Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Coffee Pods

Like many of you, my morning coffee routine involved popping in a Keurig or Nespresso pod and filling up a thermos on my way to work, these pods cost about 50 cents each on average, average is also the nicest word to describe the coffee in these pods.

If you follow the drip coffee ratio that most roasters suggest of 1:16 to 1:17 (grams of coffee to milliliters of water), your K-cup is designed to make you about 6 fluid ounces of coffee. Yes, most Keurig machines have different size options, but you’re just drinking more diluted coffee when you pick anything larger than the 6 fluid ounce size. The “strong” setting on your Keurig machine just adds an extra 30 seconds to your brew time to try and improve the extraction.

I was curious how much coffee is actually in one of these pods, the answer is 7-12 grams for a K-cup and about 5-6 grams for the small Nespresso pods. For Keurig you’re paying about $1.42 per ounce of coffee (at 10 grams per pod) and $2.58 per ounce of coffee for Nespresso (at 5.5 grams per pod). A quick search will show you that “premium” coffee usually costs about $1 an ounce and local roasters charge about $1-1.50 per ounce of specialty coffee, so about $16-24 a pound. With pods you’re paying about $23-41 per pound of coffee.

The frugal side of me wanted to find a better option. Why am I paying premium prices for stale below average coffee? The most common answer is, convenience. People need to get their coffee and get out the door. You may be saying well it is cheaper than Starbucks and tastes about the same. While we have to give credit to Starbucks for growing the coffee culture in America, Starbucks coffee is not recognized as good coffee in the specialty coffee world. Compare that to coffee you can get at a shop that roasts their own single-origin beans or does made to order pour over and the difference will be huge.

I found an old ekobrew reusable K-cup in my cupboard and bought some pre-ground coffee and started to use that. However, with more reading I learned that you really need to grind your own beans as everything about coffee centers around freshness. You want fresh roasted beans that are freshly ground before you brew.

There are plenty of articles out there talking about the waste generated by these pods, I won’t get into that because so many others already have. I do know some offer recycling programs also, but my main argument against pods is that you are paying premium prices for below average coffee. For less than the amount you spend on pods, you could be getting premium specialty coffee in exchange for a little convenience.

I started researching better ways to make coffee and eventually landed on the pour over method. It sounds like a pain at first, but after some practice I think it is pretty easy with only a few minutes of your attention required. If you don’t have the time for that I’ve written about other methods for single servings and better convenience.

If pods work for you, then keep using them. In talking to friends and family, I noticed so many of them were deliberate about what they purchased and consumed, but when it came to coffee they were paying a lot more for the convenience of pods. Once they realized with a little more effort and less cost, they could get amazing coffee many of them switched over.

Here are some follow-up posts you might find interesting:

Check out our recommendations and product reviews.

Braun MultiServe Review

In another post recommended two coffee brewers that were on the higher end with great reviews and features, but I wanted to review a coffee brewer that could easily make single servings of coffee with a lower price point, the Braun MultiServe Machine KF9070SI.

This is the one of a few* home brewers certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) that has the option to brew different servings sizes without changing the amount of water in the machine. Most coffee machines will brew until the water tank is empty, so if you put in 24 ounces of water you cannot then choose to brew 16 ounces unless you dump some water out. I think for convenience it is easier to fill the tank every day or two and only have to worry about dosing your coffee.

SCA approval is a process where the manufacturer can pay a fee for SCA to test their home brewer, if it passes all the tests it can be marketed with this certification and listed on their website. The gold setting on this machine means that it meets the SCA Golden Cup recommendations with regard to brew temperature, time, extraction and many other factors you can read about here. There are many great coffee makers out there that don’t pursue this certification, but for the manufacturer to go through this process, to me, it means they want to show their specialty coffee consumers that their brewer meets the highest standards.

I chose this because I felt the typical use case for a household with a Keurig or Nespresso machine is that only one or two people drink coffee in the household and they need easy single serving size options. I felt that if your household was the kind to need 40+ ounces of coffee in a large carafe that needed to remain warm for hours for multiple pours, you likely already have a traditional drip coffee brewer. They sell single serve machines, but for me I also need the ability to make a larger batch when I have guests.

The Braun MultiServe Machine KF9070SI a pretty big and bulky machine, but looks pretty good. The only difference between this model and the KF9050 is that the KF9070SI has more stainless steel by the selector dial. The KF9150 and KF9170 add the ability to dispense hot water with temperature selection with different color options.

It made great coffee, but the control system is not great. Right out of the box I was hit with an error message that required me to perform a 23 minute descaling cycle to resolve, after that I was able to make some great coffee in different brew sizes. With this machine you would only need to adjust the amount of coffee you put in and keep the water tank full. Overall, if you need the ability to select different brew sizes without having to also measure out water, this is a great option for you once you get used to the controls.

It comes with a reusable metal filter, but I recommend you use it with #4 cone paper filters. I tested it with natural/brown paper filters, but bleached are preferred if you can find them because they transfer less paper taste. Nowadays filter papers are bleached using a process called oxygen-bleaching and not with high amounts of chlorine bleach as you might have thought, they are safe to use although some are not compostable like the natural/brown ones are. If you choose to use paper filers, just insert it into the basket directly and set the metal filter aside.

The Braun MultiServe can auto brew so you can wake up to a hot pot of coffee. One thing I noticed is that my Contigo 20 ounce and Zojirushi 16 ounce travel mug would not fit under the dripper due to the low cup clearance height, so you would need to brew into the carafe (or something else) and then transfer it.

This brewer has no option for a thermal carafe which would have been a big plus. It uses a hot plate on the half and full carafe settings, however as long as you transfer the coffee to a travel mug or cup within 20 minutes it shouldn’t be an issue. What you want to avoid is leaving it on there for hours (this model shuts off the hot plate after two hours) while it cooks your coffee (the plate was about 190F per my measurements). I think the best use case for this machine is having the machine start when you wake up, then pour the coffee and go on your way to work rather than having it sit on the hot plate. If you need to keep coffee warm for many hours for multiple refills, I’d go with a brewer with a thermal carafe. We recommend the Ninja CM407 as a SCA certified MultiServe that comes with a thermal carafe (see our full review of the CM401).

I posted about how we should measure coffee by weight and not volume, so I made this chart as a quick guide to show how much coffee to use for the different presets and markings on this machine.

I always keep my grinder’s bean hopper empty since I switch different beans all the time and use different quantities. My process is that I measure the amount of whole beans I need with my scale, then I put them in my grinder and run it until it is empty. If I am brewing right away, I will rinse out my filter paper with hot water to try and get some of that paper taste out. If not, place your ground coffee into the dry filter paper and set the auto on feature on the gold cup setting (this is the mode that meets the SCA standards). One of the good design features is that the filter basket has an integrated drip stop so it makes it easy to empty the grounds or rinse the filter paper without it dripping all over.

I’ll give an example of the poor controls, next to the power button is the clean feature to descale the machine. If you accidently press it, it will start a 23 minute descaling process that you cannot stop, not even if you unplug the machine. I assume this is because they don’t want you to drink a bunch of descaling solution. Not only that, the process stops with 4 minutes left, which is when you are supposed to fill the water tank and push clean button again for the final flush of the process. If you didn’t read the manual your coffee brewer would just be stuck like this and unable to brew coffee. I would find that very frustrating if I was just trying to get out the door with my coffee. Other Braun brewers require two buttons to activate the clean cycle, while other brands require a long press to avoid accidental selection.

Here is a link to the manual, I like looking at these to get a feel for the user interface, features, limitations, etc.

*Ninja has SCA approved brewers with serving size selection, but looking at major retailer inventory at the time this was written they appear to be discontinued and/or out of stock. The post was updated to include a recommendation for the Ninja CM407 as a thermal carafe option. Full review of the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker coming soon.