Tags: Categories: Appliances

The 6 Best Single-Serve Coffee Makers (Manually Tested)

Beautiful cup of coffee brewed from single serve coffee maker

I love single serve coffee makers because they brew coffee fast and you enjoy fresh coffee every time. I also like the flexibility they offer a household too. I may want regular while my wife prefers decaf. With a large coffee maker such as a drip brewer, you don’t get that flexibility.

I’m not the only one who loves single cup coffee machines. They are very popular and there are a lot of models available for you to choose from.

In fact, when we decided to switch to a single cup coffee brewer, we had no clue which one to get. As publisher of this site, I thought it would help us as well as readers if I invested in several machines, try them all out and then choose one or two for our home.

That’s what I did. I bought 12 single-cup brewers and tested them all. This article sets out the best for a variety of different types of single-serve coffee makers.

Below are my picks for the best single cup coffee machines by category.

Related: 10 Overrated Small Kitchen Appliances

Testing Methods

To date, I have purchased 12 single-serve coffee makers.  I did not receive the machines for free, nor was I paid to include any brand in this list.  However, I do have an affiliate relationship with Amazon, so if you click a link in this article and buy something, I may receive a commission.

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I tested all 12 machines extensively over a several week period and then tested more again 2.5 years later (2019).

This page sets out my conclusion, but please keep in mind I have not tested every model available.

IMPORTANT: My picks are my opinion and while based on actually using many of the leading models, it’s important you do your own due diligence before buying one.

1. Best Overall Single Serve Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Elite

Photo of Keurig K-Elite box

This is a photo of our new Keurig K-Elite single-serve coffee maker box which succinctly lists out the key features.  Learn more here.

This week (July 2019) we bought the Keurig K-Elite single-serve coffee maker.  For the past three years we’ve used the Tassimo T55 which was great but we’ve found it harder and harder to find Tassimo disc coffee in our local grocery stores while K-cup selection continues to improve.  Accordingly, we made the switch to a K-cup coffee maker.

Read my full Keurig K-Elite review here.

Keurig offers many different models, but we opted for the higher end machine primarily for the larger water reservoir which holds 1.54 liters of water.  Yeah, we’re lazy and don’t like refilling the water reservoir all that often.  Besides, this machine didn’t cost all that more than other models with smaller reservoirs.

We had this machine up and running in 10 minutes.  As suggested, we ran hot water through and were then in business.

This machine is ridiculously easy to operate.  I like the 5 coffee cup sizes to choose from, but so far prefer the 8 oz. cup size which makes fairly strong coffee (just the way I like it).

The only thing we miss from our Tassimo T55 is how quickly Tassimo brews coffee compared to the Keurig.  Keurig machines take longer to heat up water which is an inconvenience, especially when brewing coffee for 3+ people.

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While this machine also brews hot water and makes iced coffee, we don’t bother.

All-in-all we are very happy with this machine for two primary reasons: large water reservoir and the extensive K-cup coffee selection in most grocery stores.

=> Buy Keurig K-Elite machine here.

2. Best Non-K-Cup Single Serve Coffee Maker: Tassimo T55

Tassimo T55 Brewing System

I have no choice but claim the Tassimo T55 the best overall non-K-cup model because it’s the one we chose and used for years until recently.  It’s a fabulous machine.

We’ve had it for three years and it was our primary single-serve machine until this week when we bought the Keurig K-Elite.  We loved the Tassimo T55 but found it harder and harder to find T-discs.  I hate to say it but K-cups won the day.

While this isn’t a perfect machine, it’s close and it’s what I call a workhorse of a machine because it just keeps on producing great coffee after three years… and I’m talking quite a few cups per day.

This machine uses T-discs which work great but they simply aren’t as widely available as K-cups.

Related: Keurig vs. Tassimo | K-Cups vs. T-Discs | Tassimo T20 review

Pros

  • Great tasting coffee – rich and hot. We love the Gevalia brand which is outstanding.  
  • Brews very fast. No wait-time for water to heat up.
  • T-disc options available for tea, hot chocolate and specialty coffees as well.
  • Machine very well built. We’ve used it every day for nearly three years and it works as well as it did the day we bought it.
  • Price:  For the money, there’s no machine that comes close to this.  It’s rock solid

Cons

  • Starbucks coffee not available in T-discs.
  • T-disc options very limited and some grocery stores don’t carry them.
  • Very difficult to remove spill catcher.  This is actually very annoying.
  • T-discs come in an insane amount of packaging with outer layer and then boxes and then the T-disc themselves.  Surely less packaging could be used.

=> Buy the Tassimo T55 here.

Read my full Tassimo T55 review here.

3. Top Luxury Single Cup Brewer: Nespresso VertuoLine

Front view photo of the Nespresso VertuoLine Single Serve Coffee maker.

There must be something to Nespresso when George Clooney endorses it in an ad.  I jest; he probably was paid a fortune or has a stake in it.  Nevertheless, George Clooney doesn’t strike me as a guy who will hawk just anything.

My point is there’s a pure luxuriousness to everything about the Nespresso brand including the coffee makers.  The machines look super cool, are well built and brew gorgeous, rich coffee.

While the VertuoLine is the largest Nespresso maker, if you’re looking for something a little smaller, you can get the Nespresso Pixie (which I also bought and tested).

Related: Types of Coffee Bar Ideas

Pros

  • Brews rich, luscious coffee every time.  The texture is second-to-none.
  • Very well-built, solid and compact machine.  Easy to use and brews coffee fast.
  • Machine is stylish and looks great in any kitchen or office.

Cons

  • Must buy the Nespresso pods which aren’t widely available (but getting better all the time as the brand grows in popularity).
  • Brews very small cups of coffee (i.e. espresso).  I’d love for there to be an option to brew a regular full-size cup of coffee.

=> Buy the Nespresso Vertuoline here.

4. Favorite Full-Featured Model: Cuisinart Premium Single Serve Coffee Brewer

When I fired up the Cuisinart Premium machine up, I was impressed.  It did everything and then some.  It was very cool and the right option for a family who has diverse hot drink needs because thing makes it all.

The reason I prefer the Keurig K-Elite is because we don’t need all the bells whistles offered by this machine, but if you like features and variety, this is a great machine.

I have to admit my wife and I were tempted to make this our home’s main machine.

We decided against it just because it has so many options that we opted for simplicity instead.  However, for people who love gadgets and features, this is a great option.

Pros

  • Brews coffee very fast.
  • Brews K-cups and uses reusable K-cup sized single-serve filter.
  • Plenty of control such as water temperature and brews many drinks.  This is one very full-featured coffee maker.
  • Very quiet.

Cons

  • Price: this is one of the most expensive options.
  • It’s very heavy and difficult to move, but on the plus side it’s a very sturdily built machine.

=> Buy the Cuisinart Premium Single-Serve machine here.

5. Best Under $100 & Small Single Cup Brewer: Keurig K15 Mini Plus Brewing System

Keurig K10 Mini coffee maker

I’m not a huge fan of Keurig machines but for both the best single-serve coffee maker under $100 and compact categories, the Keurig K10 Mini Plus is a great product.

If it weren’t for the option of being able to a brew a pot with the Hamilton Beach 2-Way Flexbrew, this would have been my pick for my office coffee maker.  It’s dead simple, fairly fast and small.  Speaking of small, see our list of top small coffee makers (all types) here.

Related: Keurig K60 review | Keurig K40 review | Mr. Coffee Single Serve Machine review

Pros

  • Coffee tasted fine (I really like the Starbucks K-cups).
  • Compact machine so fits under most upper cabinets and terrific for office environment.
  • Uses K-cups which means you have many brands of coffee available.
  • thumbs-upLow price – well under $100.

Cons

  • Not built nearly as well as more expensive machines such as Tassimo.
  • Water reservoir only holds enough water for one cup of coffee so you must fill it up each time you brew a cup.
  • Takes a long time to brew a cup of coffee.  I timed it at 1 minute, 45 seconds.

=> Buy the Keurig K15 compact machine here.

6. Best Hybrid Machine: Hamilton Beach 2-Way Flex Brew

Front view of the Hamilton Beach 2-Way Flexbrew hybrid single cup and drip pot coffee maker

I really like this machine because it offers flexibility and it’s a very simple machine to work.  The downside is it only lasted just under 2 years, which is bad for a $300 machine, but not bad given this thing costs well under $100.

Moreover, I brewed 2 to 6 cups every single day and never cleaned it.  I have no hard feelings for it and overall found it to be a good value.

If you don’t mind spending more, the Cuisinart Hybrid will probably last longer, but it costs about double the Hamilton Beach.  Please keep in mind that I have not tested the Cuisinart Hybrid single serve/drip pot maker.

Pros

  • Very low price.
  • Brewed K-cups fairly quickly and the coffee tasted good.
  • Very easy machine to operate.
  • Fairly quiet.
  • Comes with a reusable single-cup filter which can save you a ton of money using ground coffee and not to mention much better environmentally.

Cons

  • Didn’t last 2 years.
  • Reservoir can only hold enough water for one cup when using the single-serve brewer.

=> Buy the Hamilton Beach Hybrid here.

Single-Serve Coffee Maker Buying Guide

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.

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 drink 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.

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 eliminate 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 caffeinated 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.

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.

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.

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.

Wrapping It Up

That wraps up our extensive write-up on what we consider the top single-serve coffee makers across key categories.

I hope our investing thousands of dollars into buying the machines and many hours testing them (I’m not complaining… I sure enjoyed all the coffee), that this helps you buy the right machine for your home.

Thanks for stopping by.

References:

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

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