Coffee pods are convenient, but we’re not a fan. Now, that’s not because we’re snobs when it comes to our super fresh coffee. It’s not because we only drink single origin that was roasted locally in the last 7 days. Not because despite the advancement in pod packaging and the fact that many are 100% recyclable, 100,000 coffee pods go to landfill each day.
Actually, it is because of this. All of this.
Coffee pods aren’t the specialty cup of coffee you deserve. Bear in mind we speak from experience. We’ve had several pod manufacturers approach us offering white label coffee capsules. It just goes to show that most of you don’t even know what’s inside them… And why would you!?
The mass market coffee industry is very good at hiding some of their deepest darkest secrets. By now, you all know how many people are involved in the mass process. Up to 23 middlemen working towards getting raw green beans from farm to supermarket shelf – each one taking a slice of the farmer’s profit.
We don’t think this is fair. And we’ve got a lot of friends that are also coffee roasters that agree. When we began roasting arabica coffee we went out of our way to find community driven farms that we could actually make a difference to.
Today, we’re proud to work directly with farmers in some of the most beautiful countries in the world to improve their standard of living. By cutting out the middle men and working with our partners at 1% for the Planet, we’re proud to pay our coffee farmers up to 4x more than the industry standard.
But this is just one of the things the mass market coffee industry is hiding. Coffee pods are destroying our tastebuds and killing our planet. There. We said it. Someone had to. So we’ve dedicated our time, effort and resources to writing this article so you can be as clued up about coffee pods as we are. Read all the way to the end and then make your own mind up. If you’re still reaching for your Nespresso machine after this, then we can only assume that you have no soul.
What is a Coffee Pod?
Once upon a time, some bright spark came up with a solution to making coffee at home for people that were too lazy to use an espresso machine. The solution was coffee pods, with Nespresso, Tassimo and Dolce Gusto leading the way in this failure of coffee.
To use a coffee pod, you’d need a machine. These machines are usually small, neat and tidy – often relying heavily on aesthetics. There’s a small water tank so no need to worry about plumbing anything in.
Using them couldn’t be easier. You take your coffee pod, drop it wherever it’s supposed to go and then press a button. Nespresso pods come in a variety of flavours, making short black espresso style coffee. The Tassimo machine is a bit different, with powdered milk options for cappuccinos or lattes.
Once used, you simply toss your pod to the side and get ready for the next one… or two… or three.
What’s Inside a Coffee Pod?
Inside a coffee pod, you can expect to find around 5 grams of preground coffee. Now, this coffee won’t be the freshest. It’s probably been inside it’s plastic or aluminium casing for the last couple of years. But it is coffee. To a degree.
The main difference between the ground coffee you’ll find in a pod and the coffee you’ll get from your local roaster is the freshness. Most of us put the roast date on the bag these days, proving just how super fresh your coffee really is. That’s not the case when it comes to pods – but hey ho, who wants fresh coffee these days anyway?
One of the other differences when it comes to coffee pods is the amount of coffee. At Barista & Co Social in Ringwood we use 18 grams of freshly ground coffee to extract a 36 gram double espresso. Yes, that’s very technical for the non-coffee snobs in the room. But the point I’m making is a standard double espresso uses about twice as much water as there is coffee. Perfection.
Obviously, not the case when it comes to coffee pods – they use around 5 grams of coffee. And, depending on your pod machine, you could be looking at anywhere between a 30 gram and a 100 gram double espresso shot. Essentially, your coffee is going to be much much weaker. By all means, use three pods per cup of coffee to get that quality, coffee shop strength. We won’t tell you how bad that is for the planet until later.
Are Coffee Pods Recyclable?
There are recyclable and non-recyclable coffee pods, it should tell you on the packet. Generally speaking, the plastic pods are non-recyclable. This includes the ones you buy from Aldi or Lidl unfortunately. The aluminium ones are recyclable… if you can be bothered to clean them out. Spoiler alert: Not many people do.
There are 3 facts you need to know when it comes to coffee pods and their effect on the environment:
- Coffee pods take 500 years to deteriorate
- Around 39,000 pods are manufactured every minute
- Around 29,000 of these coffee pods end up in landfill
So you see, aluminium or not, most people aren’t bothering to recycle their coffee pods.
Nespresso are doing everything they can to combat this issue. Along with your aluminium coffee pods you’ll receive a compostable bag to fill with the used capsules. Once full, you can contact Nespresso for a collection or drop off at a local pick-up location. They’ll handle the cleaning and recycling for you.
We’ve also seen some developments when it comes to biodegradable coffee pods. Grind, a London-based coffee chain, have recently released home-compostable pods that will literally disintegrate in a matter of weeks. There is some question as to whether or not these are disintegrating and breaking your coffee pod machines, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Well done Grind!
We’ve always done what we can to reduce the negative impact we have on the planet. Our coffee bags are 100% recyclable. In fact, they’re actually made out of a material that is commercially compostable but as most people don’t know where their nearest commercial composting facility is we’ve made it so you can pop them in your green bin when you’ve used all your beans.
As 1% for the Planet members, the environment has to be at the forefront of everything we do. We’ve made the switch to electric vehicles for our company transport and offset the carbon on all our deliveries. But that wasn’t enough.
When you become a Barista & Co Regular you get the choice of joining the kilo club which offers you the best prices on 1kg of single origin, ethically-sourced coffee. Or you can sign up for our letterbox-friendly coffee subscription which contains 2x 350g bags of coffee. If you appreciate fresh coffee you’ll know this is somewhat larger than other roasters offer but there’s a very good reason for that. Bigger bags doesn’t only mean better value. It means less deliveries and less pollution.
As you can see, we’ve taken actionable steps to support our partners at 1% for the Planet. This is just one of the many reasons we prefer fresh coffee over the use of pods. But I guess if you are in that 22% of people that empty, clean and recycle your capsules then you’re a good egg in our book.
Can You use Coffee Pods in a French Press?
If you received some coffee pods as a gift and you don’t have the machine you need to brew with them then you do have options. Technically, you can use coffee pods in a French press. It’s just going to be a bit fiddly.
A coffee pod is basically a casing filled with ground coffee and topped with a lid. The lid gets pierced by your Nespresso machine or whatever you’re using. Water is then forced through the pod, through the ground coffee and then into the cup to make an espresso.
To get the ground coffee out of the pod to use it in your French press, just tear back the lid and pour out the coffee. You’re going to have to repeat this process several time until you have enough ground coffee to use in your cafetiere… how many pods you use will depend on the size of your French press.
Inside every coffee pod is a small amount of ground coffee, usually between 5 – 7 grams. Now, if you’re using a single serve coffee press, we recommend 15g. Most people aren’t using a one cup cafetiere though, they’re using a larger one that makes up to 8 cups of coffee at a time… Larger cafetieres require up to 45g of coffee.
Don’t worry if you’re not super accurate with your measurements. We usually use a coffee scoop to estimate but a heaped tablespoon should do the trick.
Now, remember you’re only getting around 5g of ground coffee inside each pod. So you want to use a minimum of 3 coffee pods if you’re decanting them into a cafetiere. And that’s just to make one cup.
How to use Coffee Pods Without a Machine:
While we wouldn’t recommend using 2 year old coffee to make a fresh brew at home, it is possible. Start by opening your coffee pod. Usually there is a aluminium or paper lid covering the top of the pod. This has to be quite a soft material as the machine will pierce it to get the coffee out.
Simply remove that cover and decant your coffee. It will be ground quite fine, so make sure you have some really high-quality filter papers to avoid too much residue getting into your cup.
Now, what you should have is a bowl of preground coffee. Grab your favourite brewer and follow the instructions. If you use a cafetiere, One Brew or Brew It Stick we’ve got tons of useful information on the blog.
Are Coffee Pods Better Than Instant Coffee?
Coffee is a personal experience and we can’t tell you what you will and won’t enjoy. Some people love a super silky latte with a dash of caramel syrup, other people like strong black coffee first thing in the morning to put a spring in their step.
A lot of people have drunk instant coffee their entire lives. Some of them even say they prefer it to fresh coffee made from an espresso machine or a filter brewer. There is a very good reason for that. Fresh coffee is often a lot stronger than instant, and depending on your brewer it can have a very different mouthfeel to your everyday soluble coffee.
For example, if you use a cafetiere in the traditional way you’ll create a very rich and velvety coffee. When we talk about mouthfeel we’re looking at the texture in your mouth. A velvety coffee feels thicker than water or instant coffee and that’s not to everyone’s preference.
But it’s the brewer that creates this kind of texture or mouthfeel. You can use the exact same coffee beans and create two entirely different cups of coffee depending on how you make it. Looking at our cafetiere example, it’s thick and velvety. If you were to use a pour over it would create a much more clean and crisp flavour.
Making a pour over coffee at home is much more likely to give you the kind of texture you’d expect from an instant coffee. The texture or mouthfeel of the beverage doesn’t change too much from instant, it’s much smoother and full of flavour. Personally, it’s a favourite of mine. And I have to remind myself that too much caffeine makes me go crazy to stop myself hogging all the fresh stuff in the office.
Coffee pods are a different kettle of fish entirely. The aim of the game is to create an espresso style beverage using pressure brewing to force water through the preground coffee and into the cup. In theory, espresso-based drinks should have a highly concentrated flavour. If you’ve read our guide to the perfect extraction time you’ll know you aim to yield twice as much espresso as your coffee. So you want to make 36g of espresso to every 18g of coffee that goes into your portafilter. This creates a super rich, creamy texture that holds quite a kick. Espresso-based coffee drinks are almost as far away from instant coffee as you can get, but then we look at coffee pods.
As we’ve already discussed, the average coffee pod holds around 5g – 7g of coffee. Anyone that has used a pod machine like a Nespresso or Tassimo before will know that you get much more than 10g of coffee in your cup. So the ratio’s are really off. I mean, fair enough – imagine how big the coffee pods and machines would have to be to fit 18g of coffee in them.
But because the ratio is off, you’re actually watering down your espresso shot to such an extent that you lose the traditional mouthfeel you’d expect from that kind of beverage. This means you’ll get a texture much closer to instant coffee, and the same can be said for the flavours and tasting notes.
Whether they’re better or not is another statement. I can’t tell you whether you should prefer instant coffee over pods. I will say looking at things like cost, sustainability and the final cup of coffee in your hands gives an obvious winner. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you and what you enjoy.
Coffee Pods vs. Fresh Coffee
I think you already know what we’re going to say don’t you. There are 3 principles that you must follow in order to get the best possible cup of coffee in your hands. First, you roast fresh. Well not you personally. I don’t know, maybe you personally. But in most cases let’s leave this down to the expert roasters, of which there are thousands. We roast our coffee every Monday and dispatch to subscribers immediately so their beans are always fresh roasted when they land on their doorstep.
Secondly, you grind fresh. Have you ever seen a specialty coffee shop using preground coffee? No? Me neither. That’s because to get the best cup of coffee in your hands the beans have to be freshly ground. As soon as you grind a coffee bean it begins to oxidise and only has a shelf life of a couple of weeks. Grinding your beans at home keeps them fresher for longer, locking in that delicious flavour.
Finally, you brew fresh. This is different depending on who you are and what you like. Do you like the flavours you experience from espresso-based coffee drinks? Or are you looking for something cleaner? Either way, your coffee should be brewed fresh using the kit that makes you happy.
Now, go ahead and spot the obvious issue. Coffee pods aren’t holding freshly roasted coffee. In fact, that preground stuff could have been in there for years before it’s made its way into your home.
And it’s not ground fresh either. It has to be ground before it gets compacted into the pod so that’s also a few years past it’s best before.
I guess you get a tick for brewed fresh, but one out of three isn’t something to brag about.
If you want the best cup of coffee in your hands, stick to the freshly roasted beans and grind fresh at home using a grinder. We’ll leave the brew style up to you.
And in Conclusion…
Well rant over I guess. Have I changed your mind about coffee pods? Or are you still waiting to see what Black Friday deals Nespresso pull out the bag. Go ahead. Buy the pod machine. You’ll be converted to fresh coffee one of these days. Especially when you notice the difference in taste, texture and cost (yes, cost). It’s way cheaper to buy coffee beans than it is to buy coffee pods you know?
When you subscribe to a kilo of beans from us, you’re paying around 39p per cup give or take. Go ahead and take a look at the price of coffee pods. Don’t forget you’re only getting about a third of the amount of coffee we suggest you brew with as well. Funny, huh. Buying fresh coffee is definitely better for your bank account than buying coffee pods.
Not to mention how much space they take up in your kitchen. Even us, the worlds biggest capsule enemies, had to do something about that. We designed this stainless steel coffee pod storage cage that holds up to 80 Nespresso pods. Personally, we use it for our scoop spoons and cocoa stencils but go ahead… destroy the planet.
I joke I joke. I know that if you’ve landed on our site you probably share our values and are doing your bit to reduce the impact you have on the planet. I’m going to leave my rant here before it gets me in trouble but do feel free to leave a comment if you think you can change my mind. You can’t. But I’d absolutely love to see you try…