Review Of The Best Single Serve Coffee Machine

single cup coffee maker

Single-serve brewers were born out of a necessity to overcome the office break room tragedy: A stale, overcooked pot of coffee. Their popularity for use in the home solved many a casual coffee-lover's problems with brewing more coffee than they could drink in a sitting, too.

These brewing machines are now fully integrated into the drip coffee maker market. Traditionalists and boutique-favoring baristas may still turn their nose up at certain aspects, but we're about to show you what to love -- and what to hate -- about our top picks. 

Read on for our full review to see if a single serve brewing device may just be the top coffee machine of your dreams. 

First and foremost, you need a single serve brewer if you've ever found yourself reaching for a second cup of coffee and the taste made your mouth pucker with sour or bitter notes.

Even drip brew machines with small batch settings can't really handle the average single serving of coffee without overshooting the mark and leaving a second cup to turn rancid in the pot.

1. Convenience
These machines are as straightforward as it gets for a brewing device. Whether you're using a pre-packaged pod or a refillable capsule, you're brewing straight into the cup of your choice without fiddling with carafe lids or warming plates. 

2. Speed
Most single-serve brewers worth their weight in expertly roasted grounds will have a cup of coffee ready in under a minute. The exact serving size and power setting you choose may increase the exact time it takes to fill the cup, but not by much longer than a minute. Anybody who knows how quickly a work break goes by can appreciate that.

3. Quality
The volatile oils that give coffee its flavor profile are so incredibly sensitive to heat and light that they begin to degrade quickly when exposed to either. Even drip-brew machines with warming plates note in their manuals that coffee shouldn't be left to sit for longer than 20-30 minutes. If you're brewing straight into your cup, you'll always have the freshest flavor. 

These brewers aren't without their detractors, however, and many critics make valid points. Check out the next section for what you should consider before you buy one of these machines, then read our answers to frequently asked questions later on. 

What to know before you buy: 

Most enthusiasts would benefit from a single serve brewing device option in their home, especially if they need a convenient and quick brewing cycle.

As this trend has evolved, certain issues have been brought to the attention of the industry -- and brands have answered them in a variety of ways.

We'll discuss some of those common complaints and what to look for when it comes to avoiding these issues, then we'll break down how each model compares and where they may exceed or fall short of these expectations. 

1. Limited options for versatility
The chief criticism of single-serve machines may not seem to make much sense given that it's casting the biggest benefit as a flaw.

That being the brewers make one cup and one cup only of coffee at a time. In circumstances where a few or more people each want a cup of coffee, like on a work break or as an after-dinner holiday treat, the one-cup-at-time pace can prove frustrating.

Add to that the fact that certain models don't handle making several successive cups of coffee at once and could begin to splutter or overheat. If you anticipate the need to make more than a cup at a time, or several cups in a row, will arise frequently in your circumstances, you may need to look for a single serve machine with a range of brewing options.

2. Built-in filtration adds cost
While the addition of a built-in charcoal filtration system is a great idea and we think it saves a good deal of effort and time, it can be an added cost that some people may not welcome.

Some brands may use proprietary filters which lock consumers into only purchasing that brand's item at the price they've established, leaving the consumer without the option to find a cheaper filter.

Filter inserts typically aren't that expensive in either case, but it does become one more component to keep track of and change out when necessary. The average coffee-drinker may only need to change it out every few months, but heavier use will need more frequent changes.

Many brands include a few filters with new machine purchases, though. to help them get started.

3. Water temperature may be inconsistent
A common complaint about some of the earlier models of single-serve brewers had to do with whether or not the water was actually hot enough to properly extract a cup of coffee. Proper extraction occurs between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (90-96 degrees Celsius). 

The closer the water gets to the hotter side of the range, the better, but manufacturers may keep their internal thermometers calibrated for the lower side as a safety precaution.

Others allow the consumer to set the optimal temperature for their brewer, so if you want more control, consider machines with settings like these.

4. Brew strength options make a difference
Some critics dislike a one-size-fits-all approach to coffee-making and we hear them loud and clear. Several brands now include an option to make a bolder cup of coffee for anyone who may have found themselves disappointed by the regular power setting.

Single serve machines don't allow for many variations when it comes to the amount of coffee you use in each brew. For consumers who equate using more grounds per cup with a bolder flavor, this seems like a setback, but that's not always the case.

We talk more about how a brew power selection works in our frequently asked questions section down below.

5. Hit or miss programmable features
Due to the straightforward simplicity that drives the design behind many single-serve machines, there are quite a few that don't include the usual programmable settings that became popular for conventional drip-brew makers.

Given how quickly they brew and how easy they are to use, many brands may have thought this an unnecessary and costly addition.

Still, many consumers prefer to wake up to the smell of their coffee brewing. We've included a few models with programmable features in our review, so if that's the kind of feature that makes or breaks a deal for you, we've got you covered.

Take a look at our comparison chart to see which models offer it and then read through our list of pros and cons for each, next.

Our Top Choice: Keurig K55 K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker

Keurig set the standard for the modern-day single-serve brewing device. The K55, also known as the K-Classic, is one of its bestselling models and that's because it offers just enough without going overboard.

With three brew variations and a 48-ounce water tank, it's built to satisfy the most common one-cup preferences of the average coffee-drinker. 

keurig best single serve coffee maker

Consumers who love this coffee maker note it's quieter than the brand's first offerings to the market, which means you're getting a fast brew cycle without an excessive amount of gurgling and sputtering. 

Also, because this model is part of the Keurig Classic series, it's compatible not only with the K-Cup pre-packaged and refillable pods, it can also handle off-brand pods of the same size and shape.

While this model doesn't have all the bells and whistles some single serve machines offer, we think it hits all the marks for a reliable brewer with consistent results at an affordable price.

Down below, we share our thoughts about how others that cost less or offer more compare and perform.

Single Serve Coffee Makers: How They Compare 

best single serve coffee maker
Keurig K55 
Brew Sizes: 6-10 ounces 
K-Cup Compatible: Yes 
Preset Timer: No 
49981A coffee maker
Hamilton Beach 49981A 
Brew Size: 8 and 14 ounces 
K-Cup Compatible: No 
Preset Timer: No
nespresso pixie coffee maker
Nespresso Pixie
Brew Size: 1.35 and 3.72 ounces 
K-Cup Compatible: No 
Preset Timer: No 
SS-10 coffee maker
Cuisinart SS-10 
Brew Sizes: 4-12 ounces 
K-Cup Compatible: Yes 
Preset Timer: Yes 
BUNN MCU Single Cup coffee maker
Brew Size: 4-14 ounces 
K-Cup Compatible: Yes 
Preset Timer: No 
Ninja coffee maker
Ninja CF110 
Brew Sizes: 4-18 ounces
K-Cup Compatible: No 
Preset Timer: No
top keurig single cup coffee maker
Keurig K575 
Brew Sizes: 4-30 ounces
K-Cup Compatible: K-Cup 2.0 
Preset Timer: Yes 

Single Serve Coffee Makers: How They Perform 

Take a look through our favorite single-serve coffee makers to see what we think about what works, and what doesn't, for each model.

Budget Pick: Hamilton Beach 49981A 

As one of the most affordable options on our list, we like this Hamilton Beach brewing device for its simplicity and size.

The slim build is an easy fit for small kitchens and it's easy to use your favorite brand of ground coffee or grind it fresh for each brew.

The chrome finish offers a thoroughly modern look that matches with a variety of decor themes.