Pod coffee makers are beloved for their convenience, just pop in a pre-loaded K-Cup, press a button (or two) and you have coffee in a minute or less. With small pod coffee makers you have to pour water in before every cup; larger pod coffee makers have a reservoir to allow you to make several cups in a row, or just have coffee-on-demand all day long. However, some people do not like the idea of a reservoir at all, preferring to use fresh water for each cup. If that's you, we also cover small one-cup coffee makers elsewhere in this report.
Keurig is THE name in pod coffee makers and the Keurig K55 (Est. $90) is our top pick for this year's update. It gets raves from users not only for the delicious coffee it brews, but also for the wide range of beverage choices That includes coffees that are as light- or as full-bodied as you could wish -- including half-caff and decaf, cocoas, soups, tea, cold drinks and fruity drinks. In addition to Keurig's vast line of proprietary K-Cups, the K55 also will work with many generic pods, giving any coffee lover an endless array of drinking (or eating) possibilities. Unlike the Keurig Plus system brewers (discussed below), the K55 will also work right out of the box with many generic pods.
The Keurig K55 has three cup sizes, 6, 8 and 10 ounces, and brews a cup of coffee in a minute or less. It's also very simple to use, with intuitive, easy to read controls. It has a removable, 48-ounce water reservoir and the drip tray is removable to accommodate taller travel mugs. The K55 can be programmed to turn off and on so that the brewer is ready to go when you get up in the morning, but uses less power when it's not needed. When the K55 is powered back on it takes about four minutes before it can brew its first cup.
Experts pan Keurig coffee makers for not making a particularly delicious cup of coffee, but thousands of happy owners disagree. Keurig pod coffee makers -- the K55 and the discontinued but virtually identical, and still widely available at retail, Keurig K45 (Est. $110) in particular -- get raves from owners for their tasty brews. The default brewing temperature on the K55 is 192 degrees Fahrenheit, which some say isn't hot enough, but most say it's plenty hot.
There are a couple of downsides to the Keurig K55. The main one is that most of the pods are not recyclable or biodegradable -- a deal-breaker for some due to the environmental impact of millions of pods being tossed in the trash. However, Green Mountain Coffee -- Keurig's parent company, is addressing that issue. The company has added some recyclable pods to the K-Cup line and promises to make all of its pods recyclable by 2020. Also a number of the generic pods that will work in the Keurig K55 are recyclable or biodegradable, or you can purchase the optional My K-Cup (Est. $15) to brew from your own grounds.
Another issue with the Keurig K55 is that while it has a large reservoir, you can only brew one cup at a time. That means if you have guests everyone has to wait their turn. Keurig's new Plus Series line solves that issue by accepting the single K-Cup pods, larger Vue and K-Mug pods (12, 14, 16 or 18 ounces), and K-Carafe pods that allow you to brew up to a 30 ounce carafe of coffee. The Keurig Plus Series includes the Keurig K250 (Est. $130), the Keurig K475 (Est. $150) and the Keurig K575 (Est. $180). (While we note retail prices here, all three brewers are often available at discounts from various sellers on Amazon.com and elsewhere.)
One bonus: the Vue pods, K-Mug pods and K-Carafe pods are recyclable, which solves the environmental issue as well. However, the machines will not accept non-Keurig approved cups without a hack, nor will it show all of the cup sizes when you use certain pods, though there are hacks to fix that as well. We will let you look those up, they're everywhere.
No experts review the new Plus Series line of Keurig's, but owners like them, although not nearly as much as the K55, which is one of two brewers in the Keurig Classic Series: the other is the single-cup Keurig K15 (Est. $80), which we cover in great detail in our section on small one-cup coffee makers.
In general, the fact that you can't use off-brand pods irritates a lot of people who bought one of these 2.0 Plus Series brewers not realizing that, although those who are loyal to Green Mountain brand pods (or have successfully hacked the system), are very pleased with the many features on this new series of pod coffee makers. You can also brew from grounds, but it uses a different K-Cup than the Classic Series (because of the sensor), the Keurig 2.0 My K-Cup (Est. $10).
Although Keurig dominates the pod-style coffee maker market, there are a couple of other choices out there that are worth consideration, the top one being the
DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio (Est. $100). At ConsumerReports.org the Genio is rated as Excellent for speed and for size consistency, Very Good for convenience, brewing range and temperature consistency, and Good for taste -- although no single serve coffee maker gets higher than a Good in that category in testing here.
Owners are pretty happy with the Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio too --- saying it makes delicious coffee and espresso drinks. However there are many durability complaints; with some saying it didn't work right out of the box, others saying it just doesn't work sometimes and they have to turn it off and on until it decides to "wake up." In addition, it uses proprietary Nescafé Dolce Gusto pods and we saw quite a few comments regarding not only the difficulty of finding various types of coffee for this machine, but also the limited selection compared to Green Mountain Coffee's offerings.
We didn't see it in any professional reviews, but we can't ignore the popularity of the K-Cup by Mixpresso (Est. $100). It's compatible with any type of licensed K-Cup, including 2.0,pods, generic pods and the My K-Cup. Mixpresso also sells their own line of pods that includes espressos. Plenty of owners say they prefer this Mixpresso to Keurig machines they've owned in that past, and that it feels like a higher quality machine. It's also fast, they note and very easy to use -- and they do love its versatility. Like the K55, it brews 6-, 8- and 10-ounce cups. However, as with the Genio, we see many more durability complaints with the Mixpresso than with the Keurig K55.
There are plenty of people who don't want to be tied to pod coffee makers, but also love the idea of using pods if they so choose -- mostly because of the convenience. This is where a multi-use coffee maker comes in. These can accept a wide variety of pods, or use ground coffee so that you can get maximum versatility in one machine. They also offer more customizing options for brewing any kind of coffee
It's no contest in this category: the BUNN My Café MCU (Est. $160) gets some of the best reviews of any coffee maker we saw. It can brew from K-Cups, generic soft pods, tea bags and ground coffee. Two professional testing organizations make it their top pick, and owners agree, giving it high ratings at retail review sites.
The BUNN MCU is not just convenient, reviewers say, it also makes an excellent cup of coffee no matter what type of medium you use. It came out on top in CNET's reviews of coffee makers, and was their top pick in terms of taste. Experts and owners like its options for customizing your brew, by tweaking either the amount of coffee or the quantity of water. It's fast too, brewing a cup of coffee in about 42 seconds.
There is a bit of a learning curve with the BUNN MCU, but most reviewers say it's not too bad. It has a four "drawer" system; one for K-Cups, one for soft pods and tea bags, one for ground coffee and one for hot water. These drawers are literally small drawers of various configurations that you insert in the brewer. The MCU does not have a reservoir, so you have to add the appropriate amount of water each time. That gets a few complaints, but the majority of owners say they don't like reservoirs anyway -- they prefer a fresh cup of water each time. Because of the lack of a reservoir, it has a small footprint, but you need to have a place to store the four drawers.