Nespresso vs Keurig. They’re two of the biggest names in the single serve coffee game, and ultimately you may have to choose between them.
Which should you choose?
As of December 2015, Keurig owned 61% of the total United States single serve market, both machines and coffee pods, whereas Nespresso held only 4%.
But that ignores the Swiss company’s strong European performance, which still positions them as one of the industry’s leaders.
Before you decide which brand to back, let The Coffee Maven break them down.
Nespresso and Keurig are both single-serve brewers, but they have plenty of differences.
Nespresso brewers are primarily pod-based, single-serve espresso machines. The company has far fewer models split across 2 lines:
Some of their machines come with a built-in frother for lattes, cappuccinos and other cafe beverages, but for those that don’t you can add on their hand-pump frother. It actually works surprisingly well and is included with most models.
If you prefer coffee and not espresso, you can still get an OriginalLine brewer. Just brew an Americano instead!
Keurig is the leader of the US single-serve market and has released over 80 different models in its decade-plus of dominance.
One such model — the Keurig K-Cafe — is Keurig’s attempt at a single-serve espresso maker. It’s decent but pales in comparison to what Nespresso offers. The biggest reason is that Nespresso has espresso-specific capsules depending on what you want to brew:
Keurig’s K-Cafe still uses the same K-Cups as the regular ol’ coffee makers. It’s not well-optimized and falls short of Nespresso.
Instead, Keurig focuses on single-serve coffee makers and has even introduced the Keurig K-Duo, which brews both single cups of coffee and full pots up to 60 oz.
There’s no clear-cut winner between these two companies — it depends upon your preferences — but these are my favorites from each:
Check out our complete guides to both Nespresso and Keurig. If you have a question about any Nespresso or Keurig model, the answer is there.
Let’s dig much deeper and look at these two giants across the most important categories:
Nespresso machines have a slightly higher initial cost to purchase, typically ranging from $150-$300 depending on the machine.
Keurig has many more different models than Nespresso but most are priced in the $75-$250 range.
My daily caffeine habit — that totally isn’t a problem, I can stop whenever I want! — is expensive.
Did You Know? If you buy a $4 coffee every day you’d spend $1,460 per year at your local coffee shop.
That’s a ton. How does it compare to the cost per serving for Nespresso vs Keurig?
Nespresso machines use either OriginalLine or VertuoLine capsules, depending on the machine you purchase. In general, these are the costs per capsule for Nespresso brewers:
VertuoLine machines use a capsule-scanning system that prevents the use of third-party capsules, but OriginalLine machines don’t. As a result, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives to Nespresso OriginalLine capsules.
Remember: OriginalLine brewers only brew espresso whereas VertuoLine brewers make both espresso and coffee. However, you can make a perfectly delicious Americano with your OriginalLine brewer by topping the espresso off with hot water and getting oh-so-close to a cup of coffee.
Keurig brewers have a lower cost of ownership. Like Nespresso machines, there’s more than one type of Keurig pod. In fact, there are 5:
Note: Keurig has discontinued all coffee maker models that use anything other than the standard K-Cup pod, and you definitely don't want to drink coffee brewed from whatever K-Mug, K-Vue, K-Carafe, and K-Rivo pods someone scrounged up from their basement storage shelf to sell on eBay. Now, every Keurig uses K-Cups, including the K-Cafe for lattes and cappuccinos. The exception is the K-Duo, which brews 60 oz pots and lets you use ground coffee in a traditional filter basket.
To make this info easier to digest, here’s a table:
Note: All prices and estimates above subject to change; “Cost, 365 Servings” calculated using most common mid-point of “Cost, 1 Serving” price range.
Look at those annual savings! Of course, all savings are compared to an average $4.00 cup of coffee or espresso at your local coffee shop, and with some pods you’ll get more volume. It’s not a perfect table, but these are the take-home messages:
It should be noted that you can drive down the cost per serving by using one of the available reusable pods offered by each company:
With these methods, you only have the initial investment of the reusable pod and can then buy whatever whole bean or ground coffee you like. The cost per serving depends on two factors:
(I just ordered myself some 100% Kona coffee for $40 per pound. No matter what you compare that to, it’s an expensive cup.)
Performance comes down to a few different sub-categories:
That last one — quality of coffee — also could have found its way into the Quality, Durability & Reliability section below, but how can you judge how well a machine performs without looking at the final product it creates?
Nespresso machines are primarily European-style espresso makers, though VertuoLine brewers also have the ability to brew a full-sized coffee.
Because the size of a single serving is a few ounces of espresso, Nespresso machines don’t have large water reservoirs like Keurig machines — they range from 24-40 oz. If you want to top your espresso off with hot water to make an Americano, you’ll be refilling your reservoir every 4-6 servings.
Nespresso machines also lack a lot of the flashy functionality the top-of-the-line Keurig brewers boast:
And let’s not forget the stuff you’re brewing. If Keurig’s wide range of licensed (and unlicensed) offerings were Pod Planet, the Nespresso equivalent would merely be Capsule County. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa — Keurig just has more pod variety.
However, Nespresso brewers make up for those shortcomings with a few very important features:
Obviously, the features vary by model but those are the standouts for me.
In the end, Nespresso espresso machines are more compact, look better, are a little easier to use and consistently produce a richer, better cup of coffee.
Neither Nespresso nor Keurig machines are particularly difficult to clean. Regardless of the brand you choose, you’ll need to do the following:
It’s a close call here, but ultimately Nespresso gets the edge for 2 reasons:
Nespresso won a tight contest in our Ease of Cleaning category, but it’s a landslide here. It all comes down to this simple table:
For quality, durability and reliability, you get what you pay for.
Keurig’s brewers are made of a lighter plastic while Nespresso’s Swiss-made machines are made of thicker plastic with metallic-plated exteriors. They’re denser, heavier, and sturdier.
Even better, my supplemental research continuously turns up Nespresso users who rave about the longevity of their espresso makers while Keurig users tend to report more issues more frequently.
And should an issue arise with your Nespresso, you can always fall back on their 2 year warranty.
Game. Set. Match.
Single-serve coffee pods are not good for the environment. According to an article by The Atlantic, “best estimates say the Keurig pods buried in 2014 would actually circle the Earth…more than 12 [times].”
If you’re going to own a pod coffee machine, you’re going to have to be OK with being part of the problem.
But that doesn’t mean all pod coffee companies are equally bad for the environment.
Keurig announced they’re working to create a fully recyclable version of their famous K-Cup, but they don’t think it’ll be ready until 2020.
Nespresso is already trying to do its part through their Ecolaboration Program. (Bonus points for a catchy name.) They’ve set up capsule recycling stations around Canada with the goal of recycling 75% of sold capsules. The company encourages customers to collect their used capsules in a special recycling bag to be returned to a Nespresso boutique for collection.
Though the recycling process takes place in Canada, they have set up a recycling program for US-based customers. According to Nespresso, capsules can be returned to any of the following:
Retail partners include Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. You can click here to find a participating location near you.
A quick recap of how we got here:
I think Nespresso is the superior brand despite their relatively minuscule share of the United States market, but for most consumers the choice will come down to cost versus performance:
But this analysis only looks at the macro-level decision of Nespresso vs Keurig. Within each brand there are different classes of brewers that offer varying functionality for a range of prices.