The Skinny on Pod Single-Serve Coffee

in Brewing Coffee

Robin is a long-time friend of, and recently asked about the very popular single-serve pod coffee makers. It’s no wonder. In the US alone for the 12 months ending in September 2010, single-pod coffee makers and the pods themselves have become the fastest-growing segment of the coffee market, growing 155% to over $200 million in sales.

Keurig probably has the best-known product with their pods sold as “K-Cups”. This month, Mr. Coffee announced that it would step into the ring with a more economical version of the same type of coffee maker. You’ve likely seen the pod coffee maker in people’s homes and in some offices.

But if you love great coffee, is this machine a better option to drip-brewing or the coffee press? I was surprised at how little has been written on this. My best conclusion is that people who love as fresh a cup of coffee as they can get are shying away from the single-serve, while the invention itself has attracted a new slew of coffee drinkers that are attracted to the machine’s convenience and who are still getting a decent cup of coffee. What’s it boil down to?

1. Convenience

    There’s no denying that you will have a hot cup of relatively fresh coffee in your hand with much less work and in a shorter time period if one cup is all you’re making.  You grab a pod, load it into the machine, hit a button, and within 1-2 minutes, you’re good to go.Compared to the separate water-boiling step and saturating the grounds in a French Press, the pod coffee drinker is done his first cup before you’re pouring yours.  Even to make one cup in a drip brewer means measuring the right amount of water and loading grounds into a filter.  Not to mention that the right amount of coffee has already been measured and ground by the pod maker for your convenience.

    Quite simply, it’s more convenient to use a pod maker, so it’s no wonder that people that want to make good coffee at home but do it in the shortest possible time are buying this coffee maker in droves.

2. Freshness

    Here’s what will spark a debate with pod coffee drinkers: it can’t be as fresh as coffee that was ground from fresh whole beans immediately before it was brewed in a quality coffee maker.  I’ve had many pod coffees and I thought they were all good. But it did strike me off the bat that the coffee in the pod is already ground and ground coffee goes stale at a faster rate than whole bean coffee, even though the pod is sealed airtight.  I’ll leave it to personal taste whether you notice the difference in freshness. At some point in the process of filling pods with ground coffee, the ground coffee was exposed to air.

3. Environmental impact

    If you grind your coffee and use a mesh filter, you’re not producing much waste when making coffee. Compare that to the number of pod packages that get thrown out, one for each cup of coffee you make.In a world that’s both greener than ever but where people want everything available faster, there’s a conflict. The pod coffee makes coffee faster, and produces more waste.

There you have it, Robin. If you know anybody with a pod coffee maker, try their coffee and compare it to the freshly-brewed coffee that you make at home. If you notice a difference in freshness and don’t mind the few extra minutes that it takes you to use a drip-brewer or French Press, I’d suggest sticking to the freshest and less wasteful way you’re already using.


  1. I think some of the pod coffeemakers come with a reusable pod, which I think is a great idea. Unfortunately, people don’t tend to use them, which is a baaaaddddd idea.

    Comment by Kathleen — November 29, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

  2. That I didn’t know, Kathleen. The ones I’ve seen all had single-use, including the ones that “drill” a hole into the pod. Do you know if the reusable pods are also resealable? – I’m trying to imagine how it works and whether you need to pour ground coffee into the reusable pod.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — November 29, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

  3. Marc…I was “one of those” who purchased a one cup pod maker but it was before I was reading your site. I am also one of those that do NOT buy the pods but grind my own beans for one cup at a time..sometimes a bit too much which makes me have 2 cups :o) . I have learned so much from you and DO enjoy a good cup of coffee .. now if I could only cut out the cream which is a work in progress. Thank you for you feedback and no worries about timing.

    Comment by Robin — November 30, 2010 @ 6:25 am

  4. Great to hear, Robin! It took me 15 years to stop putting cream in my coffee. I went from 10% to 5% cream for something less fatty, and ended up simply putting twice as much in :). In the end, I couldn’t gradually make the change because I considered black coffee and cream in coffee to be two totally different drinks and so I gave up cream and sugar cold turkey. It took getting used to, and I’d suggest giving it a try for one complete week. After that week, try going back and you may be surprised that you only want to drink it black – especially the good stuff!

    Comment by Marc Wortman — December 4, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

  5. Hello Marc! I have recently purhcased a Keurig single cup coffee maker and I have to say I absolutely love it. I would have to agree with you for the most part in regards to the waste.
    However my Keurig replaces me going to Planet Bean,Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks or the cafeteria during the week for my daily coffee. So I think there MAY be less waste with the little K-cups comparted to all the coffee cups I was throwing out daily. I have also been wasting less bottled water as this coffee maker heats only 1 cup at a time….and I am wasting less gas since I’m not driving out of my way to pick up a cup of Java. I have to admit…I’m kind of lazy when it comes to making coffee, though I do appreciate a flavourful cup. For me this coffee maker is a perfect fit. 🙂

    Comment by Denise Marie — February 3, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

  6. Those are awesome points, Denise. There is certainly less waste in the single-serves than to buy it retail by the cup. And I’ve mentioned I have liked any single-serve coffee I’ve ever had. The only thing holding you back now are the great variety of coffees from around the world – I know the K-cup selection is large but do they have a Guatemalan Antigua for me? 🙂

    Comment by Marc Wortman — February 5, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

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