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One Cup Coffees: Distinguishing Quality from Mediocrity


Americans have an ongoing love affair with coffee, and it is estimated that roughly 54 percent of adults in the United States drink an average of 3 cups daily. Coffee kick starts you in the morning, making you feel fresh and motivated to tackle the day ahead.

In the last few years, single serving coffee has been gaining popularity due to its relative convenience, variety, ease of use and cleanup and specialized packaging to keep the coffee fresher. Like regular coffee, not all one cup coffees are created equal. Machine type, cost per cup, coffee source, cleanup and brewing time considerations can make for a difficult decision. To help you make a more informed decision, here is a comparison of some of the most common single serve coffees on the market, everything from cheap K cups to the popular "pod-style" coffees.

Keurig's coffee pods belong at the top of this list, as they are considered the most favorable among many people as far as flavor, freshness and availability. Keurig's K-cups also offer a much wider selection- more than 70 varieties- than other single serve brands. The K-cups are a small plastic cup reminiscent of those half and half cups you get in restaurants, but bigger. Inside is a little paper filter full of the coffee of your choice. When the cup is placed in the machine and the lid closed, one hole is made in the top that water goes into. In the bottom, more holes are poked that the coffee drains out of and into your waiting cup. When it's done, just remove the cup and throw it out. No drip, no mess. The average cost of a serving of coffee from a K-cup is about 56¢, or a little more than $200 per year. That's really not too bad for great coffee.

Next up is are the Home Café pods. While these paper based pods may be used in a variety of single serving coffee makers, their popularity is stymied by their painfully limited flavor and roast varieties. Also, unlike Keurig's K-cups, the Home Café cups are not airtight. Once that package is open, the coffee inside degrades very quickly, resulting in stale, acidic flavors and a less potent dose of caffeine. The cost of these pods varies. Expect to pay about $6 to $8 for a package of 18. That's about 33¢ to 44¢ per serving.

Now for Tassimo's T-discs, or more specifically, the lightly sweetened milk pods. Many people prefer the T-discs for their favorable milky coffees rather than the coffee itself, and feel that they produce better results than similar products. However, some feel that the milk has an off flavor similar to that of canned condensed milk, and is a bit on the too sweet side. The price of the T-discs varies by flavor, but the average price is about $10 for a pack of 16. That's an astounding 62¢ per cup.

After looking at these three options, it may be hard to tell at first glance which is a better bang for your coffee buck. The Keurig and Tassimo single cup machines go for about $150. The machines that use the Home Café pods- Black & Decker, Krups and Mr. Coffee- retail for about $30, $100 and $110 respectively. Though the Home Café makers and pods are cheaper, you're also paying for poorer quality.

By far, Keurig K-cups seems like the most desirable choice for people who are serious about their coffee, because they top everything in regards to freshness, flavor, variety, quality and ease of use, and the K-cups are only slightly more expensive than the cheapest alternatives.

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