The Best Single Serve Coffee Makers Of 2020
Brewing a steaming pot of java to sip slowly over the course of a lazy Sunday is one of life’s great pleasures. But downing a quick cup to start a hectic workday morning is an equally vital activity.
Here are the 10 best single cup coffee makers so you can get that caffeine in your bloodstream swiftly and efficiently without sacrificing great coffee.
Keurig K55 Coffee Machine
The K55 is a bestseller for convenient, quality coffee. And since the introduction of the reusable My K-Cup capsules, the environmental impact is no longer a huge issue. At a reasonable price, this machine gives a consistent and reliable cup for home baristas who need a quick cup in the morning.
What To Consider Before You Buy A Single Cup Coffee Maker
These 1-cup brewers are simple enough, but there are some make-or-break features that you’ll want to consider before you start considering options.
Electric Or Gravity-Powered?
Single cup coffee brewers can be broadly divided into two categories: electric machines, and gravity-powered options. The latter allows for time or air pressure to percolate your grounds and aid extraction whereas the former simply works with electricity.
Before deciding for one or the other, consider the following:
- For the easiest machines to operate even in that early morning fog, go electric
- For travel or camping trips and with no risk of breakdown, go for gravity-powered
- For a machine that will heat the water for you, go for electric. This may seem obvious, but if you’re going with one of the gravity and pressure-powered options, you’ll need a way to heat the water.
If you’d rather take a little more time and care, check out this list of drip coffee maker reviews. It’s still a fairly quick and convenient way to make coffee! Or if you’re torn between getting a single-cup and large capacity brewer, you can check out our list of the best dual coffee makers instead.
To K-Cup Or Not To K-Cup?
The introduction of the K-Cup, and subsequent imitations revolutionized the single cup coffee game in both positive and negative ways (1).
In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times. Almost all of them ended up in landfills.
The biggest advantages of using K-cups are that they provide consistent brewing (no errors) with a variety of flavors (feel like hot chocolate today?) The biggest disadvantages of using them, however, is poor quality coffee, and they have a large negative environmental impact.
Besides this, and interestingly enough; they cost more! K-Cups often cost much more than the same quality of coffee as whole beans or grounds. How do we know? Math. A pack of 24 K-Cups pack costs around $16, each K-Cup pod contains an average of 11 grams of coffee. That’s 264 grams of coffee, which works out to $27.50/pound.
K-Cups aren’t wholesome for your wallet or the environment.
A great alternative to K-Cups or pods is a refillable insert like the My K-Cup – they allow you to fill your own capsule with the coffee and grind of your choice. Plus many of the companies producing capsule machines are proactive about research addressing their environmental issues (2). The company has also recently introduced recyclable capsules.
If all this convinces you to choose a single-serve coffee maker that works with ground coffee, there’s a world of beautiful beans waiting for you out there. If you’re still curious, here’s a list of the best Keurig coffee makers.
Coffee Pods Vs. Coffee Capsules
Though many reviewers and some brands use the terms pod and capsule interchangeably, they, in fact, refer to two distinct coffee ground containers. Capsules are the small plastic cups favored by Keurig and Nespresso, among others. When slotted into a machine, the machine pierces them before running hot pressurized hot water through the capsule.
Capsules are convenient and they are sealed, meaning their contents stay a little fresher over long periods of time – if you are a sporadic coffee drinker, choose capsules (preferably reusable ones!).
…coffee is vulnerable to multiple elements: light, heat, moisture, and most of all, oxygen.
Pods are round bags of ground coffee that look a lot like large tea bags. They are more often biodegradable and come in a standard size that can be used with a variety of machines. However, because they contain coffee grounds that are exposed to the air and contaminants, they will lose their flavor faster than capsules (3).
The Best Single Serve Coffee Makers Of 2020
Now that we’ve given you some points on what to consider when buying single-serve coffee makers, here are our top choices:
|Keurig K55||View Latest Price→|
|Nespresso Pixie||View Latest Price→|
|Ninja Coffee Bar Single-Serve System||View Latest Price→|
|AdirChef Grab N’ Go||View Latest Price→|
|Aeropress||View Latest Price→|
|Oomph Coffee Maker||View Latest Price→|
|Coffee Gator||View Latest Price→|
|Primula Single Serve Coffee Brew Buddy||View Latest Price→|
|Hamilton Beach 49981 Single-Serve Coffee Maker||View Latest Price→|
|Bunn MCU Single-Cup Multi-Use Home Coffee Brewer||View Latest Price→|
Lets jump in to the first one – the K55:
If you’re not fussy about quality, and you just one a quick, consistent cup.
Coffee maker type: Electric – K-Cup, My K-Cup
- Known for: These are the folks who started it all
- Price: $$
Keurig’s flagship machine, now updated from the original, continues to be an Amazons number one best seller. The K55 is their mid-level model and it offers everything the home or office brewer could want at a very reasonable price. It’s far better value for money than the K575 model.
The 48-ounce water reservoir can brew up to 6 cups of coffee before needing a refill, getting you through the work week and increasing efficiency on those hectic mornings. Handy features such as a removable drip tray make cleaning easy. You can read our full Keurig K55 review here.
- A proven track record – it’s been an Amazon Number 1
- One Best Seller for multiple years running
- Convenient, consistent, and reliable for busy mornings
- Requires K-Cup capsules (can be expensive and most aren’t recyclable)
- Stays powered on for a long time while idle
Best suited for coffee lover who just doesn’t have the time (or money) for a home espresso machine, but wishes that they did.
Coffee maker type: Electric – Nespresso capsules
- Known for: High-pressure extraction – the simplest espresso-esque setup
- Price: $$$
The Nespresso Pixie is a higher-end model that produces a barista-style result thanks to a high-pressure pump that fully extracts the flavor of the coffee beans. This is a great little espresso maker.
What else do you get for the extra investment? A machine that can be programmed to dispense just the strength and volume of coffee you want – if you can’t make it to your local barista and you’re willing to compromise for a fast, simple alternative, this is your best bet.
Read our review of the Nespresso Pixie here.
- High-pressure pump (19-bar) yields barista-style results
- Heats water from water tank in only 25 seconds
- Programmable so you can get exactly the strength and size of coffee you want
- Shut off occurs after 9 minutes to minimize energy use
- Requires Nespresso capsules
- Coffee choice restricted to the capsules available
The Ninja Coffee Bar brewing system is a capsule-free system that caters to those looking for more than just a simple cup. This little powerhouse offers all the tools needed to craft hot or cold espresso beverages with a built-in frother and custom styles brew sizes and styles.
By opting out of the capsule systems, Ninja Coffee Bar users gain the flexibility of strength control. You can customize your beverage by using any coffee brand, quantity, and grind. We take a look at other ninja coffee bar systems here if you like this brand.
- Can craft any beverage (hot or cold, black or with milk and foam)
- Capsule-free for the greatest flexibility, higher quality coffee (should you so choose) and a smaller environmental impact
- Four custom brew sizes including a new XL
- A lot of plastic used in construction means less durability
The AdirChef Grab N’ Go Coffee Maker is a simple coffee-delivery system with a tiny footprint. It’s perfect for tight kitchens with limited counter space or office cubicles.
Though simple, this single-serve coffee machine is well-built and well-designed. It won’t break on you, and neither will the included stainless-steel travel mug – this brewer is very affordable and will work for years.
As with the Ninja, this capsule-less system offers the user complete freedom when it comes to selecting beans and grind. The built-in filter is a boon to both the environment and your wallet – no buying filters or throwing out used ones.
- Tiny and light enough to be easily portable
- Comes with a stainless-steel travel mug
- A permanent filter means less waste
- The parts are dishwasher-safe!
- Works best with accompanying 15-oz. travel mug (though others fit)
- Not as good for brewing other beverages
Best suited for the budding barista champion who still needs an efficient, no-mess option for amazing coffee – anywhere.
Coffee maker type: Gravity (and pressure)-powered – capsule-free
- Known for: Barista championship-winning coffee brewer that looks like a big plastic syringe.
- Price: $
The introduction of the Aeropress brewing system took the coffee world by storm in 2005, thanks to the remarkable quality and flavor of coffee being extracted. It was designed by the head of a frisbee company who wanted to engineer the perfect cup of coffee (no, really!). Its simple design belies the complex nuances of flavor achieved.
It operates much like a French press. Pour hot water over grounds and then push the coffee through a microfilter. Unlike a French press, however, the microfilter ensures there are no gritty remnants in your cup, or in the press. You can also use it as an espresso maker with a little creativity. Clean up is quick and easy.
The Aeropress requires no electricity and brews a cup in only a minute.
It’s great for travel, and has found a particular fanbase among campers and backpackers as it packs down smaller than a travel mug, and is durable enough to survive being crammed in the bottom of a backpack. To see what it looks like in action, check out this video from Stumptown Coffee Roasters (yeah, this is the 5-minute explanation, but it’s worth it and we like it):
Read our Aeropress review to find out more about this portable single-serve coffee maker.
- Known for the incredible flavor of resultant brewed coffee
- Simple design and no electricity required
- Only takes one minute to brew a cup (and you can brew for multiple cup sizes)
- A favorite among campers and backpackers as it is light and portable
- Requires the purchase of paper filters unless you buy a reusable stainless steel filter
- You’ll need ground coffee
Best suited for on-the-go barista who needs a no-fuss, amazingly compact option for awesome coffee.
Coffee maker type: Gravity (and pressure)-powered – capsule-free
- Known for: Ultra-portable filtered coffee – brew and drink from the same container (or not)
- Price: $
The Oomph coffee brewer is a bit like the younger cousin of the Aeropress. It makes rich, high-quality coffee using a combination of steeping and hand pressure, and it’s amazingly convenient, especially if you’re on-the-go or travelling.
It’s much like the classic Aeropress, but with some key differences. Rather than having a bunch of parts to keep track of, the Oomph gives you everything in one container – from brewing to drinking. The Oomph uses gravity for the first part of the extraction process, while the Aeropress allows the coffee to steep. The Oomph also might be a little more stylish – though the Aeropress is better-known and has won some barista championships, some say it looks clunky.
Debate as you will, we’ll be here, drinking great coffee from both of them. Here’s our full review of the Oomph Coffee Maker.
- Uses a built-in stainless steel filter – nothing to buy or throw out (except your used grounds)
- All in one brewing and drinking – you don’t need to pour into a decanter or a mug
- Adjust the brew strength and extraction until the coffee is just the way you like
- Offers maximum convenience only if you use the brewer as a mug
- You can only buy it from their website, which ships from the UK
If the Oomph is a portable coffee brewer that hints at a pour over, the Coffee Gator takes it all the way. It’s a coffee mug and brewer in one – take off the lid, throw on the pour over filter, and you’re brewing. The filter is stainless steel mesh, so there’s no need for any paper waste, and it makes a great, clean cup of coffee.
If you need pour over on the road, we’d recommend grabbing the Coffee Gator – it’s a sturdy, all-in-one system. Pour over coffee makers like these are great single serve options that provide high quality coffee fast.
- Pour over quality coffee
- Stainless steel reusable filter
- Mug keeps coffee hot for hours
- Takes some pour over technique to brew well
The cheapest, smallest, lightest, and easiest pod coffee maker on this list is Primula’s Brew Buddy. Essentially a pour-over method with a reusable filter, the Brew Buddy is an eco-friendly option for the traveling coffee fanatic.
It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and will never break. Its near-universal design means it works with almost any coffee cup. Its simplicity allows for limitless flexibility in choice of beans, size of grind, and quantity of water so you can have your coffee just how you like it.
- Very inexpensive
- Small, light and easily portable
- Will not break
- Does not require the purchase of filters or capsules
- Only makes drip-style coffee, no espresso
Best suited for rushed caffeinistas who want to use their favorite ground coffee on the go.
Coffee maker type: Drip coffee maker
- Known for: Convenience and speed
- Price: $
With the option of brewing directly into a travel mug, the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve coffee maker, which the manufacturer calls “the Scoop,” is clearly bidding to be a rushed morning’s new best friend.
And it’s fast: an 8-oz. cup brews in 90 seconds, and a 14-oz. travel mug two and a half minutes. But the brew speed isn’t the only way “the Scoop” helps get you out the door in a hurry: the stainless-steel filter is the measuring scoop, literally – measure the ground coffee in the included scoop, slip the scoop into the coffee maker, make sure you’ve got water, and push the button. No filter papers, no pods, no capsules.
There’s a switch for “Regular” and “Bold” brewing, where “Bold” is recommended for more finely-ground coffee.
- Use your choice of ground coffee
- Stainless steel reusable filter/scoop simplifies brewing
- Drip tray raises/lowers to fit 14-oz. travel mug or standard cup
- Overfilling the coffee filter can result in spills
Versatility is the Bunn MCU‘s genius feature. The key is their “drawer” system for different brewing methods. There’s the Cup Drawer, which is compatible with K-cups (or any capsules from 45 to 61 mm) for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. The Ground Coffee drawer lets you use your favorite ground coffee. It has a larger capacity than other machines in this class, so you can bump the coffee-to-water ratio.
Like soft pods? There’s, you guessed it, a Pod Drawer for soft coffee pods. There’s even a Water Drawer, designed to dispense hot water for instant cereal or soup, baby bottles, etc. Oh, and the water reservoir is kept at 200 degrees F, the right temperature for flavor extraction.
One feature made for coffee lovers: the Pulse function starts and stops the flow of hot water over the coffee grounds (or pod or capsule), allowing for more complete infusion during brewing.
- Use pods, ground coffee, K-cups, or hot water
- Stainless steel reusable filter in Ground Coffee drawer
- Pulse function emulates timed pours in pour over brewing
- Ground Coffee drawer hard to clean
THE VERDICT: What’s The Best Single Cup Coffee Maker For You?
Any of these great products could fulfill the needs of an average home brewer as each delivers a great cup of coffee, but the overall best single serve machine can be no other than the Keurig K55.
This grandfather of the single-cup industry has been a consistent best seller from the outset for a good reason. Unless you’re looking for a coffee maker to take off the grid, this trusty machine does it all but doesn’t break the bank.
The Keurig K55 brews K Cups at about 193 degrees Fahrenheit, and other coffee pods at about 197 degrees Fahrenheit. This water temperature is closest to the optimal coffee brewing temperature as recommended by the National Coffee Association (4).
You clean a single serve coffee maker according to the cleaning instructions in the manual. Or you can simply use water and vinegar to clean the machine. Fill up the water tank with a 1-1 water and vinegar solution. Run a brew cycle without inserting a capsule or pod. Then, run a few more using just water to get rid of any vinegar residues.
Yes, you can usually use coffee pods in a regular coffee maker, because they’re not designed for a specific brand. You can even use them without a coffee machine – try them with a drip or pour over brew method.
No, you cannot put K Cups in a regular coffee maker. K Cups are not designed to work with any machines other than Keurig machines.
- Linshi, J. (2014, June 23). Here’s What You Need to Know About the War on K-Cups. Retrieved from https://time.com/2913062/k-cups-war/
- Hunt, K. (2018, July 17). 4 Eco-Friendly K-Cups You Can Swap Into Your Keurig. Retrieved from https://www.greenmatters.com/home/2018/07/17/Zcy0TY/eco-friendly-reusable-keurig-k-cups
- Tark, S. (2019, April 17). How to Store Roasted Coffee & Prolong Its Freshness. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2019/04/how-to-store-roasted-coffee-prolong-its-freshness/
- National Coffee Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/How-to-Brew-Coffee