Buying a cup of coffee every day from your favorite cafe won't break the bank, but it’s an added expense and one that's only increasing in price. Single-serve coffee makers are a particularly convenient and affordable brewing method if all you need is one cup on the go, or between meetings while working from home. The machines are also a useful small kitchen appliance for dorm rooms or your office desk.
“Popularity of single-serve machines has been on the rise over recent years,” said Jessica Rodriguez, a coffee trainer who previously worked at the Specialty Coffee Association, a nonprofit coffee trade organization. “Innovation and new technology from manufacturers have led to machines that have a variety of single-serve options, from espresso to hot coffee to iced coffee and even tea.”
Highly-rated single serve coffee machines
The exact single-serve coffee maker you choose dictates which features it’s built with, but the experts we spoke to recommended considering qualities like brew size and water reservoir size while shopping. They also suggested noting whether machines are compatible with disposable pods, reusable brew baskets or both.
- Brew size: Experts told us single-serve coffee makers usually brew between a 5-ounce and a 12-ounce cup of coffee. Some machines give you multiple different sizes to choose from or allow you to brew both single servings and a large carafe of coffee — these are often referred to as dual coffee makers, or you may see machines advertised with multi-brew settings.
- Pods versus brew baskets: Most single-serve coffee makers employ single-use coffee pods — capsules of pre-ground coffee packaged into aluminum or plastic containers — but some are compatible with reusable brew baskets, giving you the flexibility to make any ground coffee of your choosing. (Read more about the difference between pods and brew baskets here).
- Water reservoir size: Some single-serve machines have a reservoir that only holds enough water to brew one 12-ounce cup of coffee, while others are built with a larger reservoir so you don’t have to refill it every time you brew.
- Brew time: Not all brands list the brew time for their single-serve coffee makers. Brew time for all models is relatively fast since the machines are making a single cup, not a large carafe. But “if speed is a top priority, look for a machine with the shortest brewing time,” Rodriguez advised.
Below, we rounded up a handful of highly-rated single-serve coffee makers you may want to consider and explained what else you should know about buying one. We highlighted important features to help you decide between different options. Select staff also shared their experience using models they own.
- Brew sizes: 6, 8, 10 and 12 ounces
- Compatible with: Keurig K-Cup Pods and My K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter
- Water reservoir size: 60 ounces
- Rating: 4.7-star average rating from over 19,600 reviews on Amazon
Morgan Greenwald, Select’s senior editor, said the K-Café Smart, which Keurig recently added to its line of Wi-Fi enabled single-serve coffee makers, has helped her cut down on trips to Dunkin’. The machine pairs with the Keurig app, allowing you to get step-by-step instructions for making different beverages, like lattes or cappuccinos. You can adjust settings manually, or use Keurig’s Brew ID technology, which detects the type of K-Cup pod you’re using and adjusts the brew settings accordingly. Keurig's Multi-Stream technology also saturates coffee grounds more evenly compared to Keurig’s K-Classic Brewer, leading to a fuller flavor and aroma, the brand says. The coffee maker has a built-in milk frother, too, which Greenwald said makes a nice, foamy consistency for your latte.
- Brew sizes: 6 to 12 ounces
- Compatible with: Keurig K-Cup Pods and My K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter
- Water reservoir size: 12 ounces
- Rating: 4.6-star average rating from over 72,300 reviews on Amazon
Zoe Malin, Select’s associate updates editor, said she bought Keurig’s K-Mini coffee maker because of its compact size and more affordable price point compared to some of the brand’s other machines. It’s less than 5 inches wide, which Malin said is perfect for her small apartment’s limited counter space. Shari Uyehara, Select’s manager of editorial operations, also owns this machine, and said it’s a great option for those, like her, who are the only coffee drinker in their household. The Keurig’s cord can be tucked into the back when it’s not in use and its drip tray is removable so you can fit travel mugs up to 7 inches tall. The coffee maker automatically turns off 90 seconds after your last brew. It comes in colors like black, dusty rose, poppy red and studio gray.
- Brew sizes: 5 and 8 ounces
- Compatible with: Nespresso Vertuo coffee and espresso capsules
- Water reservoir size: 40 ounces
- Rating: 4.6-star average rating from over 13,800 reviews on Amazon
Mili Godio, Select’s associate reporter, said the Nespresso Vertuo Plus is her most “prized possession” due to its convenience. At 9.I inches wide, it doesn't take up too much counter space in her small apartment’s kitchen and enables her to make coffee, espresso shots and other beverages. The machine automatically adjusts coffee size, temperature, pressure and brewing time after reading the barcode on the capsule you insert. You can change the position of the machine’s water reservoir or remove it completely when it needs to be refilled. The coffee maker comes with a built-in capsule storage container and heats up in 15 seconds, plus automatically shuts off after 9 minutes of inactivity. You can purchase it in colors like red, gray, ink black and LE black matte.
- Brew sizes: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 ounces
- Compatible with: Keurig K-Cup Pods, Nespresso Capsules and included reusable pod
- Water reservoir size: 68 ounces
- Rating: 4.2-star average rating from over 6,500 reviews on Amazon
Launched in early 2022, the Instant Dual Pod Plus Coffee Maker is one of the brand’s newest products. Instant sent us a machine to try, and Malin said she loves that it’s designed with two separate slots for pods — one for K-Cup Pods and one for Nespresso Capsules — so you have a wide variety of coffee types and flavors to choose from. The coffee maker also has a “bold” option you can select if you want to brew stronger coffee. It can fit travel mugs up to 7 inches tall underneath the dispenser with the removable drip tray and has a smaller drip tray that flips out to hold espresso shot glasses or teacups.
- Brew sizes: 8 or 14 ounces
- Compatible with: Coffee grounds
- Water reservoir size: 40 ounces
- Rating: 4.2-star average rating from over 1,000 reviews on Walmart
Instead of pods, Hamilton Beach’s coffee maker brews a single cup using a mesh filter basket that doubles as a scoop, ensuring you always measure out the correct amount of coffee grounds. The machine’s adjustable base can accommodate multiple heights and different-sized mugs and travel mugs. The machine also offers a “bold” brew setting to make a stronger cup of coffee.
- Brew sizes: 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 ounces
- Compatible with: Keurig K-Cup Pods and Cuisinart’s HomeBarista Reusable Filter Cup
- Water reservoir size: 72 ounces (40-ounce model also available)
- Rating: 4.4-star average rating from over 15,300 reviews on Amazon
Cuisinart’s single-serve coffee maker has a built-in charcoal water filter, which the brand says removes chlorine, calcium and other impurities from water. You can adjust the brew temperature for each beverage you make and brew hot water in addition to coffee, hot chocolate or tea. The machine comes in colors like silver, matte black and whit
- Brew sizes: 6, 8 or 10-ounce cups or 6, 9, or 12-cup carafes
- Compatible with: Keurig K-Cup Pods, My K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter or coffee grounds
- Water reservoir size: 96 ounces
- Rating: 4.1-star average rating from over 30 reviews on Best Buy
With NutriBullet’s first-ever coffee machine, you can make single serve coffee or brew a large carafe, which is included with the appliance. The machine uses Brew Sense technology to automatically detect whether you added a pod or a filter basket. It fits travel mugs up to 7 inches tall underneath the brew spout.
What are single-serve coffee machines?
Single-serve coffee machines are designed to produce brewed coffee in small quantities, typically between 5 to 12 ounces, experts said. They brew coffee in seconds, which is their main draw, but also why the quality of their brew might suffer.
“In any coffee brewing method, proper water temperature is essential to a good extraction,” Rodriguez said. “Since single-serve brewing happens in such a short amount of time, some machines face the challenge of being able to reach a proper brewing temperature.”
Because of this, coffee brewed in a single-serve machine may taste weaker than if you were to use a drip brewer, for example. Single-serve machines also don’t usually allow you to customize brew settings, which Rodriguez said may prevent you from making a strong cup of coffee. However, some single-serve coffee machines are designed with a “bold” function, like the Instant and Hamilton Beach models we recommend above. The brands say brewing “bold” coffee usually means the machine keeps hot water in its brewing chamber for a longer period of time, thus lengthening the amount of time flavors have to be extracted out of coffee grounds.
Pods versus reusable brew baskets
Single-serve machines utilize either disposable pods or reusable filter baskets to brew coffee. Pods — which are used with Keurig or Nespresso machines, for example — are capsules of pre-ground coffee packaged into aluminum or plastic containers. Rodriguez explained that the coffee inside them is ground to a specific particle size to optimize extraction and flow rate while brewing. Reusable filter baskets, on the other hand, are designed to hold the appropriate amount of ground coffee for a single cup. You have to add ground coffee to the filter every time you use it.
Brewing coffee with pods versus with a reusable filter basket is one of the main factors experts said you should take into consideration while shopping. Here’s what you should know about them before you buy:
There are two downsides to using pods with single-serve machines: a lack of fresh coffee grounds and the creation of waste. Pods are packed with ground coffee weeks — or even months — before you purchase them, so they’re not fresh by the time they’re used. This can impact the strength and taste of your brew, said Kaleena Teoh, director of education at Coffee Project NY’s Academy. And using disposable pods everyday, or multiple times a day, creates a lot of trash.
However, companies are starting to catch up with demand. “[Because] the specialty coffee industry has begun embracing the coffee capsule revolution and demand for single-serve machines, we are seeing great innovation and improvement in quality and variety of machines and capsules alike,” Rodriguez said.
One of those innovations is recyclable and compostable pods, Teoh noted. For example, as of 2020, 100 percent of Keurig K-Cup Pods are recyclable. You can also order a free recycling bag to collect used Nespresso Pods in and when it’s full, ship it back to the brand at no cost by visiting any UPS drop off location (New York City residents, however, can pop Nespresso Pods can directly into their recycling bin, the brand says). Reusable pods are also available for some single-serve machines — notably Keurig and Nespresso models — which act like a small brew basket that you fill with the ground coffee of your choice.
If you are interested in buying a machine that utilizes pods, experts said it’s important to research the types of ground beans and flavors they come in to make sure they align with your coffee preferences. Beyond coffee and espresso pods, some brands sell pods for hot chocolate, tea, matcha and more.
Reusable brew baskets
Compared to pods, reusable brew baskets “provide the freedom to brew with your coffee of choice and are better for the environment,” Teoh said. You can grind coffee every time you need to fill the filter instead of buying pre-ground beans, making for a fresher brew.
Since pods are filled with pre-ground coffee, Teoh said they “lose a lot of aromatic compounds after grinding, and there will also be a lot of surface area for oxidation.” In other words, after being ground, coffee begins to lose some of its smell and flavor. To combat that issue, pods are often flushed with nitrogen to prevent oxidation, Teoh explained. Thus, using freshly ground coffee in reusable brew baskets eliminates any additives that may be in pods.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Jessica Rodriguez is a coffee trainer who previously worked at the Specialty Coffee Association, a nonprofit coffee trade organization.
- Kaleena Teoh is the director of education at Coffee Project NY’s Academy. Coffee Project NY is a cafe, award-winning coffee roaster and coffee training campus certified by the Specialty Coffee Association.