High quality and barista-style artistic coffee does not have to come at a high price and a local coffee house. It can happen for as low as $.3 cents per cup on your sofa in the comfort of your home.
We tested and reviewed 36 brewing systems in order to determine the best 15 single serve coffee makers on the planet. In order to make things even easier, we broke that list down into three categories. Below you can see the winners in each category and save yourself hours of research.
BEST K-CUP MODEL
The problem with testing coffee related products is that you do not get much sleep while doing it. A lot of good men and women lost their beauty sleep because they were too high on caffeine. But, it was all worth it so we can give you this list.
- Top 15 Single Serve Coffee Makers of 2018
- Best K Cup Coffee Maker - Keurig K55
- People's Choice - Keurig K15
- Best Budget Buy - Hamilton Beach 49981A
- Up & Coming - Ninja Coffee Bar Single Serve System (CF112)
- CuisinArt SS-10 Premium Single-Serve Coffee Maker
- Nespresso Vertuo Evoluo
- BUNN MCU Single Cup Multi-Use Coffee Brewer
- Mr. Coffee Single Serve K-Cup BVMC-KG6-001
- Keurig K575 Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
- Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Single-Serve Coffee Maker
- KitchenAid KCM402ER
- Bella BLA14436
- Keurig K475
- AdirChef Grab N Go Single Serve Coffee Brewer
- Chulux QF-CM801 Single Serve Coffee Brewer
- Facts About The Single Serve Coffee Industry
- Types Of Single Cup Coffee Makers
- How We Judge & Execute
- Consider the Environment Much?
BEST BUDGET MODEL
HAMILTON BEACH 49981A
Top 15 Single Serve Coffee Makers of 2018
|Keurig K55||5.0||6, 8, and 10 oz|
|Keurig K15||4.9||6, 8, and 10 oz|
|Hamilton Beach 49981A||4.6||up to 14 oz|
|Ninja CF112||4.7||6 to 22 oz|
|CuisinArt SS-10||4.5||4 to 12 oz|
|Nespresso Vertuo Evoluo||4.4||1.35 and 7.7 oz|
|BUNN MCU||4.3||4 to 14 oz|
|Mr. Coffee BVMC-KG6-001||4.2||6, 8, and 10 oz|
|Keurig K575||4.7||4 to 16 oz depending on K-cup|
|Hamilton Beach FlexBrew||4.0||4 to 14 oz|
|KitchenAid KCM0402ER||4.0||4 to 18 oz|
|Bella BLA14436||3.8||4 to 14 oz|
|Keurig K475||4.5||4 to 14 oz or up to 30 oz for carafe|
|AdirChef Grab N' Go||3.7||up to 15 oz|
|Chulux QF-CM801||3.5||3.5 to 12 oz|
Best K Cup Coffee Maker – Keurig K55
Keurig have long been regarded as one of the best single serve coffee brewer manufacturers when it comes to K-Cup and pod brewers. The K55 is one such machine. It’s compact, simplified and effective; you can brew a great tasting cup of coffee using K-Cups from Keurig.
It brews 3 different K-Cup sizes; 6oz, 8oz, and 10oz. Furthermore, you can also use non-Keurig pods that are the same shape so you can opt for cheaper coffee to reduce running costs. If you want a single serve K-Cup coffee maker, this is easily the best one.
That being said, the K55 is not a versatile single cup coffee maker. It can’t make coffee from ground beans, unlike some of the dual makers in this list, and you’re also missing some other key features that coffee connoisseurs take seriously: temperature control and brew strength.
If you’re a fan of Keurig and need a simple, compact pod coffee maker that doesn’t have excessive features, this is ideal for you.
- Best K-Cup – of course, it went to a Keurig machine! Works best with Keurig K-Cups but you can easily fit in other brands with careful selection.
- Brew 6 cups before needing to refill the 48oz reservoir.
- Descaling and auto shut off features are very convenient and not what you expect from a small, simple machine.
- Despite the descaling programming, you may need to find extra ways to descale this machine such as vinegar. The build-up is quite bad.
- It doesn’t have all the great features that the more expensive Keurig models have.
People’s Choice – Keurig K15
This is Keurig’s attempt at making a budget coffee maker, and despite so many people staying loyal to Keurig and using it day after day, we couldn’t really see what all the hype was about.
Sure, it’s very small and comes in beautiful colors (the chili red model is particularly vibrant) but it doesn’t give you a great choice when it comes to adjusting the coffee flavor or brew size. You have a choice between 6oz, 8oz, and 10oz for mug size and you are required to refill the machine for each cup with a 3-4 minute brew time.
You can only use Keurig K-Cups to make coffee – an expense that makes this budget coffee maker, not budget at all.
Despite what it lacks, we must be honest and tell you that it does indeed produce a good tasting coffee. So, if you’re a lover of traditional Keurig coffee and looking for a compact single serving coffee system that’s worth a bit more than others, this is ideal.
- People’s Choice – everyday coffee drinkers rely on this pod coffee maker for consistently good tasting coffee.
- Perfect for the busy and forgetful – drip tray will hold a full brew in case you brew by mistake and auto-shut off kicks in after 90 minutes.
- At only 7.5inches wide, this is one of the most compact coffee makers from Keurig, who usually provide monstrously large coffee makers with an intimidating number of features.
- You will need to add fresh water for each and every cup you brew as the reservoir is non-existent.
- Even with the drip tray removed you can’t fit a normal, kitchen mug into the machine, let alone a travel mug.
- Priced quite high compared to similar brewers.
Best Budget Buy – Hamilton Beach 49981A
The Hamilton Beach single serve coffee maker offers an incredibly good value for money. From the sturdy, stainless steel design to the large space for any size coffee mug and the easy to use features. Simply scoop in your ground coffee press into place and then hit brew.
You can only use ground coffee with this machine, rather than K-Cups which might be a deal breaker for some people, but using a high-quality ground coffee will always provide a better taste.
This isn’t a new coffee maker, it’s been around for over 5 years. But, people are still coming back to it as their choice of a budget coffee maker.
It can clearly cope with heavy long-term use without much maintenance (cleaning is very simple too).
While you can fit most mugs into this machine, including travel mugs, you only have 2 options when it comes to brewing size – 8oz and 10oz. Regardless of this, we truly enjoyed testing this machine and would highly recommend it to anyone on a budget who doesn’t want to compromise on quality and taste.
- Best Budget Buy – for the price you can brew a very good cup of coffee from a durable single serve coffee maker.
- Brew an 8oz mug of coffee in under a minute and a half.
- Incredibly simple to use yet versatile in brew strength and a wide range of coffee grounds can be used.
- The metal filters aren’t overly effective as we found some sediment made it through to the coffee – add a paper filter or replace with a better quality filter to avoid.
- The machine is quite a bit taller than other compact sizes at 13.5 inches.
Up & Coming – Ninja Coffee Bar Single Serve System (CF112)
The Ninja Coffee Bar Single-Serve System is a very modern, refreshing machine. Unlike Keurig and other traditional coffee makers, the Ninja system offers you a wide range of tasty beverages in Starbucks style. The stand-out feature is the frothing arm that adds frothy milk to your coffee.
You can make iced coffee/tea as well, plus hot chocolate and a range of different brews in different sizes. There’s a permanent micro-filter basket that you can replace with paper filters. Of course, we could not resist and quickly swapped the filters for some testing. But, the paper filter did not yield any noticeable difference in the quality of the brew when compared to the permanent filter.
You will need to use ground coffee rather than K-Cups, but with handy scoops provided by Ninja and a guidebook to let you know how much coffee is needed, this is easy even for a coffee-beginner.
If you love the American style coffee brewers with a modern taste, this is perfect for you! If you’re looking for a traditional, Italian coffee taste you need to look elsewhere, however.
- Up and Coming – Ninja is a fairly new brand but this model is already a bestseller!
- The built-in frother is effective and can be used in any mug or cup.
- Great range of features for various different beverages, including iced tea and hot chocolate besides coffee. Recipes included in a handy booklet.
- Although you can brew many different beverages, you have very little choice when it comes to coffee beside “classic” or “rich” brew strengths.
- No K-Cup for convenience, you will need to grind beans or use freshly ground coffee.
CuisinArt SS-10 Premium Single-Serve Coffee Maker
The SS-10 model is good, but it’s not as premium as the name would suggest. It offers a wide range of features that can rival Keurig and it also has a great filtering system to make a good cup of coffee. But we still felt that it was missing something. Truth be told, this Cuisinart unit just doesn’t have anything special about it.
It lacks that defining feature and has little personality; it feels awkward on the kitchen countertop.
The features it does have include auto-shut off, fast brewing times (less than 1 minute) and 3 different brew sizes for different sized cups – 6oz, 8oz and 10oz. All are features that you can find on other coffee makers in this list.
The self-cleaning rinse feature is certainly convenient and something you usually only find in large carafe coffee makers. However, it’s not a replacement for cleaning the machine yourself.
This is a sturdy, bland coffee machine. It will make a good cup of coffee day after day but it’s not something you’ll brag to your friends about. For the price, you can find better.
- Self-cleaning, rinse feature is convenient.
- Great range of features including temperature control, beverage size, hot water rather than coffee etc.
- Charcoal filter feature makes for a great tasting cup of coffee – with any kind of K-Cup.
- The many different features take a while to understand and get used to. Especially, when using via the LCD control panel (not ideal for large, clumsy fingers).
- Looks quite sleek, but is in fact made of plastic which is not of great quality.
- Reusable filter cup for using ground coffee isn’t very sturdy.
Nespresso Vertuo Evoluo
This luxury single cup coffee maker is as amazing as it looks. It has dual functionality, providing both coffee and espresso. You can only use the VertuoLine capsules in this machine, which are very high-quality and will produce an excellent cup of coffee.
It’s not cheap to buy or to run on a daily basis, so this is not for anyone on a budget. This has been designed for the coffee-lover who’s willing to pay a bit more to find perfection.
That being said, the De’Longhi models don’t have nearly as many functions as the Keurig models, despite being in a similar price range.
De’Longhi have decided that the perfect cup of coffee is 7.7oz, so you’d better have a mug that holds that much as you’ve got no option to change the volume.
Some good features that aren’t immediately clear include the auto ejection of the capsule once it’s been used and the auto shut off feature.
- Beautiful aesthetics make this ideal for small but stylish kitchens. Dimensions are 9 x 12 inches.
- Centrifusion extraction technology, water dispensing and quality filters make for a very good cup of coffee.
- Brews a fantastic espresso too.
- No hot water only option and the Nespresso VertuoLine capsules for coffee that fit this machine are not cheap. Buy them from De’Longhi boutiques or order especially from their website.
- No adjustable cup size, only espresso (1.35oz) or coffee (7.7oz).
BUNN MCU Single Cup Multi-Use Coffee Brewer
At first glance, this appears to be a very cheaply made, plastic single serve coffee brewer… with a ridiculous price tag. But once you get used to the stripped back design and exposed stainless steel, it makes a great addition to your kitchen countertop.
This machine has removable draws (we found them very easy to exchange and wash) so you can brew K-Cups, ground coffee, loose tea, tea bags… the list goes on. We even tried making a hot chocolate using loose powder and was pleasantly surprised. In terms of versatility, this machine is at the top of the list.
The reservoir isn’t large, so you will need to refill it regularly however you can choose the volume of coffee brewed – from 4oz to 14oz, which is ideal if you’re filling different mug sizes, from small coffee mugs to large travel flasks.
The stainless steel was easy to scratch, but besides that we found the coffee maker to be very durable and well-made.
- 4 interchangeable drawers for K-Cups, ground coffee, coffee pods, tea pods, tea bags, loose tea leaves etc.
- Very fast brewing time of just 1 minute.
- 2 years warranty, unlike Keurig’s standard 1-year warranty.
- While it’s great for making coffee, many high-quality teas require a longer brew at a lower temperature to reduce bitterness. The 1 minute brewing time can be extended but the temperature isn’t reduced. So, if you’re partial to a Darjeeling or sencha as well as coffee, you won’t like this machine.
- No auto switch off or on.
Mr. Coffee Single Serve K-Cup BVMC-KG6-001
Mr. Coffee is often regarded as the cheap alternative to Keurig. Just looking at online forum reviews you will find hundreds of coffee-lovers who have moved from Keurig to Mr. Coffee in the hope that they can have the same great quality coffee at a reduced price.
The BVMC-KG6-001 model can use the Keurig K-Cups but worked just as well for us with cheap, mock K-Cups too. Of course, this means that you can make all kinds of beverages from this machine from hot chocolate to tea using the hot water and flavored K-Cup – and not break the bank doing so.
Aesthetically, the single serve coffee maker is quite bulky, being shorter and wider than most at 13inches wide and weighing 8.3 pounds (before water is added). This isn’t great for small worktop areas.
We eventually concluded that this is a good option if you’re on a budget or looking for a sturdy machine for the workplace. If you are looking for Keurig quality and a luxury item, you will need to pay the price for a better model.
- This coffee maker is very fast – a few minutes at most. It’s simple to pick the cup size and start the machine, quick to brew and very easy to clean. This is easily one of the most convenient single serving coffee makers.
- Allows for 3 different cup sizes, adjustable brew strength and hot water for other beverages – all the features of a luxury coffee maker.
- Very cheap considering the features and quality!
- The design isn’t as well made as the Keurig models, although it’s not cheap plastic either.
- The 40oz water tank is removable and we could foresee it leaking with heavy use.
Keurig K575 Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
The Keurig K575 model has an incredible number of features which makes it one of the most versatile single-serve coffee systems on this list. We particularly liked the water-on-demand feature and great flexibility when it came to temperature control and brew strength. They make a great tasting cup of coffee.
You can remove the super-sized water reservoir which does make filling it up easier, however for a single serve K-Cup coffee maker, we felt that it was unnecessary. For those that want to brew large amounts of coffee, why not buy a coffee maker designed for that rather than a single cup machine?
Other features that were great but not shout-worthy include the auto-shut off programming and complimentary K-Cups and filters that were included in the box.
- Temperature control (5 settings), adjustable brew strength and K-Cup size settings and you can also make different volumes of coffee: up to 30oz which is enough for a carafe.
- The big range of features are all easy to manage via the large digital screen – perfect for the heavy-handed.
- Attractive design will hold a carafe (only Keurig carafes) without being overly bulky.
- The reservoir holds 80oz before you need to refill it, which is way more than most single serve coffee users need. Dull water left in the reservoir for ages will affect the taste of the coffee.
- Only works with Keurig pods, which are a little over-priced for the taste.
- Not great in the long run with many die-hard coffee drinkers complaining of chemical tasting coffee after heavy use.
Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Single-Serve Coffee Maker
The 49974 model is the cheapest of the FlexBrew systems range by Hamilton Beach. As such, this unit has no adjustable strength feature. Despite being the cheapest and simplest model, we still found it to be a robust single cup gourmet brewing system worth considering.
The main feature of the “FlexBrew” is the removable single-serve pack holder which allows you to choose between pre-packaged coffee pods or freshly ground coffee. While it does make a decent coffee on both settings, if you know you’re only making freshly ground coffee you’ll be happier with a single cup coffee maker that’s designed solely for that, and vice versa.
As for the technical features, the reservoir holds up to 14oz which is just right for a travel mug. The built-in filter is mediocre. Strangely, Hamilton Beach suggests you can use paper filters at the same time, which had us questioning the effectiveness of the built-in one.
- Makes coffee from loose ground coffee or K-cups – it’s very easy to change between each, just take out the pack holder.
- A window into the water reservoir makes it easy to see if there’s enough in there to fill your mug.
- Adjustable drip tray makes it great for using your own travel mugs and home mugs – nearly all sizes will fit. It also acts as a storage space for the pack holder.
- The pump is quite weak – mineral deposits build up quickly.
- To fix mineral build up and general cleaning, Hamilton Beach recommend running the coffee maker through with a vinegar/water solution once a month or more often. I found this to be arduous.
Despite making an excellent cup of coffee, the durability of this machine is appalling for the price. Even after just a few uses, we could already start to see wear and tear in the filter basket. With careful use, we managed to keep it working but for the heavy-handed, this is not suitable at all.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, so if you can work around the poorly constructed filter basket you’ll be met with these great features:
The water tank holds 18oz (the same as the mug that’s included) but it also has markings inside for 16oz, 12oz and 8oz which are very useful if you want to use a different mug or leave extra room for milk.
The coffee that’s made is of a very good quality and will stay nice and hot in your thermal mug. Fine ground coffee and more coarsely ground coffee both worked well in this machine, but for something more convenient you’re better off looking at the K-cup and pod coffee makers.
- The cone-shaped gold tone permanent filter is both effective and convenient.
- The mug that’s included is thermal and 18 oz: great quality and a great size.
- We got a really great taste as the shower head type water dispersing really does make a difference to coffee saturation.
- Only 1 years warranty – the coffee machine won’t even last that long with heavy use.
- Polycarbonate plastic may look shiny, but to touch it doesn’t feel very high-quality.
- At 6.5lb, this is one of the heavier single-serve coffee systems.
The One Scoop One Cup Coffee Maker from Bella is a mediocre machine. It doesn’t have any notable technology, but it does have an adjustable drip tray which is great for oddly sized mugs. It’s a slim, tall design which saves countertop space and the modest price puts this single cup coffee brewer firmly in the budget category.
Overall, we got the feeling that this coffee maker wasn’t very well thought out. It’s marketed as being able to produce hot water as well as coffee for soups, hot chocolate etc…
But, most basic coffee makers will provide you with boiling water if you simply leave out the coffee, so this isn’t unique. Who doesn’t own a kettle?
Furthermore, the filter is dishwasher safe – they’ve skimped on the quality of the filter so that you can put it in a dishwasher – when it’s overall compact size is targeted at offices and small kitchens where most people won’t have room for a dishwasher anyway.
- Very simple to use with just an on/off switch and easy to access water tank (14 oz).
- Also produces just hot water for making other beverages, including hot chocolate, in different sized mugs due to the adjustable drip tray.
- All of the removable parts are dishwasher safe.
- Coffee wasn’t great tasting!
- The design is lacking; they should have put more into the quality and better thought-out the true convenience of using it.
The K475 is one of the most expensive K-Cup Pod Single Coffee Makers from Keurig. Coming in a bit more expensive than the K250 model (which is slimmer and doesn’t have a digital screen) and quite a lot more than the K55 model, which is currently a best seller on Amazon. So, while we were testing the K475, we were always asking ourselves: is it worth the money?
The K475 model, in particular, comes without a technical feature called DRM.
This is basically a programmable option to prevent any use of any K-Cups that aren’t from Keurig – so that’s a great thing but it does mean you need to be careful which model you buy if you intend to use different brand K-cups.
This single cup coffee maker comes in 3 different colors, which is perfect if you want to have a nicely coordinated kitchen decor. For the price you pay for a single cup coffee maker I found the vintage red a bit too cheap looking, though.
Overall, the taste of the coffee and quality of the machine (plus the brew strength options) made this feel luxurious and worth the money.
- Controlling this machine and its functionality is fantastic via the 2.4 inch colour screen and power saving tech.
- Brews a great cup of coffee with brew strength control – and you control how much coffee is brewed as the machine can adjust to the K-cups you insert.
- Brew size up to 30oz, which is impressive.
- Paper filters are great quality, but only 2 are included in the pack so you will need to stock up from Keurig.
- The water stays hot for quite a long while: as you’re only having one cup this isn’t very important.
AdirChef Grab N Go Single Serve Coffee Brewer
There is one button to turn the coffee maker on and off, and that’s it. Fill with water, press the button and brew a cup of coffee. Simple and easy, so you can just Grab N’ Go.
Unfortunately, simpler doesn’t mean better in this case. The AdirChef Gran N’ Go was one of the worst coffee makers in all categories: taste, durability, usefulness, and functionality.
The technology is seriously lacking. Even the simple on/off function got stuck and turned on occasionally.
The water dispersing system is evidently ineffective at getting a good saturation of the coffee, regardless of the quality of grounds you use. The only upside of the poor tech is that this coffee machine ran very quietly and very quickly.
Besides being ideal for librarians who want a quick, quiet and poor cup of coffee, we can’t see anyone genuinely being happy with this single serve coffee maker.
It was also very cheap to buy, so I guess you get what you pay for!
- 15 oz stainless steel travel mug included – will fit in the pod coffee machine perfectly and is also just the right size for car cup holders.
- Permanent filter means no more buying paper filters every week.
- Nearly all the parts are machine washable as made from stainless steel and thick plastic.
- The permanent filter isn’t of a great quality.
- The coffee we brewed was quite weak tasting regardless of which coffee grounds we used.
- In general, this coffee maker didn’t have anything to impress us.
Chulux QF-CM801 Single Serve Coffee Brewer
The CHULUX is a small, simple coffee system that uses K-cups. Nearly all of the K-cups that we tried out from various brands worked a treat, with only a few of the own-brand poor quality K-cups failing to work smoothly.
This is a good, standard pod coffee maker for offices and homes – although not great for the coffee connoisseur who wants an outstanding cup of coffee each time. It auto shuts off after brewing your cup, so ideal if you’re always forgetting to turn the coffee system off manually.
As for quality, the machine is called “durable” by the manufacturer (who offers just a 1-year warranty), however, we didn’t find it to be any more durable than other coffee makers in the same price range. It’s mainly made of black matte plastic (BPA free) while the metal drip tray is removable to make more space for your mug.
- Great price! This isn’t quite as cheap as the budget coffee makers, but it’s not costly enough to be considered mid-range.
- Compact size is ideal for small kitchens and worktops.
- Works with most K-cups.
- There’s no reservoir – you need to measure the water before pouring in to get enough for a mug (holds 12 oz).
- You need a fairly small coffee mug – no taller than 5.5 inches even when you take out the drip tray.
- It takes 3 or 4 minutes to brew coffee when completely full – this is quite long considering full 12-cup coffee brewers take as little as 5 minutes.
Facts About The Single Serve Coffee Industry
Some 10 years ago, single serve coffee makers were barely beginning to make their way into the American market. Today, 29 percent of American coffee lovers prefer their brew to come out of single-cup machines.
In 2016, single cup coffee brewers took 36 percent of the total coffee machines market, reaching $3.88 billion in sales. Not only did the Keurig-style machines register the highest growth amongst the coffee category, they nearly double the amount of sales that espresso makers had in that year.
Recent research shows that 72 percent of U.S. based consumers are familiar with single serve brewing systems. In 2017, 34 percent of these consumers already owned such a machine, even though it was not their preferred method for preparing caffeine drinks.
These statistics easily place single cup coffee systems among the fastest growing private label food and beverage categories.
But what does that mean for the consumer? The short answer is, more to choose from!
Types Of Single Cup Coffee Makers
Before selecting a brand, you should establish how you would like to brew your single cup. Generally speaking, there are three types of single-serve systems:
Ground coffee percolators are a single scoop, regular ground coffee only type of machines. Meaning, you cannot use these percolators with capsules or K-cups.
Pod brewing systems can be used with capsules, K-cups and sometimes ground coffee. These are the systems that we cover in this article.
Super-automatic coffee machines are mostly espresso makers and they are a bit outside the scope of our reviews here. However, you can check out the top espresso brewing systems here.
This post is mostly concerned with pod (capsule and K cup) brewing systems. Our reviews and recommendations do include some more versatile machines that allow you to enjoy a full carafe brew. However, the bottom line for this post is to determine the best k cup coffee maker.
How We Judge & Execute
One thing I have learned through the years of testing coffee equipment is that there is a strong correlation between price and quality of the brew. A cheap coffee brewing system will produce poor coffee drinks, regardless of the capsules, K cups or ground coffee used.
This rule is no exception when it comes to K cup coffee brewers.
Having said that, we would not recommend you a $1,000 machine when the average industry cost is $150. There is not enough coffee flavor in the world to make us do that. So, we did factor in the average price of the brewers as well as the operating cost (capsules and K-cups).
Here is a list of everything we considered:
- Operating cost – pods
- Capacity and cup selection
- Power and performance
- Ease of use
Before considering the price of the machine, you should understand the operating costs associated with it.
There is no way around the fact that a cup of single served coffee will cost more when compared to drip coffee makers. Whether you choose to use K cups, capsules, pods or discs, on average your cup of coffee will be twice as expensive.
If you only drink one cup a day, the blow on your wallet might not be as hard. However, if you enjoy 2-3 cups of coffee a day, the cost will quickly begin to stack against you.
The majority of single brewing systems are designed to only operate with their own pods, capsules and K cups. This can make a big difference because capsules vary in price from $.30 to $.70 per unit. Mind you, this is still cheaper than Starbucks, but definitely more expensive when compared to your dad’s old drip coffee machine.
When we compared different machines, we looked at the availability of ordering discounted capsules. This usually happens when the manufacturers choose to sell the pods in larger packs. So, instead of buying a pack of 10 capsules at a cost of $.70 per unit, you can buy 30 at a cost of $.50 per unit. At the end of the day, this can make a significant difference in the overall operating cost of the machine.
Much like other gadgets, single serve coffee systems come with a range of features and options for you to play around with – some more useful than others.
In terms of quality and taste, the two most important features are temperature control and strength control of the brew.
Temperature control allows the machine to maintain the perfect water temperature (195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit) during the entire brewing process. This is not a standard feature on most single serve coffee systems, but it certainly is one that makes a difference in the final taste of the brew.
Strength control is understood to be regulated by the ratio of coffee to water. For example, more ground coffee and less water would result in a stronger brew. But, how does that work with a single serve machine, when you cannot regulate the amount of coffee and yet you can regulate the strength and volume of water simultaneously? In other words, you can select an 8-ounce drink to be strong or weak, but without changing the amount of coffee.
I call sorcery!
Actually, according to the documentation of a Keurig 2.0 unit, the strength of the brew is increased by simultaneously increasing the brewing time. Longer extraction time results in an increase of dissolved solids, and therefore, a stronger brew.
We tested that, on several Keurig units and it turned out to be accurate. For example, a regular 8-ounce cup took 43 seconds to brew. Increasing the strength, while maintaining the same volume (8 ounces of water) took 1 minute and 16 seconds to brew. Also the coffee had a richer and stronger taste.
Hot water on demand is also a cool feature to have, and one that is not offered by all single cup machines. If you are hooked on tea or hot chocolate, this might be a must have addition for you.
Auto brew features are cool because they allow you to set the exact time you would like to have your brew ready. It is another option that we like, but would not consider seriously enough as a deciding factor. This is not a standard feature on low to mid-range coffee machines, which means that you need to be ready to drop $200 or more if you would like to have it.
Auto-On is a downgrade of the auto-brew feature. This option allows you to set the machine to turn on automatically, but it will not brew a cup of coffee. Instead, it will simply preheat the brewer.
NOTE: You can preheat the machine from the night before, so when you wake up you simply insert the fresh pod and press the brewing button.
LCD touch displays are certainly the way to go, but they will in no way play a role in the taste of your coffee. However, a colorful and easy to navigate screen is always a good addition to any kitchen appliance. So, we did give some extra points to manufacturers who went the extra mile to make their single serve systems more user friendly.
Night light water reservoirs are cool but unnecessary. This feature is a matter of aesthetics taste, so it certainly did not play part in our ranking algorithm.
I expect that as this industry continues to grow, so will the features that come standard on single-cup coffee makers. Hopefully, manufacturers will spend time improving the internal elements, such as thermoblock boilers, and not just adding flashier buttons and display.
Brewing Power & Performance
Standard single serve gourmet coffee makers take anywhere from one to three minutes to warm up. In order to do that, they utilize around 1500 watts of power.
Consider a safe place on your counter that can guarantee 1500 watts of power without overloading the electrical system. Always be cautious of how many appliances you already have plugged in.
In order to save energy (it is the right thing to do), look for a unit that comes with an auto-off timer. Leaving the internal tank heated and ready to brew will continue to drain some energy, even though minimal. If you are making 7-8 cups of coffee a day, this could make sense. It takes around 300 watts of power for a Keurig machine to brew a K cup if it has been preheated.
NOTE: There is always the risk of fire hazard when leaving an electrical appliance plugged in and powered on. So, please, do your own research and make such decisions at your own risk.
Brewer Ease of Use
We always consider usability and user-friendliness when reviewing coffee gadgets.
Single serve machines, however, are pretty standard in this regard. There is very little effort that is required from when using capsules, pods, and K-cups.
Removable water reservoir should be a must for convenience and ease of use.
Brewer Physical Size Considerations
Like any other electrically powered appliance, a single serve coffee maker should be placed on a stable platform. This is done to reduce the risk of fire hazard as well as to ensure the brewer will work properly.
If you live in a condo like me, then you know there is only that much space on your countertop. Also, the average distance between the counter and the kitchen cabinets is around 17 inches. Keeping this in mind, make sure you do not order yourself a gigantic coffee machine.
Usually the bigger the unit, the bigger the water tank. And if you are getting a machine for an office or a household with more than 2 coffee drinkers, you should certainly consider larger reservoirs. Running to the kitchen faucet more than once a day can be exhausting! After all, this is what we pay gym memberships for (and never end up going).
Brewer Cup Selection
Cup capacity is often not just a preferential, but a necessary feature. Take into consideration how many people will be using the single cup brewer on a daily basis and what their preferred brew size is.
Some machines are more flexible than others, allowing you to brew anywhere from 4 ounces to 12 ounces per cup. Other units are not as generous and will limit you to 8 ounces.
As a reference, 4 ounces are good for a strong, espresso-type drink. While 12 ounces are usually good enough to accommodate people who like walking around with their travel mugs.
There aren’t many extra additions to single serve coffee systems.
Reusable filters are perhaps the most useful accessories that are available with some machines. They allow you to replace K cups with your choice of ground coffee. On the long run, filters are more economically friendly and will definitely bring down your overall cost per cup.
Water filter replacements usually come with the machine. You should be getting at least one free replacement. These filters ensure the purity of the water, and also make a difference in how the brew will taste. Worn out water filters can result in bitter tasting coffee.
There are some side accessories such as capsule carousels that you can buy for convenience. But, you can store your pods and K-cups anywhere, just like regular coffee.
Consider the Environment Much?
If you are environmentally conscious (and you should be), consider this: the mini coffee containers are not recyclable. The wide variety of cups and discs that are made of plastic all end up in the landfills. Based on consumption, we are talking in the millions here.
Best Overall Model – Keurig K55
If you are looking for a piece of mind single serve coffee maker that is not going to disappoint, stick to the Keurig K55.