Dr.StrangeBrew Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Not Mind the Pod

Oh pods.

Pods. Pods. Pods.

How did speciality coffee come to this? Speak to anyone in London about the industry and it’s only a few minutes before the subject of “pods” somehow makes it into the conversation. It’s the literal invasion of the pod people.

For those unfamiliar, think Nespresso. The technical term for them is a “single-serve coffee container.” It’s somewhat confusing as the term “pod” now generally refers to “coffee capsules,” the aluminium or plastic package encompassing ground coffee. The Nespresso System was invented in 1976, quite some time ago, but it was to be another decade before it would actually start to sell.

But, speciality coffee is trying to strike back, spurred on by Nespresso’s patent expiring in 2012. I have heard of no less than six groups of people within the industry trying to develop their own line of pods. The two which have gone public, and of which I’ve had the opportunity to try, have been Pact Coffee’s new “Pact Pods” and the World Barista Champion Maxwell Colonna Smalls “Capsules”.

Mexwell speaks to specialty coffee pundits about pods at an event hosted by Assembly Coffee.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the pros and cons of pods. I’m sure there’s going to be no shortage of coverage from far better coffee pundits. Rather, I’m just going to tell you what I think about pods.

It might surprise you, but I don’t actually find them that bad.

It certainly tastes likes nothing you’ve had before. It doesn’t taste like filter. And it doesn’t taste like espresso. Proponents describe it as being a mix between both. What’s fascinating is that you do get tasting notes. You get acidity, sweetness, and flavour (mouthfeel is a bit lacking for me.)

I think about the Daniel from seven years ago, the one who knew little about speciality coffee, but everything about falling for marketing gimmicks from retail coffee brands. If he had the opportunity to not only buy Grade 1 coffee, but also have a fool proof way of making it at home, surely that’s a good thing? At least as a way to get him further into speciality coffee.

I don’t buy everything from the pod-enthusiasts. I think there’s a lot of rubbish. The idea that restaurants could embrace pods is a bit hard to swallow. They’re terrible for the environment. They’re also a bit of a rip-off and there’s a question about how ethical their mark-ups are on farmers.

 In the end, when speciality pods do emerge with a force I wouldn’t personally buy them, but I’m not going to sneer at those who do either.