As single-serve capsules become ubiquitous, debates rage about the quality of the coffee they make.  Convenience is a driving force behind the global adoption of capsules. 

Pods can produce either a shot of espresso or a larger sized coffee drink similar to those brewed with a filter.  Simply popping the capsules into the brewer, pressing a button, and quickly getting a freshly made drink is appealing to many. 

Coffee purists maintain that the quality of the beverage will never approximate that of a freshly brewed drink made from an espresso machine or a pour-over coffee system.  But how valid is that criticism?

Single-serve capsules can lend themselves to a high-quality product if produced properly.  But there are numerous variables to consider, with each being considered and executed properly to deliver the final drink.  Choosing the right coffees, grinding, filling, and the brewing process all contribute to what can be an excellent cup of coffee from a capsule. 

Some coffees used in capsules now are the same as those in the highest quality brewed drinks.

It is no longer unusual to find capsules filled with outstanding coffees of both unique blends and exotic single origins.   Remarkable coffee offerings in capsules now include Panama Geisha, Ethiopian Yergacheffe, San Ignacio Peru, and Rwanda Kitamu.  

The type of coffee used determines its roast profile and fill weight.  Darker roasts deliver an intense flavor, but often taste similar despite coming from different regions around the globe.  Paradoxically, the lighter the roast the more coffee the capsules may contain, translating to stronger flavors from lighter roasts.

As capsules are filled, they are flushed with nitrogen and sealed, ensuring freshness.  Unlike an open bag of coffee beans, capsules keep the coffee fresher longer since capsules remain sealed until they are used, eliminating oxygen from spoiling the flavor. 

Single-serve brewers are calibrated to maximize the flavor of each capsule.  Brewing parameters are programmed to deliver precisely calibrated amounts of water for each cup size.  The machine punctures the capsule and the grounds inside are immediately saturated with the hot water. Proprietary technologies for extracting the maximum flavor from each capsule are employed by different manufacturers, maximizing crema, aroma, and taste. 

The lights go off and the drink finishes brewing.  Depending upon the coffee, the flavor can be intense, bold, sweet, floral, fruity, or a combination of those attributes.  No longer are capsules simply making an adequate cup of coffee quickly.  The newest offering of single-serve delivers remarkable coffees at the touch of a button that rivals those drinks produced by more traditional methods.

Michael Szyliowicz is a Paris trained chocolatier.  For 35 years he has created chocolate and speciality coffee beverages for companies around the globe.  He is the founder of SolaBev, a single-serve beverage company and can be reached at

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