Using Coffee Pods VS Grounds: A Complete Coffee Comparison

Not sure whether coffee grounds or coffee pods are better? This guide covers everything you need to know to decide which kind of coffee is right for you!

Nothing quite compares with that first cup of coffee in the morning. After all, it's the best part of waking up, right? It makes you wonder, what is the best (and easiest) way to brew coffee in the morning? Are K-Cups/coffee pods the best option or should you stick with good ol’ fashioned coffee grounds? As it happens, that's exactly what we are here to investigate in the coffee grounds vs pods guide.

Coffee Pods Vs Grounds: Which is Better?

“When it comes down to it, coffee pods and coffee grounds are both great ways to enjoy a cup of Joe in the morning. Single-serve coffee pods (and K-cups) are convenient for those who want a single serving of coffee at a time, whereas brewing coffee grounds in a French Press or standard drip grind coffee machine is a better method for those who prefer having the ability to grind their beans fresh or make more coffee at once.”

Below, we will discuss the difference between K-Cups and coffee pods versus bags of coffee grounds. That way, you can decide whether you should be brewing your coffee using a standard drip grind coffee maker or investing in a Keurig or single-serve K-cup coffee machine. Let's get into it! 

The Basics: What are Coffee Grounds and Coffee Pods?

Okay so first, let's go over some basic coffee information. As you likely know, coffee grounds are made by roasting coffee beans and then grinding them into a finer consistency to brew with water. Coffee grounds can come in various sizes, ranging from a fine powder (as in espresso) to larger, coarser grinds, like those used in a French Press or for making cold brew coffee.

Coffee grounds produce coffee through extraction. AKA, when water passes over coffee grounds, brewing occurs, and coffee is made. Usually, coffee is produced using hot water. The heat expedites extraction. Adding heat and pressure, like with an espresso machine, causes even faster extraction and makes stronger coffee. However, coffee grounds can also be steeped slowly, without heat or pressure, as with cold brew coffee. 

Coffee grounds are most often used with drip grind coffee machines, otherwise known as standard coffee makers. You put a specified amount of coffee grounds into the coffee filter that's in your coffee machine.

Once you turn the machine on, hot water passes over the coffee grounds, through the coffee filter, and into your coffee pot, extracting the flavors and oils from the grounds to brew fresh, hot coffee. The strength of the coffee you brew will depend on how many scoops of grounds you add to your coffee filter.

So, coffee grounds are ground coffee beans that can be brewed to produce coffee. 

What Are Coffee Pods?

Coffee pods (also known as K-cups or single-serve pods) are simply cartridges that contain coffee grounds and a filtering screen. The grounds are sealed inside small (primarily disposable plastic) containers made for brewing one single serving of coffee at a time. These pods can also contain tea, or more recently, cappuccino and hot cocoa. There are many different styles, sizes, and flavors of coffee pods. 

Usually, these pods have a filter or screen inside so that when hot water passes through the pod into the grounds, the grounds don’t get into your cup. They’re also usually sealed with foil (sometimes plastic) lids that are punctured when you shut the lid of the single-serve brewing machine so that water can pass through. 

Keurig coffee machines use Keurig coffee pods. Alternatively, various “off-brand” K-cup/single-serve "pod-style" coffee makers are available to choose from. Many of which can use a range of pods, as long as they fit in the brewing apparatus.

All in all, coffee pods are sealed cartridges that hold pre-measured portions of coffee grounds, meant to make one cup of coffee at a time. 

Coffee Grounds VS Pods: Which is Better?

Coffee pods are convenient and disposable, used for making a single cup of coffee at a time. This makes getting a cup of Joe very convenient. On the other hand, brewing traditional pots of coffee or using a French press or espresso machine can also be great, especially if you prefer to grind your coffee beans fresh. It all comes down to whether you want to enjoy just one cup of coffee at a time, make enough coffee for multiple servings, or grind your beans.

Deciding The Best Way to Enjoy Your Daily Grind

When it comes down to it, coffee grounds and coffee pods can both be fantastic ways to brew your Java. Good ol’ fashioned drip grind coffee machines are great because they make a large pot of coffee that everyone can enjoy or that you can pour from throughout a busy workday. Plus, you can find some amazing freshly roasted gourmet grounds from some coffee retailers.

Coffee pods are convenient because they only make one serving of coffee at a time. When you're done making a single serving of coffee, you remove the used pod and toss it in the trash. This saves time and makes cleanup a breeze. If you are the only one in your household who drinks coffee, or if you want a fresh cup here and there without having to brew a whole pot, coffee pods can be great!

What takes longer, making a pot of coffee or using a single-serve brewer?

Usually, it takes about 10 minutes to brew a full pot of coffee in a standard drip-grind coffee maker. Coffee pods can be made in just a few seconds, albeit, you may have to wait a minute or two for your Keurig or single-serve coffee pod machine to heat up. 

Which is stronger, coffee pods or grounds in a coffee machine? 

It depends. You can adjust the strength of your drip grind coffee by adding more coffee grounds to your coffee filter. However, there are different coffee pod strengths as well, and you can always brew a smaller but stronger cup of coffee if your single-serve brewer offers those settings. 

Are coffee grounds fresher than coffee pods? 

This will depend on how old your coffee pods or grounds are. Fresh-roasted coffee pods are available, if you know where to look. This coffee retailer, for instance, roasts and grounds all of the coffee in their single-serve pods freshly on the same day they ship them to you. 

However, with coffee grounds, you can enjoy custom satisfaction by grinding your own freshly roasted coffee beans. Also, it’s easier to smell your coffee and see how fresh it is when you have a bag of grounds that’s simple to open and close. 

FAQs on Coffee Pods and Grounds 

Now that we've talked about coffee grounds and coffee pods in-depth, let's go over some frequently asked questions on the subject. 

Do coffee pods have sugar in them?

Some of them do! Especially the ones that make cappuccino drinks or hot cocoas. These pods can have a mix of ingredients that when combined with water, create a sweetened hot drink. However, most coffee pods just contain coffee grounds, and sometimes flavorings. 

How do coffee pods work? 

When hot water passes through a coffee pod, the grounds get saturated and are filtered out via a filtering mechanism in the bottom of the pod cartridge. Through pressurized hot water, extraction takes place, and a serving of coffee is made in your cup. The strength of the coffee you brew can also often be adjusted via the water-filling settings on a single-serve coffee machine. 

Do coffee pods actually expire? 

Yes, they do! However, expired coffee pods are unlikely to make you sick. Since the coffee grounds in these pods are a shelf-stable dry good, as long as they are not exposed to moisture or exterior contaminants, the worst thing that will happen if you brew an old coffee pod is that you will get a stale-tasting cup of coffee. 

How to tell if coffee pods are bad? 

First, check the expiration date. If you can't find one of those, then look at the foil top of the coffee pod. If your coffee pods begin to “puff up”, AKA the lids have started to rise, your pods could be getting old. This is because coffee pods contain coffee grounds. As these coffee grounds age, gasses are released, causing pressurization. 

How are coffee pods made?

Coffee pods are made by adding roasted and ground coffee to a cartridge mechanism and then sealing it. Different manufacturers produce coffee pods using different methods. The best coffee pods will be made using fresh-roasted and ground coffee. 

Can coffee grounds go bad? 

Coffee grounds can get stale if they have been sitting out for a long time and exposed to air. They can also go bad if they're exposed to moisture or contaminants. To learn more about whether coffee goes bad, check out this article

How many scoops of coffee grounds per cup?

How many scoops of coffee grounds per cup in a coffee maker is an age-old question with many different answers. The standard recommendation is to add about one heaping scoop of coffee grounds (a little more than a tablespoon) per cup, based on how many cups a coffee pot holds. Since most coffee makers produce 12 cups of coffee per pot, that comes out to 8 to 12 scoops of grounds in the coffee filter, per coffee pot batch you make. 

For an extra strong pot of coffee that will give you more robust results per cup of coffee, use about 20 scoops, or a little over 1 and ¼ cups of coffee grounds in the filter port. For weaker coffee, stick with eight scoops, or about ¾ of a tablespoon per cup that the pot holds.  

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