Kitchen & Household

How to make pod coffee cheaper

From Home Deals: Love the convenience of pod coffee makers, but hate the cost of the pods? Here's a cheaper way to get your morning buzz.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

When my Aeropress broke recently and I was jonesing for my morning shot of espresso, I bought a Nespresso Vertuoline espresso maker. It was on sale and makes great coffee, but I quickly found that it was expensive to run: Even buying in bulk, the cheapest I could get the coffee pods it uses was about $1.20 each. For someone with a coffee habit like mine, that gets expensive. So, I looked for a way to keep the convenience of my pod coffee maker, but with a lower cost.

For me, the solution was something called the My-Cap. With this $14 plastic insert and paper filter set, you can reuse the Vertuoline pods, refilling them with your own preferred espresso blend. (I'm partial to Black Cat Classic Espresso, if anyone's buying.) All you have to do is to cut out the foil from the top of a used pod, clean it out, add your own ground espresso beans, top them with a paper filter and put the plastic insert in the top. Because you're reusing a pod, the coffee maker thinks it's working with a new pod -- the Vertuoline uses a barcode around the underside of the pod rim to identify each pod -- and brews it up accordingly.

The only problem is that you can't make a batch of the pods up in advance: because they're exposed to the air, the ground beans go stale quite quickly. There is another solution, though: My-Cap also offers a kit that includes replacement foil tops to seal the pods if you prefer to make them in bulk. $27.99 gets you the parts to refill 50 pods.

The upside of this is that it is much cheaper: with the paper filters costing less than 12 cents each, the cost per cup is much lower. The downside is that it involves a bit more hassle: I have to clean out the pod, fill it, then put the paper filter and plastic cover on before I can make a shot. But that's worth it for me.

If you have a Keurig pod coffee maker, Keurig has its own reusable pod system. The best price I found was $7.75 at Amazon or Walmart for classic Keurig machines and $8.99 from Best Buy for the newer Keurig 2.0 models. Best Buy only offers free shipping if you spend more than $35 in an order, though. Both of these refillable pods allow you to use your own coffee in any Keurig machine, although they can be a bit of a pain to clean out.