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Best coffee pods 2023: Pods and capsules for great-tasting coffee every time

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 if you want to save money or you 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 coffee makers that take pods. After this comes the really fun part, selecting your perfect style and flavour of coffee.

There’s an overwhelming choice of coffee pods and capsules available. 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.

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.

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.

Are coffee pods bad for the environment?

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.

Admittedly, recycling your Nespresso pods isn’t the most straightforward process. You’ll need to order a (free) recycling bag from Nespresso, and arrange for kerbside collection once this has been filled. If kerbside collection isn’t available, you’ll have to take your used capsules to a drop-off point instead. See Nespresso’s website for more information on recycling options.

If this sounds like too much hassle, you’ll be glad to hear that Lavazza has devised a completely compostable capsule that you can chuck in your food waste bin. Bear in mind that you’ll need a Lavazza pod machine in order to use these, though.

On the other hand, there are many third party brands producing compostable Nespresso capsules. You can also buy reusable Nespresso capsules, which have their own respective merits and drawbacks. If this is of interest, check out our roundup of the best reusable and compostable Nespresso capsules. Otherwise, read on for our roundup of the best coffee pods from Nespresso, Lavazza and more.

How we test coffee pods

Almost all of the coffee pods we feature below have been tested by us. Admittedly, the machines used will not be the same – Lavazza’s A Modo Mio pods will need to be used with a Lavazza machine, while Nespresso’s capsules, as well as many other third-party pods, are compatible only with Nespresso machines. However, for consistency, we make sure to taste all of the coffee as an espresso. We take notes on the flavour profile of each pod, whether it has a notably darker taste or is more mellow and fruity. We then recommend the pods accordingly, taking into account people’s varying tastes and coffee habits.

READ NEXT: Best reusable coffee cup

The best coffee pods you can buy in 2023

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

Price when reviewed: £4.99 | Check price at Lavazza

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 features – Servings: 16; Cost per cup: Around 31p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: Lavazza A Mio Modo

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

Price when reviewed: £7.74 | Check price at 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 18 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 featuresServings: 18; Cost per cup: 44p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: Illy Iperespresso

Check price at Illy

3. Dualit Intense: Best affordable Nespresso compatible pods

Price when reviewed: £9.99 | Check price at AmazonOne Nespresso capsule can cost up to 70p per cup, not as expensive as your local coffee shop, but not exactly cheap either. If you’re looking to cut back the spending but still want to indulge in a daily coffee, Dualit’s Nespresso-compatible pods are the answer. One cup costs as little as 20p and they are just as flavourful and indulgent as Nespresso’s own. Our particular favourite was the Intense blend, which marries tasty nuts with fruity molasses and a very subtle hint of chocolate. However, we thoroughly enjoyed every pod in the collection including the Organic Columbian, Decaf and Indian Monsoon, meaning there’s plenty of variety to choose from (albeit for slightly different prices).

One niggle we had with the pods is that they expelled a little bit of water into our cup before the coffee came through. This is a common issue with third-party pods and didn’t affect the flavour of our coffee enough to bother us, but it’s something to bear in mind if you want the purest cup you can get. For the price, though, these are a fantastic choice and if you pair them with Dualit’s Eco Press, which works with all aluminium Nespresso capsules, the pods are incredibly easy to recycle. Alternatively, Dualit also has a variety of industrially compostable pods. However, we haven’t tested these, and so can’t comment on the quality.

4. Illy Classico Medium Roast: Best ESE pods

Price when reviewed: £7.02 | Check price at Illy 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 featuresServings: 18; Cost per cup: 38p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: 44mm ESE

Check price at Illy

5. Nespresso Original Coffee Capsules: Best classic Nespresso multipack

Price when reviewed: £29 | Check price at AmazonNespresso 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 featuresServings: 50; Cost per cup: 56p; Coffee style: Espresso; Capsule type: Nepresso

6. L’or Espresso Supremo: Best L’or coffee pods for Nespresso

Price when reviewed: £3.49 | Check price at L’or 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 featuresServings: 10; Cost per cup: 35p; Coffee style: Espresso; Capsule type: Nespresso

Check price at L’or

7. Rave Compostable Coffee Pods: Best compostable Nespresso compatible capsules

Price when reviewed: From £3.29 | Check price at Rave If you’re an eco-conscious consumer but the idea of arranging for kerbside pickup for your Nespresso pods (or even having to take them to a drop-off point) sounds too much like hard work, we’ve got some good news for you in the form of Rave’s compostable pods.

Although many third party capsules fall short of the strength and flavour you get from Nespresso’s own pods, we found that Rave’s compostable pods taste great. We tested three different pods, the strongest of which were the Colombia El Carmen (rated four out of five on the intensity scale) and offered a sufficient kick and lingering sweetness.

Rave’s pods are made from Vegemat, composed of bio-sourced materials including cereals and plant fibres. This makes them 100% compostable, so you can dispose of them in your food waste bin. They’re also pretty great value too.

Read our full roundup of the best reusable and compostable Nespresso capsules.

Key features – Servings: 10, 50, 100; Cost per cup: From 29p; Coffee style: Espresso; Pod type: Nespresso

Check price at Rave

8. Artisan Coffee Co. capsules: Best luxury Nespresso compatible capsules

Price when reviewed: From £5 | Check price at Artisan Coffee Co. The standout feature of Artisan’s coffee pods (not mentioning the unconventional name choices) is the inclusion of little pairing chocolates, each one designed to accompany its respective roast. It’s a very nice touch, but we were more impressed with Artisan’s selection of pods, ranging from mellow easy drinkers to punchier espressos. Our favourites are The Genius, a smooth coffee with notes of nut and caramel and a slightly more intense espresso: The Heroine.

We would recommend first-timers opt for the brand’s taster pack, which includes ten pods of each roast (60 pods in total), so you can find the coffee that best suits you. This will cost you £30 (50p per capsule), making Artisan’s pods one of the more expensive options on our roundup (after Nespresso itself).

But if you’re after a tasty selection of coffee capsules, we would argue that Artisan’s pods are worth it – not to mention those chocolate pairings.

Much like Nespresso’s own capsules, Artisan’s coffee pods are made from aluminium. This means that if you want to recycle them, you’ll have to make use of the Podback scheme, by adding a free recycling bag to your order and taking your used pods to a collection point.

Key features – Servings: 10, 60, 180; Cost per cup: Around 50p; Coffee style: Espresso; Capsule type: Nepresso

Check price at Artisan Coffee Co.

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