Though you could make a stop at Starbucks every morning, brewing your own cup of coffee at home or at the office tends to be the more cost-effective route. But it’s not always the fastest, except if you’re using a Nespresso or Keurig coffee machine.
These two brands are renowned for their wide range of single-serve coffee makers that use coffee-filled capsules or pods to brew a hot cup of coffee in less time than it takes to brush your teeth. Because they’re quick, effective and tasty, they’re a great choice for consumers who don’t want to fuss with grinding coffee beans or waiting for pour-over coffee every morning.
Our product analysts and coffee experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab test every type of coffee maker on the market, from the best espresso machines to drip coffee makers, coffee makers with grinders and more.
Here, our experts compare Nespresso and Keurig coffee machines to help you decide which is best for your needs, breaking down some of the major differences to consider when choosing between these two brands. We’ve been hands-on with many of the most popular Keurig and Nespresso machines over the years, brewing over 1,000 cups of coffee and espresso shots in the Lab to help you find the best coffee maker for your home. When testing coffee machines, we don’t just evaluate how the coffee tastes, but we also consider how quickly, consistently and to what temperature a machine brews as well as any noteworthy extra features like an intuitive control panel or easy-to-use design.
How Nespresso coffee machines work
Original Nespresso machines use Nespresso Original pods that come in two sizes: espresso and lungo. According to GH Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab Director Nicole Papantoniou, “these capsules offer less variety in terms of espresso drinks, but they still come in a lot of flavors, roasts and caffeine levels,” making them a great choice for anyone who wants a compact machine to make espressos or americanos — i.e., espresso and water.
The downside: If you want a double espresso, you’ll have to use two capsules, and the machines cannot brew a true coffee. But some of the Original Nespresso machines do come with a built-in frother, making it possible to make cappuccinos and lattes.
We enjoy the newer Vertuo machines from Nespresso like the top-performing VertuoPlus, which uses larger, wider Vertuo capsules that hold a different amount of coffee grounds based on the type of drink you’re trying to make. Because of this newer capsule, you’re able to brew up to five drink types on the VertuoPlus, including espresso, double espresso, gran lungo, mug and alto.
“You can buy espresso capsules, double espresso capsules, coffee capsules and more,” Papantoniou explains. “Nespresso offers a wide size variety and a wide variety of coffee types.” So, if you’re someone who likes starting the day off with a large cup of coffee but craves espresso for an afternoon pick-me-up, the VertuoPlus machine is the machine for you. For an even newer model made with recyclable materials, our pros also recommend the Vertuo Next, or you could consider the smaller Vertuo Pop+ if you’re tight on space.
To get started with the Nespresso VertuoPlus, make sure the machine’s water reservoir is filled up so it can heat the water up properly, pop in your capsule and press start. The machine will then read the capsule’s barcode and automatically adjust settings to brew the type of drink you want. “I love how convenient these are and how they always deliver a consistent cup,” Papantoniou says. When it’s finished, the capsules are automatically ejected and stored in a bin that you can empty out when it’s full. While this model doesn’t feature a milk frother for making lattes or cappuccinos, you can add on the brand’s top-performing Aeroccino milk frother or purchase a pricier Nespresso machine with one built-in.
How Keurig coffee machines work
Like Nespresso, there are tons of Keurig coffee machines to choose from but our kitchen experts like the K-Cafe Single-Serve for its versatility. It can brew espresso-like shots, coffee, cappuccinos and lattes in four sizes — six, eight, 10 or 12 ounces — with K-Cup pods. “This is my favorite K-Cup machine,” Papantoniou says. “Results have been good, full-bodied and well-rounded. I also love how hot it gets.” But for extra features like being able to adjust the temperature of the water or the brew’s strength, consider the K-Supreme Plus Smart. Or you can opt for a more affordable pick such as the K-Elite.
The K-Cafe isn’t too different from the VertuoPlus in its operation, but there are a few extra steps required. “The new K-Cafe uses similar technology to the Nespresso Vertuo capsules, where it reads a barcode and suggests a way to brew based on the manufacturer’s instructions,” Papantonious says. She explains that the pods typically have a foil cover that the machine punctures to wet the grounds that are contained in a plastic cup.
This model has a built-in milk frother that you can fill with the milk of your choice (it’s separate from the water reservoir) if you plan to make a latte or cappuccino. Next, you’ll select whether you’re making a coffee, latte or cappuccino on the control panel along with your ideal drink size. If you want an espresso-like shot, you’ll hit “shot.” Once your drink has finished brewing, make sure to throw out or recycle the used pod as it isn’t automatically ejected.
Nespresso vs. Keurig: Price
Nespresso Vertuo capsules can cost anywhere from around $0.98 up to $1.45 per capsule, which can add up quickly if you rely solely on Nespresso for your daily caffeine intake. Original Nespresso capsules are slightly more affordable, with many at $0.80 per pod. K-Cups, on the other hand, are made by various companies and roasters so they can range tremendously in price, making it easier to find pods within your budget. You’ll even find some sold for $0.58 per pod, while more premium roasts can be more than $1.30 per pod. “Nespresso capsules are typically more expensive than K-Cups and a little harder to get since you have to get them through the brand,” Papantoniou says, but for some people, Nespresso’s distinct flavor may be worth it.
When it comes to coffee machines, you’ll also come across a range of prices from both Nespresso and Keurig, depending on what features you’re looking for. You can find reliable machines under $200 from both brands, while some Nespresso machines reach over $800. If you’re hoping to save money, Keurig will likely cost you less in the long run. And to save the most, you’re much more likely to find better deals shopping for a simple drip coffee maker that doesn’t use capsules.
Nespresso vs. Keurig: Brew variety and performance
To make coffee you’ll have to purchase capsules or pods that are compatible with your Nespresso or Keurig machine. For Nespresso’s VeurtoPlus machine, you’ll choose among Vertuo coffee capsules, which include coffee, espresso and a variety of blends and limited edition brews.
In our tests, cups of coffee consistently came out hot, well-rounded and balanced. We especially appreciated the thick, frothy crema that topped each drink. “Nespresso Vertuo capsules are all quite flavorful and full-bodied while the Original capsules are also full-bodied but with a thinner, silkier crema,” Papantoniou says. While you do have to stick to Nespresso pods, Papantoniou shares that there are now some collaborations with Nespresso and other brands, like a capsule from Starbucks that earned a 2022 Kitchen Gear and Coffee Awards.
The Keurig K-Cafe machine is only compatible with Keurig K-Cup pods, yet you’ll find a much larger variety of choices since popular brands like Starbucks, Dunkin’ and more make compatible pods. Though you’ll have to shop around for your favorite pods and their quality can vary depending on the coffee company, roast and flavor, the choices are truly endless.
In our Lab tests of the K-Cafe machine, our pros found that espresso tended to lack crema, but the overall performance felt very consistent in terms of preheat time, brew time, coffee temperature and volume. “K-Cups can lack body, but we’ve also had some really good experiences and they’re good for people who like lighter-bodied coffee,” Papantoniou says. “Brands, like Atlas [a 2023 Kitchen Gear, Coffee and Tea Awards winner], have come out with higher-quality K-cups that can compete in that market.” Our pros also appreciate the addition of the machine’s milk frother and found that it worked quickly and effectively with a range of milk types, including whole, skim, almond or soy milk.
Nespresso vs. Keurig: Ease of use, design and cleaning
It’s hard to find a coffee machine easier to use than the Nespresso VertuoPlus. There’s a single button that controls everything from power to brewing, and thanks to each capsule’s barcode you no longer have to fuss with choosing the right size drink. The machine’s design is sleek, available in a range of colors and the unit is relatively compact. We also love that you can adjust the position of the water tank to accommodate counter space and the one-touch electronic lever opens and closes seamlessly. Plus, the machine rarely needs to be cleaned by hand (though it’s certainly recommended to give the drip tray and basins a quick scrub), and you can purchase descaling solution for when it’s time to remove the build-up of minerals.
The K-Cafe takes up slightly more counter space than the Nespresso VertuoPlus since it comes with an attached milk frother. It’s super easy to use and operate despite having significantly more buttons than the VertuoPlus. A bit more regular cleaning is required due to the milk frother, but we appreciate that it’s dishwasher-safe. To clean your Keurig coffee machine, you can hand wash the water basin and drip tray along with any other parts with soap and water, and you can descale the machine with Keurig’s Rinse Pods or descaling solution.
Nespresso vs. Keurig: Recycling
One major factor to consider before purchasing a coffee machine that uses capsules versus a reusable filter is the waste created. Ask yourself: What happens with the machine’s pods once they’ve been used and can you recycle them?
For years, Nespresso has been leading the charge with aluminum capsules that are easy to recycle. For instance, NYC customers can simply dispose of their capsules in the recycling bin. But for anyone living in another area, the brand’s robust recycling program offers to recycle capsules for you. All you have to do is order a recycling bag for free and drop off your used capsules at the nearest UPS drop-off location (also free of charge).
K-Cup pods aim to be 100% recyclable, but Keurig advises checking locally whether you can indeed recycle pods in your community. Papantoniou suggests checking the packaging first. Overall, Keurig’s recycling process isn’t quite as straightforward as Nespresso’s since you’ll have to peel off the pod’s lid and empty it entirely before recycling, but one unique feature to note is that the K-Cafe machine is compatible with My K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filters so you can skip using plastic pods altogether.
Final verdict: Which coffee maker is better?
Both Nespresso and Keurig deliver consistent results so it really depends on your preference. Are you an espresso person or a coffee person? For those who can’t go a day without espresso and love a scorching, rich brew with a nice crema, Nespresso’s flavorful drinks won’t leave you disappointed.
K-Cup brews tend to be on the lighter side and we found espresso-like shots lacking when compared to Nespresso, but there’s much more variety when choosing roast type or flavor, manufacturer and price. According to Papantoniou, “K-Cups offer truer coffee options that are similar to drip coffee,” whereas Nespresso excels at espresso. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with either brand if you’re in the market for a single-service coffee maker that’s efficient, easy to use and makes a fresh cup of coffee in a flash.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Nicole Papantoniou is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab, where she oversees all testing and content related to kitchen appliances, tools and more. Since she started in 2019, she conducted the last side-by-side test of espresso and coffee machines and uses at least one daily.
GH Institute analyst and writer Olivia Lipski oversees product testing and covers consumer electronics, home, travel, fitness and more for Good Housekeeping. Not only does she help readers make better buying decisions by testing and reviewing the latest gadgets to hit the market, but she brings years of product review experience to GH. She closely collaborated with Papantoniou to write this guide based on testing data and consumer tester feedback. She’s an avid coffee drinker herself and has used both Nespresso and Keurig machines over the years.
Media & Tech Reviews Analyst
Olivia (she/her) is a media and tech product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering tech, home, auto, health and more. She has more than five years of experience writing about tech trends and innovation and, prior to joining GH in 2021, was a writer for Android Central, Lifewire and other media outlets. Olivia is a graduate of George Washington University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, political science and French, and she holds a master’s degree in communications from Sciences Po Paris.