John Sylvan, Inventor of K-Cup is Full of Regret: Keurig Green Mountain is now a billion dollar coffee empire, but a lot of that money wouldn’t even exist without the K-Cup conception—invented by co founder John Sylvan. You can find his ingenious invention in workplaces and kitchens all across the country, but why would the inventor feel so regretful about something that brought Keurig Green Mountain $4.7 billion in revenue in just one year?

K-Cups are almost impossible to recycle and recycling isn’t really a topic discussed in America. In fact, the K-Cup is pretty representative of the American lifestyle—convenience without sustainability—now, I’ll argue we have gotten a little better since the 90’s but for a product that was introduced before being green was even discussed, the product should really be re-invented to help the economy.

Sylvan was so distraught about his creation and its harmful impact on the environment that he sold his stake of the company for $50,000 in 1997 and refuses to own a Keurig machine. Sylvan has chosen a much different path as he now run ZonBak, a solar company claiming to make the most cost-efficient solar panel in the world—a much different approach to the environment.

We’ll have to admit that Sylvan’s product, although it has its environmental flaws—it can still create a pretty tasty cup of coffee quickly and conveniently, and if you’re worried about the environment there are now plenty of compostable coffee pods to choose from!

What Makes the Coffee Pod Machine Unique?

The coffee pod machine is pretty unique, but it’s not a unique household name to most—in fact, I don’t think I’ve been in a house yet that hasn’t owned a coffee pod machine at some point. Now, I’ve strayed from my coffee pod machine not because it wasn’t delicious—but, I found that I enjoyed the creation process of making my own coffee and being able to control the variables.

The coffee pod machines require a coffee pod and hot water—there are plenty of great options to choose from ranging from dark to light roasts and even iced coffee flavors, although I still haven’t figured out how the iced coffee works in a coffee pod machine.

If you’re looking for versatility in flavor though the coffee pod machine should be what you’re looking into—unless you know a barista or you don’t mind following recipes to create your own, but again the convenience of a coffee pod machine just can’t be beat.

What are Some Cons of Switching to the Coffee Pod Method?

With the coffee pod method, you definitely lose out on controlling the variables of making your coffee—on the newer Keurig models they have allowed you to control temperature setting, but that never feels like it’s enough for me. The whole act of making a cup of coffee in the morning helps me wake up, and if I just simply have to push a button and there’s no real thought process happening, well, that’s the whole reason that the coffee pod machine wasn’t for me.

Now, if you’re not like me and you don’t require making your own coffee—in fact, you would prefer a machine that just does everything for you—all you have to do is insert the pod and press the button that I would say without a doubt the coffee pod machine is for you! Just remember though that all of that convenience also comes with a pretty high price tag, especially when you’re comparing it to the traditional drip coffee machine that does almost the same thing and also gives you more coffee for your money.

How Are the Brewing Techniques of Other Machines Different?

The coffee pod machine is most similar to the traditional drip coffee machine, but your coffee grounds are pre-measured for you. With both the machines (at least with the newer drip coffee models) you’re going to want to fill the water tank up to the maximum level.

If you’re using an older machine you just fill the pitcher up and add it to the water tank as you make coffee, and you’ll have to measure your coffee grounds and place a filter inside the machine (it usually sits in a specially designed area on top).

You’ll close the top and push the button to get the brewing process started. Now, instead of measuring coffee grounds and using a filter, the coffee pod machine requires you to purchase pre-measured coffee pods or K-Cups to insert into the specially designed area. You’ll push the button once you hear the click and have an instant cup of coffee—although you won’t get the yield that you will from the traditional drip coffee machine.

If you’re using an espresso machine it requires a much different method than the coffee pod machine—not only will you be using less water to get a cup of espresso, but the process will also be quite a bit faster since you’re making half as much (with a much stronger caffeine content). Depending on your machine you’ll insert water into the tank reservoir; this is familiar to what you do with the coffee pod machines.

You’ll want to give your espresso machine a few minutes to warm up and you have to grind your coffee beans finely for them to work in the machine properly—you’ll also have to tamp the grounds instead of using a filter—and if you want the perfect espresso then you’ll have to either purchase a milk frother or buy an espresso machine that has a built in one. Now, coffee pod machines have become much more progressive even allowing you to purchase coffee pods from Nespresso that already can serve an espresso with crema.

Is the Flavor of Coffee from a Pod Different?

The coffee pod flavor is much different from freshly ground coffee beans—most of the time you’re getting coffee that’s pretty oxidized, and it’s lost most of it’s delicious oils as it’s made to sit on shelves for much longer periods of times.

If you don’t mind the flavor though, you’ll probably be a fan of the coffee pods convenience—there are plenty of options to choose from, and I’m sure if you buy directly from some of the coffee pod sources you can manage to get a fresh box now and then. If you don’t really care about fresh flavor though then you’ll get a quick cup of coffee instantly.

A lot of people buy a coffee pod machine for the convenience because of their limited time to dedicate to making coffee the old-fashioned way—also, there’s nothing a little cream and sugar can’t doctor up if you feel like the taste is really that bad but to the average coffee consumer you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. In fact, you’ll be guaranteed to get the same flavor profile from almost every cup of coffee unless you decide to venture off and try some cappuccino and espresso pods in your machine.

Is a Coffee Pod Machine in My Budget?

The coffee pod machine is definitely one of the most expensive machines on the market (besides the professional super-automatic espresso machine) and with that being kept in mind we’ll have to remember that not only are you paying more but you’re getting less of a product.

The reason people choose to pay more for these coffee pod machines is that they’re gaining extra time in the morning to spend with family or getting a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. If you’re single or you’re the only one in your house that drinks coffee then this might be a great option for you, but if you have a house full of coffee connoisseurs and angsty teenagers that need caffeine to function this probably isn’t the best option.

Your not getting much bang for your buck as a box of K-Cups cost roughly between $10 and $15 for a box of 18. A couple of mathematicians at the NYTimes found that people spend roughly $50 per pound on their Keurig machines by using K-Cups, while a standard bag of house blend coffee at Starbucks costs $11.95 per pound. If you’re factoring that in with the cost of the machines themselves ranging anywhere from $100 to $300 for the name brand machines you’re looking to spend a lot of money on coffee.

Is a Coffee Pod Machine Truly a Coffee Machine for Everyone?

As far as ease of learning to make a cup of coffee; it can’t get much more basic than the coffee pod machine. I think that makes this machine a wonderful choice for everyone, but there are plenty of things that you’ll have to factor in when purchasing one of these: family size, budget and taste preference.

Like I said before this is one of the most expensive machines, and it’s not easy to spend a few hundred dollars for a machine that won’t be suitable for more than one person, and if you’re drinking a lot of coffee daily then this can only make one cup at a time. I do think this is a great machine, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s for everyone. It’s one of the few machines that I actually wouldn’t recommend to everyone just based on cost and amount of coffee that you get out of the money you’re spending on the pods.

If you’re looking for convenience, and you drink at least one cup of coffee a day (if you drink less than that) this would be a great choice! You might actually spend less money because you’re not wasting coffee or fresh beans that you can’t use in time. It’s completely up to you at the end of the day, and if your budget has some room to stretch this might be a great alternative coffee machine for you.

Recommended Coffee Pod Machine Picks

We give some quick picks for our favorite coffee pod machines. This is not a comprehensive ultimate best list, but just a general list of recommendations by category.

Good Budget Choice

VonShef Coffee Pod Machine

Price: Prices range from $69.99 to $129.99.

Lowest Price: $69.99 on Amazon

Features: Nespresso compatible and a removable drip tray for easy cleaning and using various coffee cup sizes.

Cons: The water tank is small at 1 Liter and the coffee tastes weak

Colors: Red

This VonShef machine can make anything you want—espresso or coffee, it’s meant to do it all and for a price tag that sits just under $70 it can’t get much better than that. I like the stylish red design and it would fit well in a kitchen with a modern theme, but if you’re looking for a tasty cup of coffee that isn’t really weak—well, it might take a little bit of experimentation on your end to get the perfect cup.

Another added benefit of this machine is that you can use Nespresso pods which offer a great variety of choices to find just what you’re looking for. Note that it works with the original Nespresso pods, not the newer vertuoline line of pods (which I don’t like anyways).

If you want a quiet machine that’s easy on the eyes and wallet then this is the machine to go with! It’s like buying a premium Nespresso machine, but for half the cost of the cheapest Nespresso machine.

Good Overall Choice

Verismo System by Starbucks

Price: $149.99

Lowest Price: $149.99 on Starbucks (There were a few Verismo models on eBay for less, but these prices will fluctuate. The products most likely won’t come with a warranty.)

Features: Compatible with Starbucks Coffee Verismo pods and a frother that delivers hot or cold froth for specialty drinks

Cons: It takes up a lot of space on the kitchen counter and you can only use the Verismo pods

Colors: Black

I’m choosing coffee pod machines that can work for a variety of drinks—if you’re spending over $100 you want a machine that can do a little bit of everything. You’re definitely going to get that with the Verismo V Brewer because it’s capable of making espressos, brewed coffee, lattes and cappuccinos with the internal milk frother—the milk frother also has hot and cold settings for that perfect crema to add to the top of your favorite drink.

The design of the Verismo is simple and chic, but it does take up a lot of space on your counter and since you can only buy the Verismo pods that means you won’t get near the variety of choices as something that can use Nespresso—that might not be such a bad thing though especially if you’re a fan of Starbucks coffee—since that’s what you’ll be buying for your machine. This one touch coffee machine is sure to please even the most skeptical and sway people into buying a coffee pod machine for the added convenience factor.

Good Premium Choice

Nespresso Creatista Plus

Price: Ranges in price from $599.95 to $799

Features: Sliding drip tray for different cup sizes, a temperature setting for integrated milk frother and small size.

Cons: Expensive price tag

Colors: Silver

You’ll find people love or hate Nespresso, but regardless of how you feel, they’ve changed the game and pretty much invented and completely dominate the premium coffee pod market.

If you want a coffee pod machine unlike anything you’ve ever seen then let me introduce you to the Creatista Plus by Breville that uses Nespresso pods to get a great tasting cup. My concern with machines that do all the work for you is that means you don’t get to control any of the variables that come with making an excellent cup of coffee—that concern gets tossed to the wayside with this spectacular machine.

The Breville Creatista Plus allows you to act as your own barista to make classic favorites—ristretto, espresso, lungo, flat white, cappuccino and latte just to name a few. The push of a button allows you to create a nice cup of anything you desire but again you’re limited in the amount of coffee grounds you use—but that built-in frother isn’t looking so bad and since you can control the temperature it might be worth it to lose out on not being able to control one variable. The technology in this little machine makes it easy to customize your favorite drinks and reminds you when your machine needs a good cleaning—now if it could just remind me to do the dishes or even better do those dishes it would be perfect!

Brewing Guide: Tips and Tricks for the Coffee Pod Machine

  1. You’re losing out on being able to buy fresh coffee from a local roastery with this automated machine but that doesn’t mean your choices are completely limited—there are plenty of options at your local grocery store for coffee pods. Go choose your favorite box and get ready for a tasty experience
  2. Your going to want to make sure your using good quality water for your machine—even if you have to use filtered water—take your quality water and fill it to the max line on your machine’s water tank.
  3. If your machine takes a moment to warm up turn it on and wait for it to heat up for best results. While you’re waiting choose the coffee pod you want to use and insert it into the designated area—the area varies on different machines it can be on the top, side or back—check your user manual if you’re not certain where the pod should be inserted.
  4. Close the lid and you should be able to hear a slight click as you do this. Choose the coffee cup you’d like to use and place it underneath the nozzle where the coffee will come out.
  5. Every coffee pod machine varies—but newer models have a menu where you can choose a variety of options: temperature, cup size and beverage type. Input the correct information and then click go when you’re ready.
  6. It should take a few seconds but the machine will begin to make sounds to let you know that it’s hard at work brewing your coffee—once the machine stops making sounds, you can take your cup off of the drip tray and enjoy a nice hot beverage!

Pro Tip: I’ve found that coffee pod machines can produce quite a weak coffee and that’s because they’re taking in to much water to add to your coffee. One trick that I’ve found is I use just enough water in the water tank to get the process started—I don’t fill the tank up all the way so that I can control the variable of how much water is being used. This is completely up to you and if you think the coffee tastes great well perfect because this can be a somewhat unnecessary hassle that comes with automated brewing technology. Good luck and happy brewing!

The Final Word

Overall, even though the price tag for the coffee pod machines aren’t always budget-friendly they still have their rightful place in the market. They’re obviously appealing to many people since there has been many new coffee pod products to come out to go along with the machines, but call me old-fashioned because I still enjoy making a coffee with my trusty French press.

I want to repeat that this machine will get costly quickly if you’re a big family with a lot of coffee drinkers, but if you just drink the occasional cup of coffee every now and then this might be a great solution. I still think that Nespresso’s coffee pods make a great cup of espresso so if you can get a machine that utilizes these pods try to go with it—although it might cost a little more in the long run—it’s completely worth it in my opinion.