Take a look at the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Creativa Plus, and you could be forgiven for thinking it's some alien creature asking to be taken to your leader. But it's on this earth to serve coffee, one cup at a time. The little rascal costs $200 and nearly made our list of top-picks but, like most movie aliens, proved to be unpredictable, lacking temperature consistency from cup to cup. The ET-like Creativa Plus was one of five single-serve coffeemakers we've just tested.
What looks like a bird's beak is the machine's handle for pulling out the compartment that holds the same Nescafé Dolce Gusto hard-shell capsules used by the top-rated single-serve machine in our coffeemaker tests, the $150 DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Circolo. And what resembles a ball-cap visor is actually the handle you push down to lock the capsule in place before brewing. The transparent portion of the "body" is a removable reservoir we found easy to refill.
Overall, in fact, we liked the Creativa Plus. It was fairly easy to operate and clean, delivered both the first cup and subsequent ones quickly, and allowed a lot of flexibility in adjusting the coffee strength. But if you appreciate the hundreds of choices available from a beverage-capsule brand such as Keurig or a pod-type machine that takes soft, teabag-like pods of any brand, you might not want to be locked into a capsule selection with only 16 choices.
Prefer a more traditional cup of coffee? A winner from our latest batch of four carafe models is the Black & Decker CM4000S, $40 at Target. Its brew performance didn't match the solid five or six minutes we expect a coffeemaker to maintain a temperature of 195 degrees F to 205 degrees F for optimal brewing, but it came close to the top-rated Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT, $40, and Kalorik CM25282, $80.