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Single-Cup Coffee Makers

In many consumers' minds, nothing beats the convenience of pod coffee makers, which are also called single-cup coffee makers. With coffee in pre-portioned pods, no carafe, and no filter basket, there's no measuring and very little cleanup.

Single-cup coffee makers hold up to a quart of water in a tank; they work by building up pressure and firing the water through the coffee grounds. This method can usually get coffee into a cup in under a minute. Brewing just one cup at a time keeps you from winding up with a pot of lukewarm or stale coffee. Single-serve coffee makers are ideal in households where everyone prefers a different kind of coffee and for people who make only one cup a day. Some reviewers complain that pod coffee makers are noisy -- that's because of the pressure. The disposable pods raise the hackles of environmentally conscious consumers, and if you are expecting rich coffeehouse taste, you're unlikely to get it.

Perhaps the biggest drawback, though, is price. The well-known Keurig Platinum Brewing System (starting at $160) costs more than three times as much as any of our picks. And that's only the beginning: The New York Times crunched the numbers and found that buying coffee in pods is equivalent to spending more than $50 for a one-pound can or bag of ground coffee. Frugal consumers can, however, make their own pods or buy refillable pods.

The pods usually hold enough coffee for a 6- or 8-ounce cup and come in various types for different brands of single-cup coffee makers. Keurig coffee makers use plastic K-Cups, Senseo machines use paper pods, and Tassimo single serves use T-discs. While these three are the most popular, other brands are getting in on the act. Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Mr. Coffee, and Melitta now market single-cup coffee makers.

The Hamilton Beach Personal Cup One Cup Pod Brewer 49970 (starting at $17) is the cheapest of the single-cup coffee makers. It's quite small and holds only enough water for one mug, but it's so simple to use that it has practically no instructions. It uses Senseo pods, which are admired for their ecologically sound construction. Many consumers posting reviews on Amazon focus less on the particulars of this machine than on the benefits of owning a cheap single-cup coffee maker generally. Some complain that it makes weak coffee or note that the construction doesn't match that of more expensive one-cup coffee makers, but overall reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

Most other single-cup coffee makers fall outside our sub-$50 price range, but a few come in under $100. Bunn is known for making restaurant coffee makers, and most users posting reviews of the brand's My Cafe MC Pod Brewer (starting at $78) on Amazon maintain that the quality of this machine is comparable. Relatively few disagree, citing durability issues and a plastic taste to the coffee. The Bunn brews up to 14 ounces at a time and includes a pulse-brew feature designed to extract more flavor from each pod.

The Mr. Coffee Single-Serve Brewing System BVMC-KG1-001 (starting at $80) uses the famous Keurig technology and plastic K-Cups. It holds 8 ounces of water, enough for one cup. Users posting reviews on Amazon say a cup can be ready in under two minutes, and others rave that this single-cup coffee maker is just like a Keurig, only cheaper. The Mr. Coffee comes in white, red, and silver.

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Many consumers like the single-cup Black & Decker Brew 'n Go Personal DCM18S as an alternative to a pod coffee maker. Users posting reviews at Walmart like that you can use your choice of coffee and don't have to pay a premium price for plastic pods. A consumer who posted a review on Amazon says the Brew 'n Go can do almost everything just as well as a pricey pod coffee maker for about a 10th of the price.

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