What are ESE Coffee Pods and should you buy them?

ese coffee pod

ESE stands for Easy Serve Espresso and is an alternative method to grinding your own coffee beans or using traditional coffee pods like Nespresso coffee pods or Dolce Gusto coffee pods or Tassimo coffee pods.

To fully understand what ESE coffee pods are you first need to remove the word “pod” because that is the part that causes the most confusion. The easiest way to describe ESE coffee pods is to imagine teabags that have coffee in them instead of tea.

Is it worth buying ESE coffee pods or should you just stick to one of the other methods to create espresso or cappuccino or latte?

What type of coffee machine takes ESE coffee pods?

As the name suggests, easy serve espresso pods are an easy way to make espresso but you will need an espresso machine before you can use them.

If you are using a bean to cup coffee machine then there is no need to consider using these teabag type coffee bags because bean to cup coffee machine already have a coffee bean grinder integrated into the machine.

The machine will grind the beans freshly for you and automatically produce the espresso without any other preparation required.

However, bean to cup coffee machines can be quite expensive and there is no reason why you cannot use an espresso machine that does not have an integrated coffee bean grinder.

One of the best value for money ways of producing a café quality espresso is to buy a cheap espresso machine without a coffee grinder and grind the beans yourself.

Some people just don’t have the time to do that and it can also be a bit messy as well. You will need to clean out the coffee grinder once the whole coffee beans have been ground.

You will also have to clean out the used coffee grounds from the portafilter once the espresso has been delivered.

This is where ESE coffee pods come into play. If you want to use your espresso machine but you don’t want the hassle or mess of dealing with grinding coffee beans then ESE pods are a convenient alternative to consider.

All you do is pop a pod/bag into the portafilter and insert it into the machine as normal and you are done.

However, before you jump in there are a number of things to consider in order to decide if this is the best option for your needs.

ESE pods contain 7 grams of coffee which are only enough for a single espresso. Most people like a double espresso because you then have a reasonably strong coffee that you can then add milk to in order to create a cappuccino or latte if that is your drink of choice.

Coffee shops will always use a double espresso for all of their drinks and so if you want to produce a decent comparable drink then you will need to use two ESE pods every time you make a coffee.

From a time perspective, it’s not really an issue, you will just need to use two pods for every coffee you make which will only take about 1 minute in total.

The main thing to take into consideration is the cost. You get the convenience of no hassle and no mess but it does cost a little bit more than buying whole beans and grinding them yourself.

Probably the most important thing to think about is whether they are as good as grinding the beans yourself.

Do ESE coffee pods taste better or worse?

ESE coffee pods can never taste as good as producing espresso with freshly ground coffee because the coffee has been pre-ground before being packed into the bag.

Coffee always tastes best when it has been ground from whole beans just before being brewed. If you do go down the road of ESE coffee pods then buy ones that have been individually foil wrapped to preserve the freshness otherwise you risk the coffee going stale and the flavour will definitely be affected.

Are Tassimo or Dolce Gusto pods ESE?

No. Tassimo and Dolce Gusto make pods specifically to fit their own branded coffee machines so ESE pods will not fit these machines.

Are Nespresso pods ESE?

No. Nespresso make coffee pods that only fit in Nespresso machines so ESE pods will not work in any of these machines.

Should you buy ESE coffee pods?

If convenience and speed are important to you and you haven’t yet bought a coffee machine then you will probably be better off with a traditional pod coffee machine from Nespresso, Dolce Gusto or Tassimo.

These machines are specifically made to be used only with actual coffee pods so you know exactly what you are getting every time.

We have some dedicated articles specifically related to POD coffee machines.

Here is an article that lists the best pod coffee machines and all of the benefits that come with them.

This is an article specifically related to the best Nespresso pod machines.

These manufacturers specialise in coffee pods and offer multiple different flavours and strengths to cater for everyone’s taste.

If you want ease of use combined with lots of variety a dedicated pod machine from one of the big three is a better option.

If you already have an espresso machine then there is no reason why you shouldn’t give them a go.

Worst case scenario is you don’t like them but the only cost you have incurred is a packet of pods and best case scenario you love how easy they are to use and you may very well be happy with the taste.

This 50 pack of ESE coffee pods from Black Donkey are worth a try. You get 2 different types in the variety pack and they are already tried and tested by many happy customers

50 pack of ESE coffee pods

See the full review of the Black Donkey ESE pods
See Price on Amazon
Although ESE pods have been around for a number of years they have only really started to become popular in the last year or two as people look for a quick and convenient way to make espresso but a few companies like Pure Gusto have been successfully making them for over 7 years.

This 100 variety pack of ESE pods from Pure Gusto represents good value for money with 4 different varieties (4 x 25) to sample. It’s worth trying a selection of different blends to find one you really like. Coffee is a personal thing and if you try just one type and you don’t like it then it may put you off but another blend containing coffee from a different country may be just the flavour you are looking for.

100 variety pack of ESE pods

See the full review of the Pure Gusto ESE pods

See Price on Amazon

What’s the difference between ESE coffee pods and coffee bags?

Coffee bags have been around for a few years and are starting to become more popular, so much so that you can now find them in most supermarkets.

They are literally used in exactly the same way as a teabag but for coffee.

Pre-ground coffee is packed into a bag that you pop into a cup and add boiling water. Leave it to brew for a few minutes, add milk and sugar as required and enjoy.

In the UK we have become so used to drinking instant coffee that coffee in a bag has never really taken off.

Instant coffee is freeze-dried and is the cheapest form of coffee available. The quality is often poor but we have become so used to drinking it that it’s hard to break the lifelong habit.

Since the explosion of coffee shops, we have come to appreciate a better quality of coffee so it’s surprising that coffee bags have not become more popular.

Coffee in a bag is ground coffee so it’s automatically better than the freeze-dried stuff you get in a jar of instant but it has probably been ground several months ago so it won’t taste as good as freshly ground coffee beans but it will taste better than instant.

Coffee bags can be quite useful if you want to enjoy a better quality of coffee than instant without using a coffee machine and they are also good for use outside of the home, perhaps at work or at events or camping.

They are also reasonably priced and you can expect to pay between 15-25p per bag depending on the quality of coffee so it’s much cheaper than the £3+ you would pay in a coffee shop although the quality is a lot better than instant coffee and you will notice a significant difference in the flavour.

ESE coffee pods contain ground coffee specifically for use in an espresso machine to create espresso and espresso based drinks like cappuccino and latte.

They are not suitable to brew in a cup with some boiling water poured over them as the coffee is stronger and made for use with espresso machines only.

Here is a short video showing the simplicity of preparing an espresso with an Easy Serve Espresso Pod

  • Shimon Binyamini
    Posted at 08:51h, 11 April Reply

    You completely ignored the enviromental issue with the regular coffee pod that is solved with the ese pods.

    • Steve
      Posted at 10:57h, 11 April Reply

      Thank you for your feedback. The article is focussed on the difference between ESE coffee pods and other types of pods from a flavour perspective but you are quite right, the paper that ESE pods are made from tend to be biodegradable and therefore you could recycle the used grounds from ESE pods if you wish. One of our other articles lists some of the things you could do with used coffee grounds. https://trustedcoffeereviews.co.uk/uses-for-used-coffee-grounds/

      Market-leading pod manufacturers such as Nespresso have a recycling programme where you can drop your used pods into one of their shops or put them in a Freepost bag supplied by Nespresso to ensure the plastic pods are recycled. A lot of people probably just dispose of them in their regular waste and using ESE pods eliminates the use of plastic altogether so definitely a good point that you make.

      • Mr Pedant
        Posted at 17:07h, 13 May Reply

        Nespresso pods are aluminium not plastic.

  • Teresa Greenaway
    Posted at 09:09h, 19 April Reply

    Is this just an advert for the Black Donkey ESE coffee ? as I don’t see any other makes being reviewed

    • Steve
      Posted at 09:51h, 19 April Reply

      Hi Theresa,

      Thank you for your question. This article is intended for information purposes for anyone trying to understand what an ESE coffee pod is and the difference between ESE pods, other types of brewing coffee brewing methods and what you can expect from a flavour perspective.

      It’s definitely not intended as an advert for the Black Donkey ESE pods, these are just one to consider if you have an espresso machine that takes ESE pods.

      It’s a good point that you make though so I’ll take a look at adding a few more so that anyone that wants to use ESE pods has a few to compare against each other.

      Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Joshua Renkin
    Posted at 13:33h, 18 June Reply

    I read the ESE pod is more environmental, but I can’t find anything about the little single pouch the pod is packaged in. What is that made of and does that just become landfill waste?

    • Steve
      Posted at 08:15h, 21 June Reply

      Hi Joshua,

      The paper on ESE coffee pods are environmentally friendly and recyclable. They can go in your food recycling bin if you live in the UK or they can also go on the compost heap for garden fertiliser

  • Mari Craig
    Posted at 12:03h, 03 July Reply

    Hi Steve! I think Joshua was asking about the foil wrappers that the pods come individually packaged in, rather than the paper of the actual pod itself. The fact that the pods only seem to come individually wrapped in non-recyclable material really puts me off buying the ESE pods 🙁

    • Steve
      Posted at 12:39h, 03 July Reply

      Hi Mari,

      Having reread Joshua’s comment I think you may be right! Thank you for that and you raise an interesting point.

      Without the pods being individually wrapped the freshness will quickly become compromised but the flipside is that it kind of defeats the benefit of having a recyclable pod in the first place.

      Sounds like a challenge for one of the pod manufacturers to address!

  • Ann Blythe
    Posted at 14:21h, 18 July Reply

    Thank you for a great article on ESE pod machines. I have a Grimac Terry that I found in a resale shop several years ago. I love it! I order my pods from Amazon. Cafe Borbone. Hands down my machine has a better pour then my friends Vienna Plus. I am going to look into Black Donkey pods.
    Thanks again!

  • Ian Morrison
    Posted at 11:49h, 13 September Reply

    If convenience and speed are important to you and you haven’t yet bought a coffee machine then you will probably be better off with a traditional pod coffee machine from Nespresso, Dolce Gusto or Tassimo.

    These machines are specifically made to be used only with actual coffee pods so you know exactly what you are getting every time.”

    This doesn’t make any sense. E.S.E. specific machines are made to be used only with actual E.S.E. pods so what’s the difference? Plus a lot of good home espresso machines can also take E.S.E.

    • Steve
      Posted at 11:34h, 15 September Reply

      Hi Ian,

      Interesting point you make. I’m not aware of any ESE only machines as the ESE option tends to be an add on option available as opposed to the only thing you can use.

      Are you aware of coffee machines that only take ESE pods and nothing else?

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