The coffee and espresso market has seen tremendous growth over the past 10-15 years in the United States, and with more coffee shops opening every day, the trend doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. And as more and more people look to coffee for their caffeine fix every morning, we have naturally seen an increase and interest in in home coffee machines that offer coffee lovers a new level of convenience and savings. For many years the humble drip coffee maker was seen as sub-par to the coffee shop experience, but new innovations in home coffee tech have upped the ante and converted even the pickiest java junkies and fine espresso lovers
One sub-group of the coffee maker market is the single-serve coffee maker. While most machines are able to produce a full carafe’s worth of coffee and maybe a variety of specialty drinks (like the Ninja Coffee Bar), these single-serve models focus on just the right amount of coffee and espresso for one person. Two of the most popular entries into the single-serve coffee market are the Keurig and Nespresso coffee makers. We get a questions from readers, friends and family almost daily about which one is better, so we decided to settle the Nespresso vs. Keurig debate once and for all with our comprehensive review of the pros and cons of each. While these machines are somewhat similar when you compare the two, and do target the same market, there are some pretty significant differences between the Nespresso and Keurig machines once you drill down a bit.
Keurig vs. Nespresso Comparison Chart
|Brews||Coffee, Espresso||Coffee, Espresso Tea, Chai, Cocoa, Mocha|
|Brew Moths||Coffee Capsules||K-Cups|
|Serving Sizes||2 Single-Serving Sizes|
(Depending on Model)
|2 Single-Serving Sizes
Carafe Options (Depending on Model)
|Special Features||Two Drink Sizes|
Milk Reservoir and Frother
|Large Color Touch-Screen
Multiple Brew Settings
Strength Control Feature
Multiple Drink Types
|Check Prices on Amazon||Check Prices on Amazon|
Beverage Options & Variety: Capsules vs. K-Cups
Both the Nespresso and Keurig brewing systems rely on a proprietary single serve K-cup or capsule filled with the coffee grounds for brewing coffee and espresso quickly. So right out of the gate, one thing to be aware of when buying either of these machines is that you are buying into the machine maker’s eco-system. You will not be able to dump your favorite ground bean right into the machine like you would a traditional drip coffee maker. However, there are some interesting options for the Keurig that opens up your choices.
Visually, the Keurig K-Cups look is a little plastic cup with a foil wrapper over the top that each contains about 3-4 grams of coffee (just enough for a single cup). Unlike the proprietary Nespresso capsules, Keurig has developed relationships with a variety of different roasters and beverages makers that now produce a broad range of products that are compatible with any Classic Keurig or Keurig 2.0 machine. Additionally, with the Keurig machine, you do have the option of buying a third part reusable K-cup that can be filled with any coffee you’d like or even tea leaves. This really opens up your brewing possibilities to over 200 available drink varieties (like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cocoa and espresso) and it’s one of our favorite features about the maker. Not to mention it’s better for the environment as well.
The Nespresso capsules look like little pods (much smaller that the bulkier by comparison K-cup) that utilize a specially perforated foil cover wrapped over the plastic container which contains the coffee grounds. The pods are about the size of a small stack of quarters. An interesting detail regarding the capsules is that the foil utilizes varying perforation patterns to adjust the brewing time based upon the type of coffee it contains. Conversely, the K-cup has more of a one-size fits all approach. An important thing to keep in mind is that Nespresso officially only offers capsules for brewing coffee, espresso, and cappuccino. However, there are other companies that offer the pods filled with tea, cocoa and hot chocolate that will work in your Nespresso coffee maker pod bay if you look around.
Due to the fact that Keurig offers a wide variety of their own coffee, cocoas and teas, and also partners with many other companies to produce K-Cups with their own specialty blends, we recommend the Nespresso simply cannot compare. If you are looking for variety in terms of what can be made with your coffee maker, the Keurig and it’s K-Cups win hands down.
Coffee Brewing Times Compared
The time it takes both machines to brew a single cup of coffee is almost identical: less than 3 ½ minutes from beginning to end when we compared them side-by-side for our review. This is one of the highlights of both machines, and this class of coffee maker in general. When looking at the Nespresso vs. Keurig, the convenience of both machines can’t be beat and the amount of set up and clean up is extremely minimal. Additionally, in attempt to brew the best tasting coffee possible, both the Nespresso and the Keurig go to great lengths to heat up your brewing water to an exact temperature every time you brew, ensuring a great tasting cup.
In our tests, the Keurig’s water temperature was slightly higher when compared to the Nespresso’s brewing temperature, but both were within the generally recommended range for every brew cycle. One additional thing to note is that the Keurig machines brew with a pressure-based brewing system, while the Nespresso utilizes a centrifuge-based technology for brewing coffee. In the end, the type of internal brewing system doesn’t make much of a difference, but the Nespresso centrifuge-based system allows it to have a smaller profile and take up less counter space.
Even though both machines finished brewing within about 15 seconds of each other, the Nespresso was about 15 seconds faster than the Keurig.
Cleaning the Machines
No matter what coffee machine you buy, an occasional cleaning cycle will be necessary to ensure that you continue to make the best tasting coffee possible. Mineral build-up, old coffee and loose grounds are bound to accumulate over time with general everyday use. This obviously won’t affect our review of them, but what we do consider is how easy that cleaning actually is.
When it comes time to clean/de-scale your machine, Keurig sells a cleaning solution that you simply add to the reservoir tank, which you then mix with more water before running it through a normal brew cycle.
The Nespresso also utilizes a cleaning solution in the same way (in fact, most retailers will advertise the solution good for both machines), the only difference being that the Nespresso has a dedicated cleaning cycle. However, depending on the model of Nespresso you purchase, you may also be looking at a milk reservoir and steam wand for specialty drinks that require cleaning. While it’s hard to ding the Nespresso points for having additional features, in the end, it takes longer to clean after every brew.
We give this round to the Keurig simply because there is less to clean. We also tend to take all of our coffee drinks black, so the option to add warm milk or steamed milk foam doesn’t particularly appeal to us. Even though it’s close, in the Nespresso vs. Keurig battle, the point goes to the big K.
Cost Per Single-Serving
The price will vary depending on where you get your coffee and wether you buy in bulk or not, but generally speaking, the price per cup of coffee or espresso comes out to between .50 to .60. When you consider that a cup of coffee from even the cheapest coffee shop will run you a few dollars, it’s great to know that the single-serve machines will offer you that at a fraction of the cost. Plus, when you consider the added convenience it really becomes a no-brainer.
The cost difference between the two machines are negligible, so there is no clear winner here.
The disposal K-cup and coffee pod trends has been alarming to the more eco-conscious among us that are becoming aware of how just much waste these single-serve coffee containers are able to produce. While there is no re-usable version of the Nespresso capsule, you can easily find a reusable K-cup which, as an added bonus, makes it simple to expand your coffee or tea choice well beyond what’s commercially available as a pre-packaged solution.
Winner: Tie (See Update Below)
Due to the fact that the Keurig has the ability to accept third party re-usable K-Cups, this machine wins without question. Not to mention the reusable K-cup makes it easy to load coffee and tea from and roaster or manufacturer you please.
2017 Update: It has come to our attention that there are re-usable capsule for the Nespresso machines available on Amaon. So while the rest of the Nespresso vs. Keurig buying guide is accurate, the eco-footprint in now a tie.
The Overall Winner
Honestly, there is no real winner here, as it’s ultimately up to your needs, preferred features and aesthetic. I know that’s sort of a let down, but let us distill the higher level points into this:
If you are looking for a simple, modern looking coffee machine that will serve you up a cup of fresh coffee or espresso, the go with the Keurig. The Keurig is also the right call if you want a wide variety of coffee, teas and cocoas readily available.
We find the Nespresso to be better suited for the espresso drinker that likes to make the occasional latte or specialty drink and really likes the steamed milk that Nespresso can provide with some of it’s more expensive units. It also wins in the size and countertop real estate department with its compact profile. The options for anything other than coffee are extremely limited, so if you plan on making anything other than just coffee or espresso, the Nespresso probably won’t be your best bet.