Keurig vs. Nespresso: Which Brewer Delivers the Best Experience?
Today, we will compare the two most popular coffee brewing platforms on earth, Keurig and Nespresso.
As a former barista and somewhat of an at-home coffee snob, I’m constantly striving to replicate the coffee shop experience at home. While it’s easier than ever to get the best beans delivered to your door, most of us aren’t going to shell out thousands of dollars for the top-of-the-line equipment that coffee shops use to turn those beans into something special.
Even with the best beans and professional equipment, making great coffee takes time, too. That’s what makes brewing platforms like Keurig and Nespresso so attractive, as both promise to deliver a memorable cup of coffee in a matter of seconds. Read on as we help you choose between the two coffee machines, Keurig vs. Nespresso for your home.
Nespresso vs Keurig: Head to Head Comparison
Few companies have had as disruptive an effect on their industry as Keurig and Nespresso, with their single serve coffee machines revolutionizing how most people drink coffee. Each machine excels in different areas, and the best one for you is largely a matter of your needs, budget, and the coffee experience you’re looking for.
Keurig offers an exceptionally flexible brewing platform with tons of different machines and coffees and a lower price per pod than Nespresso. At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer that Keurig would be the better choice, and for many people, it is. But, if you’re after an experience that can rival your favorite coffee shop, a Keurig isn’t for you.
Nespresso delivers coffee shop quality coffee or espresso, and many of their machines offer a steam wand for making espresso drinks at home. But, they’re more expensive long-term, and the platform doesn’t provide as much flexibility as Keurig.
There’s a lot to dissect when deciding between Keurig vs. Nespresso, so let’s take a closer look at the critical features and characteristics that differentiate the two platforms.
The Nespresso platform was invented over 40 years ago, shortly after employee Eric Favre was brought on to develop a coffee machine that combined instant convenience with coffee shop quality. It took over a decade of development for the first Nespresso machine to make it to the marketplace.
Fast-forward to the present day; a dozen different machines are available across two product lines for home use and eight commercial machines. Both the Original line and Vertuo line can brew coffee or espresso, and many of the Original machines can make coffee beverages, like latte and cappuccino.
The Keurig platform was launched in 1998, after years of development by founders John Sylvan and Peter Dragone. Initially marketed to offices, the platform quickly took off for home use, as well.
Today, Keurig makes over thirty machines for home use and more than ten commercial machines. Keurig machines make coffee, tea, hot chocolate, coffee shop-style beverages, and more.
While both machines offer a wide selection, Keurig provides the most comprehensive selection, making it easiest to find one to fit your lifestyle.
One of the drawbacks of a pod brewing system is that you’re locked into what’s available in pods, for the most part. Nespresso and Keurig both have different ways of approaching this issue.
Nespresso offers a highly curated range of select coffees roasted, ground, and packaged in Switzerland. The Original line offers 38 different espresso and coffee varieties, while the Vertuo line offers 37.
Many of the coffees are sourced from the most sought-after coffee regions globally, and each one delivers a premium experience. While there isn’t as wide of a selection as with Keurig, the flavor Nespresso provides might make you miss your favorite roast a bit less.
Keurig produces over 200 K-cups, many from leading coffee brands like Starbucks, Lavazza, and Illy. Beyond what’s available in K-cups, most Keurig brewing systems are compatible with reusable pods that allow you to add the ground coffee of your choice.
From a volume perspective, it’s impossible to argue Keurig’s selection. However, there may be such a thing as offering too much choice, and Keurig seems to focus more on selection than quality.
One of the most significant differentiators between these two platforms is how they brew coffee. Keurig opts for a simple tried-and-true approach, while Nespresso’s take on brewing coffee is a bit more advanced and scientific. Let’s look at how their brewing methods affect the final product.
Keurig functions similarly to all drip coffee makers. Holes are punctured in the top and bottom of the K-cup when the top of the machine is closed, and pressurized water is sent through the grinds before dripping out the bottom of the K-cup and into your coffee mug.
This brewing method is effective and inexpensive, and it’s the premise by which most drip coffee makers operate. This method produces a fine, if pedestrian, cup of coffee.
Nespresso takes a more scientific approach to brewing, and it’s been at the heart of the Nespresso platform since it was initially developed in the late 70s. When Eric Favre joined the team at Nestle tasked with creating the Nespresso, the company sent him to Rome, a city revered for its legendary coffee.
Favre quickly recognized that one coffee shop near the town square was doing significantly more business than the competition. He was able to deduce the reason for this particular shop’s popularity was that they pumped the pistons of their machines multiple times throughout the brewing process, while other shops only pumped once.
More air and water are introduced to the ground coffee by pumping the piston, which creates significantly more oxidation than a drip system. Centrifugal force is also used to increase oxidation, contributing to the rich aromatic crema that Nespresso machines have.
The Keurig brewing process is a tried-and-true method, and it produces a reliably decent cup of coffee. It’s far from the inspired cafe-quality coffee that a Nespresso makes, but it gets the job done.
However, if you’re looking for an immersive coffee experience that transports you from your kitchen to your favorite coffee shop, Nespresso is the clear choice for you.
While single-serving pod sales drive both companies, the machines needed to brew the coffee are still at the heart of everything each company does.
When Keurig hit the market in the late 90s, the company produced all its products in-house, which is still the case today. Keurig machines are manufactured by the parent company, Keurig Dr. Pepper, and they oversee the production of everything from their smallest home brewer to their largest commercial machine.
Like most home coffee brewers, Keurig’s provide years of reliable operation before they reach the end of their useful lifespan.
Nespresso differs significantly from Keurig because they subcontract their brewing equipment. Instead of making machines in-house, the company works with the leading coffee and espresso equipment manufacturers.
Depending on the machine and where you live, your Nespresso machine may be manufactured by Breville, Delonghi, or Krups. Beyond the branded Nespresso machines that these companies manufacture, these manufacturers, along with Kitchenaid, also make brewers compatible with Nespresso pods.
By partnering with the leading equipment manufacturers in the coffee space, Nespresso establishes its platform as a premium product intended for coffee lovers. The machines these makers produce are built to last and deliver an exceptional coffee experience that the Keurig machines can’t rival.
If there’s one appliance that’s a staple on virtually every kitchen countertop in the world, it’s a coffee machine. Your coffee maker occupies a prominent place in your home, so you’ll want to find something that’s well designed and adds to the look of your kitchen instead of detracting from it.
Keurig offers the widest variety of machines, sleek, modern looks, and simple controls that first-time users can easily navigate. Most of their brewers are available in a variety of stylish finishes, and some models can be customized on the Keurig website, so you can make your coffee machine as unique as you are.
Similarly, Nespresso machines are exceptionally sleek with a modern look. Their compact form is perfect for small kitchens, and their machines are generally a bit smaller than Keurigs. Each brewer has several finish options, though the finish choices aren’t as comprehensive as with Keurig.
While the larger machines, like the Lattissima Pro, have a few more controls, most Nespresso machines have only a single button for brewing. The brewer reads a barcode on the pod, and it adapts its settings to the pod, brewing a perfect cup of coffee or a shot of espresso. From a user experience standpoint, it’s impossible to beat the ease of use of Nespresso.
Overall, both platforms offer a variety of designs to suit the style of any home. Keurig offers more models and finish choices, and they’re easy to use. Nespresso offers a more refined look and industry-leading ease of use.
One of the biggest knocks against single-serving coffee brewers has been the amount of waste they produce. While they're convenient, there are glaring sustainability issues inherent to single-serving beverages.
You could make an argument that drip coffee makers are equally as wasteful. After all, how many stale pots of coffee have you dumped down the drain in your lifetime?
The difference between traditional brewing methods and single-serve brewers is that all of the waste a traditional brewer generates is compostable. In contrast, single-serving brewers produce waste that’s far more difficult to recycle.
Keurig’s Sustainability Pledge
For Keurig, sustainability has been a glaring issue. There’s no shortage of articles and videos online discussing the incredible amount of waste that K-cups produce. At the height of their wastefulness, conservative estimates are that between 10-13 billion K-cups end up in landfills each year.
At the time, K-cups were made from #7 plastic, which is one of the most cost-intensive forms of plastic to recycle. For this reason, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many recycling facilities globally that will even accept the stuff.
Recognizing that this was a growing image problem for the brand, Keurig began efforts to improve the sustainability of their flagship pods. In 2014, the brand pledged to make all K-cups recyclable by 2020, a goal they have at least partially accomplished.
Today, all K-cups manufactured by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the company responsible for the vast majority of K-cups you see in stores, make their pods from #5 polypropylene, which is recycled in most communities in North America.
While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it isn’t as cut and dry as throwing your spent K-cups into the recycling bin. Before recycling a K-cup, the lid must be removed, the paper filter and grounds must be added to the compost heap, and then the cup can be washed and thrown in with your recyclables.
While Keurig has added removable lids to many of their popular K-cups, most pods still have integrated lids that can’t be easily removed, which further complicates the recycling process.
Keurig has certainly improved upon its practices, and they’re making a noble effort to reduce its carbon footprint and improve sustainability. The company still has a long way to go if they aim to create a truly sustainable product that doesn’t actively contribute to the world’s single-use plastic issue.
How Nespresso Stacks Up On Sustainability
When examining how low the bar is in single-serving coffee sustainability, Nespresso doesn’t have to do much to exceed it.
Beginning with the pods themselves, Nespresso has an inherent advantage over Keurig because their pods are made entirely from aluminum, compared with the multiple materials that compose Keurig K-cups. Aluminum is an infinitely recyclable material, and 75% of all the aluminium ever mined is still in use today.
By making their capsules from aluminum, 100% of Nespresso pods are recyclable or compostable, which is a leap forward in terms of sustainability compared to other pod brewing systems.
Nespresso has made recent investments in major metropolitan areas, like New York City, so that residents can recycle pods by throwing them directly into the blue bin along with their other recyclables. While New York City is the first and only place that allows for Nespresso pod recycling, it won’t be long before more municipalities have the ability.
For the rest of us, recycling Nespresso pods isn’t quite as simple as chucking them into the blue bin. Even so, Nespresso makes it as easy as possible for their customers to recycle the pods by providing free recycling bags on their website. Recycling bags can be returned at Nespresso retail locations and any UPS store.
The spent coffee is composted and the aluminium recycled to produce new pods and other aluminium goods.
Beyond offering recyclable pods, Nespresso also has a solid reputation for giving back to the communities that produce their coffee. The company publishes an annual Sustainability Report that sheds light on the many efforts Nespresso is making throughout the world.
Another significant consideration when selecting which coffee platform to use is the price of the product and the long-term costs of ownership.
The brewing machines Nespresso and Keurig make are somewhat of a loss leader. The hardware is usually excellent and delivers solid value for the money, above the quality you’d get from most other coffee machine brands. These two companies make their money through the sale of their coffee pods, which truly affects the cost of these two products.
Keurig’s machines are mostly quite affordable, with consumer machines falling in the $100-200 range. Keurig offers deep discounts on brewers and even provides you with a free machine if you sign up for their coffee subscription service. Keurig’s for commercial use cost $300-1,500.
K-cups range from about $.40-.80 per pod depending on quantity, where you’re purchasing from, and the brand. While the coffee is significantly more expensive than what you’d pay for whole or ground coffee by the pound, Keurig’s pods are considerably cheaper than Nespresso.
Nespresso machines are a bit more complex than Keurig, and therefore, more expensive. Still, they deliver exceptional value given the quality of their brewers. Nespresso’s latest machines cost about $200, while the machines in their Original Line range from about $200-1,000.
While the price of these two brewing platforms is comparable, the price of the pods is not. Most Nespresso pods cost between $.85-1.10 per pod, while the large format and limited edition pods can cost as much as $2 each.
Over the long term, Nespresso is significantly more expensive than Keurig.
Service & Support
Both Keurig and Nespresso are reliable brewers built to last when properly cared for. Ultimately, you want a machine that’s easy to maintain and a company that will stand behind its product when something goes wrong.
Both platforms are well known for delivering exemplary customer support, and both carry a one-year warranty on all their machines. Even when these brewers are out of warranty, both companies have made policy exceptions to keep customers satisfied in many cases.
With similar warranty programs and a sterling reputation for customer service and aftersales support, this category is a tie.
Nespresso vs. Keurig: The Winner
When it comes to Nespresso vs. Keurig, both platforms offer compelling reasons why they’re the best choice for a coffee drinker. If we judge the two on which machine brews better coffee, then Nespresso is the clear winner here.
But it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Some people are more interested in a quick, easy, and affordable cup than they are in a coffee shop-worthy experience. If you’re looking for a reliable and convenient coffee machine that’s cost-effective over the long term, you’ll probably find that Keurig is the best match for you.
Anyone on a quest for the best cup of coffee from a pod brewer and those concerned with the environmental impact of single-use plastics will find that the Nespresso is the best choice.