Are coffee pod machines worth it? Experts on the pleasant surprise behind picking the right one

 Are coffee pod machines worth it? Coffee pod machine in kitchen by Bruvi
Are coffee pod machines worth it? Coffee pod machine in kitchen by Bruvi

Are coffee pod machines worth it? If you're a coffee lover that's looking for barista-style coffee with the convenience of instant then, yes, they are.

'Making coffee can be an art and a ritual,' says Bruvi co-founder Mel Elias, who knows a thing or two about coffee makers. 'If you’re someone who enjoys grinding your own coffee for pour overs or making espresso, for example, there may be occasions where you want to do that.

'Or if you need to serve coffee to a large group and brewing by the cup isn’t a good option, you might want to brew a pot of coffee in one of the best French presses. But a coffee pod machine is a fantastic option for an on-the-go lifestyle.'

Are coffee pod machines worth it?

Short answer? Yes. 'The convenience and utility of single-serve is a great option for most of us,' says Bruvi co-founder Mel Elias. 'That’s why about 40% of US consumers use a single-serve capsule brewer every day, according to the National Coffee Association.'

'When you consider the added quality, beverage variety and features offered by many new machines, the proposition becomes even more attractive.'

And Howey Gill, Head of Coffee at Grind, says: 'The range of beans available in pods these days is huge, and that exploration is what makes choosing pods so fun. Rather than having to buy a whole bag of beans of each kind you can try a few pods instead, and travel the whole coffee world.

'A pod coffee may not beat the quality of a barista-made espresso, but in terms of time, practicality and democracy I think they're fantastic,' he continues. 'I'm really excited to see where the world of pods (and pod machines) will go in the future, and I think that gap will get smaller.'

Discover why coffee pod machines are a worthy investment below...

What is a coffee pod machine?

A coffee pod machine is a single-serve coffee maker that is a convenient, user-friendly way to brew coffee.

Though the specific technology varies by brand, essentially the concept is to heat and force hot water through a pod filled with ground coffee and into a cup.

'The technology has been around for about 30 years and continues to increase in popularity, experiencing 10% annual growth in recent years,' says Mel Elias.

And Howey Gill, Head of Coffee, Grind, says: 'A pod machine is essentially a condensed version of a cafe's coffee machine; you put your pod in and its pump will provide high-pressure water aiming to extract espresso.

'Most pod machines have the option of an espresso extraction or a 'lungo' (more water) extraction, and no milk steaming capacity; basically keeping it really simple.'

Why would you want to buy a coffee pod machine?

coffee pod machine by Bruvi
coffee pod machine by Bruvi

The top single-serve benefits of a coffee pod machine are speed and convenience.

'It simplifies preparation (no grinding or measuring coffee, no coffee prep knowledge needed) and requires minimal clean up,' says Mel Elias.

The trade off for that convenience used to be taste and quality, as many consumers have been dissatisfied with what they describe as lukewarm, weak and bitter coffee.

However, with ever-evolving technologies, new coffee pod machines by the likes of Lavazza, Bruvi and Smeg are remedying that with hotter, stronger, and smoother results.

In terms of flavor, some brands offer more options than others, and you may get more variation with the best bean-to-cup machines, but pods do offer different strengths and intensities and are hard to beat for the convenience/taste payoff.

Grind's Howey Gill says: 'To make an espresso to the level we'd expect in one of our cafes requires five-figures' worth of equipment and a lot of skill. Pod machines are about democratizing that process and making it achievable at home, on a much smaller budget.

'I love the flavors you can get out of pods, and since the technology is relatively new, we're improving them all the time. (They're miles better than instant coffee!).'

He continues: 'What makes pod machines great is how easy they are to use - they're also almost impossible to get wrong. It's just two buttons, no variables as the pressure and temperature are set up for you already.'

What drinks can you make in a coffee pod machine?

Typically, single-serve coffee lovers have had to choose either a coffee or espresso focused brewer, but many new coffee pod machines now offer the choice of different beverages, including brewed coffee, true high pressure espresso, Americanos, lattes and flat whites.

What's more, you can often select cup size and personalization options including hotter, stronger and low acid.

What the coffee pod machine offers will often depend on price. A basic machine may only offer espressos and lungos, while more expensive options will offer hot milk options, from built-in milk carafes to steam wands, so you can easily create cappuccinos and lattes at the touch of a button.

'Of course, consumers also look for coffee pod variety,' says Bruvi's Mel Elias. 'Different brands, coffee, espresso, preferred roast levels, decaf, organic options, etc.

'The Bruvi B-Pod range includes all sustainably sourced, 100% Arabica specialty grade coffee (and espresso) from both house brands and licensed craft roasters.'

'The simplicity of the machinery draws attention, rightfully, to the coffee itself,' says Grind's Howey. 'Buying an Ethiopian vs a Brazilian pod will have a huge effect on the final flavor in the cup. Some pods will be designed to work better with the lungo setting (usually ground slightly coarser), others for the espresso setting, but the coffee origin should always be the star in my opinion.'

If you're using another brand, like a Nespresso coffee pod machine, it's always essential to check the pods you are buying are compatible with the machine you have. Most brands will use a standard pod type, but many machines will work with third-party pods too; for example, many roasters and brands have their own line of Nespresso-compatible pods.

What features do coffee pod machines offer?

If you're somebody that loves a barista-worthy cup of coffee, it's a good idea to opt for a coffee pod machine with a built-in steam wand.

This allows for frothy coffee results that you'll find in your local coffee shop. You can always buy a separate steam wand for frothing, however, if you don't want to splash out.

Some machines will come with a hot milk element that will give you a frothy coffee at the push of a button, but the result won't be quite as frothy as a steam wand.

You can also invest in coffee pod machines with personalization features, including strength, temperature and drink size.

It's also good to check the water tank and capsule waste bin to ensure they're a good size, as well as drip tray that allows for the placement of different-sized cups.

Are there environmental issues with coffee pod machines?

There has been concerns about the amount of coffee pods ending up in landfill, and the use of plastics in pods. Plastic and aluminium pods can take hundreds of years to break down.

You can offset this by choosing coffee pods that are home-compostable, biodegradable and plastic-free, or that can be placed in your food waste bin.

Howey Gill says: 'We should all think about the environmental impacts of everything, and pods are no exception. Pods are single-use, so in my opinion you just have to make sure they're compostable.'