Individually packed, pre-filled coffee pods used in capsule coffee machines may be convenient, but you’re often left with packaging that’s a bit of a faff to recycle, if it’s even recyclable at all.
As a solution to this, some companies have started producing reusable coffee capsules that can be filled with ground coffee, used in your capsule machine and then cleaned out ready to be used again.
This not only reduces the number of coffee pods you get through, it can also save money as loose ground coffee tends to be cheaper than buying pods. Plus, you’ll be able to use any ground coffee you like, whereas with pods you’re limited to brands that work with your machine’s capsule system.
We tested five popular reusable coffee pods, including models that work with Dolce Gusto and Nespresso coffee machines, to see if they could make tasty coffee.
Overall, we weren’t blown away by the results, but some reusable pods made better coffees than others.
Best coffee machines – see our quick buying guide and top picks including pod, ground coffee and bean-to-cup models
Reusable coffee pods put to the test
What we did
We tested five reusable coffee pods – four for Nespresso machines, as this is the most popular type, and one that works with Dolce Gusto machines.
We tried a mix of plastic and stainless steel models, with differing designs. Some have a reusable lid, others use disposable stickers instead.
For each one, we checked how easy it was to fill, seal, use and clean. We also asked our panel of coffee-tasting experts to blind taste espresso made with each capsule.
We used the same type of ground coffee for each, so we could compare how well it turned out using the different pods.
What we found
All the reusable coffee capsules we tested were fairly simple to use, although some were a little trickier to seal than others, and one was especially difficult to clean. Some of the metal pods were very hot after extraction too, although most advise you to leave the pod for a few minutes before removing it.
Our panel didn’t think any of the capsules produced particularly good coffee, though. It tended to be thinner and less well-rounded. The Lictin and WayCap pods made especially poor brews.
Overall, we thought the SealPod capsules made the best coffee, but they still have disposable parts you need to keep buying, and are expensive in the first place. The plastic Alchemy pods made decent coffee so could be a good budget alternative.
Reusable pods test: in detail
Here’s a rundown of the pods we tested and our verdict on each.
|Price||Works with||Our verdict|
|Alchemy Refillable Pods (plastic)||£15.97 (6 capsules per pack)||Nespresso||Easy to use, makes OK coffee and affordable|
|Lictin Reusable Coffee Capsules (plastic)||£7.99 (3 capsules per pack)||Nespresso||Difficult to clean and makes disappointing coffee|
|SealPod Reusable capsules (stainless steel)||£26.95 (1 capsule per pack)||Nespresso||A little better than the others overall, but expensive and uses fiddly disposable sticker seals|
|WayCap Refillable capsules (stainless steel)||£29.99 (1 capsule per pack)||Nespresso||Pricey, slightly tricky to seal and makes disappointing coffee|
|SealPod DGpod Reusable capsules (stainless steel)||£35.95 (1 capsule per pack)||Dolce Gusto||Makes decent coffee, but expensive, requires disposable paper filters and careful positioning|
Our verdict on reusable pods
If you’re a capsule machine owner looking for an alternative to single-serve pods, reusable pods could be worth a try. But bear in mind they aren’t as straightforward to use as disposable capsules, so they might take some time to get used to. The pressure at which you tamp (compress) the coffee grounds can affect the results you get too, so finding the optimal pressure could involve some trial and error.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the time you spend filling, emptying and cleaning them somewhat negates the convenience of using pods in the first place. And if you’ve got a favourite Nespresso or Dolce Gusto coffee, you won’t be able to get hold of this for your refillable pods either.
What are the alternatives?
You can look for compostable or recyclable pods that work with your machine. Earlier this year, we looked at how the big coffee pod brands compare on their recyclable and compostable pod offerings. Find out which pod brands were revealed to be the most (and least) eco friendly.
It’s also worth considering switching to a ground coffee machine. You’ll essentially be doing the same process of prepping your coffee by using refillable pods, but in a machine designed to be used this way. See our top picks for ground coffee machines, including some great-value options for less than £100.
Nespresso, Tassimo or Dolce Gusto? Our pod machine buying guide will help you decide which brand is right for you.
Should you buy a pod coffee machine?
Head to our coffee machine buying guide to take a quick quiz and discover which type of machine suits you best.
The best reusable coffee cups – find out which reusable cups and travel mugs we recommend for coffee on the go.