Which single-serve coffeemaker is right for your office? It helps first to understand the function of coffee in the workplace and then weigh the pros and cons of the major systems. While more than three options exist, today we’ll focus here on Keurig, Verismo, and Nespresso systems.
The intent of this article is less about which one of these three stands taller than the rest in a lineup, and more about which is best for your workspace. With a 36.5 percent share of the total US distribution of coffee in 2017, single serve coffeemakers are no doubt on your list of options for at least some of your teams.
The Three Contestants
To solidify these choices in your mind for what they represent, we’ll call them by fuller names:
- Keurig the Incumbent;
- Verismo the Contender; and
- Nespresso the Swiss “Italian Job” (its Swiss origins and Italian flare strongly factor)
Keurig by Keurig Green Mountain with K-Cups (Now Recyclable)
Keurig was first introduced in the late nineties with its patented single-cup coffeemaker. It has been the most widely known in North America—at least in terms of commercialization. We’re often unaware of other inventors less fortunate to patent—much less successfully launch—their products.
Keurig certainly had first mover advantages that it still benefits from. It may not have been the absolute first of the single cup coffeemakers but it was first in the minds of many for being easy-to-use, fast, and just affordable enough to be better than going to a coffee shop for every cup.
Keurig machines have had numerous no-name or even brand name contenders over the years but the original K-Cup system has remained top-of-mind for millions for its simplicity, system quality, and the coffee choices available.
While for some time selection was limited, all the major coffee brands now make products for the Keurig. In addition to its own brands (Green Mountain, Van Houtte, Donut House, etc.), a full line of Starbucks brews and blends can be enjoyed, among others. Even Tim Horton’s provides a way for people everywhere to enjoy Canadian coffee.
While there was some controversy around the release of the Keurig 2.0 with limitations on third-party coffee, it has become an excellent new edition, besting earlier models. The ability to not only choose mug size but also strength (strong or normal), and its larger water tanks means it is a solid option for offices. It brews quickly and provides good customization options.
- Machines and K-Cups available everywhere
- K-Cups from Seemingly Unlimited Brands (Green Mountain, Starbucks, Tim Hortons, etc.)
- Produces each cup quickly
- Cost per serving relatively low
- Beverage quality similar to regular drip machines
Verismo by Starbucks with Pods
Verismo came much later as a contender, with the help of a broad distribution system, AKA Starbucks stores in every city. It is Starbucks’ own coffeemaker using pods with its own coffee roasts and blends. With more than 25,000 coffeehouses internationally, there was little wonder the company launched its own system.
After all, Starbucks took coffee from being a commodity in the 1970s to being a boutique offering in the 80s and 90s at premium prices. If someone could raise the quality of the more generic single serve industry, Starbucks had a reasonable bet and the infrastructure to take on the challenge.
Verismo machines do make coffee that tastes very much like its store-bought beverages. While Keurigs make a solid cup of drip-style coffee, the Starbucks alternative does have a leg up with more espresso-based options. The combination of the machine process and the grind quality and freshness does tend to produce a hot cup with a good crema—that light colored froth on top of a freshly made brew.
- Machines and pods available at virtually every Starbucks location
- Pods from Starbucks’ most popular roasts and blends
- Taste is nearly equivalent to a quality brew at Starbucks
- Cost per pod is greater than for Keurig K-Cups
- Pods from other brands are not available in Starbucks stores
- Pod availability differs from location to location (e.g. at times, decaf will not be available; at other times, certain espressos are unavailable, etc.)
Nespresso by Nestlé with Capsules
By its own account, Nespresso began its journey in 1986 but did not enter its real startup phase until the mid-to-late 90s. While it may have been an earlier innovation than the Keurig, it did not enjoy first mover advantages in North America. It’s been the leader outside of the US however.
And Nespresso does have a similarly large brand behind it—Swiss conglomerate Nestlé Group. If one were to choose a company to produce a machine with clockwork precision, and a food product with European richness, Nestlé would be the prime contender. And, like Apple in a PC world, there is often room for higher-end products in large markets. In the world of coffee, the higher end of the market continues to encroach on the more commoditized alternatives. While Starbucks has positioned itself as more high-end than Keurig generally, it does not touch the Nespresso in terms of overall appeal to the espresso-drinking and higher end coffee consuming market.
As to the crema, while Starbucks produces a good froth, the Nespresso’s is perfect every time and distinctly unlike any of the American brands. The espressos and full-cup coffees are richer and more unique all around. I called it the Swiss “Italian Job” because it produces the ultimate Italian espresso and blends. If you’ve ever had a perfect cup of Lavazza at a genuine Italian-style café you will find the Nespresso holds its own.
As mentioned, Nestlé is a food and beverage manufacturer in its own right. As such, it’s able to compete with Starbucks on level ground for flavor consistency, while targeting a higher-end product. It likewise brings together Swiss engineering and innovation at the system level which further makes for a perfect cup every time.
While Nespresso is a later mover in the American market it’s certainly well-known and loved overseas, with some $3 billion in annual sales. The willingness of major celebrities to promote the brand has also positioned it as a brand with cachet worldwide. The company notes that it was its Nespresso Club members who selected George Clooney as brand ambassador.
- The most high-end in flavor and consistency
- Nespresso Club itself is a fun and engaging way to interact with the company
- Will impress any client or customer as a genuinely boutique experience
- Only in America: for American tastes it is high-end enough that many are not used to the full-flavored richness and some may not enjoy it for every cup (I would argue it’s good to get over this obstacle, but it may affect your decision to introduce it to certain workplaces)
- Capsule costs are higher than most other single-serve coffeemakers (100 for $105 through the club)
Nespresso vs Keurig vs Verismo
Ultimately, the choice is up to you, and we live in a time where this is among the easier decisions to make. You get to choose based on what your team, department, or company will benefit best from. The reason these three were selected for review is because they are each very good options.
Some helpful tips:
If you have a large department (>100s of laborers) consider the Keurig for its robustness and relative flexibility. You can also provide a diverse selection of flavors to satisfy broad ranging tastes, from diner-like coffees to Starbucks-style offerings.
If you have a small or home office (SOHO/SME) consider either the Verismo or Nespresso alternatives based on the palates of your staff.
If you are outside of the US, with discriminating tastes, consider the Nespresso; with less discriminating tastes, the Verismo; with indifferent or mixed tastes, the Keurig.
If your business is in creative or high tech sectors consider polling your teams to find out coffee preferences. Creatives, techies, and millennials enjoy dialog around decisions that affect them.
It’s possible to combine as well, by having large drip coffee machines alongside single-serve options, especially in environments where it’s important to have coffee already brewed and ready to grab. It’s also conceivable that a series of machines could be helpful to manage lineups.
What is not recommended is different styles of single-serve coffeemakers and pods in the same department. The combination of purchasing for multiple system types and troubleshooting the same could be problematic.
Let us know what works best in YOUR workplace.
(Above) Videos of the Keurig, Verismo, and Nespresso brands, respectively