ESE pods: the easy and environmentally-friendly way to make coffee
Many of you will already have heard about ESE coffee pods. But how much do you really know about these paper espresso pods? How do they work? And are they are as environmentally-friendly as we’re led to believe?
What is an ESE pod?
Originally invented by Illy in 1972, these little espresso pods were initially protected by a patent. It was 26 years after they first appeared that several other brands founded a consortium to create a new standard for single-serve coffee: the ESE pod. The name chosen for the new system – “Easy Serving Espresso” – tells you all you need to know: the proposed standard would be about making a good coffee as simply and quickly as possible.
To produce and sell ESE pods, coffee roasters must adhere to a strict set of rules defined as “geometrical, chemical-physical, sensorial and functional”. The espresso machines used to make coffee must also meet precise standards with several technical specifications (temperature, water pressure, volume).
What makes ESE pods unique?
One notable difference between these pods and other single-use coffee products (such as those produced by Tassimo, Nespresso, Senseo and Dolce Gusto) is the fact that the ESE standard is 100% “open” to all manufacturers. In other words, the pods can be used with any machine equipped with the right filter basket/portafilter. There is a wide range of compatible machines out there, and it is therefore relatively easy to find a model to suit both your taste and your budget. Conversely, the systems used by those other brands are copyrighted and therefore unique to each manufacturer.
In terms of the coffee itself, there is another significant difference between ESE pods and the other pods/capsules available on the market: the coffee in an ESE pod has already been compressed (one of the fundamental steps in making an espresso).
What’s in an ESE pod?
ESE pods contain 7 grams of ground coffee suitable for the extraction of an espresso. The coffee is compressed and then inserted between two thin sheets of filter paper, before being stored in controlled conditions.
- The coffee: 7 grams of roasted coffee, finely ground to make it suitable for the extraction of an espresso.
- The size: the coffee is compressed into a disk with a diameter of 44 mm – no more, no less – and is inserted in a plant-based paper pod.
- The Pod: with its standardised shape, size and weight, it couldn’t be easier to extract your espresso.
Can they really be described as “clean pods”?
By standardising the geometrical and technical properties, the manufacturers behind the ESE pods invented a way of making an espresso without the need for a coffee grinder, a manual espresso machine or a tamper. What’s more, the pods are considered to be “clean” in many ways:
- No wasted grounds: the pods all come ready-to-use, meaning that it’s impossible to make an error with the amount of coffee used.
- The filter stays clean: the grounds are never in direct contact with your machine’s filter, thanks to the paper pod holding the disk of coffee in place.
- They are natural and compostable: both components of an ESE pod are natural and organic.
In conclusion, ESE pods are a really practical and intuitive way of making coffee, while respecting the basics of an espresso extraction. But while they may be a handy stepping stone for beginners, these pods cannot match the quality of an espresso made with coffee that is freshly ground using a high-quality grinder and then expertly extracted using a manual espresso machine.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose which method best suits your personal tastes and the equipment at your disposal. Remember that, in order to use ESE pods, you must have an ESE-compatible machine! If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask one of our experts.
And don’t forget: after you’ve made your coffee, it’s straight to the compost pile for any used pods!