A convenient, sustainable solution, coffee pods have become increasingly popular in the world of coffee and speciality coffee. Read on to learn more about capsule coffee pods, how to use them, and the best pods to use to make incredible coffee at home.
INTRODUCTION TO COFFEE PODS
Best known for their convenience and the conversations they’ve started surrounding sustainability, there’s no denying the growth of coffee pods in the world of coffee, including the speciality market.
In this in-depth guide, we explore the history, future, benefits, and usability of coffee pods, from how they’re made, to how much caffeine they contain, and more. Curious about whether coffee pods are compostable, what kind of coffee machine you need, and how to brew great coffee using them? Read on.
WHAT ARE COFFEE PODS?
Coffee pods are a single-use, compostable ‘pod’ of filter paper, with a lid that contains a pre-measured quantity of pre-ground coffee. Designed to be compatible with coffee pod machines, coffee pods are designed with convenience in mind, enabling coffee lovers to enjoy a perfectly brewed cup of coffee in minutes.
Best known for their convenience and sustainability, there’s no denying the growth of coffee pods in the world of coffee, including the speciality market. First introduced in the 1980s, coffee pods have grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their effortless brewing method and compostable packaging.
Compostable coffee pods are a great way to enjoy eco-friendly coffee at home as plastic’s negative impact on the planet, along with a single-use, throwaway culture, comes under better scrutiny and awareness.
WHAT’S IN A COFFEE POD?
Typically, a coffee pod contains a single measure of ground coffee that is stored in a single-use pod that’s sealed for practicality, flexibility of use and freshness. Simply put, the only ingredient in a coffee pod is coffee. There are no additional ingredients, flavourings or additives; pre-ground coffee is encased in a filtered pod with a lid, which contains a convenient, made-to-measure amount of ground coffee. It’s as simple as that.
HOW DO COFFEE PODS WORK?
Coffee pods work by the method of extraction. When placed inside the coffee pod machine, the pod is pierced at one end, allowing heated water to pass through the pod. This jet of hot water extracts the coffee through the filter paper at the bottom of the pod, which pours through into your cup. All you need to do is place a cup underneath the water stream and the perfect amount of ground coffee will filter through into your cup.
HOW TO USE A COFFEE POD IN A COFFEE POD MACHINE?
To use your coffee pod, you will need a coffee pod machine. There are many coffee pod machines available at different price ranges, with coffee pod sizes ranging between some brands. Origin’s speciality coffee pods are nespresso compatible, meaning you can use our coffee pod with your nespresso coffee machine (excluding Vurtuo) as well as a range of other popular coffee pod machines.
Depending on the specifics of the coffee pod machine you own, the steps you take to brew may vary slightly, and you’ll want to refer to your machine’s instruction manual to make sure you get the best out of your coffee pods. However, the main principles for using a coffee pod in a coffee pod machine are the same.
HOW TO USE A COFFEE POD MACHINE?
Before you start..
Your coffee pod machine will have a water tank or water reservoir. Make sure there is an adequate amount of water in the tank, and regularly replace the water to avoid a stagnant taste. If you live in an area with hard water, a water filter can help ensure the water you use for your coffee is of the best quality and taste.
- Press the ‘start’ button on your machine. This indicates that you’re, ready to brew.
- Place a coffee cup beneath the hot water faucet so the stream of hot coffee will pour directly into the cup.
- The water will heat up to the ideal brewing temperature
- Heated water is pumped through a small valve into a tiny, hollow needle that is plugged into the showerhead at the top of the pod machine. You also find this needle in an espresso machine.
- A strong pressure is created and the water is pushed through the needle, into the pierced coffee pod.
- The heated water pushes through the filter paper at the bottom of the pod
- The heated coffee blend will pump out of the machine into the cup below.
Make sure you enjoy your coffee with the right size cup to enjoy your pod coffee. Fancy updating your drinkware? Check out our curated ceramic coffee cup collection and drinkware for the ultimate drinking experience.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE IS THERE IN ONE COFFEE POD?
On average, pods contain around 60mg of coffee per pod. The amount of caffeine can vary between coffee brands, and the amount of caffeine will also vary depending on whether Arabica or Robusta coffee has been used, as Robusta contains greater caffeine levels.
Our Head Roaster Amadeusz Wanat shares his thoughts on caffeine content below.
“If you compare a shot of coffee pulled on an espresso machine (15-20g) to a pod (5g), then it makes sense that the pod would contain a smaller punch of caffeine,” he explained. “But, on the other hand, the coffee used in the pod is ground exceptionally fine, creating more contact space, which can mean better extraction.”
- Amadeusz Wanat, Head Roaster at Origin
ARE COFFEE PODS GOOD?!
Wondering whether a coffee pod is the best type of coffee to buy? Explore some of the key benefits below.
EASY TO USE
These made-to-measure capsules contain the exact amount of coffee, measured out and ready to brew. From being taken out of their box and placed in the machine, your coffee pod brew is ready within minutes—a big plus for those who are looking for a quick coffee grab-and-go before heading into their next meeting or rushing out the door.
COMPACT AND SMART FORMAT
Coffee pods provide a simple, fuss-free coffee experience in a compact form. Whether you’re new to the world of coffee, or a keen home coffee enthusiast, coffee pods can provide a premium brew in a convenient format.
IDEAL FOR MULTI-USE
They’re also a smart choice for office environments and communal workspaces. There’s very little room for error when using a coffee pod, guaranteeing a consistent brew, with no need to carry out numerous steps.
ARE COFFEE PODS FILTERED?
The simple answer is no. The coffee in your coffee pod is not filtered. However, using filtered water can make a huge difference to the finished quality and taste of your coffee. If you live in an area with either hard or soft water, you might find that this influences the flavours in your cup. Investing in a water filter can make all the difference in the detail, for that brew, including making coffee from a coffee pod machine.
COFFEE POD TYPES
Just as you’ll note different tasting notes in a bag of coffee, the same can be found in reference to the flavours that can be perceived in coffee brewed using a coffee pod. Coffee for pods is sourced from around the world, from some of the very best coffee producing countries, as well as some of the most unique and lesser-known origins and regions that are worthy of recognition. At present, Origin offers two classic coffee pod options—and there’s plenty more to follow in the future.
ORIGIN SPECIALITY COFFEE PODS
There’s no shortage of coffee pods on the market, from supermarket to speciality brands—so what makes Origin’s different?
ESPRESSO COFFEE PODS
DECAF COFFEE PODS
Our decaf pods contain coffee sourced from one of our longest standing Direct Trade relationships with the Mierisch family in Nicaragua. Full flavour, minus the caffeine, our decaf has tasting notes of Assam tea, red apple, and chocolate.
ARE ORIGIN'S SPECIALITY COFFEE PODS COMPATIBLE WITH ALL POD COFFEE MACHINES?
If you’re looking to invest in a coffee pod machine, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it, with pods that are compatible, saving you the headache and hassle of any technical difficulties, or the concern of costly damage.
Origin’s speciality coffee pods are all Nespresso compatible such as the Morning or OPAL (excluding professional and built in models), except for the Nespresso Vertuo coffee pod machine. We always recommend referring to your coffee machine’s instruction manual before trying coffee pods for the first time.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE IS THERE IN ORIGIN COFFEE PODS?
We use Stronghold in our coffee pods, which is roasted as a more traditional, dark roast. While darker roasts don’t always mean they’re stronger in caffeine content, it does mean that the beans are getting lighter, with moisture being taken away during the roasting process. In turn, this means that you need more beans to reach the desired weight.
“Our pods are likely to have an equal or higher caffeine content when compared to one of our single origin, lightly roasted feature coffees, but definitely lower compared to traditional espresso brewed with Stronghold”
- Amadeusz Wanat, Head Roaster at Origin
HOW DOES THE ORIGIN COFFEE POD SUBSCRIPTION WORK?
Taking convenience one step further, the Origin coffee pod subscription is available to all UK customers, delivering direct to door with letterbox friendly packaging. Choose from a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly subscription order, with full control over your schedule from the easy to navigate personal customer portal.
HOW FLEXIBLE IS THE ORIGIN COFFEE POD SUBSCRIPTION?
Skip your next delivery and amend your order dates—perfect when you find yourself with coffee to spare or you’re heading away on holiday. You can also choose to place one off orders, and add extras, as and when you need.
HOW MANY COFFEE PODS DO YOU GET IN EACH SUBSCRIPTION BOX?
Pick from packs of 10, 30, 60, and 100, and enjoy an effortless experience, from order, to brew.
WHAT SPECIALITY COFFEE PODS FLAVOURS DO ORIGIN OFFER?
We offer two brilliant offerings in pod form; a house espresso, ideal for those looking for a classic coffee experience in a convenient form, and our decaf for the same experience, without the caffeine content— perfect for an afternoon or evening cup, or those will an intolerance or dietary requirements that keeps caffeine off the cards. Both choices provide consistent, easy-drinking, and approachable flavour profiles, designed to be enjoyed black, with milk, or your favourite dairy alternative. Our house espresso has flavour notes of chocolate, nuts, and caramel. The decaf coffee pods benefit from tasting notes of red apple, Assam tea, and chocolate.
Ready to treat yourself to a convenient, speciality coffee experience in pod form? Explore the Origin coffee pod range here.
COFFEE PODS VS. COFFEE CAPSULES: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
There’s no difference between coffee pods, or capsules, other than the terminology—the only difference you’ll find, whether you choose a pod or a capsule, is the materials they’re made from, the coffee within, and the tasting notes as a result of the country of origin, process, and roasting recipe for the coffee.
Learn more about coffee processing here.
COFFEE PODS VS. INSTANT COFFEE
There are several key differences between coffee pods and instant coffee. The most notable differences relate to the processing, manufacturing, and quality of the coffee.
EXTRACTION PROCESS FOR INSTANT COFFEE
- To produce instant coffee, green coffee is roasted before being rapidly cooled. It’s then ground, using a commercial-grade roller mill, before being mixed with water to brew, just as you would extract ground coffee in a cafetiere.
- The water is then evaporated, leaving behind a syrupy coffee extract. This is then pre-chilled, ready for freezing.
- Broken into granules, the coffee is then heated in a strong vacuum: under pressure, the remaining water vaporises. Any aroma lost earlier in the process (which is captured through nitrogen gas during an earlier part of the instant coffee process), is added back to the granules.
- The final granules will remain in a solid state when stored at room temperature.
EXTRACTION PROCESS FOR COFFEE PODS
- The production of coffee pods is also a complex one, commonly taking place outside of a roastery, with the coffee selected often being roasted before being sent on to be ground and packaged into a pod form.
- Just as with instant coffee, coffee for pods is ground using a commercial grade roller mill. This is, in part, is because the coffee ground for pods is exceptionally fine – even finer than coffee ground for espresso. Another reason for pod production taking place outside of a roastery is because of the numerous stages of sterilisation and cleaning needed, making sure that the pods are food-safe certified products.
- Once the pods themselves have been sterilised, the ground coffee is added, with absolute accuracy (using an auger filler), to each pod.
- Once filled, the pods are cleaned again, then capped and hermetically sealed, ready to be boxed up and sent back to the seller.
While some speciality coffee roasters are exploring the world of instant coffee as a craft product, chances are, that the instant coffee you commonly find in the supermarket, differs quite considerably to what you can find in a speciality coffee pod.
COFFEE PODS VS. DECAF COFFEE PODS
Want to learn more about the taste of decaf coffee pods compared to caffeinated pods? Find out more below about decaf coffee pods, or read our guide How is coffee decaffeinated?
Coffee used in decaf coffee pods needs to be decaffeinated before being sealed into the pod. This typically involves an additional stage for the coffee before it heads to the manufacturer.
DECAF POD COFFEE PROCESS
Exact processes vary between coffee brewers, but at Origin, we decaffeinate our coffee for coffee pods using an all-natural carbonated water method.
- The coffee beans are submerged in warm, pressurised water to open the coffee beans
- Carbon molecules are added, which bind to the caffeine. This process doesn’t draw out any carbohydrates or proteins which give the coffee its flavour.
- The water and carbon are removed
- The coffee is dried
- The coffee is then ready to be prepared and packaged into pod form.
HOW MUCH DO COFFEE PODS COST?
Depending on the quality of the coffee pods you buy, you will find coffee pods can cost anything from 20p per coffee pod to £1.00 per coffee pod. The cost of UK coffee pods will vary depending on the quality of the coffee and the brewing process.
HOW MUCH DO ORIGIN COFFEE PODS COST?
Origin’s coffee pods can cost as little as 53p per coffee. Speciality coffee pods are one of the most cost-effective ways to enjoy speciality coffee at home - it’s a great option without having to visit your favourite coffee shop or invest in multiple items of brewing equipment.
Origin’s speciality coffee pods come in convenient pack sizes. For £6.25, you can enjoy ten cups of coffee with a pack of 10 coffee pods. It’s even more cost-effective to choose packs of 30 (£17.85, saving you 5%), 60 (£34.10, saving 10%), or even 100 (£53.10, saving 15%). Better yet, with our coffee pod subscription, you’ll benefit from free shipping, too.
CAN COFFEE PODS BE REUSED?
Coffee pods contain a single, pre-measured amount of coffee, ready for extraction. As such, they’re not designed for reuse. This is why the material choice for pod packaging is exceptionally important to us. Many coffee brewers and companies, including Origin, prioritise sustainable materials that not only keep the contained coffee fresh, but are also compostable to reduce the impact of single-use coffee pods as much as possible.
Find out more about our sustainability mission here.
COMPOSTABLE COFFEE PODS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Coffee pods are made from a number of materials, each considered for their ability to preserve and keep the coffee as fresh as possible. There are two types of compostable products commonly found; commercially compostable, materials and home compostable materials.
Manufacturers and businesses have sought out compostable options for their coffee pods, meaning your convenient coffee fix has a smaller impact on the planet.
As the names imply, home compostable packaging means it can be responsibly composted at home, while commercially compostable packaging needs to be recycled at specialist facilities to help with the breaking down of materials.
Origin’s coffee pods are certified as wholly home-compostable.
WHAT ARE COMPOSTABLE COFFEE PODS MADE OF?
Approved and certified by the European Standards body, DIN, Origin’s coffee pods are all fully home compostable, with materials that not only maintain freshness (with a hermetically sealed barrier lidding) but are also 100% biobased.
The biopolymer materials that comprise our compostable pods are all 100% raw materials, all GMO and pesticide free; they are more sustainable, are carbon neutral, and always renewable. The biopolymer materials are based on starch, glucose, and lignin, making them biodegradable and compostable.
All components safely biodegrade in soil and marine environments but should always be disposed of responsibly. The components also degrade in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment, meaning the pods will also degrade in a digester.
HOW TO DISPOSE OF COMPOSTABLE COFFEE PODS
If you’re lucky enough to have space for a garden compost, then you can simply enjoy your coffee, and then add your empty coffee pod to the pile where, depending on temperature and location, your coffee pod will naturally break down to form compost.
You can also add your used coffee pods to a food waste bin if your local council provides you with one. If you don’t have access to either, it’s worth checking in with friends, family, and neighbours, finding a community compost space, or even seeing if you can save up your pods, and return them.
At Origin, we have an on-site composter at the Roastery, meaning everything from coffee grounds and chaff, through to suitable food items, and used coffee pods, are disposed of responsibly.
CAN YOU PUT COMPOSTABLE COFFEE PODS IN THE COMPOST BIN?
Absolutely! Once you’ve enjoyed brewing your coffee, your empty coffee pod is safe to add to your compost bin. If your compost is collected by your local council, you might want to check to see if they limit certain items in their collection. Certified home compostable coffee pods, like Origin’s, are safe to place in a compost bin.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST COFFEE PODS: WHAT TO CONSIDER
There’s no shortage of choice in a fast-growing market for coffee pods, so what should you look out for to help you choose?
TASTING NOTES/ FLAVOURS
When it comes to deciding what coffee best suits you, the tasting notes for that brew are the first indicator of your personal coffee choice. Some coffee drinkers prefer bright, zingy, vibrant cups, with stone fruit acidity or herby qualities, while others prefer jammy, syrupy-tasting notes, with flavours like chocolate, caramel, and nuts.
While there are certain things that we know will make a coffee taste better or worse in the roasting and brewing process, tasting notes and flavours are a completely personal thing.
Read more about coffee tasting notes here to find your perfect flavour combination.
QUALITY OF THE COFFEE ROAST
Quality is key.
Every bag of green coffee that heads to Origin’s Roastery has been sourced with care, and the roasting process that follows is done with respect to maintaining and enhancing the quality of that coffee. Roasters will test, perfect, and carry out a recipe that brings out the best in the green coffee, developing those brilliant tasting notes you’ll enjoy in your cup.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF THE COFFEE BEANS
Coffee for our coffee pods is sourced from the same coffee-producing countries as the rest of the coffee across our coffee programme. Often, you’ll find regular pairings with the tasting notes and country of origin of your coffee.
Brazil is known for approachable, easy-drinking coffee, with sweet, full-bodied coffees with low acidity, commonly with tasting notes of chocolate and nuts.
Coffee from Nicaragua benefits from sweetness, too, but also floral notes, and a bright and pleasing citric acidity.
In Colombia, the coffee-tasting notes can be even more varied depending on where in the country the coffee is grown. From the north, you can expect deep, earthy notes. In central Colombia, fruit and herbal notes are common, and in the south, citrus notes are more common.
RICHNESS OF FLAVOUR
The richness of flavour you enjoy in your brewed coffee, will present itself in the cup once extracted. Using a coffee pod machine, you can ensure an effortless, quick, and consistent cup of coffee that boast s the full flavour of your coffee, thanks to the technology in the machine that has been tailored to take the work out of brewing for you.
Ready to explore coffee pods? Shop here