Nespresso > Grind > OZONE. The Evolution Of The Coffee Pod
How we consume coffee has changed in recent years. We’ve gone from instant coffee such as Nescafe being the norm to households preferring ground coffee and wholebeans options. The introduction and rise of speciality coffee in the 2000’s has since made great tasting, artisanal coffee more and more accessible to households over the world; for the UK specifically, a nation that was once stereotyped as ‘tea drinking’ has really embraced this wave of interest in coffee. We then saw brands like Nespresso come along. Nespresso made ‘fancy coffee’ quick and hassle free. Their capsule coffee pods and pod machines have become instantly recognisable and provide a great alternative for those wanting to ditch instant coffee and enjoy a coffee more reminiscent of what you would buy at a coffee shop.
Nespresso blazed a trail for this new form of coffee delivery with its colourful and compact pods. Simply pop it in the machine and press a button and freshly brewed coffee appears. Other brands have also adopted this coffee making process and you’ll now find a number of household name brands offering some form of pod coffee machine. But is this a good thing? Does coffee from a capsule pod really taste good? What about the environmental impact? All of these points will be discussed in this article.
Speciality coffee pods. Well, Grind made a start
A good introduction to the world of coffee pods, specifically from a speciality coffee point of view can be found by watching one of James Hoffman, founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters and owners of one of the biggest channels on YouTube, for coffee related content. He’s done a few videos looking at Nespresso pods and answers a few questions regarding whether they’re any good.
The general consensus is that they’re great for convenience but the taste is confusing and often the notes described on the pod varieties don’t always ring true in the tasting process. But does that mean that all coffee pods are doomed to fail? Is it simply a product that will never be that good? Well, not necessarily as there is cause for some optimism in the realm of speciality coffee pods.
We wouldn’t ever go so far as classing Nespresso as ‘speciality coffee’, however, other players have since entered the ring that are taking pod technology in the speciality coffee direction. The first of these were Grind. Grind have a number of coffee shops in London and when they released their coffee pods it was a step in the right direction towards speciality coffee.
One of the biggest downfalls of coffee pods is their construction. Often made from plastic, it raises concerns surrounding sustainability and environmental impact as all of these pods have to go somewhere. Grind combatted this by making their pods home-compostable and plastic free, all of which is a big deal. It shows that this is possible and that has proved possible for other brands too. With Grind pushing the boundaries of environmental impact, it's a noteworthy start, but we'll kindly position Grind as being part along the process, not somewhere as the final result.
Speciality coffee pods. They're evolving thanks to the likes of OZONE
The pandemic saw a big rise in demand for coffee pods as many of us were looking for quick, convenient and cost effective ways to enjoy good coffee at home while all of our favourite cafes and coffee shops were closed. This uptick in demand is definitely being capitalised on with the global pod market expected to reach a value of $19 billion USD by 2025. That offers huge potential to roasters who, if they could expand their offering, could potentially become more profitable and diverse in their product offering, thus bringing speciality coffee to a wider audience.
One roaster that’s successfully managed this recently is OZONE coffee roasters, originally from New Zealand but also with London locations. OZONE is a coffee roaster we've much admiration for, in which GUSTATORY's team have tried both their espresso and filter options on many occasions; whilst we haven’t tried every variety, the one's that we have tried have been great! They’re a familiar name in the world of speciality coffee and have a good reputation for making good quality coffee, and so seeing them now moving into the production of coffee pods is something that has peaked our interest, if only from a curiosity standpoint.
OZONE have a few pods in their line up, from an organic blend to decaf option, and with their noteworthy inclusion of a single origin coffee capsule, suchlike is certainly something to raise optimism about the topic of coffee pods as single origins are always regarded as being more desirable than blends. OZONE's pods are also delivered in recyclable and plastic-free packaging and are cost effective for consumers, all of which is a bonus as it tackles many of the problems that have plagued the coffee pod offerings of the past.
With regards to quality and taste, OZONE have made a keen observation. They reference that, historically, pod coffees are typically lower grade with limited transparency available around sourcing and provenance, meaning it’s hard to really know what you’re drinking and where it’s come from. They also state that coffee pods are typically roasted darker than most consumers would enjoy, which goes a long way to explaining why there is still a gulf between a bag of speciality coffee beans and coffee pod offerings. We completely agree.
Speciality coffee pods, should we be optimistic?
Well, we think so. From our perspective, we don’t think coffee pods will ever be in direct competition with traditional wholebean roasters as the market and customer base is different, and we do very much think those who enjoy making espresso or a V60 at home will always favour those brew methods because the consumer is involved and it requires investment; those willing to make that investment are doing so for the results as much as the process and would likely not favour a pod-based system.
Thart said, capsule pods probably know their market positioning as a good gateway for those looking to get into speciality coffee without the outlay of cost and expertise needed to make a good espresso or filter coffee at home. To be able to enjoy speciality coffee with a click of a button could be tempting enough to get a person interested in great coffee and that’s certainly only good news for the industry. If we see more speciality coffee roasters mastering the tricky world of coffee pods then it could pay dividends as getting one extra person through the door of this hobby could mean a lifelong customer. A consumer may start with pods but overtime may look at expanding their repertoire and may invest in more coffee brewing methods, at which point, may well come back to that roaster for a bag of their favourite wholebeans.
It’s certainly not all doom and gloom in the world of coffee pods and, whilst there’s still a long way for the coffee type to ever become consistently speciality coffee grade and a speciality coffee staple, there are highly respected speciality coffee roasters paving the way for others to join the wave. Maybe then might the average coffee consumer that loves Nespresso understand that there is just so much better coffee out there to enjoy; shopping for speciality coffee on the GUSTATORY marketplace or by coffee subscription is a great place to start.
GUSTATORY (adjective): curating excellence in taste.