Remember when single serve coffee makers first came out? They were huge behemoths with large water tanks, and they took up a lot of counter space. Not only that, but before Keurig’s competitors began to surface, you were pretty much stuck with paying their high prices for K-cups.
Welcome to the new generation of single-serve coffee makers! Today’s models take up less space, but they brew the same delicious coffee. You can buy generic single-serving pods for less money, and you even have the option of using a refillable pod with your own coffee blend.
Which Single-Cup Coffee Maker is the Best?
We examined the details about several one-cup coffee makers and narrowed it down to four brands that offered particular features we thought were important. These picks also got great customer reviews – it’s nice to know that someone else tried each one first and liked it. Here are our main requirements for the needed features of a single serve coffee maker:
- Adjustability (brew strength, cup size)
- Ease of use
- Brew Time
- Bonus features
Here are our picks, in no particular order:
The Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker is an interesting coffee maker and it stands out from the rest in a couple of ways. It can make coffee or espresso just by using the right kind of coffee pod. Not only that, but it has an available automatic hot-and-cold milk frother for creating lattes and cappuccinos. Like the Keurig, it uses sealed cartridges of coffee, and the Nespresso will only work with its own original brand of coffee pods, which are pricey.
The machine comes in black only, and you can get a ‘bundle’ deal that includes the frother for much less on Amazon.com than in department stores. Similar to the Keurig described below, the Nespresso has advanced technology that reads the code on the coffee pods to determine whether to brew coffee or espresso. And this model takes 15-20 seconds to heat the water, compared to one to five minutes for all of the others. It also has an auto-shut-off feature.
One unique feature is that coffee capsules are ejected into a storage container after use. The removable container holds 13-20 used coffee pods. Brew strength cannot be adjusted, but the maker claims that the patented system makes “the perfect cup of coffee.” The coffee-maker uses the code on each coffee pod to automatically adjust brewing for different blends of coffee, and some pods are a stronger brew than others are. The Nespresso is compact at 11.93″ D x 11.91″ W x 8.3″ H and the water reservoir holds 40 ounces.
This deluxe coffee-maker has a rating of 4.3 stars on Amazon.com and we had a hard time finding any negative feedback. The only drawback mentioned a few times is that the coffee it brews is not as hot as coffee from some other brands of coffee-makers. And of course, this is the most expensive model by far.
Starting with the classic Keurig brand, we have the advantage of easy-to-use disposable coffee pods, or K-Cups. The variability of brew strength goes hand in glove with the great variety of cup/carafe size settings in this model. One good thing to know about all K-Cups is that they often go on sale at department stores.
The K200 comes in several different colors including classic black or white. Some of the whimsical shades available are turquoise, orange zest and violet. There is a black and white touch display for choosing from nine different settings for water, including enough to make a 40 ounce carafe of coffee. With ‘My K-Cup’ you can make your own brew, but this little piece of plastic costs $15 and the carafe costs around $25.
The technology on the K200 is advanced, as it reads an imbedded code on each pod for optimal brewing directions. All you have to do when you want to brew a 40-ounce carafe is insert the special pod designed for that purpose. If the water reservoir is full, the machine will brew an entire pot of coffee. This coffee-maker has a 40 ounce water reservoir, and it takes up a fair amount of counter space at 13.7″ D x 15″ W x 9″ H.
Drawbacks are that it takes a full minute to preheat the water for each cup of coffee, and there is no auto-shut-off. The nozzle tends to clog with off-brand coffee cartridges and, without the carafe, you can only make up to 10 ounces of coffee at a time. Finally, this is not a quiet coffee maker. It ticks when heating up and the brewing cycle is loud.
This is another brew-basket model with a permanent filter, and it takes the same five minutes to heat the water as the previous one, but brews more quickly. We really liked the rich, metallic ‘espresso brown’ color, but the KitchenAid Personal Coffee Maker is also available in silver, red and black. The removable water tank holds up to 18 ounces, and the coffee-maker comes with an 18-ounce ‘twist-and-pour’ thermal mug.
Having a brew basket adds to the cleanup chores, but it also gives you complete control over brew strength. This is a compact single-cup coffee maker at 12.5″ D x 8.8″ W x 14.6″ H. The modern, sleek design was a draw for some users. Feedback from several people mentioned that the coffee it brews is hot, and the removable water reservoir is a plus for many.
The most often mentioned drawback to this coffee-maker is that it’s hard to see how much water is in the reservoir. In addition, the on/off button is at the front, making it easier to turn it on by accident. Finally, this model does not seem to have a long lifespan, often giving out after a few months or a year. On the other hand, the company is good about providing replacements.
This is the only one of the four coffee-makers we selected that grinds the coffee beans as well as brewing them. The brew strength is completely up to you since this model uses a brew basket instead of coffee cartridges. If you want to use pre-ground coffee, just fill the basket and press ‘Brew’ instead of ‘Grind/Brew’. This Hamilton Beach Grind-and-Brew takes five minutes for the water to heat for coffee. There is no carafe option with this coffee-maker, but it does have automatic shut-off.
With a 16 ounce water reservoir, this model makes coffee strictly by the cup, although you can brew up to two cups at one time. There are dual brew spouts for setting two mugs under the brew basket, but the adjustable platform looks a little flimsy for holding two mugs of coffee. The ‘Grind and Brew’ comes in a silver and black finish and it includes a 16 ounce travel cup. Dimensions are 16.54″ D x 9.45″ W x 11.81″ H.
Drawbacks mentioned by users include the grinder making a lot of noise. However, a bonus is that the grinder has an automatic rinse feature. Although the filter basket works very well, like most permanent filter baskets it takes effort to clean it. The Hamilton Beach is a good model for the one-or-two-cup drinker but probably not a good choice for a houseful of coffee drinkers.
Which Single Serve Coffee Maker is Right for You?
All of these single-cup coffee makers are of good quality and reasonably priced for what you get. We have reviewed the one-cup-only makers by Hamilton Beach and KitchenAid. These simpler models are less expensive, but they both include brew baskets that have to be cleaned. They are great when it comes to controlling brew strength but not as convenient to use as the coffee pod models. The Hamilton Beach Grind-and-Brew has an edge when it comes to coffee freshness.
Both of the cartridge users are easier to operate and have bonus features that are reflected in the higher prices. They are also proprietary machines that need original brand-name coffee cartridges. The Keurig has a lower purchase price, however, and comes with the option of purchasing a multi-use basket. It also has a carafe option that converts it to a full-pot coffee maker when needed.
If price is no object, then the Nespresso coffee and espresso maker is the best choice for convenience and for a good-tasting cup of coffee. However, you still won’t be able to make a whole pot at once. Choosing the best single-cup maker is a subjective task since different characteristics matter depending on the coffee-lover. Use this convenient chart to quickly scan the relevant features and decide for yourself which one suits you best:
|Ease of Use
dual brew spout
|12" x 12"
|14" x 15"
|12.5" x 9"
|16.5" x 9.5"