Single serve coffee makers have quickly risen in popularity in the last few years due to their convenience and ease of use. In fact in 2019 a whopping 40% of consumers in the USA owned a single serve coffee maker!
These coffee makers enable the user to prepare a single cup of coffee using pods or capsules. They are very quick, convenient, clean, and can make surprisingly enjoyable coffee.
When it comes to buying a single serve coffee maker the two biggest names in the coffee world are Nespresso and Keurig. We are going to review these two brands side by side to help you decide what brand to opt for.
Nespresso is owned by the Nestle group and is based out of Switzerland. Nespresso machines were first introduced to the market in 1986 and have since risen in popularity with the reduction in machine price. The company is very popular across Europe although less so in America, where Keurig has more of a foothold.
Nespresso is generally considered a premium brand of coffee maker, producing high quality machines and better tasting coffee. They have invested a lot of money into their brand with beautiful stores, stylish packaging and the backing of celebrities such as George Clooney.
When it comes to their machines, Nespresso has partnered with established companies such as Breville, De’Longhi and Phillips to produce their machines. This has resulted in a higher quality of machine produced compared to Keurig models.
There are currently 2 lines of Nespresso machines available:
OriginalLine machines were Nespresso’s original machines. They use standard pump technology to brew a hotter beverage. They also have a lower cost per cup as the OriginialLine capsules are cheaper and there is the option of using 3rd party capsule equivalents.
The VertuoLine machines were designed to cater to those who like large servings of coffee. The VertuoLine machines use centrifusion (the spinning of a pod at high speeds) to brew coffee. The capsules have barcodes which the machine reads to know how to brew each capsule. VertuoLine machines produce a coffee with a thicker crema, although some have reported the coffee doesn’t taste as good as the OriginalLine capsules.
Keurig is an American based company that is owned by the beverage company Keurig Dr Pepper (formerly Green Mountain Coffee Roasters). The company launched its first machines in 1998 with the focus originally being on producing single serve coffee makers for office use. However, in later years they expanded to domestic use.
There are a huge variety of Keurig machines available with over 50 different models on the market (and plenty of discontinued models like the Keurig 2.0 series). They offer options for brewing both single serves of coffee or carafes. Where Nespresso has partnered with different companies to produce their machines, Keurig has partnered with different brands to produce their K-cups. This has resulted in a huge selection of over 60 different types of K-cups, with all sorts of beverage options available from standard coffee, to hot chocolate and tea, to a large range of flavored coffees.
Keurig machines are generally cheaper to buy but tend not to be as durable or reliable as Nespresso machines. The Keurig machines require regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent problems. The coffee produced by Keurig machines is generally considered to be not as nice as Nespresso.
Nespresso vs Keurig: The Showdown
When it comes to price there are 2 different things to consider: the cost of purchase and the cost per cup.
Nespresso machines are generally of a higher quality and consequently have a higher cost of purchase. Nespresso machines retail from anywhere around $120-$200+.
Keurig machines come in a lot cheaper with the average domestic machine retailing around $80-$160+. Keurig machines designed for office use usually have a higher price point than this.
Once again Keurig has a lower cost per cup, however you do sacrifice some brew quality with the cheaper price point. Nespresso capsules, while more expensive, do produce a nicer tasting coffee.
OriginalLine Capsules: $0.70
VertuoLine Capsules: $0.90 – $2.00
Winner: Keurig wins on price, producing more affordable machines and having a lower cost per cup of coffee produced.
This is perhaps the most important consideration when you decide which machine to opt for. And when it comes down to it the main difference between Nespresso and Keurig is that Nespresso machines produce espresso whereas Keurig machines can only produce coffee.
What does Keurig coffee taste like?
While K-cups have a lot of flavors available, the coffee produced is very basic coffee similar to drip coffee. Consumers often complain the coffee tastes bitter or watered down. However if you do opt for a Keurig machine and find you don’t enjoy the taste of K-cups you do have the option of using your own freshly ground coffee with their reusable My K-cup, which can greatly improve the taste of your coffee.
What does Nespresso coffee taste like?
Nespresso coffee tends to have a medium body, with a rich flavor and low acidity. When comparing it to a shot of freshly ground coffee on an espresso machine it is (not surprisingly) less intense and flavorful.
With both Keurig and Nespresso, the coffee produced will never compare to using freshly ground coffee. If you are looking for a single serve coffee maker that will produce better tasting coffee look at our article on Alternatives to Keurig machines.
How do K-cups/ Nespresso Capsules work?
While the idea behind Nespresso and Keurig machines is very similar the method of extracting coffee is quite different:
Keurig K-cups are made of a plastic cup which contains a paper filter holding the ground coffee. The K-cup is then sealed with a foil topping. Before the K-cup is sealed the air is removed from it in an effort to keep the coffee fresh. When a K-cup is inserted into a Keurig machine the pod is pierced at the top and bottom and water is forced through yielding coffee similar to drip coffee.
Nespresso capsules are made of Aluminium. Each capsule contains about 5-7 grams of ground coffee.
With the OriginalLine system the pointed end of the capsule is pierced with 3 holes when inserted into the machine. The machine then pumps hot water at 19 bar pressure into the capsule until the foil bottom bursts, as it is made of thinner foil than the rest of the capsule, and coffee is released.
Vertuo capsules are pierced with a single hole at the flat top. The machine then scans the barcode on the capsule which dictates the temperature and water volume required to brew each capsule. Hot water flows through the capsule while the machine spins the capsule at up to 7000 rpm to blend the coffee and water.
Winner: Nespresso wins on taste, producing a rich, complex espresso-like shot as opposed to coffee.
Types of Drinks available
When it comes to types of drinks available it really comes down to personal preference. Keurig machines produce drip style coffee. They do have some models such as the K Cafe which come with a built in milk frother allowing you to produce milk based drinks.
There is a lot more variety in flavours and types of drinks available with Keurig K-Cups. They have the ability to brew not just coffee, but hot chocolate, tea, chai, iced coffee or dispense hot water. In terms of brew size, your basic Keurig machine will be able to brew at least 3 different cup sizes (6, 8 and 10 ounce) and most machines, like the Keurig Elite, are able to produce iced drinks as well. For a guide to the best Keurig K-cups click here.
With Nespresso if you are looking to buy Nespresso brand capsules there is a limited range of flavor options available. Most Nespresso machines come with an aeroccino or have the option of adding one into a bundle deal for a reasonable price so you can produce milk based beverages.
Nespresso currently have about 30 different capsule options in both lines of machines:
The OriginalLine has three different sizes of shot available; Ristretto (.85 ounces), Espresso (1.35 ounces), or Lungo (3.7 ounces). If you are a coffee rather than espresso lover you do have the option of making an Americano with Nespresso machines. The VirtuoLine caters to those who love large drinks with five cup sizes: Alto Coffee (14oz), Coffee (8oz), Gran Lungo (5 oz), Double Espresso (2.7 oz) and Espresso (1.35 oz).
Winner: Well this one really comes down to you! Are you wanting an espresso based beverage or coffee?
Impact on Environment
I’m sure you have heard that one of the main criticisms of single serve coffee makers is the negative impact they are having on the environment due to the sheer amount of waste produced. This is a particular issue with Keurig K-cups as the design of them means that they can not be recycled, so all end up in landfills. The amount of K-cups produced in a single year is enough to circle the earth 10 times! This is certainly something to be concerned about. However Keurig has promised that by the end of 2020 100% of their K-cups will be recyclable-so watch this space!
Nespresso on the other hand has taken great care to make sure their coffee is sourced sustainably and their capsules recyclable. Used Nespresso capsules are able to be taken back to the nearest store or capsule recycling station or they can provide free capsule-recycling bags.
Both machines also have the option of using reusable pods or K-cups which you refill with your choice of ground coffee, which is better for the environment and easier on the pocket!
Winner: Nespresso is the clear winner here showing they are a company who cares about coffee sustainability and the environment.
Some things to consider when choosing which machine to opt for…
Both Keurig and Nespresso machines are designed to be easy and intuitive to use. Nespresso machines tend to be more compact than Keurig machines (although Keurig does have a few compact machines like the Keurig mini and K slim. Nespresso machines also tend to have more modern, minimalist designs making them a beautiful addition to any benchtop.
Nespresso machines with their minimalistic design do not offer much in the way of programmability. Keurig machines on the other hand generally are more advanced with many offering LCD touch screens and the ability to program the machine to automatically turn on and off and adjust brew temperature and strength.
Automatic Capsule Ejection
It may be a small thing but capsule ejection is something to be aware of. Nespresso machines all are designed to automatically eject the used capsule into a bin when you open the lid. This saves time if you are brewing multiple drinks and helps prevent you from burning your fingers when removing a hot capsule.
Water Reservoir Size
Keurig machines generally have a larger water reservoir, which while making them more bulkier, allows you to brew more drinks between each refill. That being said, some of the latest models like the Keurig K Duo Plus, or Keurig K Supreme Plus have managed to incorporate a large water reservoir while maintaining a slimline design.
While both machines are very easy to clean, Nespresso machines have a built-in descaling alert (often a blinking orange light).
So when it comes to choosing between Nespresso and Keurig we would opt for a Nespresso machine. While these machines have a higher price point, they are high quality machines that will last the distance and produce nicer tasting coffee which are the two most important things!
If you are a coffee lover and want to opt for a Keurig machine check out our review of the top Keurig machines here.
Best Single Serve Machines
Nespresso Vertuo is one of the latest models and is able to produce 5 different sizes of drinks ranging from 1.35 oz to 14 oz (Espresso, Double Espresso, Fran Lungo, Coffee and Alto). Their drinks can also be poured over ice for those hot summer months. There are a range of 16 different types of coffees and 10 types of Espresso with varying intensities. There is also the option of buying a bundle which includes an Aeroccino and sample coffee for those who love milk based drinks.
Keurig K-Duo Plus
This Keurig coffee maker is great if you are looking for a versatile coffee maker with the option of brewing both single serve and pots of coffee. The Keurig K-Duo Plus has a huge range of brew sizes with the usual single serve 6, 8, 10 or 12 oz cups or a 6, 8, 10 or 12 cup stainless steel carafe. The Single serve is able to brew a coffee in under a minute. It also has a strong brew option. The carafe option means you can use ground coffee to brew a whole pot of coffee.
The machine comes with a 12 cup stainless steel carafe to keep coffee warm for up to 2 hours and a reusable mesh filter. The machine also has a Pause and Pour feature when brewing a pot of coffee so you can pause brewing for 20 seconds and serve fresh coffee right away. This model also has a 60 ounce water reservoir that can be positioned multiple ways to optimise counter space. The K-duo plus is compatible with the Keurig My K-Cup reusable coffee filter however it is not compatible with K-carafe pods, so you can only use ground coffee when brewing a carafe.