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Would you put rival capsules in your Nespresso?

coffee machine

Noted by the Office of National Statistics as a ‘distinct and growing product’, coffee capsules are making their way into our weekly shopping. But most of us feel tied to buying branded capsules. Is it time we tried third-party alternatives?

This may or may not come as a surprise to you – it did to me – but a poll conducted by Harris Interactive found that 22% of Brits own a coffee capsule machine, with analysts predicting that coffee capsules could overtake teabag sales by 2020 😲

The same poll found that 80% of coffee capsule machine owners stick to buying the manufacturers branded coffee capsules rather than third-party capsules. So what’s holding us back?

Brand lock in

Coffee capsule machines offer convenience more than a cost saving – at least, that’s what it is for me. Nespresso machines are riding high on this trend for caffeine convenience. As a Nespresso machine owner, I have certainly saved some money by kicking my takeaway coffee habit. However, it’s the time I save on getting my caffeine fix in the morning that’s the biggest boon.

Still, restocking my coffee capsules can be a real pain. Nespresso machines are especially particular about where you can buy their branded capsules too – online or via a small list of boutiques.

And I do feel tied to buying my capsules from Nespresso. Early third-party capsules were problematic. There was a spate of these capsules not working and potentially causing damage, which could invalidate the machine’s warranty. All in all, popping down to the supermarket to restock with third-party capsules seemed a little too risky.

However, following a French court ruling in 2014, Nespresso has had to share information about their machines. This change has opened the gates for challenger coffee capsule producers. With access to information about these coffee machines, these third-party capsules offer up a great alternative to the Nespresso-branded capsules. Not to mention being are far easier to get hold of than having to traipse to a Nespresso boutique or place an online order.

Bucking the brand

In fact, when we recently conducted a taste test of compatible coffee capsules we found that those on sale in the supermarkets earned scores high enough to be Best Buys. Branded capsules still performed well, but it’s clear that these third-party capsules are well worth a try. I know I’ll be giving them a go.

Do you find yourself buying the branded capsules, or are you bucking the brand lock-in for third-party capsules?


Fascinating information. 🙂 I had no idea that coffee capsules had made such an impact on our coffee drinking habits. A bit of competition will certainly help to cut costs.

In the meantime, I think I will carry on using a filter coffee maker. I have become lazy and usually buy ground coffee rather than grinding the beans.


I’m quite looking forward to doing my own taste test of rival capsules in my Nespresso machine ☕☕☕


Perhaps Which? and this Conversation could benefit from an analysis of the waste created by some capsules. My brother has the pod machine and to be honest I do not like the ones I have tasted from it and prefer tea or instant coffee. However a fad is a fad and no doubt people will eventually wise up and they will be as cheap as chips at boot fairs in a year or two.

Apparently the inventor has expressed regret in inventing them.

” All of this is great for coffee pod makers’ bottom lines. Green Mountain, which acquired Keurig back in 2006, is swimming in profit—the company netted nearly half a billion dollars last year, most of which came from selling K-Cups and K-Cup machines. And Nestle is believed to turn a hefty 30% profit on its Nespresso coffee pod business (paywall). As of 2012, Nespresso had sold more than 27 billion pods worldwide. The machines are so widely used that they can even be found in over 700 Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.

The popularity of pods, however, is also taking its toll on the environment. Only 5% of the little pods Green Mountain makes are currently recyclable, according to Mother Jones. The other 95% are made of a non-recyclable composite plastic. The company is well aware of its shortcomings, and has vowed to make all of its pods recyclable by 2020.

“We can get to a cup of coffee dozens of different ways,” Martin Bourque, director of the Ecology Center, a non-profit in Berkeley, California, told the East Bay Express last year. “The best way is a large volume of coffee that goes into a cup that’s washed and re-used a thousand times, and the coffee goes to compost or mushroom production. That’s best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is these pods.”

The sheer volume of pod waste is staggering. As Murray Carpenter notes in his book Caffeinated, the K-cups discarded in 2011 would have encircled the globe more than six times, and in 2013, more than 10 times. Across the coffee pod industry, hundreds of millions of pounds of unrecyclable trash are now being made, used, and then tossed away each year in the US.”

Incidentally you do not link to the survey but to a BBC article reporting on a survey ……
” One in 10 Britons polled by Harris Interactive for The Grocer, a supermarket trade magazine, said that they believed “coffee pods are very bad for the environment.” At the same time, 22% of those asked said they owned a machine.”

Knowing how keen we are on proper surveys and dislike media filled with possibly dubious surveys planted for effect can Which? contact the Grocer for a direct link to the survey.


I wonder if refillable capsules are the answer to the waste problem.


What about refillable teaspoons ?!


Who needs spoons? Have a look at this Conversation presented by Adrian Porter: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/spoons-you-dont-need-them/

Alastair Rayment says:
18 March 2016

This is a really important point. I am amazed that Which rarely discuss the environmental impact of the products they test, as you pointed out here evidence points to pods being a disaster compared to just using conventional beans. It would be fantastic if all product reports which could give an assessment of the environmental impact they have compared to other products.
Convenience is great but we need to be informed on any downsides.


I think decent ground coffee and a cafetiere are the answer, both to waste and to cost – both of the coffee and the machine.

Maybe I’ve missed the test but have Which? compared the taste of coffee prepared in different ways?