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Are a Pod and a K-Cup Not the Same Thing?

There is a lot of confusion about the names of single-serve teas and coffees. This is likely that you are reading this because you want to learn more about K-Cup Coffee Pods and Pods.

You’re likely thinking, “What does that mean?” You’d think a pod and a cup are the same thing.

False. They cannot be interchanged unless you have an adapter, or if you are smart enough to buy a coffee machine that brews both and straight out of the package.

Let’s talk about a pod or a K-cup.

A pod is tea or coffee that has been sealed in filter paper. They are round and flat and soft and pliable. Sometimes they are individually wrapped in foil, or simply packed in a large resealable bag. Coffee pods are also known by the name coffee pad.

A K–Cup is coffee, tea, and recently hot chocolate (and cappuccino), that has been sealed in a cartridge. It is usually a plastic cup. The foil top is covered by a protective plastic ring. The capsule’s interior is lined with filter material. This keeps the coffee brewed in the right place. Two needles are used to puncture the lid and bottom of a K-Cup when it is placed in a compatible brewer. The top is filled with water, which extracts the coffee and then flows out of the cup. However, the bottom needle does not puncture the plastic cup.

About Coffee

The single-serve coffee container dates back to long before Keurig K-Cup packets were invented. Actually, the first created coffee pods, with others following.

Although pods are a great product (and still are), their success was not guaranteed. It was difficult to find pods, there were not many pod brewers that were good, and there wasn’t an industry standard for pod size. The most successful brewers in Europe were the Philips Senseo, Melitta and Melitta. These machines also had to overcome the difficult task of getting their products into the hands of consumers. There were few choices in coffee and the quality of many available was poor. The Senseo was generally regarded a great brewer. However, there were two problems. The first was that the pod holder was too tight and almost caused it to brew like an espresso machine. The finished coffee was thick with foam, which wasn’t always a popular choice for American consumers. The Senseo/Melitta Senseo/Melitta Pods were smaller in diameter (55mm) and more densely packed.

Other pods were also available on the market, with pod brewers using a different type of pod. They were 60-62mm in diameter, shorter in height and generally softer. Those “soft pods “… are what we call today. They’re the pod that became the most loved.

The key advantages of pods are

Higher coffee extraction means more surface area for the water contact with the coffee.

You get more aroma from brewing the coffee (remember, it isn’t sealed in plastic).

Reduce packaging waste (only wrappers are not biodegradable).

The key disadvantages of pods

Fewer options for pod brewing equipment

There are fewer flavors, coffee blends, or roast options.

It is difficult to find these items in grocery stores, but they are easily found online.

K-Cup Coffee

Donut House

Keurig Green Mountain trademarks the K-Cup(r), to refer to their single-serve brewing container. A K-Cup is identified by its foil-lined, ringed design and plastic cup. There are other designs that do not use a plastic cup, but still use a foil-covered plastic ring and lid. Green Mountain insists that everyone calls their products K-Cup(r), Packs. However, most people refer to them as K-Cups. It is the same if you are shopping for them.

Variety of Keurig-branded brewers for commercial and home use. The only way to get commercial models, such as those that can be purged into a water line or brewers that are able to pierce through it, is through traditional OCS companies. They have to sign binding agreements with Keurig to install and maintain the brewers, as well as deliver the coffee to their customers. They are the only permitted to sell Green Mountain brands. To maintain their status, they must meet strict requirements regarding how many installations they can make and how many new customers they must obtain. KADs are Keurig Authorized Distributors.

However, the home models have no restrictions. You can buy the brewer anywhere, and the coffee from anywhere.

Green Mountain’s patents that covered the design of K-Cups opened the doors for other companies to produce Keurig-compatible products. These cannot be called K-Cups because K-Cup(r), is trademarked, but there are many products that look-like the official K-Cups and brew like them. These knock-off capsules were made by Treehouse Foods (Grove Square), Mother Parkers Coffee, Marley Coffee, Copper Moon, Rogers Family Company (San Francisco Bay and Organic Coffee Company). Nearly everyone now has a compatible “K-Cup” coffee.

Keurig, which was losing market share to “other brands”, launched Keurig2.0 in 2014. 2.0 was praised for its increased customization and flexibility in brewing formats. It also had a scanner that could read the capsule foil lids. It wouldn’t brew if the K-Cup did not have their special ink (think Barcode). Only K-Cups that are officially made or blessed by Keurig Green Mountain will work. Consumers who bought the 2.0 thought they could use their preferred brand of coffee again, caused a commotion.

Customers complained about the lockout system and gave terrible reviews to their brewers on the internet. It didn’t take too long for competitors to reverse engineer the ink system and create their own lids compatible with 2.0 brewers. They admitted that the new system was a mistake in 2016, just months after 2.0’s launch. Despite this, the K-Cup ecosystem is wildly popular with a large consumer market share.

The key advantages of K-Cup Coffee Pods are

Amazing selection of coffee blends, varietals and flavored

There are now lower-priced K-Cup-compatible brands

It brews a perfectly acceptable coffee for most coffee drinkers

Capsules that are self-contained and convenient

The key disadvantages of K-Cup Coffee Pods

Generally, pods are more expensive than regular brewed coffee.

Some people claim that K-Cup coffee doesn’t taste as good as soft pods.

The waste created by plastic K-cups, foil lids, and rings is significantly higher than that of pods