We set out an article on our website some weeks back called “The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Coffee Machine” and since then have had a lot more questions around their pros and cons. So here we’ll set these all out in more detail.Coffee capsule machines are small and use coffee capsules made of plastic or light aluminium that contain about 5 to 7g of coffee. The most recognised is probably Nespresso, but there are many manufacturers that make Nespresso compatible coffee capsules. Most do work well in Nespresso machines, but of course, if they come from a poorly made mould, you will find them getting stuck, so look out for capsules that are well made (if you choose not to use Nespresso!).
The machines are simple having a water tank, a small flash boiler, a pump to build up water pressure and a puncture tool inside the capsule accepting receptacle. Once you put your capsule into the receptacle and lock it closed, water is heated and pumped under high pressure through the capsule which is punctured to allow the hot water in and to then allow it to escape with suitably infused rich coffee oils and other compounds into your cup.
Opening the lid after the process is complete, either allows you to pick out the used capsule, or the action automatically drops the capsule into a waste tray. It is a simple, no mess operation.
So the first big pro is that it is simple to make coffee. The second pro is that the coffee is inside an airtight and sealed capsule until use, so it retains its freshness over long periods of time. Bean to cup coffee machines that have a bean canister, also have a closed space around the coffee, but it isn’t airtight so if using your coffee machine infrequently, the 300 to 500g of coffee beans in the canister can get stale.
The third pro is that you can select from a number of different coffee blends every time you make a coffee. Some capsule makers add flavours so you can have a hazelnut flavoured coffee or a Guatemalan coffee followed by an Ethiopian. Again, in other coffee machines you have to put a minimum amount of one type of coffee bean into the bean hopper so changing flavours between coffee drinks is not readily done.
Finally, the biggest pro is probably that because these coffee machines are so cheap, they are relatively inexpensive. In fact they come in at about 5 to 10 times cheaper than bean to cup or automatic coffee machines like the Mythos.
So what is not to like? Well there are three cons to this story. The first is that the capsules are not cheap. Packing a small amount of coffee into a plastic or aluminium container and sealing it takes the coffee to anything around 5 times the price of an equivalent amount of coffee beans. The point is that depending on your consumption of coffee, there comes a point (about 6 months to a year by our calculations) where you will be making cheaper coffee even having paid 5 to 10 times more initially for your automatic coffee machine.
The second con is that the amount of coffee in a capsule is fixed and at 5 to 6g, you are looking at no more than a small cup of coffee. Great for southern European espresso drinkers but not so great for American and other coffee drinkers who want a mug. To overcome this you will use two capsules and effectively double up your already expensive outlay. Keurig capsules have overcome this with the use of a bigger capsule packed with more coffee and so there are solutions, but Keurig is not available everywhere and so for most, you are doubling up your cost.
The third con is that these capsules are largely a contributor to plastic pollution. Sure, companies like Nespresso actively advocate recycling and go a long way to trying to reclaim used capsules, and others are following with capsules made of compostable materials or at a minimum, fully recyclable capsule design. Regardless, large areas of our oceans are covered in floating plastic islands and coffee capsules are there in the mix too.
The alternative is to buy a non-capsule coffee machine such as a Mythos or Dr Coffee coffee machine. These grind the coffee beans on demand and tamp and brew at the touch of a button or screen. The only plastic pollution is the 1kg coffee bag and possibly the coffee machine at end of life.
So there you have it. It is going to boil down to what you believe in and what you can afford but either way, there are pros and cons to buying a coffee capsule machine.