Single-Serve Pod Coffee Makers

Published February 2014
Update: May 2016
We have learned that the top-rated model by Cuisinart has been discontinued. We will update this testing in the coming months.

How we tested

If convenience is key to getting your morning cup, it doesn’t get much easier than single-serve pod coffee. Just pop a prepackaged pod into the machine, hit the button, and out comes a hot brew. The other major draw is choice: There are hundreds of varieties of pods for coffee, tea, chai, espresso, and hot chocolate. The cost per pod ranges from less than 40 cents to nearly $1, depending on how many you buy. As for the machines, they can range in price from $25 to well over $1,000. We rounded up five single-serve pod coffee makers costing from $50 to $199 and gave them a try, brewing coffee and tasting the results.

Three of our machines worked quickly and consistently, taking 45 to 55 seconds to brew coffee at a drinkable temperature (160 to 175 degrees), cup after cup. Two of those had the added bonus of controls that were intuitive and simple, as well as reservoirs that held as much as 10 cups of water, cutting down on the need to reload between brewing stints. The remaining two coffee makers were temperamental at best. One brewed progressively hotter beverages (from 155 degrees for the first cup to a near-scalding 181 degrees several cups later). The other product spewed a blast of steam after the brewing (which took a solid 3 minutes) appeared to be finished. Both required users to refill their dinky reservoirs with water every time they wanted to make a cup, defeating half of the convenience.

So how’s the coffee? An independent lab analyzed the extraction rate (the amount of soluble materials extracted from the grinds) and brewed solids (the actual amount of coffee in the cup) from each machine. Three coffee makers produced coffee with extraction rates and solids in line with the “Golden Cup” standard established by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The other two overextracted the coffee, risking bitterness in the brew. We let tasters be the ultimate arbiters, serving them coffee (which we poured into separate thermal carafes to conceal their sources) from each machine. That left us with one clear winner, which passed muster with the lab, held up well in user tests, and also managed to satisfy our panel of tasters.

While we recommend our winning machine, we offer this caveat: Since its price is on par with any high-end traditional coffee maker, and even buying pods in bulk sets you back 10 cents or more per cup than brewing from regular ground coffee does, you’ll be paying for the convenience.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.