TIME-SAVING coffee pods are a quick and simple solution to making a tasty cup of coffee at the touch of a button.
But when it comes to buying the best coffee pods, it can be pretty overwhelming – there are so many choices, blends, strengths, and origins that it can be mind-boggling.
In 2016, 30 per cent of UK households owner an espresso pod machine, according to trade magazine The Grocer.
This – with some help from a smooth-talking George Clooney – means coffee pods have become so popular they were added to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) typical basket of goods, used to calculate inflation that same year.
Whether you need a back-up for when you’re running late or you’re looking for a convenient solution for your guests, a coffee pod machine can be a handy kitchen appliance – so we don’t blame the whopping number of Brits who are lucky enough to own them.
But how do they work? Are all coffee pods the same and are there any recyclable pods out there for a guilt-free brew?
Here’s all you need to know about the best coffee pods on the market, available to buy right now.
1. Best coffee pods for espressos: Nespresso Firenze Arpeggio
- Firenze Arpeggio, £3.60 for 10 capsules from Nespresso – buy now
A favourite among espresso enthusiasts, Nespresso’s Firenze Arpeggio is part of the brand’s original line, after being launched back in 1993, and remains one of its most popular flavours.
According to the coffee-giant, the fabled Arpeggio gets its intense flavour from a blend of pure Arabica beans and is structured on the back of a classic, tasty Costa Rican coffee.
The result is a full-bodied and rich tasting espresso with subtle cocoa notes and woody hints – its light in bitterness but a nine on the intensity scale, so make this your first choice if you’re a fan of the stronger stuff.
Don’t forget to take your used coffee pods instore to be recycled, rather than chucking them in the bin. Drink good coffee, while doing good for the coffee.
2. Best Nespresso Vertuo coffee pods: Nespresso Altissio Espresso
- Altissio Espresso, £3.90 for 10 capsules from Nespresso – buy here
The Altissio is part of Nespresso Vertuo’s range, which is designed to allow customers to make a larger range of coffees, with pods tailored to different brews.
These pods are domes-shaped, and suitable for the Nespresso Vertuo machine – so look a little different to perhaps your usual coffee pods.
There are three pod sizes to choose from – from a standard espresso shot, to a larger mug of coffee.
This means you can use the Altissio for both your espressos and cappuccino cravings, if you’re so inclined.
The Altissio Espresso’s smoky, full-bodied flavour, comes from a perfect blend of Costa Rican Arabica and South America Robusta coffees.
3. Best coffee pods for beginners: Nespresso Original Classic Assortment
- Original Classic 100 Assortment, £36.80 for 100 capsules from Nespresso – buy here
If you’re new to the Nespresso brand, and what to sample a few flavours before investing in your favourite for your everyday brew, then this wide-ranging assortment is just what you’re looking for.
The assortment comes with a whopping 10 different roasts, flavours and intensities – including two decaf options.
Ideal if you want to try different flavours and coffee styles or origins, the pods can either be used to brew an espresso (40ml) or a bigger cup, and Nespresso provides tips on each pack as to which ones would be better adapted to a specific brewing method.
4. Best TASSIMO coffee pods: TASSIMO Costa Latte
- Costa Latte, £5.29 for 8 capsules from TASSIMO- buy here
TASSIMO machines and pods are great for those who like to switch between tea, coffee or hot chocolates.
There are more than 50 different-flavoured capsules available for TASSIMO-compatible machines, including these fantastic Costa Latte capsules which are ideal for those who prefer a milky, foamy latte from the high-street giant.
If you’re a Costa fan this capsule will allow you to re-create your favourite coffee cup at home with an indulgent silky smooth taste, topped with fine foam.
5. Best Dualit coffee pods: Dualit Sumatra Mandheling
- (AD) Dualit Sumatra Mandheling, £15.99 for 80 capsules from Amazon – buy here
These Dualit coffee pods work with all Nespresso and Dualit machines and they are completely guilt-free since they’re compostable.
The capsule, lid and protective bag are produced using corn starch material, a plant-based renewable resource that is eco-friendly, and makes these pods totally plastic free.
These pods will biodegrade quickly into harmless substances, reducing the impact on the environment at the same time.
But this doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste.
This bold yet creamy coffee has notes of velvety milk chocolate and tropical fruits with a malty, sweet finish – simply pop it into your food waste or compost when you’re finished!
6. Best coffee pods for milky coffees: Nescafe Dolce Gusto
- (AD) Nescafé Dolce Gusto Flat White Coffee Pods, £10.50 for 48 capsules from Amazon – buy here
Dolce Gusto is the perfect machine for those addicted to mochas, flat whites or caramel macchiatos.
Users can buy the Nescafe-branded capsules online or in the supermarket, making it widely accessible and easy to obtain.
Fans love the company’s flat white pods, praising them for their really milky, smooth taste – and just over a tenner for a whopping 48 capsules, it’s much cheaper than your daily coffee shop drink.
7. Best reusable coffee pods: SealPod
- Stainless Steel Reusable Capsule Starter Kit, £18.99 from Maverick Coffee – buy here
Yes, reusable coffee pods are totally a thing! SealPod is a coffee pod made of stainless steel, and their gateway starter kit comes with the pod, a scoop, aluminium stickers and full instructions.
Choose your favourite ground coffee (with the Seal Pod you’re no longer limited to certain brands) place a scoop or two into the steel pod, pack it in, place a sticker on top, and pop it into your machine.
Once you’re finished, pop it in the sink or dishwasher to be rinsed – then recycle the film, and reuse the pod!
SealPod recommend disposing of your used coffee grounds into your plant pots as a natural fertiliser, too.
8. Best coffee pods for strong coffee: Black Insomnia
- Black Insomnia coffee pods, £9.99 for 20 – buy here
This one is for all the workaholics and grafters out there, introducing: Black Insomnia, boasting to be the world’s strongest coffee.
It offers four times the strength of your usual brew, with a whopping 1,105mg of caffeine per cup – so this really isn’t a coffee to be messing with.
This powerful blend is strong in flavour, and can be popped straight into your food waste bin or compost to decompose.
9. Best coffee pod refill packs: Grind
- Grind House Blend, £10 for 20 pods – buy here
East London-based Grind offers organic and compostable pods that are compatible with all original Nespresso machines.
The best thing? Their stylish, recyclable pink tins are ideal for storing and showing off your super tasty coffee pods.
Once you’re done with a tin, don’t throw it away, get refills instead or use it as part of your home décor.
These Grind coffee pods come in a completely plastic-free letterbox-friendly refill pack, too – which contains 30 pods.
10. Best decaf coffee pods: CRU Kafe Organic Decaf
- CRU Kafe Organic Decaf, £3.60 for 10 – buy here
This range of Organic Decaf blend pods from CRU Kafe is recyclable, approved by the Organic Soil Association and is Fairtrade – so you can’t really get better, more ethical credentials than that.
The Nespresso machine compatible pods offer a smooth, yet malty, well-balanced coffee that is a seven on the strength scale.
It can be enjoyed both black as an espresso or americano, and also as a base for a milkier coffee.
How do coffee pods work?
If you’re a coffee fan, but you can’t be bothered with all the fuss of grinding beans or boiling a kettle, a coffee pod compatible machine could be just the thing you need.
A coffee pod is essentially ground coffee inside a plastic or compostable container lined with filter paper, then sealed with foil.
They are as easy to use as a tea bag and their biggest perk is that they can deliver a great cup of coffee in less than a minute.
All you need to do is load water into the tank that is often at the back of coffee pod machines, place the pod in your machine, press a button – and go.
Are all coffee pods the same?
Sadly not. Coffee machine pods usually won’t work between rival brands, so once you purchase a capsule machine you’re essentially buying into a particular brand, too.
This means you won’t be able to use Nespresso pods or capsules in TASSIMO machines, and vice versa.
Before buying into a brand there are a few things to consider – first, think of the kind of drinks you want to make.
Pod brands including Nespresso and Lavazza are the most popular for their espresso-based pods.
Dolce Gusto and TASSIMO are designed to make a wider range of drinks, including hot chocolate, tea and your milkier, sweeter coffee options.
We suggest exploring the different ranges available for a machine before you buy to be sure you like the ones fitted for your machine.
Are coffee pods one size fits all coffee makers?
As we said above, pod machines can lock you into using a particular brand of coffee.
But with a little research, you may be able to find smaller artisan coffee roasters or supermarkets that sell pods compatible with your machine.
Prices for pods vary hugely from 20p per pod to more than 60p, which is likely to make a big difference to your yearly budget.
But you can cut the costs by buying a compatible capsule instead of the branded version, usually sold in a variety of supermarkets.
Which is the best coffee pod machine?
There are so many different factors to consider when it comes to investing in a coffee pod machine – including the price point, how much space you have, what coffee blend you prefer, and so on.
As mentioned earlier, when buying a branded machine – say a Nespresso or TASSIMO – you’re often stuck with one type and shape of pod.
The classic pod shape is the Nespresso original shape, and most coffee pod machines are Nespresso-pod compatible.
We have put a handy guide together for you when it comes to buying the best coffee machine as it can get pretty overwhelming.
Are coffee pods recyclable?
Coffee pods are usually recyclable, but unfortunately, the process often has to be done at a specialist facility to separate the materials the pods are comprised of.
That means you often can’t just sling your used pods in your regular recycling bin at home.
Thankfully, most of the major pod suppliers are now offering schemes to help you dispose of your used pods responsibly – including Nespresso.
You can also buy either biodegradable or compostable pods, some of which can be put in your garden compost.
We recommend finding out how to dispose of your used coffee pods responsibly to reduce your environmental impact.
Enjoyed our round-up of the best coffee pods? Do your bit for the planet and check out our guide to the best eco-friendly coffee pods, too.
Fancy buying a coffee machine but don’t know where to start. We’ve created a guide to buying a coffee machine and have chosen some of the best options to give you a helping hand.
For coffee purists, here’s our round-up of the best coffee grinders on the market right now.
This article and any featured products have been independently chosen by The Sun journalists. All recommendations within the article are informed by expert editorial opinion. If you click a link and buy a product we may earn revenue: this helps to support The Sun, and in no way affects our recommendations.