If you’ve never seen an easy serve espresso (ESE) coffee pod you might imagine it to look a bit like a small plastic cup (the word pod conjures up that image). However, an ESE coffee pod actually resembles a teabag, but instead of tea, you will find coffee inside.
The pods tend to come in a standard size (44mm) and can be used in a manual espresso machine (with a filter basket). Therefore, you won’t need to go and buy a new fancy-nancy machine just to enjoy a cup of your favourite rocket fuel. Each pod comes ready-to-brew and contains a serving of coffee (which typically equates to 6.8-7.5 g of coffee).
This might not be strong enough for some (I prefer my espresso robust, after all, it’s my wake-up call)! But that’s easily remedied, you can just use two pods rather than one. Hey presto! You get a stronger, more flavoursome brew.
I appreciate coffee devotees might screw their noses up at the thought of using a pod over freshly ground beans, but if you’re short of time (as many of us are), pods are so much more convenient. There’s no mess to clean up after, you simply pop a pod into your machine, put your cup underneath and press start. A few seconds later you will have a quality cup of coffee to get your lips around.
As well as being quick and easy to use, pods get a tick in the box for keeping coffee fresh. The sealed bag keeps the coffee is preserved and has that all-important freshness locked in. There are plenty of blends to choose from too, we all have a favourite blend, but why not live a little and try something new? Fortunately, pods are relatively affordable so you can enjoy a wide variety without paying the earth.
Our Top 7 ESE Pods
There are plenty of ESE coffee pod producers out there, here are a few of the best brands on the market to give you an idea of what’s available. We tested each and have compiled them in to a handy top 7 list of ESE Coffee Pods:
PureGusto ESE Coffee Pods
I like the fact that there’s a range of flavours to choose from, including continental coffee pods, signature coffee pods, arabica coffee pods, and blue mountain coffee pods. There are 25 of each in total, so I get to swap and change to suit my mood. Personally, I’m a fan of arabica, but they do say variety is the spice of life!
Extra plaudits to PureGusto pods for being award winners too. The pack includes 2014, 2015 & 2017 & 2018 Great Taste Award Winning ESE Coffee Pods – no surprise really as the coffee is packed with flavour. PureGusto appears to be committed to locking in taste and freshness.
The company sources quality coffee beans from farmers all over the world. The beans are then transported to the UK where they are air roasted (rather than drum roasted) in a cutting-edge convection coffee roaster.
From here, the beans are packed within one hour, and each pod is individually wrapped in a foil package and flushed. Flushing involves using nitrogen to remove oxygen, and this helps preserve the flavour. Freshness, award-winning flavour, and value for money? These pods get a thumbs up from me and are worth every penny.back to menu ↑
Illy Classico Medium Espresso Coffee Paper Pods
Coffee connoisseurs step this way, next up we have Illy Classico Medium Espresso Coffee Paper Pods. The Italian brand of choice by many a discerning drinker, the Illy pods are suitable for vegetarians and offer a distinctive flavour.
I take time to drink my coffee, savouring the aroma, which with Illy Classico is a heady mixture of caramel and chocolate, with a flowery scent thrown in for good measure. The taste is good too! Strong but not too overpowering, rich and smooth, and the single-serve pods are enveloped in filter paper to lock in flavour.
I find the pods user-friendly too, I just pop the pre-measured, carefully ground, and tamped pod into my espresso machine, and in under a minute I have a tasty coffee. The balanced flavour would lend itself to a morning, noon, or evening cup – so although the pods are on the pricy side, I feel they are worth it.back to menu ↑
Barista Italiano 100 ESE Coffee Paper Pods
Described as having a unique and intense taste, I sampled the Barista Italiano 100 ESE Coffee Paper Pods with enthusiasm. I have to say, I love caffeine, so the fact that these are decaffeinated isn’t really a plus point for me, but for some, it will be. There are caffeine versions of these pods available too (which we have linked to below) so just be sure to check which type you are buying if you do decide to go with the Barista Italiano pods.
I noted that the pods are also gluten-free, again this is not something I need to worry about, but it’s a quality I’m sure some will welcome. I do, however, appreciate that these pods are fair trade, and after careful sipping, I decide I like the satisfyingly sweet taste too! The coffee has warmth and depth, and lingers just long enough to pull me back for another cup.
It’s unsurprising to learn that the medium roast pods managed to bag the 2017 London Bellavita Award. Barista professes to source only the most precious coffee beans and say they employ tradition, wisdom, and artisan flair to produce flavour-packed pods. Each pod contains 7 grams of roasted and ground espresso and in terms of value and taste, the Barista Italiano pods seem to be a good deal.back to menu ↑
Black Donkey Coffee Roasters
The Black Donkey Coffee Roasters strike me as good value for money. The variety pack contains a selection of two premium coffee blends – you get 25 Supremo pods and 25 Intenso pods. Each pod contains 7 grams of roasted espresso, and both the Supremo and Intenso pods pack an invigorating punch. As a java fan, I was suitably excited to try Black Donkey.
The Intenso blend is quite full-on, the robusta beans providing a well-rounded taste that warms you from the inside out. I can see this being my go-to drink for those slow-going afternoons when I have a truck-load of work to do and no motivation to do it! The Supremo blend has a spicy and mighty taste too, but this time I get a hint of toast (I am a fan of toast, so I lap this up), along with a dash of cocoa.
So that’s a tick in the box for taste, but the Black Donkey pods also need to be recognised for being gluten-free and sugar-free, two attributes that will make the pods an attractive prospect for many.
What else can I tell you? Well, the beans are sourced from premium coffee farming areas such as Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia, India, and Colombia, and once gathered they are only roasted in very small batches. This helps to ensure each bean receives the TLC it deserves. This level of attention seems to pay off and so I’m very happy with my cuppa.back to menu ↑
Lavazza (ESE Pods) Gran Espresso
I am a fan of leisurely sipping coffee from the comfort of a coffee-shop armchair, but Lavazza (ESE Pods) Gran Espresso pods promise easy Italian espresso at home, so maybe I can save myself a trip out!
So, does this espresso blend manage to deliver classic Italian flavour? I like the depth of the coffee; it has plenty of body and the smooth crema adds to its charm. I also savour the spiciness, and there’s definitely more than a hint of chocolate there (I should know – I am verging on being a raging chocoholic myself).
The medium roast makes the most of natural arabica beans, sourced from the South Minus and Cerrado Mogiana regions of Brazil. The blend also incorporates arabica from Honduras and robusta beans from Uganda (the source of that spicy tang no doubt).
Whilst I wouldn’t forego every trip to my local coffee shop in favour of drinking a Lavazza Gran Espresso, I would be happy to supplement my visits with a few cups of the blend!back to menu ↑
Costa NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Compatible Espresso Coffee Pods
Owned by Nestlé, and the biggest direct buyer of coffee in the world, it’s fair to assume Nescafe knows a thing or two about producing the dark stuff that gets us through the day. To add to the mix, these pods are brought to us by Costa Coffee, a brand that coffee lovers are familiar with.
I place a cup under the machine and wait, I have high hopes for the Costa NESCAFE ® Dolce Gusto ® Compatible Espresso Coffee Pods. Each capsule is carefully crafted, using a signature Mocha Italia blend, promising a smooth and enchanting flavour.
I take a sip, and am relieved to find the coffee is velvety smooth. There’s a nutty vibe too and this combines with a pleasant sweetness to produce a satisfyingly good beverage. I like the fact that this one offers a quick pick-me-up (and just in case you’re interested, the pods are suitable for vegetarians too).
I am also pleased to report that the Dolce Gusto pods are certified by the Rainforest Alliance. This provides me with peace of mind as I sip, the certification confirms that the coffee is farmed sustainably and helps to maintain the livelihoods of farmers. I like a good coffee, and I favour a brand with a conscience, giving back to the world (and to others) is more important than ever in this day and age.back to menu ↑
CRU Kafe Organic Discovery Pack Coffee Capsules
If you prefer to buy from a small, but perfectly formed UK-based independent business, then CRU Kafe Organic Discovery Pack Coffee Capsules could be right up your street. The start-up business, based in the centre of London, is on a mission to make coffee that’s not only tasty but also ethical.
Organic and ethically sourced, the pods are billed as an alternative to Nespresso pods, and they certainly more than match up in terms of taste. The pack contains a range of blends, including Colombian, espresso, and Indian, along with light and dark roasts too. I’m a fan of the Indian blend (single-origin) which mixes cedar wood with whiskey and dark chocolate, to produce a heady mix.
That said, the others are good too! The light roast comes from Peru and Ethiopia, and I like the caramel, black tea, and blood orange tang that wakes up my mouth! The dark roast originates from Peru and Sumatra, but this time you get walnut, dark chocolate, and more than a hint of toasty flavour. The Colombian is single origin, with a pleasing fruit and nut vibe (hazelnut meets apple and blackcurrant)
So, the taste hits the spot, let’s revisit the green credentials, as it’s such a big part of this brand. All beans are certified organic by the Soil Association and the company only works with fair trade farms and cooperatives that pay back into the community.
We should also mention that the capsules and packaging are fully recyclable, so you can simply make your coffee and then pop everything into your household recycling bin. If you’re looking for a delicious coffee with moral scruples, this one is for you.
How Do I Use ESE Coffee Pods?
You don’t need a pricy coffee machine to use ESE coffee pods, just an affordable espresso machine. Of course, you can buy fresh coffee beans and a grinder, and grind the beans yourself, but this is time-consuming and messy (plus you have the added hassle of cleaning out the grinder after you’ve used it). ESE pods make for an efficient (and clean) alternative! Just pop your pod into the filter and you’re off.
Do Coffee Pods Taste Good?
Freshly ground coffee does have a very distinctive flavour, and you won’t get quite the same level of freshness from pods (as the coffee has been pre-ground before being sealed in the pod). That said, producers have put a lot of work and effort into ensuring they source high-quality beans, and employ roasting methods that bring out maximum taste.
There are a variety of flavours available, from Indian to dark roast, Columbian to light roast. We’ve already mentioned that using two pods will give you a more robust flavour, and after you can add milk if you like to make yourself a latte or cappuccino if you fancy a different flavour.
Producers are keen to lock in flavour and freshness, that’s why the pods are wrapped quickly, carefully, and individually. This preserves the ground coffee inside and prevents it from going stale.
Coffee Bags Vs Coffee Pods Vs Instant
For speed and ease, many of us grab a jar of instant from the cupboard, unscrew the lid, hastily spoon in coffee and wait for the kettle to boil. Instant coffee is cheap and cheerful, but freeze-dried doesn’t always equal good quality. Maybe it’s time to break the habit of reaching for that jar and try something different?
Coffee bags aren’t new to the market, they’ve been around for a while, but they haven’t always been popular. Coffee bags work in the same way as tea bags – the bags are filled with coffee and sealed for freshness. You simply pop a bag into a cup, boil the kettle and then pour the boiling water over the bag. Leave it to brew (the longer you leave it the stronger the coffee), then remove the bag, add milk and sugar as required, put your feet up and drink!
You can’t brew ESE coffee pods in a cup with boiling water – but akin to instant and coffee bags, the ESE pods are are very easy to use. The coffee pods contain fresh ground coffee and are sealed for freshness. You use the pods in an espresso machine and in just a few seconds you can enjoy a quality cup of coffee.
Coffee Pods Vs Coffee Capsules
Coffee pods are different from coffee capsules, whilst you can use both in machines to brew a nice cup of coffee, there are a few fundamental differences. Coffee pods are made up of a double-sided circular pod and contain around 7 grams of coffee and a filter. Paper pods are environmentally friendly as they are recyclable.
Capsules are usually made up of plastic or aluminium, the cylinders are filled with coffee and sealed with a foil lid. Therefore, capsules have fewer green credentials than their friends, the coffee pods.
Coffee pods are more versatile too. You can use pods in a variety of coffee machines, but when it comes to capsules, not every brand will work in every machine.
How Do I Choose the Best Coffee Pods?
Decided to give coffee pods a go? We don’t blame you, easy to use, tasty, mess-free, affordable, and environmentally friendly – coffee pods have a lot going for them. With so many different types on offer, we suggest you choose pods that are:
- Produced using high-quality beans.
- Condensed using a speedy process – coffee should be roasted, ground, and then promptly put into the pod.
- Properly sealed so that the coffee can maintain its freshness
- Ethically sourced and boast green credentials.
Essentially, any of the ESE pods mentioned on this page should hit each of these points fairly comfortably so choose something that fits your usual flavour profile or be daring and try something new.
A good cup of coffee can boost your energy levels, lift your mood, and help you to combat health problems. You will probably find your go-to blend, but don’t be afraid to mix it up and try a new flavour. In the words of US presenter, musician, and activist, Henry Rollins ‘What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup.’