What Are Coffee Pods?
Home Grounds is all about fresh, great-tasting, and ethically sourced coffee here. But admittedly, our coffee ritual can take a bit of time. And while coffee pods are convenient, they have some drawbacks and get a bad rap for tasting bland at best.
Is this always the case, though? Read on to find out why coffee pods can be delicious, environmentally friendly, and convenient.
A Little History on Coffee Pods
As the mythology goes, the idea of convenient, single-serve portions of coffee originated in Rome, Italy in 1975 (1).
Eric Favre, a young Nestlé engineer, was tasked with one objective: Develop a coffee product that brings the convenience of an Italian espresso bar to the home consumer using high-end coffee equipment. And after seeing a long line at a local coffee shop, Favre began to research and develop a machine that infused air into a single-serve portion of coffee: the Nespresso coffee capsule.
As the story goes, the new machine would inject air into the pre-portioned coffee capsules. This air injection increased oxidation—coaxing more flavor from the coffee grounds—and produced a thicker layer of crema. Then, in 1986, Nestlé patented its Nespresso coffee capsule machine. Then, the coffee capsule became a status symbol for everyone living a high life. From the exclusive “Le Club” Nespresso coffee capsule club to sleek ads featuring George Clooney in 2006, these capsules were flying off the shelves (2).
And while renowned barista, coffee expert, and author James Hoffmann has been critical of these coffee capsules, he nevertheless acknowledges that:
They sell something like 14 billion of these things a year.
Have you ever wondered how coffee pods make their way to your cup each morning? Watch this fun video from The Discovery Channel UK to learn more about how coffee pods are actually made.
K-Cups, Coffee Pods, and Coffee Capsules
While you may be familiar with the iconic K-Cup, coffee pods and capsules may seem the same. And in some ways, you’d be right.
In essence, one of the major things differentiating these types of coffee pods is the form factor. In brief, coffee pods are small pucks of pre-ground coffee encased in a paper filter, while capsules are plastic or aluminum capsules of pre-ground, and sometimes flavored, coffee.
Need a little more clarification? Why not check out our guide on the difference between K-Cups vs. coffee pods?
Pros and Cons of Coffee Pods
Pods are great for convenience. When you’re running out the door to work, drop off your kids at school, or attend an important meeting, a “fresh” cup of coffee is just a button away.
Use a good coffee pod maker to take full advantage of your coffee pods and capsules. And if you’re keen to join Le Club, check out our review of the best Nespresso coffee capsules and our guide on some really great-tasting Nespresso-compatible capsules. But, this convenience comes with several significant drawbacks.
First, recycling coffee pods isn’t very straightforward.
Not all coffee capsules are recyclable.
You can only recycle the plastic cup in some, while others are fully compostable.
Secondly, if you’re used to drinking specialty coffee brewed using high-quality coffee beans, you might be disappointed by the lack of complexity in the final cup. But there’s a way around that.
If You Want to Make Your Own Coffee Pods, Here’s How
Yes, you can DIY your own coffee pods, which has the benefit of saving the environment, your money, and your tastebuds. Here’s how.
- Make sure you have a pod coffee machine that accepts ESE coffee pods.
- Get a cheap vacuum sealer and some bags. You can even use zip-top bags with the zipper removed.
- Measure out a quarter cup of fresh-ground coffee into a coffee filter, wrap the filter around the sides of the coffee bed, and place the coffee packet into your quarter-cup. Your grind size should be medium-fine to medium because you’re after a quick extraction.
- Securely seal this coffee packet with some kitchen twine and tamp it with anything that’ll fit inside your quarter-cup measuring cup. You want it to take on the shape of the inner diameter of your measuring cup, forming a coffee puck.
- Lastly, take this coffee packet and seal it inside a bag with your vacuum sealer. Repeat this process for however many coffee pods you want to make.
The bottom line is: Coffee pods don’t have to be a sentence to drinking “bad coffee”. Whether you choose to go with premade coffee capsules or make your own, coffee pods are convenient for our busy lives. And ultimately, if it tastes good, drink it.
Coffee pods are individually packaged single servings of pre-ground coffee, resembling small tea bags. On the other hand, K-Cups are small plastic cups of pre-ground coffee that are meant only for Keurig coffee makers.
No, coffee pods are made using pre-ground coffee, while instant coffee is made with dehydrated coffee crystals. These coffee crystals will dissolve completely in hot water, while the pre-ground coffee does not.
Coffee pods cannot be used without a machine. You need a pod coffee maker to use coffee pods. Whether it’s an espresso machine using ESE coffee pods or a Keurig coffee maker, coffee capsules and pods will not work with other brew methods, like French presses or pour-overs.
- Cumming, E. (2020, July 14). How Nespresso’s coffee revolution got ground down. The Guardian; The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/jul/14/nespresso-coffee-capsule-pods-branding-clooney-nestle-recycling-environment
- Hoffmann, J. (2021). I Tried Every Nespresso Pod [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvMwNnAtTL8
- Barista Magazine. (2020, December 4). Taste Testing Coffee Capsules from Around the World: Part Two. Barista Magazine Online. https://www.baristamagazine.com/taste-testing-coffee-capsules-from-around-the-world-part-two/
- ChrisVenturaRandom. (2011). EASY HOW-TO: Make Your Own Coffee Pods [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUPl_paf9tg