Last week we had a look at Nespresso, one of the market leaders in coffee pods whose popularity has soared over the last ten years. This week we’re looking at the taste of beverages produced by coffee pod machines and how they compare to freshly ground coffee. Coffee aficionados say that you can’t beat an espresso prepared using freshly-ground coffee which has been expertly ‘pulled’. However, given that we’re not all trained baristas and there’s a lot that hangs in the balance when pulling the perfect espresso, is the coffee produced by pods a satisfactory alternative?
What affects the taste produced by coffee pods?
- The quality of the coffee inside the pod or capsule.
- The amount of coffee in the pod (some contain less coffee than a standard espresso – Nespresso is one such example).
- How well coffee pod machines extracts the coffee (a 35 ml espresso is usually extracted within 20-35 seconds: too short and the coffee lacks depth, too long and it becomes bitter and excess caffeine is released into the coffee).
- How long the beans were roasted before the coffee was ground and sealed in the coffee pod.
The Problem With Coffee Pods
Coffee pod machines are very convenient; they remove the laborious job of having to grind beans and you don’t need to know your way around an espresso machine. There is, however, no getting away from some fundamental issues:
- The coffee they use is pre-ground, which means that some of their freshness, flavour, and fragrance is inevitably lost between the grinding process and the sealing of the capsule.
- Once the capsule has been sealed, it’s often months before the product makes its way out of the warehouse, off the supermarket shelf and into a coffee pod machine. During that time, the coffee can become stale.
- Mass-produced coffee pods tend to be blends and because they need to be consistent, consumers will often get lowest-common-denominator coffee.
Bean-to-cup machines are consistent, just as fast as coffee pod machines, there’s no cleaning up to do, and the coffee is freshly ground – all at the touch of a button!
If you want an authentic experience, you may want to try a barista style machine. Espresso machines force pressurised almost-boiling water through freshly ground coffee. The result: exquisite, rich, velvety coffee. However, there are a number of factors determining the level of success – the temperature of the water, the quality of the coffee beans, whether you grind the beans yourself and the extraction time.
The main advantage of using machines that use ground coffee over coffee pod machines, which should (perhaps!) be considered before flavour, is sustainability. Almost 200 million coffee pods are bought in the UK each year with most of them ending up in landfill. Ground coffee, on the other hand, can actually be used to help make gardens beautiful. In the next part of this series, we’re going to look at the environmental impact of using coffee pods and what’s being done to improve their sustainability.
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