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Single-serve pod coffee makers can also service a crowd

Pod coffee makers are beloved for their convenience, just pop in a pre-loaded pod, 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 in this report. If you prefer something more versatile, brewing a variety of pods and ground coffee, see our discussion of multi-use single-serve coffee makers. If you like to control every facet of the brewing process for the ultimate cup of coffee, you won' want to miss our discussion of pour over coffee drippers.

Keurig is THE name in pod coffee makers but their brewers are undergoing a lot of changes, making it a little tough to decide on our top pick. The original Keurig technology is a pod called the K-Cup. This revolutionized the coffee industry, according to experts, and the Keurig brewers that use K-Cups have been the most popular single-serve coffee makers for quite some time. However, when the original K-Cup patent expired in 2012, it led to a spate of lower-cost K-Cup knockoffs that undercut Green Mountain Coffee Roasters' (Keurig's parent company) K-Cup monopoly.

That's when the company introduced the Keurig Vue, which uses proprietary Vue Packs instead of K-Cups. This meant owners of the Vue brewers could only get their coffee from Green Mountain or its licensees (such as Starbucks) and the Vue system is not compatible with K-Cups. However, as this report was being readied for publication, we discovered that Green Mountain has decided to stop making Vue coffee makers. According to the company's customer service representative, they will continue to support owners of Vue brewers with Vue Packs for a few more years, but the Vue system is being phased out.

There is also plenty of speculation about the future of Keurig's current line of K-Cup brewers. Since its patents expired, Keurig has discontinued several of their most popular K-Cup brewers. In addition, Green Mountain recently introduced the Keurig 2.0 system, which brews a single cup of coffee from K-Cups and will also brew a four-cup carafe using a new product called the K-Carafe.

There's a significant catch, however. This new machine "reads" the K-Cup, so it will only work with "official" Green Mountain K-Cup coffees; you'll get an error message if you try to brew a knock off. It also will not accept older K-Cups or Vue packs. The company has said that they are reworking the Vue packs so they will eventually be able to be used with the Keurig 2.0 system, though we wonder if that's still in the cards now that the company has decided to discontinue Vue technology. Unlike the original K-Cup system, the 2.0 system will not let you use a filter and your own grounds to brew coffee.

However, don't let the Keurig upheaval scare you: There's no reason not to buy a machine that uses Keurig K-Cups. They will always be around, regardless of what technology Green Mountain settles on.

Drama and the great unknowns aside, there are no pod coffee makers that come close to the kind of love the Keurig's get, and none get better reviews than the Cuisinart SS-700 Single Serve Brewing System by Keurig (Est. $180). Made by Keurig for Cuisinart, it uses K-Cups, which means you have the option of hundreds of different types of coffee, tea, cocoa and even fruit-flavored drinks meant to be served cold. It also includes the My K-Cup Reusable Filter for ground coffee. This brewer is a particularly great choice if you have a large family, a lot of company, want coffee for a small office, or if you just don't want to have to add water any more than necessary. The reservoir holds 80 ounces, enough for 10, 8-ounce cups of coffee.

The Cuisinart SS-700 gets top marks in several professional tests for performance, speed and ease of use. More importantly, they say, it makes a great cup of coffee. The temperature can be set to between 169 and 175 degrees, which one professional test organization says results in a smooth brew with good extraction and dissolved solids. Owners like how customizable it is, saying they can program the strength of their coffee using the five cup sizes. Overall, it gets very good reviews for ease of use, with one expert source calling its controls "intuitive." It has a self-cleaning feature that users appreciate, but the coffeemaker still needs to be descaled every few months or so.

The one complaint we saw with the SS-700 is durability. It almost fell out of our top spot because of reports of the pump failing within a short time frame; however, those complaints were outweighed by those who say it's still going strong after a couple of years. It also comes with a three-year warranty and customer service is generally described as responsive.

It's been discontinued by the manufacturer, but our former Best Reviewed pod coffee maker, the Keurig Special Edition K60/K65 (Est. $150) is still one of the most popular and best-reviewed pod coffee makers and it's still widely available at retail sites. It has three cup sizes 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, 60-ounce water reservoir -- enough for seven or so 8-ounce cups of coffee between refills.

Although it's also discontinued, the Keurig V700 Vue (Est. $140) is steeply discounted from its original MSRP of $200, and it gets good reviews from a number of professional testing organizations. It's a much more programmable coffee maker than other pod coffee makers because you can control the size, strength and the temperature of your drinks. The Pods also come in two sizes, making brew strength further adjustable. This brewer has a 74-ounce reservoir, enough for nine 8-ounce cups before you need to refill it.

While many love the Vue and say it makes an excellent cup of coffee, we saw a lot of durability complaints. It's also not easy to find Vue Packs. They're available online, but most grocery stores don't carry them. The Vue seems to be most popular with people who have purchased a converter called the K2V-Cup for Keurig Vue Brewers (Est. $20) that enables them to use K-Cups in their Vue system. Keep in mind, you're buying a technology that's on its way out, but, it may be worth it for the deep discounts you'll get on Vue products for the next couple of years.

The only other game in town in pod-style coffee makers is the Starbucks Verismo 580 Brewer (Est. $125). It's one of only a couple of coffee makers earning "Recommended" status by one professional testing organization. Editors there rate it as "excellent" for speed and for size consistency, very good for convenience and temperature consistency, and good for brewing range and taste. (In this test of quite a few pod-style coffee makers, none get higher than a "good" rating for taste.) The Verismo pods produce a 7.1-ounce cup of coffee, and this brewer features a one liter (33.8 ounce) storage tank -- meaning it will need more frequent refilling than other coffee makers in this section

CNET gives the Verismo a thorough review as well, giving it an overall rating of "Very Good." They say it's good looking and makes excellent coffee and espresso -- almost as good as you get at your local Starbucks. However, they note that it's limited to Starbucks pods, so, unless your coffee love centers on Starbucks, this may not be the best choice. However, if you do drop a bundle on your daily Starbucks fix, you could save money brewing coffee with this machine instead. User reviews are mixed, those who like coffee and espresso say it's great, those who like milk-based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes say they're weak and don't taste like the drink you get from the coffee shop.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Reviewed Single Cup Coffee Makers: The five best single cup coffee makers, as identified by expert reviews, user reviews, and our own analysis.

Best Small One-Cup Coffee Makers: Some are pod-style, some are traditional drip coffee makers that use ground coffee, but all are convenient and easy to use.

Best Multi-Use, Single-Serve Coffee Makers: Versatile, customizable and convenient, multi-use coffee makers allow you to use either pods or ground coffee. You can even make tea, soup and hot cereals.

Best Pour Over Coffee Drippers: For the ultimate cup of coffee, manual, pour over coffee makers allow you to control every step of the brewing process

Buying Guide: Want to avoid buyer's remorse tomorrow morning? Our Buying Guide explains what to look for in a single cup coffee maker.

Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top one-cup coffee makers, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.

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Cuisinart SS-700 Single Serve Brewing System, Silver - Powered by Keurig
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Keurig® K-Cup® K60/K65 Special Edition & Signature Brewers
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Keurig Vue V700 Brewing System with 50 Vue Packs and Water Filter Starter Kit
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Starbucks Verismo 580 Brewer Piano Black (011023262)
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New: $199.99 $89.99   
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