Are fresh coffee beans better than coffee capsules? Can coffee capsules make good quality coffee?
This post has been prepared in collaboration with NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto, but the content and opinions are my own.
For many years, my husband and I were big fans of brewing our coffee in an Italian-made stove-top pot (a La Signora Caffettiera, to be exact), and when time was aplenty, we also ground our coffee beans freshly each morning.
Fast forward to the arrival of our children and it is a miracle if we can wait 20 minutes for the pot to start hissing steam, let alone drink our coffee while it is still hot.
Which Type of Coffee Machine to Buy
For a long time, limited counter space in our tiny kitchen ruled out any possibility of owning a coffee machine; we eat rice almost everyday, yet we don’t own a rice cooker for the same reason.
But when we were given a NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Eclipse Automatic Machine to try at home (which I have reviewed in an earlier post), it didn’t take much to win me over.
Even though I spent many of my student years working as a barista in the evenings, I am not a coffee connoisseur by any means; I just know what I like and what I don’t like.
Almost all of our friends have a capsule machine of some sort in their home, so I already knew that I could enjoy a good cup of coffee from a pod or capsule.
But when it comes to choosing an electric coffee machine for your home, the choices can be confusing.
Types of Electric Coffee Machines
When it comes to electric coffee machines, consumers have the following common choices:
- Manual espresso machines which require the user to measure, grind and extract their own coffee, similar to those found in most coffee shops.
- Bean-to-cup machines which have an in-built grinder to deliver freshly ground coffee at the press of a button. This model is easy to use and is commonly found in offices and workspaces;
- Drip or filter coffee machines which extracts coffee through a paper filter. This model has been around for decades and is best, I think, for those who like long black coffee;
- Capsule machines which make espresso from pods sealed with coffee.
The first three options rely on the use of freshly ground coffee beans, but differ in their method of preparing the coffee.
The last option, however, uses pre-ground coffee sealed in a capsule, known as coffee pods or coffee capsules.
And therein lies the debate: “is fresh always best” and can coffee capsules make good coffee?
Can Coffee Capsules Make Good Coffee?
Whilst my favourite cup of coffee is likely to be one from a specialty coffee shop using locally roasted beans, I am happy to confess that my once snobbishness about coffee capsules has been replaced by much admiration for the ingenuity behind this technology.
At a recent coffee degustation held by NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto, I got to meet their in-house barista, Ola Persson, who dispelled many myths about the quality and stigma of coffee capsules.
Coffee is at its freshest right after the beans have been roasted. The advantage of coffee stored in capsules is that they are typically sealed immediately after roasting, thereby locking in the freshness by preventing any contact with moisture or oxygen, the presence of which can make coffee go dull and stale.
So short of grinding some coffee beans which have been freshly roasted locally, coffee capsules are sure to guarantee you fresh coffee everytime.
That is not to say that coffee capsules are superior, but it should be an assurance that coffee capsules do not necessarily equate to bad coffee. That bag of coffee beans lurking in your kitchen cupboard which was ground last month, or even last week, may not deliver a fresh and aromatic coffee like some coffee capsules can.
Advantages of Using a Coffee Capsule Machine
The advantages of using a capsule machine include:
- Coffee is prepared in mere seconds;
- There is minimal cleaning;
- They are very easy to use;
- Most models take up very little bench space;
- There is an endless variety of coffee capsules to choose from (strong, mild, decaf, flavoured, etc).
We find that our capsule machine has been handy when entertaining friends, especially since there is always someone who wants de-caf or who likes their coffee extra strong. Being able to prepare different types of coffee from one machine has its clear advantages.
Disadvantages of Using Coffee Pods
The obvious disadvantages of using capsules are the capsules themselves and their environmental impact, as well as the cost of each capsule.
If you have a household which drinks a lot of coffee everyday, I would probably shy away from capsules for these two reasons.
The Final Verdict
I think it is hard to beat a cup of coffee which has been expertly prepared from freshly ground coffee. But when time is short and you need a speedy route to your caffeine fix, a capsule machine can certainly deliver quality coffee with minimal effort.
Using a capsule machine is not necessarily a compromise on quality, especially if you invest in good quality coffee capsules.
As many before me have said, capsule machines have been an ingenious way of introducing superior-quality coffee into the homes of many, replacing instant coffee as the mainstream domestic choice.
Not everyone can be proficient in using a manual espresso or bean-to-cup machine, and nor can everyone afford one, but using capsules is almost as easy as dissolving instant coffee powder.
While there is a time and place for stove-top brewing or fancy espresso machines, I’m glad that we have embraced the capsule machine in our home. And I rather relish the fact that our 4 year old can now make me my coffee in the morning!
What Coffee Machines We Use at Home
We started out using the Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse which was given to us to review (which you can read here). I was very sceptical at first about whether I would enjoy drinking coffee from a coffee capsule, but it didn’t take very long for me to be impressed with the quality of coffee that it could produce. Plus, being able to make great coffee within just a few minutes was rather life-changing.
Very quickly, we fell into the pattern of making our morning coffee on weekdays with the capsule machine but, on weekends when we had a bit more time, we would freshly grind coffee beans to make filter coffee with our Moccamaster or stovetop pots.
After about 6 months of using the Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse, we switched to a Nespresso Creatista, a capsule machine which also has a built-in steam wand for frothing milk. I have nothing against the Nescafé Dolce Gusto, but we wanted a solution for making coffee AND frothing milk, particularly since we serve the children warm milk every morning at breakfast and our beloved Nespresso Aeroccino Milk Frother had died and needed to be replaced (it was also a bit annoying to clean).
We love making our filter coffee with the Grossmütter’s Käfeli roasted beans from a local Swiss roastery called Caffé Ferrari, and we find their coffee capsules (which are compatible with Nespresso machines) to also be of excellent quality.
So if you are someone who is on the fence about trying coffee capsules, I suggest that you at least give it a try because you might be surprised about the quality of coffee capsules!
I recently tried making Vietnamese coffee using espresso coffee capsules and the results were absolutely delicious! Click here to see my recipe.
This post was first published on 22 August 2017. It has been updated with new photos and more information.
I have had the coffee pods when visiting friends and family before and while I think they produce a good cup of coffee, I have to admit that for as much coffee as I drink, it makes more sense to brew a whole pot. When we were in France, all they had was a Nespresso machine. Between the two of us, we were using 6-8 pods every morning. I think we spent $50 in coffee that week.
Oh indeed! I agree that if you drink a lot of coffee, it might not make sense to use pods or capsules. We don’t drink a lot of coffee, but we feared that, if we had a capsule machine, it would make us drink more because it would be so quick and easy! Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case. I use the capsule machine about once day in the morning (but not every morning), and mostly when we have guests. On the weekends, we still like to brew a big pot. P.S. With the Nespresso machine, you can only make 2 sizes of coffee, both being quite small. But with the Nescafé Dolce Gusto machine, you can buy capsules which make pretty large cups of coffee (about 300 ml) 🙂
An interesting post, for sure. I love my big old school coffee maker. I know it’s old fashioned, but I love it. I do wish there was the same variety as the pods have.
We regularly use our filter/drip coffee machine too. Old habits die hard 😉
My office uses these Nescafe capsules….I was skeptical at first… now Im a convert! LOVE THEM!
I was also skeptical in the beginning, especially about making milky coffee from a capsule. But I was converted after the first try! I think these capsules are great for small offices because they are easy to use and people can make different types of coffee to suit their tastes.
What a fantastic invention that changed the game! The variety of flavors that one can have at home is limitless!
Indeed! I feel like I run a coffee shop with all of these different capsules 😉
I’m not a coffee drinker, so this is perfect for my husband who likes just a cup at a time!
I think it’s perfect if you just want to make one cup at a time as it doesn’t make sense to brew a pot for just one person. And there’s minimal cleaning up!
I’ve never considered that coffee has so many options so thanks for the information! Also, those hello kitty lattes are so cute.
My husband enjoys plain black coffee, but I love to drink different types of milky coffee. So these capsules are quite enjoyable for me 🙂
Before this, I was struggling whether what machine to choose (manual coffee machine vs capsule machine). My main concern is the learning curve of preparing good coffee using manual machine and the quality of coffee prepared. I did share the same concern as you mentioned in your article. A family with 2 kids to take care, it is always challenge to get time off to enjoy a nice prepared coffee. So i finally decided on DolceGusto machine, for a quick fix to get a caffeine drink in early morning before sending my kids to school. As you suggest in the weekend, if time allowed, i preferred prepare fresh ground coffee (eg. using Myammar highland coffee bean) and uses metal recycle capsule to prepare my weekend coffee. Thanks for sharing & looking forward for more sharing.
I hope you are enjoying your Dolce Gusto machine! I really enjoyed using it, and I particularly loved the capsules for the milky coffees. We still regularly use a capsule machine during the week, and then we make drip coffee using freshly ground beans on weekends. It’s the perfect mix!
For several years I had been using a capsule machine, until I learnt about the non-recycling problem. I have now converted my machine to use instant coffee. I still get the froth for flat whites and cappuccinos. It’s also much cheaper.
I can’t tell the difference in taste.
Do you use a reusable pod in your machine and fill it with instant coffee? I was gifted one of these reusable pods for my Nespresso machine at Christmas and it works great with my usual freshly ground coffee.
Caffitaly ?? we’ve use E machines for five years now plus. Most of our capsules are purchased out of Canada and are awesome specially the strong variety and the decaf Intenso. Currently were using the new S07 And love it after five years with the S05. I would urge you to review the Caffitaly system and their offerings.
There are many different makes of home coffee machines that use capsules, or pods as they’re also commonly known. One of the best-known household name amongst these is Nespresso.