Single Cup Coffee - A Guide to the Options

Single cup coffee refers to the type of coffee that's produced from single portion pods or containers - typically using single cup coffee makers specific to the particular brand or type of container. There are currently five main types or formats - Coffee Pods, Tassimo T Discs, Keurig K Cups, Nespresso Capsules and Nescafe Dolce Gusto Capsules, as we explain below.


First though, the common features...


They all allow you to brew a fresh cup of coffee, with only a minimum of waiting time and a minimum of preparation/attention required.


Single cup coffee making does away with the need to grind your own beans and reduces the actions to that of ensuring that there's enough water in the machine, switching it on, then when hot (which normally only takes a minute of so) inserting the pod/capsule/disc and pressing a button to produce the freshly brewed coffee.


The machines are also typically quite compact, so don't take up too much space on your kitchen counter or your desk! One thing to note is that it's typically only the higher-end machines that can produce a true espresso, which is typically accepted as requiring a pressure of 9 bars or more, but may people find the drinks produced by the other machines perfectly acceptable, while being extremely convenient to use.


As mentioned above, single cup coffee comes in five main formats:


Coffee Pods - While these are the most common, interchangeable option, you do need to be aware that the 'standard' pod size is the 62mm size, as there are also 44mm and 55mm pods/machines. If you stick to the 62mm machines, such as the Philips Senseo single cup coffee makers or the Krups Home Cafe range, you'll find that you have the widest range of choices, from both the producers of the single cup coffee markers as well as from independent sources. - A main source for this type of coffee pod is the Senseo Douwe Egberts range, which currently has a number of sub-ranges, covering the traditional coffee strengths such as Decaffeinated, Medium Roast, Dark Roast and Expresso, featured blends such as Sumatra Blend, Brazil Blend, Kenyan Blend and Colombia Blend together with other flavors such as Breakfast Blend, Creme Brulee, Chocolate and Paris (French Vanilla).

Tassimo T Discs - These work with the Tassimo range of single cup coffee makers, which are able to read the bar code on the discs, which allow the machine to adjust it's processing according to the specific needs of the selected disk, including being able to use a 'milk' disc when making cappuccinos, etc. - The Tassimo system takes advantage of the capability to adjust the processing according to the particular requirements of the selected drink, so it's able to dispense a range of drinks from premium coffees, crema coffees, real milk cappuccinos and lattes, espressos, hot chocolates and even teas.

Keurig K Cups - These work with the Keurig range of single cup coffee makers and fit between the T Discs and the Coffee Pods, in that there are more flavors or variations available than for T Discs, but fewer than the 'open' Coffee Pod format. - Keurig have partnered with a range of independent companies to provide a huge range of K-Cup varieties, including coffee sources such as Green Mountain Coffee, Diedrich Coffee Roasters, Van Houtte and Timothy's, Tea brands such as Celestial Seasonings, Bigelow's and Twinings. They have a large range of blends, covering categories including Extra Bold Roasts (30% more coffee per brew), Dark, Medium & Light Roast, Flavored, Decaffeinated, Fair Trade Certified and Organicm as well as Teas and Hot Cocoa.

Nespresso Capsules - As might be expected by now, the Nespresso Capsules only work with Nespresso single cup coffee makers, with the difference here being that these are the machines that can provide a true espresso, utilizing pressures in excess of the accepted minimum of 9 BAR to force the water through the ground coffee. - One thing to be aware of with the Nespresso system is that while the Nespresso machines are available in various retail locations, the Nespresso capsules are not, but rather have to be purchased directly from Nespresso, either online, via phone or mail or at Nespresso Boutiques. As a result, the 'running costs' tend to be somewhat higher than for other systems, which might need to be taken into consideration before purchasing a Nespresso single cup coffee maker.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto Capsules - These are relatively new to the market, but are backed by Nescafe and Krups. There's a certain overlap between Nescafe's Nespresso range and this range, but the focus of the Dole Gusto range appears to be on the home market and allowing them to cup a wider range of drinks that just espressos, which is the focus of the Nespresso. - The Dolce Gusto capsule range include Caffe Americano, Mocha, Espresso, Chococino, Cappuccino as well as variations such as Cappuccino Skinny and Cappuccino Ice. ninja single-serve coffee bar system with tumbler

The Nespresso range is probably the option for the true enthusiast, although the Nescafe Dolce Gusto range also uses a professional-level 15-bar pressure system and is worth considering. If new to single cup coffee makers, however, it might be worth starting with a Coffee Pod machine such as the Philips Senseo before seeing if investing in a more expensive system is needed.