Coffee lovers are finicky when it comes to choosing pods, and rightfully so. A coffee machine on its own is worth nothing if you don’t get the right pod.

Coffee pods vary in factors like price, variety of flavors, strength, and taste, but you’re most likely stuck between two of the most popular coffee brands: Illy and Nespresso.

If you don’t want to compromise on a traditional strong coffee taste, go for Illy pods. On the other hand, Nespresso pods are cheaper, more environmentally-friendly, and offer a wide variety of flavors, so you’ll never be bored. Ultimately, the final choice depends on your preferences and budget.

Both Illy and Nespresso have climbed their way to the top by offering the best quality to their customers.

They’ve both earned their place at the top, but do you ever wonder how both these brands go head-to-head? Well, find out in this article!

Brewing system and taste

The selection of the brewing system determines the depth of taste your coffee has. Let’s discuss the techniques Illy and Nespresso have adopted to brew your coffee:


A fine trademark of Illy is that they produce coffee pods using the iperEspresso system. This innovative capsule system casts aside the one-stage brewing and adopts a two-stage one.

It extracts coffee in two distinct phases. This allows the drinker to expect smooth, rich, full-bodied tasting coffee with a long-lasting crema.


Contrary to Illy, Nespresso uses a standard single-step, centrifugal-based pressure extraction system. The Original and Vertuo line use the same primary method.

An innovation that sets Nespresso apart from other brands is its Vertuo brewing system.

It reads the unique barcode on each coffee pod and obtains extraction parameters, including temperature, pod rotation speed, infusion time, and volume and water flow.

Nespresso Orafio coffee pods.

This lets you make the minimum effort to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

Range of flavors

Of course, an essential factor for any coffee addict is acquiring the taste they’re fond of. Let’s look at how Illy and Nespresso differ in this area.


Illy’s coffee pods are famous for their 100% Arabica beans, which coffee enthusiasts consider superior. Most other brands use a combination of Arabica and Robusta.

The iperEspresso capsule range has four flavors:

  • Medium Roast gives you a perfectly-balanced cup of coffee with hints of caramel and chocolate.
  • Dark Roast has a stronger, intense flavor with deeper cocoa notes.
  • Decaffeinated gives you an optimal decaf coffee with a touch of caramel.
  • Lungo is pretty similar to Medium Roast, except you get more coffee flavor.

The iperEspresso capsules also have another range called “Arabica Selection Origins of Taste.”

These are single-origin blends and feature tastes exclusively sourced from a variety of regions, including Ethiopia, Guatemala, Brazil, and Colombia.

Illy Nespresso compatible coffee pods in an opened box.

You can also choose the idillyum capsules with entirely different packaging than the other two lines.

These give you the options to savor special notes of fruit, caramel, or chocolate. El Salvador exports the beans used in this line exclusively to Illy.

Lastly, Illy’s fully compostable ESE coffee pods call out to all the environmentalists. They give you the same smooth, rich, intense flavor of Arabica beans covered in eco-friendly filter paper. You have the choice of four flavors in this line:

  • Classico roast is a unique blend with hints of jasmine, orange blossom, and caramel to balance the acidity and bitterness of your coffee while providing a lasting sweet aftertaste.
  • Intenso roast provides a robust- and intense-flavored coffee with a bitter taste and warming hints of dried fruits and cocoa.
  • Forte gives you a rich dark chocolate taste.
  • Decaffeinated provides the drinker the same flavor as the Classico roast with less than 0.1% caffeine.


Getting into the massive range of flavors Nespresso has to offer would be too much for a single article, but you’ll get its gist here.

The brand offers two lines: Original and Vertuo. Nespresso takes their coffee very seriously, so their ranges have divisions and subdivisions. How awesome is that!

A side-by-side comparison between a Nespresso Vertuo coffee pod on the left and a Nespresso Original coffee pod on the right.
Nespresso Vertuo coffee pod on the left. Nespresso Original coffee pod on the right

The Original range offers the following:

  • Espresso has three subcategories: Volluto is sweet and light, Cosi has a milder, more delicate flavor, Capriccio has a richer, more acidic taste, and Volluto Decaffeinated is Volluto flavors minus the caffeine.
  • Barista Creations is for people who love to have coffee recipes at home. It has a whopping range of flavors, including Coconut Flavor Over Ice, Freddo Intenso, Freddo Delicato, Cocoa Truffle, Caramel Crème Brûlé, Vanilla Éclair, Corto, Scuro, Chiaro.
  • Ispirazione Italiana offers unique flavors originating from Italian roasting traditions passed down through generations.
  • World Exploration covers flavor profiles from all around the world. Currently, they feature Miami Espresso, Cape Town Envivo Lungo, Stockholm Fortissio Lungo, Tokyo Vivalto Lungo, Vienna Linizio Lungo, Shanghai Lungo, and Buenos Aires Lungo.
  • Reviving Origins covers rare flavors from whole beans that you can’t find anywhere else.
  • Master Crafted Single Origins features coffees mastered by craftsmen of particular lands by selecting a unique process for each for an exclusive, memorable coffee-drinking experience.
  • Decaffeinato comprises Nespresso’s rich-tasting flavors, excluding the caffeine.

Check out Nespresso’s Original line’s flavors to know more!

The Vertuo line is even more extensive than the Original one. You’ll find many intriguing flavors:

  • Barista Creations has blends that make for exquisite coffee recipes at home. The flavors include Tropical Coconut Flavor Over Ice, Ice Forte, Ice Leggero, Chocolate Fudge, Hazelino Muffin, Caramel Cookie, Vanilla Custard Pie, Bianco Forte, and Bianco Leggero.
  • Reviving Origins treats you to flavors unknown because of their rarity. 
  • Master Crafted Single Origins provides specialized coffee from different origins, including Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua La Cumplida Refinada, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Colombia.
  • Craft Brew has flavors inspired by craft preparation techniques. It includes Pour-Over Style Mild and Pour-Over Style.
  • Coffee carries beverages of varying intensities along with extra hits of flavors. 
  • Espresso comprises several intriguing types of drinks.
  • Double Espresso has three flavors, – Dolce (malty and cereal), Scuro (dark and smoky with hints of vanilla and cocoa), and Chiaro (rich flavor with woody, earthy tones).
  • Gran Lungo is Americano-inspired and comes in several flavors.
Image of two Intenso Nespresso pods.

Stay up to date with the kinds of coffee pods in the Vertuo line! Another vital factor to pay heed to is that Nespresso focuses more on preserving the environment, which is why their pods’ packaging is recyclable and sustainable.


A significant aspect of understanding every brand is knowing its history. Let’s take a look at how Illy and Nespresso came to be.


Francesco Illy founded illycaffè in 1933 in Trieste, Italy. In 1935, he invented the machine illetta, which serves as the foundation for espresso machines today. This invention transformed coffee preparation forever.

Franceso also introduced an innovative method of packaging coffee involving pressurization, which preserves, refines, and enhances the taste of the beverage during transport.

Due to these ingenious inventions, Illy eventually exported their coffee to Sweden and Holland during the 1940s.

Illy Nespresso compatible coffee pods package.

In 1974, Illy led the game by introducing pre-measured espresso pods for coffee making. This invention made serving cafe-quality coffee at bars a breeze.

To date, the brand is run by the Illy family, preserving their early values. People who care about the origins of their coffee are fond of Illy because it holds four rainforest sustainability certifications.

Today, Illy is renowned for providing superior-quality Italian coffee in over 140 countries worldwide.


Nespresso was launched by the Nestle Group and is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Eric Favre was the first to bring about a revolution for the brand by creating the Nespresso system in 1975.

This was the world’s first portioned coffee system to make the perfect Italian espresso.

However, it was under experimentation for a long time. Finally, in 1986 Nespresso, along with its first machine, the C-100, came into being. It had four coffee blends – Capriccio, Cosi, Bolero (now Volluto) and Decaffeinato.​

Image of two Cosi Nespresso pods.
Nespresso Cosi

Nespresso moved on to open over 200 boutiques in several locations and launched many machines with a capsule system, each with different innovative features and various flavors in coffee pods.

The brand is also known for its sustainable stance. Their Ecolaboration program is focused on reducing greenhouse emissions and making recyclable coffee pods.

They hold certifications from The Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International, Fairtrade USA, and Fair Labor Association.

Now, Nespresso is a global brand with roots in 81 countries.



Unfortunately, Illy is pretty exclusive, and you can’t use their coffee pods with third-party coffee machines. The iperEspresso capsule range can only be brewed in an Illy iperEspresso machine.

Illy has come out with aluminum pods compatible with Nespresso Original coffee machines, excluding the models purchased after July 25, 2016 (Prodigio, Prodigio&Milk, U, Umilk, Expert, Expert&Milk).

The Espresso Compatible Capsules Sampler Bundle available on Illy’s website is the perfect purchase for a trial run. The only downside is that these pods aren’t recyclable.

Illy also produces K-cups for Keurig owners. Browse Illy K-Cup Pods and get coffee delivered to you now!


Luckily, Nespresso is less restricted than Illy regarding their coffee pods’ compatibility.

There are plenty of coffee machines that brew coffee using Nespresso pods.

Verdict: Illy vs. Nespresso pods

Illy and Nespresso are both high-quality coffee brands, and there’s really no one or the other.

Illy may have the upper hand for some people because of its better-tasting coffee. However, that is not to say that Nespresso coffee isn’t delicious.

A side-by-side comparison between Illy and Nespresso pods.

Besides, Nespresso gives Illy tough competition because of their diverse and unique range of flavors, especially for coffee drinkers who like to spice things up.

You’ll find Illy coffee pods restricting when compared to Nespresso ones. They’re also generally more expensive, but the prices vary from region to region.

Final thoughts

Illy wins against Nespresso in the coffee pod taste game—only by an inch, though. Nespresso has a lot to offer with their coffee pods as well.

In the end, it comes down to what’s more accessible and affordable for each coffee drinker.

If you’d like to try out some great coffee recipes you can make with your Nespresso machine; you can have a look below:

Nespresso recipes to try

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