Pod Coffee Makers all make a cup of coffee in essentially the same way. They run heated water through a kind of plump tea bag (only with coffee in it), called a "pod." This is different from a k cup machine which runs water through a plastic cup with a filter suspended inside.
(If you're not sure what kind of single serve coffee maker to consider, let me urge you to start with the overview article on choosing the Best Single Serve Coffee Maker for You.)
The difficulty for the consumer is that there is no standardization across the pod industry. There are a whole host of companies who make a coffee pod machine. The most popular of which are Senseo, Melitta, Bunn, and Grindmaster. These models are definitely not all created equal.
This variation from machine to machine is important to understand, especially when comparing a coffee pod machine to a Keurig brewer. When you buy a Keurig machine, you pretty much know what you're getting. A K350 brews an identical cup of coffee as the more expensive K550. The difference between the machines is in the bells and whistles, not the coffee itself. Pod coffee makers, however, are not standardized. Some make great coffee, and some make a so-so cup of joe.
In addition, pods come in different sizes (44mm, 55mm, and 62mm), and a pod coffee maker may require one particular size. Some Melitta models will only accept the 44mm kind. The Juan Valdez brewer will only take the 55mm pods. Senseo, Krups, Black & Decker, and Mr. Coffee all prefer the largest size.
It takes some research to know which of these coffee makers is right for you, but we're happy to help with that. We'll narrow the field down to the best of the choices, so that you can decide which one is right for you and your family.
Two People Who Like Different Kinds of Coffee — A pod coffee maker, like a k cup brewer, is excellent when two people don't see eye to eye on coffee. If you prefer a dark roast while your significant other prefers a light roast, then a coffee pod machine would be great for you. Everyone in your house can have the exact coffee that they want.
Those Who Place a Premium on Caring for the Environment — One of the chief drawbacks about k cups for many people is that they aren't exactly friendly on the environment. Since the #7 plastic used to make k cups is typically not part of recycling programs, billions of plastic k cups go to the landfills each year. If this is a concern to you, take a look at a pod brewer. A pod consists of a small paper filter and coffee grounds, resulting in minimal environmental impact.
Not for Those Who Want Frou-frou Coffee — As with k cups, pods are not for someone who enjoys mainly cappucinos. If you want specialty coffee drinks, go with the Nescafe Dolce Gusto or a Tassimo.
The Bunn MyCafé has consistently been one of the best pod brewers on the market. It's not quite as solid as the Grindmaster OPOD (the OPOD is a commercial grade machine) but is significantly less expensive. It can be set to brew between 4 and 12 ounces and has a pulse brewing option. The brewing temperature is not adjustable, but most will be content with the 200 degree brew temperature. You really can't go wrong with either the Bunn MyCafé or the Grindmaster OPOD. In-depth review of the Bunn MyCafe
The Bunn MCU builds on the technology of the Bunn MyCafé and the result is another excellent pod brewer. In addition, however, the Bunn MCU comes standard with a kcup drawer, a ground coffee drawer, and a hot water drawer (as well as the pod drawer). This machine will truly do it all. In-depth review of the Bunn MCU
The OPOD has been the gold standard for pod brewers over the years (and the $300 price tag reflects that). The machine can be programmed to produce nearly any drop size. It has a 200 degree brewing temperature (adjustable) and a pulse brewing system that results in an almost ideal cup of coffee. In addition, the OPOD is built like a tank. It is a commercial grade machine that will last you a long time. This machine is quite expensive and difficult to find, but it is still a good option for a pod enthusiast. In-depth review of the Grindmaster OPOD
The GPOD is a good brewer in its own right, but it pales in comparison to the OPOD. The one thing the GPOD has going for it is that it's half the price of its more expensive cousin. The GPOD offers only an 8 oz. drop. There is also been repeated problems with this machine failing after only a few months. This can be a big problem since there is only a 90 day warranty on this particular machine. This machine can be fantastic or a real lemon.
OK, now we're moving to the opposite end of the spectrum. The Senseo SL7810/65 can be had for under $50 making it one of the most inexpensive single cup brewers on the market. It can brew a 4 oz. or an 8 oz. cup of coffee. This coffee pod maker produces decent coffee. If you're not ready to spend a hundred dollars or more on one of the premier machines, you may want to start off with the Senseo. It serves as a good introduction into the world of pod coffee.