Coffee machine stopped working? You can still use your coffee pod

We test the best way to get a cuppa from your coffee pod, even without a machine.

What happens if your coffee pod machine breaks and you’re left gasping for a coffee? With these machines now owned by nearly a third of UK households, this is becoming a problem that more and more of us are encountering. 

The good news is that you can use a coffee pod without a machine – it just needs a bit of creativity and effort. To save you that, we put five different brewing methods through their paces to see if you really do need a machine to make a cup of coffee with a pod.  

The results were mixed, but some definitely tasted better than others. Keep in mind that you won’t get the same results as you would if you use a coffee pod machine, but, if you’re in a pinch, brewing coffee from a pod can still be a great way to get a caffeine fix. 

Coffee pods and a coffee machine on a kitchen worktopCredit: Shutterstock/Kasarp studio

How to do coffee pods work?

The pods need to be punctured

Coffee pods are typically made from plastic or aluminium and are airtight to preserve the freshness of the coffee grounds inside. Due to the environmental concerns around coffee pods, some companies now provide pods that are recyclable, compostable or refillable to help reduce waste.

They contain a predetermined amount of coffee, which is usually measured to provide the optimal strength and flavour for a single cup of coffee. 

They’re designed to be used with specific coffee pod machines that, once inserted, puncture the pod. This allows hot water to flow into the pod and interact with the coffee grounds, and it also pierces an exit point for the brewed coffee to flow out. 

After the brewing process is complete, the pressure created by the machine’s mechanism forces the brewed coffee to flow out through the exit point and into your cup.  

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For all the following methods, you’ll need to puncture the pods manually to get access to the ground coffee.

We used a sharp cornonthecob stick, but small scissors or the point of a knife will also work. Just be careful when piercing it, as the coffee is packed tight into the little pod and you risk losing some if you’re too rough when opening it.

Once, you’ve opened the pod, you’ll then need to pour the coffee out of the pod for each of the following methods. 

Method 1: Cafetière

A smooth cup of coffee

One way to use coffee pods without a dedicated machine is by using a cafetière or French press.  

How to brew coffee pods in a cafetière 

  1. Pierce the coffee pod carefully. 
  2. Pour the coffee from the pod into the cafetière. 
  3. Boil the water and then let it cool slightly. The best temperature for brewing coffee is 93°C (200°F). 
  4. Once the water has cooled, pour a little over the coffee and stir. To get the best taste, leave this for a couple of minutes. Then fill up the cafetière with the rest of the water (see amounts below). 
  5. Give the coffee a good stir and let it sit for up to four minutes.  
  6. Press down the plunger slowly. Your coffee is now ready to drink. 
Coffee made in a Cafetiere with a coffee podCredit: Saga Exceptional
Using a coffee pod in a cafetière actually produced a half decent cup of coffee

The results

This was by far our favourite way to brew coffee pods without a machine. It made a smooth-tasting cup of coffee.  

Normally, you’d use a much coarser ground coffee for this type of coffee maker, but the finer grind didn’t affect the flavour too much.  

We did have to experiment with the right ratio but found three pods in our 500ml (about three-quarters of a pint) cafetière did the trick. It also made around three mugs of coffee, so worked out to be the most cost-effective as well.

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Rainbean 8 cup cafetiere

RRP: £17.99

Rainbean 8 cup cafetiere

Method 2: Filter coffee

Leave this one for freshly ground coffee

Filter coffee is super-easy to make, but how does it fare with the contents of a coffee pod? It is brewed using gravity, unlike coffee pod machines, which use pressure.

A good ratio for filter coffee is 1:16, meaning that you should use 16ml water for every gram of coffee. The average amount of coffee needed for filter coffee is 20g (just under an ounce), so you will need 320ml water (roughly half a pint). This will then make several cups of coffee. Nespresso pods have about 5g coffee in each one, so four pods will make the perfect filter coffee brew.  

We used an electric filter coffee maker, but the principle is the same whether you use this or a manual one. 

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Be careful when you remove the lid from the coffee pod as it spills easilyCredit: Saga Exceptional
Be careful when you remove the lid from the coffee pod as it spills easily

How to brew drip coffee with a pod

  1. Pierce the coffee pods and pour the coffee from the pod into the filter section.  
  2. Then pour the water into the filter, or the reservoir if it’s an electric coffee maker, and wait for gravity to take over.  

The results 

Grind is critical when it comes to filter coffee, with a medium grind being optimal. Too coarse and it will taste weak. Too fine and it’s bitter – and that was our experience. The coffee in pods is finely ground and this method resulted in a not-very-nice cup of coffee. It was a watery, bitter and just not very pleasant at all. 

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Morphy Richards Rose Gold Collection 162030 Filter Coffee Machine

RRP: £69.99

Morphy Richards Rose Gold Collection 162030 Filter Coffee Machine

Method 3: Loose-leaf teapot

Good for coffee as well

How to use coffee pods with a teapot 

For this brewing experiment, we used a teapot with an integrated infuser in it. 

  1. Pierce the pods and pour the coffee from the pod into the infuser. Our teapot is for one cup so we used just one pod. 
  2. Boil the water and leave it to stand for a minute or so. Then pour carefully onto the coffee in the infuser. If you pour too quickly, it will cause the grounds to come through the gaps in the infuser and also not allow the coffee to steep. 
  3. Leave it to stand for a good three minutes or so to ensure the coffee is fully brewed. 
  4. Pour into your cup. If you’re putting the coffee directly in the pot, make sure you use a tea strainer with a fine mesh, otherwise you’ll be drinking grounds with your coffee. 
Be careful when you add the coffee as it can leak through into the teapotCredit: Saga Exceptional
Be careful when you add the coffee as it can leak through into the teapot

The results 

With this method, you need to be careful when putting the grounds into the infuser. It’s made for tea leaves, which are obviously larger than finely ground coffee, so we did find that some grinds went straight through into the pot. Some also escaped when the water was poured on them. However, the resulting cup of coffee was surprisingly pleasant and almost on a par with the cafetière.

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Glass teapot with infuser

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Glass teapot with infuser

Method 4: Cowboy coffee

Only for the desperate

How to brew cowboy coffee with coffee pods 

Way back in the Wild West, cowboys would brew their coffee in a pot over the fire. While not the most popular brewing method these days, we thought we’d give it a go to see how it fared with the coffee from pods.  

  1. Add a mug of water to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take it off the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. 
  2. Pierce the coffee pod and empty into the saucepan. Give the grounds a good stir. 
  3. Allow the mixture to sit for a while so the coffee can brew. Then give it another good stir.  
  4. Let the coffee grounds settle to the bottom and pour into a cup. Alternatively, use a fine-mesh strainer to filter the coffee as you pour it into cups. 
Not only did the cowboy coffee method produce disgusting coffee, but it was difficult to pour without spillingCredit: Saga Exceptional
Not only did the cowboy coffee method produce disgusting coffee, but it was difficult to pour without spilling

The results 

Unfortunately, quite a lot of the coffee grounds went into the mug along with the coffee. A strainer would sort that out, though. Cowboys out in the wild used their socks for this purpose, but whether you want to ruin a sock for this is debatable. Also, we’re not sure how it would affect the flavour, especially if the sock has been recently worn. 

The resulting cup of coffee was not nice. It was gritty, thanks to the added texture of the grounds, bitter and totally underwhelming. Definitely not worth wasting a pod on.

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stainless steel tea strainer

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stainless steel tea strainer

Method 5: Coffee bags

Ready for some DIY instant coffee?

How to use coffee pods with coffee bags 

Coffee bags are having a moment, allowing you to create a cup of coffee as you would a cup of tea. This time, we went all Blue Peter, creating our own coffee bag with the coffee grounds from the pod. We used special mesh tea bags, however, you could try using a scrap of fabric or even some coffee filter paper.  

  1. Pierce the pod and pour the coffee carefully from the pod into the bag. 
  2. Place the bag in the cup and then carefully pour over the almost boiling water. Our tea bags came with a longer tail of fabric that you can hang over the side to stop it falling in. 
  3. Allow it to stand for a few minutes. 
  4. Remove the bag and drink. 
Coffee bags are a great way to brew coffee pods without a machineCredit: Saga Exceptional
Coffee bags are a great way to brew coffee pods without a machine

The results 

After the disappointment of the cowboy coffee, this cup of coffee was delicious, a definite second to the cafetière coffee. It didn’t taste quite as strong or flavoursome as when made using the pod machine, but it was still extremely drinkable. While you won’t be making barista coffee at home using this method, it definitely is an improvement on instant coffee.

The only downside? You need tea filter bags or the desire to craft a pouch to make your coffee.

Featured product

Finum tea bag filters

RRP: £3.50

Finum tea bag filters
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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Updated:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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