Coffee pod subscriptions: the pros and cons

To subscribe or not to subscribe – that is the question.

The first coffee pod was invented by Eric Favre in the mid-1970s. Inspired by the way espresso was made in Italy, he wanted to find a way to create it at home that was quick and easy. By 1986, Nestlé was selling Nespresso machines and pods. 

Since then, the coffee pod market has exploded, with some reports suggesting it will reach $13.3 billion (£10.6 billion) this year. And if you’re one of the many millions of people who own a coffee pod machine, a subscription could be just what you and your machine have been missing. 

Pod machines are just one of several types of coffee machine, but they are easy to use and can be very affordable, which has helped their popularity grow.

Lots of different colour coffee pods floating in the air to illustrate coffee pod subscriptionsCredit: Shutterstock/Inked Pixels
Coffee pod subscriptions are convenient but there are some things to consider before signing up

How do coffee subscriptions work?

Get your pods delivered to your door

At its simplest, a coffee pod subscription is a service whereby you pay a regular fee, usually monthly, and have pods delivered directly to your door. 

There are many coffee pod subscriptions available. Some offer compostable pods, others offer you a chance to try new and unique blends, and most will allow you to tailor them to your needs so you never run out.

What to consider when choosing a coffee pod subscription service

Some services offer a variety of coffee flavours, while others specialise in a particular type of coffee, such as espresso or decaf.

If you’re a big coffee drinker you may want to go for weekly.

Some subscriptions allow you to tailor the number of pods, while others require you to purchase a set amount of pods each month.

Coffee pod subscription services can range in price from £10 to £30 per month, so it’s important to find one that fits your budget.

What are the pros?

Say hello to new coffee flavours with convenience

1. Convenience

One of the biggest pros of a coffee pod subscription is the convenience it offers. With a subscription, you can have a steady supply of coffee pods delivered right to your doorstep, saving you time and hassle.

2. Variety

Many subscriptions offer a variety of flavours and roasts to choose from, allowing you to try new blends each month. If variety is important for you, make sure you check what flavours and roasts are available.

Some subscription services offer a “discovery” subscription, where they choose the blend each month – a great way to try flavours you normally wouldn’t.

Espresso coffee maker and capsules on a wooden tableCredit: Shutterstock/rawf8
A coffee pod subscription can introduce you to different flavours that you might not normally buy

3. Cost savings

One of the main reasons you might choose a coffee pod subscription is the potential cost saving. By subscribing, you can often get a lower price per pod than if you were to purchase them individually at a store or online. Additionally, some subscriptions offer discounts or free shipping for regular customers.

However, it’s important to compare prices and consider the overall cost of the subscription, including any shipping or membership fees, to ensure you’re actually saving money in the long run.

4. Fresh, high quality coffee

Many subscription services (especially those run by speciality coffee roasters) create high quality pods that are made from freshly roasted beans. This can be especially beneficial if you live in an area where it may be difficult to find speciality coffee or where you don’t have access to a good local coffee shop. 

Lex Thornely, founder of ethical coffee brand Blue Goose Coffee, says that quality blends are the only way to get good-tasting coffee out of a pod machine. 

“You just have to be picky about what machine you use and the types of coffee pods you buy,” he says.  

“The key is quality, so don’t skimp, and pick the highest quality blends you can. I recommend looking for options that are made with high quality, freshly roasted coffee beans and that have a flavour that matches your taste preferences.” 

What are the cons?

The cost to you and the environment

1. Monthly financial outlay

While subscriptions might save you money if you purchase coffee regularly, they’re not always the bargain they appear. For example, you’ll probably have shipping charges added on. Some subscription services may also tie you into a contract, so beware if you want to break it. 

Think about whether you will really use it. A survey by Compare The Market found that one in two UK households pay for subscription services that they no longer use, wasting almost £170 per year. It’s only going to be a bargain if it’s something you constantly use.  

If you don’t want to cancel but find you have pods left over each month, see if you can alter the frequency of your delivery. Many subscriptions will allow you to make changes, including pausing or skipping some deliveries, which is great if you’re away or need to cut back for a bit.  

2. The right pods

While most machines work with the original Nespresso style of pods, which are readily available in most subscriptions, they won’t work with all machines. For example, the Nespresso Vertuo machine pods are flatter and wider than the originals, while Lavazza uses rounder pods.

Before you order, double-check the pods are compatible with your coffee pod machine. 

Lavazza coffee podsCredit: Lavazza
Not all coffee pods are the same so check your subscription is the right one for your machine before you buy

3. Environmental impact 

One factor to consider when deciding whether a coffee pod subscription is worth it is the environmental impact. While some companies offer recyclable or biodegradable pods, many are still made from plastic and end up in landfill sites.

Additionally, the shipping and packaging involved in the subscription service can contribute to carbon emissions. 

Biodegradable coffee pods lined up in a row on a table to illustrate the pros and cons of a coffee pod subscriptionCredit: Shutterstock/Lois GoBe
Luckily there are coffee pod subscriptions that do offer more sustainable choices

It’s something that worries Tim Ridley, founder of United Baristas, a digital service for the coffee industry.  

“Pods are the most carbon-intensive way to make coffee out of all the filter methods,” he says.  

“Tasty beans and a French Press (also known as a cafetière) can make much tastier coffee, and the carbon footprint is significantly lower, but the convenience of pods is great.” 

If reducing your environmental footprint is a priority, choose a subscription service that offers compostable pods, and opt for bigger packs with less frequent deliveries.  

4. Running out

The one downside to subscriptions is that you may run out before your next delivery is due – a nightmare if you want to ensure your caffeine cravings are satisfied.  

Some subscriptions allow you to change the frequency or the number of pods you order, so if you find this is happening regularly you might want to look at varying your order. Alternatively, we recommend keeping a packet of pods in the cupboard for just such an emergency. 

Coffee pod subscriptions to try

Time to get your caffeine fix

Grind coffee 

Grind is a London-based coffee chain that also offers a subscription service. It sources its coffee ethically from sustainable farms around the world, roasting the beans daily in London. Your first order comes with a chi-chi pink tin, which you can refill with your pods each week. Grind gets extra green points for producing environmentally friendly compostable pods. 

Packets of Grind coffee pods on a table next to a mug of coffee to illustrate coffee pod subscriptionsCredit: Grind
Grind’s coffee pods are compostable, making them a great choice if you’re trying to live a greener life

Price: From £9.95 for 30 pods, working out at £0.33 per pod (free shipping)

Roast options: Nine different blends, including their house blend and two decaf options

Type of pods: Compostable Nespresso original pod style

Frequency: Monthly, but you can skip, pause or cancel any time 

Odd Coffee Company 

The Odd Coffee Company is all about reusing, so if sustainability is a worry for you, this is a great choice for a coffee pod subscription. Basically, the firm rescues and repackages recyclable pods that didn’t quite make it to the market the first time around. Each pod is then graded by a “Q Grader quality controller” to ensure they’re top quality. 

Odd Coffee Company coffee pods sat on a kitchen worktop next to a coffee pod machineCredit: Odd Coffee Company
The Odd Coffee Company rescues poor pods that were destined for the bin, making it an eco-friendly and pocket-friendly subscription

Price: From £22.39 for 100 pods, which works out at £0.22 per pod 

Roast options: Four different styles of boxes, which will include a mixture of flavours and roasts 

Type of pods: Recyclable Nespresso original pod style 

Frequency: Choose from one to eight weeks and you can skip, pause and cancel any time 

Nespresso Plus Subscription 

This subscription works differently in that the monthly fee is added to your Nespresso “wallet”, and you can then pick and choose what you want to buy. The firm has a staggering array of roasts, plus it offers perks such as 20% off accessories, 70% off machines and early access to sales. 

Colorful coffee pods in box for espresso and cappuccino maker, near ones purposely blurredCredit: Shutterstock/nyker
The Nespresso subscription allows you a choice of their original or Vertuo coffee pods

Price: From £25 a month 

Roast options: 37 different blends 

Type of pods: Nespresso original pod and Vertuo 

Frequency: Monthly, but you can skip, pause or cancel any time 

Origin Coffee

Based in Porthleven, Cornwall, Origin Coffee is an independently owned speciality coffee roaster that puts sustainability at the heart of its product. All the capsules are recyclable, and if it’s not something your local council will accept, Origin Coffee will recycle them for you.

Two boxes of Origins coffee pods to illustrate coffee pod subscriptonsCredit: Origin
Origin Coffee roast their own beans for their coffee pod subscription

Price: From £16.90 for 30 pods, which works out at £0.56 per pod 

Coffee Options: House Espresso, Decaf 

Type of pods: Recyclable Nespresso original pod style 

Subscription Schedule: Every two or four weeks 

Caravan 

The restaurant and coffee brand Caravan is committed to sourcing one-third of its coffee from female coffee producers, and providing a variety of delicious roasts. When you sign up you’ll get a free gift, but while it’s no cheaper to subscribe than to buy a one-off order, you do get the convenience of having it automatically delivered each week or month. 

Someone picking out a box of coffee pods from a Caravan coffee pod subscription boxCredit: Caravan
Caravan gets a third of its coffee from female coffee producers

Price: From £14.25 for 30 pods, which works out at £0.47 per pod 

Coffee Options: Three different types, including decaf 

Type of pods: Recyclable Nespresso original pod style 

Subscription Schedule: You can choose from every one, two, three, four, six or eight weeks 

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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