The Best Coffee Pod Machines for Single Serve Brews

We all love coffee, but it can sometimes be a pain to prepare. Whether we’re in a hurry or are just feeling lazy, sometimes we don’t want to take the time to brew the perfect pour-over or practice our latte art on freshly pulled espresso. Sometimes it’s easier to just toss a capsule into a coffee pod machine, press a button and have a piping hot (or cold, if you want iced coffee) cup of Joe ready in a few seconds.

But not all pod-based coffee machines are created equal. Years and years of watery single-serve cups of coffee extracted from cheap coffee pod machines has sullied the reputation of coffee pods, but the market is actually full of some great machines that might just have you questioning your morning Chemex or Breville routine. Truthfully, the single-serve coffee machine industry has never been hotter, so we went hands-on with the top coffee pod machines on the market to find the best.

Types of Coffee Pod Machines

K-Cup

K-Cup is the name given to Keurig’s pods, and they easily offer the widest variety on the market, with brands ranging from grocery store staples like Folgers, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Café Bustelo, to nationwide coffee shop chains such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Peet’s. They also offer also plenty of non-coffee options like tea and hot chocolate, so whatever your preferred beverage or brand, you’ll likely be able to find it in K-Cup form. K-Cups aren’t exclusive to Keurig, either, as many third-party coffee pod machines also accept the capsules (sometimes exclusively). K-Cups are made of plastic, with an aluminum lid and inner paper filter. The plastic K-Cups use is recyclable (this wasn’t always the case prior to 2020), but you’ll have to disassemble and clean out the cups first.

Nespresso

Nespresso is the original capsule-based coffee machine brand, having debuted in the 1980s as a quick and convenient way to make espresso — crema and all. And while the brand has been ubiquitous in Europe for decades, it’s only gained a foothold in the US in more recent years (thanks, George Clooney!). Nespresso makes use of two different types of pods. There are the Original Espresso Capsules, which look similar to K-Cups, are made of recyclable plastic and exclusively make espresso drinks.

Then there are the newer Vertuo Pods, which are aluminum, half-sphere-shaped and are capable of making a wider range of drinks, from espresso to large cups of crema-topped coffee and even iced coffee. The Original Capsules and Vertuo Pods are not interchangeable and require two different types of Nespresso machines. Vertuo Pods and machines are generally more expensive and are marketed as a more premium product. They’re also exclusive to Nespresso, while third-party manufacturers can sell machines that use Nespresso’s Original Capsules, similar to third-party K-Cup machines. And, like K-Cups, both types of Nespresso pods need to be disassembled and cleaned prior to recycling.

Proprietary

For decades, Nespresso and Keurig dominated the coffee pod machine market, but lately, some new competitors using their own technology have appeared to challenge the throne. The two most notable are Bruvi and L’OR.

Bruvi calls their capsules B-Pods, and they’re unique in that they can be thrown away to quickly break down in a landfill without leaving behind any microplastics — there’s nothing to disassemble, clean or recycle. The pods can only be used in Bruvi’s own brewer and can make a wide variety of beverages, from regular coffee to espresso to, in a pod-based machine first, cold brew coffee.

L’OR is a French coffee brand that launched its own brewing system, dubbed Barista, in the US in 2022. L’OR’s machine is a high-pressure system, similar to Nespresso machines, and the brand produces two types of capsules. L’OR Espressso Capsules are nigh-indistinguishable from Nespresso’s Original Espresso Capsules to the point where they’re actually interchangeable — you can use L’OR Capsules in Nespresso machines and vice versa. L’OR Coffee Capsules, however, are larger and can only be used in L’OR’s own machine. These capsules produce larger cups of non-espresso coffee topped with crema, similar to what you might get from a Nespresso Vertuo machine.

What to Look for in a Coffee Pod Machine

Types of beverages offered: Are you looking to make regular coffee or espresso? What about both? How about iced coffee, or even cold brew? What if you prefer something like tea or hot chocolate? Think about what types of drinks you’ll want to make with your single-serve coffee machine and be sure to choose a model that has the capability to make them.

Ease of use: All coffee pod machines are pretty easy to use — if they weren’t, they wouldn’t last very long on the market. Still, you’ll want to take into consideration just how simple they are to operate. Some offer single-button operation, while others are equipped with touchscreens and WiFi connectivity that gives you more options when it comes to your brew.

Pod disposal: Finally, you’ll need to take into consideration what to do with the pods once you’re done with them. Coffee pods can only be used once before they need to be thrown away or recycled, and you’ll want to be realistic about the time it will take you to properly dispose of your spent capsules without being wasteful or harming the planet.

How We Tested

coffee pod machines

Gear Patrol Staff

In order to get the widest possible view of the market, we called in the best machines from industry leaders Nespresso and Keurig, along with the best-reviewed third-party machines and the industry’s newest coffee pod brands. From there, our testers spent several months with these machines in their own homes, using them as their regular coffee machines to get a realistic look at what life with one of these coffee pod machines is like. Here’s what we discovered.

The Best Coffee Pod Machines

Bruvi

Best Overall Coffee Pod Machine

Bruvi Brewer

  • Makes better-tasting coffee
  • Touchscreen is fun to use and offers lots of options for customization
  • Beautifully designed and easy to operate
  • Pods don’t need to be emptied or recycled
  • Makes a bit of a mess on the counter — lots of backsplash
  • Limited options when it comes to coffees to buy
  • Espresso and cold brew settings could be better
  • More expensive than the competition

  • Compatible Pods: Bruvi B-Pods
  • Coffee Styles: Regular coffee, iced coffee, espresso, cold brew

    The newest entry in the single-serve coffee wars is Bruvi, and it’s wasted no time in putting the industry on notice. Released in 2022, the self-titled smart coffee maker spent four years in development, with the goal of making pod-based coffee taste better while also being less wasteful. After using the machine for a couple of months, I’m happy to report that they’ve mostly succeeded. Bruvi’s brews are robust and full-bodied and taste closer to cups I’ve had from a coffee shop or my Chemex than from a K-Cup. And, once the coffee’s done (or rather, once the interior receptacle is full), I simply throw my spent pods in the trash, knowing they’ll be kind to the earth.

    bruvi coffee machine

    Bruvi’s touchscreen is easy to use, offering customization options like “Low Acid” and “Stronger.”

    Johnny Brayson

    Bruvi is a smart brewer, complete with WiFi connectivity, its own app and a large touchscreen for personalizing my cup. It can make everything from regular hot coffee to espresso and even cold brew, the latter two the result of the machine’s 15-bar pressure pump. And while the espresso and cold brew are passable, they don’t quite possess the “wow” factor of Bruvi’s regular cups o’ Joe — the espresso lacks crema and the cold brew is a little weak. Another knock against Bruvi is that it can be a bit messy due to lots of backsplash when brewing, though adjusting the height of the drip tray alleviates some of this. I’d also like to see more options for B-Pods, but since Bruvi is just getting started, I’m sure they’re on the way.

    But overall, Bruvi is an experience that’s head and shoulders above the competition. No other coffee pod machine out there offers its combination of versatility, ease of use, and customization — not to mention it’s great looks. Sure, it’s pricey, but if you’re looking for the best, this is it. — Johnny Brayson, Associate Editor

    For an in-depth look, read our full Bruvi review.

    Nespresso Vertuo Plus by De’Longhi

    Courtesy

    Best Nespresso Coffee Pod Machine

    Nespresso Vertuo Plus by De’Longhi

    • Has an internal receptacle for empty pods
    • Lots of pod options from Nespresso
    • Can make coffee, iced coffee and espresso
    • Water tank is easy to refill
    • Not super compact
    • Won’t work with large/irregularly shaped mugs
    • Only one button (no other controls)
    • Pods are on the pricey side

    • Compatible Pods: Nespresso Vertuo
    • Coffee Styles: Regular coffee, iced coffee, espresso

      This Nespresso is a great starter machine for somebody who wants the ease of a pod-based coffee maker that can make single and double shots of espresso, coffee and even iced coffee. With just one button and a lever to open the top of the machine, it’s virtually impossible to mess up your brew. Plus, I loved that the Vertuo Plus has an internal receptacle that houses used pods — the machine even puts them there for you when you open it up to place a new pod. I also found that the water tank is very easy to fill, replace and clean. It’s super easy to get a cup of Joe going in the morning and requires very little maintenance, even with regular use.

      nespresso coffee machine

      Nespresso’s Vertuo Plus has a sleek design, with the exception of its awkwardly-placed water tank.

      Grace Cooper

      I like the sleek all-black look of the machine, but the matte finish tends to show dust and fingerprints. Its shape is also a little impractical. While some Nespresso models house the water tank directly behind the machine, this one has its water tank awkwardly jutting out to the side, giving it a larger footprint on my countertop. The rounded front also makes it so my mug can’t sit flush with the machine, so it feels like the coffee might easily not make it into the cup. Additionally, the drip tray, while nice, is pretty small, so it won’t accommodate larger mugs. — Grace Cooper, Commerce Writer

      Keurig K-Café SMART Single Serve Coffee Maker

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      Best Keurig Coffee Pod Machine

      Keurig K-Café SMART Single Serve Coffee Maker

      • Smart features
      • Sturdy and well-built
      • More specific brewing options than other K-Cup coffee machines (temperature, balance, etc.)
      • Heats up quickly after placing pod
      • Scheduled coffee requires confirmation on your phone
      • Frother is fun to use, but hard to clean

      • Compatible Pods: K-Cup
      • Coffee Styles: Regular coffee, iced coffee, cappuccinos/lattes

        The smart features are the most notable part of this Keurig. The setup process is done almost entirely in the app, where they also have drink recipes and instructional videos as well. But once it is ready to go, most of the settings (brew size, type, temperature and balance) can also be accessed directly on the machine. You can even choose to brew a shot instead of a full cup of coffee, although it is important to note that you shouldn’t expect the taste of a true espresso drink, as it is still regular coffee.

        The function I was most excited about was the scheduled brew time, but I came to find out that you have to approve the push notification on your phone to confirm there is a cup in place to catch your coffee. This is a catch-22 in that it is not 100{ead4cb8c77dfcbdb67aba0af1ff8dfae0017fcc07a16fe7b51058939ac12c72a} automatic, but I can imagine it is easy to forget to put a cup under the drip and have a messy situation.

        keurig kcafé smart single serve coffee maker

        With a digital display and a slew of customization options, the K-Cafe Smart shows Keurig has come a long way.

        Mary Singler

        I always get nervous when there are a lot of moving parts on a machine like this because it just offers more opportunities for plastic pieces to break. But that being said, I have found it to be sturdy, and it looks pretty dang good on my counter. The milk frother and cylinder water reservoir are visually pleasing but not easy to clean. The frother is not dishwasher safe, so you have to hand wash it after each use because no matter what milk or dairy substitute you put in there, it will need a solid cleaning. — Mary Singler, Editorial Production Assistant

        Instant Dual Pod Plus 3-in-1 Coffee Maker

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        Best Coffee Pod Machine for Tiny Living

        Instant Dual Pod Plus 3-in-1 Coffee Maker

        amazon.com

        $199.99

        $159.95 (20{ead4cb8c77dfcbdb67aba0af1ff8dfae0017fcc07a16fe7b51058939ac12c72a} off)

        • Compatible with a variety of pods
        • Slim and doesn’t take up a lot of counter space
        • Coffee brews quickly
        • The initial cleaning phase made the machine smell like burning plastic
        • Pulls a lot of energy

        • Compatible Pods: K-Cup, Nespresso Original, refillable pod
        • Coffee Styles: Regular coffee, espresso

          Setting up the Instant Dual Pod Plus was fairly simple. It’s important to read the instructions carefully before brewing your first cup; there are some specific cleaning tasks that need to be completed before you can enjoy your first cup of Joe. After I completed the cleaning cycles, I set about brewing my first “instant” cup of coffee. I liked this particular pod-based machine because it’s compatible with not only K-Cups, but also Nespresso Original Espresso Capsules, and it comes with a reusable coffee pod if you prefer to use your own grounds (and cut down on waste).

          instant coffee machine

          If you don’t have a lot of space, this compact coffee pod machine from the maker of Instant Pot will still find a spot on your counter.

          Hayley Helms

          My first cup, and all the others after, was both tasty and fresh. I’m typically a cold brew person, but after using Instant’s Multi-Function Coffee Pod Maker, I can see myself being swayed by the convenience (and the warmth on particularly frigid mornings). The aspect of the coffee maker that I liked the most, besides the speedy brewing and pod compatibility, was its unobtrusive size. I live in small quarters, so the slim profile of the Instant coffee maker was a major plus for me. — Hayley Helms, Associate Editor

          L’OR Barista System

          Courtesy

          Best Coffee Pod Machine for Espresso Junkies

          L’OR Barista System

          • Compact size
          • Great-looking design
          • Generous crema
          • Coffee and espresso taste a bit burnt
          • The cup stand under the spigot is a waste of space and plastic

          • Compatible Pods: L’OR Espresso, L’OR Coffee, Nespresso Original
          • Coffee Styles: Regular coffee, espresso

            The L’Or Barista machine is certainly easy to use — like, Jitterbug phone easy. There’s an on button and three different buttons for small, medium or large beverages; it automatically determines whether you want an espresso or a coffee based on the size of the pod. Being able to do espresso shots so seamlessly is a delight, as it greatly opens up the types of drinks you can make. Emptying out the used capsules is a cinch, too.

            l'or coffee machine

            The L’OR Barista has a professional look to it, but it has a tendency to leave somewhat of a burnt taste on its brews.

            Will Courtney

            The machine itself is fairly compact, which is nice; my kitchen is extremely short on counter space, but I was still able to find a spot for it. Also, it’s quite good-looking, which makes it easier to live with. — Will Sabel Courtney, Senior Editor

            Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Trio Coffee Maker

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            Best Coffee Pod Machine for a Crowd

            Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Trio Coffee Maker

            • Super easy to use (including setup and programming)
            • Easy to clean
            • Includes a reusable single-serve pod
            • Doubles as a traditional drip coffee maker
            • Somewhat cheap and plasticky feeling
            • Takes up a lot of counterspace
            • Having to fill two separate water reservoirs gets annoying

            • Compatible Pods: K-Cup, refillable pod, doubles as a drip coffee maker
            • Coffee Styles: Regular coffee

              The best part of Hamilton Beach’s FlexBrew Trio is that it is utterly easy to use whether you’re brewing an entire pot or you just want a single cup. There aren’t a ton of confusing controls or a hefty manual you need to open whenever you want to use it … you just … use it. The downside, however, is that it seems as budget-friendly as it is, utilizing plastic parts that give it an overall look and feeling of cheapness. It also takes up a lot of counter space, but that’s standard fare for this type of device, since it’s really two coffee machines in one: a pod-based brewer and a traditional automatic drip coffee maker.

              hamilton beach flexbrew

              Hamilton Beach’s FlexBrew can make you either a single cup or full carafe of coffee, but it basically takes up as much space as two separate machines.

              Sean Tirman

              All that being said, it’s quick to brew, consistent, easy to clean and maintain, and I’ve yet to run into any issues with it, really at all. For the price, there probably just isn’t anything on the market that holds up to this one, especially if you like the option of making either a lot of coffee at once or a single up. — Sean Tirman, Commerce Writer


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