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I'll preface my question by explaining that I'm not a coffee drinker myself so that whole world is a bit of a mystery. But I've been asked to buy a gift with the following specifications:

  • Must be a combination coffee and espresso maker
  • Must use pods rather than be ground coffee only
  • Needs to be compatible with various coffee manufacturers with Peet's Coffee as a specific example. (as far as I understand any of this I gather that Peet's only does K-cup of Nespresso OriginalLine)

I thought this would be simple, but it's surprisingly complicated! It seems that the various pod types can't interact with other makers, and some machines make "espresso-style drinks" but not espressos whatever that means.

Does anyone know of a good machine that would hit all of the points? I'm looking at around the $300 or less mark

  • might be a better fit on coffee.stackexchange.com – paparazzo Sep 5 '18 at 22:43
  • Thank you for the suggestion! I wasn't aware that that stackexchange channel existed when I was writing this question but I posted there in the meantime. Perhaps someone here will be able to give good advice too though. – David Martin Sep 5 '18 at 23:22
  • This is very close to being a shopping question, but as we don't seem to have an introduction to these machines here I've written an answer – Chris H Sep 6 '18 at 6:29
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The manufacturers of the machines and the coffee partner to make use of brand recognition. So I could buy Costa brand (2nd biggest coffee shop chain in the UK) for my Tassimo, but if I wanted Starbucks I'd need a different machine. Nespresso is part of Nestle so they're not going to licence rivals to make pods for their machines. The choice you can easily buy is as important as the overall range - while you can get the pods delivered it works out expensive. Pods from different manufacturers are completely incompatible, and these machines don't take normal ground coffee without hacking the packaging.

I've used a Nespresso and a Senseo and have a Tassimo (that I no longer use because the coffee is expensive and wasteful on non-recyclable packaging). Neither makes espresso, despite labelling. They make a reasonable imitation of a weak espresso. The nespresso is slightly better in that regard, or a Tassimo that allows you to adjust the amount of water (so not the most basic). But a moka pot is closer to espresso than either. Some also do you chocolate (though not very well); I'm only keeping my Tassimo to use that up.

Pretty much any pod machine that says it can do espresso can also do plain coffee. Overall you need to pick one for which the biggest range of suitable pods is available easily. Suitable depends on the user.

  • What’s the technical difference between a short shot from a Nespresso type machine and an espresso? – Spagirl Sep 6 '18 at 9:45
  • @Spagirl as I understand it, pressure, combined with the fact that the coffee has been sitting around sealed in plastic for ages (and I say that as someone who drinks ready-ground supermarket own brand coffee, which at least turns over fast). It's a few years since I used the nespresso so I can't provide a detailed analysis. – Chris H Sep 6 '18 at 11:05
  • "Pretty much any pod machine that says it can do espresso can also do plain coffee" - this is the part that really confused me; I was looking at a Nespresso OriginaLine machine (Essenza Mini) and it's marked everywhere as being an espresso machine but the verbiage used, including on Nespresso's own site says things like "creates perfect coffee". What is the difference between a machine-made espresso and a coffee? Amount of milk? Pressure? Contents of the pod? At the risk of getting epistemological what exactly is just a "coffee"? – David Martin Sep 6 '18 at 15:04
  • There's no milk in espresso, which is one of many forms of coffee, and the basis of other forms. Milk is optional in what I referred to as "plain" coffee. Don't believe when these machines claim to make cappuccino or latte; they use an additional cartridge of longlife milk-based substance. Coffee means many things to many people and a convenience machine like these should be chosen to suit the end user's tastes. – Chris H Sep 6 '18 at 15:10

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