3 Top Brand Home Coffee Brewing Systems Compared

My husband wants a cup of coffee. I like my tea, hot or cold. And my daughter loves hot cocoa. How do we all get a single cup of our gourmet favorite without stopping at a coffee shop and spending $10 to $15 a day? And how do we provide a visiting Grandma with a hot brewed cup of decaf without wasting the rest of a pot? We need a home brewing system that works for all of us, with all the convenience but without the expense of Starbucks.

We tried three single serve gourmet coffee makers and found that the insertion of a cartridge and the push of a button gets all of us exactly what we want. All three brewers tested use a signature-style enclosed capsule, disc, or cup of premixed, premeasured coffee, tea, or cream which must be used exclusively to each system. All brew a single cup in under one minute. All are pricier than the average coffee pot but are much more affordable than the local coffee house. So which system is worth the money? Read on for our findings from testing three of the top name brand single serve brewers and the #1 system we recommend for the quietest, easiest, and most affordable solution to becoming your own barista. We also offer ways to be green while saving some green!

Tassimo by Bosch/Kraft

The Tassimo system, manufactured by the well-known Bosch company and available from Kraft Foods, uses T-discs with a bar code scanning system for auto brewing, but the strength can be adjusted for personal taste, which we often found necessary and made the fancy barcode system seem somewhat useless. T-discs are available in 12 brands, including Seattle’s Best, Tazo, Twinings, Starbucks, Gevalia, and Maxwell House, of 40 hot varieties of coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, and teas. Tassimo offers a single hot beverage from one T-disc, or two in the case of a latte. No cold drink discs are available at this time. Recipes are included with the instruction manual, but we really thought the idea behind these single serve machines was simple, easy use, not complicated methods.

With its sleek, modern look and LED display, the black and red model is an aesthetically pleasing addition to any kitchen, though it came in third in our performance testing. All three machines heat only the water needed for each serving, instead of heating an entire pot, so the brewing lasts less than one minute per cup. Though the Tassimo offers the second fastest brew of the three, it was the loudest system we tested. Dangerously steamy and splattery, we found it hard to adjust the platform for our own larger cups without causing a lot of splattering, and when used with smaller cups that actually fit the platform, we had run-over. So much for the barcode system recognizing the amount of liquid to brew, as it may know but doesn’t share with us how much water it intends to use until it spills it onto our countertops. We found that leaving the system alone while in use almost guarantees a mess, even overflowing both a standard tea cup and coffee cup when left alone on auto settings for each. The generous 67 ounce reservoir allows for multiple brews from one fill and is removable but is awkwardly placed in the back of the machine. The brewer must be moved out from the wall to either fill the tank in place or remove it for filling under the faucet.

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Tassimo systems are available in red or silver from select specialty and groceries stores, as well as mass merchants and www.tassimodirect.com for about $100 to $140. T-discs are available for about $10 per 16 servings (or eight lattes).

Nescafe Dolce Gusto by Krups

The Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine is from Krups, a leader in coffee makers and brewing technology. Eight hot Nescafe brand capsules are exclusive to this system and include three caffe lungo varieties, cappuccino, espresso, mocha, latte macchiato, and chococino. No teas or outside-branded drinks are offered, but both hot and cold drinks can be made with the addition of an iced cappuccino variety for the Dolce Gusto. Plain hot water can also be generated for preparing tea, cocoa, or other drink mixes. Like the Tassimo, some drinks require a second capsule containing sweetened milk, for which refrigeration is not needed or recommended. Though it does make the brew process a bit more complex, it adds variety.

Much is offered in this comparably smaller model. The modern design reminds us of a robot from the Jetsons cartoon. Included in the package is a variety of capsules and a unique set of glassware: a cup, a saucer, and a glass, which are designed to help brew the drinks to the correct size and strength, especially when two capsules must be used for the perfect mix, such as when brewing the cafe macchiato or iced cappuccino. And the layering of the contents of two capsules result in a beautifully layered effect in the clear glass. Yes, you MUST monitor brewing throughout the process! There is no auto brewing and walking away option, but this does make custom brewing and mess avoidance so much easier. Though slightly inconvenient, the process still results in a quick and tasty brew with no run-over, as you simply flip a switch to start or stop the flow. No digital display or pre-programming is available or even necessary, and we still get a great-tasting beverage with little effort, a plus for those wanting a low-tech or no-tech machine. The tank holds about 43 ounces of water for multiple brews but, like the Tassimo, is inconveniently located in the back of the brewer, which requires moving the unit for each refill.

Available in Vibrant Red, Modern White, and Classic Black, the boldly designed Dolce Gusto retails between $169 on Amazon.com and $220 at Macy’s. The system is also available from www.dolce-gusto.us and select retailers. Capsules cost around $8.50 per 16 servings (or 8 servings for varieties that require a second capsule containing milk).

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Keurig Platinum

Keurig, a subsidiary of Green Mountain, gets its name from a Dutch word meaning “excellence.” This third and final system we tested arrived slim, sleek, and a bit subdued in both palette and sound compared to the other models, which perhaps left us a bit off guard and doubtful that it would impress. Still waters run deep, as they say. The Keurig Platinum uses prefilled K-cups that are much like the capsules and T-discs we tested, premeasured and easily removed for disposal after use for a quick and simple clean-up. K-cups are available in 13 popular brands and over 200 delicious varieties. The coffee brands are Tully’s, Green Mountain, Gloria Jean’s, Deidrich, Newman’s Own, Caribou, Timothy’s, Emeril’s, Coffee People, and Van Houtte. Teas are provided by Twinings, Bigelow, and Celestial Seasonings. At this time, the only cocoa brew is from Green Mountain but was an instant favorite with our testers. No varieties require using more than one K-cup per beverage, so lattes or macchiatos must be custom mixed. No grinding or measuring coffee is needed, though it is an option for those who occasionally wish to do so. A reusable “My K-cup” can be purchased to use in place of the prefilled K-cups to brew your favorite fresh-ground coffee or tea leaves or to customize your own house blend. This exclusive feature for home use is one not currently offered by the other systems and is not compatible with Keurig’s commercial brewers. Keurig Platinum also heats water for making hot cocoa, other drink mixes, or even hot soup mixes. These options lack the convenience of just using a prefilled K-cup, of course, but provide more flexibility and choice in using the machine.

The Keurig system is the quietest and fastest brewer we tested. With the help of its LED programmable display, we found it to be the easiest to choose one of five brewed cup sizes (including iced brew) and just walk away, knowing how reliable the machine is to trust not to overrun your cup. The programmable system has an auto on/off feature and clock and allows for changes in the brew size and temperature. The reservoir provides up to ten cups from one 60 ounce fill. The lighted LED display lets you know when to refill or if descaling becomes necessary from mineral build-up. The tank may be removed or filled in place, and is conveniently located at the front of the unit. The slim tank also fits under most refrigerator door water dispensers for use of filtered water to keep the system clean and to make coffee taste better. Replaceable filter baskets are another plus. The drip tray does not adjust for varying sizes of beverages, but we noticed considerably less splatter and mess than the other models when used with small tea and espresso cups. The tray can be removed completely for use of taller glasses for iced beverages or travel mugs for a more eco-friendly appeal.

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Keurig Platinum can be purchased in its standard black and chrome color scheme at retail stores including Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, and Target or at www.keurig.com for about $169. K-cups cost $10 to $12 for 24 servings.

Our recommendation

The winner of our single serve coffee maker tests, by leaps and strides, is the Keurig Platinum. The noise, mess, and unpredictability of the other machines helps makes the Keurig a clear winner. In a time when we are all trying to indulge in little luxuries without hurting our tightened budgets, the overall cost savings is a major factor, as well. The Dolce Gusto machine is more expensive than the Keurig, and the Tassimo T-discs are pricier than the Keurig K-cups. With the use of two capsules in some Dolce Gusto and Tassimo beverages, the cost can nearly double. Though the Dolce Gusto and Tassimo create more types of beverages, the cost of using two capsules overrides this option in our thinking, and the Keurig still offers more popular brands in so many flavors and varieties. Though we enjoyed the bright colors and bold look of the Tassimo and Dolce Gusto, the Keurig has a modest yet modern style that fits well with any decor and has a much more functional overall design.

We not only declare Keurig Platinum our winner but recommend it for your own family and as a great gift option for bridal showers, weddings, housewarming parties, and beyond. Just don’t forget to include a couple of sustainable travel mugs. The biggest saving of bringing the coffee house to your own home could be that of our planet by keeping disposable coffee cups and related waste out of the landfills, as well as saving gas needed to get us to the coffee shop. For your own eco-friendly travel cups – good for coffee, tea, cocoa, and more – try Aladdin Sustain Travel Mugs. These handy mugs are BPA-free, are made from 85% to 100% recycled materials, and can be recycled after use. Aladdin Sustain 16 ounce mugs are microwave and dishwasher safe, fit easily into your car cup holder, and are available from www.aladdin-pmi.com for about $10 each. Using Aladdin’s convenient reusable mugs takes your brew-by-the-cup habit to a whole new level of convenience and style while helping to make your impact on the Earth as light as the one on your wallet.