Differences Between Coffee Capsules and Coffee Pods

There are more options for preparing and consuming coffee than ever before. That’s definitely a good thing for those of us who love coffee. One downside is that it can get confusing knowing what products to buy. Are you confused by the difference between coffee capsules and coffee pods? We explain what both options offer in this guide.

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Pods and Capsules - The Same Thing?

This is something that can definitely add to people’s confusion. Many single-serve coffee machine manufacturers use the two terms interchangeably. Some brands call their ready-to-go coffee vessels “pods” and some call them “capsules” when they may actually be the same thing.

There are often some subtle differences, but it is impossible to completely outline these as different brands use different terms for, effectively, the same thing; a small, often plastic container that has coffee within, ready to go in your machine and brew a coffee as water passes through it.

The term for most coffee machines is a “capsule”. Nespresso, Lavazza, and Tassimo are some of the brands that use the term “coffee capsule”. These work in the percolators or single-serve coffee machines like these ones on the coffeefriend.co.uk website. They are single-serve containers that allow you to make a cup of coffee or an espresso in the same way a teabag is a single-serve container for tea.

People will often say “coffee pod” when they mean a capsule. However, some brands, such as DeLonghi, do use consumable products that are branded as coffee pods, so there is a difference.

Coffee Pods - Hard and Soft Pods

You might find a product branded a “coffee pod” that is exactly the same as a “capsule”. This can come in the form of a small, plastic container. They sit within a cradle in your coffee maker and do the exact same job. They’re the same thing. However, there are other definitions of a coffee pod.

Sometimes, coffee pods are actually more like teabags in their design. These might be referred to as “soft pods”. This type of pod doesn’t always go in a machine and may need to be steeped in water and brewed, much like a cafetiere method.

Pods such as these are often sold under the “Senseo” brand and fit within the Senseo hardware and coffee makers.

Soft pods get their name from the fact that they don’t have the hard plastic form of capsules. At a glance, it’s easy to confuse one with a teabag.

Hard pods are made of plastic. Though they have different compatibility with different coffee makers, the concept of a hard pod is usually identical to that of a capsule.

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Compatibility is Key

One key difference between pods and capsules is compatibility. It is fair to say that pods are more of a flexible option. For example, if you buy coffee pods, they may be used within a “Handpresso” or various DeLonghi models of coffee makers. That means you have an option for a coffee maker that can be used on-the-go.

Capsule compatibility usually only stretches to one brand of coffee machine. Makers do this deliberately. By making the capsule a certain size and shape, they increase the sales of their own proprietary coffee capsules, rather than losing custom because another manufacturer’s capsules can be used instead. This only partially works, as various capsules have been made by other brands, allowing you to use “compatible” models. This increases the choice you have as a consumer and means you can get the perfect coffee for you in terms of strength and variety.

A lot of people who are searching for the differences between coffee capsules and pods are doing so because of the fact that they are worried about what will go in their coffee maker. So, it is worth repeating that compatibility is the absolute key. If you own a coffee machine, you need to check that any pods and capsules you buy are compatible. 

If you’re new to coffee makers that use pods and capsules, a useful analogy might be a printer and the ink. You can’t just buy any old ink for your printer, you need to specifically check the compatibility first. Luckily, when you are buying coffee capsules and pods, you can usually filter your search to ensure that you get something that is going to fit, and work within the coffee maker you choose to use.


The terminology is almost secondary here. There are some differences between coffee capsules and coffee pods, but they are sometimes pretty subtle, so it can be hard to know the difference. Conversationally, you might even use the two terms interchangeably.

To make things more confusing, there are some soft coffee pods that don’t work within a coffee machine, and simply steep in water to prepare your coffee. If you’re searching for the differences between coffee capsules and pods, these probably aren’t what you’re in the market for. 

The important thing to remember is to match up the brand of coffee maker you are using, and the pod or capsule technology, with the coffee capsules or pods you are looking to buy. Whether you buy the official coffee capsules or opt for a “compatible” model is up to you, but you might void the warranty of your machine if you use those not manufactured for your coffee maker.

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