Eat + Entertain

Smackdown! Keurig vs. Nespresso


Open your eyes, stumble to the kitchen, get your jolt of something caffeinated, and face the day. That’s how most of us do it, and our cuppa has become one of the morning’s non-negotiables. So it’s no surprise that single cup home brewers have become a new American obsession, feeding our addictions with speed and convenience. They’re like a 4G connection to your AM pick-me-up.

But Keurig vs. Nespresso — which one is right for you, or do you need one at all? Keurig came bounding out of the gate and took the early lead as champion with the help of flavors from big-name brands like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks to lure in American drinkers. Now, Europe’s chic Nespresso hopes to unseat the capsule king with its new VertuoLine machine, which can make its signature frothy espresso as well as a full cup of coffee.

While it might seem like you’re saving money by skipping Starbucks, brewing your coffee a few grams at a time is tremendously expensive. This New York Times article says it’s the equivalent to spending $50 per pound. You’d be better off brewing a pot of coffee, drinking a cup and spilling out the rest. Single cup home brewers, then, are really designed for the fickle, the hurried and the lazy— just know you’re trading speed, variety and ease for economics.

Oh, and full disclosure: I’m an anomaly human who doesn’t drink caffeine in the morning. So I leaned on teammates and friends for most of the research you see below. Any taste preferences are not my own, as I prefer a cup of peppermint tea to start my day.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at the middle-priced Keurig 2.0 K450 ($169) and the Nespresso VertuoLine ($299). Keurig vs. Nespresso — let’s see which one might be your coffee mate (ahem).

Keurig 2.0

The Keurig 2.0 series is easy to operate, and gives nearly instant gratification: pop in a K-Cup, choose your cup size, and let the hot water run through. Unlike previous Keurig brewers, the K450 comes with a four-cup carafe, so you can [highlight] brew for a crowd [/highlight]  (or for those three-or-four-cup kinda mornings). It also offers a “strong” setting, answering some critics’ complaint that the old brewers’ drinks were too weak. What makes a Keurig exciting is the [highlight] variety of drinks [/highlight] you can make with it: more than 250 varieties and 40 brands of coffee as well as hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, Açai Berry Vitamin Burst, and even iced drinks like Snapple and Honest T (for cold drinks, you run the brewer into a cup of ice). Campbell’s has just partnered with Keurig, so soups are also coming soon, which sounds cool, but also… kinda weird.

What does the Keurig coffee taste like? Coffee aficionados say the beverages don’t compare to “real” coffee that’s freshly ground and takes time to brew. But if you’re comparing to flavored drinks from your favorite coffee shop, they get pretty close. Looks-wise, The Keurig will be imposing on your countertop— part kitchen appliance, part-Decepticon. As for the capsules, your morning jolt will set you back between .60 and .90 apiece.

Nespresso VertuoLine

Nespresso, the European favorite, has lately been called the Apple to Keurig’s Microsoft— referring to its [highlight] stylized, chrome design [/highlight] and its upscale feel. Also, like Apple, it’s a single brand: both the capsules and the machines are made by Nespresso, whereas Keurig’s coffees are largely licensed brands. The general perception is that Nespresso’s coffee caters to a [highlight] European coffee-lover’s palate [/highlight] . Instead of offering a huge array of flavored, sweet drinks, it has a few select grades of darker and lighter java, meant to replicate great European coffees in a capsule. With simple descriptions like “Rich & Strong” and “Bold & Lively,” most of these need to be tasted in order for you to know which you’ll prefer. The company offers in-store complimentary tastings at a few Bloomingdale’s, Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma locations.

The VertuoLine is the first that will [highlight] brew both an 8-ounce up and a 1.4-ounce espresso cup [/highlight] (older models only made espressos). It also produces a “crema” atop each brew: that’s a creamy head, considered the mark of a well-made espresso. Another nice touch? It automatically ejects used capsules, which is especially nice if you’ve ever forgotten to clean out your Keurig, only to find a damp, icky, used capsule inside it the next morning. Capsules are .95 per coffee, and .75 per espresso.

The Verdict

If you want a wide variety of flavored coffees and drinks, or you just enjoy being able to get a dose of caffeine on demand and in a hurry, the Keurig 2.0 may be your match. At half the price of the VertuoLine, it’s fun, functional and does the job. If your priority is strong, richly-flavored coffee that reminds you of an Italian caffè, the Nespresso, with its gourmet grinds and striking counter presence, may suit your palate. Both offer drinks that are seemingly cheap compared to a coffee shop, but actually price out to much, much more (though you’ll avoid getting your name spelled wrong on a paper cup). Neither will save you money over grinding and brewing beans, but they will give you variety, convenience, and speed.

Which machine would you choose? Coffee talk in the comments!

31 comments on “Smackdown! Keurig vs. Nespresso”

  1. Hands down: the Nespresso. Although I have a Citiz, not a VertuoLine. The coffee, IMHO, is superior. And, I won’t have ugly in my house. At least if I can avoid it, and the Keurig is ugly.

    1. I agree with Kesslandia. Nespresso is the best! The machines are mostly made in Europe, though to meet the demands of a larger market the company is making some of its cheaper models in Eastern Europe and China (which I think is too bad). The pods are made of aluminum and completely recyclable if you empty the pods. If you don’t want to do this, simply drop them off at your nearest Nespresso dealer and they will do it for you. Keurig machines are made in China and they are cheap-looking, clunky and ugly. The product tastes like hot water and the pods that hold the coffee are all made of plastic (just what the environment needs is more little bits of plastic). The machine is also slower than the Nespresso. Nespresso tastes just as good as a high end espresso, but you can also get machines that offer American-style coffee that tastes much better than Keurig.

      1. In fact, plenty of Nespresso models are also made in China, not just certain cheaper models. The way to stop taste discrimination on the basis of origin is to stop taste discriminating on the basis of race.

    2. Omg I agree! I didn’t see the reason to get rid of my mediocre coffee pot for another mediocre single brew. Just got the Nespresso and I’m in love. And it looks so sleek!!!

  2. I do not understand why you say “Both offer drinks that are seemingly cheap compared to a coffee shop, but actually price out to much, much more.” If you buy a pound of French Roast coffee grounds or beans at Starbuck’s, it is $11.95. This, on average would make about 40 cups of coffee so that would be 30 cents per cup. Buying the 128 pack of K-cups at Starbuck’s is about $90, so ab out 70 cents per cup. Keeping it all at one source, at Starbuck’s a 96 count of Verismo pods is about $85, so $1.13 per cup. I don’t know about the Stabuck’s, or other coffee shops in your area, but a cup and pretty much any one of them cost MORE than $1.13. All of the are LESS than for a coffee shop.

    1. Hi Timo— If you read the article I refer to, it spells it all out:
      It’s basically pricing out the price per gram of coffee in those little capsules, and then multiplying it to show how much you’re really spending per pound.

      By your example, if you spend $11.95 per pound (453g) buying beans at Starbucks, you’re spending about 2 cents per gram if you buy that $90 pack of K-Cups from Starbucks, with each cup having about 5g in it, you’re spending about 14 cents per gram.

      You can slice it a bunch of ways… this is just one of them.

  3. It’s got NOTHING whatsoever to do with cost-per-gram of coffee. There’s only one “cost,” and it’s your outlay PER DRINK. So what’ll it be? Put on pants, go down to the Starbucks, and fork over $3.50 for a solo shot, or insert an 85-cent capsule into the Nespresso? (Keurig’s a joke, obviously.)

  4. It appears to me that no one that has commented has ever had a good espresso or espresso based drink. NONE of the pod machines match what is done in a good coffee shop. The problem with Starbucks is that one of ten or one of twenty espresso’s would qualify as good. And only a fraction of those would be great. However, by diluting with milk, and water, adding sugar, chocolate, carmel, etc. they produce a drink that the U.S. (and world – I’ve traveled from Japan, to china, to India, to the U.K., and several points in between) accept.

    Want great espresso? Invest in a $3,000 semiautomatic, prosumer espresso machine, a $1500 grinder, and purchase premium espresso blends roasted seven days before you use them (okay, buy your own roaster). Then learn to make the espresso yourself.

      1. Gregg, all
        Buy the roaster (299.00), a decent grinder (299.00), a good machine (299.00), green beans 1/2 the price of roasted beans). When you buy the roaster you’ll get 8 lbs.of beans free, so it just paid for itself. Roast 8 Oz. of beans on Sunday, and you’re good got the week. While you’re at it, you’ll kill all the Sunday meal fumes, it’ll be better for the economy, coffee grounds for your compost, and then you can laugh at those with the $3K espresso machine grinding $25.00/lb coffee beans really worth $9.00, and supporting a small business.

  5. This post is comparing apples to oranges, they are two totally different machines. If you wanted to do an honest comparison you would use the keurig R500 Rivo, that is the equivalent of the nespresso. Do research before you write articles please.

    1. I have the Nesspresso virtrouline and spent 150.00 on the special they have of all different espresso and American coffee I have been trying to get rid of the machine it makes amazing expresso and cremation however coffee comes out warm and not hot. You can’t rig the machine to make ur own in a event your ordered coffee has not made it to you. I just think the K machine will work out for me just sucks I would need 2 machines rather than just 1 I was using before taking up more counter space. I also love that k machines have a filter you can use your own coffee grinds in it.

      1. Nesspresso also has DIY cups you can put your own coffee grinds into also they come in disposable and reusable

  6. I received a Nespresso machine as a Christmas gift a few years ago. I’m happy with it but yes it costs more than just buying the coffee and making it in my stove-top espresso pot. The other problem is that unlike Keurig, there are limited brands of coffee available for Nespresso, and none sold in my area, I have to order online, which in most cases involves paying for shipping. It should be noted that for both Keurig & Nespresso it’s possible to buy refillable capsules.

  7. I think we are buying these machines for convenience not price per whatever. Don’t forget gas to drive to a Starbucks or whatever is your favorite coffee shop. I have the Nespresso vertuoline and compared to Starbucks I taste my expresso much more when I make it. Every morning I froth my milk or use one of my milk pods from my Tassimo(yes I have one of those also), add whip cream and one of various flavored syrups from Williams and Sonoma (gingerbread, buttered rum, salted caramel, or dulce de leche) in my drink which tastes better and cheaper to me. I’m sure one of those expensive espresso machines are better but for the majority, we’re not comparing those. I knew I can only get Nespresso drinks online or Amazon, I always do my research before I buy anything.

  8. I appreciate your evaluations but would suggest detailing the prices you provided. The $169 for the K450 machine includes a carafe, a selection of pods, a water filter handle and a cartridge. The $299 for the NV is their newest model, Evoluo, sold in a “bundle” which includes an electric “frother” (excellent if you like hot milk in your coffee) and an assortment of the coffee pods. An original Vertuoline machine by itself is $199 and comes with a selection of pods. The “frother” is also sold separately for $99.

  9. There is honestly no comparison if you actually like the taste of good coffee or espresso. I have used Keurig off and on for years at work and was always put off buy how over-extracted my coffee always tasted. Basically it tasted like burnt coffee, which is typical of percolator style coffee. I have the Evoluo now in my home. It was a recent purchase. While the pods do cost about $1 each it makes superior coffee and here is why. The machine adjusts water temperature for the type of beverage you are brewing so the grounds are never hit with boiling hot water. It also spins the pod as it brews (which I believe is what causes the agitation that leads to a nice layer of foam on every cup you brew). Overall, Keurig is convenient but it makes an inferior beverage. Also, if you’re concerned about price, just buy a stainless drip-brew strainer and microwave your water. The beverage is done in less than 3 minutes and it tastes better than percolator coffee.

  10. Yeah, even IF the Keurig made better tasting coffee, I’d still go for a more attractive machine. Shocking to me, how the Keurig folks don’t hire better designers. Keurig is ugly, and that’s the end of the discussion. It’s what your cheap friends buy at Costco. That sounds snobby, but it’s bigger than snobbism. You know the kind of people who constantly brag about how little they paid for something, and never seem to treat themselves to anything, or offer to pay for dinner? Keurig is for those people. Nespresso is really good coffee if you’re in the hurry, and the machine is gorgeous.

    Having said that, the best coffee actually does come from the cheap Bialetti screw-on pots. It’s what most people in Italy use, and it’s the best morning coffee out there. You’d have to go to an espresso machine costing thousands to get better.

  11. One more thing: Keurig and Nespresso are better than Starbucks. Starbucks is not very good. Petes is the best chain, followed by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

  12. Keurig and Nespresso are fundamentally different. Keurig makes coffee under 4 psi (pounds per square inch, of pressure) while Nespresso uses 235 psi. The result is a much more aromatic and tasty drink, an extraction of what is in the granules. Its like a garden hose vs a fire hose. It’s not just about the marketing.

  13. Never drank coffee until I had an overwhelming desire (need?) last month to start. . .at a rather advanced age. Studied it all, tried various types of machines and coffees — settled for Nespresso and am very happy. Good coffee and great espresso (this from a novice, of course).

  14. What I also loooove about Nespresso is that all their pods and mini capsules are RECYCLABLE! The company gives you a postage paid bag to send them back for recycling when you order the pods through them. That’s a big selling point for me plus I get a fantastic cup of coffee.

  15. I recently stayed at a hotel in London and they had an in-room Nespresso machine. I loved the whole set up. Much preferred to even my own (not too expensive Saeco Aroma) expresso machine at home, for which I grind my own beans. I used to have a Gaggia but it broke down, and the Aroma does just as well. Bottom line – I’m looking at the Nespresso seriously. Oh yeah, I have a cup of Keurig coffee once a week at a friends. Nothing special for sure.

  16. Though, the major difference I assume between both the brands is Nespresso gives espresso whereas Keurig gives a regular cup of coffee. This is I guess a huge difference keeping both machines apart.

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