Cost of single-serve coffee pods adds up

When buying a pod coffeemaker, count the cost of the coffee

Last updated: December 02, 2013 01:00 PM

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Single-serve coffeemakers are one of the hottest gifts of the season, so there's a good chance that you or someone you know will give or get one. These so-called pod machines are certainly convenient, but the cost of replenishing the pods varies from one type of machine to another, and some types have very limited coffee options. Although some coffeemakers accept more than one type of pod, most of those in our tests do not. So before you buy a single-serve coffeemaker or plug in the one you received, here's a primer on the different types of pods and what they cost over time.

Another consideration when buying a single-serve machine is how quickly it dispenses the first and subsequent cups. You can find that out by checking the results of our coffeemaker tests. The sample prices below are estimated per-pod before shipping and sales tax; with some, so-called subscription plans (sometimes through “memberships”) could further lower your costs. "Brands using" is from among the single-serve models we've tested.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) capsules
Brands using: CBTL
Price: About 70¢ each
Selection: About 33 varieties
Bottom line: These pods don't come cheap, but the selection might be enough. And the CBTL machine we've tested was fairly convenient to use.

Flavia Fresh Packs
Brands using: Flavia
Price: 50¢ to 70¢
Selection: About 60 varieties
Bottom line: Pricing and selection have improved over the past year. The Flavia we've tested is a mid-pack performer.

K-Cup packs
Brands using: Breville, Cuisinart, Keurig, Mr. Coffee
Price: 60¢ to 95¢
Selection: More than 230 varieties
Bottom line: The greatest selection, with many brands to choose among.

Nescafé Dolce Gusto capsules
Brands using: DeLonghi Nescafé
Price: 60¢
Selection: 16 varieties
Bottom line: The selection isn't as good as you'll find elsewhere, but machines of this brand have tended to do well in our tests.

Brands using: Bunn, Hamilton Beach, Smart Café, TRU
Price: About 35 each¢
Selection: Seven varieties
Bottom line: Because of the soft, teabag-like form factor, any soft pod can fit in a machine made for Senseo, and both prices and selection are significantly better among non-Senseo soft pods and from other sellers besides the online Senseo store.

Tassimo T-Disc capsules
Brands using: Bosch
Price: 55¢ to $1.50
Selection: Aboutn 60
Bottom line: While the selection is large, you can get more convenient machines than the Bosch models in our Ratings. Note that the prices might be deceptive; some varieties make servings as large as 12 ounces.

Brands using: Starbucks
Price: $1 to $1.10 for pod packages
Selection: About 11 varieties of coffees and teas you see at Starbucks
Bottom line: If you're a Starbucks fan, you might be okay with the selection, though keep in mind each pod makes less than 8 ounces—not the 16-ounce Grande you may be used to.
Extra tip: CBTL pods seem to fit in these, too.

Vue packs
Brands using: Keurig
Price: 70¢ to $1
Selection: Almost 70 varieties as of this date
Bottom line: This newer Keurig brand (as with another called Rivo) isn't part of the original K-Cup patent, so don't expect prices to come down anytime soon. Still, if you like the selection and the cost is okay, enjoy.

Before you start shopping venues, read our buying guide for coffeemakers, which includes a video on how we test, then check out our latest coffeemaker Ratings for drip, single-serve, and electric French-press machines. Our coffee Ratings include recent taste tests of coffee pods.

—Ed Perratore

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