Single-serve machines are mostly about convenience. Consumer Reports’ expert taste tests show that none served up an outstanding brew, even with Colombian or comparable coffee. But the best deliver an acceptable cup of joe in a New York minute with the drop-in ease of premeasured pods or packs. The tests also found that some models could disappoint even less-picky drinkers. Several were slow at delivering that first cup. A few had other glitches, including one that could leave a mess if you don’t read the instructions. Some of the details:
A new DeLonghi takes the lead. Consistently sized servings helped the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T, $130, edge out two other picks from the same brand. Other perks include LED bars for brew strength and a green prompt when the water is hot.
Four flub the taste tests. Claims for Flavia’s new Creation 150 and Gevalia’s G90 Reversible Pod trumpet taste. The Flavia is supposed to make “a quality cup every time,” and the Gevalia has “sealing rings” the company claims will capture flavor. But the expert tasters dinged both for off-notes, including a plastic taste.
Two need extra break-in cycles. New coffee makers typically require a water-only cycle before brewing coffee for the first time. The Gevalia G90 Reversible Pod steamed and whined during the first few uses before it began brewing normally. The DeLonghi Nescafé Genio also needed several break-in cycles, though with less drama.
How to choose :
Consider the selection. Many pod machines work with a relatively limited menu of coffees exclusively from a brand. Models that use both Keurig’s K-Cup packs and Senseo’s pods can stretch those options to 250 or more from multiple brands. K-Cup models accept loose coffee in refillable pods, though you will need to pack the pods fully for the strongest brew.
Look for smart features. Most models that were tested have a removable reservoir you can fill at the sink. And all but a few have a drip tray you can adjust to your cup height.
Balance convenience with ecology. Some single-serve systems make that easier. CBTL capsules, Keurig’s Vue-cups, and Verismo pods are made from polypropylene, which is recyclable in communities that accept No. 5 plastic. Senseo and other soft pods are made of biodegradable paper designed to decompose quickly.
Tips for stronger coffee
Here’s how to get the most flavor from your pod machine:
Adjust it for the strongest cup. Most models have brew-strength controls, which can reduce water to deliver a stronger cup. Or add more water if you prefer a weaker brew.
Choose a smaller serving. You will get stronger coffee by using a smaller cup with the same-size pod. With the two models that take Keurig’s Vue-cup, you can use a pod intended to fill a travel mug and select a smaller serving size.
Use two Senseo pods at once. Six models in Consumer Reports’ ratings let you do just that, though you will pay twice as much per cup.
Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.