Definitive Guide to Single Serve Coffee Makers (Buying Guide)

Learn all about the features and benefits of single-serve coffee makers here including K-cup makers, pod, drip and hybrid single-cup coffee makers.
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Every cup fast and fresh!

Couple drinking coffee in the kitchen.

I’ve been a big pot drip coffee drinker for years. I’m nuts about drinking coffee more than I should be … but I simply enjoy it too much. I’ll drink it late into the evening after dinners (not always, but definitely when offered at a dinner party).

I guess I’m fortunate that coffee doesn’t affect my sleep (I just knocked on wood).

While the good ole pot-style drip coffee maker has served me well for years, it was time I researched and gave single serve coffee makers a shot. When starting my research, I knew little about my options. For instance, I figured single serve meant the same as K-cup makers… but that’s the not case.

Since I love coffee and publish this site (Home Stratosphere), I set out to buy several of the most popular single serve coffee makers to test them. Not only do I want to get the best (for the money), but I also want to share my experience using several models and types of single serve coffee makers.  I published our very popular list of my favorite single serve coffee makers here.

Because it’s costly and time-consuming to test each machine, I’ll be slowly, but surely buying and testing several models. Therefore, do check back as we add more single-serve coffee maker reviews.

FYI – I use the terms “single-serve” and “single-cup” interchangeably.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Benefits of Single-Serve Coffee Makers

Types of Single-Serve Coffee Makers

Espresso vs. K-Cup Coffee

Buying Guide – Features to Consider

What Type  Should You Buy?

Why on earth would anyone buy a single-serve coffee maker?

This is the question that’s been on my mind for a few years because I drink a lot of coffee. However, once I decided to look into getting one, it dawned on me (I can be obtuse sometimes). FRESHNESS.

Most of the coffee I dink throughout the day is old coffee sitting in the pot for 90 to 120 minutes. A single-serve ensures fresh coffee all day long. Once I realized this, I couldn’t get my hands on a single-cup coffee maker fast enough (duh!).

This article sets out your single serve coffee maker options. It’s in-depth, based on my buying and using several makers. Not all single serve makers are the same.

Benefits of single-cup coffee makers

When listing benefits of single-cup coffee makers, it’s important to keep the differences of pod vs. traditional grind vs. k-cup coffee makers in mind. Each has their benefits. This list of benefits addresses the benefits of a single-serve coffee makers generally.

1. Fast: You don’t have to wait for a full pot. Moreover, in the case of pods and k-cups, you don’t need to scoop anything. Just grab it and pop it into the coffee maker.

2. Quality: Arguably, k-cup coffee is better (I personally don’t think so, but many people prefer the taste).

3. Customize: Single-serve makes it easy for everyone in the home to drink their preferred brand and strength.

4. Convenient: If you need a single cup brewed for the road, it’s easily done.

5. Drink less coffee: I drink a lot of coffee when there’s a full pot available. If I have to brew each individually, I drink less. While I’m not too concerned drinking too much coffee, it may be a concern for some people.

6. Freshness: We’ve all drank coffee out of a pot that’s been sitting around for 90 minutes or longer. There’s no question that the best cup is the first cup immediately after it’s brewed. This means one of the BIGGEST advantages of single-cup coffee makers is the fact every cup of coffee you drink is fresh.

7. Perfect work-place coffee maker: If you’re a teacher, work at home or work in an office without coffee (or you’re sick and tired of the company coffee), a single-serve coffee maker is ideal at work. I specifically bought a separate unit for my home office.

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Types of single serve coffee makers include:

  1. K-Cup/Disc/Capsule coffee makers
  2. Pod coffee makers
  3. Single Brew: Traditional ground coffee beans and filter single-serve coffee makers
  4. Hybrid coffee makers

1. K-Cup/T-Disc/Capsule Coffee Makers

K-Cup coffee makers uses a patented coffee system that’s a coffee grounds and filter in disposable small yogurt-style cups. K-Cups are the most popular, but there are other types that’s the same concept such as Tassimo’s T-Discs and Nespresso Capsules.

For convenience, I’ll simply refer to all 3 types as K-Cup coffee makers in this section because the benefits set out below are the same for all 3 types.

It’s about as low-hassle coffee making option available. The coffee quality is pretty good too.

The issue with K-cup coffee is you are restricted with which coffee makers you can use. Only select coffee makers are able to accommodate K-cups.

is the best-known and most popular K-Cup coffee maker. is another brand that accommodates K-cups.  Generally, a coffee maker brands needs to be granted a license to use the K-cup technology.

K-cup technology was created by Green Mountain. It’s an undeniably brilliant business because people who buy a K-cup coffee maker are stuck buying K-cup refills over and over and over. That’s a lot of repeat customers.

T-Discs are exclusively used with Tassimo coffee makers. Nespresso capsules are for Nespresso machines exclusively. K-Cups are used by a variety of coffee maker brands.

=> Check out our K-Cup vs. T-Disc comparison Table

Specific Benefits of K-Cup Style Coffee Makers

a. Fast and convenient: It doesn’t get any easier to make a decent cup of coffee. Just grab a K-cup, put it into the coffee maker and press the “brew” button.

b. Taste: K-cup coffee definitely has a unique taste. You may be one of many people who prefer the coffee it brews.

c. Variety:  At this point, there’s a great deal of coffee brands available as K-cups. That said, you definitely have more choice using traditional coffee beans/ground coffee.

d. Reusable Option:  Fortunately, now you can buy a reusable K-cup filter that accommodates coffee grinds of your choice opening up coffee options.

e. No more guessing:  Have you ever made coffee too strong or too weak? I have. K-cups take the guess-work out of the coffee making equation.

f. No mess:  Tired of wiping grinds off the counter? Ever accidentally dump the used coffee filter on the floor? K-cups elminate dealing with used coffee grinds.

2. Pod Coffee Makers

Pod coffee is a convenient coffee product as well. The coffee bean grinds are placed in a tea-bag like encasement. You place the pod in the designated area and click the “brew” button.

Most of the pod coffee I’ve had is in hotels. While it’s decent, it’s not as good as a traditional loose grinds brew.

3. Single Brew: Traditional Brew Single-Serve Coffee Makers

Because one-cup offers quite a few benefits, there are traditional brew single-cup coffee makers that don’t use K-cups or pods. Instead, the coffee grinds and filter area is smaller designed to brew a single cup.

Frankly, I don’t really understand this type of coffee maker because you can simply brew less coffee with a multi-cup coffee maker. But then I drink a lot of coffee… always more than one cup.

The one big advantage is each person in the household can brew their preferred cup such as caffineited followed by decaff.

4. Hybrid Single and Multi-Cup Coffee Makers

I like options; hence I like the hybrid style coffee makers that offer both single-serve and multi-cup brewing options. If you like flexibility, a hybrid may be the model for you.

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Espresso vs. K-Cup Coffee

The reason traditional drip coffee makers remain popular is you can make multiple cups of coffee within minutes. So, if you’re going to get a single cup coffee maker, why not go for an espresso maker? After all, espresso is a richer coffee, offers more variety and easily makes one cup.

Actually, this is pretty easy to answer because while I love espresso, I generally prefer traditional drip coffee that k-cup coffee generates.

Espresso is strong which is nice once in a while, but not all the time
Espresso is not a full cup of coffee

Generally, for me because I enjoy drinking coffee throughout the day, more is more. In other words, I like having more coffee than a few sips. If I drank as much espresso as I drink coffee I’d be wired for days, plus I’d be spending more of my day brewing than working.

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Buying Guide – Single Serve Coffee Makers Features to Consider

When buying a coffee maker, whether a traditional multi-cup brew or a single cup K-cup maker, there are a myriad of coffee maker features available, depending on the model you buy. The following is a huge list of features and capabilities you can find. The best approach is to find the best value coffee maker that includes as many of the features you want for your budget.

Price: There are 2 aspects to consider when pricing single-serve coffee makers. There’s the price of the machine and then the price of refills. K-Cups are the cheapest disposable coffee “pods” (compared to Tassimo T-Discs and Nespresso Capsules). With respect to the cost of the machine, expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $350.

Brew Speed: How fast does it brew a cup (I’m not very patient). Of course, the fastest doesn’t necessarily mean the best coffee… after all, it needs to brew properly. I prefer waiting an extra 45 seconds for better coffee.

Timer Feature: This is a must-have feature if you wake up more or less at the same time every day. It’s so nice to have the coffee ready to go as soon as you stumble out of bed.

Water temperature: Some makers offer variable water temperature for brewing while others don’t.  This isn’t all that big of a deal unless you have a very specific temperature at which you like your coffee brewed.  A good temperature range for brewing coffee is 195 to 202 degrees Fahrenheit.[1]

Hot Water:  It’s nice to be able to simply run hot water through the machine for tea, hot water and lemon, hot chocolate, etc.

Brew strength Options: This is a nice feature if you enjoy different strengths. It’s also handy if you love a particular type of coffee, but prefer to adjust its strength.  In order for any particular model to adjust brew strength, it requires a larger water storage area from which the maker can adjust how much water is used for the cup of coffee.

Reusable K-cup filter option: Most offer this now, so it’s more or less a non-issue. For me it’s critical because I don’t always like using K-Cups.

Machine Size: If you place your coffee maker on the counter under an upper level cupboard, you want to ensure it fits (including being able to lift any lid that’s required). Measure carefully and look at product dimensions.

Iced coffee/tea capability: This is a fairly rare feature, but a nice feature if you like iced beverages.

Water filtration system included: This too is rare. If you’re concerned about the flavor of the coffee you brew with unfiltered water, this feature helps ensure the water making your coffee is pristine.

Appearance: I’d consider this last, but if it comes down to 2 makers, you might as well go with the model that looks the best in your kitchen.

Water Storage/Reservoir: This is a convenience issue. While you brew one cup at a time, it’s nice to have a larger water tank so you don’t have to add water over and over for each cup.

Removable/Detachable Water Reservoir: I much prefer the makers with a water reservoir that detaches from the coffee maker so you can take it to the sink to refill. Models that don’t detach require a jug to fill and then pour into the coffee maker. Remember, single serve coffee makers aren’t like traditional drip brewers in that they don’t have a large pot.

Transparent Water Reservoir: For any machine that offers a multi-cup water reservoir, I much prefer being able to see how much water is left. Yes, machines that aren’t designed with this feature tell you when you need water, but it’s more convenient to be able to see the water level before brewing.

Cord Length: Some machines may have a longer cord. If you have a longer cord requirement, be sure to inquire about the length of the cord.

Cup Size: If you like using large mugs, be sure the machine you buy can accommodate the height and width of your larger mugs.

Noise Level: While every single serve coffee maker I’ve used make noise, some makes more noise than others. Generally this isn’t a problem, but if you’re in tight quarters, you don’t want to run the risk of waking other people.

Coffee availability and selection: The big players are K-cups and Tassimo discs. Both are widely available at most grocery stores and online in a huge variety of flavors and brands. However, Nespresso capsules are not widely available. Select stores sell them and you can buy them online… but they aren’t in our local grocery stores, which makes it inconvenient for buying Nespresso pods.

Cost of the coffee: Price of K-Cups and Tassimo T-discs vary by brand. However, generally, K-Cups cost less than Tassimo T-discs and Nespresso capsules. If you’re looking the lowest priced coffee, a K-cup compatible machine is probably best. You can further lower your ongoing coffee cost if you use a machine with a reusable K-cup filter.

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What Type of Single-Cup Coffee Maker Should You Buy?

A different approach, especially when choosing between a K-Cup vs. Tassimo T-Disc coffee maker is to go to wherever you buy groceries and see whether your preferred coffee brand is sold and if so, in which format (K-Cup or T-Disc). For example, if you like Starbucks coffee, I know you can buy them as K-Cups… but I haven’t seen them in Tassimo T-Disc format.

Word of Caution:

I recommend reading other customer reviews before buying any appliance. You’ll learn a lot of good and bad points about pretty much any appliance. However, I caution you to look at the overall picture instead of focusing on a few bad reviews.

The fact is when it comes to making appliances, lemons will be sold. It happens. This means, there will be some low ratings. The key is looking at the ratio of positive vs. negative reviews. If the overall consensus is highly positive, that’s a very good sign about the appliance.

Final Note:

Unless you buy a single cup coffee maker that makes both K-cup and non-K-cup coffee, I recommend you try K-cup coffee. Not everyone likes it… or I should say some people prefer traditionally brewed coffee over K-cups. Try it before you buy it.

References:

[1] How to Brew Coffee.  National Coffee Association USA (NCA).

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