To the K-Cup and beyond: Single serve coffee makers reviewed
In CNET's inaugural coffee maker round-up, we take a look at five, higher-end, single-serve coffee makers. You'll be surprised by how much diversity we found among these seemingly simple machines.
We targeted high-end, single serve coffee makers in one of our first appliance round-ups, and we were surprised at how much diversity we found. We expected some differences in their features--different programming options, maybe a unique brewing mode or two--but what really stood out for us was the differences in flavor between each unit, even using the same kind of coffee.
Features and usability are important, too. For many coffee drinkers, all that matters at 6:30 am is that the caffeine comes fast and easy. If that's all you care about, you don't need to spend more than $100 for a serviceable brewer. In this higher price tier, between $150 and $199, we assume your convenience demands bring with them a love of the bean. For that kind of coffee drinker, the Bunn MyCafe MCU is the machine to beat. There's more to the story though, especially for Starbucks fans.
The sturdy Bunn MyCafe MCU is our favorite brewer so far, for its sturdy construction, retro design, and, most importantly because it makes the most flavorful cup of coffee. The brew-style inserts present a minor storage hassle, but they also give you the freedom to use K-Cups, fresh ground coffee, or even flat filter packets. A "pulse" option lets you dial up the strength of each cup. The Bunn MyCafe MCU is the machine we'd pick under $200.
Mashing together Keurig's popular K-Cup brewing mechanism and Cuisinart's respected product design has paid off in the SS-700. We liked the K-Cup coffee from this machine better than from Keurig's own K75. Its metal lift bar and generally more polished construction also gave us more confidence in its longevity than Keurig's mostly plastic K-Cup flagship brewer, with no real price premium.
Keurig's top-end K-Cup coffee brewer, the K75 Platinum didn't make the best impression. Yes, it's easy to use and convenient, but the coffee from this machine also had the least amount of character, regardless of brand or flavor. With less expensive single brewers out there for less, the taste-indifferent can't even really argue for the K75 as a fast caffeine delivery system. We like Keurig's new Vue brewer, but look elsewhere to serve up the original K-Cups.
Keurig's new Vue coffee pod design is here to help secure the company's fortunes now that some of its K-Cup patents have expired. For roughly the same price as these other, higher-end single cup brewers, the V700 uses the new Vue pod to make a surprisingly good cup of coffee, with the same convenience as its predecessor. Even better, and unlike the K-Cup, the Vue pod uses recyclable plastic.
You can buy Starbucks pods in K-Cup and Vue form, but none of them tastes as faithful to the in-store cup as what you get from Starbucks' own Verismo 580 and its proprietary coffee pods. Starbucks is so far keeping the Verismo for itself. You won't find the usual selection of coffee from other brands. You should also stay far away from any drink that requires Starbucks' powdered milk pod. For Starbucks loyalists though, the Verismo 580 is the best at home alternative.