A coffee pod is simply a small, pre-packaged packet of coffee, much like a tea bag, but for use with a specific single serve coffee maker. They generally contain 8-9 grams of finely ground coffee beans, and depending upon the brand, type of bean and flavor variety, can range from extremely high quality to standard. This also means a price variation from as high as $30.00 for an 18 pack from illy to $7.99 for the same amount from Melitta.
The biggest pro to a coffee pod system is the ability for anyone, novice to barista, to produce a very good, consistent cup of coffee. There is simply no guesswork, which means no room for error. All coffee pods have a pre-measured amount and the technology for packaging has come so far that they bear almost no resemblance to typical "instant coffee." In fact, manufacturers like Cafejo package every pod in a 99% nitrogen environment to ensure the ultimate freshest taste. All manufacturers package immediately after grinding, providing a freshly ground taste with each cup. Coffee pod brewers also produce coffee incredibly fast, generally in under a minute. All the user has to do is insert a pod, add water and press a button. This is ideal for the commuter on the go or anyone who doesn't have the time or patience to go through the steps and wait the time normally involved with standard coffee makers. They also eliminate the mess and cleanup of coffee filters and grounds. A used pod just has to be ejected and tossed in the trash. Coffee pod coffee makers are also ideal for households with just one coffee drinker or for environments like offices where there are many varying tastes and preferences.
Coffee Pod Cons
The biggest complaint to coffee pods involves their cost. While cheaper than purchasing a latte or espresso from a coffee shop, they are far more expensive than making coffee with coffee grounds or whole coffee beans. They are also generally not interchangeable, as most brands require you to purchase their own brand of pod for that specific coffee brewer. The biggest exception are the E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) pods that fit almost all traditional espresso machines and have no connection to one particular manufacturer. Coffee pods can also be too limiting for those who enjoy the experience of making coffee and the ability to blend flavors and intensities. While no room for error, there is also very little room for experimentation.
Coffee Pod Styles
The three biggest styles of coffee pods involve generic paper filter pods, K-cups and T-discs. Paper filter pods are exactly what they sound like. They're made out of the same material as paper coffee filters and usually measure around 62 mm. Major manufacturers who use paper pods include: BUNN, Senseo, Cuisinart, Mellita and Hamilton Beach. Keurig developed K-cups specifically for their line, and their pods include both plastic and foil but work in the same way as a basic coffee pod. A T-disc is for use only in Braun Tassimo coffee makers. Their machines read a special barcode on top of the filter that knows to calibrate the precise amount of water, temperature and brew time specific to that beverage.
Coffee Pod Options
Because coffee pods have taken on such popularity lately, the options are bountiful. There are fair trade options available from Green Mountain as well as completely organic options including Newman's Own Organic and Caribou Coffee. You can even purchase "make-your-own" coffee pod makers to save money and give you flexibility in which coffee grounds you use. Additionally, most all of the major brands of the coffee bean world like Nestle, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Tully's and Seattle's Best are now involved in making their own varieties of coffee pods
Not Just for Coffee!
Another one of the most appealing qualities of coffee pods is that they aren't just for coffee, which allows you to meet your own changing tastes, as well as those of a household or larger crowd. You can now buy pods for tea, cocoa, lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos, espresso and tantalizing combinations like Gevalia's Caramel Latte Macchiato.