Best Single Serve Coffee Makers Reviews 2020
Today, we’re going to walk you through everything you need if you’re looking for a single-serve coffee maker.
The definition of single-serve can be extended to any coffee brewing method that gives you the option of making just enough for one person.
There are several variations of single-serve coffee makers, and we’ll be covering all of them for you today.
The first type of machine that probably springs to mind is a pod-based system. Pods are packaged coffee grounds in a filter. The industry leaders in this vertical are Nespresso and Keurig. We have examples from both stables for you here today.
Manufacturers have concluded that many consumers are looking for combo machines. Let’s face it, kitchens can easily become overcrowded, especially if you’re a coffee lover.
What could be better than a single-serve machine allowing you to use pods but also giving you the opportunity to use freshly ground coffee when you want to brew a bigger batch? Again, we have you covered there today.
Coffee bags also give you the option of making a single cup but the end result is not quite so impressive.
You can also find variations in the manual approach to brewing. These coffee makers are similar to a French press but deliver arguably superior results with much less bitterness. This is mainly achieved through a steeping time of 1 minute set against the 5 minutes required with a French press.
As always, we’ll give you more than just a few reviews to help you streamline your buying decision. We’ll also be outlining what you should look out for when you’re on the buying trail so you should find this one of the easiest purchasing decisions ever.
So, we’ll kick off with a look at some of the options at your disposal…
What Kind of Single-Serve Brewers Are There?
Not all single-serve coffee brewers are created equal so we’ll recap the options you have when you’re looking for this type of coffee maker.
All that counts here is finding a machine capable of making the drinks you want…
If you want pod-based convenience, Nespresso, Keurig and Tassimo are the heaviest hitters. You can also buy regular coffee makers that accommodate K-Cups or pods.
For espresso friends, opt for a machine that lets you make your favorite short shot and/or other drinks. Whether you choose a dedicated single-serve pod espresso machine or another variant offering you espresso along with other drinks, you have plenty of choices.
As an aside, true espresso lovers will likely prefer a semi-automatic espresso machine but these are more involved and fall outside the scope of today’s study.
Tea or hot chocolate lover? Look for a machine that gives you hot water on demand.
You can also find plenty of manual solutions to making just enough coffee for one. From coffee bags these tend to polarize opinion to drip coffee makers, we’ll walk you through all of these and more when we hit our review section.
Before that, though, we’ll touch on the core differences between single-serve coffee makers and regular alternatives…
Single-Serve vs Regular Coffee Maker
With a single-serve approach to brewing, you’ll get exactly what the name promises: just enough coffee for one person. There are some exceptions to this with machines offering a combination of single-serve convenience along with the option of making a full carafe of drip coffee. The focus of these single-serve makers is on serving a single person and reducing wastage.
If you choose a straight-up single-serve that doesn’t allow you to make more than one cup at a time, you might want a back-up coffee machine.
Single-serves offer you complete convenience at the expense of the environment. The pods and capsules use a lot of plastic. You’ll also spend a fair amount on buying pods, especially if you’re a heavy coffee drinker.
So, there’s no right or wrong answer, just a case of getting the right solution for you and your family.
Things to Consider
Buying a single-serve coffee maker can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Luckily, we do know what we’re looking for so focus on the following elements to simplify your buying decision:
- Type of Single-Serve Coffee Maker
- Pods or Capsules?
- K-Cups: Are They Really Worth It?
- Running Costs
- Physical Size
Type of Single-Serve Coffee Maker
The first broad decision you’ll need to make is whether to buy an electric single-serve machine or a gravity-powered manual coffee maker. We’ve got plenty of both so you can see which feels like the best fit.
Which makes the most sense, though?
Well, if you’re looking for raw convenience, go electric. You’ll get the water heated for you and everything is done at the push of a button.
If you prefer to get more involved with the brewing process and you like the idea of customizing your brew, a manual coffee maker is ideal. These gravity-fed options also make superb travel coffee makers if you’re always on the go.
For those choosing to go electric, you’ll also need to think about whether you’re happy with a single-serve machine only, or whether you’d prefer a combo unit giving you the best of both worlds.
The next issue you’ll face is the difference between pods and capsules…
Pods or Capsules?
Pod and capsules are routinely used interchangeably but they are not the same thing.
What’s the difference, then?
Well, capsules are small plastic cups like those used by Keurig and Nespresso. You pop these capsule into a machine and they are pierced before scorching, highly pressurized water is forced through the container.
Highly convenient, these sealed capsules keep the contents fresher for longer. This is due to coffee being vulnerable when exposed to oxygen, light, moisture, or heat.
A pod is a round bag of ground coffee roughly resembling an oversized tea bag. Typically biodegradable, pods are standard-sized allowing you to use them in a range of machines. These pods will lose their flavor quicker since they are exposed to oxygen and other contaminants.
We will occasionally use the word pod to describe what are, in reality, capsules. With Keurig using the term K-Cup pods, it’s often easier to fall in line with this convention.
You should now be clear on the difference between the two, though.
Now, how about those K-Cups we mentioned?
K-Cups: Are They Really Worth It?
When Keurig introduced the K-Cup to market, the single-serve coffee game was transformed.
As you would expect from any innovation, this seismic change brought both positives and negatives along with it.
For the consumer, making gourmet coffee suddenly became much easier. Convenience rules. The ability to get unrivaled consistency, albeit at the expense of flexibility, was another key selling point.
On the flip-side, K-Cups are ruinous for the environment. Few of these K-Cups end up being recycled and they end up in landfills in huge quantities. To address the issue, many manufacturers Keurig included are becoming more proactive in combating the eco-footprint of K-Cups.
The other serious drawback is the cost. Buying coffee this way works out much costlier than picking up freshly ground coffee or buying whole beans. The more coffee you drink, the pricier it becomes to run one of these machines.
More on those running costs now…
A rough guideline is that a cup of single-serve coffee using pods, K-Cups, or capsules, comes in at anywhere from 30 cents to 70 cents a cup.
You’ll be able to make slight savings by buying in bulk but you’ll be limited to proprietary pods for the most part.
Our advice is to consider how much coffee you drink and do the math before committing to purchase. A single-serve machine with no ability to use ground coffee will become expensive if you’re using 6 or more pods every day. For casual coffee drinkers, price won’t really be an issue.
If you’re opting for an electric model, make sure you’ve got enough power on top. Make sure, too, the machine runs on the correct voltage for your country. Some are only suitable for use in the US unless you buy a transformer.
You should ensure you’ve got enough power for your needs without obsessing over it.
With manual coffee makers, make sure you’re happy with the level of effort involved.
Features vary wildly and all that counts is buying in line with what suits your needs.
Many single-serve machines are just that. Pod or capsule-driven models still vary in terms of what type of drinks you can rustle up. You’ll typically be able to enjoy espresso, cappuccino, latte, and other milky drinks at the push of a button. Look out for iced functionality as well if you’re partial to cold coffee. Hot water on demand will extend your repertoire further.
As we mentioned, many other machines vary dramatically in functionality allowing you the freedom to make a whole carafe of drip coffee. This is a superb option if you have a larger family but you still like the convenience of slipping in a capsule first thing in the morning when you’re rushing around.
Make certain the variety of brew sizes is to your liking and check that you can fit in your travel mug if you drink coffee on the go frequently.
Programmability allows you to wake up to fresh coffee or return home to a machine fired up and primed for action.
With manual coffee makers, look closely into the brewing method and make sure you’re comfortable with it.
You should be clear about how much space you have in your kitchen to accommodate your new coffee maker.
Ideally, locate your single-serve machine on a stable surface close to your faucet to simplify refilling.
Weight is not so much of an issue since you’ll normally install your machine and leave it in place.
We made sure to include plenty of smaller models today so there’s something for everyone. It doesn’t matter how small or crowded your kitchen is, there’s no excuse not to invest in a single-serve machine.
With the groundwork laid, you should already have a clear idea of what to look out for if you want the best single-serve coffee maker. So without further ado, we’ll launch directly into our reviews.
Our overall winner for the best single-serve coffee maker is the classic Keurig K-Elite. While no machine is perfect, this comes pretty close. If you’ve got a large family, you’ll appreciate the supersized 75oz water tank. Cut back on refilling and free up some precious time in the mornings.
Choose from multiple brew sizes including travel mugs so you’ve got something for the whole family. The drip tray is removable to facilitate using larger vessels.
You’ll also have the freedom to rack up iced coffee without that diluted mess that often results. Beyond this, hot water on demand further broadens your scope of drinks.
Do you find yourself forgetting to descale your coffee makers? If so, you’ll appreciate the K-Elite alerting you when it’s time for a clean.
K-Cup pods give you plenty of choices when it comes to finding your favorite roast.
Pros: Oversized water tank so make up to 8 cups without refilling. 5 brew sizes giving you plenty of flexibility. Make a wide range of coffees while hot water on demand allows you to make tea, too. Iced coffee that doesn’t taste watered down.
Cons: A few reported issues with reliability.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a highly programmable single-serve machine from the dominant force in the industry, the K-Elite is another home run from Keurig.
2. Best Single Serve Coffee Maker Without Pods: Ninja Single-Serve Auto-IQ
If you want the ease of use provided by a single-serve machine but you’re not a fan of pods, what can you do? Well, the Ninja Auto-IQ gives you push-button simplicity without being locked into proprietary pods or using too much plastic. Use your preferred ground coffee and tweak to taste.
If you like your coffee strong and intense, hit Café Forte and you can enjoy a full-bodied drink to rival anything your local coffee shop serves up.
Flick between 5 brew sizes to suit with this CF112 iteration and enjoy classic, rich, or specialty coffee. Over ice lets, you take advantage of cooler drinks when the mercury rises.
With the frother baked in, you can create longer, creamier drinks with consummate ease.
This model does not come with a carafe included. There are several other iterations of the Auto-IQ giving you glass and thermal carafes so roll with one of those if you want your coffee hotter for longer.
As an added kicker, you’ll get a recipe book jammed with 40 recipes so you can get your creative juices going.
Pros: Brew multiple hot or cold drinks at the push of a button. Onboard frother for longer drinks. Multiple cup sizes accommodated including travel mugs. Roll with Café Forte for a more intense drink.
Cons: Needs pretty regular cleaning. Design polarizes opinion.
Bottom Line: For push-button simplicity with a great deal of versatility, the Ninja is a dream to set off any kitchen counter.
3. Best Single Serve Drip Coffee Brewer: Keurig K-Duo
Perhaps you’re sold on the idea of single-serve convenience but you don’t fancy relinquishing your freshly brewed drip coffee? Well, you don’t need to compromise.
Keurig’s powerhouse K-Duo gives you pod-based coffee on one side with a glass carafe on the other side so you get the best of both worlds.
A powerful machine needs a decent water reservoir or you’re constantly scuttling to the faucet to refill. At 60oz, you can make coffee for all the family in a single session. The carafe holds a full 12 cups.
If you always find yourself rushing around in the morning, the K-Duo can free up some precious time. Program your machine to brew up a fresh carafe any time you want. Head downstairs to the alluring smell of fresh coffee and simply pour rather than waiting around.
If you like more of a kick to your caffeine fix, hit Strong and you’ll get an amped-up coffee.
Brew size options include 6oz, 8oz, 10oz, and 12oz and you can brew a carafe with 6, 8, 10, or 12 cups.
Pros: Impeccable brand heritage. Glass carafe bundled. Use K-Cup pods for single-serve convenience or ground coffee. Generous 60oz water tank. Fully programmable through 24 hours.
Cons: Some users report problems with leaking.
Bottom Line: For the choice of single-serve convenience when you want it and the option of using freshly ground coffee if you prefer, this powerful Keurig serves double-duty in fine style.
4. Best Single Serve Coffee, Latte & Cappuccino Maker: Keurig K-Cafe
Keurig has a tight stranglehold on the single-serve coffee vertical and the K-Café is another solid model from their broad and deep bench. The jumbo 60oz water reservoir gives you enough to fuel up the family every morning. If any of you commute with a cuppa, remove the drip tray and you can slide in a travel mug fuss-free.
You can program your machine to power down automatically 2 hours after your last brew up. This is a small but valuable extra giving you peace of mind.
If you like the idea of using freshly ground coffee as well, this model is compatible with the permanent filter but you’ll need to buy this separately.
The only constant with Keurig that doesn’t will is customer service. Many frustrated users report lengthy waiting times and underwhelming assistance. In all other respects, this is a powerhouse single-serve unit worthy of a place on any shortlist.
Pros: Choose from an array of coffee. Make 6 cups from a single tank. Travel mug friendly. The option of using ground coffee but you’ll need to buy filter separately.
Cons: Dealing with customer service can be tiresome so pack plenty of patience.
Bottom Line: The K-Café is another powerful and highly versatile Keurig giving you a broad choice of drinks for the whole family with push-button ease of use.
5. Budget Pick: Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Coffee Maker
If you thought it was impossible to get a decent single-serve machine for well under Ulysses, you need to introduce to Hamilton Beach. We’ll tell you upfront that a machine at this price-point won’t stand up to heavy punishment.
You also need to be realistic about lifespan. With that said, for light users looking for single-serve on a budget, this unit punches above its weight. Despite such attractive pricing, you’ll get an expanse of stainless that sets off your kitchen counter.
You won’t be pegged to pods with this machine. Use your favorite ground coffee and don’t forget to grind directly before brewing for best results.
Choose from regular or bold brews so you can customize coffee for all the family.
This machine is easy to use even if you’re a complete beginner, and needs almost nothing by the way of cleaning or maintenance. What’s not to love?
Pros: Super-swift brew times so ideal if you’re busy. The stainless steel build looks great, easy to clean, and built to last. Auto shut-off. Unbeatable price/performance ratio.
Cons: As you’d expect at this price-point, durability isn’t the best so keep your expectations reasonable.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a cheap yet effective single-serve machine that looks the part while also delivering fully, this Hamilton Beach is well worth popping on your shortlist.
6. Best for Travel: Coffee Gator Travel Coffee Maker
If you travel regularly and don’t want to rely on low quality coffee when you’re away from home, why not invest in this innovative travel coffee maker from Coffee Gator? Along with the robust travel mug, you’ll get a stainless steel filter.
This allows you to make pour-over straight into your cup. Cut down on clean-up and benefit from a completely portable solution. Also, the reusable filter saves your pocket and the environment since you won’t need to buy endless paper filters.
Don’t be tricked by the simplicity of this brewing method. The pour-over approach unlocks all the flavor and aroma of your fresh coffee. Remember, though, grind those beans right before brewing if you’re looking for the ultimate golden cup of coffee.
While this is not cheap, you’re getting a rugged and versatile weapon to liven up your journeys so why not treat yourself? And on the plus side, it’s still much cheaper than most machines with similar end results so why not give it a try?
The vacuum-layered and highly insulated travel cup ensures your drink stays hotter for longer.
Pros: Innovative way of making pour-over on the go. Vacuum insulated thermal cup keeps your coffee hotter for longer. Stainless mesh filter to slash ongoing running costs. Make coffee directly into a travel mug – a commuter’s dream.
Cons: Lid feels slightly insecure. Fairly pricey for what you get.
Bottom Line: Are you hunting for an easy way to make coffee for your morning trip to work? If so, Coffee Gator makes that possible with this travel pour-over maker. It’s not cheap but what price can you place on convenience?
7. Nespresso Single-Serve Coffee Maker: Nespresso Pixie Espresso Maker
It’s worth pointing out off the bat that the Nespresso Pixie is now discontinued. Don’t let that stop you from giving this nimble machine a shot, though.
If you’re looking for coffee in a hurry, you’ll get your drink in just 30 seconds with the thermoblock heating unit packing a serious punch.
As with all pod-based machines, using the Pixie couldn’t be much easier. Top up the reservoir – it only accommodates 24oz which is disappointing – and add a Nespresso capsule and you’re ready to roll.
Punch a button and enjoy fresh espresso or lungo without needing to hustle to the coffee shop. Clean-up, as with all single-serve pod machines, is an absolute cinch.
Setting aside that dinky water tank, this classic pod-driven unit still deserves a place on any shortlist of the best single-serve coffee makers.
Pros: Heats up in 30 seconds flat thanks to the thermoblock unit. Backlit indicators giving you all the data you need at a glance. Folding drip tray so you can use larger travel mugs with no problem.
Cons: This model has now been discontinued. The 24oz water reservoir is rather small.
Bottom Line: Nespresso is a giant in the single-serve coffee space and the Pixie makes it easy to see why. Although this machine is not without its flaws – you’ll need to refill the water tank regularly – it still makes a great buy.
A compact and highly affordable single-serve coffee machine from an industry legend, the K-Classic gives you a budget machine capable of returning first-class results.
Use multiple pod sizes (6oz, 8oz, or 10oz) and choose from hundreds of stunning roasts so you can get coffee to rival that from Starbucks without the exorbitant bill.
The mid-sized 48oz water tank means you won’t be continually topping the machine up and you’ll have ample coffee for all the family in the morning.
The only real downside of this machine is the relatively underwhelming looks but you can’t have everything at this price-point.
Pros: Rack up a range of brew sizes from 6oz through 10oz. Auto shut off and descaling both valuable features. Get great coffee in 60 seconds at the push of a button. Multiple colorways.
Cons: This model looks quite cheap and flimsy.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for single-serve coffee on a budget, the K-Classic from Keurig punches above its weight. You’ll get absolute ease of use combined with surprising longevity in a compact unit priced to fly off the shelves.
The slick Cuisinart DCC-3000 belies its near-budget price tag since it looks outstanding and performs similarly. Get your drink started the right way with the charcoal water filter removing impurities and leaving you with a great foundation for stellar coffee.
The filter basket is built to accommodate either a permanent or paper filter. There’s no right or wrong answer here, simply choose which makes the best fit for you.
A nifty gauge indicates how much coffee you have remaining while the double-walled coffee reservoir can keep up to 12 cups nicely warmed for hours on end.
This machine is also easily programmable. Whether you want a nice cup of joe waiting for you in the morning or when you return from work, cut down on the waiting time, and say hello to complete convenience.
Pros: Sleek and elegant aesthetic. Charcoal water filter a nice bonus. Removable reservoir so clean-up is a snap. The double-walled reservoir is large enough for a dozen cups of coffee.
Cons: Some areas of the water tank are tough to clean.
Bottom Line: The Cuisinart DCC-3000 makes a mean cup of coffee even if build quality could be improved. You’ll get lip-smacking coffee at the push of a button, and you can also program this machine so you can wake to fresh coffee in the morning.
DeLonghi makes a broad range of highly effective coffee machines and the America Lattissima Pro is among the finer examples. With the proprietary cappuccino system onboard, you’ll be able to enjoy a wide variety of specialty coffees at the push of a button. You can also make top-notch espresso thanks to the ample pressure of 19 bars.
Load your Lattissima Pro up with your favorite Nespresso capsules and you’ll enjoy gourmet coffee with remarkably little fuss.
You can remove the milk carafe so you can keep your milk nicely refrigerated. It’s also dishwasher-friendly which cuts back on the cleaning you’ll need to carry out.
Heat-up is predictably swift so you won’t need to stand on ceremony.
Although the Lattissima Pro is certainly not cheap if you move quickly, you could benefit from a steep discount so what are you waiting for?
Pros: Superb design makes a real statement. The integrated cappuccino system gives you all the froth you need for longer, creamier drinks. 19-bar pressure to give you an excellent espresso, too. Heats up in a flash.
Cons: Ruthlessly expensive.
Bottom Line: If you’ve got deep pockets and exacting tastes, the DeLonghi American Lattissima Pro might be the smartest investment you make this year. From espresso to latte to cappuccino, create drinks for the whole family with push-button ease.
With our reviews put to bed, you now have a huge choice of the best single-serve coffee machines money can buy. We tried to serve you up with a variety of styles of machines and we also targeted multiple price-points so there’s truly something for everyone.
Whether you prefer pod-based machines or you like to use freshly ground coffee, many machines we explored today give you the chance to use both methods. We’ve also thrown in some more manual solutions.
If you take the time to focus on the elements we outline in our buying guide as well, choosing which machine to add to your arsenal should be a piece of cake.
So don’t forget to bookmark our site as we’ve got a huge content calendar for the new year and we have a treasure trove of the best appliances so you can make gourmet coffee without leaving home. See you soon!