Single Serve coffeemakers are among the hottest holiday items this year, and chances are you’ll buy one, get one as a gift or get served a cup from one in the next month.
Savenia Labs is set to release the world’s first independent lab tested energy ratings on this popular category soon. While energy usage drives much of their environmental footprint, the waste created from used pods also has a big impact.
Lots of single serve coffeemakers have entered the market with many different types of coffee pods. As each works a little differently, we’ve assembled a guide on the five most popular types to help you with your holiday shopping.
To set the stage – the average person will spend over $3,000 on coffee pods and supplies over the 5 year lifetime of the unit. Lined up side by side, the used pods alone would stretch across 3 football fields. So which pod system you buy is pretty important.
By far the most popular pod-based coffeemakers out there use the Keurig K Cups. There are 268 varieties of K Cups available on Keurig’s website. The pods are not recyclable, but Keurig provides a reusable cup that can be used to save money and waste. The K Cups are tall, rounded plastic cups with a small paper filter at the bottom. Your favorite coffee fills the rest of the cup above the filters. Hot water is fed through a hole pierced in the top of each cup, through the filter, and through another hole pierced in the bottom right into your mug. Keurig models and partner models based on Keurig K Cup technology like Cuisinart and Mr. Coffee all use K Cups.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has a slightly different design from the ubiquitous K Cup. We found 25 varieties on The Coffee Bean’s website. The cups are not recyclable, and we couldn’t find refillable cups for sale. But the CBTL model we tested used much higher water pressure to handle espresso, and the small plastic capsules contain a plastic sieve to evenly distribute this higher pressure water before it gets to your mug. The coffee is packed below that sieve and above another filter at the bottom of the packet.
Tassimo single serve coffeemakers use T Discs. There are 62 varieties available directly from Tassimo. These are not widely recyclable and we couldn’t find refillable discs available. T Discs appear to be much more intensively designed with thicker, stronger plastic channeling water through tunnels of coffee before filtering into your mug. These use low pressure to brew a variety of coffees and beverages. Uniquely, each T Disc includes a barcode at the top that triggers automatic brew settings to customize the brewing process.
Nescafe Dolce Gusto
DeLonghi’s Dolce Gusto coffeemakers use Nescafe Dolce Gusto Capsules. There are 22 capsule varieties available from Nescafe. These are not widely recyclable and there are no refillable capsules available. From the outside, these look quite similar to K Cups but each has a permeable membrane in the middle of the capsule to enable high water pressure brew of every cup. According to Delonghi, the machine pushes water at a pressure of 15 bars through the membrane. They claim this approximates the pressure found in coffee house machines.
Bunn/Senseo Coffee Pads
Bunn’s MC My Café and Senseo’s Single Serve Coffeemakers use coffee pads that are quite a bit different than any other on the market. Instead of a plastic cup as in most other systems, they use coffee filter-like paper pads that enclose the coffee. These pads are compostable, and you can also buy refillable versions to fill with your own coffee at home without the waste (and cost). Neither the Bunn nor the Senseo push high water pressure through these pads. Newer Bunn models also use K Cups.
Which system you buy depends on what’s important to you. If you’re an espresso drinker, you want a high water pressure system and the options for refillable / recyclable pods are limited. For regular coffee and other ‘non-pressure’ drinks, there are several options for you to buy, recycle or re-fill depending on your needs.
Be sure to check out our other blogs on single serve coffeemakers, including The Competition, The Consumer, The Costs and The Environment. And look out for the release of Savenia Labs Energy Rating Labels on popular single serve coffeemakers…in stores soon!
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