Single-Serve Pod Coffee Makers

From Cook's Country | February/March 2014

Overview:

If convenience is key to getting your morning cup, it doesn’t get much easier than single-serve pod coffee. Just pop a prepackaged pod into the machine, hit the button, and out comes a hot brew. The other major draw is choice: There are hundreds of varieties of pods for coffee, tea, chai, espresso, and hot chocolate. The cost per pod ranges from less than 40 cents to nearly $1, depending on how many you buy. As for the machines, they can range in price from $25 to well over $1,000. We rounded up five single-serve pod coffee makers costing from $50 to $199 and gave them a try, brewing coffee and tasting the results.

Three of our machines worked quickly and consistently, taking 45 to 55 seconds to brew coffee at a drinkable temperature (160 to 175 degrees), cup after cup. Two of those had the added bonus of controls that were intuitive and simple, as well as reservoirs that held as much as 10 cups of water, cutting down on the need to reload between brewing stints. The remaining two coffee makers were temperamental at best. One… read more

If convenience is key to getting your morning cup, it doesn’t get much easier than single-serve pod coffee. Just pop a prepackaged pod into the machine, hit the button, and out comes a hot brew. The other major draw is choice: There are hundreds of varieties of pods for coffee, tea, chai, espresso, and hot chocolate. The cost per pod ranges from less than 40 cents to nearly $1, depending on how many you buy. As for the machines, they can range in price from $25 to well over $1,000. We rounded up five single-serve pod coffee makers costing from $50 to $199 and gave them a try, brewing coffee and tasting the results.

Three of our machines worked quickly and consistently, taking 45 to 55 seconds to brew coffee at a drinkable temperature (160 to 175 degrees), cup after cup. Two of those had the added bonus of controls that were intuitive and simple, as well as reservoirs that held as much as 10 cups of water, cutting down on the need to reload between brewing stints. The remaining two coffee makers were temperamental at best. One brewed progressively hotter beverages (from 155 degrees for the first cup to a near-scalding 181 degrees several cups later). The other product spewed a blast of steam after the brewing (which took a solid 3 minutes) appeared to be finished. Both required users to refill their dinky reservoirs with water every time they wanted to make a cup, defeating half of the convenience.

So how’s the coffee? An independent lab analyzed the extraction rate (the amount of soluble materials extracted from the grinds) and brewed solids (the actual amount of coffee in the cup) from each machine. Three coffee makers produced coffee with extraction rates and solids in line with the “Golden Cup” standard established by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The other two overextracted the coffee, risking bitterness in the brew. We let tasters be the ultimate arbiters, serving them coffee (which we poured into separate thermal carafes to conceal their sources) from each machine. That left us with one clear winner, which passed muster with the lab, held up well in user tests, and also managed to satisfy our panel of tasters.

While we recommend our winning machine, we offer this caveat: Since its price is on par with any high-end traditional coffee maker, and even buying pods in bulk sets you back 10 cents or more per cup than brewing from regular ground coffee does, you’ll be paying for the convenience.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Winner

    Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System by Keurig

    This machine was fast and intuitive. The controls let us set the temperature of the water, making coffee between 169 and 175 degrees. The “smooth” brew stayed within the optimal range for extraction and dissolved solids. The model’s water reservoir holds 10 cups and lets users make seven 8-ounce cups before the machine’s controls prompt refilling.

    • Ease of Use ★★★
    • Performance ★★★
    • Coffee Flavor ★★½

    $199.00

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Keurig Vue

    This model brewed quickly at a consistently drinkable temperature, and the controls were easy to use without instruction. The machine’s water reservoir holds 9½ cups and requires refilling after it makes five 8-ounce cups. The smaller pods that it uses are partially recyclable. The Vue’s coffee passed lab tests, but tasters found the brew a tad weak. This model will not work with K-Cups.

    • Ease of Use ★★★
    • Performance ★★½
    • Coffee Flavor ★½

    $199.00

  • Not Recommended

    Bosch Tassimo T47 Single Cup Home Brewing System

    This machine cost less and had a much smaller footprint than either the Cuisinart by Keurig or the Keurig Vue, and it matched their speed and temperature consistency. But its brew was overextracted, it took brute force to close the sprayer head, and the water reservoir held just 6 cups. Also, the standard-size K-Cups do not work in this machine, and many popular coffees are not available in the smaller pod that it requires.

    • Ease of Use ★½
    • Performance ★★
    • Coffee Flavor ★★

    $139.99

  • Not Recommended

    Bunn My Café Single Cup Multi-Use Brewer

    With one of four different “drawers” that attach to the water sprayer, this machine can make coffee from loose grounds, K-Cups, or Senseo pods or dispense hot water. But testers struggled to get the attachments in place, and the machine held 14 ounces of water and brewed from all the water at once (requiring testers to mete out 8 ounces carefully). Though the machine brewed quickly and its beverage passed lab tests, the first cup was nearly tepid (at 155 degrees) and the eighth was too hot (181 degrees).

    • Ease of Use ★½
    • Performance ★★
    • Coffee Flavor ★½

    $159.99

  • Not Recommended

    Hamilton Beach Single-Serve FlexBrew Coffeemaker

    This machine held 10 ounces of water and brewed exactly as much water as it held, so testers had to premeasure for every 8-ounce cup. It took 3 minutes to brew the first cup (and didn’t get much faster with successive cups), it frequently ended brewing with a blast of steam a few seconds after it went quiet, and it overextracted the brew. The lid warped and became too hot for testers to lift when adding water. As for the coffee, it was strong but inconsistent.

    • Ease of Use
    • Performance
    • Coffee Flavor ★★

    $49.99

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