When it comes to coffee, there are essentially two types of people: Those who will grab a cup from any source that is convenient, and those who grind their own beans and own a cupping spoon. For those of us who fall closer to the “I’ll drink anything as long as it’s easy to procure” end of that spectrum, the introduction of the Keurig pod coffee system was a seminal event. Suddenly you could have a wide variety of coffee with just a touch of a button and without messy grounds and filters to contend with. And yet, Keurigs are…not great.
First and foremost, I’ll say it: They don’t actually make great coffee. Beyond that, the machines are pricey and have a reputation for delicacy. They’ve also been widely criticised for having a negative environmental impact — even its inventor has said he “feels bad sometimes” that he ever created it. That convenience may seem hard to beat — but there are alternatives that offer a similar convenience with a superior cup of coffee and fewer downsides.
Nespresso offers a similar pod system to the Keurig, but produces infinitely better coffee. It still isn’t going to match a cup lovingly brewed using time-honoured techniques that take about five minutes more prep, but it’s at least in the same time zone as truly good coffee. Nespresso uses aluminium pods, which are completely recyclable, and even offers a pretty convenient mail-back system to ensure your used pods get processed properly. The Vertuo model offers a wide range of coffee drinks that are just as convenient as your Keurig without most of the downsides.
The BUNN Single Cup Home Brewer will never be called sexy, but it is dead simple to use, and specialises in making just one cup at a time. It can use K-cup pods or ground coffee, so you’ve got flexibility, and has a special feature that extends the brewing time to get a better-tasting coffee experience. The fact that it’s optional is great — this way you can take the extra minute to get a better cup when you have the time, and you can speed through the “adequate” setting when you’re in a rush.
This coffee maker offers convenience and choice because it’s compatible with both K-cups and ground coffee (using a reusable filter cup). It doesn’t offer a ton of options, but it’s incredibly easy to use and since you can switch to ground coffee any time you want, it widens the field for you — on days when you’re feeling fancy, make a superior brew with some nice beans. On days when you barely make it out of the house on time, toss in a pod and enjoy your bare-minimum coffee experience.
When we think of coffee convenience we tend to think of that single cup of coffee available on-demand. The DCC-3000 takes a different approach: It can brew up to 12 cups at a time and hold the coffee in a reservoir to be dispensed at will. This is perfect for folks who need coffee for more than one person at a time, and you can program it to brew at a certain time so that caffeinated goodness is available the moment you wake up. No pods for this one, so it straddles the line between an old-school coffee maker and the soulless pod future we now live in.