I’m going to make an odd comparison here and hopefully people will get it. We all know how successful Apple has been with their App store and the products that “consume” the applications like the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Well let’s stretch our imagination a bit and apply this to the coffee brewer industry. Over the past few months, I have had the LUXURY of testing two single-serve coffee makers that are from different companies but that use the same “app store”…er…coffee store. I guess you can equate this pretty closely to the cell phone industry as there are numerous manufacturers of single-serve coffee makers and consequently, the pods or single serve coffee canisters abound as well, much like the Android app store, Apple App store, etc.
First of all, why choose a single-serve coffee making solution? Well let me tell you this, it is literally a life saver. And, they are so easy to use that your kids can brew you that first cup of coffee on the weekend without ANY type of mess. Have you ever tried to brew a full pot of coffee? I know that you have. For starters, you need to be sure that you have coffee (grounds or bean). Then you have to grind them (potentially) and get them into the coffee maker. And wait, do you use a paper filter or one of those gold filters? Which one is better? Some say that the paper ones filter out the coffee oils while others say that the gold filters are not used by the purist. So let’s move to the next part, filling up the coffee maker with water. Do you use filtered or not? How much water do you use in relation to the scoops of coffee? And what do you do if your spouse or partner or someone else wants decaf? Now, add a kid into the mix and suddenly you have a disaster waiting to happen. And let’s say you are doing this on a school morning and you simply don’t have time to wait for a full pot to brew…your options are limited, you can wait for the pot to brew, go without coffee or order an expensive coffee from a coffee shop (that will cost you $1.50 or more!).
Single serve coffee makers are truly convenient time savers. And if you use them properly, they can save you money on wasted coffee. How many times have you brewed a full pot of coffee only to leave 1/2 of it sitting in the pot only later to throw out? Sure the per cup cost is probably less expensive if you consume the full pot…but who (other than me) really drinks a full pot! Single serve coffee brewers are so insanely simple and easy to use, you definitely CAN get your kids to get you that first cup in the morning (just be sure to warn them that the liquid that comes out is VERY HOT! – not for smaller kids to do!). Since I am talking about the advantages of the single-serving solution, let’s touch on a few more. For starters, you can brew not only various types of coffees, but also teas and even hot chocolate (that is the key for kids too!). To brew a fresh cup, you only need a minute or two (depending if you have your brewer ready to go or if you have to have it heat up the coffee first). There is no mess since the coffee is contained within the pods, or in the case of Keurig and the Cuisinart that I tested, a K-Cup. At last count, Keurig had over 200 varieties of K-Cups available for coffee, tea or other beverages. Now THAT is choice! Each pod or K-Cup contains pre-measured amounts of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, for example. And there is no mess because of the innovative way that the brewer punctures the K-Cup and streams the hot water through it.
So now that I have talked about the “apps” (K-Cups), we should probably look a bit closer at the “phones” (the brewers). The two brewers that I tested were:
- The Keurig Special Edition Brewing System – http://www.keurig.com/brewers/special-edition-brewing-system
- The Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System – http://www.cuisinart.com/products/coffee_bar/ss-700.html
These two brewers are quite similar in many ways but do differ as well. Here is what they have in common:
- Use the Keurig K-Cups
- Can brew multiple serving sizes
- Use “one-touch” technology to brew a single serving
- Can use the My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter (to bring your own coffee to the mix)
- Have a backlight LCD display with a clock and are programmable
- Have an energy saving mode for On/Off
- Have warning and indicator lights when you need to fill the water reservoir
Both of these single serve brewers can crank out a cup of hot coffee or tea in about a minute, all without mess and basically without thinking. Both of them from a “cold start” do need about 3-5 minutes to heat up water for brewing. Once heated, your hot beverage is a minute away. Before I go into how the Keurig and the Cuisinart differ, you should take a look at them in action in the video below:
So let’s take a look at some of the differences between these two brewers. For starters, they do have a significant price point difference. The Keurig Special Edition has an MSRP of $139.95 and the Cuisinart’s MSRP is $199.00. Do note that on Amazon, the prices are a pretty similar (Keurig is $118.95 and Cuisinart is $165.97). So what makes up this $50 difference and is it really worth paying a bit more for the Cuisinart?
The Keurig Special Edition
Let me first sing the praise of the Keurig Special Edition. It has all of the elements of a successful single serve brewing system and performs exactly as I would expect an appliance of this price. I used the Keurig for about a month longer than the Cuisinart. We blew through, I mean drank through the included sampler pack as well as a variety of other K-Cups that we purchased later. Just so that you know, you can get additional K-Cups in a variety of locations. My wife looks for sales of the coffee packs at Target, but you can also order them from Amazon or Costco. From my back-of-envelope calculations, you typically buy a 50-pack for about $20-25 which means that each cup of coffee or tea comes to about $0.40-$0.50 per serving. We actually found ourselves brewing a lot of cups of coffee, simply because of the novelty of it all. I usually never drink coffee in the evening but I found myself brewing a quick cup (mainly of decaf) just because it was so easy to do. And, out kids were always begging for hot chocolate (note, the hot chocolate does seem to be a bit more expensive).
The Keurig has 3 serving sizes: 5.25 oz, 7.25 oz and 9.25 oz. If you want a bit stronger coffee, you should select a smaller size cup when you are brewing (and I typically choose the Extra-Bold K-Cups because I love robust coffee). There is a removable drip tray but I really didn’t run into any issues with dripping. You can hear the brewer when the coffee is being made. The pump is a bit noisy (when compared against the Cuisinart) but it is definitely not bothersome. The 48 oz reservoir can brew about 8 cups of the 5.25 oz serving which is sufficient. You can set the brew temperature for a range between 187 and 192 degree Fahrenheit. The bright blue LCD display clearly indicates the serving size, whether the brewer is ready to brew or not and the time, among other things. Over all, it is a solid single-serving brewing solution.
The Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System
Let’s move on to the Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System. While initially I couldn’t really find any negatives with the Keurig, that was because I really didn’t have anything to compare it against. If you can afford the $50-60 price difference, I would recommend the Cuisinart. For starters, while the design is similar where you lift up a handle to put in the K-Cup, the Cuisinart in my opinion looks a bit more elegant. The aluminum body, at least in my kitchen, seemed to fit in a bit better. The Cuisinart is a bit boxier as well while occupying about the same amount of space, it is a bit larger actually. But what you get with the additional counter space footprint is a larger water reservoir.
The Cuisinart has an 80 oz water reservoir, compared to the Keurig’s 48 oz reservoir and has a water filter that you can use with it. Trust me, the extra 32 oz is really great. Also, compared to the 3 cup sizes of the Keurig, the Cuisinart has 5: 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 oz settings (I always use the 12 oz setting – just remember though that the coffee will be a bit weaker than with lesser quantities). Also, I found that the pump noise on the Cuisinart is a lot quieter than the Keurig. I’m not sure if this is because of a different pump being used or if the pump itself is better insulated. Also, there is a handy side storage compartment for the My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter which is a nice value-add and use of the extra space.
If you haven’t watched the comparison video above, I encourage you to do so as it does show both products in action.
To bring this all back to my original analogy of cell phones, I would like to think of the Keurig as an iPod Touch and the Cuisinart as more like an iPhone 4. You get a bit more functionality with the iPhone 4 and the specs are a bit better but both let you do almost exactly the same thing with the “app” you use. Regardless, with either “device” you get a pretty nice cup of coffee pretty quickly (in about a minute).
Both of these single-serve coffee brewers are extremely easy to use and get up and running. In fact, my kids are now brewing us coffee fairly regularly, as well as making hot cocoa for themselves. However, if I were to make a choice between these two brewers, I would elect to paying slightly more and get the Cuisinart for a few reasons: the look, the fact that the water reservoir holds more water, the fact that it stores the personal K-Cup, and that it actually brews larger cups of coffee. However, if you are a bit budget constrained, there are other versions of the Keurig maker that are even less expensive than the Keurig Special Edition. And given the deep discounts available on Amazon, it’s hard to go wrong!
Keurig Special Edition
Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: While it may seem like a luxury, being able to quickly and easily brew single serve coffees, teas or hot chocolate to me now seems like a necessity!