Among the growing number of home coffee maker brands to choose from, both Nespresso and Keurig remain at the top of the list.
If you’re addicted to coffee, like I am, those names likely sound familiar and you probably have some strong opinions about them. But for those new to the world of coffee, my, my, my, do I have so much to tell you!
Since automatic brewers were invented in the early 1900s, everyone’s been grabbing at the opportunity to caffeinate the good people residing on the third planet from the sun.
Once the 1950s rolled in, a ton of new tech and household coffee brewers became all the rage. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find a household without at least a coffee maker (or device of some kind) strategically positioned for optimal usage on a kitchen counter.
Despite the large variety of coffee makers to choose from, though, there’s one corner of the market that’s been dominated by only two brands: single-cup coffee makers.
Keurig completely dominates the US market, while Nespresso fully claims the European market.
Well, let’s discuss it. I’ll introduce these two brands, go through the differences in cost, pros and cons of each, and quality of product to see which single-serve coffee maker takes the cake. (Coffee cake, of course.)
Single-serve coffee makers use disposable containers to make exactly one cup of coffee or shot of espresso. The pre-made containers are filled with coffee grounds, pop into the top of the machine, and produce anywhere between 2 and 10 ounces of delicious goodness. Done in minutes, no daily clean-up involved, and often compact, single-serve machines can be a time- and money-saver.
That said, they make the most sense for people who drink only a single cup every day, mostly because they create a lot of waste. The disposable pods are often not recyclable and there were enough sold in 2014 to circle the Earth 12 times. Listen, I know we’re here to talk about single-serve coffee machines but, hey, convenient cups of coffee can come with great environmental damage. It’s just something we have to think about.
Technically, the company is called Keurig Dr. Pepper — yes, the Dr. Pepper you’re thinking of. It’s a separate division that makes the carbonated beverage, but the same conglomerate.
In the beginning, otherwise known as the early 90s, before all of this corporate and conglomerate talk, Keurig was just two dudes who were roommates in college that hated burnt coffee. They had this magical idea for a machine that made only a single cup upon request, always fresh, always piping hot, and perfect for a college or office environment. Ingenious!
They approached the Vermont-based specialty roaster Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), and they became the first backers for this crazy new brewer and pod idea, which just exploded from there. GMCR eventually purchased Keurig, Inc., and, a bit after that, became ‘Keurig Green Mountain’ to align their name with their business interests.
Fast forward a few years, and in July 2018, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group acquired Keurig Green Mountain in a merger deal worth $18.7 billion. After the deal, Dr. Pepper Snapple changed its name to Keurig Dr. Pepper.
Took a weird turn there, but that’s where we are.
There are more than 50 different types of Keurig machines on the market. Though, to be fair, many of them are very similar but come with varied accessories.
Nespresso is, as you may have guessed, a Nestlé company. The portmanteau is combination of the company’s name and espresso, and is based in Switzerland. Nespresso machines date back to 1976, when an employee of Nestlé invented and debuted the system.
Nespresso offers two different lines of machines, and offers more than 25 options between the two lines.
The answer is, well, sort of.
Keurig’s specialty is cups of coffee. Most of their machines come with multiple cup options, from 4 oz to 12 oz, making them great for both that morning kick in the butt and the 2:00 PM don’t-judge-I-just-need-something-to-keep-my-eyes-open spot of brew.
Many of the Keurig machines come with programmable touchscreens, so you just pop the pod in, select your level of required caffeination, whether you want it strong brewed, and it just magically appears in your cup in t-minus one minute flat.
Nespresso machines, on the other hand, provide a whole range of magical brewing services, but, rather than popping the capsule in and selecting a size or type, they’re predetermined based upon the capsules you purchase. The coffee capsules produce 7.77 ounces and their Alto XL capsules dispense 14 ounces, while their espresso shots obviously produce less. The catch here is that, of course, the coffee and Alto XL capsules are more pricey.
If you like lattes and want to try your hand at making some mixed coffee beverages at home rather than buying them every morning, Nespresso machines could very well be your solution—many of them come with with an Aeroccino milk frother and it’s probably the best of its kind on the market. Splurge a bit and you can get a milk frother actually built into the machine.
Ultimately, this just comes down to how you like to drink your coffee. For no-nonsense cups of coffee, the Keurig is hands-down the machine to choose in this area. There’s zero thought. If you want more drink options, the Nespresso wins.
*The extra 0.5 is for the startup story. Always warms my heart
It’s always a consideration, right? I get it. I have a Keurig and I bought it years ago, when I’d never even heard of Nespresso. Plus, Keurig spent a long time on the market clocking in cheaper than Nespresso, but they’ve really met in the middle these days. Both have models starting at $99 dollars, and, in a weird twist, Nespresso now offers a bigger, more versatile machine at that baseline price.
Keurig single-serve machines come in a few different styles starting at $99.99, but it is, quite literally, single serve. The website doesn’t even provide a water capacity mostly because I think it only holds 12 oz. It is travel mug friendly, so that’s nice.
Their top model clocks in at $199, which, as of recently, includes a built-in milk frother which has had generally decent reviews so far.
Nespresso’s least costly model is exactly $0.99 cheaper. It provides five different drink sizes, from espresso to coffee to slightly bigger cup of coffee, and is part of their VertuoLine. This line also has models that cost up to $174, which is fairly affordable for the price considering it comes with the Aeroccino3 milk frother. The OrginalLine can really cost a pretty penny, though, with the top model exceeding $400 dollars.
Considering the size and capability of the base Nespresso model compared to the Keurig, I’d have to give the point to Nespresso.
All Keurig coffee machines come with a one-year warranty, and they will either repair or replace your machine if there are any issues with it. (Tip: Make sure to keep your receipt, because they’ll require proof of the purchase date.) If you look for where Keurigs are manufactured, you’ll have a difficult time squeezing that information out, but there’s a lot of indication that they’re made in China.
Nespresso machines come with a 2-year warranty, so double what Keurig offers. It’s a little murky where the machines are manufactured, partially because Nespresso sells and licenses machines through other brands, like Breville and Delonghi. Delonghi manufactures the Latissima, and every single machine is manufactured in Italy, but Eugster/Frismag, which makes a fifth of Nespresso machines, is a Swiss OEM manufacturer with plants in Switzerland, Portugal, and China.
Some general poking around will tell you that, somewhere between the 2 and 3 year mark in Keurig ownership, you’ll run into some problems. You’ll also find a strangely supportive community about it. Since 2016, this post has been helping Keurig owner’s get there machines back on track.
I’ll personally tell you that one of the biggest complaints is the clogged needle. The machine will just slowly start dispensing your coffee less quickly each day until it’s barely dribbling into your mug. Clean it out and it’ll be good to go again, or never leave your K-kups in the machine. Always take them out right after the coffee’s made and you’ll experience way fewer problems with the needle clogging.
With the increased manufacturing areas, the few complaints of malfunctioning machines, plus the 2-year warranty, Nespresso gets the point here.
The cleaning instructions are largely similar. Other than wiping down the exterior and cleaning any removable parts, that sort of thing. Both recommend flushing the machine every 3-6 months to prevent lime and scale buildup.
Keurig’s require a descaling process that many users say can be completed with vinegar and water, but Keurig recommends that, for a true clean, people purchase the Keurig Hot Descaling Solution. Follow the step-by-step instructions, and descaling the machine should take maybe 15 minutes.
Nespresso has an actual mode for cleaning its machines, a few coordinated presses of a few different buttons and it’s off! It also only requires water and doesn’t recommend using anything else, so it’s one less thing you’ll need to buy, which is always nice.
I’m torn here — the Nespresso is even easier than the Keurig, but I’m also skeptical that water alone can clean things. I’d say they both get a half point, but that cancels each other out, so we’ll just say it’s moot and leave the scores alone.
Keurig makes reusable pods that fit perfectly for their machines, making it a great option for creating less waste. In a surprising oversight for Nespresso, they actually don’t have any licensed reusable capsules. You can buy knockoffs on Amazon, but they’re not guaranteed to work.
Keurig pods come in a ton of varieties— they work with Starbucks, Eight O’Clock, Dunkin Donuts, Newman’s Own, Tully’s Coffee, Folgers, Caribou Coffee… There’s really no limitations on your morning brew brand.
It’s one of the biggest Keurig perks.
Plus, on average, you’re paying $0.66 per cup, and that’s if you buy from the manufacturer. Hit up a Costco and you’ll pay a fraction of that price.
Keurig really dominates the variety market. It features more than 400 beverage varieties through 60 different brands, so it’d be hard to not find something to suit your cup of joe needs.
The downside to this is that Keurig will go to extreme lengths to keep it that way— even if it significantly negatively impacts the environment. They even went so far as to make a new 2.0 machine with different machine-reader barcodes when their pod patent expired in 2012 to make people buy their non-recyclable 2.0 pod, whilst competitors were making recyclable options that then weren’t compatible with the 2.0 system. That’s garbagio—literally. (Excuse my American Italian.)
The upside is that Keurigs do come with a reusable coffee container (you just have to supply your own grind), but Nespresso takes it a step further and its capsules are actually recyclable. A little conscious behavior is all I’m asking for, okay?
Nespresso capsules can really only be purchased from Nespresso. Some brands, like Peet’s, make third-party capsules that are compatible, but they’re not actually working in collaboration with Nespresso. Individually, the capsules are $1.10. Bought in bulk packs of 100, they’re about $1.02. The capsules have less variety and are costlier, in the end. They’re a little more confusing, too, but definitely fancier.
Keurig gets a point for variety and affordability, but Nespresso has repeatedly been lauded for the quality of its hermetically-sealed pods, which are also recyclable, which also earns a point on the house scoreboard for it, too.
The final point in this round goes to Keurig, though, for the reusable pods available on its machines. These also give the added bonus of allowing people to make single-serve coffees of literally whatever grind they want, even if the brand doesn’t make K-cups, like most of the top-ranked beans here.
Recapping the house score, with Nespresso at 4 points and Keurig at 3.5, it would look like, based on the numbers anyway, Nespresso wins. The fact of the matter is that I’ve always been bad at choosing a single winner, especially when it’s clear that both products have significant pros and cons.
If you’re still on the fence about which to choose, here are a couple of scenarios we’ve put together to help you make a decision.
You: A coffee connoisseur. You can appreciate a rich espresso shot just as much as you do a large cup of coffee. You’re not opposed to a delicious latte every now and again either. You’re strict on the grinds to expressed ratio, in other words, the fact that each pod is made specifically for a certain type of drink, espresso, gran lungo, Alto XL, excites you, and the thought of the crema that tops espresso shots is is the only thing that gets you out of bed each morning.
The Nespresso is for you. You can check out a full breakdown on more Nespresso models here, but the top two that really hit that sweet spot of affordable price with lots of function, are these:
This beaut comes with a larger water tank than other models, it makes everything from espresso to alto cups of coffee, and it comes with the Aeroccino3 milk frother, which, like I said earlier, has gotten some rave reviews. It’s affordable, too, so there’s really no downside here. Again, you do have to use the capsules sold by Nespresso.
If you’re cool with dropping a little bit more coin upfront, perhaps in an effort to stop visiting your local Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts every morning, this model is the ideal match. It makes espresso shots, coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos, and not using the separate Aeroccino3, either. It has a built-in, removable milk container that does the entire job of that chain-coffee storefront and barista except write your name incorrectly for you.
You: You have no intentions of indulging in espressos or lattes or cappuccinos, but have a desperate necessity for a steaming cup of hot coffee as black as your soul (or maybe with milk cream and sugar. We won’t judge.)
Variety is important to you or you definitely want to use the grinds from your favorite brand. You want a machine that can automatically turn on at 6 am so you can indulge in your first cup at exactly 6:03 am, and, if you decide it’s a day for three or more cups of coffee, you’d prefer not to fuss around with adding more water to the tank ten times.
Keurig is your soulmate, my friend. You can check out a breakdown of more Keurig models here, but here are the top two that you should definitely take a look at.
I actually have an old version of this one, the K300. The biggest differences are the non-exposed water container and buttons on the front of Elite, which, on the K300 is a touch screen. The Elite has a number of extra features now, though, on top of the 5 coffee cup sizes, very large reservoir, and strong brew option. It can now provide hot water on demand, offers an iced coffee option, and has a removable reservoir.
This is for the coffee curious out there that still want the flexibility of a Keurig—it has four coffee cup sizes and all of the features listed above (minus the ice coffee button). It has an attached dishwasher safe milk frother for lattes and cappuccinos, can make you a shot of espresso, a large 60 oz. reservoir, and it’s super affordable. Hey, options are nice to have, even if it’s just for slow Saturday mornings.
Well, that’s it. Search your soul, ask yourself what you want your single-serve for, and get yourself a coffee maker that will keep you caffeinated cup by cup for years to come.
Hi! My name is Rachel Bean and I love coffee. Despite what it may seem like, my last name and deep love for a cup of black brew is a total coincidence. While I was informed at the wee age of 18 that majoring in coffee wasn't really an option (at least not the way I wanted to major in coffee) (i.e. drinking it day in and day out), I do have an MA and an MFA in Writing. I type words day in and day out, for both work as well as fun, and coffee is the magic bean juice that lets me do that. And that's pretty much me. Writing and coffee. Oh, and rescue dogs. Writing, coffee, and dogs. You get me.