How Do Coffee Pods Work?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 17 January 2021

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How Do Coffee Pods Work?

Coffee pods have seen an enormous explosion in the recent past. In 2018, the global coffee pods market was valued at $1.3 billion. Every year, Nespresso produces about 14 billion pods, and every minute, hundreds of coffee pods are consumed around the world. So, how do these coffee pods work?

To make a cup of coffee, you need to soak a pod in hot water. Pods are best used in a machine, but they can be used without a coffee maker. Coffee pods refer to ground coffee beans packed into a small disc-like packaging and act like teabags.

This article gives a detailed explanation of what a coffee pod is, whether they have chemicals, how to make coffee using a coffee pod machine, and how to prepare it without the machine. Read on to learn more.

What Is in a Coffee Pod?

A coffee pod is the industry term for something equivalent to tea bags in the tea industry. They’re pre-portioned ground coffee beans served packed in a paper filter. Currently, Easy Serving Espresso (ESE) is the global standard for coffee pods in the industry and typically has a size of 44 mm (1.7 inches).

All coffee pods meeting the ESE standard may be used in any espresso machine, which is ESE compatible. A standard ESE coffee pod weighs anything from 6.7 to 7.5 g (0.24 to 2.6 oz), and the average weight is 7 g (0.25 oz). However, these weights depend on coffee beans used and the flavor profile.

The pod is put on a special pod holder in the coffee machine. In other machines, it’s the same place that’s used for ground coffee. The filter basket has to be changed for other brands so that the pod fits correctly and allows water to pass through the pod and not around it. Coffee pods come in different flavors, roasts, and brands that give you a convenient way to prepare a single cup of coffee.

Are All Coffee Pods the Same?

A typical coffee pod is a simple round pouch made from paper and filled with fresh ground coffee. In the late 1990s and late 2000s, coffee pods were not standardized, and manufacturers produced pods in a wide range of sizes to suit specific brewers.

However, today most coffee pods are standardized, and they are about 16 mm (0.63 in) in diameter. They could vary in weight depending on the amount of coffee in each pod.

A coffee pod weighs anything between 7 g to 12 g (0.25 oz to 0.42 oz). Big pods will always produce a bolder flavor. Some brewers use lightweight pods, and they utilize gravity instead of a pressurized pump to drive water through the pod. Lightweight pods are also known as soft pods, and they weigh between 7 and 8 g (0.25 oz and 0.28 oz). These pods are generally loose and allow water to pass through.

On the other hand, heavyweight pods weigh between 9 and 12 g (0.3 and 0.42 oz). Heavyweight pods are firm and not loose, and therefore require a pressurized pump to force water through the pod.

Do Coffee Pods Have Chemicals?

Coffee pods refer to the biodegradable pouches made from paper with grounded coffee sealed inside. They do not have chemicals, and they are safe.

On the other hand, the coffee capsule is different from the coffee pod because it’s packed in either a plastic or aluminum package instead of a paper filter. Coffee capsules have been found to contain furan, which is a carcinogenic and toxic compound. According to scientists, furans are sealed with coffee grounds in capsules, preventing them from escaping.

When coffee is brewed with hot pressurized water, the compounds are extracted into the drink. However, as they are exposed to air in cups, most of them evaporate. The levels of these furans are within safe limits.

It is estimated that furans ingested as a result of coffee consumption are about 0.03 to 0.38 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. The maximum safety limit is two micrograms per kilogram of body weight.

Furans are carcinogenic compounds that form when drinks and foods are subjected to heat treatment. Heat leads to a reaction between ascorbic acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and carbohydrates. The reaction process is known as the Maillard reaction.

How to Use Coffee Pods?

Coffee pods can be used in so many different ways. It can be used in a machine designed particularly for coffee pods or in any other coffee machine type. You can even use pods without a machine. You need to fill water in the machine’s water basin to the point of “max fill.” The water should be clean, and you can choose to use distilled or filtered water to minimize mineral buildup.

Unpack the pod from the packaging. Pods are wrapped individually, and you need to remove them by ripping along the perforated line without damaging the pod. Open the pod holder on your machine, and you may have to press a button depending on the type of machine. Place the pod on its holder and close it gently.

Choose the appropriate setting on the machine, which can be strong, medium, or light, depending on the strength of the coffee you prefer. Other machines may have settings for the amount of water with more water for a weaker coffee.

Default settings are always medium. Brew your coffee by hitting the start button on your machine, and it’ll start releasing hot water into the coffee and finally to your mug. From there, you can enjoy your cup of coffee.

Can You Use Coffee Pods Without a Machine?

You can use coffee pods without a machine, and depending on the type of pod, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove the coffee pod from its packaging and drop it into your mug. Add boiling water into the mug to about half an inch from the brim. You need to be careful not to burn yourself with hot water.
  2. Let the pod soak for a few minutes and hold it underwater with a spoon if it floats. You need to stir it.
  3. After a few minutes, you can remove the pod from the mug.

The duration you leave the pod in your cup will determine the strength of your coffee. Depending on your preference, the time you leave the pod in your cup will vary from person to person:

  • Between two and three minutes will result in a weak cup of coffee
  • About four minutes will result in a medium or standard cup of coffee
  • Between five and six minutes will result in a strong cup of coffee.

Discard the pod and enjoy your cup of coffee without a coffee pod machine.

How to Choose Your Coffee Pod Machine?

Coffee pod machines come in a wide range of brand names and types. Their prices also vary with the small and compact types being a favorite for homes with limited space on the kitchen counter. A pod coffee machine’s average price is about $100USD, and certain models and brands are relatively higher.

How Do Coffee Pods Work?

Some coffee pod machines have extra automatic functions that can turn off the machine after it has remained inactive for some time. Others also have removal drip trays, which are perfect for large mugs or large cups. While other coffee pod machines also work with ordinary ground coffee.

Pros of Coffee Pods

There are numerous advantages of using coffee pods, which is why it has become so popular worldwide.


The most powerful advantage of coffee pods is that they save time. Restaurants save a lot of time in preparing a cup of coffee. These establishments don’t need to grind coffee beans or even worry about temperatures or the quantity of water to use. With coffee pods, it takes about two minutes. It has allowed establishments such as gas stations to offer a quality cup of coffee.

In the past, restaurants used to train employees or pay salaries that a professional barista asks. Similarly, the same advantage applies to home users. You can consistently make quality coffee at your home within a very short time. The advanced machines enable you to prepare espresso successfully like a professional.

Other Advantages

  • They are convenient to use
  • They offer consistency in flavor and taste
  • It simplifies the brewing process
  • They are always fresh because they packed individually

The only disadvantage of coffee pods is their high cost.

Cleaning Your Machine

A swab test was carried out on 28 different coffee machines by Pittsburgh station, and it came out with more than 4 million different colonies of bacteria and molds. These pathogens can potentially cause serious illness. Some of the bacteria found include streptococcus, pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E.coli, among many other dangerous bacteria.

To avoid getting sick, you need to clean your coffee pod machine regularly.

  • Run vinegar solution through it.
  • Avoid using tap water and use filtered water instead.
  • Always change the water after every use.
  • Wipe it down daily.

Some manufacturers advise using cleansing brews, particularly if the machine has not been used for a number of days.

Final Thoughts

Coffee pods have become so popular and have changed how we brew and drink coffee. While there are coffee lovers of the traditional brewing process, pods save time without affecting the coffee flavors. You can still make your coffee even without the coffee maker.


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