May 26, 2023

What's the difference between coffee pods and capsules?

Coffee pods and coffee capsules – so many people use these phrases interchangeably. And they share a lot of similarities: they’re both single-serve, similar in size and brewed using a purpose-built machine.

But for the similarities, there are plenty of differences – and anybody looking to buy or brew either needs to understand just how different they are.

At Metropolis, we manufacture commercially-compostable espresso capsules compatible with Nespresso original line brewers. In the US, when we talk about coffee pods, we generally mean Keurig K-Cup pods – which don’t work with Nespresso original line machines.

But the differences don’t stop there. Read on to learn more about what sets these two apart.

Metropolis Coffee capsules and beans alongside a coffee pod machine.

The rise of coffee pods and coffee capsules

It’s no secret that single-serve coffee products like pods and capsules are popular. But to understand where these products came from and how they got here, we need to look back at the late 20th century.

Coffee capsules as we know them today really started with Nespresso. It entered the market over 45 years ago, patenting its first capsules in 1976. However, the capsules didn’t become successful until the mid to late 1980s when the company started to market them as a luxury product, rather than one of convenience.

About a decade later, Keurig entered the market, first offering its pods as an office coffee solution. Both brands were successful for years!

However, when the patents for Nespresso original line capsules and K-Cups expired in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the market changed. This meant other coffee brands were able to create their own compatible capsules and pods. As a result, coffee lovers now have a huge range of single-serve products to pick from.

We’ve even seen new styles emerge outside of standard coffee pods and coffee capsules. These include soft coffee pods (the kind used with Senseo and Black & Decker Brew n Go machines), drip coffee bags, a number of new Keurig products, and Nespresso Vertuo capsules.

There are plenty of reasons why all of these products have become so popular, but as you might have guessed, convenience has been a big focus. It’s much quicker to drop a coffee pod or espresso capsule into a machine and press a button than brew a batch of drip coffee or make yourself a pour over.

Coffee capsule shells ready for packaging.

Coffee pods vs coffee capsules: what's the difference?

We mentioned earlier that these two phrases are often used interchangeably. That this isn’t actually right, as they only work with specific machines. But beyond machine compatibility, how else are they different?

First things first: espresso. You might have seen photos of Nespresso original line capsules brewed as short drinks with a thick layer of light brown crema sitting on the top. Sound familiar? This is why we refer to Nespresso original line capsules as espresso capsules.

Meanwhile, Keurig machines like the K-Cafe operate in different ways and create different drinks as a result. Generally speaking, these are closer to classic “coffee makers”. They can brew anything from single cups to full pots depending on the exact model you have.

Some Keurig pods even have creamer mixed in with the coffee, while others can be filled with cocoa or even tea.

This doesn’t mean that you can only use Nespresso original line capsules to brew espresso, however. By chaning the settings on these machines, you can choose a shorter, more concentrated drink, or add more water to dilute it. We’ve had great results brewing up to 5oz from a single dose with Metropolis espresso capsules.

This difference comes down to each machine's brewing mechanisms, but also how the capsule and pod shells are made. For example, to extract an espresso capsule, you need to be working at a much higher pressure – which means the shells need to be more robust.

The way you dispose of pods and capsules also differs. Capsule machines generally drop used shells into a bin below the brewing mechanism. Conversely, K-Cup coffee pods often need to be manually removed.

Metropolis Coffee capsules in a hotel room at a Thompson Hotel.

What about Metropolis espresso capsules?

Good question!

At Metropolis, we manufacture espresso capsules that are compatible with Nespresso original line machines. This means they can’t be used with any Keurig machines.

Our capsules are commercially compostable and nitrogen-flushed for optimal freshness. This means they stay fresh and taste great throughout their 12 to 24-month shelf life.

We roast each batch of coffee fresh to order, grind it perfectly using a roller mill, and then prepare each capsule using a state-of-the-art Italian filling and sealing machine.

We also offer a range of capsules at different roast levels, so you can find something that suits your taste. Take a look:

Coffee capsule packaging in a Metropolis Coffee warehouse.

Private-label & co-packed espresso capsules

Alongside the espresso capsules you can buy on our website, we also offer wholesale coffee capsules for companies looking for something new.

We offer three different options for wholesale customers, based on their requirements:

  • Metropolis branded coffee capsules
  • Private-label coffee capsules
  • Co-packed coffee capsules

What’s the difference? Well, to start, Metropolis branded wholesale coffee capsules are exactly what they sound like – our capsules sold on a wholesale basis.

For private label customers, we put together a signature coffee, before packaging it according to any given specifications. Put simply: it’s our beans, your brand.

Finally, if you’ve already got your own beans, then co-packed coffee capsules are what you need. This is where we take your roasted coffee and handle all of the tough capsule-specific stuff – namely the grinding, filling, and sealing.

No matter which option you choose, the capsules we provide are filled and sealed using our state-of-the-art machine, and nitrogen flushed to keep them fresh for 12 to 24 months. They are also commercially compostable with both the CMA and BPI certifications, which mean they pass the strictest standards for composting in the US.

Interested in learning more? Check out our wholesale co-packing and private-label espresso capsule solutions today.

Certified compostable facilities may not exist in your area. To find a composter near you, visit or on all packaging and marketing materials.

Metropolis Coffee is not affiliated with, endorsed, or sponsored by Nespresso. Nespresso is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé.