Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best Coffee Pods of 2024

We taste-tested coffee pods from Nespresso, Starbucks, McCafe, and more to find the best for your single serve machine
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Best Coffee Pod Review (Coffee pods all have distinct flavors that will appeal to different people, afternotes are one part of the picture.)
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 3, 2024

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 13 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're looking for the best pour over coffee maker, a french press, or the best drip coffee maker, there are a number of accessories that can help you fine-tune your morning routine to fit your preferences. Elevate your coffee with some freshly ground beans from one of the best coffee grinders and some microfoam created by one of the best milk frothers, and if you want the full barista experience, we've tested the best espresso machines for home use.

Editor's Note: We updated our coffee pod review on January 3, 2024, to offer some additional recommendations alongside our top award winners.


The Best Coffee Pods for 2024


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 these types of pods are more limited, they are becoming more prevalent, and 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.

Each option is much smaller in volume than a standard American cup of coffee. Those who prefer a sizable cup that you can nurse all morning long might find the Keurig a more suitable choice. The Nespresso pods produce a concentrated espresso-style coffee with a smooth texture, complete with a rich crema on top of the brew. Every pod we tested 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 - nespresso pods make a delicious espresso-style cup of coffee...
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
Rainforest Alliance 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. If that doesn't appeal to you, don't worry; these pods are simply unadulterated coffee. With wafting aromas of sweetened vanilla, this coffee had the most enticing smell of all the pods we tasted, offering earthy flavors of cedar and dark chocolate.

The medium-bodied Bulletproof coffee pods boast a smooth finish with no lingering bitterness. The moderate acidity and the grippy mouth feel created a well-balanced cup suitable for any time of day. Unlike the bagged version, the coffee has a slightly artificial aftertaste, likely from being stored in the plastic pods. Still, it's a great choice for those looking for K-Cup pods.

coffee pod - bulletproof is now offering its fair trade, well-balanced coffee in...
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 Solimo 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 - amazon's solimo pods are a good bargain for a tasty cup.
Amazon's Solimo pods are a good bargain for a tasty cup.
Credit: Buck Yedor

4

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. If you're looking for decaf (gasp!), this brand also makes the best cup of decaf we tested with The Original Donut Shop Decaf K-Cup.

coffee pod - the donut shop k-pods bring the classic and crowd-pleasing tastes...
The Donut Shop K-Pods bring the classic and crowd-pleasing tastes one would expect from a medium roast coffee.
Credit: Buck Yedor

5

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 citrus notes. Mild acidity and light body leave you with a well-balanced coffee perfect for your first cup of the day. If you're looking for a darker roast, check out the Solimo Dark Roast.

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

6

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

7

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, which 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.

8

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

9

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
Fair Trade
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.

coffee pod - 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

10

Most Sustainable Disposable Pod


SF Bay Coffee French Roast Compostable


Pod Type: French Roast K-pod | Disposal: Compostable
REASONS TO BUY
More sustainable 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.

Unfortunately, though, drinkability 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 SF Bay option might just be what you're looking for.

11

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.

12

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.

13

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 of the group. Producing a loamy aroma with hints of grapefruit, we were expecting an exciting flavor profile. Instead, a bitter and ashy-tasting brew greeted our taste buds. Though the coffee features a touch 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, Peet's Decaf 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 pod - 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 Trust GearLab


After researching 25 of the most popular and hopefully delicious coffee pods on the market, we chose 13 of the most promising options to test and review. We independently purchased each variety of pods and proceeded to brew and sip our way through them. We could discern their best and worst qualities by sampling them with a critical tongue and nose.

We performed a formal “cupping” on each pod to test the various brands. A coffee cupping serves as a standardized taste test. We began each cupping by brewing a fresh cup of coffee in our machines, followed by an immediate deep inhale to capture the aromas of the brew. The next step in cupping is to taste the coffee with an exaggerated slurp, intending to cover as much surface area of your tongue as possible. Thus, we evaluated each pod based on aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, and balance.

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 critics.

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, unroasted 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. The time elapsed between 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.

coffee pod - 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 and top-ranked 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 beans ground fresh from a top-rated coffee grinder. In this metric, our highest-scoring coffee pods were the Nespresso pods, which consistently had the most aromatic smells. The next best-performing pods were the Bulletproof and McCafe pods, which had pleasant aromas that made sense for their unique flavor profiles.

coffee pod - 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.

coffee pod - 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. 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.

coffee pod - 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


As it suggests, aftertaste is the lingering taste left in your mouth as you finish your sip. It's at this moment that astringency or acidity is most noticeable. Aftertaste is scored by how well it complements or detracts from the overall experience. The McCafe pod 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.

coffee pod - 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.

coffee pod - 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. 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.

coffee pod - 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 Bulletproof pod 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.

coffee pod - 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