K-Cups vs Pods: What’s the Difference?
K-Cups and coffee pods are both convenient ways to brew single servings of coffee. But they aren’t the same. In fact, you can’t even use them in the same brewers!
Don’t make the mistake of buying the wrong coffee for your machine. Read this article to learn what’s what and why you’d want one or the other.
What is a coffee pod?
A coffee pod is a round, flat paper pouch filled with ground coffee. Essentially, it’s ground coffee and a filter combined. Coffee pods come in a wide variety of flavors and roasts, and you can also get them with tea.
The market introduced coffee pods to correspond with consumers’ increasing desire for easy-to-brew single-serve coffee. At first, each brand and manufacturer had their coffee pod and pod brewing device, but this was confusing and frustrating for customers.
Now coffee pods are standardized mainly at 61 mm diameter, and each carries about 7 to 12 grams of coffee. There are also many variants and brands available, so we’ve rounded up some of the best coffee pods we’ve tried.
Related: Coffee pods and their origin explained.
What is a K-Cup?
John Sylvan created K-Cups and the Keurig machines that brew them for use in offices. Simply put:
It’s like a cigarette for coffee, a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.
As home consumers quickly fell in love with their convenience, Sylvan eventually regretted his now-ubiquitous invention (1).
K-Cup pods are plastic cups filled with about 10 grams of ground coffee and topped with a foil lid. Once Keurig’s patents expired, several companies began producing both K-Cups and K-Cup compatible brewers.
Keurig released a proprietary 2.0 line of brewers and K-Cups to regain market share. Still, consumers were unimpressed and quick to circumvent the system (2).
Related: The Different Types of Coffee Pods
Pods vs K-Cups: How do they compare?
Both K-Cups and coffee pods are convenient ways to make single servings of coffee. But that’s pretty much where their similarities end. So let’s take a look at their differences.
Variety and Availability
These days, particularly in North America, more single-cup brewers use K-Cups than coffee pods. Along with Keurig, many top brands, including Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach, make K-CUP COMPATIBLE BREWERS.
Likewise, there are more available flavors of K-Cups, including tea and hot chocolate, and they are easier to find in stores.
Coffee pods are usually cheaper than K-Cups, but both are more expensive than buying ground coffee.
This will come down to your personal preferences, but most coffee lovers agree that coffee pods produce superior coffee.
Because pods use a paper filter rather than a plastic cup, you’ll get better extraction and a richer aroma during brewing.
From an environmental perspective, coffee pods are far superior to K-Cups because they are easily compostable. The plastic K-Cup is notoriously difficult to recycle, leading to their increasing presence in landfills.
Ease of Use
By design, both coffee pods and K-Cups are incredibly easy to use. K-Cups can be slightly easier to clean up because you can lift them out of the machine without getting your hands wet. However, this depends on your brewing system.
Neither coffee pods nor K-Cups brew top-of-the-line coffee, but both offer incredible convenience. If you want a lot of flavor options, opt for K-Cups, which are more widely available. If your priorities are tasty coffee and environmental friendliness, it’s worth seeking out coffee pods.
An ESE pod (easy serving espresso) is like a coffee pod for espresso machines. Illy developed them in the 1970s to make it easier to pull consistent espresso shots.
A Nespresso capsule is a single-serve coffee pod that’s only compatible with Nespresso machines. Smaller than K-Cups, they’re made from hermetically sealed aluminum, which keeps the coffee fresh and is easy to recycle.
The main point of comparison between Nespresso and Keurig is that the former is known for espresso, while the latter offers drip coffee. In general, Nespresso machines and capsules are of higher quality and more expensive than Keurigs and K-Cups.
- Bennett, B. (2015, March 5). Keurig’s own inventor not a fan of K-Cups. Retrieved from https://www.cnet.com/home/kitchen-and-household/keurigs-own-inventor-not-a-fan-of-k-cups/
- Dzieza, J. (2015, February 5). Keurig’s attempt to ‘DRM’ its coffee cups totally backfired. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2015/2/5/7986327/keurigs-attempt-to-drm-its-coffee-cups-totally-backfired