How I Finally Broke Up with the Coffee Pod Lifestyle

There is NOTHING more wasteful than the coffee pod, but I totally drank the Kool-Aid.
Publish date:
July 20, 2016
coffee, Coffee Culture

I'm not really sure how it happened, but about a decade ago, we were all really sucked into the biggest lie since creationism: coffee pods.

I won't even pretend otherwise: I FULLY bought into the lie. I was the first in line to buy those early-days version of Keurig. I later switched to Dolce Gusto, then it was back to the Keurig. I tried all the various cup/pod concoctions out there. At the time, it made so much sense to me. I am single, I live alone, so why was I being so wasteful? I didn't need to make a whole pot of coffee every morning. The pod lifestyle made such more sense, right? A single cup of hot coffee whenever I wanted! And if I had a guest, we could have different pods at the same time! Hell, even tea. Brave new world. Amazing, right?

Except not. I just totally drank the Kool-Aid. Turns out, there is NOTHING more wasteful than the coffee pod. There are enough discarded K-cups out there right now to circle the globe several times. Pod use is repeated multiple times a day, in countless households, all over the world. But we got a better coffee experience for it, right? More customizable, for sure. Right? Better beans? At least better value?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

We just got dependence. A world where our options were actually more limited. Where, depending on the type of pod machine we chose, we were limited to what would work for those machines. And while the machines themselves weren't that much more expensive than traditional drip pots, the pods were. Depending on the brand and variety, it's not unheard of to pay $1 or more per cup/pod. THIS IS FOR GLORIFIED INSTANT COFFEE, YOU GUYS.

You want to spend that much? Go to the corner deli. They'll make the coffee for you. And it probably (we hope?) won't be instant.

And the coffee will likely be better, because in most cases, the coffee in those pods are rarely all that great and don't have the best lifespan.

And so, after a decade of ups and downs — and trust me, there were some great times and some bad times; I really loved my pod machine for a while there, and I really was sad those half dozen times I had to replace it, because they generally start to break down in about 1.5 to 2 years — I decided to return to my old-world ways.

I now own a grinder. And a drip pot (with a Costco-sized box of filters), and good beans, and even my own milk frother. And get this: I bought quality beans for around $10 for a pound. Divide that over a month of 30 days, and I'm spending about 33 cents a day for fresh coffee from freshly roasted beans – A THIRD OF WHAT I WAS SPENDING TO DRINK INSTANT COFFEE.

Even if I were to mail-order Kona beans from Hawaii (the best, I think) I'd still come out ahead in this equation. Chances are you're spending upwards of $50 a month on pods. The most premium pounds of coffee do not cost that much.

But even more than saving money (which is a big one), I was taken aback simply by the pleasure of quality. I don't mind spending more if something actually tastes better. With pods, I was not getting that. I was spending more for something I was actually enjoying less. Now that I've switched back to grinding my own beans and making my own coffee, the quality has surged.

When we use pod machines, we can't control water temperature or coffee-to-water ratio. When we make our own coffee, we can control everything. That means our chance of coffee that is too strong, too bitter, too weak, or too watery will lessen. You need to grind your coffee just before you drink it. Pre-ground coffee is not the same, freeze-dried is not the same, and mass-produced pods or cups are not going to cut it either.

And, is it just me, or are the pod-to-cup proportions just ALL WRONG??? I seldom would get a full cup of coffee out of my machine, and if I would add more water to get more coffee, it would just get watery and weak. My own homemade coffee from a real coffee pot is richer and bolder, and I'm just a happier human now.

Maybe you don't care about flavor or intensity. Maybe you just want simple, thought-free choice for when you have guests. Maybe you don't even like coffee, and it's easy for you to keep a few pods on hand to pop in if someone else wants one. For you, pods may still be the way to go. True too for a waiting room or an office kitchen. There, they absolutely have their place. But for the rest of us: Remember the old days of having a date over and chatting in the kitchen as you waited for a pot of coffee to brew, taking in that scintillating scent as it percolated? It's real, you guys. It's back, and all my caffeinated dreams have come true.