Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Coffee Pods of 2022

We taste-tested coffee pods from Nespresso, Starbucks, McCafe, Laughing Man, and more to find the best for your single serve machine
Best Coffee Pods of 2022
Coffee pods all have distinct flavors that will appeal to different people, afternotes are one part of the picture.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Our Top Picks

By Buck Yedor ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 26, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Tired of the ol' rise and grind routine? For our review update, we investigated over 25 of the best coffee pods for Keurig and Nespresso coffee machines before purchasing 15 for our side-by-side comparisons. We submitted each pod to a series of tastings to determine which has the best aroma, flavor, aftertaste, body, and balance. There are many different ways to make the perfect morning coffee, and coffee pods are a quick and easy way to start your day. We hope our results will help you determine which pod fits your unique taste preferences.

Whether you prefer pour over style, a french press, or choose to use a classic coffee maker, there are a number of accessories that can help you fine-tune your morning routine to fit your preferences. Freshly ground beans and warm frothed milk can elevate any cup, and if you want the full barista experience, an at home espresso machine may be the way to go.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on January 19th, 2022, to include more information on our testing and comparison process and which products we recommend.


1

Best Espresso Style Pod


Nespresso OriginalLine Capsules


Pod Type: Varying flavors of Nespresso pods | Disposal: Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Rich, concentrated flavors
Quick brew times
REASONS TO AVOID
Produces a smaller volume of coffee
Not accepted by many municipal recycling programs

Nespresso machines are in a class of their own when it comes to instant coffee pods. While your options for types of pods are severely more limited than with a Keurig, our testers found the limited number of choices to be well worth it. All the pods we tested in the Nespresso Variety Pack were delicious. Nespresso pods produce a rich style of coffee that the entry-level machine can make into either an espresso-sized shot or a Lungo (long) shot, which has a milder flavor and more volume. While these pods don't produce real espresso, it's about as close as you'll get without investing in an expensive machine or making a trip to your local coffee shop.

Both of these options are much smaller in volume than a standard American cup of coffee, so if you prefer a hefty cup that you can nurse all morning long, you might opt for a Keurig instead. The concentrated espresso-style coffee produced by the Nespresso pods had a smooth texture, complete with a rich crema on top of the brew. Each pod we tried had an evident and enjoyable brightness level that carried into a subtle and pleasant citrusy finish. With an inviting aroma and more nuanced flavors, the Nespresso pods were by far our favorite coffee pods.

coffee pod - best espresso style pod
Nespresso Pods make a delicious espresso-style cup of coffee, complete with a rich crema on top.
Credit: Buck Yedor

2

Best Overall K-Cup Pod


Bulletproof The Original Roast Coffee


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Organic
Rain Forest certified
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Plasticky aftertaste

Known for its line of health supplements and popular with the Keto crowd, Bulletproof offers high-quality single-origin coffee in pod form. To make it "bulletproof," a popular meal supplement, and the brand's namesake, you would need to add butter or other ingredients. For those uninterested in that, fear not; these pods are simply unadulterated coffee. With wafting aromas of sweetened vanilla, this coffee had the most enticing smell of all the coffees we tasted, offering earthy flavors of cedar and dark chocolate.

This medium-bodied coffee boasted a smooth finish with no lingering bitterness. The moderate acidity and the grippy mouth feel created a well-balanced cup suited to any time of day. Unlike the in-bag version, the coffee has a slightly artificial aftertaste, likely from being stored in the plastic pods.

coffee pod - best overall k-cup pod
Bulletproof is now offering its Fair Trade, well-balanced coffee in convenient K-pod form.
Credit: Buck Yedor

3

Best Bang for the Buck


Solimo Dark Roast


Pod Type: Medium/Dark Roast | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Well balanced
Dark but not burnt
REASONS TO AVOID
Disorganized, bulky packaging
Not as dark as some dark roast lovers prefer

The Solimo Dark Roast pods are Amazon's in-house brand that rivals the mild taste and experience of The Original Donut Shop's pods but are sold at a significantly lower price point. The Solimo pods give off nutty aromas faintly reminiscent of caramelized sugar, with dark flavors (but not overly so). We found notes of baker's chocolate that ended with a slight sweetness akin to dried figs. Overall the cups we brewed had low acidity, a medium body, and tasted well balanced. This pod makes an easy-drinking cup that is generally a crowd-pleaser for groups with varied tastes.

For those who like their coffee as dark as can be, this pod might miss the mark. To us, it tasted and felt more like a medium roast that was trending into dark roast territory, making it an ideal choice for savvy consumers seeking a medium to dark roast pod.

coffee pod - best bang for the buck
Amazon's Solimo pods are a good bargain for a tasty cup.
Credit: Buck Yedor

4

Best Light Roast


Laughing Man Ethiopia Sidama


Pod Type: Light Roast K-pod | Disposal: Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Fair Trade certified
Organic
A portion of all sales go back to the farmers through the "Laughing Man" fund
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Plasticky aftertaste

With the popularity of coffee pods ever-increasing, you don't have to resign yourself to cheap and burnt tasting pods. The single-origin light roast pod by Laughing Man comes close to delivering a cup of coffee that even serious coffee snobs won't turn up their noses at.

Coffee drinkers often fall into two polarized camps, those who prefer light roasts and those who like it as dark as can be. If you fall into the latter group, this coffee pod may disappoint. It starts with aromas of nougat and flavors akin to caramel and graham cracker, this coffee finishes with notes of toasted marshmallow. It is a sweet and bright cup of coffee that is enjoyable from start to finish.

coffee pod - best light roast
This single-origin coffee is light in body and one of the testers' favorites.
Credit: Buck Yedor

5

Best for Offices with Varying Tastes


The Original Donut Shop Regular K-Cup


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Broad appeal
Inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Middle of the road flavor might not appeal to those with strong preferences
Plasticky aftertaste

By the numbers, the Donut Shop Medium Roast is one of the most popular selling pods on the market. After our initial testing, it became clear why. These pods offer broad appeal at a reasonable price. Upon first brewing a cup of this coffee, you're greeted by pleasant but faint aromas of pipe tobacco. As a medium roast coffee, the flavor profiles trend darker and offer notes of toasted rye and baker's chocolate. The acidity levels in this pod are relatively low but complement the savory flavors well. These pods have a medium body that ends with a clean aftertaste, leaving no lingering bitterness and ultimately delivering a well-balanced cup of coffee.

Flavors are not too overwhelmingly dark, nor do they stray too far in the other direction with over-the-top brightness. The middle-of-the-road flavor profile could be a detractor for those looking for a specific flavor profile on a different side of the spectrum. It achieves the perfect middle ground and is a satisfying crowd-pleaser for various tastes.

coffee pod - best for offices with varying tastes
The Donut Shop K-Pods bring the classic and crowd-pleasing tastes one would expect from a medium roast coffee.
Credit: Buck Yedor

6

Best Medium Roast


McCafe Premium Roast Coffee


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Inexpensive
Bright and easy drinking
REASONS TO AVOID
Could be too light of body for some consumers
Plasticky aftertaste

The McCafe Premium Roast Coffee pod is advertised as a medium roast coffee, but we found it one of the lighter-tasting coffees in our testing lineup. As you lift your cup, you're greeted with a subtle but distinctly nutty aroma. The pleasant aroma then segues into a complimentary taste of toasted almonds as you take your first sip.

There is a mild amount of acidity that comes out in the aftertaste. As the flavors depart from your tongue, you are left with a crisp finish and lingering notes of citrus. Mild acidity and light body leave you with a well-balanced coffee perfect for your first cup of the day.

coffee pod - best medium roast
These light-tasting pods will save you a trip to your local McDonalds.
Credit: Buck Yedor

7

Best Dark Roast


Cafe Bustelo Espresso Style K-Cups


Pod Type: Dark Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Inexpensive
Stands up to milk and sugar
REASONS TO AVOID
Might be too dark of a roast for some consumers
Plasticky aftertaste

Billed as "Latin" style coffee, Cafe Bustelo is a dark roast blend intended to be doctored up with milk and sugar. That said, it is delicious enough all on its own. Although it is one of the darker roasts we sampled, it was one of the few dark roasts that didn't come across as burnt. The roast was dark enough to get even the sleepiest motors running but not at the cost of losing an interesting flavor profile.

The darkness of the roast translated well into deep flavor profiles of caramelized sugar and hazelnut. Certainly not the pods for those looking for a light or mild cup, this rich and well-balanced coffee will be favored by those who prefer their coffee bold or those who want a cup that can stand up to milk and sugar without tasting diluted.

coffee pod - the dark roasted cafe bustelo holds up incredibly well to cream and...
The dark roasted Cafe Bustelo holds up incredibly well to cream and sugar.
Credit: Buck Yedor

8

Best Decaf


The Original Donut Shop Decaf K-Cup


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Similar taste to the Original Donut Shop
REASONS TO AVOID
Middle of the road flavor might not appeal to those with strong preferences
Plasticky aftertaste

The decaf version of the Original Donut Shop coffee pod offers a very similar, although not entirely identical, taste profile. A chocolaty aroma gives way to a flavor profile that tastes like baker's chocolate and toasted grains. This decaf pod is tasty enough to serve up as a quick post-dinner brew.

With medium acidity levels, there is a spike in brightness right as the sip finishes that then transitions nicely into a lingering taste of cacao. It was our favorite decaf pod with a smooth body and an outstanding balance of flavor and aroma.

9

Best Reusable Pod


Fill N Save Elite Stainless Steel Reusable


Pod Type: Works with any coffee | Disposal: Reusable
REASONS TO BUY
You can use any coffee you want
Dishwasher safe
REASONS TO AVOID
Must purchase coffee separately
Must clean between uses

If you're tired of watching your waste bin stack up with empty pods, the Fill N Save Reusable K Cup is a great reusable option that won't immediately end up in the landfill. In all the cups we made with this, the result was comparable in taste to a conventional coffee pot. This pod offers the convenience that Keurigs are known for but with limitless options of what coffee you want to drink.

Made entirely of metal, the pod is easy to clean and appears quite durable. One downside is that the metal filter lets some sediment slip through and end up in your cup. The cup will also need to be washed thoroughly between uses since stainless steel can hold on to coffee oils that will impart flavor onto your next brew. This reusable option is ideal for those worried about generating more trash or using coffee not sold in pod form.

coffee pod - reusable pods give you the convenience of pod machines but let you...
Reusable pods give you the convenience of pod machines but let you use your favorite coffee.
Credit: Buck Yedor

10

Best for Getting Your Dunkin' Fix


Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend Medium K-Cups


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Reminiscent of in cafe Dunkin' Coffee
Mild tasting
REASONS TO AVOID
Watery
Plasticky aftertaste

The Dunkin' Original Blend is reminiscent of the classic cup served at your local Dunkin Donuts cafe. With aromas likened to earthy greens, you transition nicely from the inviting earthy smell to flavors best described as nutmeg and dark chocolate. While not too noticeable, the coffee's subtle brightness departs quickly to an astringent aftertaste that leaves your mouth feeling dry.

This relatively light-tasting blend wasn't our favorite, with a texture not unlike skim milk. However, we think it will appeal to all those East Coast die-hard Dunkin' fans.

coffee pod - these pods are entirely reminiscent of a classic cup of dunkin's joe.
These pods are entirely reminiscent of a classic cup of Dunkin's joe.
Credit: Buck Yedor

11

Best for an Extreme Caffeine Boost


Death Wish Coffee Single Serve Capsules


Pod Type: Dark Roast K-pod | Disposal: Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Double the caffeine of other pods
Organic
Fair Trade Certified
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive

Death Wish Coffee is the only coffee we reviewed that wasn't 100% Arabica coffee. The blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, along with Death Wish's proprietary roasting technique, leads to claims of double the caffeine content of any other coffee pod on the market. The nutty aroma and green pepper and coriander flavors are well-matched by the medium brightness levels and mild acidity. The body is light, bordering on watery but not unpleasantly so.

Overall the taste was in the middle of the pack; undoubtedly drinkable, but not our favorite.

death wish coffee pods are ideal for folks looking to start their...
Death Wish coffee pods are ideal for folks looking to start their day with a serious blast of caffeine.
Credit: Buck Yedor

12

Most Sustainable Disposable Pod


SF Bay Coffee French Roast Compostable


Pod Type: French Roast K-pod | Disposal: Compostable
REASONS TO BUY
A more sustainable option than traditional pods
REASONS TO AVOID
Burnt tasting

Of all the coffee pods we tasted, the SF Bay French Roast was the only compostable one. Granted, it needs to be sent to a high heat industrial composting facility, but we still think it's a step in the right direction for dealing with pod waste.

However, solid drinkability of the coffee is lacking. With a malty aroma and a flavor that reminded us of burnt molasses, this coffee left an ashy aftertaste that was capped off with a sour finish. Although we didn't enjoy the taste, we found nothing out of place or character, and if you enjoy intensely dark French roasts, this might just be what you're looking for.

13

A Decent Light-Bodied Brew


Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Breakfast Blend


Pod Type: Light Roast K-pod | Disposal: Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Committed to 100% responsibly sourced coffee
REASONS TO AVOID
Unbalanced
Watery

Typically when we think of a breakfast blend, we imagine a light-bodied cup of coffee with an enlivening amount of brightness. Unfortunately, we didn't find those profiles in the Green Mountain Breakfast Blend.

Upon brewing a cup, we immediately noticed a roasted, bordering on burnt aroma, which on our first sip, led us to a woody flavor profile that had notes of toasted barley. We found the aftertaste to be a bit ashy and the body cup to be watery. The deep flavor profiles, combined with the weak body, made for an unbalanced brew that you might say wasn't our cup of tea — or coffee, for that matter.

14

A Convenient Alternative to Starbucks


Starbucks Pike Place Roast K-Cup


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Cheaper than a coffee from a Starbucks cafe
REASONS TO AVOID
Burnt tasting

One of the juggernauts of the coffee industry, Starbucks, takes on the coffee pod in an attempt to deliver what the Pikes Place Roast is known for, a medium roast blend with a rich and nutty flavor profile. We found that the pod version fell short. At first brew, we noticed an ashy aroma before we moved on to sample the flavor, where we found an almost overpowering taste of carbon. The cup had a clean finish and tasted balanced but was too burnt tasting for our liking.

15

An Acquired Taste


Peet's Decaf Especial K-Cup Pods


Pod Type: Medium Roast K-pod | Disposal: Non-Recyclable
REASONS TO BUY
Inexpensive
REASONS TO AVOID
Ashy tasting

The Peet's Decaf was our least favorite pod. Producing a loamy aroma that offered hints of grapefruit, we were expecting an exciting flavor profile. What we found was a bitter and ashy-tasting brew. Though the coffee did have a bit of brightness, the finish was highly astringent, leaving our tasters' mouths dry and in need of a sip of water. The body and brightness blended well with the citrusy aroma, but it felt out of balance given the deep flavor profiles. Although advertising a "bright and smooth" cup, it was incredibly burnt tasting with a harsh finish. The only redeeming quality was the slight amount of pleasant brightness it offered before sharply leaving your tongue with an ashy aftertaste.

coffee pods are a perfect and cleanly option for the workplace...
Coffee pods are a perfect and cleanly option for the workplace coffee station.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Why You Should Trust Us


Never one to turn down a cup of joe, our lead tester, Buck Yedor, has been drinking coffee since he was a kid. What started as sneaking the occasional sip from his mom turned into a lifelong obsession with finding the most delicious brew methods. What truly honed his appreciation and discernment for quality coffee was living with the Director of Training for one of the biggest specialty coffee companies in the game. For years, every morning was mainly a coffee cupping and brew lesson until his palette and brew techniques could please even the harshest of critiques.

After researching 25 of the most popular and hopefully delicious coffee pods on the market, we took a closer look at 15 of the most promising options. We independently purchased this wide variety of pods and proceeded to brew and sip our way through them. Sampling them all with a critical tongue and nose, we could discern their best and worst qualities.

To test the various coffee pods, we ran each pod through a formal "cupping." A coffee cupping serves as a standardized taste test. We began each cupping by brewing a fresh cup of coffee in our machines and then immediately inhaling a deep breath of the aromas let off by the brew. The next step in cupping is to taste the coffee with an exaggerated slurp, with the goal being to cover as much surface area of your tongue as possible. Thus, we evaluated each pod based on characteristics such as aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, and balance.

It's hard to beat the convenience of pod coffee.
It's hard to beat the convenience of pod coffee.
We tasted cup after cup so you don't have to.
We tasted cup after cup so you don't have to.

Analysis and Test Results


If you are in the market for a single-serve coffee, pods are a good option, and we can help you select the best one. While tastings always have some subjectivity, the goal is to separate oneself from personal preferences and objectively analyze what each coffee offers. Through our systemized cuppings, we could rate each coffee pod individually.

Aroma


The aromas produced by different coffees are primarily determined by the various chemical compounds found in the green beans. How these compounds react to other processing methods, and then ultimately how they are roasted, determines how a cup of coffee will smell when brewed. When the coffee is roasted, ground, and brewed also plays a significant role in what aromas will be found wafting off a cup of coffee. Another factor we consider is how well the aroma adds to or detracts from the perceived taste.

the aroma of a cup of coffee will greatly impact how a cup will taste.
The aroma of a cup of coffee will greatly impact how a cup will taste.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Coffee pods aren't known for offering the freshest beans, and without this, it can be hard to match the fullness of a high-quality espresso machine. Because of this, most of the pods have a somewhat muted aroma. That isn't to say all the coffees we tasted didn't have distinct scents, but the smells weren't as vibrant as freshly ground beans. In this metric, our highest scoring coffee pods were the Nespresso pods, which consistently had the most aromatic smells. Our top K-cup in this metric was the Laughing Man Ethiopia, which produced a sweet smell reminiscent of nougat. The next best-performing pods were the Bulletproof and McCafe pods. All three of these pods had pleasant aromas that made sense for their unique flavor profiles.

nespresso pods are the top scorers for aroma, beating all others in...
Nespresso pods are the top scorers for aroma, beating all others in the group.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Scoring the worst in this department was the Starbucks Pike Place pod. The aroma was distinctly ash-smelling, and after inhaling a deep whiff, we were less than compelled to want to sip the brew.

Flavor


The flavor of coffee is based upon how it lights up your different tastebuds. These receptors on your tongue, combined with retronasal olfaction — another way to say how things smell when inside your mouth — determine how your brain perceives flavor. Different brewing methods can bring out different flavors in the blend, and by slurping the coffee and evenly coating the taster's tongue, we get a much more complete picture of what flavors are present in each coffee.

classic flavors you might find in a cup of coffee.
Classic flavors you might find in a cup of coffee.
Credit: Buck Yedor

The tasting notes given don't mean you will taste precisely that descriptor, but your brain will perceive a similar experience regarding the seven tastes; bitter, salty, sour, astringent, sweet, pungent, and umami. Our highest scoring coffees for flavor were the Nespresso pods and the Bulletproof pods, where we found dark chocolate and cedar notes. The next highest scoring pod was the Laughing Man Ethiopia, which tasted like caramel and graham crackers. Our least favorite pods were the SF BAY pods, which we can only describe as having an acrid molasses flavor. We also found the Starbucks pod to taste like carbonized wood.

the perfect brew requires a special combination of flavors and...
The perfect brew requires a special combination of flavors and characteristics.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Aftertaste


The aftertaste is the lingering taste left in your mouth as you finish your sip. This moment is often when astringency or acidity is most noticeable. The aftertaste is scored on how well it complements or detracts from the overall experience. With notes of toasted marshmallows, we found the most enjoyable and complementary aftertaste to belong to the Laughing Man Ethiopia pod. We couldn't find much to complain about, an excellent complement to the original flavor profile and carrying a pleasant level of brightness all the way through. The McCafe pod also had a crisp and citrusy aftertaste that we found quite enjoyable.

Our least favorite pods all shared one thing in common. The aftertaste was jarring and a departure from the original flavor profiles. The Peet's Decaf had one of the most disjointed flavor profiles and aftertaste.

despite individual preferences, being mindful of tasting notes while...
Despite individual preferences, being mindful of tasting notes while drinking each cup is the foundation of our review.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Acidity


Acidity in coffee accounts for the perceived level of sourness. Enjoyable acidity is often referred to as brightness and comes through as citrus or fruity flavors. Both high and low levels of acidity can be positive or negative attributes. The score depends on how well the acidity levels complement the flavor profile and overall experience.

the acidity in coffee often comes through as a citrus flavor.
The acidity in coffee often comes through as a citrus flavor.
Credit: Buck Yedor

The Donut Shop Medium Roast has low acidity, which greatly complements the rich flavor profile. In contrast, the Laughing Man Ethiopia has a much higher acidity level that adds to its sweet and citrusy flavors. The Death Wish pod had a substantial uptick in brightness in the middle of the sip, followed by a bitter and drying finish that confused the tasters.

Body


The body of a cup of coffee refers to the mouthfeel you experience while taking a sip. Examples are a light body that feels like tea or skim milk, while a heavier body can feel like cream or syrupy. Descriptors like round or grippy refer to how the coffee feels as it coats your mouth.

The Bulletproof pods scored well in this metric, with a medium body well complemented by the cup's enjoyable and slightly tannic finish. For those who prefer a heavier-bodied coffee, the Cafe Bustelo had a thick and full mouthfeel that went well with its darker flavor profile. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Starbucks pod was incredibly watery for how dark its flavors were.

Balance


A well-balanced cup of coffee relies on the aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, and body, all working together to create a harmonious experience. A coffee cup might have enjoyable elements, but if they don't mesh well with the other components, the overall experience will be far less delicious and leave you wondering what the heck is going on in your mouth.

good quality coffee strikes a balance between flavor, aroma...
Good quality coffee strikes a balance between flavor, aroma, acidity, and body.
Credit: Buck Yedor

We found the Nespresso pods to brew the most balanced cup, with the Laughing Man and Bulletproof pods coming in close behind. The pods with the least balance were the Green Mountain and the Peet's Decaf. Both exhibited a confusing blend of flavors and acidity that made for a cup of coffee that couldn't make up its mind.

a look at all of the contenders we put to the test.
A look at all of the contenders we put to the test.
Credit: Buck Yedor

Conclusion


If you are a seasoned coffee drinker, but new to the world of pod coffee, we've got you covered. Our review team brewed and tasted different types of coffee pods, ranging from light roasted single-origin offerings to dark roasts. We compared them in a series of side-by-side tastings to determine the flavor profile of each one. We analyzed each cup's aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, and balance. Using a systemized tasting protocol, we put aside our preferences and offer tasting notes for each that will help you decide which pods will be the right flavor profile for your tastes.

Buck Yedor

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