While the art of pulling the perfect shot is all well and good, some people really want a machine that they don’t need to worry about. Pod espresso machines are a great choice for those looking for convenience, as they often offer more choices than super automatic machines without any extra work but just what is the best pod espresso machine? Read on to find out
Just like with other types of coffee makers, though, convenience often comes at a cost – and, when it comes to pod espresso makers, this cost is generally in the pods themselves. Still, these pods are almost always cheaper than your local coffee shop, and some brewers even offer a similar quality coffee.
What do you need to know before shopping for a pod espresso machine?
Surprisingly good coffee at the touch of a button with minimal preparation and cleanup
Which Pod Espresso Machine would we recommend?
Read on for all the information you'll need to choose the best Pod Espresso machine for you
If you don't want to spend too much time researching, just pick one of the Pod coffee machines and you won't bebe disappointed
Our Top Pick
- Simple to use
- Small investment
- Easy to use
- Small Footprint
- Espresso Coffee
What is a pod espresso machine?
Simply put, a pod espresso machine uses individually-portioned pods (sometimes referred to as capsules or cups) instead of loose coffee grounds or beans. They are designed to favor convenience over quality, although the average quality of these types of machines has improved greatly over the last few years. Compared to traditional espresso machines, switching drinks between every cup is built into the design, making it that much simpler to get exactly what you want.
A Brief History of Pod Espresso Machines
Espresso machines have been around, in one way or another, since the late 1800s. Generally credited to the inventor Angelo Moriondo, who filed a patent for a “steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage”. While his work is largely lost to history (possibly due to poor branding and a lack of photographs), his original design was modified and improved in the early 20th century, and has only continued to be improved as our technology has.
Where do pod espresso machines fit into all of this? Believe it or not, the first patent for a “pod coffee maker” was done all the way back in 1979, by Ernesto Illy – the son of Illy’s founder, Francesco. These machines were originally planned to fix issues with consistency, which previously required an extensive knowledge of the machine you were working with. From a commercial standpoint, you may be surprised to find that buying a coffee drink from your average restaurant will probably get you a drink brewed by a pod machine. Artisan-style coffee shops, such as Starbucks or your local café, are likely to be from a semi-automatic or manual system, as these preserve more of the craft feel and encourage consistency through practice, rather than automation
What you should think about when choosing a Pod Espresso Machine
While there is very little variation between the different Pod coffee machine manufacturers are a few key differences that you should consider.
Proprietary pod design
Most machines will be bound to a single pod design, each with their own specific benefits and drawbacks. Keurig’s K-Cups, for example, come in the widest variety of flavors, but due to their design are unable to provide true espresso. Nespresso and Tassimo pods, on the other hand, have a smaller selection of flavors, but are capable of making true espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos, due to the pressure that the pods can handle during the brewing process. The costs will vary based on the brand, variety, and quantity of pods that you purchase. Most machines will come with a small sample selection to help you get started right away.
While traditional automatic and super automatic espresso machines often automate some (or all) of the settings, pod espresso machines take it even further by not allowing you to change these presets. Some machines might let you change the amount of water used, in order to make your drink weaker or stronger, but this is usually the only setting you’ll have access to.
Most espresso machines are considered single-serve, by design, but pod espresso machines often make it easier to switch between one type of coffee and another, as long as the coffee comes in a pod supported by the machine. They are great for families with many different tastes, as well as homes that only drink one or two cups of coffee per day, as the pods are often vacuum-sealed to preserve their freshness.
Because of the “subscription”-type approach that pod machines use, a lower-priced machine doesn’t always mean a lower-quality drink. If you’re on a fixed income or looking at coffee makers for a gift idea, pod machines are a great way to have a personalized beverage with a low starting cost.
Pod Price and Availability
If you already have a favorite brand of coffee, it can be helpful to make sure they have pods available for your machine, or that your machine allows you to use your own coffee in reusable pods. Pay attention to the per-cup price of different brewers, too, as these will add up. Generally, pod espresso drinks are still cheaper than similar drinks at your local coffee shop.
Users who want their coffee machine to match the rest of their kitchen will need to check the different color options available for the machines they’re interested in. Most pod espresso machines will offer one or two styles, while some will offer several different color schemes. Almost all units will have either a solid-black or black-and-metal color option available, even if they don’t offer any other choices.
Size – Both Footprint and Capacity
Some people need a machine with a smaller overall size, so that it takes up less space on their counter. Others would prefer a machine with a large water tank so they don’t need to fill it as often. In most cases, you’ll need to choose one or the other, but there are a few machines which offer more of a compromise between the two.
Usually, pod machines are quieter than other types of espresso machines, because there is no grinding or pressure required. Some machines do provide the pressure necessary for true espresso, and may be a little louder than machines that only produce espresso-flavored drinks. Another noise to consider is whether your machine signals when the coffee is done brewing – some customers find this helpful, even though the total brew time is generally only a minute or two.
We recommend that you read through the positive and negative reviews that other customers have left about the machine. While the manufacturer will usually list the technical specifications, current users of the machine will be able to explain what those specifications mean in a more practical sense, and can help identify any false information given in the product’s description.
Tips for making a great drink with a Pod Espresso Machine
Once you've bought your Pod Espresso Machine you will want to make the best coffee possible.
It's almost impossible to go wrong with a pod coffee machine but it's worth experimenting with any options that are available both in terms of on the machine and the pod types it accepts
Pod espresso machines are designed to offer consistently good results, no matter the experience level of the user. As such, most machines don’t offer too many settings to adjust. Some machines may let you choose the amount of water that’s pushed through a single pod – and usually not much else. If your machine does offer your choice of settings, we recommend starting with the standard options and only change if you aren’t satisfied.
There are a few additional tips that might help you get the most out of your machine:
· Experiment with the different pod varieties available for your machine. Many machines will come with a “sampler” pack of their best-selling flavors, but this is rarely their entire selection. Be sure that you’re only using pods that are compatible with your specific machine, as most machines can only accept one style of pod.
· Check to see if your machine will accept reusable pods. Most Keurig brewers will take reusable K-Cups. Tassimo machines, on the other hand, use a barcoded pod that cannot be reused. If your machine will accept the reusable pods, you can save quite a bit of money over the life of your machine, but you will be sacrificing some of the convenience.
· Always use distilled water in your coffee machine, no matter what type you get. Not only will this give you a purer coffee taste, but it’ll also prolong the life of your machine. Some machines may have a built-in water filter to address the taste of the coffee, but these machines will still need frequent descaling if your tap water has a high mineral content.
Looking after your Pod Espresso Machine
While it might seem easy to write-off your espresso machine as “just a coffee maker”, it is truly a precision piece of technology and as such requires the appropriate maintenance to ensure your machine has a long life of service. Pod machines generally require less maintenance than other types of espresso makers, as the coffee is self-contained and there is less risk of grounds getting somewhere they shouldn’t be. That doesn’t mean they’re completely maintenance-free, though – here’s what you need to know.
Wipe down the outside of your machine with a clean rag, especially if it has a shiny surface, as fingerprints and water spots can take away from the beauty of the machine.
If your machine has a removable drip tray, it’s best if you empty this before it gets full. We recommend emptying it any time the machine will be sitting for more than a few hours.
If your machine has a pod collection receptacle, such as we see with Nespresso machines, this should be emptied daily, or sooner if the receptacle gets full.
If you won’t be using the machine the next day, it’s a good idea to empty the water tank. Not all machines offer an easy way to do this, so you may need to manually run all the water out.
Tassimo machines come with a Service T-Disc that should be placed in the brewer once a week. This disc will communicate with the system in order to detect any problems. For other machines, you will need to manually perform this check by doing a “test run” of the machine to ensure that everything is working the way it should.
All removable parts, such as the water tank, drip tray, and a pod collection bin (if your machine has one) should be hand-washed. Many machines may have dishwasher-safe components, but we find that hand-washing them is generally simple, and in many cases, faster than running them through the dishwasher.
All non-removable parts of the brew cycle, such as the brew head, should be cleaned with a damp, soft cloth. For Keurig brewers, it may be helpful to run a (clean) safety pin through the needle to ensure that it’s not clogged. For Tassimo brewers, the barcode reader should be wiped off and hand-dried.
It’s a good idea to take an inventory of your pods on a weekly basis, unless you are using a reusable pod. There’s nothing worse than running out and not realizing it until you’re half asleep, trying to make a cup of coffee!
If you haven’t been using pre-filtered water in your machine, you should descale once a month. Some machines may have specific descaling instructions, so be sure to consult your manual. Most machines will have an indicator light that tells you when the machine is due for a descaling, but it’s a good idea to do it before the machine detects a problem.
Check all serviceable parts to make sure they’re in good working order. Pay close attention to O-rings and tubes, as they are usually fragile and necessary for the machine to run. If your machine is under warranty, most serviceable parts will be covered, but you may need to pay shipping costs if you don’t live close enough to an authorized repair center. Attempts to service the machine yourself will usually void the warranty if it’s still in effect.
For machines not covered by a warranty, you will need to check the user manual to find the name of any parts that are showing signs of wear. If you live close enough to an authorized repair center, you may be able to take it in to be serviced, although this can be expensive. Those on a budget may find it helpful to learn how to service their machines themselves. Be sure that you only buy parts from authorized retailers, as third-party parts may not work with your machine.
If your machine has a water filter, you should check it monthly. If you are using pre-filtered water, it probably won’t need to be changed every month, but it’s a good idea to keep back-up filters on hand to avoid any issues.
Quarterly or Yearly:
Users who skip the monthly descale should perform it at least every three months, even if the machine doesn’t indicate any problems. It’s always easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix one.
Machines under warranty should be sent in for repairs if there have been any major signs of wear within the last few checks. You should be able to notice if something is wearing faster than usual – this is a sign it should be sent in. These repairs can take as long as six weeks, in some cases, so prepare accordingly.
Even if you have been manually repairing your machine (outside of the warranty) or you haven’t noticed any signs of wear, your machine should be looked at by an authorized service facility at least once per year. If your machine is under warranty, this yearly check-up is likely to be included, but check your manual to be sure. The repair costs might be high if your machine isn’t covered by a warranty, but generally a yearly check-up will keep the machine in peak working order and extend its life.
The Best Pod Espresso Machine - Our Pick!
A tough decision but the quality of the end result makes the Nespresso Inissia a worthy winner
Although Nespresso machines have the smallest variety of mass-manufactured pod espresso machines, we found that the Nespresso Inissia offered users the ability to easily brew a consistently amazing cup of espresso, due in part to their specially-designed capsules that can withstand the 19 bars of pressure that the machine uses.
This means that, unlike some other machines, you’re getting true espresso from a capsule, instead of simply a strong coffee drink.
There are no built-in milk options with this machine, and although Nespresso does offer other machines that come with a milk frother, true cappuccino and latte lovers are likely to prefer using an external frother. Additionally, the initial cost is significantly lower than many other machines and comes with the support of the Nespresso Club – giving new espresso lovers personalized advice, simple reordering options, and even technical support, from the comfort of your own home
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