Some people prefer them, but they might not produce the best brew
By Daniel Wroclawski
If you’re the kind of person who likes to whip up a cup of coffee quickly, you might like the convenience of a pod coffee maker, which can get you your caffeine fix fast.
No brand of pod coffee maker is more ubiquitous than Keurig, which accounts for 74 percent of all single-serve coffee makers purchased by CR members from 2020 to the first three quarters of 2021, according to our most recent member survey. The whole category of single-serve brewers that use the Keurig-style pods is often referred to by the “K-Cup” moniker, even when the appliances are made by other brands.
Despite Keurig’s popularity, our tests show that the best K-Cup coffee makers usually aren’t made by Keurig. In fact, of the top five K-Cup brewers in our ratings, only one model is made by Keurig.
“Keurig models are a bit slower to brew the second cup of coffee compared to the top-rated pod coffee makers,” says Ginny Lui, CR’s test engineer for coffee makers.
Keep in mind that pod coffee makers, whether they use K-Cup-style pods or others, don’t yield the best-tasting brew. In fact, the highest rating that CR’s expert coffee taste tester awards any pod machine in our ratings is Good, which is merely middle of the road. Then there’s the environmental cost of the pods themselves: Although Keurig’s pods are recyclable, billions have ended up in landfills over the years.
Below are the five best K-Cup coffee makers from our tests, listed in alphabetical order and including models from Brim, Cuisinart, Keurig, and Mixpresso. All of them use K-Cup coffee pods, and three double as drip machines that can use loose grounds, too. CR members can click on each model name for more detailed ratings and reviews.
Best K-Cup Coffee Makers
Brim Triple Brew 12-cup 50017
CR’s take: The Brim Triple Brew 12-cup 50017 doubles as a K-Cup coffee maker and a drip coffee maker, so we ran it through two types of tests. It performs quite well in both, with an Excellent rating for first-cup speed when brewing from pods and a Very Good rating for carafe handling. Its features include auto-shutoff, a permanent filter, a height-adjustable drip tray, and programming.
Cuisinart Coffee Center SS-15
CR’s take: The Cuisinart Coffee Center SS-15, which pulls double duty as a K-Cup brewer and a drip coffee maker with a glass carafe, is a strong performer all-around. As a K-Cup brewer, it earns an Excellent score for first-cup speed and Very Good ratings for size consistency and temperature consistency. And as a drip coffee maker, this model features a water filter, a permanent filter, a cleaning indicator, brew-strength control, auto-shutoff, and programming.
Cuisinart Premium Single-Serve Brewer SS-10
CR’s take: One of the best Keurig K-Cup brewers is the Cuisinart Premium Single-Serve Brewer SS-10, which boasts a convenience rating of Excellent and offers great cup-size and temperature consistency. This machine also packs a ton of features, including an auto-shutoff function, a removable water reservoir, a height-adjustable drip tray, a built-in water filter, and programming.
Keurig K-Duo Plus 5200
CR’s take: The dual-action Keurig K-Duo Plus 5200 brews a nice single-serve cup of coffee, but it’s a bit unusual. Unlike the Brim and Cuisinart models on this list, which are essentially two coffee makers fused together, this Keurig has only one brewing chamber and mechanism. That means you can’t brew a cup of coffee from a pod and a carafe of coffee at the same time. And while this machine earns strong performance marks in pod tests, it’s only a so-so drip coffee maker. For example, it earns an Excellent rating for convenience in the former but a Very Good score for convenience in the latter. Its features include a removable water reservoir, a height-adjustable drip tray, programming, auto-shutoff, a permanent filter, and brew-strength control.
Mixpresso Single Cup K4GRY00
CR’s take: The Mixpresso Single Cup K4GRY00, one of the lowest-priced pod coffee makers we’ve tested, is a steal. The machine earns Very Good ratings for first-cup speed, repeat-cup speed (how quickly it can brew a second cup), and cup-size consistency. It’s also easy to clean and comes with a height-adjustable drip tray and a removable reservoir. Plus, Mixpresso pod coffee makers garner an Excellent reliability rating and a Very Good owner satisfaction score in CR’s latest members survey.
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