There are many benefits to single serve coffee makers. They’re convenient, easy easy to use, and allow users to experiment with several different flavors in one day. Best of all, they ensure that your cup of joe is always fresh—you’ll never have to guess how long that brew might have been lurking in the pot before you got to it.
The question is, which single serve machine is the best one on the current market? There are many options to choose from, and most of these have plenty of redeeming factors. To help you make your choice, we’ve compiled an in-depth roundup of modern single serve coffee makers, complete with lists of pros and cons for each.
Shopping For a Single Serve Coffee Maker: What You Need To Know
Before you begin your search, it helps if you have a solid idea of what you’re looking for. Here are some of the factors you should consider when making your decision.
Pricing is an important factor in any purchase, and single serve coffee makers are no exception. While there are plenty of no-frills budget options available, you can expect to spend a bit more for the proverbial bells and whistles of a high-end model. When setting your budget, you should take the following factors into account:
- How often you expect to use the machine
- How much time you’ll be able to devote to cleanup and maintenance
- Whether you’re looking for exotic barista-style results or just a simple cup
- Whether you’ll take advantage of special features, like a programmable timer or built-in milk frother
A lot of single serve coffee makers use coffee pods, which are small compressed bags of grounds—similar to tea bags, but with a firmer pack. Since the pods are biodegradable, they’re more environmentally sound than some of the alternatives, and they can be used with a variety of different machines. Bear in mind, however, that they allow the grounds to be exposed to light and moisture, which can have adverse effects on their longevity.
|Cuisinart SS-10P1 Premium Single-Serve Coffeemaker||Fully automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Keurig K-Elite Single-Serve K-Cup Pod Maker||Fully automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Mueller Ultima Single Serve Pod Compatible Coffee Maker||Fully automatic||Ceramic Disc grinder||Check Price|
|K-Fee Grande Verismo Compatible Single Serve Coffee/Espresso Machine||Semi-automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker||Super automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Sboly Single Serve K-Cup Coffee Maker||Super automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Hamilton Beach Scoop Single Serve Coffee Maker||Super automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Mueller Pro Single Serve Coffee Maker||Super automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Chefman InstaCoffee Single Serve Coffee Maker||Super automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
|Thang Long Premium Vietnamese Coffee Filter||Super automatic||Conical burr grinder||Check Price|
The capsule method works by forcing hot water through a plastic cup that’s placed in a special compartment on the coffee machine. Because they’re sealed with foil lids, they’re able to keep the grounds fresher than pods can. The downside? Single-use plastics are harmful to the environment. If you purchase a model that uses capsules, try to find a company that manufactures reusable ones (see “My K-Cups,” below, for more information).
Electric models are quick and convenient, heating the water and producing a steaming brew within minutes. If you’re planning on using your coffee maker early in the mornings, or anytime you might be in a rush, go for an electric version.
There’s an undeniable romance to gravity-powered units, with their reliance on time and the laws of nature. Since they don’t require electricity, these are a good choice for camping and road trips. Remember that while the machine will do all the brewing, you’ll still have to find a way to heat the water.
If this is your first time purchasing one of these units, you might come across some terms that are unfamiliar. This handy glossary should help you work through any potential confusion. Note that some of these terms are universal ones, meaning they aren’t unique to single serve coffee makers—we’ve simply included them so as not to leave anything out.
Basically, any coffee that is prepared without the aid of high-pressure steam (i.e., espresso) falls under the “drip coffee” umbrella. Unless your unit comes with an espresso function, this is the type of brew that you’ll likely be enjoying from your new single serve coffee maker. Note that
some models are equipped with both functions, so you can decide on the spot whether you’re up for something fancy.
This refers to the process of drawing flavor from the coffee grounds themselves. As a rule of thumb, over-extracted coffee has a bitter taste, while under-extracted brews might have unpleasant sour notes.
The component that holds the grounds in place while the coffee is brewing. May not be included in all single serve models, as K-Cups or pods will be used instead.
You’re probably familiar with the terms “coarse” or “fine” when it comes to coffee grounds. But did you know that the grind range can also be expressed in terms of different brewing styles? Turkish coffee and espresso, for example, are distinguished by their exceptionally fine grind, while French press coffee must be ground coarsely and evenly to achieve the best results. Since some single serve models allow you to choose your own grind consistency, it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with the grind range beforehand. Also, be aware that many units won’t perform well if the grind is too fine.
Usually found only on units that include an espresso option, this wand-shaped element is used to create the dense foam that’s the hallmark of many espresso drinks, including cappuccino and macchiato.
If you come across this term, the product you’re looking at is a gravity-powered model. It may also be referred to as a “manual” unit, since they require the user to do all the work by hand.
The portion of the machine responsible for moving the water through the system.
Unless you’re dealing with pods or K-Cups—in which the grounds are already measured and ready to use—you should always tamp the grounds before attempting to brew a cup. This will remove any excess air from the grounds, thereby resulting in a stronger brew and a neater work station.
Another name for the small nozzle that’s used to dispense water from the pump.
Product Review Guide
1. Cuisinart SS-10P1 Premium Single-Serve Coffeemaker
This offering from Cuisinart features a high-tech appearance at an affordable price point. It’s compatible with many different K-Cup styles, and capable of brewing cups in five different sizes, from 4- to 12-ounce servings. In addition to the basic brewing option, there’s a hot water button that allows you to put together instant soup, tea, or hot chocolate on the fly. Folks with busy morning schedules should also appreciate the automatic start feature and the user-friendly interface.
The removable drip tray and rinse setting make the Cuisinart SS-10P1 very easy to clean. There’s even a charcoal water filter to ensure that your brew is concocted from the highest-quality ingredients possible. What we love best about this model, however, is the reusable filter cup, which provides all the convenience of a K-Cup unit without sacrificing environmental concerns.
- Reusable K-Cup
- Hot water button offers versatility
- Convenient storage features
- Charcoal water filter
- Automatic on/off function
- Larger cups can have a watered-down taste
- Some shipping issues reported
- Overactive water pump
2. Keurig K-Elite Single-Serve K-Cup Pod Maker
Like the Cuisinart SS-10P1, the K-Elite offers five different cup sizes: 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12-ounce servings. However, this one is also equipped with a “Strong Brew” button that allows you to customize the flavor of each cup. There’s a hot water option as well, and an iced setting for those who prefer to take their coffee cold. An automatic start function is available, and your brew can be ready in as little as one minute. There’s even a high-altitude setting, as well as the temperature control that comes standard with electric-powered models.
Keurig is a major name in the coffee-brewing game, and consumers can expect to pay a bit more for the privilege of using and displaying their products. Fortunately, the high quality usually offers a decent return on the investment. Note that while this unit is compatible with most standard K-Cups, it doesn’t come with a reusable filter—that option is sold separately.
Also, it’s important to check whether the unit you’re buying is a refurbished one. If this is the case, it may be missing vital components, such as the water filter or user manual. While you may save a few dollars, it might be prudent to hold out for a complete “original” model instead.
- Durable quality
- Makes a good, strong cup
- Adjustable temperature control
- No reusable filter included
- Refurbished models may be missing some parts
3. Mueller Ultima Single Serve Pod Compatible Coffee Maker
The Mueller Ultima can accommodate both the smaller and larger K-Cups, which gives it a great boost in the versatility department. The programming function allows you to choose from 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-ounce cups, and the “Rapid Brew” feature ensures that the liquid brews at the proper temperature.
Although this is a single-serve machine, the water reservoir is generously sized at 48 ounces, meaning that you won’t have to worry about refills very often. The machine can easily accommodate a reusable filter (although this is sold separately), and the clearly marked minimum fill line helps to prevent that dreaded burnt taste.
Our main gripe with the Mueller Ultima is with the low clearance. Although it’s capable of brewing a sizable cup of java, it can’t accommodate a 7-inch-tall travel mug. Before investing in this unit, make sure that all of your appropriate drinking vessels measure under seven inches tall.
- Easy to set up
- Small footprint
- Compatible with pods of different sizes
- Ability to customize brew strength
- Large reservoir
- Difficult to clean
- Low clearance
- Some K-Cup brands may be prone to breakage
4. K-Fee Grande Verismo Compatible Single Serve Coffee/Espresso Machine
The Grande Verismo is one of the most high-end offerings on our list, with one important caveat: It’s capable of brewing shots of espresso, in addition to traditional java. The 118-ounce water tank is enormous, suitable for even the largest caffeine-addicted households, and a built-in container stores up to 30 capsules for your convenience. An easy-to-read display will alert you when the reservoir is running low, when it’s time for cleaning and routine maintenance, and when the water filter needs to be changed.
This unit has an energy-saving mode that switches it to a lower-watt setting after five minutes of inactivity. The espresso function is impressive, producing a thick crema (the creamy tan head that forms on a properly pulled espresso shot) as long as the water is heated to the proper temperature. Be forewarned that this system doesn’t allow for “double dipping,” with the capsules—once a pod has been used, you won’t be able to run water through it a second time. This may not bother purists, but economic-minded and environmentally conscious buyers will want to take note.
- Espresso capability
- Generously sized reservoir
- Relatively small footprint
- User-friendly digital interface
- Energy-saving feature
- Relatively high price point
- Milk frother sold separately
- Slightly messy delivery
5. Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker
The tiny footprint of this single-serve machine makes it the ideal fit for galley-style kitchens, mobile homes, or campers. Despite its slender size, it can accommodate any travel-sized mug measuring up to seven inches.
The K-Mini lacks the special digitized features of much of the competition, but it does include an automatic switch-off feature to help conserve energy. The removable drip tray aids with cleanup, and the machine is compatible with the K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter. If you’re looking for a basic, energy-efficient, portable single serve coffee maker that won’t take up too much space in your kitchen, this model could be the right fit for you.
- Convenient size
- Durable construction
- Extremely user-friendly
- Easy to clean
- Works quickly and efficiently
- No separate hot water function
- Spotty consistency; some models may take a while to work properly
- Causes some splattering
6. Sboly Single Serve K-Cup Coffee Maker
The Sboly can be adapted to brew from traditional ground coffee or K-Cups, making it a potentially planet-friendly bet. There are buttons affixed to the side that allow you to toggle between the two options. The water reservoir is cleverly designed, giving you a maximum coffee output of 14 ounces—a generous pour for this type of machine.
This model can have your brew ready in about three minutes, which is on the high side for single-serve coffee makers, but not prohibitively so. While many of the models listed here have features that control the brewing strength, this one is also equipped with an auto-clean function. Sboly also offers tips on cleaning and maintenance to help take the guesswork out of the process and ensure that you get the most out of your purchase.
- Excellent heating function
- Small footprint
- Versatile unit
- Easy to use
- Offers a high yield
- May overflow with coarser grinds
- Prone to stopping halfway through brewing large cups
- Slightly noisy
7. Hamilton Beach Scoop Single Serve Coffee Maker
The mesh scoop filter on this attractive stainless-steel unit allows you to choose from many different flavors and grinds. You can also decide between “regular” and “bold” options on the customized settings. Other features include an automatic shutoff function, a spill-resistant drip tray, and an adjustable cup rest.
While this model is low-profile enough to be at home in smaller kitchens, it’s capable of brewing enough joe to fill a 14-ounce travel mug. Since 14 ounces is also the maximum amount of water that the reservoir can hold, you won’t have to worry about turning out a too-weak brew for larger portions. The included mesh scoop filter lets you select from a variety of coffee styles, but be aware that very finely ground coffee can lead to overflowing.
- Attractive design
- Environmentally friendly
- Versatile model
- Small reservoir translates into a fresh cup every time
- Needs frequent refilling
- Grind needs to be just the right consistency for best results
- Some users have reported issues with weak water lines
8. Mueller Pro Single Serve Coffee Maker
This is a low-profile offering from Mueller, with the same capsule-sizing flexibility as the Ultima model. The company offers a variety of flavors to choose from, and you can have a steaming cup ready in under three minutes. Because the reservoir holds only 10 ounces, this unit is best suited for standard-sized coffee mugs—a travel thermos won’t fit beneath the nozzle.
With its one-touch button operation, the Mueller Pro is one of the easiest single serve coffee makers on our list. The automatic shutoff function keeps the unit from overheating, and a removable drip tray makes cleanup a snap. The price is perhaps the best reason to consider purchasing this model—you could pay easily three times this much for a product that yields similar results. If there’s only one coffee drinker in your household, you’ll want to make the Mueller Pro a top contender.
- Very easy to use
- Convenient, portable size
- Runs extremely hot
- Ability to choose from 1.0 and 2.0 capsules
- Low clearance
- Small reservoir capacity
- May give off a faint plastic taste that wears off after time
9. Chefman InstaCoffee Single Serve Coffee Maker
With a 30-second brew time, the Chefman is a particularly efficient little unit. Despite its miniscule footprint, it offers a great deal of flexibility. For example, you can choose between freshly ground coffee and K-Cups—a feature that’s usually reserved for larger models. While it takes up very little counter space, it offers enough clearance to accommodate 14-ounce travel mugs. That makes this a wise choice for office use, as well as for college students living in dormitories or small apartments.
While the Chefman is capable of brewing a cup in an impressively short time, there are trade-offs. The temperature never gets quite high enough to result in a strong cup, and the needle that’s meant to puncture the K-Cups is on the weak side. You might need to press down extra hard to get the foil to pierce properly. Given the efficiency and convenience that this model offers, these are small complaints, but they’re something to be aware of.
- Compact model
- High enough clearance to accommodate travel-sized cups
- Affordable price point
- Sleek, attractive design
- Needs to be refilled for every serving
- Doesn’t get exceptionally hot
- Relatively short shelf life
- Weak needle for puncturing K-Cups
10. Thang Long Premium Vietnamese Coffee Filter
If you’re in the market specifically for a gravity-powered single serve coffee maker, then you might want to consider the Thang Long Premium Vietnamese Coffee Filter. Unlike the other units listed here, this stainless-steel device requires no electricity, just boiling water. You can customize the strength of your brew by adding more grounds to the paperless filter, and it’s capable of turning out two to three servings at a time if need be.
Since this unit doesn’t heat up on its own, it’s a great choice for iced coffee lovers. The cold-press technique has gained popularity in recent years, and Thang Long’s product offers buyers an affordable way to try this method for themselves. In addition to being eco-friendly, this filter comes in especially handy on camping and road trips. You can even bring it along on tailgating expeditions to offer your fellow partygoers a nonalcoholic pick-me-up.
- Environmentally sound
- Very easy to use
- Inexpensive price point
- No electricity required
- Portable, packs easily
- Primitive design
- Water must be heated separately
- Somewhat messy to use
The Bottom Line
So, which of these single serve coffee makers stands above the rest? It’s tough to select just one, especially since they all come with their own quirks and foibles in addition to their impressive lists of benefits.
If we had to choose, however, we would give the edge to the Keurig K-Mini. Although it isn’t the most sophisticated unit we reviewed, it delivers on all the important levels, particularly if you choose to purchase the reusable filter. Fortunately, the reasonable price point makes that an easy investment. If you’re looking for a compact, user-friendly model, the K-Mini should get the job done.
Care & Maintenance
Now that you’ve decided on a self serve coffee maker, there are a few important points to cover regarding the care of your new appliance. While these smaller models are justly praised for their convenience, they still require frequent cleanings and tune-ups if they’re going to continue working properly. In this section, we’ll talk you through the proper maintenance procedures.
Why It's Important
You might be wondering why you need to clean out the reservoir in the first place, since all it holds is hot water anyway. However, if you neglect this issue, the answer will make itself plain. Hard water deposits can build up in a remarkably short period of time, clogging up the system and making it run sluggishly. You can avoid this by following the simple steps outlined below.
Issues To Watch For
Most appliances will display certain signs when they’re in need of maintenance, and coffee makers are no exception. If you experience any of the following issues, it’s probably time for a cleaning.
- Visible build-up on any parts of the reservoir or exterior
- Slow production—it’s taking the machine longer than usual to brew a serving
- The unit is only filling a portion of your cup when the settings suggest otherwise
- An excess of coffee grounds in the cup or on the drip tray
- Unpleasant smells that are unrelated to off-gassing (industrial smells from packaging)
Cleaning Your Machine: A Step-By-Step Tutorial
- Unplug the unit and remove all the componentst that can be safely detached from the machine: The drip tray, the K-Cup holder, and the water reservoir, for starters. Your model may contain more removable pieces. When in doubt, consult the owner’s manual.
- Wash all of the pieces that you removed and leave them in a safe place where they can drip dry.
- Wipe the main structure with a damp microfiber cloth. If you don’t have one of these on hand, damp paper towels can do the trick, but you might have to apply a bit of cleaner as well. Before applying a cleaner, make sure it’s compatible with the construction of your machine.
- Make sure that all the grounds have been removed from the K-Cup basket.
- Finish drying all the removable components, if necessary, and put them back in their proper places.
- Plug the machine back into the outlet so you don’t forget to do this later.
- Fill the reservoir with a solution of one part white vinegar and one part cold water.
- Turn the power switch to its regular setting and run a cycle, collecting the solution in a coffee cup or other receptacle.
- When the cycle is completed, run it again. Repeat this process as many times as is necessary, until the entire vinegar solution is gone from the reservoir.
- Fill the reservoir with cold filtered water, and run through the cycle again. Repeat until you can no longer detect the smell of vinegar and the reservoir is empty.
- Your machine is now ready to resume regular use. If you continue to have problems with the speed and quality of its performance, it’s likely that some underlying issue is to blame. Contact the manufacturer to see if they’re able to offer any suggestions.
May your new single serve coffee maker bring you many vibrant mornings in the years to come!