The Ultimate Coffee Pod Guide


coffee pod guideA Buyer’s Guide To All The Different Coffee Keepers Out There

K-Cups, Capsules, and T-Discs, Oh My…

Ladies and gents, I realize this post is long overdue, but it’s just occurring to me that it’s important to be able to tell the difference between all the various coffee delivery systems out there. I mean if you’ve spent a proportionate amount of time here reading all my reviews and content you’ve no doubt heard me refer to a plethora of pods and all of them different…different in size, shape, design, and yes, price too.

After all, you don’t want to welcome that amazing new one-cupper on your doorstep and then be left wondering “I need WHAT to operate this thing?” But you already knew that and because of these distinctions with coffee pod delivery systems, I created this guide to make it a breeze to know what each one is and how it works, and which brewer it will be used in.

Starting with the most common and obvious: K-Cups

K-Cups, as you know are de rigueur, recognizable everywhere you buy coffee and the selection of flavors and types are always getting better and more varied as time goes by, so you are bound to find a handful that you’ll enjoy.

Used in many single-cup coffee makers, they embody convenience and no-fuss coffee encapsulated, they are designed with these main parts:

  • The cup part itself, which is made of a no.5 plastic
  • Coffee grounds
  • Protective foil lid
  • Inner liner

There are about 8 grams of ground coffee in each K-Cup give or take. You will often see the words “K-Cup Pods” on the packaging regardless of the brand name. They range in bulk amounts, mainly starting at 12 and going up to 48 or more.

Pros: Convenient, many varieties and flavors, including teas, hot cocoas, no mess
Cons: Their main components are difficult to recycle, and K-Cups may be viewed by some as a wasteful landfill filler. Fortunately, there are options to enjoy your coffee and not feel guilty contributing to this problem.

Related post: Are K-Cups Bad For the Environment And What Can We Do About It?

smartfill refillable k-cupsMoreover, K-Cups lend themselves to their next most popular option and that is the refillable K-Cups. There are a variety of brands and styles to fit whatever machine you’ve got your eye on (some of them are quite colorful too) and can be a big help with being better for the environment.

Since you just fill each cup with the grounds of your choice; there is nothing to throw away later (since used grounds break down easily on their own or can be used as compost for all you earth-savvy types out there.) plus they can help you put more money in your wallet too, since a standard bag of coffee will last a lot longer making coffee with these refillable.

Pros: environmentally friendly, let you use your own coffee grounds, use them over and over
Cons: You may need to read up on the coffeemaker models they are compatible with before buying since some of them are not one size fits all.

So hypothetically, if an 8 oz bag of coffee costs the same as a 12-pack of K-Cup pods but will produce about 40 cups of joe….hey that’s a better deal right there!

See my post Best Refillable K-Cups for my top recommendations!

Nespresso Capsules

Nespresso capsules are made to work strictly with coffee makers made by Nespresso (duh) as well as some other machines that specialize in making single-serve espresso and they have earned a reputation among users for being great coffee delivery systems due to their rich flavor combos, attractive aluminum foil color packaging, and (wait for it) the fact that they can be RECYCLED – yay! A win-win right? Almost if you don’t mind the fact that they are somewhat difficult to locate outside of the online space and that they do cost a little more than the K-Cups.

In addition, there are several different types of Nespresso capsules made to operate with different generations of their machines. Let’s take a look at that now.

Original Line

These are gumdrop-shaped and are beautifully contained to produce great-tasting beverages. The Original Line capsules are made to operate with:

The main consensus of opinion is that the OriginalLine capsules come in many great flavors and the resulting coffee is awesome!


The Vertuoline capsules are a very different ball game and contain a unique type of technology that spins the capsules in the machine at a rotation of 7000 rpm to deliver the best extraction process in a short stretch of time.

This technology design is patented and exclusive to the Vertuoline generation of Nespresso machines. These include the Vertuoline Evoluo and the VertuoPlus.

The Vertuoline capsules also come in 2 different sizes – one that is shallower looking, contains 8 grams of coffee, and is made especially for 1.35 oz espresso drinks which only require a smaller amount of grounds and are usually prepared in small cups.

The other size is noticeably bigger, holding 13 grams of coffee, and is made to produce an 8 oz beverage.

Both of them also have a really cool another kind of technology that “reads” the bar code along the rim of the underside of the capsule. This “tells” the machine exactly how much water, time, and pressure is needed for the respective flavor capsule, ultimately taking the guesswork out for you and making your experience as hassle-free and fun as possible.

The rotation process not only pierces the top of the capsules but the perimeter of them is also pierced as well as the capsule is “spun” during its cycle.

Is there a refillable option? You betcha! For the OriginalLine, yes. For the Vertuoline, at first, I thought no, but then I found out later that something new has come out called the My Cup vPack, which contains all the components you need to assemble capsules compatible with the VertuoLine machines.

It takes a little experimenting, but it’s a great idea and can tide you over if you run out (as the Vertuoline capsules are not a walk in the park to find, and are a tad expensive, too.)

Tassimo T-Discs

The T-discs are coffee pods that have a raindrop/hockey puck shape to them and made to work exclusively with the Bosch Tassimo coffee makers, including the Tassimo T20. To help produce that delicious flavor, the T-discs often are accompanied by separate discs containing a powdered milk product and meant to be inserted prior to the brewing procedure to produce a gourmet-style hot beverage in the neighborhood of cafe au lait, mochas, lattes, etc., with a foamy crema layer on top.

The T-discs also come in more basic and conventional coffee types as well that don’t require milk additions, and regardless of type, embody a special type of “bar code” technology that communicates to the machine the right amount of water, pressure, and length of time is needed for each respective hot drink. If you take a good look at a T-disc, you will see this little strip of code that does this magic.

Pretty much like the Nespresso capsules, the T-Discs are not always easy to locate in stores either, and overall cost a little bit more than the K-Cups.

Is there a refillable option? Unfortunately, I’ll search high and low on this one and if there is a refillable t-disc, it is eluding me currently. The other big product you may see is a yellow descaling disc. Hopefully, this guide will shed some light on the plethora of pods out there, and if you had any moments of being befuddled this post, and the chart below, should be a great help.

K-Cups8 grams$0.75-0.90
Nespresso OriginalLine7 grams$1.10
Nespresso VertuoLineEspresso:8 grams, Regular 13 grams$1.10-$1.20
TassimoT-Discs8 grams$1.10

Other Specialty Pods Brands

Still and yet, there are others that are less common, such as Nescafe, who have their own proprietary line of pods that work exclusively with the Gusto line, and Senseo – who produce great tasting coffee in soft pod form, which is commonly called “sachets” as they resemble a rounded tea bag filled with grounds. These can be used with a variety of other brewers that permit it by means of permafilters and baskets included.


Well, that was a lot of territory to cover, but I hope I have helped enlighten you on this subject. Best of luck finding the kind that you enjoy the most.

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