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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?


These capsule machines are very popular, I assume because they make a decent cup of coffee very easily. The downsides are the cost of the capsules and the waste of metal and plastic.

Are refillable capsules a viable solution to these problems?

A cafetiere is the solution. Cheap to buy, cheap to run. Our consumer society revolves around grown-ups toys. They are what we are persuaded to spend our disposable income on. How many capsule machines have been confined to a cupboard along with juicers, smoothie makers, ice cream makers, sandwich toasters, egg boilers……….. But. like children let loose in a toy shop to buy stuff they will soon discard, we like the novelty of it.

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I agree about consumerism. I’m pleased to report that I don’t have anything in your list of unused items. If possible I try out things when visiting friends and family before purchase. I’ve made a few mistakes, of course.

A lot of the problem of unused products seems to be gifts. I have an espresso and cappuccino machine that I was given one Christmas and although it makes decent coffee, the effort of using it and the hassle of keeping it clean means that I rarely use it. I have passed on every cafetiere that I have been given because I prefer filter coffee. I have a small cone and filter papers with me when I go on holiday.

The capsule machines do seem to make good coffee and I would be interested if the refillable capsules work well. Thanks to this Convo, temperature is obviously a factor worth considering when choosing a machine, and both the brewing and serving temperatures will be important. Hopefully Which? will mention temperature in future reviews of capsule machines.

For the time being I have given up plans to get a bean-to-cup machine because of poor reliability that I have both witnessed, thanks to family and friends, and read about. A frequent complaint is that the serving temperature is too low and some resort to putting their cups in the microwave before drinking. I don’t like hot coffee, so it’s not a problem for me.

Seeing the number of comments on Amazon regarding less than hot coffee from a DeLonghi Nespresso machines I asked my brother to run a test on his make.

The water temperature after a minute or two in the cup was 151F and the cup exterior 132F. This seems higher than the 140F quoted in the US for the Delonghi machine operating temperature. One customer who measured the output was complaining of a heat of 115-120F . Generally around 10% found it too cool.

This is a good example of how non-specialist reviews on websites can help by alerting us to useful information that might not be apparent from information supplied by the manufacturer or retailers. I don’t have much that is positive to say about Amazon but find their reviews useful, mainly because there are usually plenty to look at.

I’m curious to know how your brother measured the temperature of the cup and the reason for doing this.

I cannot drink instant coffee it gives me a really bad headache and I admit to owning a pod machine, but the coffee is not as good as my bean to cup machine and the grounds go into the garden slugs hate them, worms love them and they can reduce the PH in your soil if rinsed well, no plastic circles to throw away.

Linda says:
10 May 2016

Definitely converted to “pod coffee” with my Krups U Nespresso machine, in spite of the cost of each cup of coffee! However, Nespresso pods not to my taste so have experimented with several other makes which have all been compatible with the macine. My favourite are Carte Noire.

Good old B&M in the NW has boxes of 20 capsules made in Spain (Bestpresso!) for £1.89. That is 9.45p per capsule and good quality coffee too. I have tried all available compatibles and buy in bulk when on special at £2 to £2.50 for ten in our local Sainsbury’s. There is one make which has degradable capsules which turn to compost in a short time. I never really rated Nespresso apart from Livanto and am on my second machine. Espresso coffee is totally different from cafetiere so to me you cannot compare them. I always warm my espresso cups with a shot of hot water from the machine before emptying out and putting in the shot/shots of coffee.

I have had all kinds of coffee makers in the past and prefer the ease of filter machines for a long cup and the Nespresso machine for espresso. No mess and so easy to empty and clean.

Why do Which concentrate solely on Nespresso. I like my Tassimo and capsules of, in my opinion superior, Kenko and Costas can be recycled. That said I often make coffee in a cafetierre: much cheaper.

I met a company at the Ideal Home Ex. who were using their own manufactured pods in Nespresso machines. I did not want a coffee demonstration at he time and was given a little bag with three pods inside, to try at home. I used one, but on using the second, the machine suddenly stopped. The pod was obviously overfilled with coffee as the top seal had split from the side of the body of the pod. I managed to get the grains cleared from my £400.00 machine by constantly running a plain water program. However, the pressure had gone from the machine and it was unrepairable. I have purchased a much less expensive machine and stick to Nespresso pods, which never vary whatever flavour is favourite.

Stephen Hicks says:
24 October 2016

I have used a variety of nespresso compatible capsules. All (bar one brand) seem to work okay but the taste was variable. Nespresso’s own were not the ones I liked best for taste.

I have tried a brand which sells biodegradable capsules BUT I have found that these capsules do not always work very well.

I have trained my grandchildren to make coffee in our Nespresso Le Cube machine, made by Krups and now sadly discontinued. It is an educational process that assists with orientation, colour identification and keeping Grandpa from becoming Grumpy Grandpa.
We have tried a wide range of third party capsules, none of which copy Nespresso’s “recyclable” aluminium format, but are all significantly cheaper, especially when bought in European supermarkets. Some are good, some are bad but the same can be said of coffee beans and genuine Nespresso capsules.
The thought of 4 year olds measuring out beans, grinding them, transferring the ground coffee to the espresso machine, stopping and starting the 275psi steam supply and then removing the hot and wet coffee grounds fills me with horror, so for now Nespresso rules!

Paul – that is hilarious and adorable at the same time! They must be doing a good job at keeping you topped up with coffee if you’re up this late!

Sepand says:
4 November 2016

I’ve also tried several different brands on my pixie and I have to say, out of about 7 or 8 out of them, only one of them doesn’t leak coffee into the tray (which incidentally has the same price as Nespresso capsules). With the rest, I always get coffee coming down to the tray in sputters. Some leak more, some leak less. It’s kinda annoying, because I get excited every time I see a new brand, but end up disappointed.

Having recently purchased a Krups Nespresso Pixie, I have had similar issues with ‘compatible’ branded pods including Taylors. Not enough coffee in cup, too much water/coffee in drip tray. Took machine back to Krups shop, not interested as ALL support of machines is done by Nespresso, which seems weird as I have no contract or relationship with them! Contacted Nespresso, support desk very good and slick, they sent free samples to prove their products worked perfectly, which they did.
Now having researched the issue there seems to have been a change in design as to how the pods are pierced in 2013 (after lawsuit collapsed against rivals) which makes a high number of other pods ‘uncompatible’.
There was also a big test by a Swiss consumer magazine K-Tipp to establish which machines work with which pods, link below. I am very surprised that ‘Which’ have not referred to this testing or replicated it, this is a major issue that is anti-competitive for the consumer and needs to be championed so that both the machines and the pods all work together.

Is there a Nespresso-compatible coffee capsule Best Buy?

I think there are some fantastic compatible pods out there to try, and think there are also a lot of “myths” that it will break your machine.

As others have suggested the cheapest seem to be Aldi, but there are other companies like mugpods who sell hot chocolate pods as well.