September 08, 2023

Who invented coffee pods and capsules?

Coffee pods and capsules have enjoyed remarkable success in recent years. They're now a staple in homes, restaurants, offices, and hotels around the world. However, just a few decades ago, single-serve coffee options like these were much rarer.

Before the invention of coffee capsules, a few manufacturers sold tea bag-like single-serve coffee pods and coffee bags. It wasn’t until the 1970s that manufacturers began developing the coffee capsule as we know it today.

So who were these manufacturers? And how did we get to the thriving global coffee pod and coffee capsule market we have today? Read on to find out.

Metropolis coffee pods before filling.

A brief history of coffee pods and capsules

In 1896, a Belgian company called Rombouts launched a “One Cup Coffee Filter” which contained roasted and ground coffee. Almost 130 years on, it still sells similar products – as do other manufacturers, such as Keurig.

In the decades that followed, there were a handful of experiments with different single-serve coffee formats, such as “coffee bags”: tea bag-like containers packed with ground coffee. 

But nothing quite captured consumers like coffee capsules. 

As early as 1975, engineers at Nestlé's headquarters in Switzerland were discussing the prospect of an “easy-to-use” espresso machine that could function beyond the coffee shop – in homes and offices, for instance.

That year, an engineer named Eric Favre observed how baristas at a particularly popular espresso bar in Rome would pump the espresso machine’s piston several times before releasing the coffee.

He deduced that this forced more water and air into the ground coffee, resulting in more oxidation and subsequently more flavor and crema. Before long, Favre started working on an all-new single-serve coffee system that could mimic this mechanism – and Nespresso was born.

This wasn’t an overnight success by any means, however. Nespresso initially focused on offices and other commercial spaces but found it hard to establish any kind of presence in the market. 

However, towards the end of the 20th century, Nespresso changed its approach to focus on home users. It adjusted its marketing strategy to portray the image of an exclusive luxury lifestyle brand – a decision that proved to be extremely successful.

Metropolis Coffee pods and packaging on a table.

The modern coffee pod market

Although Nespresso enjoyed meteoric growth in the early 2000s, its patents began expiring in the early 2010s. This opened the market up to third-party manufacturers, who could capitalize on the rising popularity of coffee capsules by selling “Nespresso-compatible” products.

Today, there are thousands of Nespresso original line compatible capsules available on the market from a range of retailers. As the name suggests, these are designed to work with Nespresso original line brewers, with plenty of options for consumers to choose from. 

As well as picking from a range of coffee roasters to find the flavor profile they like, coffee drinkers can also select from a range of materials, such as aluminum, plastic, or plant-based sustainable capsules. Each capsule contains between 5g and 7g of finely ground coffee and can brew espresso-style coffee in seconds.

In response to the proliferation of third-party coffee capsules, Nespresso developed an all-new coffee capsule system to allow it to re-establish its patents: the Vertuo capsule. Launched in 2014, these capsules are larger and dome-shaped. They also feature an electronic barcode around the edge, which the machine must scan before brewing the coffee.

What about the environment?

There have understandably been environmental concerns about the volume of waste generated by the meteoric rise in coffee capsule consumption.

Historically, Nespresso and Nespresso-compatible capsules were made from two main materials: aluminum and plastic. 

Aluminum is technically recyclable, but cleaning ground coffee out from spent capsules is extremely time-consuming for most coffee drinkers. Plastic capsule shells, meanwhile, can be much more challenging to recycle, even if they are cleaned out properly.

This means that coffee pods and capsules create hundreds of thousands of tons of waste each year. As such, many coffee capsule consumers have started to demand environmentally-friendly alternatives.

As a result, many coffee brands now use more plant-based sustainable materials for their coffee pod and capsule packaging. Here at Metropolis, for example, we source commercially compostable coffee capsule shells directly from Smile Beverage Werks LLC.

Metropolis Coffee espresso capsules in boxes.

Metropolis Coffee commercially compostable espresso capsules

Coffee pods and capsules have come a long way since their invention in the 1970s. Today, there are thousands of options on the market – more than ever before. That can make it difficult for some buyers to choose. 

So, what’s the best option? 

If you’re looking for high-quality specialty coffee that is convenient but doesn’t compromise on environmental responsibility, Metropolis Coffee commercially compostable coffee capsules are a fantastic option.

At Metropolis, we manufacture commercially compostable espresso capsules that are compatible with Nespresso original line brewers. Our espresso capsules are certified by both the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and the Composter Manufacturing Alliance (CMA), meaning they pass the strictest standards for commercial composting in the US.

We roast each batch of coffee to perfection, grind it using a commercial roller mill, and use a state-of-the-art Italian capsule filling machine to accurately dose, fill, and seal each capsule. We also flush each capsule with nitrogen, ensuring a shelf life of 12 to 24 months.

Our wholesale espresso capsules

For wholesale consumers, we offer several options that are ready to brew straight out of the box:

On top of this, we also specialize in private label coffee capsules and co-packing services, designing signature blends and high-quality packaging that show your brand in the best possible light. 

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 espresso capsules are made under license from Smile Beverage Werks, P.B.C.

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

Metropolis Coffee

Interested in wholesale espresso capsules? Click here for more information.