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Capsule and Pod Coffee Reviews - Pros and Cons Compared with Espresso

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

For the true believers who like a strong, aromatic espresso nothing beats using freshly ground beans of some exotic variety in a standard bench top espresso machine.

Many people enjoy the delicious aroma the coffee as it is ground, and watching the golden stream of steaming coffee as it spouts into the cup with a thick cream colored 'crema'.

However, going through the ritual of making an espresso with all the bells and whistles can be very time consuming. Granulated instant coffee is basically yucky and insipid. But new coffee machines have sprouted that offer a half-way house alternative.

Pods are disks of pre-ground coffee, packaged like a tea bag in a cloth like material. These pods fit into the porta-filter device on many conventional home espresso machines. Small pod-only coffee machine are also available.

Capsules are pre-packaged, measured doses of coffee extract, not ground coffee, but the liquid derived from forcing team through ground coffee.

They offer the taste of brewed coffee delivered instantly from specially designed machines - no mess, no waiting, virtually instant coffee.

But how does the taste of pod and capsule coffee compare with standard espresso and what are the pros and cons of each option for making coffee.

This article reviews the options.

There are many advantages to grinding your own coffee
There are many advantages to grinding your own coffee | Source

Pros and Cons of Pods


  • Pod packaging preserves freshness
  • The pod system is faster, neater, more convenient and there as less waste.
  • High consistency in pod preparation and coffee, ensures a consistent taste.
  • Avoids have to dispose of coffee grounds


  • The pods are about twice as expensive per cup than ground coffee used in an espresso machine
  • Using pre-ground coffee means the coffee is less fresh and may have less aroma and taste than freshly ground coffee. You can may your own pods from fresh coffee, but this seems pointless.
  • You may need to buy an additional machine if your existing one can't take pods. For some newer machines you can buy an adaptor or new porta-filter accessory.
  • Many people worry about the additional waste associated with the packaging, which may include mylar film and other materials.
  • There are major limitations in the selection of coffee that you can use. The range of coffee varieties available in pods is minuscule compared with the range of coffee beans available.


Pods are a half-way house, providing most of the benefits of using ground coffee rather than the liquid extract in a capsule, with added convenience and less mess than when using bulk ground coffee. It makes life a little bit easier and convenient.

Pros and Cons of Capsules


  • All that messing about with measuring coffee, grinding and cleaning up afterwards is avoided.
  • The machines are designed to work perfectly every time, so it will always get consistent cup of coffee
  • The footprint of capsule machines is usually quite small and they are cheaper than espresso machines
  • The machines are quite portable and so you can take them with you when camping or on holidays in small apartments or units that have small kitchens.
  • The deliver coffee much faster than espresso machines
  • The capsules are individually sealed containers, usually made of aluminium and so the coffee inside will stay fresher for longer than pods or ground coffee.
  • Great for delivering good coffee quickly for a large number of guests instead of having to run the espresso machine several times


  • At least twice as expensive per cup than espresso coffee made with round coffee. The cost is about the same as for pads.
  • There is additional waste associated with the packaging.
  • Being a proprietary system you may be limited in the variety of coffee available, which is much less than for coffee beans.
  • May of the machines do not include a way to heat or steam milk.
  • Since the coffee is prepackaged, you have much less choice for the intensity and volume of your coffee.


Capsules provide hassle-free coffee brewing, especially for small footprint areas. Delivers consistent coffee quicker and more easily than espresso machines. More costly per cup and less variety to choose from. The intensity and size of the serving can not be changed.

What about the Taste?

In theory, a cup of coffee made with freshly ground coffee beans in a good quality espresso machine by a trained barista is the ultimate. However whether you can achieve the same result with a home benchtop espresso machine is very debatable due to the following reasons:

  • A bag of beans or a bag of ground coffee, once opened, will begin to lose its flavour very quickly, even when kept in the freezer.
  • Getting the correct pressure and temperature and all the intricacies of coffee making, is very hard to do even in restaurants and is subject to human error.
  • While the capsule always contains precisely the same quantity of coffee and has consistent quality, the coffee from a domestic espresso coffee machine can vary considerably. The ground coffee may go stale.
  • Various blind taste tests have shown that the Nespresso capsule coffee ranks just below good quality freshly made espresso coffee. It is ‘smooth’ and ‘easy to drink’, but lacks the variety and depth of a carefully selected artisan coffee.

Of course, using a capsule denies the coffee drinker all the delights and aromas of making a handcrafted standard espresso coffee the conventional way. This adds a taste and experience that can not be duplicated with a capsule of a pod.

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson


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