If you are looking to get the best shot of espresso, you probably want to compare the most popular options on the market: traditional espresso vs Nespresso. Even the most passionate Nespresso critics have tasted it, at least to satisfy the curiosity. Let me introduce another competitor in your comparison, Illy IperEspresso.
Why talk about illy IperEspresso? Because it has everything you are looking for in a Nespresso, small footprint, consistency, convenience.
Whether the espresso fanatics like it or not, Nespresso and IperEspresso are here to stay, and it will serve millions of happy customers. The question is “Is it good enough for you?” and more important, “Wich one is the best for you?”
This page will compare the classic espresso machine with the capsule based espresso makers, to show you the best solution for price, taste and convenience.
This isn’t a simple question. If you hoped that someone will point you out a machine and say buy this because it’s better, you’ll be disappointed. Taste is subjective, and the three machines that we compare produce slightly different shots. Also the convenience is another factor. But there are other aspects to consider as well and we will touch all of them, to help you find your answer.
Perfect Espresso Shot vs Convenience – Nespresso vs Traditional Espresso
The biggest debate in coffee connoisseur circles is whether Nespresso delivers the same great taste as an espresso machine. While this is a great question, for most of us it’s not the most important one. Let’s tackle convenience now, but we’ll come back to the taste issue in a bit.
For many people, convenience is everything. Popping in a capsule and pressing a button does the trick. So what if it doesn’t have the same taste as the shot at the coffee shop? We need our morning coffee before we even begin to think about what we’re going to do that day.
One of the most common complaints among people who buy a coffee maker is how much trouble it takes to make a decent cup of espresso. A semi-automatic espresso machine requires a lot of effort to pull a shot. Seems like a long and complicated journey to the first coffee sip. on the other hand, a capsule based espresso maker is a perfect solution for these issues. Just pop a capsule in, hit a button, and let the machine do all the work.
A super automatic espresso machine is great for those looking for the ultimate espresso experience with the automation convenience. However, a good super-automatic machine is really expensive, and they still are not quite as convenient as the capsule based espresso makers. So from a convenience prespective, capsule espresso machine are the winner.
Conclusion: From a convenience perspective,a capsule based espresso machine is the best solution.
Nespresso Inissia Review
Inissia is the least expensive brewer from Nespresso and is a best seller on Amazon. The machine is easy to use, reliable, and give you a great cup of coffee.
Inissia doesn’t have a milk frother like the more expensive machines do, but you can buy one separately. If you are looking for one, take a look at our article about milk frothers.
Inissia is the winner of two categories: convenience and cost. The cost for one year is almost a tie with a cheap semiautomatic/grinder combo. But that is if you only drink a couple of beverages per day. If you drink more than that, the capsules will raise the cost. A great alternative for unpretentious espresso lovers.
The cost comparison is a bit more complicated that it looks. It’s because we compare short term investment vs long term costs. The upfront cost of a Nespresso machine is pretty low, and it will save you a lot of money, compared to a classic espresso machine. But over time, the cost of capsules is going to add up.
A good espresso machine, on the other hand, is more expensive upfront, but you’ll save money on coffee in the long run.
People often think: “I’ll buy a cheap espresso machine for under $100.” What they forget is that they also need a good burr coffee grinder, and a tamper. And NO, your blade grinder won’t work for making espresso.
I can’t pick a winner on the cost aspect, but I can help with getting your numbers correct. Here is what to expect cost-wise:
Cost for an Inexpensive Semiautomatic Espresso Machine
- You will pay around $100 for a cheap espresso machine, add a good grinder, another $100, and a tamper for about $20. The total comes to just under 250 dollars on the cheapest budget possible.
- Coffee for a semi-auto will cost around $20 per month, assuming you drink one double shot espresso every day. We calculated this: 15 grams of beans for a doppio times 30 equals 450 grams, and that’s a pound of coffee. In a year, that’s $240.
- So the total cost for the first year, when you buy a classic espresso machine, is $500.
The Costs for a Nespresso Machine
- An inexpensive machine from Nespresso, like the Inissia costs about $100. No grinder, no tamper, so the initial investment is really low.
- The Nespresso coffee capsules for one year cost about $500 unless you get a deal. The calculation is this: 365 days 2 capsules per day, (a doppio), at $0.7 per capsule. So the total amount for the first year is around $600.
- There are also capsules that sell for $0.55 per capsule, those will cost you around $400, so the TCO in the first year will be similar to a traditional espresso, ($500), but in my experience, the cheaper capsules are not that great.
- There are even more expensive capsules, up to $1 per unit, depending on what coffee you like thngs could go very expensive.
- The total cost for the first year with a Nespresso machine is between $500 and $900
Other capsule-based espresso machines
There are other pod-based espresso machine brands such as the ones from Illy – Francis Francis, or the AEG from Lavazza.
- These machines are more expensive, at around $250, but you will see in a bit why makes sense to buy one of these, instead of the Nespresso.
- A Modo Mio, the Lavazza capsule line, offers their single serve capsules at around $.70 each. However, if you buy larger packagess you get bigg discounts. The most expensive brands offer double-shot capsules at $0.8 a piece.
- The IperEspresso capsules are among the most expensive ones, around 80 to 90 cents per pod.
What is the conclusion from our espresso cost calculation?
The price difference is not that off in the first year. But we chose really cheap espresso-making equipment. If you go really cheap you can see money saving starting the second year.
However, most espresso enthusiasts will buy more expensive equipment, such as a machine equipped with a PID and a pressure gauge. This pushes the cost a few hudred higher in the first year, but you will still start saving money after owning the machine for two years.
With a really cheap semiautomatics you get pressurized baskets, which give you a better tasting espresso than capsule based, but still not as rich as the coffee shop espresso. With a Nespresso pulling a single is the natural way. With Nespresso, the more coffee you make, the more expensive Nespresso becomes in time. Not to mention that capsule based machines break faster than good semi-automatic espresso machines.
Gaggia Espresso Machine
Gaggia Classic is one of the most popular choices for the low budget home barista. The espresso enthusiast doesn’t care about convenience, he doesn’t even care about the cost per coffee, though this is a clear win for the semi-automatic machine. All the espresso enthusiast wants is great coffee.
Sure not everyone can afford to buy a Breville BES980XL, which is around $2000. Gaggia Classic is a workhorse, very reliable, the perfect starter for the espresso geek. People have owned these machines for years, and some upgraded to better machines, as their knowledge and technique improved. Take a look at our article about semiautomatics, if this is your choice.
From an expert’s perspective, Gaggia is missing on some aspects, but nothing to stop you from getting great espresso shots. Once your technique improves, your quest of finding the “God Shot” will be slowed down by the Classic. You will find out then that you “absolutely” need a PID and a dual boiler.
The Taste Comparison
The taste is subjective, so take that into account when reading this next section. However, from the coffee specialty perspective, espresso has some flavor attributes that we cannot find in a Nespresso shot. The technology that makes the extraction possible is different.
Capsule espresso makers produce consistent shots that are very close to the real thing. For the untrained coffee lover, there is no difference, and in fact many prefer capsule espresso. As I said, “De gustibus non est disputandum”.
- Capsule espresso machines make good coffee consistently. However, if you are used to the sharp and rich espresso flavors, you will miss them a bit if you buy a Nespresso maker. Shots are always good, you can’t pull a bad shot, really.
- Classic espresso machines will brew great espresso, with the help of a skilled barista. But remember, even the greatest have pulled a bad shot from time to time.
- With capsule espresso, your coffee beans choice is a bit more limited. The market has come a long way from a few years ago, and we can find Yirgacheffe capsules now. However, you are still limited to what is on the market. Using aftermarket reusable capsules is out of the discussion since it defeats the purpose.
How Are Nespresso and Espresso Different from a Taste Perspective?
Crema is probably one of the most important aspects. Great semiautomatics make great espresso. With a bag of the best coffee beans, and all brewing variables set correctly, you will pull shots with a nice layer of crema. In turn, crema will lend your coffee its personality, and contribute to the fianl taste of the drink.
On the other hand, capsule based espresso mamachines will produce faux crema. Faux crema is obtained by injecting air bubbles into the coffee. The composistion of faux crema is different from crema from a classic espresso. While faux crema contains mostly air bubbles and some coffee oils, real crema is a mix of CO2, oils, coffee, and very little air. And if you think they are almost identical, they are not. The components are in different proportions.
The amount of coffee oils is the most important, but the amount of fines in the cup is also important. Nespresso has fewer coffee oils and fewer fines than a classic espresso. James Hoffman has a post where he presents his findings about it.
The Style of Coffee You Drink Will Determine Your Choice
The coffee beverage that you preffer matters as well when choosing between Nespresso and espresso. For instance, if you prefer milky espresso drinks, the taste of the coffee is covered by the milk, so you could go either way. The milkier the drink, the less you worry about the espresso taste. A latte recipe calls for a lot of milk. The ratio could go up to 1:5 espresso to milk.
If you prefer neat espresso drinks, or less milky espresso drinks, such as the flat white, or the cappuccino, then you should buy the machine that makes your kind of espresso. Chose Nespresso for a mellow espresso flavor, and IperEspresso, or a semiautomatic, or an automatic espresso machine for the classic, sharp espresso flavor.
If your drink is a straight espresso, and you are very picky about your shot, a semiautomatic is the way to go. If you like to customize your shot, to pull lungo shots or ristretto, the semiauto is still your choice. A capsule-based machine will only restrict your ability to have a custom shot, although, there are capsules for ristretto and for lungo. An automatic espresso machine will still give you more control over the brewing process than a capsule machine, but not to the same extent the semi-auto gives you.
Capsule Based Machines Comparison – Nespresso vs Illy IperEspresso vs Dolce Gusto vs AEG
Nespresso is the most famous brand on the market, but there are other capsule based espresso machines on the market that are just as good. Sure their marketing machine made Nespresso the most known product on the market, but is it the best one?
Consider these competitors when you ,ake your purchase desision: Illy, with iperEspresso, Dolce Gusto, and AEG for Lavazza capsules.
Francis Francis for iperEspresso, (Illy), and AEG for Lavazza are the best capsule-based espresso machines. They pull shots that can compete with classic espresso makers. Dolce Gusto and Nespresso are not bad either, but their coffee is injected with air to produce more crema. This gives your coffee a different texture and taste. This taste is not bad, is just different from espresso. Some people like it more because they find it smoother than a regular espresso. Espresso lovers don’t like it.
If you wonder why Tassimo is not on the list, is because Tassimo is not an espresso machine. Their machine has a 3.3 bar pump. The pressure needed for an espresso is 9 bar. The Keurig is even lower than that at 2.5 bar. Yes, the Keurig Rivo has a 15 bar pump, however, we haven’t tested it yet.
Francis Francis X7.1 for illy iperEspresso
The Francis Francis is an Italian capsule-based espresso machine. If you want uncompromising quality espresso, and you want the convenience of pressing one button, this is your choice. The machine looks great, with a modern unique design, it will integrate into most kitchens. But that’s not the most important feature of it.
X7.1 has a stainless steel thermoblock, and it has a panarella, like any other semi-automatic. This means you don’t need another piece of equipment for frothing milk.
The Francis Francis X7.1 has a two-stage extraction system, with a pre-infusion stage, and the extraction stage. The capsule actually goes into a portafilter, so it does look like any other semiautomatic.
The iperEspresso technology is a patented innovation to deliver high-quality espresso from a capsule.
If Francis Francis is your choice, Amazon sells it cheaper than illy’s shop, but on illy’s website, you can get discounts sometimes. Check them out here.
I said I will let you decide which way to go, but if you read this article and still are on the fence on what to buy, consider the following.
All the options presented produce a strong cup, with a full body. However:
- If you want a rich espresso and you want the convenience of a pod coffee maker, Francis Francis, or AEG Lavazza are the best options.
- If you love to tweak your beverage, or you make a lot of espressos, a semiautomatic espresso machine is the best solution. It will save you money in the long run.
- For great coffee, amazing convenience, decently priced equipment and capsules, and lots of coffee options, Nespresso is a great option.
- Dolce Gusto is a great competitor, the most notable feature of their system is that it has capsules for steamed milk, so you don’t need a separate milk steaming device.