Can compatible pods damage the coffee machine?

In theory, the use of compatible pods should not affect the operation of the coffee machine. However, in practice, it happens all too often that, when inserting a compatible pod, excessive force is required to close the pod holder or injector group, depending on the make and model of the coffee maker.

On many occasions, the perforation is not done correctly, which creates an overpressure in the head of the machine, in the non-return valves, the boiler, the pump, and the flow meter, among others elements. This can cause part of the coffee to return to the hydraulic system and cause clogging and other malfunctions.

How do the pods work inside the coffee machine?

All brands of coffee pods share a fundamental characteristic: their pods have two well-defined sections. One section is where the coffee maker pierces the pod and fills it with hot water at high pressure (up to 19 bar), and the other section is where the coffee comes out.

Most pods are truncated cone-shaped, which means they are cone-shaped without the tip. This shape is more evident in some brands, such as Nespresso or Keurig, while in other brands, such as Dolce Gusto or Lavazza, it is more subtle.

When the pod is inserted into the machine, needles, punchers, or nozzles pierce the back of the pod to allow water to enter. The high water pressure causes the pod to pierce the front to dispense the beverage.

Nespresso coffee machine perforator blades
Nespresso coffee machine perforator blades

Problems with the perforation of compatible pods

Usually, the problems with compatible pods are in the perforation at the back and front of the coffee pod.

Perforation problems on the back side of the coffee pod

Whether plastic or aluminum, perforation problems on the back of pods are a major concern. If the perforation is not adequate, water cannot penetrate the pod to extract the coffee and could escape from the nozzle.

⚠️ Hot water escaping from the injector group could cause burns to the user or short circuits if it splashes the internal components of the coffee maker.

This usually happens when the coffee pod material is too soft and deforms instead of being properly pierced by the blades or injectors.

The coffee pod was damaged during the backside punch
The coffee pod was damaged during the backside punch

Perforation problems on the front side

As I mentioned before, on the side opposite to where the hot water enters, the pod is usually self-perforated by the increased water pressure inside the pod.

For example, Nespresso pods have a thin layer of aluminum that perforates and allows the coffee to flow into the cup when in contact with a perforating disc. Other pods, such as Dolce Gusto capsules, have the disc incorporated inside the pod.

Detail of the coffee pods perforating disk
Detail of the coffee pods perforating disk

When the front part of the pod is not perforated, the pressure inside the pod could increase to the point of exploding, with the risk that this entails for people and the machine itself. This pressure can also be released inside the machine at the pump, boiler, or piping, causing a breakdown.

Results of the explosion of a refillable pod
Results of the explosion of a refillable pod

In other cases, when the front part is perforated in excess, some of the ground coffee end up in the cup, causing a bad taste in our beverage.

Types of compatible pods

There are many types of compatible pods on the market since manufacturers are aware of the problems that their pods can cause and the associated risks for both people and the coffee machines themselves. For this reason, they strive to develop more efficient alternatives.

Uniform coffee pods

Pods without pre perforations
Pods without pre perforations

The image shows that the pod is not pre-punched on the back.

If the pod material is not sufficiently rigid but soft, the needles of the coffee maker may have difficulty perforating the pod.

As I mentioned above, there is a risk that the pod will not pierce properly or will be deformed.

Pre-punched coffee pods

On the other hand, the second coffee pod is pre-perforated, which means that it has softer and more visible areas on the bottom that make it easier for the needle of the coffee maker to enter.

In this case, it is easier for the needles to penetrate the material without deforming the pod, preventing major problems.

Note: These pre-perforations do not guarantee the proper functioning of the coffee pod inside the coffee maker.

Pre perforated pods
Pre perforated pods

Can the original pods damage the coffee machine?

Original pods are designed and built to work properly, but there may be faulty batches that do not pierce correctly, which can affect the performance of the coffee maker.

Unlike compatible pods, if a problem arises with the original pods, you only need to record a video or take photos with your cell phone and contact the manufacturer.

It is likely that they would rather give you a new coffee maker than see a complaint on social networks questioning their products.

In summary, although it is possible that some batches of defective pods or misuse of original pods in good condition can cause a breakdown in the coffee maker, these cases are rare and extraordinary.

Can refillable pods damage the coffee machine?

According to user comments in online stores, these pods can burst after a few uses, which can cause burns, electrocution, breakage of the machine, and more. In addition, the sellers of these pods are often unknown, which makes malfunction claims more difficult.

Attention: The worst refillable pods are the metal ones, which can bend the perforating blades or punches. The image below shows the perforators of a Lavazza coffee machine damaged after using a steel refillable pod.

Bent Lavazza coffee machine perforators
Bent Lavazza coffee machine perforators

But the problem does not end there. The refillable pods also affect the taste of the coffee since the ground coffee used in these pods does not have the proper thickness to extract correctly. As a result, the coffee prepared with these pods can have a sour taste, without sweetness, without body, and with little crema.

Refillable pods appear to be an economical alternative at first glance, but the reality is that they can be harmful to the coffee maker and produce low-quality coffee.

In conclusion, refillable pods are not a good option for saving money on coffee. In addition to the possible risks to the coffee maker and the low quality of the coffee, refillable pods are not environmentally friendly and produce more waste than the original pods.

Therefore, it is better to opt for original pods if you want delicious, high-quality coffee and a safe, trouble-free coffee brewing experience.

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Written by Pablo Barrantes Nevado
I am Pablo Barrantes, a coffee lover. I decided to start this website to solve all the doubts that arise every day when preparing our favorite drink: coffee. I am an industrial engineer by profession, but I have worked in coffee shops for many years, where I have learned all the secrets about coffee machines and coffee. My passion for coffee has led me to investigate and study beyond the obvious, and thanks to this, I can offer solutions and give news about coffee and coffee makers. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I research, document and write here.

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