pod-related questions, as well as a selection of our favourites for a variety of machines.

Get 100 L'or Espresso Supremo capsules for £20

L'or's pods are a great affordable alternative to Nespresso, and the Espresso Supremo are our favourites. They've dropped in price a few times over the past year, and they'll now cost you just £20 in Amazon's Black Friday sale (down from an average of £25).
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Was £30
Now £20

Best coffee pods: At a glance


How to choose the best coffee pods and coffee capsules for you

What’s the difference between a coffee pod and a coffee capsule?

The two terms are used interchangeably by users and manufacturers alike, but there's a wide range of different types on the market – and you do need to make sure you buy ones that are compatible with your specific machine.

Most of these pods and capsules have one thing in common, though: they are little plastic containers filled with a single-serving dose of coffee. Some brands such as Tassimo also provide options for tea or hot chocolate, and every manufacturer has a wide selection of flavours and coffee types for you to choose from.

One of the exceptions to the rule is the Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) pods: rather than a small plastic cup, these resemble a teabag filled with coffee grounds. You’ll often see them listed as 44mm ESE pods, and this is the standard size they come in. Unlike all the other types of coffee pod and capsule, ESE pods can be used in any manual espresso machine with a compatible filter basket – you don’t need to buy a specific type of machine.

If you're environmentally conscious and are worried about producing plastic waste every time you fancy a cup of coffee, fear not. Manufacturers such as Nespresso produce aluminium capsules, which not only have the benefit of being endlessly recyclable but also keep the coffee inside fresh, while Lavazza has devised a completely compostable capsule that you can chuck in your food waste bin.

READ NEXT: Best coffee machine deals

Will every pod or capsule fit every coffee machine?

No, definitely not. Even Nespresso capsules come in both standard and Vertuo varieties, and these are not interchangeable – you need to use the correct capsule for your type of machine.

Similarly, you can’t chop and change between different manufacturer’s capsules: Nescafè’s Dolce Gusto, Lavazza’s A Modo Mio and Nestlé’s Nespresso and Vertuo capsules only work with their specifically designed machines.

As we’ve already mentioned, you can use 44mm ESE pods with any compatible espresso machine. Some will simply require you to change the filter basket, while others require dedicated aftermarket kits to add ESE support. If you’re not sure whether yours is compatible, check your machine’s user manual before shelling out.

Do all coffee pods and capsules produce the same type of coffee?

No. Pods and capsules produce a wide array of distinct strengths and styles of coffee.

Manufacturers often label pods or capsules with a strength score to give you an idea of the intensity of coffee they will produce, and you can also choose from a wide range of different blends and coffee styles.

For instance, in addition to the different blends and flavours, Nespresso’s range of capsules are designed to produce different amounts of coffee. Some are intended to produce a potent ristretto shot, some a slightly bigger shot of espresso, and some a much larger lungo cup of coffee. You’re free to experiment, of course, but making a lungo drink with a ristretto or espresso capsule – or vice versa – may not yield the best results.

READ NEXT: Best reusable coffee cup

The best coffee pods to buy from £6

1. Lavazza Espresso Passionale: Best Lavazza A Mio Modo pods

Price: £18 (x48 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

Lavazza has already impressed us by reinventing its capsules so they’re compostable, but that isn't the only thing it’s doing right. The quality of Lavazza’s pod coffee is also a cut above the rest. We’ve sampled the range and the Espresso Passionale is by far our favourite; if you crave that classic dark-roasted, rich espresso taste this is the pod for you. It’s a strong blend with caramel and chocolate notes but unlike some dark roasts, it’s not painfully bitter, making it the perfect pick-me-up.

Key specsServings: 48; Cost per cup: 35p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: Lavazza A Mio Modo

2. Nespresso Vanilla Custard Pie: Best flavoured Vertuo coffee pods

Price: From £6 (x10 pods) | Buy now from Nespresso

If you want to indulge in a flavoured coffee minus the sickly sweet syrups, this flavoured Nespresso Vertuo vanilla pod is the ideal treat. It’s part of the brand’s Barista Creations range, which features a selection of pods all flavoured using natural ingredients. We enjoyed trying them all, but the Vanilla Custard Pie really stood out because of its strong vanilla flavour and biscuity undertones. It goes perfectly with warm, frothy milk but as the pods aren’t at all sweet, you’ll need to add sugar if that’s your preference.

As Vertuo pods are designed for big mugs, each capsule contains more ground coffee than the classic pods. This does mean they’ll set you back a little more per capsule but just remember you’re getting more for your money here. What’s more, it’s still far cheaper than going to your local coffee shop.

Key specsServings: 10-500; Cost per cup: 60p; Coffee style: Mug (230ml); Pod type: Nespresso Vertuo

Buy now from Nespresso


3. Illy Iperespresso Brazil Single Origin: Best Illy Iperespresso capsules

Price: £8 (x21 pods) | Buy now from Illy

We’re huge fans of the entire Iperespresso pod range but the Brazil single origin stands out as one of our favourites due to its drinkability. This single origin is medium-bodied with light toasted nutty notes and hints of sweet caramel. With less acidity and an overall smoother flavour, this is the perfect everyday espresso.

Rather generously, Illy squeezes an impressive 21 capsules into a tin, making the capsules a surprisingly affordable option. You can buy single tins on Amazon or create your own mixed case on the Illy website.

Key specsServings: 21; Cost per cup: 38p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: Illy Iperespresso

4. Illy Classico Medium Roast: Best Illy ESE pods

Price: £7 (18 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

Illy was the brand that pioneered the widely adopted Easy Serving Espresso standard way back in 1974 – and it’s still going strong today. These ingenious little paper packages cram all the flavour of Illy’s classic Italian roast coffee blend into a handy little 44mm ESE pod, and each is individually foil-wrapped for freshness. If you’re looking for a basic, flavourful espresso without all the faff of grinding beans, tamping your grounds and cleaning it all out afterwards, then the Illy Classico ESE pods are a godsend.

Key specs - Servings: 18; Cost per cup: 38p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: 44mm ESE

5. Black Donkey Intenso and Supremo Variety Pack: Best third-party ESE pods

Price: £10 (50 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

Roasting its beans in small batches for freshness and consistent flavour, Black Donkey certainly takes coffee seriously. This variety pack contains two flavours: Intenso, a full-bodied and intense flavour; and Supremo, a spicy and intense pod with notes of toasted bread and a cocoa kick.

You’ll get 25 pods of each in the variety pack, but single-flavour boxes are available should you have a preference.

Key specs - Servings: 50; Cost per cup: 5p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: 44mm ESE

6. Nespresso Original Coffee Capsules: Best classic Nespresso multipack

Price: £28 (50 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

Nespresso is probably the best-known player in the coffee capsules world. With a vast array of capsule options to choose from, a variety pack is the best way to discover your favourite Nespresso capsules. This set includes 50 capsules in five different flavours (Ristretto, Arpeggio, Livanto, Capriccio and Roma), so it’s the perfect introduction to the world of Nespresso.

Key specs - Servings: 50; Cost per cup: 46p; Coffee style: Espresso; Capsule type: Nepresso

7. Nescafé Dolce Gusto Cafè Au Lait: Best Dolce Gusto milk-based pods

Price: £13 (48 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

If you prefer your morning cup of coffee a little less intense – and you can’t even be bothered to get the milk out of the fridge – then these Cafè Au Lait capsules from Nescafe are the perfect choice. Combining delicious coffee with milk in one handy capsule, these are the perfect partner for that Nescafè Dolce Gusto machine in the corner of your kitchen.

Key specsServings: 48; Cost per cup: 21p; Coffee style: Cafè Au Lait; Capsule type: Dolce Gusto

8. L’or Espresso Supremo: Best L'or coffee pods

Price: £30 (100 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re sick of spending a fortune on Nespresso capsules then we’ve struck gold. For those who want an intense shot of espresso for an early morning boost and don’t want to pay the premium for Nespresso’s own blends, the L’or Supremo capsules (rated a 10 on the L’or 14-point scale) are the perfect pick.

Key specsServings: 100; Cost per cup: 38p; Coffee style: Espresso; Capsule type: Nespresso

9. Espresso Italia capsules: Best Nespresso compatible Lungo pods

Price: £20 (100 pods) | Buy now from Amazon

Ultra-cheap Nespresso capsules with a hint of Italian flair. These Italian-made capsules come in five different blends ranging from a relaxed lungo to an intense espresso. These capsules work in all original line Nespresso machines – not the Vertuo models, however – and this 100-capsule mixed pack lets you pick from all five flavours. If you want quick, cheap Nespresso coffee, then this is a solid choice.

Key specs - Servings: 100; Cost per cup: 17p; Coffee style: Lungo; Capsule type: Nespresso