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!
The Special Edition Brewing System is our mid-luxury home brewing system that offers a blend of styling and convenient features. The Special Edition features chrome accents, a blue, back lit LCD display and three brew size options. Programmable features include a Digital Clock, Adjustable Temperature and Auto On/Off. The 48-ounce removable water reservoir holds up to eight cups before refilling and for the removable drip tray allows for easy cleaning and the use of travel mugs.At initial set up, once the machine is filled with water, it will take approximately 4-minutes for the water will be heated. During the heating period the red light next to ‘HEATING’ on the LED Control Center will become illuminated. Once the water is heated, the red light will turn off and the Small Mug Button will flash. Press the Small Mug Button to start a cleansing brew. Pour the hot water into the sink. The Brewer may take 15 seconds to reheat water between brews during which time the red light next to ‘HEATING’ on the LED Control Center may be illuminated. When the water has heated, the red light will turn off. The one-time set-up process is now complete and you are ready to brew!
The Cuisinart SS-700 Single-Serve Brewing System Perfect for both personal use and entertaining, this single-serve home-brewing system offers consumers fresh gourmet coffee, tea, hot cocoa and more in under one minute. Choose either 4, 6, 8, or 10 ounce from the icon on brewing size options. Using Keurig K-Cups & mdash; featuring over two hundred varieties of pre-measured, premium brand coffee and tea--this brewer’s innovative one-touch technology makes it easier than ever for consumers to enjoy a wide array of hot beverages. No matter which cup size you choose, the Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System, working in conjunction with K-Cup, always produces the perfect cup every time. Using Your SS-700 Single-Server Brewing System The control panel will display OPEN HEAD while in idle mode. Place a cup or mug on the drip tray: the drip tray can be removed to accommodate travel mugs. Lift the handle. The brewing chamber will open toward you. Select a K-Cup Portion Pack (Do not remove the foil lid or puncture the K-Cup) Place the K-Cup in the brewing chamber. Lower the handle to close the brewing chamber. When closed completely, the control panel will indicate READY. All brew size icons will be displayed with the default size shown as a solid mug. To choose a different size use the up or the down button. Choose from 4, 6, 8, or 10 ounce brew sizes. Once a size is chosen, press Brew. Only the Brew button will be lit. The control panel will now display BREWING, as well as the serving size you selected. To use the iced beverage setting, place a tall glass filed with ice on the drip tray. Use your favorite K-Cup, select the iced beverage brew size (4 ounces) and press the brew button. Once brewing is complete, add more ice. Add cream and sugar if desired. One-Touch Control Panel Hot Water/Rinse Your brewer is equipped to dispense hot water to make hot chocolate, tea, soup and more. Your brewer is also equipped with a rinse cycle to flush out residual flavors. The rinse cycle will dispense about 4 ounces of hot water. To Rinse: Place a cup or mug on the drip tray. Lift the handle. The brewing chamber will open towards you; check to make sure there is no K-Cup inserted. Lower the handle to close the brewing chambers. When closed completely, the control panel will indicated READY. Press Rinse. During the rinse cycle, only the RINSE button will be lit. The control panel will display the word RINSE. Following the Rinse cycle, your brewer will automatically fill and heat in preparation for the next cycle. Once the heat cycle is completed, the RINSE and HOT WATER buttons will remain lit for one minute. While the buttons are lit, you can perform another rinse cycle or dispense hot water without opening the brew chamber. To Make Hot Water: Place a cup or mug on the drip tray. If you’ve just completed a rinse or hot water cycle proceed to step 4. Lift the handle. The brewing chamber will open towards you; check to make sure there is no K-Cup inserted. Lower the handle to close the brewing chamber. When closed completely, the control panel will indicate READY. All brew-size icons will be displayed with your default size shown as a solid mug. To choose a different size use the up or the down button. Press Hot Water. While the hot water cycle is in progress, only the hot water button will be lit. The control panel will display the words HOT WATER, as well as the serving size you selected. Following the cycle, your brewer will automatically fill and heat in preparation for the next cycle. After the heating cycle is completed, you can perform a rinse or another hot water cycle immediately for up to one minute. The RINSE and HOT WATER buttons will be lit. After this time the unit will return to idle mode and OPEN HEAD will be displayed. Brewing with the My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter The Cuisinart Single Serve Brewing System comes with a My K-Cup reusable coffee filter, which allows you to use your own ground coffee. The dishwasher safe, My K-Cup conveniently stores in the easy-open compartment. Open the storage compartment located on the right side of the brewer by pressing the finger indent. Disassemble the My K-Cup by turning the lid from the holder in a counter-clockwise direction. Remove the filter basket from the holder. Wash the My K-Cup lid, filter basket and holder in warm soapy water prior to use, making sure to rinse and dry thoroughly. All My K-Cup parts are dishwasher safe. Insert the filter basket into the holder. Fill the filter basket with ground coffee making sure not to fill past the top of the mesh. Adjust the amount to your personal preference. Do not tamp the grinds. Ensure there are no grinds remaining on the upper rim of the filter basket. Turn clock-wise to seal. Raise the handle and the brew chamber will open toward you. Remove the K-Cup holder from the brewing chamber by pulling toward you. Drop the assembled My K-Cup into the brewing chamber. Follow the brewing instructions . Following the brewing raise the handle and remove the K-Cup. Disassemble the My K-Cup by turning the lid from the holder in a counter-clockwise direction. Remove the filter basket from the holder, discard the grounds and rinse out the filter basket. Replace the K-Cup holder, ensuring the arrow on K-Cup rim aligns with the arrow on the brewing chamber. Gently push the K-Cup holder to snap into place. Special Programmable Features The brewer provides three ways for you to enjoy gourmet coffee, tea of hot cocoa on your own schedule. It will take the brewer approximately 3-1/2 minutes to warm up from room temperature. Leave it on all the time: The brewer can be left on all the time so that is it always ready to brew a fresh cup of gourmet coffee, tea or hot cocoa. To turn the brewer off at any time, simply press the power switch located on the right side of the brewer. Set the Brewer to AUTO OFF: This will automatically shut the brewer off after a specified period of time from the last brew. Program your Brewer for a specific ON and/or OFF TIME: By programming your brewer to turn on each morning, you will never have to wait for the brewer to warm up in order to brew a gourmet cup of coffee. Programming Brew Temperature: The brewer brews at a pre-set temperature of 192°F. If you prefer a cooler cup of coffee, hot water, tea, or cocoa, you may adjust this temperature down by 5 degrees. .