Coffee pod machines emerged on the market to offer similar results to those obtained with an espresso machine but simplify the coffee preparation process. The aim is not to improve the quality of the beverage but to make the process easier so that consumers can enjoy espressos at home without compromising on taste.
It is important to note that both machines are completely different in design and operation. However, they share a common point in the final beverage, although there are notable differences in the quality of the espresso produced by a coffee pod machine compared to an espresso machine.
Areas where coffee pod machines outperform espresso machines
If you are considering purchasing a coffee pod machine instead of a traditional espresso machine, you should be aware that the quality of coffee each provides will never be better. Despite this, there are certain advantages in which a coffee pod machine can outperform an espresso machine.
1. Speed, convenience, and ease of use
Espresso machines require detailed steps to get a cup of coffee. We need to preheat the machine, rinse the machine’s shower, weigh the beans, grind them, place them in the portafilter, compact them, and extract the coffee (using a scale). This process takes 5 to 10 minutes.
In coffee pod machines, we only need a few seconds to preheat (I recommend doing an extraction without a pod to preheat the extraction unit as well), insert the coffee pod you like, and press a button. In less than a minute, you have a freshly extracted espresso.
2. Ability to alternate flavors daily
When you buy a packet of coffee with espresso machines, you have to finish it as soon as possible; otherwise, the beans lose their aroma and flavor qualities. For this reason, it is not easy to alternate flavors with espresso machines without ruining the coffee.
With coffee pod machines, this is possible, as the coffee comes in pods. This means that the amount needed to prepare an espresso is individually encapsulated and can last fresh for a long time. In this way, we can alternate flavors every day without the risk of the coffee losing freshness.
3. Coffee preservation
One of the biggest problems of using espresso machines is the preservation of fresh coffee beans, as the ideal consumption window is very small. For espresso coffee, consuming the beans from the second week after roasting and before 1 month has passed for lighter roasts is necessary.
In other words, we have about two weeks to enjoy an espresso of the highest possible quality. Whereas with coffee pods, as they are vacuum-packed, we can wait up to 6 months or a year without the coffee inside losing its freshness.
4. Compact size and design
The designs of the coffee pod machines are modern and stylish, with the idea of blending in perfectly with other appliances in any kitchen. They are available in different colors and models to blend in anywhere they are placed.
5. Easy to clean and maintain
A coffee pod machine only needs a small superficial cleaning after each use and a deep cleaning every 3 or 4 months, which consists of an automatic descaling. These coffee machines are designed to require minimum maintenance.
6. Cost of the coffee machine
A coffee pod machine costs about 4 to 5 times less than an espresso machine. Because they are made of cheaper materials and are mass-produced, production costs are lower, resulting in a lower price for the user.
Differences in the extraction process
As previously mentioned, pod and espresso machines produce the same type of coffee. However, how this coffee is extracted varies significantly between each type of coffee machine. It could be argued that none of the extraction factors are identical.
1. Amount of coffee used
In espresso machines, a standard amount of 7 to 8 grams of coffee is set for optimal quality. Any deviation from this quantity, regardless of the espresso machine used or the settings, may result in inferior quality.
On the other hand, the amount of coffee used in the pods varies from 5 to 11 grams, depending on the coffee machine, type of coffee, grind, and roast. Different brands use different extraction systems, which can result in significant variations in this measure.
2. Coffee grind
The coffee grind used in pods is considerably finer than espresso machines. This is due to the need to extract the coffee much shorter. The following sections show how darker roasting and higher water pressure contribute to a perfect extraction.
In espresso machines, the contact surface of the coffee with the water is larger, so although a fine grind is required, it is not as fine as in coffee pod machines.
3. Coffee roasting
In coffee pod machines, the roast is darker for the same reason as before; they need to extract the oils from the coffee faster and with a smaller contact surface between the water and the coffee. The darker the roast, the easier it is to extract, which is why coffee pod roasts are darker than espresso machine coffee.
4. Water temperature
The optimum water temperature in coffee pod machines is similar to that of espresso machines, ranging between 194 and 203ºF. However, this temperature is more variable during extraction in coffee pod machines.
Therefore, the temperature can sometimes drop below 194°F, counteracted by darker roasts and finer grinds.
5. Extraction time
The extraction time in coffee pod machines is significantly shorter than in espresso machines due to the type of grind used in the pods, which is considerably finer.
In addition, in coffee pod machines, the water pressure is usually higher than in espresso machines, contributing to a shorter extraction time. This is discussed below.
Note: The finer grind and darker roasts contribute to a shorter extraction time in coffee pod machines than in espresso machines.
6. Bars of pressure
Generally, coffee pod machines operate with a pressure of between 15 and 19 bar to extract the coffee from the pod. In contrast, professional espresso machines usually work with a pressure of at least 9 bars.
The pressure in coffee pod machines is higher than in most espresso machines. As we saw before, this is because the pod already contains the right amount of ground coffee, which allows higher pressure to be used in the extraction.
Coffee pod machines offer a quick and convenient alternative for making espresso at home without following a complicated process as with traditional espresso machines.
Although the quality of the coffee obtained may differ, coffee pod machines offer advantages in speed, ability to alternate flavors, coffee preservation, compact size, ease of cleaning, and cost.
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