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.
Table of Contents
What’s the Difference?
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:
- OriginalLine: brews espresso only
- VertuoLine: brews espresso and coffee
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 50 different models in their decade-plus of dominance.
One such model — the Keurig Rivo R500 — was Keurig’s attempt at a single serve espresso maker.
I say was because the company quickly discontinued the Rivo line and doesn’t even sell the Rivo pods the machine requires. Back to their comfort zone: plain ol’ coffee.
Keurig introduced their Keurig 2.0 brewing system back in 2015, which frustrated customers because of the new scanning system that only brewed Keurig-licensed K-Cups. There are ways around the technology — “freedom stickers” or hacking the system — but you can also find Keurig 1.0 brewers on Amazon that don’t have this restriction.
Snapshot: Nespresso vs Keurig
|Pros for Nespresso||Pros for Keurig|
There’s no clear-cut winner between these two companies — it depends upon your preferences — but these are my favorites from each:
Best Nespresso Model: The Pixie
- Easy insertion and ejection of capsules. Compact Brewing Unit Technology
- Thermoblock heating element - Fast preheating time: 30 seconds
- Folding drip tray accommodates tall recipe glasses - Automatic and programmable coffee volume quantity
- Backlit LED water level detection indicators
- Holds 10 used capsules. Removable water tank: 24 oz or 0.7 L, 1 year warranty from date of purchase and registration
Best Keurig Model: The K575
- WHAT'S IN THE BOX: 6 K-Cup pods and a water filter handle + 2 filters to help your beverages taste their best. K575 coffee maker has five temperature settings to provide even more control over the brewing process with low, low/medium, medium, medium/high, and high
- LARGE 80oz WATER RESERVOIR: Allows you to brew 10+ cups more before having to refill, saving you time and simplifying your morning routine. The water reservoir is removable, making it easy to refill whenever you need to, and on the K575, you can choose from several different nightlight colors to illuminate your kitchen at night.
- MULTIPLE K-CUP POD BREW SIZES: (4, 6, 8, 10, 12 oz.). Brews a Carafe (22, 26, or 30oz) using K-Carafe pods, to give you more coffee when you need it. (Carafe sold separately)
- STRENGTH CONTROL: A strength control setting allows you to brew a bolder cup using any K-Cup pod brew size. Plus, five temperature settings allow you to enjoy your favorite beverage at your desired temperature. HOT WATER ON DEMAND: Press the hot water on demand button and select your desired brew size in order to dispense hot water.
- EXTRA-LARGE COLOR TOUCH SCREEN: A digital clock makes it easy to brew a fresh, great tasting cup in under a minute. Plus, program your brewer to turn on or off automatically at set times, so that it is ready to go when you want it, and turns off to conserve energy.
Nespresso vs Keurig: Who Wins?
Let’s dig much deeper and look at these two giants across the most important categories:
- Cost to Purchase
- Cost per Serving
- Ease of Cleaning
- Quality, Durability & Reliability
- Recycling & Impact to Environment
- The Verdict
Cost to Purchase | Winner: Keurig
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.
Cost per Serving | Winner: Keurig
My daily caffeine habit — that totally isn’t a problem, I can stop whenever I want! — is expensive.
That’s a ton. How does it compare to the cost per serving for Nespresso vs Keurig?
Nespresso machine 411:
- Only compatible with Nespresso capsules
- OriginalLine and VertuoLine brewers use different types of capsules
- Capsules tends to cost more per capsule than comparable Keurig K-Cup pods
In general, these are the costs per capsule for Nespresso brewers:
Remember, OriginalLine brewers only brew espresso whereas VertuoLine brewers make both espresso and coffee. 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, but VertuoLine brewers will actually make you 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:
- K-Cup: $0.35-$0.65 per pod
- K-Mug: $1.40-$1.60 per pod
- K-Vue: $0.85-$1.10 per pod
- K-Carafe: $1.75-$2.25 per pod
- Rivo: $0.85-$1.40 per pod
There’s a lot to be taken away from those prices. Allow me to summarize:
- K-Cup pods are by far the cheapest compared to all Nespresso and Keurig pods
- K-Mug and K-Vue pods brew the same sizes but K-Mug pods tend to cost more
- K-Vue pods will allow you to brew about 2x as much as K-Cup pods, justifying their cost
- K-Carafe pods brew about 4x as much as K-Cup pods, also justifying their cost
- Rivo espresso pods are a touch more expensive than OriginalLine capsules
To make this info easier to digest, here’s a table:
|Capsule or Pod||Cost, 1 Serving||Cost, 365 Servings||Savings Over Coffee Shop|
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:
- All capsules and pods will save you a bundle over a daily coffee at your local coffee shop
- K-Cups will save you around $75 per year compared to Nespresso OriginalLine Americanos
- K-Cups will save you around $325 per year compared to Nespresso VertuoLine coffees
- Heck, even the 22-30 oz K-Carafe servings save you about a grand per year over a cup of coffee at the coffee shop
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:
- Nespresso: reusable capsule compatible with OriginalLine brewers
- Nespresso: foil lids to reuse capsules, meant for VertuoLine brewers
- Keurig: My K-Cup reusable K-Cup pod (check your model) to get the compatible pod
- Keurig: Vue model pod adapter for K-Cup pods and coffee grounds
- Keurig: K-Carafe reusable pod
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:
- Cost per unit weight of the coffee you enjoy
- How much of said coffee you use
(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 | Winner: Nespresso
Performance comes down to a few different sub-categories:
- Available features
- How well those features work
- Ease of use
- Quality of coffee
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 1.4 or 2.8 oz 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:
- Color touch LCD display
- Programmable clock and Auto-On
- Temperature control
- Brew strength control
- 80+ oz water reservoir
- Water filter
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:
- Come with built-in or hand-pump frothers, which actually work
- An awesome, easy-to-use custom size selector
- Generally a smaller counter top footprint
- Sleeker design (personal preference)
- They brew a better cup of coffee
Obviously, the features vary by model but those are the standouts for me.
In the end, Nespresso espresso makers are more compact, look better, are a little easier to use and consistently produce a richer, better cup of coffee.
Ease of Cleaning | Winner: Nespresso
Neither Nespresso nor Keurig machines are particularly difficult to clean. Regardless of the brand you choose, you’ll need to do the following:
- Wipe down the exterior with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge
- Remove the detachable components and wash in the sink
- De-scale every 3-6 months with de-scaling solution or water/vinegar mixture (to clean up calcium deposits)
It’s a close call here, but ultimately Nespresso gets the edge for 2 reasons:
- Nespresso machines come with a de-scaling mode designed for optimal internal cleaning
- Keurig’s pod assembly with entry and exit needles clogs more easily and is a little more finicky
Quality, Durability & Reliability | Winner: Nespresso
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:
|Brand||Country of Manufacturer||Length of Warranty|
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 comprised 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.
Recycling & Impact to Environment | Winner: Nespresso
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:
- Collection points in Nespresso boutiques
- TerraCycle collection points in retail partner locations around the US
- Via UPS through Nespresso’s mail-back program in the continental 48 states
Retail partners include Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. You can click here to find a participating location near you.
Nespresso vs Keurig, The Verdict | Winner: Nespresso
A quick recap of how we got here:
- Cost to purchase: Keurig
- Cost per serving: Keurig
- Performance: Nespresso
- Ease of cleaning: Nespresso
- Quality, durability & reliability: Nespresso
- Recycling & impact to environment: Nespresso
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:
- Nespresso is the better manufacturer with the better product
- Keurig’s machines are less expensive both to purchase and operate daily
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.
Now I want to hear from you.
- Did you decide between Nespresso and Keurig?
- Have you used both?
- Which do you think wins this head-to-head battle?