Ever been sipping a nice hot cup of joe made from your favourite reusable capsule, only to wonder why the flavour is different (weaker, less bitter?) than coffee from single-use pods you've consumed in the past? Ever wondered exactly why it takes a little more effort to attain a strong espresso with reusable pods? Great questions like these, demand great answers. And lucky for you, you've come to just the right place!
VARIETY OF BEAN
A significant factor contributing to the overall flavour of coffee is, of course, the type of beans used in the blend. Nespresso state that they use 95% Arabicas and 5% Robustas in their Grands Crus capsules, however some single-use capsule brands contain up to 100% Robustas. So it's worth knowing how these differ and compare, so let's start with some definitions:
1. Coffee beans from the most widely grown coffee plant (70% share in world trade.)
2. The bush that produces Arabica coffee beans, native to the Old World tropics.
1. Coffee beans from a widely grown kind of coffee plant (30% share in world trade.) Beans of this variety are frequently used in the manufacture of instant coffee.
2. The tropical West African bush that produces Robusta coffee beans.
Robusta yields seeds that form a usually inferior coffee than that of Arabica. Brand-name instant is made with the cheapest, lowest-quality Robusta beans available, and they cop an absolute beating in the journey from green bean to shelf-stable granule.
There's no denying that Robusta is a lower-grade coffee, however many consumers have been misinformed to believe that they are enjoying a premium product in their single-use pod! Unfortunately, this simply isn't true.
Coffee blends containing Robusta are often misunderstood to be "strong, and therefor, good tasting" due to the fact that they contain a more bitter, intense, burnt flavour profile. This particular taste intensity is contributed to the fact that Robusta does have a higher caffeine content in comparison to Arabica - and naturally, caffeine carries a bitter, stronger taste.
It's also worth noting that there is an enormous difference between the coffee produced by the small-scale specialty coffee sector in comparison to the large, multinational companies which supply cheap, generic products in supermarkets. Specialty coffee roasters make up a small percentage of the industry and are intimately involved in the entire coffee cycle - from farming to processing and roasting.
Unfortunately, most of the world's Robusta is unethically produced, low-cost coffee predominantly ending up in jars of instant coffee and disposable pods. Many of the large companies that use this coffee don’t purchase based on quality, their most important factor is price - as low as possible. To put it bluntly, because the multinational coffee companies are buying in extremely large quantities, it’s easy for them to get what they want. It’s this type of coffee, grown as cheaply as possible, that leads to unethical practices.*
Last (but not least) it's important to understand that by making the move to refillable capsules, you're also shifting to using 100% pure, freshly ground coffee beans. Pre-filled coffee capsules can contain added flavour enhancers (think dehydrated powders or concentrates) to give the illusion of a "stronger" coffee. Although you might see a lot of marketing around the premium taste that can be experienced from single-use pods, essentially these are pre-packaged capsules of ground coffee which has undergone many a process during the various stages of manufacturing, before they eventually make it to your kitchen. Many mainstream retailers of these products are pretty reluctant to share their roast dates, with some advertising that their pods have a shelf life of up to 12 months!
If organic robust flavour, optimum freshness, caramel-y aroma and overall deliciousness are more your thing, then investing in beautiful unprocessed Arabica blends for your reusable pods is going to make your heart sing!
And anyone who is even remotely health conscious will certainly appreciate their new additive-free, no-added-nasties morning espresso! When it comes to comparing plastic pods with freshly brewed espresso from a reusable capsule, there really is no competition.
HOW TO BREW A MORE INTENSE COFFEE WITH REUSABLE PODS
To get the absolute best extraction from reusable pods, there are a few simple things you can do that will make all the difference.
To replicate the flavour intensity found in lower-grade Robusta blends, we recommend sourcing a quality Arabica coffee from your local cafe/roastery, ideally a good quality strong dark roast, or Italian-style roast to achieve a full-bodied brew. The combination of a fine grind and stronger coffee should result in a thicker and darker crema.
Alternatively, you might want to try out our artfully roasted Stovetop Bespoke Coffee which has been crafted exclusively for capsule use. It is a smooth, full bodied, rich blend combining notes of Dutch cocoa and toasted nuts - we certainly think it's a winner!
Another great way to improve the quality of your pour is to refine your tamping pressure. An easy way to do this is to invest in a Perfect Press, a device which perfectly compacts the coffee, optimising your pod's internal pressure build-up during extraction.
We also strongly recommend using the standard espresso shot (via the short shot button) when brewing a reusable pod. This provides the perfect amount of water to extract the best elements of the coffee (oils, aroma and flavour - yum)! And don't forget to take into consideration your milk-to-coffee ratio - if you want a bigger cuppa, simply brew an additional capsule for a delightful double ristretto.
For a more tips and tricks on achieving a strong brew with reusable, head to our recent Reusable Pod Brew Method article.
*Source: Five Senses