Review: Frozen Offer Better Results Than Standard Coffee Capsules, But Be Prepared To Pay More

Waking up to a freshly brewed cup of coffee is a part of many Americans' daily rituals, with many consumers opting for the convenience of single-brew machines designed for busy lifestyles. In 2020, 40% of American households reported owning a single-serve coffee machine, reports Statista, like a Keurig or Nespresso, with Keurig's Green Mountain coffee brand dominating the industry's revenue, capturing over 23% of the market share in 2022, equating to over $1.2 billion, also notes Statista.

In 2021, a new brand called Cometeer entered the single-serve coffee industry, launching as a subscription-based service. The company offers patented flash-frozen coffee capsules from premium roasters worldwide, creating a high-quality cup that the brand says tastes like what you would get at your favorite café or coffee shop. The goal is to transform the way you drink coffee by making it even easier for you to become the ultimate at-home barista.

But are the Cometeer coffees better than the other single-serve options available? While we still love the standard drip coffee maker, especially as our mornings often require a whole pot versus a single cup, we did a deep dive taste test comparing Cometeer to other single-serve options to see if the frozen capsules are worth adding to your coffee routine.

What is Cometeer?

By utilizing frozen coffee capsules instead of having to grind, measure, and prepare your caffeine-infused cup, Cometeer ensures you'll avoid mistakes you're making when brewing coffee at home. The only obstacle between you and a Cometeer cup is the ability to boil water, a skill that most home cooks can tackle. We spoke with Cometeer Co-Founder Matt Roberts to ascertain the product's inspiration while learning more about Cometeer's production process.

A lifelong coffee fan, Roberts came up with the idea of freezing freshly brewed coffee while studying abroad. He found that freezing coffee and thawing it locked in the fresh taste for later use, versus chilling the java in the refrigerator, which he found delivered a stale flavor. When he returned home, he partnered with MIT-trained engineer Doug Hoon to co-found Cometeer. They began working with chemists and engineers to develop the technology to flash-freeze freshly brewed coffee and package it in fully recyclable capsules.

Roberts says, "Coffee has always been a staple in my life. I view coffee as a lifestyle much more than sustenance. It's part of our morning routines, our social routines, and our professional routines. This is why refining how we drink coffee at home has become my passion. If we're going to do it so often — we should do it right!"

Is brewing a cup with frozen capsules easier than regular pods?

Making a cup of Cometeer is very easy. The instructions suggest you pop the frozen coffee capsule out of the pod into your cup, topping it with hot water to melt it. Yet, we found the coffee inside the pod doesn't easily pop out of the frozen pod. We had to thaw each capsule by running hot water over the pod to melt the coffee inside. The contents were added to our coffee cup, followed by boiling water. Melting the capsule under hot water also afforded effortless pouring of the contents inside into a cup of milk to create a latte.

Brewing the K-cup and the Nespresso requires turning on the machine, popping in a capsule, adding water, and waiting for the coffee to brew. The Nespresso Vertuo machine takes some of the production guesswork away, reading the barcode embedded on the coffee pod to automatically adjust the style of coffee to be enjoyed, whether it be an espresso or full cup. Though several more steps are involved with the single-serve machines, there is zero possibility of burning yourself with boiling water or the heated Cometeer aluminum capsule. The timing to produce either option is virtually similar.

The product that offers the most options

The traditional Keurig single-cup machine has been available for home use for 20 years, and the luxury Nespresso machine for over 30, with both changing the way consumers enjoy coffee at home. Through the years, every coffee producer has found a way to package its products into a pod for a single-serve machine, including popular brands like Folger's, McCafé, Dunkin Donuts K-cups, and Starbucks, and Lavazza Nespresso pods.

The products are widely available in grocery stores and online, so customers can purchase the exact style and roast they enjoy. The K-cup offerings include more options, including flavored coffee, hot tea, or even hot chocolate and apple cider.

Cometeer is constantly adding new products, including working with different roasters and farms worldwide, with over 100 options currently available for its customers. The purchasing model is slightly different with Cometeer than other options. Instead of buying a specific product, the company asks customers to select the style of roast they enjoy. From there, Cometeer will curate their order based on the roast style. Matt Roberts told us, "Much like wine, each of our roasts has its own complexity and nuanced tasting notes. Our offerings constantly rotate and expand so subscribers can taste the ever-changing coffees in our current inventory." Though the frozen capsules are not returnable, the company will work with clients to ensure to tweak their selections with the following order if they did not enjoy one of the roasts they received.

Does Cometeer taste better than a K-cup?

The quality of the Cometeer coffee is incredibly high, especially compared to the K-cups, which vary due to the abundance of producers providing the option. We found the flavor and texture completely satisfying in the options from our Cometeer sampler, with favorites including the dark roast Homeschool Blend roasted by Los Angeles-based Go Get Em Tiger Roasters was bold and rich with bitter dark chocolate notes. We also enjoyed the medium roast Morning Blend of beans from Columbia, Brazil, and Guatemala from New York's Birch Roasters. It was malty and creamy, with toasted caramel and milk chocolate flavors.

However, if part of the enjoyment of coffee is the aroma slowly brewing a cup brings, we found the Cometeer lacking. When removing the lid, a subtle scent lifts from the pod, but it is nothing like the room-filling bouquet brewing a cup in a Keurig brings.

Cometeer's roasters highlight the beans' natural flavors, expressing the nuances regional terroir imparts on the coffee flavor. However, an additional downside of the Cometeer compared to the K-cups is the unavailability of flavored coffees. Customers cannot order specific flavored options, as the Cometeer team curates the coffees based on your preferred roast style. In other words, you won't be able to satisfy your craving for a pumpkin spice latte. Still, while we love various flavored K-cups, the bold, natural flavor of the beans Cometeer captures in its brewing and freezing process makes it the better-tasting coffee.

Which is better tasting, Cometeer or Nespresso

Q Coffee Grader and Head of Coffee Product for Cometeer, Alex Kaplan, spoke with us, sharing the process for producing each capsule. Cometeer is flash-frozen directly after roasting, creating a bold flavor brewed to 10 times the strength of regular coffee. Kaplan says, "Making exceptional coffee is an art and a science. At Cometeer, we focus on perfecting the science of coffee so you can enjoy the artistry of the world's best coffee growers and roasters."

And we agree, the coffee is delicious. Each Cometeer coffee had a creamy texture that coats the palate. The cups delivered a bold, satisfying, freshly roasted, toasty flavor, even in light roast expressions.

The downside with Cometeer versus sipping a coffee made with a Nespresso is that you don't get the trademark crema on the top of your coffee that brewing a cup of Nespresso delivers. The Nespresso machine's technology includes 19-bar high-pressure pumps to push water and air into the capsule, mimicking how classic espresso machines work. The result is a robust cup finished with a thick layer of luscious crema. The Nespresso machine also heats the water to the ideal brewing temperature in a mere 25 seconds, much faster than the time it takes to boil water.

The sustainability factor

We raise our glass to Cometeer, as its product is entirely recyclable and mess-free. The product you receive contains no coffee grounds, only the frozen pre-brewed coffee pod packaged in an aluminum container. The company takes care of all composting of the spent coffee grounds, sending them to a composter near its production facility. Provided your town accepts aluminum that is not a soda can, Cometeer can be fully recycled.

Nespresso can also be recycled if you remove the coffee grounds inside first. A Certified B Corp focusing on sustainability and environmental consciousness, the company has an extensive recycling program set up through its retailers allowing consumers to drop off their used pods at locations like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table2 that sell its products. The company boasts over 100,000 recycling centers worldwide. It is also focused on reusing the aluminum from its pods, committing to producing the Nespresso Vertuo pods with recycled material.

Today, recycling K-cups is possible thanks to a recent change to the type of plastic used to create the vessels. Companies use recyclable plastic number 5-PP to make the capsules, each with a recyclable symbol on the bottom of the packaging. While we appreciate companies using a recyclable base, remember that to recycle the plastic, you'll have to remove the lid, filter, and spent coffee grounds, which can get messy. Unlike the Cometeer and Nespresso, the K-cup lid is waste.

The equipment required

Unlike brewing a traditional cup of coffee, the Cometeer does not require a machine. It only needs hot water to release the pod. We found a stovetop tea kettle or electric kettle makes it easier than warming water in a microwave.

As the coffee pods must remain frozen, space in your freezer for the pods is a requirement that may be a deterrent if freezer space is an issue. Each box of coffee measures 8x4x2, and each order comes with a minimum of four boxes.

To enjoy the Nespresso coffees, a Nespresso machine is required. If enjoying Nespresso espresso, demitasse cups and Italian biscotti are also a requirement for any true espresso connoisseur. Similarly, to utilize one of the K-cup coffee offerings requires a Keurig or similar single-serve machine. Using either of the two products in the other device is impossible as the brewing processes and pod sizes are different. Similarly, the original Nespresso pods are unusable in the new Vertuo machines and vice versa.

Which product has the longest shelf life?

Through the development of the frozen Cometeer capsules, the company created a proprietary process that extracts the optimal flavor of freshly brewed coffee and freezes it with liquid nitrogen, locking in the freshness. The company guarantees the freshness of its products for up to two years, stamping the date to consume on every capsule. Still, as Matt Roberts told us, the company is so new that they are still determining how long the coffees will stay fresh. The company has tried older products, finding the taste to have remained vibrant, rich, and delicious.

K-cup pods have no expiration date. However, they have a best-by date or date for the coffee to taste at its best. This date is included on every K-cup box regardless of the brand. It is usually 12 months from the production date, longer than traditional bagged coffee, as the grounds in the pods are not at risk of exposure to the elements, like air, heat, and light, though it is best to keep the cups in a cool, dark cabinet or drawer. Nespresso guarantees the freshness of its pods for the original machine for up to 12 months from the date of production and the coffees in its Vertuo line for up to 15 months.

Are the products ethically sourced?

Cometeer was greatly influenced by the similarities between coffee and wine production when developing frozen coffee capsules. Both single-sourced, terroir-driven products are highly influenced by the environment, with the flavors telling the story of the land. For Cometeer, working ethically and focusing on fair trade and sustainability is paramount.

Matt Roberts shared, "100% of a coffee and wine's flavor potential is developed at the farm or vineyard level, but unfortunately, the coffee's supply chain is much more challenging. We carefully select roasters who are known for working with high-quality, sustainably sourced beans from farms all over the world." The Cometeer model selects premium coffee roasters like George Howell, Counter Culture, Onyx, and others, paying beyond fair trade prices to ensure the highest quality, meeting its exacting standards. Roberts says, "Cometeer works directly with some of the best roasters in the world and cultivates these partnerships based on their commitment to excellence and sustainability." Working directly with quality growers worldwide, including farms in Colombia, Ethiopia, and Yemen, provides customers access to premium coffee, usually unavailable for at-home enjoyment.

Like Cometeer, Nespresso is focused on the quality of its products while working with sustainability with a commitment to its culture, community, and the environment. The company earned B Corp Certification status in May of 2022. Though the company had issues with labor regulations in the past, its focus today is to continue improving the lives of its workers and farmers through fair trade practices.

Machine maintenance that's required

On the surface, the Cometeer is the best option for those looking for a coffee system that requires little to no maintenance. The frozen coffee capsules do not need a traditional brewing system as the initial brewing is complete before shipping, so there is no cleaning and maintenance of a coffee maker. However, a freezer must keep the capsules cold, and a heating system is necessary to boil the water. Luckily, a stove and freezer are traditionally a part of most household kitchens nationwide.

The single-cup brewing systems require more maintenance, including descaling the machines to remove calcium deposits, mineral buildup, bacteria, and possible mold. Though the process is simple, it does include many steps. Cleaning the Nespresso machines requires 15 steps. The product producer recommends they be cleaned every three months with their proprietary descaling solution. Keurig's process isn't quite as cumbersome as the Nespresso but still should be done every three months using Keurig's descaling solution.

Which is the more accessible product to buy?

When Cometeer began in 2021, it started with an online subscription-based service only. However, today the products are available through subscription or via a one-time-only option online through the Cometeer website. The company has also expanded into select retail stores nationwide, including Sprouts and Foxtrot, with in-store Cometeer freezers and delivery services in select cities through GoPuff. Matt Roberts also excitedly reports that additional retailers are also coming online in the next few months.

Nespresso pods are available online through the product website and Amazon. The pods are also for sale in Nespresso boutiques across the globe, and home stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams Sonoma, and department stores like Macy's. K-cup pods are available everywhere, whether you shop online, in grocery stores, office supply stores, or big box stores, including the Keurig Green Mountain brand and dozens of other options.

How does the cost compare with other options?

First and foremost, Cometeer's focus is on quality, and quality can be expensive. Matt Roberts says, "We pay up for quality and well beyond fair trade prices for our coffee." To make a one-time purchase of four boxes of coffee, or 32 pods, is $89 plus $9.99 shipping, roughly about $3 a cup. The cost is $69 to sign up with the subscription-based service, with the option to sign up for monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly delivery. The company currently offers a subscription special of $39 plus complimentary shipping for your first order.

K-cups are the most affordable as product options vary greatly, ranging from $0.33 to $1.00 per pod. However, you have to factor in the cost of the machine, which can range from $40 to $200. When buying a Nespresso machine, you are buying luxury, meaning the initial cost of the device is expensive. Prices range from $129 for the new mini Vertuo Pop to $849 for the original Nespresso Creatista Pro. Each capsule's price ranges from $0.80 to $2.00 for the Nespresso products, slightly less for an alternative brand like Nuage or Rosso Caffe.

Other uses for the capsules

If you have ever watched an episode of Bravo's "Below Deck," you've likely seen flustered stews hastily brewing coffee to create a time-consuming round of espresso martinis. Having the Cometeer capsules on board would be a life-changing time saver for those flustered attendants, as the only thing necessary is hot water. Within minutes, charter guests could be toasting their favorite caffeinated cocktail instead of waiting for a traditional espresso to brew.

For that matter, think about bringing Cometeer on board your next transatlantic flight. Matt Roberts told us the capsules are TSA approved, meaning you could fly high with an espresso martini. Cometeer also transforms your espresso martini into a decadent dessert in a flash. The melted coffee capsule can easily pour over ice cream to create the perfect affogato, with or without the booze. It is also one of the best substitutes for instant espresso in baking, easily swapped into your molten chocolate lava cakes recipe, boosting the complexity of the cake's flavor. Of course, you can also brew a Nespresso espresso to create the drink or dessert. However, it will be more time-consuming, as each pod requires individual brewing.

Conclusion: Each option has pros and cons

Cometeer coffees are expensive, much more than your typical K-cups or Nespresso options. And, for those with small freezers, the capsules and boxes take up valuable inventory space. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed the Cometeer coffees, finding the capsules very convenient and incredibly flavorful. We love that the company ethically sources all of its coffees and that the packaging is fully recyclable without dealing with the mess of removing spent coffee grounds. We found the variety of offerings interesting, delivering a terroir-filled coffee adventure in every cup.

Nespresso pods are shelf-stable and slightly more expensive than the K-cups. The roasting machine also costs more than most single-serve coffee machines. However, they deliver superb, mess-free espresso at home with the thick, velvety crema on top that we love. K-cups are the better buy if you drink your coffee based on what is readily available, shelf-stable, affordable, and have endless roast, style, and flavor options. It all depends on what you're looking for.