The Journey to Pods

6 Minute Read
The Journey to Pods

World Barista Champion and Ozone Coffee’s Head of Research and Development, Dale Harris, wanted to create an Ozone coffee pod so more people can enjoy great coffee at home. After months of testing, development and tweaks, Dale has done it and Ozone Coffee Pods are available to purchase. We took some time to chat to him and learn more about the journey to pods! 

 Why have Ozone Coffee decided to produce coffee pods?

Pods are a powerful way for us to share specialty coffee with a wider audience and make great product accessible to coffee lovers who don’t have the space, or time to invest in espresso kit and training. Pod brewing is also low cost, and as almost half of homes in the UK and NZ already have a machine we can leverage equipment people already have, whilst helping them brew better sourced and better tasting coffee. While lots of coffees are already available as pods, most of them are lower grade with limited transparency available around sourcing and provenance. In terms of roast, these pods are generally roasted darker than a lot of consumers might choose too, so often don’t taste as good as a coffee from your favourite cafe. We can do better.

How long have Ozone Coffee Pods been in development?

We started exploring capsule technology and packaging options in late 2019, but the project really started gathering steam after we created some trial products through the summer of 2020. With this, we got chance to physically see how the combination of technical improvements and our sourcing philosophy could work together to create something previously impossible – a quality compostable pod that doesn’t compromise on sourcing, sustainability or flavour.

Talk us through the process of creating Ozone Coffee Pods.

 While navigating the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the changes it affected in our customer behaviour, we began working more intently on products that would help people make great coffee at home. After looking into a number of products, particularly those we’d developed real market insight on, we settled on Nespresso®-compatible pods.

There were two key work streams with Ozone Coffee Pods:

  • Understanding the customer. This involved a lot of research into machine parameters, sales distribution in NZ and UK, possible packing facilities, and customer behaviours.
  • Developing the product. After we found one or two facilities who could support production to our specifications, I got to work through a few iterations of product samples. This was important to understand how roast, blend-mix, processing style and so on, all impacted the cup of coffee brewed from the most basic of Nespresso® compatible machines. Through this process, we tasted, refractometered and analysed around 100 variations of coffee, grind, brew recipe and pod material to come to our final, perfect pod. 
  • Bringing together those two work streams enabled us to get clear on the core specification for our launch product using Nova Aliancia. Meanwhile, our Creative and Marketing Teams worked on the other elements of packaging, design and messaging.

    What were people’s perceptions when you told them you were developing pods?

    When we first raised the idea of exploring pods, there was a lot of scepticism; understandably so. Every pod I’d tasted up until that time had been lacking in one way or another, and part of this process was to question our own prejudices and use them to make something great.

    The biggest learning was just how large the gap was between the coffee normally used in pods, and our specialty coffee offering. We had to work out if it was possible to get good brewing results while using quality coffee in the pods, and if we could identify customers who appreciate our coffee and sourcing philosophy but also value the ease and convenience of the Nespresso® system.

    Ultimately we asked our team to suspend their disbelief until we could share a product that we were proud of. As soon as we had the first trials of Flavio’s coffee in a pod form and could share them with our most experienced Roasting and Barista Teams, there was a real switch in mood to ‘how fast can we make this happen!’

    Why Nova Aliançia?

    Based on our research, we found most people look for a consistent, balanced, easy-drinking flavour profile in their coffee pods. These traits are best embodied in our single origin, Nova Aliança. A key component of our best-selling Empire blend, and a coffee where we can comfortably increase the volumes we purchase from the farm without incurring negative impact.

    By offering a single origin that achieves such a clean flavour, we can celebrate Nova Aliança’s coffee and ensure a high level of transparency thanks to our established direct and long-term relationship sourcing program.

    Producer Flavio Paulino de Costa is a long term partner who shares our ambition and passion for great coffee. As one of our most significant suppliers, he can grow and scale his production as we grow our bean and pod sales. We’re really excited that Ozone Coffee Pods mean more people can enjoy Flavio and his team’s work.

    Why Compostable?

    Sustainability is at the core of our philosophy. We’re in business because believe we can make a difference to the lives of people by buying and selling coffee fairly.

    When we first explored pods, the biggest obstacle to entering the market was around the negative impact of the single serve aluminium pods that fuel the Nespresso® system. Whilst aluminium pods are recyclable, they are rarely recycled successfully due to lack of infrastructure and poor communication. This break in the system meant that compostable pods were the only viable choice for us, as they allow a long shelf life while minimising waste.

    Moving forward, we’ll continue to explore new technologies and mediums to increase access to food-waste recycling systems and look to move to new faster breakdown bio-polymers as they become available, provided they support the coffee’s shelf life and quality.

    Will there be any more pods coming soon?

    We’re currently exploring new decaf, blend and single origins pods with different flavour profiles so we can offer a range that aligns with the selection we offer in our eateries. We hope to release these before the end of the year.

    We’re also working with a couple of innovative pod machine manufacturers to be able to offer best in class brewing for those who are looking to get a great cup without losing the convenience of pods – more on that soon!

    Any tips or tricks to get the best out of the capsules?

    Most Nespresso® machines come with two brew settings, one for a short/intense shot, and one for a longer brew. 

    Whilst our pods can make good coffee drinks with these pre-set parameters, they can be even better with a small adjustment to the water quantity, which you can program by following the instructions within your machines manual.

    Most machines are programmable by holding the brew button down whilst brewing and releasing when your desired quantity is achieved. To be accurate, we recommend using scales and aiming for a 28-30g pod weight for an intense espresso with great texture. A more traditional filter style coffee can be achieved by brewing to a 100g weight with your long brew button. 

    Favourite way to enjoy Ozone Coffee Pods?

    With good company!

    Seriously though, I’m very lucky and have lots of ways of making great coffee at home, but I’m packing a couple packs of these in my travel bag for whenever I’m staying away or in hotels and can’t be sure what coffee might be available to me!