How to use regular coffee beans and improve your coffee pod experience.
In recent years, the nostalgic comfort that many recall and love is likely the Mr. Coffee drip maker. Future generations may soon be able to find that same sentiment with Keurig and Nespresso machines. Although many rely on these machines for their daily brews, they present a lot of common challenges. For example, the water may be too cold while brewing, or the coffee can tend to be very weak. They can also be a huge environmental concern, as the material of the pods are not very eco-friendly. Many also believe that they can't use coffee that doesn’t come in a pod.
Fear not, for we're here to tell you that 1) You can still drink great coffee responsibly with your Nespresso/Keurig and 2) There are several tips and tricks to getting the most out of your machine. Here's how to do it.
Use real coffee beans with your machines.
Did you know that you can use actual coffee beans with your Keurig or Nespresso? It is not something these companies advertise regularly since they want you to buy their branded pods or those from a partner. However, the coffee that goes into these pods is the same as any other coffee grounds you would use in an espresso or drip coffee machine. Therefore, you can use any coffee brand for your Keurig or Nespresso, even ours! So how do you start doing this?
Buy reusable pods, and save the planet while doing it.
While many pods claim to be completely compostable or recyclable, there is still a waste factor involved. Some of these compostable materials take years to decompose, and not every city has the same capabilities to compost the same materials. Many cities don't even have composting programs integrated into their waste removal systems, and these pods will go straight to a landfill. And, although Nespresso has over 100,000 recycling points, it is likely that many will toss their pods into the trash bin. The convenience of single-cup pods are simply unbeatable. How does that match the inconvenience of collecting them to dispose at an approved site nearby?
Save money with reusable pods.
One development that has entered the market lately are reusable pods. Several companies make pods in which you can refill them with your own coffee. The material itself can either be steel or BPA-free plastic, and many are dishwasher safe too. They're also a lot more cost efficient than buying sets of coffee pods. With Nespresso and Keurig pods, you're typically going to purchase these in packs that vary from $25-50, whereas a 12-ounce bag of coffee costs $20. While you may get more cups of coffee out of these packs, you'll have to buy them more often than a bag of coffee. You only have to buy your reusable pods once, which come in packs of 3-5. This way, your convenience is saved because you don't have to wash your pods every day. We'll do some basic math for you below.
Here's the break down per cup for Nespresso:
- Nespresso pack of 50 pods - $35 - 70 cents per cup
- vs. 12-oz bag of coffee (350g) - $20, with 5 g per pod - 40 cents / cup
Here's the break down per cup for Keurig:
- Keurig Starbucks variety pack of 40 pods - $33.10 - 83 cents / cup
- vs. 12-oz bag of coffee (350 g) - $20, with 12 g per pod - 68 cents / cup
Bottom line is that you will save money by using reusable pods!
Customize your coffee with reusable pods.
Since the lid of a reusable pod can come on and off, this is how you personalize your coffee experience. With reusable pods, you have a lot more freedom to 1) personalize your amount of coffee and strength and 2) you can choose coffee from whichever roaster you love for your pod machine.
Here are three different types of reusable coffee pods to consider:
Sealpods for Nespresso (be sure to check for your specific model). Although the lids of sealpods are not single-use (they are recyclable stickers) they are made of aluminum, and the packaging materials are recyclable. The cups are made of stainless steel, and you can use them as many time as you like. Although you do have to purchase replacement lids occasionally, these come in much larger sets than pods. The packs cost less than $10 for 100 lids.
Alchemy Bar Goods Refillable Caps for Nespresso. These caps come with a reusable lid and washing brushes. The lid is made of a mesh material, similar to some drip machines with a mesh cone.
FROZ Reusable Cups for Keurig. Since Keurig makes brewed coffee and not espresso, there is more flexibility for lid options. This brand, like many reusable pods, are also dishwasher-safe.
The most important thing to remember when brewing coffee with these pods is to grind your coffee appropriately. If you're brewing with Nespresso, be sure to use a fine grind (or ask your barista to grind finely for you) to make an espresso shot. Also, tamp your coffee into the pod. This means you should pack down your coffee lightly into the pod. You can either do this with the back of your scoop or the tampers that some reusable pods come with. This way, you can be sure your coffee is strong enough. With loosely packed coffee, the water will leak through the pod much faster and not absorb the grounds. Check your specific model’s instruction, as this may vary.
How to get the most out of your Keurig or Nespresso Machine
As we mentioned earlier, there are several ways to maximize your pod drinking experience. Whether it be the hottest and freshest cup or the strongest, we've found several easy ways you can make sure your coffee is always tasting the best.
Use filtered water
Tap water tastes differently everywhere, and sometimes it doesn't make for the cleanest tasting cup of coffee. Using filtered water makes sure that your water is clean and filled with good minerals. You also get the benefit of specific minerals in your water, which enhance the flavor of your coffee. One brand we love for filtered water is called Third Wave Water. It contains specific minerals that researchers have discovered taste the best with coffee.
Descale your machine
Like we said, tap water isn't clean. It also causes buildup in your machine with hard water minerals that will eventually clog it. Descaling will remove this buildup from your machine. Keurig and Nespresso both make a cleaning solution for purchase, but you could also use distilled white vinegar. You can find out how to do descale your Keurig here, and your Nespresso here. For added cleanliness, you can also replace the water filter cartridge from your Keurig every couple months.
Keep your machine clean
Similar to our last note, the water and the areas for coffee in your pod machine should always be clean. Have you ever left your cap inside your machine for too long? That smell will start to stick to the walls of your machine, and will affect the flavor of new cups. Dispose your pods as soon as your coffee is done brewing, and always use fresh clean water every day. You wouldn't drink a cup of water that has been sitting for a few days, right?
Run One Water Cycle Through Your Machine Before Brewing
A common complaint of pod machines is that the coffee is never hot enough. By running hot water through your machine, this will heat up the cold metal of the machine before brewing. You can also heat up your mug by leaving the hot water in there for a bit. As an added bonus, doing this also rinses any left over coffee grounds from your machine.
Always use the boldest coffee choice (don't use lungo)
Lungo on a Nespresso machine does not increase the volume of coffee used. It only adds more water, resulting in an even weaker tasting cup of coffee. By using "Bold" and "Espresso" brewing options on your pod machines, you can make sure that all of the coffee in each pod gets used.
Don't make tea with Keurig, and use the hot water from the machine instead.
Tea needs time to steep, usually longer than the brewing time on a pod machine. This results in weak tasting tea when you use tea pods. Instead, try buying tea bags (which are usually cheaper) and use the hot water cycle from your machine instead to brew.
Although the Nespresso and Keurig coffee pod machines may present some initially limiting factors, there are a ton of out-of-the-box ways to personalize your pod experience and make it your own.