Perhaps the most famous three machines are those made by Nespresso, Tassimo and Delonghi. Tassimo and Nespresso use the coffee pod system. However, the pods that they offer are quite different. Delonghi machines usually use ground coffee and have a built in grinder which neither Nespresso nor Tassimo offer. However, the Delonghi is much more difficult to clean. Look out for a few Delonghi machines which use the pod system if you like their machines but do not want to spend your time cleaning up coffee beans. Delonghi machines tend to be much more expensive than the other two brands.
Tassimo, made by Bosch, is connected to Costa coffee. This means that you get Costa quality of coffees in every cup. For lovers of Costa coffee this is of course a major selling point. However, there are also downsides of this link-up. The range of types of coffee on the Tassimo is very limited. There is only one type of espresso coffee for example. This contrasts massively with the Nespresso machine, which offers over 20 types of different coffee pod. The Nespresso machine comes with a menu which describes the taste of each coffee, what style it is (where it is from etc) and also gives it an ‘intensity’ rating so that you can choose how strong you want your coffee to taste. Those who like a strong tasting coffee can choose the top level of intensity, whereas those who enjoy a soft milky coffee may go for the less intense options. They also offer vanilla, caramel and chocolate infused pods for those looking to add flavour. The Delonghi pod machines offer something in between, a limited selection of different coffees.
This makes Nespresso seem like the coffee-drinkers choice, but there is another factor to consider. Tassimo machines produce their own frothy milk, whereas Nespresso machines do not. Some of the more expensive Nespresso machines come with a separate milk frother, but you still have to do this by hand (as they do in coffee shops). The Tassimo machine has a different feature. It produces frothy milk as instantly as it produces coffee. This is great for those who want to make a lot of hot chocolates, caramel lattes, or other milk coffees. However, it does use UHT milk, so that may not sit well with some.
If you want to keep things on the cheap side, you might want to consider Morphy Richards. The Morphy Richards Accents range is great for people who like a straight black coffee. Rather than making espresso, it makes cups of black filter-style coffee but with great Americano taste. These machines start at around £50, which is at least half the price of the more expensive coffee pod and espresso machines discussed above.
At the other end of the scale, you might want to splash out on a really state of the art machine that really does everything for you. Here you might want to look at the Sage Heston Blumenthal machine, which is really for those who fancy themselves as a true Barista. It can even grind the beans in 18 ways, from coarse to fine. More options like this are discussed below.