How do Coffee Pods work? Answered

Are you wondering how do coffee pods work and if each machine agrees with all pod varieties? This user’s guide has everything you need to know. Let’s find out.

How do coffee pods work?
Each pod coffee maker functions slightly differently

From the get-go, a pod coffee machine works by heating water before pumping it into a tiny needle hidden inside a showerhead. From there, it will inject hot water straight into the lid of the coffee pod and start brewing the coffee inside before it drips into your cup.

Each pod coffee maker functions slightly differently. However, the general rule of thumb when it comes to the brewing process starts with filling the water tank or reservoir with cold water, plugging in your favorite pod, and inserting it into the top of the machine. After that, click on the start button and simply wait for your cup of java to be ready within minutes.

Not all pod types work with all pod machines and vice versa. Read on to learn more about the operation of a coffee pod machine below.

How Do Coffee Pod Machines Work?

The operation principle of a standard coffee pod machine is similar to that of a coffee maker. Once you press the start button, the water in the reservoir is heated to a certain temperature when it passes the heating element. 

After that, the water is pumped through a small valve into a tiny needle plugged into the nozzle at the top of the machine. Alternatively, you can also refer to a nozzle as a showerhead. This process is known as creating pressurized steam.

The showerhead creates strong pressure that injects hot water into your coffee pod and releases a beautiful flavor into each drip. A typical coffee pod contains a thin filter paper at the bottom to keep the ground coffee from falling into your cup.

Maintaining A Coffee Machine

If you’ve been brewing this coffee often, regular maintenance and proper care will preserve the optimal condition of your machine and ensure the quality of the coffee you brew. Vinegar and hot water are not the best options to descale the machine as they cannot completely remove coffee oils. Switch to an eco-friendly descaler to clean the brewing chamber, washer plate, pump, pipes, and thermoblock.

With other areas, such as the milk lines or dairy system, detergent and water should do the trick.

De'Longhi EcoDecalk Descaler, Eco-Friendly Universal Descaling Solution for Coffee & Espresso Machines, 16.90 oz (5 uses)
  • Significantly reduces the likelihood of premature breakdown from hard water scale build-up, increases the energy efficiency, and improves the coffee flavor
  • Made with 100% lactic acid
  • Suitable for all espresso/coffee machines
  • Will keep your machine running smoothly so you can always enjoy your favorite beverages
  • Usable for all Coffee machines

Are All Coffee Pod Machines The Same?

Most coffee pod machines have a similar operational principle, but they are not identical. Depending on how fancy you want it to be, some machines have a few more advanced features to steam and wand hot milk for a homemade barista-graded beverage, while some others can only make classic coffee. 

It goes the same way with the coffee pod itself. Before bringing any pod home, make sure it coordinates with the machine you already own. Each manufacturer has a standard pod type that goes with the kind of machine they produce. 

However, some other manufacturers can accommodate third-party pods, such as L’OR pod machines. It’s designed for both L’OR Espresso single-shot capsules and L’OR Barista double-shot capsules, along with all Nespresso-compatible capsules.

How do coffee pods work? Answered
While some other coffee pods machine can only make classic coffee

A Glimpse Into How Nespresso Pods Work

Nespresso is one of the most popular pod machines in the world. So far, the brand has developed two machines known as the OriginalLine and VertuoLine series.

The two are built with different construction to accommodate different types of capsules. On top of that, you can’t use them interchangeably.

First off, we have OriginalLine pods that come in a cylinder shape. This type of machine has a high-pressure pump thrusting water through ground coffee for extraction.

To make espresso with an OriginalLine machine, place your pod on top of the chamber under the showerhead and close it. Once you close it, the lid of the pod is pieced by a needle. Press the start button after choosing the size of the beverage, and the machine automatically pumps out the right amount of water to brew the ground coffee inside the pod.

Unlike the OriginalLine machine, VertuoLine Nespresso pods come in a dome shape. You cannot use OriginalLine pods for this machine and vice versa. The VertuoLine Nespresso machine is also designed with a high-pressure pump as part of a centrifugal-type system.

Working with a VertuoLine machine means you don’t need to choose the beverage size each time. Each VertuoLine pod comes with a certain barcode that signifies the system of the exact parameters it needs to brew the drink. From there, the machine will go ahead to select the desired rotational speed, infusion time, water temperature, and flow of water.

Check out our round-up of the best Nespresso Vertuo pods for a latte.

The Best Types Of Drinks You Can Make In A Coffee Pod Machine

Once again, the answer boils down to which coffee pod machine you’re using. Some units on the lower end of the price spectrum can only brew basic black coffees such as espressos and lungos. If you invest a tad more money into a better-built machine, it can brew anything from lattes to cappuccinos at various drink sizes.

That being said, these machines are installed with built-in milk carafes and even steam wands that allow you to make hot milk drinks other than just coffee. On the flip side, these machines come with hefty price tags in return for enhanced convenience.

The rising demand for coffee pods owes its present popularity to the wide variety of flavors that each brand has developed. Other than a latte, espresso, and macchiato, you can play it up with hot chocolate and even tea.

Can Coffee Pods Go With Regular Coffee Makers?

Simply put, no, unless you’ve already dumped all the ground coffee out of the pod to brew them as usual. This is because each type of coffee pod is sealed and shaped to fit into a specific coffee pod machine. The machine has a needle set up that injects hot water into the cup and brews the coffee content inside so the coffee liquid drips into your cup placed underneath. 

The Best Way To Use Coffee Pods Without A Machine

The best way to use coffee pods without a machine is pour-over coffee. The trick here is to get all of the ground coffee out of the pod first and brew it the same way you treat a normal pour-over.

There’s some contrast between using a coffee pod for a pour-over versus your everyday ground coffee. The grounds from the pods can be a bit too fine for a regular pour-over method. Meanwhile, those types of ground coffee made specifically for pour-over are usually somewhere between medium and medium-fine grind.

For that reason, don’t let the water come in contact with the ground coffee for too long. Otherwise, you end up over-extracting your coffee, and your tasty cup of Joe turns into a mug of bitter juice. Note that some pre-filled coffee pods often contain added flavor enhancers on top of the original coffee.

How To Remove Coffee From Pods

Spill coffee from coffee pods
Removing ground coffee from the pod is tricky and messy experience

Removing ground coffee from the pod is a tricky task if you don’t know how to do it right. Cutting all the way through the pod with scissors may sound like too much effort, and I can’t guarantee you a mess-free experience.

Use a small knife to slowly peel off the lid and dump it out. Alternatively, puncture it with the handle of a coffee scoop or a spoon before peeling the lid off. You can recycle an empty pod into a holder for sorting change, push pins, paperclips, buttons, safety pins, and more.

If you liked this post, you might be interested in our guide on how to refill Nespresso pods.


  • Oanh Nguyen

    Born and raised by a traditional mama-barista, Oanh is a typical Viet coffee aficionado who would spend her entire precious Sunday showing you how to categorize coffee beans just by the looks and smells. She enjoys writing about everything drinks-related while sipping her favorite rosebud tea. Find Oanh on LinkedIn.