Best Coffee Pods And Capsules For Coffee Machines

Discover how those 44mm ESE pods have undergone a green revolution.

Coffee pod machine and capsules.

by Natalie Knowles |
Updated on

Finding the best coffee pods and capsules may be on your radar. These handy miracles are used interchangeably to describe single-use shots of coffee that get slotted into coffee machines. An oxygen barrier keeps your coffee fresh for months without losing its flavour or quality. Also, the pod can be disposed of with no mess. Easy to use and practical for busy lives, pods offer a premium coffee experience in the comfort of your own home.

There's no doubt that we've all bought into the convenience of pod technology. The trouble is, as brands keep reinventing their coffee pods, we have to upgrade to newer coffee pod machines. For now, 44mm ESE pods are the most widely sold coffee pod, but there are alternatives such as Nespresso Vertuo and the Tassimo Discs.

Best Coffee Pods And Capsules At A Glance

Best Nespresso Vertuo assortment: Nespresso Vertuo Seasonal Flavours – View on Nespresso
Best compostable coffee pods: Grind Compostable Pods – View on Grind
Best reusable coffee pod: BLUECUP Reusable Capsules – View on Amazon UK

Concern for the environment is just one aspect to consider. There is also the cost per cup, range of hot drinks and effectiveness of the pod. They're quite different to freshly ground coffee. Here at A Modern Kitchen, we're all for a better brew, so let's take a closer look at some of the innovative and frankly delicious coffee pod options available now. Sounds delicious, right?

Best Coffee Pods And Capsules

Best Nespresso Vertuo capsules



Unbox Barista Creations and make a mug size coffee (230ml) with the Nespresso Vertuo Seasonal Flavours. You can expect decadent mug-sized coffee – ideal if an Espresso is not enough and you crave a seasonal coffee shop-style speciality drink. A delicious, silky and flavoured coffee costs just 71p. As pretty as baubles, the colourful capsules are made of aluminium and recyclable through Nespresso's partnership with Royal Mail. Book a Royal Mail doorstep collection for used capsules, or there's the option of dropping them off at any of Royal Mail’s 14,000+ drop-off locations across the UK.

Our review: "The Vertuo capsules are the crema of the cup for incredible tasting coffee. The Centrifusion™ brewing process makes a deliciously creamy inch-thick crema that I've never seen on any high street coffee shop equivalent. From capsule to cup in about a minute, the coffee is instantly in your hand at a drinkable temperature. You get all the indulgence of sipping up the crema before those rich bubbles of coffee decadence dissipate. Amore!"

Out of all the seasonal flavours, I was most curious about Peppermint Pinwheel as I've not encountered peppermint and coffee as a combination before. Opening the sleeve and seeing the capsules for the first time, I was wowed by how pretty they are. The aluminium capsules are a shiny emerald green, with a leaf and pinwheel pattern in silver and pale green. When it's being brewed it smells like the type of mint you get in mint choc chip ice cream. I tasted the crema and it was like inhaling a burst of sweet fresh mint. It's lovely to drink it black or add a little milk to soften the peppermint flavour.

Barista Creations Gingerbread comes in an incredibly pretty burgundy capsule with a kaleidoscope pattern in red and silver. On the sleeve, the pattern is repeated in dark burgundy, red and gold. Ginger is there as a background note rather than as a heady hit of spice. It's warming and tastes authentic. The spice does indeed complement the blend of Latin American and African Arabica coffee beans. There are malty, cereal notes too.

Finally, Nespresso's Pumpkin Spice Cake has has a subtle cinnamon flavour that's woody and works well with the smoky tasting notes in the coffee. Yes, it does taste like all spice, nutmeg and cinnamon that you'd find in a spiced cake. I'd like mine with a piece of carrot cake, please.

For sugar and spice and all things nice Nespresso coffee sleeves feel luxurious and it's a wonderful seasonal gift for recipients who have a Nespresso Vertuo machine. Alternatively, if you're lucky enough to own a Vertuo machine, offer these delicious Christmas flavours from your own home coffee bar for fika with flair.

Read a full review of the Nespresso Vertuo Pop, sampling the Vertuo capsules.


  • Incredible crema
  • Taste delicious
  • Mug-sized luxury coffee


  • Pods only work with Nespresso Vertuo machines

Best compostable coffee pods

With advertising on the Tube and growing a chain of coffee cocktail bars, Grind is all over London at the moment. Thankfully they're online too. Choose from a range of Grind Compostable Pods blends that are colour-coded in appealing pastel hues, and filled with organic Grind coffee. Light, dark, decaf, long blend, Editions India and Editions Ethiopia. Grind claims that these pods will decompose quicker than garden grass cuttings. Subscribe to Grind and receive a refillable tin to store your pods in.

Customer review: "I thoroughly enjoy Grind's coffee, and use it almost every time I make a cup. I also like the fact that I can compost the pods, making it so much more environmentally friendly than other coffee producers."


  • Eco-friendly ethos
  • Tasty coffee
  • Great customer service
  • Competitively priced premium coffee


  • Some customers commented that the pods weren't quite as good as Nespresso - less crema

Best Nespresso Original compatible pod

CafePod coffee capsulesPhoto credit: Natalie Knowles

CafePod produces a range of Strong, Decaf, Flavoured and Variety Pack coffee pods. The CafePod Hey There Hazelnut pods are cheaper than Nespresso whilst still providing a premium customer experience with information about tasting notes and provenance. The aluminium pods are compatible with Nespresso Original machines and are recyclable. In addition, CafePod offers a subscription service.

Our review: "I brewed CafePod's Hey There Hazelnut in a Nespresso Pixie and tried it with milk, as the serving suggestion recommends. Firstly, the coffee aroma when brewing was wonderful and extraction produced a good crema. It's not a sweet coffee but there is a distinct hazelnut taste that develops rather than being an initial hit. The addition of milk made it a mellow coffee to enjoy - which was a perfect accompaniment for mulling over a Sunday afternoon jigsaw puzzle. Equally, I enjoyed CafePod's Supercharger Espresso - which is more to my personal taste - served black. It had complex bitter and sweet notes, a smooth texture and a wonderful aroma.

"In summary, CafePod have a tasty and good-looking range of coffee pods that work perfectly in Nespresso Original machines. They gain marks over competitors for great product design and presentation of the provenance, process and flavour profile of their coffees. CafePod has also been proactive about recycling and offers an EcoPress to make cleaning their aluminium pods a bit easier."


  • Great tasting coffee
  • Pods are compatible with Nespresso Original machines
  • Great branding and information design


  • Added flavouring might not be to everyone's taste

Best alternative to Nespresso

L’OR BARISTA Double Forza XXL Aluminium Coffee Capsules allow you to make a mug-sized coffee or double-strength shot. It competes with Nespresso Vertuo in terms of offering a larger drink, however, the price difference is massive. If you shop around, these capsules can be as little as 24p per cup. In addition, L'OR offers a huge range of premium coffees, including some limited editions. The capsules are made of aluminium, preserving the aroma and intense flavour. It's good to know that these capsules can be recycled.

Customer review: "Easy to use, these XXL pods are superb for double strength or double length coffees. Work brilliantly in the L’OR barista sublime machine."


  • Significantly cheaper than other premium coffee pods
  • Espresso with the complexity of oak and liquorice notes
  • Delivers the ultimate coffee experience


  • Some found it a little weak for their taste

Best Italian coffee pod

Lavazza has been synonymous with quality Italian coffee and the brand boasts an enormous range of coffee products. They've also expanded to include some speciality world coffees with an emphasis on sustainability. The Lavazza A Modo Mio Qualità Rossa Capsules (5 Pack of 16) go into your household food waste and go through industrial compost. In addition, Lavazza has partnered with TerraCycle to provide a recycling service.

Customer review: "The whole "eco-pod" thing is a bit of a con to be honest - they can't be recycled in normal recyclable waste, aren't compostable at home so you have to find a specialist recycler, which I have not been able to do, so I have an increasingly full bag of used capsules that I'm hoping I will be able to find a way of recycling before I use all the pods."

Read A Modern Kitchen's Guide: Choosing The Best Lavazza Coffee Machine


  • Good value coffee capsules
  • Eco caps go into household food waste
  • A subscription is a great way to purchase


  • Espresso size

Best coffee pod for espresso

The illy Coffee, Classico Espresso Coffee Capsules are a favourite for a lot of people and the positive reviews show that many prefer it to the taste of Nespresso coffee. Wow - that is high praise indeed. Once the staple of a morning pick-me-up in an Italian café, now illy coffee can be enjoyed at home and at the touch of a button. In terms of the recyclability of all their pods? It's a work in progress. However, illy does have a range of paper pods.

Customer review: "Loved these capsules. We liked them better than actual Nespresso brand capsules. Have more of a boutique coffee house flavour, very smooth."

Read A Modern Kitchen's Guide: Finding The Best illy Coffee Machine For Your Morning Cup


  • Great taste
  • Compatible with Nespresso Original coffee machines
  • Lungo size available


  • Not all pods are biodegradable yet

Best pods for variety and value

There are more than 50 drink varieties to choose from, including classic americano, plant-based flat white, your favourite Starbucks and cold brew coffee. Additionally, there are hot chocolate drinks from your favourite Nestlé chocolate brands. Undoubtedly, the Nescafé Dolce Gusto Cappuccino Coffee Pods are going to be a popular option for families and the sweet-toothed among us. Additionally, all Dolce Gusto pods are recyclable via Podback.

Customer review: "The cappuccino is amazing, and it is the favourite for me compared to other Dolce Gusto and Starbucks drinks. The combination of coffee and milk is amazing and full of flavour. The cream amount is decent and drinking this in a transparent cup adds to the experience, you will notice layers of colours of mixture between milk and coffee. Good overall product, good price and saves you money over buying coffee from coffee shops."


  • Inexpensive
  • Variety
  • Lots of hot drink brands and supermarkets produce compatible pods


  • Not the highest quality

Best pods for range

TASSIMO L'OR Espresso Decaffeinato Coffee Small pods
Price: $59.99

It's your favourite drink at your fingertips: the TASSIMO L'OR Espresso Decaffeinato Coffee Pods. Choose from over 50 coffees, hot chocolates and teas from your favourite hot drink and confectionary brands. Kenco, L'OR and Costa Coffee are available. In a deviation from the word pods or capsule, Tassimo pods are branded as T Discs. Made of plastic, these pods can be recycled through a scheme. Tassimo is again another good option for families, as it delivers an affordable treat in a glass. Additionally, you can choose T Discs that make small, medium, large and extra-large drinks.

Customer review: "Cannot tell that it's decaf. Bought it for work and we did a blind test with Decaf and intensity five Tassimo L'Or. Out of four people, none could tell the difference so yeah the flavour is amazing. Highly recommended."


  • A very good-tasting decaf coffee
  • Buy in bulk
  • An enormous range of hot drinks


  • T Discs will only work with a Tassimo machine

Best ethical coffee pod

Passionate about quality coffee and ethical business in equal measure, Volcano Coffee Works - This. All Day. Everyday. Coffee Pods offers a small (but powerful) range. Each coffee has a story behind the beans with thorough provenance and tasting notes provided in a funky and accessible way. Here at A Modern Kitchen, we drink coffee all day long, and with milk chocolate, chewy caramel and toasted pecan tasting notes, This. All Day. Everyday. is right up our street. Additionally, discover Volcano Coffee Works' independent roastery and café in Brixton.

Customer review: "Very good coffee."


  • Ethically traded coffee
  • Independent business
  • Home compostable pod


  • Smaller batches

Best reusable coffee pod

BLUECUP Reusable Capsules
Price: $29.90

"Espresso yourself," Bluecap say. This refillable coffee capsule is absolutely leading the trend in the conscientious coffee pod market. The BLUECUP Reusable Capsules and lids are perfectly designed to use with the 19 bar Nespresso machine system (a.k.a. Original). Astoundingly, using one Bluecup saves you over 300 pre-packaged capsules a year. In the starter pack you receive a capsule creator, two Bluecup capsules, 100 aluminium foils and a Bluecup spoon.

Customer review: "Having purchased the starter pack and a pack of cafetière suitable ground coffee I eagerly created two pods which was very easy to do - the pod attaches to the handle and forms a spoon, fill with coffee, remove the pod, insert into the device, place foil on top and then twist to seal. Unlike a normal pod you get the fresh aroma of coffee as you fill it and before you use it."


  • Fill with whatever ground coffee you like
  • Cheaper than single-serve pods
  • Easy to fill and use in the machine


  • Trial and error to make the coffee to your taste

Our Verdict: Which Are The Best Coffee Pods?

An extortionate 29,000 single-use coffee pods go to the landfill every minute and that makes us despress-o. However, all of the best coffee brands are doing something about it. For example, Grind was the first in the world to use microbacterial fermentation (PHA) to create eco-friendly coffee pods that fully decompose within 26 weeks - that’s quicker than grass cuttings. Eliminating the faff of taking your pods to a recycling scheme or organising a collection, home-compostable pods are as nature intended.

Of course, that's not the only factor. We've tried Grind's House Blend in our coffee cups and it's brew-ti-ful. And we just love the brand's aesthetics too, with chilled pink vibes and a vibrant café culture in London. So, from A Modern Kitchen, it's a whole latte love for Grind.


What type of coffee pod should I choose?

When choosing the best coffee pods and capsules, range and price are key factors. But there's nothing more important than looking after our planet. After all, we must remember where our coffee beans come from...

If you're environmentally conscious, opt for a coffee pod that's made from plant-based materials. Corn starch and paper pulp will break down as organic food waste. However, there's some debate over how long you can store compostable pods, as they don't have the oxygen barrier that aluminium and plastic pods have. It is, in effect, like storing your ground coffee in a paper bag.

An aluminium pod is vacuum-sealed, so the coffee stays fresh for months. In addition, aluminium pods are recyclable, but in most cases, you have to remove the used coffee grounds and arrange the recycling.

Some brands still use plastic pods, however, all the major brands have made a point of using recycled plastic. This can be recycled through schemes like TerraCycle.

Finally - if you're really cool beans - there is the reusable coffee pod. This is made from a durable material, such as stainless steel, plastic or aluminium. It requires the effort of spooning ground coffee into the pod and sealing it with foil. It's worth the extra minute or two because it works out a lot cheaper to buy ground coffee.

Are coffee pods and capsules eco-friendly?

If they're made from plastic, they're not. However, the good news is that aluminium pods are totally recyclable. By using recycling schemes such as Terracycle or Podback, those pods will be remade. And compostable pods, made of paper pulp, are biodegradable and can be disposed of with other household green waste.

Seeing many smaller competitors producing compostable 'Nespresso-compatible' pods, Nespresso has announced their own range that launches in France and Switzerland in Spring 2023. Also, look out for a growing number of reusable coffee pods - which may be a faff to fill - but it's definitely the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly form of coffee pod.

Amazingly, research summarised in the article: "Coffee pod carbon footprint better for planet than filtered brew" has contextualised that brewing coffee with coffee pods is actually more efficient than preparing coffee in a French press. In short, a coffee pod gives a measured portion of coffee of around 7g whereas we're more likely to over-portion our coffee when we're spooning it into a cafetière. In addition, heating water in a coffee machine is a far more economical and efficient process than boiling a kettle.

How long does it take for a coffee pod to break down?

Plastic pods are the worst culprit, taking 500 years to break down. Aluminium pods are a much better option as they can be endlessly recycled and have a lifespan of 80-100 years. Compostable pods decompose in less than two months.

Natalie Knowles is a Homes & Garden Product Writer for A Modern Kitchen, specialising in kitchen appliances. When she's not testing coffee machines, she flexes her creative flair as an artist.

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