- Pod coffee machines are becoming ever more popular as coffee lovers look for premium quality brews that can be made with real ease. But when it comes to comparing a pod coffee machine vs ground, how do they stack up? In this article we’re going to take a look at just that by delving into several key factors covering:
- Ease of Use
- Milk Frothing
- Variety of Coffee
- Typical Features
- Environmental Impact
- Freshness of Coffee
- Price & Ongoing Cost
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How Do Pod Coffee Machines Work?
Let’s start by taking a look at how do pod coffee machines work. Pod coffee machines are those designed to brew coffee from small pods or capsules. These capsules are filled with pre-ground coffee usually to make single-serve coffee.
To use the machine, the pod is placed into the machine whereupon the press of a button it is then perforated and hot water is run through the ground coffee to make your drink of choice.
How Do Ground Coffee Machines Work?
Ground coffee machines work by taking ground coffee beans rather than pods or fresh beans to make your brew. They look like similar but smaller versions of the espresso machines you might see in a coffee shop.
Pod Coffee Machine vs Ground
Let’s now delve into the key differences as well as advantages and disadvantages of pod coffee machines vs ground coffee machines.
Ease of Use
When it comes to ease of use pod coffee machines are on one end of the spectrum for their simplicity whilst ground coffee machines are probably on the other end.
With pod coffee machines you typically only have a few steps to get your brew; step 1 – select your choice of pod and insert into the machine, step 2 – press the start button, and wait for your brew. There’s really not much to it and goes a long way to explaining why pod coffee sales grew some 53% in 2019 alone.
Even if you’ve never made coffee before with a pod machine, the process is simplified making high-quality coffee accessible to more people even without the usual skill normally associated with making quality coffee.
Ground machines on the other hand do require some getting used to as there are a number of variables to factor in when making your desired drink. With ground coffee machines you need to ensure you are using the right amount of coffee. The other key aspect and skill required is ensuring that you are tamping correctly therefore helping to evenly distribute the coffee and compressing it sufficiently.
When it comes to ease of use and comparing a pod coffee machine vs ground your preference may depend on how much time you want to spend actually making your coffee and learning the necessary skills you need to operate a ground coffee machine to get the most out of it.
When it comes to milk frothing to allow you to make you favourite latte or cappuccino, both pod machines and ground coffee machines have some options.
There pod machines available that come equipped with automatic milk frothers that are built into the machine. These will take milk from a dedicated container froth it accordingly and then add it directly into your cup.
Whilst there are other pod machines that are available with milk frothing accessories that will allow you to froth the milk independently and then add it to your drink. There are also milk pods that can be used with some specific models of pod coffee machines to dispense froth directly into your cup of coffee.
Ground coffee machines can also be fitted with automatic milk frothing functions. There are also plenty of ground coffee machines that come with steam wands. These will use steam to create the froth in your milk.
Variety of Coffee
When it comes to the variety available in terms of coffee beans, there are distinct differences between pod coffee machines and ground coffee machines.
With a pod coffee machine, you are restricted to the varieties available from the manufacturer of the machine or pods made to fit it from others.
There are of course now a myriad of different varieties of coffees available from pods but in many cases you are still limited to what you can buy and in some instances where you can buy as some are only available to order online. This ultimately can limit your choice of beverage.
Ground coffee machines on the other hand do not have such restrictions and can take pretty much any coffee bean as long as it ground to the right level required. This opens up all types of ground coffee variety and provides you with much more choice.
When it comes to features within the machines, ground coffee makers provide more versatility when compared to pod machines.
As well as the milk frothing features and accessories covered above, there are some ground coffee makers that will also allow you to use beans that are then put through a grinder as well as pre-ground coffee. These are effectively 2-in-1 (bean to cup and ground coffee) machines but it is versatility you cannot find in a pod coffee machine.
In addition there also ground coffee machines available that will take both ground coffee as well as pods .
There are some ground coffee machines that will also allow you to make other types of drinks such as tea and hot chocolate.
With pod coffee machines in addition to milk frothers, there are also some that can make other drinks such as hot chocolate and tea.
Like a lot of appliances when it comes to coffee machines you also need to factor in the space you have available.
If kitchen counter space is a primary concern and you don’t mind how you get your coffee then a pod coffee machine may be the way to go. Pod coffee machines tend to be fairly compact and with a relatively small footprint when compared to ground coffee machines as well as bean to cup machines.
As they have fairly limited functions with no need for a grinder as well as a large water tank, their footprint tends to be small.
Ground coffee machines on the other hand have much more to fit into their systems and tend to be larger than pod coffee machines. Typically these can come with more components including a larger water tank, built-in tamper, and milk frother.
When it comes to the impact on the environment between a pod coffee machine vs ground, typically the debate hones on the impact of the consumption of pods. These can be difficult to recycle and many simply can’t be recycled with many ending up in landfill sites.
This causes concern when you consider that in the UK alone 95 million cups of coffee are consumed every day and a growing proportion of these are from single-serve pods. However, manufacturers have been focused for some time on trying to find ways to make it easier to recycle their pods with some offering dedicated recycling services.
Generally speaking though when it comes to environmental impact, the focus should be on the whole life-cycle as most of the energy is consumed in growing the coffee beans. This then means that what could make the difference is how efficiently those beans are then used when brewing coffee.
When it comes to pods, it is a fixed and limited amount for each cup whereas with ground coffee there can be variability depending on how it is made. The second-biggest energy consumer is the actual process of brewing the coffee. With a pod coffee machine, you only need to heat up a small amount of water for a single serving whilst with a ground coffee machine you could end up heating far more than you need.
Thus although pod coffee machines may make consumers feel bad when they think about the level of waste involved, in the long-run they can turn out to be more environmentally friendly than ground machines.
Freshness of Coffee
It is said that coffee beans start to lose their potency very soon after they are ground. The fresher the coffee beans at the point of use the better the coffee. Thus how ground coffee is stored becomes critical in helping to keep it fresh.
Coffee pods help with delivering relatively fresh coffee as the ground coffee is packed and kept airtight inside the pod until it is ready to be brewed. These may work particularly well for those who only drink coffee occasionally as they can buy the pods and use them as and when they need to and they’ll keep the coffee fresh.
With ground coffee, it is not typically stored in the same way i.e. compact single servings that can be kept fresh. The more oxygen coffee is exposed to the less fresh and potent it will be. Oxygen causes the breakdown of the coffee cells as well as eliminating flavour and aromatic oils. To reduce the impact of this effect, you can store ground coffee in an airtight container once opened.
Price & Ongoing Cost
In terms of cost, pod coffee machines do relatively well upfront as they can be some of the cheapest coffee makers around. From as low as around £40 you can find some very highly rated pod coffee machines.
The cost of the pods, however, can mean you end up spending much more in the long-run than the low upfront cost of buying the machine might suggest. These can typically cost between 20p to 60p depending on the type and brand. Thus if you like to enjoy two cups a day of your favourite latte, you could end up spending £1 each day to feed your habit. This of course still works out cheaper than a typical cup of coffee from a cafe but worth noting if you were hoping to save money with your own coffee maker at home.
Indeed if you were hoping to save as much money as possible on buying coffee from a cafe by making your own at home with a machine, a ground coffee machine could work out cheaper than a pod machine in the long run. This is because out of the three main types of machines for home brewing (pod; bean to cup; ground), ground coffee machines tend to be the cheapest per cup. Though the machines themselves can range from anywhere between £100 to £400 and beyond, the relatively low cost of ground coffee means your costs per cup end up some way lower than with pod machines.
Pod Coffee Machine vs Ground: Conclusion
We’ve seen there a distinct difference between a pod coffee machine vs ground. If you’re looking for high-quality coffee but want it quickly and as hassle-free as possible then a pod coffee machine may be the way to go if you don’t mind paying the extra per cup than you would for a ground machine. If on the other hand you want more freedom in terms of coffee variety as well as flexibility in how your drinks are made, then a ground coffee machine may be a better choice than a pod. Either way you have plenty of options with both types of machines.
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