Best Pod Coffee Makers

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Pod Coffee Maker Buying Guide

Pod coffee makers are convenient and low-mess ways to brew a tasty cup. With so many options on the market, it can be tricky to find the best one for you. That’s why we’ve made this list of our favorite pod brewers, comparing their functions and features so you can see each one’s strengths. Read on if you’re considering a pod brewer purchase!

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The K-Classic is the most convenient option for most home kitchens. Its removable reservoir is large enough you won’t need to refill it every time you brew, but the brewer itself still has a fairly compact footprint that fits easily on your counter. Its fast brew time and easy button control make it an easy way to brew your daily joe.

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The K-Elite keeps the fast brew time and easy control of the K-Classic above but adds more options. With a brew strength control, an iced setting, and expanded cup size choices, you can satisfy any taste with the K-Elite. The hot water function is helpful for making tea or oatmeal, too, while the extra-large reservoir accommodates this expanded functionality.

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The slim profile of the Keurig K-Mini is perfect for small spaces, whether that’s a dorm room or on your desk at work. It’s still tall enough to brew straight into a travel mug thanks to the removable drip tray. And it brews quickly, too, brewing 6-12 ounces of coffee in minutes.

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An upgraded version of the K-Mini, the Keurig K-Mini Plus adds a strong brew option and integrated storage for your K-Cups. Its water reservoir is removable, too, so it’s even easier to fill. While it’s slightly bigger than the K-Mini, the K-Mini Plus is still less than 6 inches across and has the same fast-brewing operation you expect from Keurig.

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Here’s another compact option from Keurig. The K15 isn’t much bigger than the mugs it brews into, ideal for places where space is at a premium. It brews 6-10 ounces of coffee in less than 2 minutes, and the one-button operation couldn’t be easier.

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One great thing about pod brewing is that you can make more than just drip coffee. The K-Café expands your options with an integrated milk frother, letting you make espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. While it’s a bit bigger than most pod brewers, it’s the most convenient way to make café drinks at home.

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Keurig isn’t the only name in the pod brewer game. This Sboly Single Serve Coffee Maker can brew from either ground coffee or K-Cups, combining two brewing methods into one incredibly compact device. It’s easy to use and fast-brewing, too, giving you a hot, delicious cup in minutes.

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The sleek design of the Keurig K-Select is made to fit nicely into any home décor. It also offers more customization options than many single-serve brewers, including a brew strength control and 4 cup size options, as well as a hot water dispenser. For versatility and style, it’s our top choice.

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This Mueller coffee maker brews hot coffee quickly. Its advanced heating element ensures the water reaches optimal brewing temperature before hitting the pod, giving you a better-tasting cup. Along with that, the removable reservoir and straightforward controls are user-friendly.

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Are you always running out of K-Cups? Then you need the Hamilton Beach FlexBrew. The integrated app can automatically order new pods when you’re low, and gives you complete control over which pods you get. The brewer itself is impressive, too, with a built-in water filter, brew strength selection, and the option of brewing from either pods or fresh grounds.

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The Mueller Ultimate Brewmaster is compact and durable enough you can take it with you on the road. It’s the ideal choice for business travelers, giving you fast single-cup brewing in any size of space. Best of all it will fit updated 2.0 K-Cups, so you never have to wonder whether your favorite pods are compatible.

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Rounding out the list is the Dolce Gusto from Nescafe, which wins our award for the most convenient way to make delicious cappuccinos and lattes. This starts with its compact build, which is similar in dimensions to single-cup brewers like the K-Mini. It’s still a powerful machine, though, reaching the full 15 bars of pressure you need to make delicious espresso.

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What Are Pod Coffee Machines?

A pod brewer uses a method similar to an automatic drip machine. Heated water is mixed with ground coffee, extracting the flavor then dripping down into your cup.

The difference in a pod brewer is how you put the coffee in the machine. Instead of using your own grounds, the coffee is already ground and dosed into individual cups. During brewing, this cup is punctured to allow water in and out.

Some pod brewers make regular drip coffee, while others can even make drinks that taste like espresso, lattes, or cappuccinos. Regardless of the version, though, the basic operation and idea behind them is the same.

Benefits of Coffee Pods

  • They’re easy to use. You don’t need to worry about dosing or grinding the coffee—just put in a pod and press start. This is especially helpful for making espresso drinks since the techniques to pull a shot and froth milk can be tricky to learn.
  • They’re no-mess. In pod brewing, the grounds are contained to the pod. When it’s time to clean up, just throw the pod away.
  • They brew quickly. Most pod brewers can give you a cup in 2-3 minutes, while some can make a drink in less than a minute. That’s a lot faster than the 5-6 minutes needed for a pot of drip coffee.
  • More variety. You can find K-Cups and pods for every flavor and roast of bean. They can even be used to make non-coffee drinks like apple cider and hot chocolate.

K-Cup vs. Nespresso Compared

Both of these machines are pod brewers. The main difference between them is the kind of drink they make. Nespresso pods are mostly aimed at making espresso-based drinks. They can be used to make plain coffee, but the emphasis is on cappuccinos, espressos, and lattes.

A Keurig is the opposite. It’s mostly designed to brew plain coffee and regular K-Cups can’t brew espresso (though you’ll find specialized machines that are an exception to this rule).

Beyond this, the differences are subtle. Nespresso brewers are often a smidge faster than Keurigs, both heating up and brewing faster. The cups are also different sizes and shapes to accommodate the different drink types, so you can’t use the pods interchangeably.

How Do Pod Coffee Machines Work?

From the user side, a pod machine is simple. Just turn the brewer on, pop in a pod, and press start. But what’s going on inside the machine?

The truth is, it’s both ingenious and a lot less complicated than you might imagine. When you press “brew”, water from the reservoir is pumped through pressurized hoses into a heating area.

When you close the lid on the filter area, the K-Cup or pod is punctured on both the top and bottom. A hose is inserted in each hole—one to let the water in and one to let it out.

Once the water is hot, it flows up into this smaller hose and is mixed with the grounds inside the cup. The addition of pressure is what allows these brewers to extract flavor so quickly, similar to what you’ll see in an espresso machine.

At the end, the brewed coffee flows out of the second hose and is dispensed into your cup. Once it’s finished, simply lift the lid and remove and dispose of the pod.

How to Clean Your Coffee Pots and Pod Coffee Makers

One advantage of pod brewers is their low maintenance requirement. That said, cleaning them from time to time is still a good idea to avoid build-up and keep them running smoothly.

A good rule of thumb is to do a full cleaning of your machine every 3-6 months. The more you use it, the sooner you’ll need to clean it. Some machines have a helpful indicator button that tells you when it’s time to clean it.

If your brewer has built-in water filtration, you won’t need to do a full cleaning as often. That said, you will need to replace the filter every 2 months following the instructions that came with the machine.  

The good news is, cleaning the machine is just as quick and easy as using it. Just follow these steps:

  1. Unplug the machine, then remove any parts you can (drip tray, filter holder, reservoir, etc.). Clean these removable components with warm water and dish soap then allow to air dry.
  2. The next step is known as descaling, which is the process of removing mineral build-up from the hoses and lines. You can get a special solution for this, or just use a mix of equal parts distilled white vinegar and water.
  3. Fill the reservoir with this descaling mix, then plug in the machine and start the brew cycle without inserting a pod.
  4. Repeat until all the solution in the reservoir has been brewed through.
  5. Rinse the reservoir and fill it with clean water. Run a cleansing brew through the machine to remove any traces of cleaner or vinegar. Once this is done, you’re ready to start brewing again.

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