Back to School: Best Pod Coffee Brewers
If you're trying to squeeze in an early breakfast before work or class, an easy-to-use pod brewer can be the difference between a day with coffee and a day without.
The K-Cup first introduced Americans to pod coffee back in the mid-2000s. Now that most of Keurig's patents on the K-Cup expired, Keurig's competitors can sell K-Cup compatible brewers and pods, so there's a staggering amount on the market. Keurig Green Mountain now promotes Keurig 2.0. Its machines can brew a full carafe of coffee at a time, but only work with a more limited number of Keurig-authorized pods. Both Keurig systems can also make tea, cocoa, and other beverages.
Finally, Nestle's Nespresso VertuoLine makes larger servings than the original, espresso-focused Nespresso, but it can only make coffee-based beverages and only uses Nestle's pods.
We put ten popular, single-serve coffee pod brewers through a series of tests to find the best of the best. We timed brew speeds, recorded sound levels, compared prices of brewers and pods, and put each brewer through a barrage of usability tests with a hand-picked panel of coffee-loving judges. In the end, we had discarded over a hundred pods, brewed over 7 gallons of coffee, and consumed an imprudent amount of caffeine.
These are the best single-serve coffee pod brewers money can buy, and a few you should avoid.
Considering that Keurig is responsible for introducing Americans to pod coffee, we weren't surprised that the company's flagship K575 topped our list.
The K575 features a responsive and easy-to-navigate touchscreen, a massive 80 oz. water reservoir (the largest available), and the option to brew a full carafe for guests. Users can adjust everything from cup size, to temperature, to coffee strength, and can make cocoa, tea, chai, and even soup.
In our tests we found the K575 easy to use, quick to brew, and remarkably quiet. It also comes with a useful hot-water-only mode. The one drawback is that it can only be used with Keurig 2.0 pods, although the My K-Cup 2.0 reusable filter can accept whatever ground coffee you choose.
Buy for $179.99 on Amazon.
Mr. Coffee BVMC-KG6-001
The Mr. Coffee BVMC-KG6-001 is, hands-down, the best pod-style brewer available for under $100. It brews faster and quieter than the more expensive Keurig K-55 can, and can take both K-Cups and Keurig 2.0 pods.
As can be expected, Mr. Coffee cut some corners to keep the price low: The water reservoir is only 40 oz., so you will have to fill it more frequently than larger products, and it doesn't feel as premium as some of the pricier Keurig and Nespresso offerings. But for as little as $55 on sale, you can't go wrong with the BVMC-KG6-001.
Buy for $71.11 on Amazon.
Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo
In contrast to the utilitarian line of K-Cup brewers is the elegant Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo. Capable of creating both espresso and regular coffee beverages, the Evoluo is an excellent choice for those who want the convenience of a pod brewer, but aren’t willing to compromise when it comes to overall flavor.
We found the resulting coffee from the Evoluo to be far superior in terms of taste to anything made by a K-Cup brewer, although foodies will say it still doesn’t quite match French press or pour-over coffee. And though VertuoLine puts a killer crema on your cup, it can't make cocoa or iced tea.
Constructed from high-quality materials and sporting a minimalist control interface, the Evoluo wouldn’t look out of place next to a KitchenAid stand mixer or a Viking range. High-end design comes at a cost, however, and the Evoluo is considerably more expensive than any comparable K-Cup brewer. The pods themselves are also priced higher, and are harder to find than their K-Cup equivalents.
Buy for $139.95 on Amazon.
If you don't have room for a full-size Keurig brewer, the smaller Keurig K250 still has a few tricks up its sleeve: Users can adjust strength and brew size using the easy-to-use touchscreen. Unlike the less-expensive Mr. Coffee, it can also brew full carafes of coffee—although its smaller, 40-oz. reservoir means it's best suited for singles and couples.We still think the Mr. Coffee is a better value. The K250 is not only twice the price, but it also only accepts Keurig 2.0 pods.
Buy for $124.50 on Amazon.
If you want a straightforward pod brewer and you’re unimpressed by touchscreens, carafe settings, temperature controls, and Keurig 2.0 cups, the Keurig K55 might be the pod coffee maker for you.The K-55 may lack any features to speak of, but it still does a great job of brewing coffee, and it doesn't require Keurig 2.0 pods. It’s a bit louder than the K250 and K550, but still managed to keep pace with them when it came to brewing speed and ease of use. Users can choose between three preset cup sizes, and the 48 oz. reservoir should suffice for all but the most caffeinated of owners.
Buy for $99 on Amazon.
The Cuisinart SS-10 is a perfectly capable pod brewer with an upscale look. However, there isn’t much it does that sets it apart from similar Keurig-branded machines.The all-new SS-10 features a large 72 oz. water reservoir and a digital display. All K-Cup machines are now compatible with the My K-Cup reusable filter, but the SS-10 stores its reusable filter right on the machine itself. Options and brew customization are limited to cup size and temperature, and the machine can also dispense hot water for soups and tea.While we appreciate the SS-10's ease-of-use and self-clean cycle, we found the brew basket opening mechanism to be unresponsive and slightly confusing.
Buy for $149 on Amazon.
Presto MyJo 02835
Our testers were most curious about the Presto My Jo, and for good reason: Unlike every other item on this list, the Presto My Jo is a portable, non-electric pod coffee maker. It relies entirely on brute strength to brew a cup of coffee.
Using the My Jo is far more involved than most pod coffee brewers. Users can either fill the clear reservoir with cold water and pop it in the microwave, or pour already-heated water into the reservoir. Just be extra careful during this step—only the red ring around the reservoir is safe to touch when it’s filled with hot water. Place the My Jo on top of a brewer basket and hold it over a coffee or travel mug, then manually pump water through the K-cup and into the mug below.
The process is fairly straightforward; however, we couldn't help but feel like a simple slip or wrong push of the pump could result in hot water splashing everywhere. Ultimately, the My Jo is best reserved for travelers and college students with access to a microwave.
Buy for $12.57 on Amazon.
The Bunn MCU My Cafe single serve brewer is a great idea in need of better execution.First, the good news: It's easily the most versatile coffee machine we have seen. Capable of brewing K-cups, soft pods, and filter coffee, it's a great option if you don't want to commit to K-Cups. It feels solid and well built, and takes up very little counter space.
Unfortunately, to achieve that versatility, the My Cafe relies on a selection of removable attachments that must be swapped out depending on the type of coffee being brewed. Because the brewer has no on-board storage, you'll have to store the unused attachments somewhere else in your kitchen.
Those attachments were a bit difficult to install, and the user controls weren't at all intuitive. Despite reading the manual, many of our testers took several attempts to actually brew a cup of coffee. Keep that in mind if you aren’t functional before your morning caffeine fix.
Buy for $155.99 on Amazon.
Proctor Silex 49961
A $35 K-cup brewer may sound like great idea, especially if you are on a tight budget. However, in the case of the Proctor Silex 49961 single-serve coffee maker, even $35 seems like a ripoff.
The 49961 is built from cheap materials and takes forever to brew a cup of coffee. In most cases the removable brew basket got stuck, and damaged a lot of pods. Fortunately, the machine comes with a filter for regular ground coffee, which you'll likely need after giving up on K-Cups. Additionally, our testers had real trouble understanding how the confusing water reservoir system worked, resulting in multiple leakages and overflowed cups of coffee—bad news if the machine isn't in the kitchen.
If space is at an absolute premium and you can't afford the extra $20 for the Mr. Coffee BVMC-KG6-001, the Proctor Silex may seem like an attractive option. However, we think you’d be better off avoiding it entirely.
Buy for $48.14 on Amazon.
Hamilton Beach Flex Brew
As Hamilton Beach and Proctor Silex share a parent company, it’s hardly surprising that the company’s FlexBrew single serve brewer is almost identical to the 49961. Like the Proctor Silex, the FlexBrew feels cheap, features the same difficult-to-use brew basket and mystifying water reservoir, and took a similar length of time to brew a cup of Joe.
While the FlewBrew has a little more going for it than the smaller Proctor Silex—it comes with a removable filter and a drip tray that flips over to accommodate travel mugs—we still think your money could be better spent.
Buy for $50 on Amazon.