With three winners on Consumer Reports' list of recommended pod coffeemakers, DeLonghi dominates the top of our tests. Its machines deliver speedy first and subsequent cups, consistently hot servings, and offer other conveniences. And DeLonghi has outdone itself with its newest top performer, the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T, $130.
While the Gusto Genio resembles its sibling, the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Piccolo EDG200T, which sells for $30 less, the newer model has replaced the joystick that adjusts the amount of water with easy-to-use buttons. Lighted bars indicate how much hot water is available, and there's more capacity to begin with—the reservoir on the Gusto Genio is slightly larger than that of the Gusto Piccolo. A power switch that turns green when it's ready to brew is another handy feature. (The third model is the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Circolo, $150.)
As good as the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T is, however, it doesn't produce a bracing cup of coffee. For that you need a drip coffeemaker and freshly ground coffee beans. That's what our coffee experts discovered in our first-ever taste tests of coffee made with pod coffeemakers. We conducted the tests using the Colombian varietal available for each pod coffeemaker or the manufacturer's recommended equivalent. The majority of the 25 pod coffeemakers in our tests, including the DeLonghis, produced good but not great cups of coffee scoring three out of a possible five. And four pod coffeemakers earned only a two, or fair, with mediocre brews.
Pod coffeemakers typically require a trade-off between convenience and fresh-brewed flavor. If you drink your coffee with a lot of milk and sugar, you might not care. But for true coffee mavens, the taste can be disappointing. That's because the pods come with pre-ground coffee, which begins to lose its flavor as soon as the beans are ground. The same can be said for bagged supermarket coffee that comes already ground.
Still, if you like the speed of a pod coffeemaker, try the different blends and varietals available for your machine. Some brands of pod coffeemakers come with a larger selection of pods than others. DeLonghi, for example, uses the Nescafé Dolce Gusto capsules, which come in 16 flavors, while machines made by Breville, Cuisinart, Keurig and Mr. Coffee accept K-cup pods, which come in 250 varieties.
If you're using your pod coffeemaker to make one cup for the road, you may also want to consider the Hamilton Beach BrewStation 47454, $80, our top-scoring drip coffeemaker, which can make one cup at a time from beans you grind yourself. Another option for coffee junkies is the Krups Grinder & Brewer KM7000, $180, which lets you adjust the grind level and the water-to-coffee ratio and has a small batch setting.