After reading this comprehensive guide on the five best single serve coffee makers of the year, you should feel more confident going online or in-store to select the system that best fits your needs without breaking the piggy bank.
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Single is hardly a word we like to utter around our morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee here at the CoffeeGrindGuru.com. Not only should a nice fresh French Pressed coffee be imbibed all in one ‘go’, but it should also be shared with friends. That’s what coffee is all about, right?
Everyone who follows coffee culture (which probably includes you, dear reader, since you are reading this post, right?) will remember the hullabaloo a few years ago about how Keurig was going to revolutionize the coffee maker by replacing your Mr. Coffee with its earth-shattering, single serve machine.
Whether the company, now owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (right, we know, but we will flesh this out anon) achieved this aim or not is debatable.
But based on the sheer volume of copycat systems out there as well as the number of homes, workspaces, and kiosks that boast one of these nifty little gadgets, it is certainly worth having the conversion of how influential this coffee maker will be in the future and whether you might want to make the (long-term) investment in just such a system.
So, what are they all about? Are single serve coffee makers worth it? Are they easy to use? What happens if they break? Are they eco-friendly or not? What’s the next phase in their evolution?
To answer each of those questions (and more), read on for our list of the top five single serve coffee makers worth your due diligence, if not hard-earned dollar.
How we scored them
As always, we approach each and every product review with a bit of skepticism as we only want to deliver you the facts and the information relevant to you and yours without all the hype or what could be misconstrued as a gimmicky ‘push’.
That said, we will review a bounty of single serve coffee makers based on the following factors:
Now, onto the single serve coffee maker reviews!
The Keurig K-Select (The Classic)
As previously mentioned, the Keurig K2000 was the first in a long line of single serve coffee makers and the prototype that ultimately led to the Keurig K-Select which are widely considered to be the best single serve coffee maker you can buy.
As one of the first mass-produced single serve coffee makers it is free of ‘bugs’ or kinks in functionality and, perhaps, for this very reason, is one of the top rated single cup coffee makers you can buy today.
The item is still very much in high-demand both online and in stores given its easy-to-understand lighting system (i.e., add water, descale, heating, auto off, power, and size selector…that’s it!) and operating instructions.
Basic, big, and bulky might be the one overarching distinguisher between this model and the next in a series of Keurig classics. Weighing in at over 12 pounds and without a touchscreen console, temperature control setting, and strength control setting, what you see is, quite literally, what you get.
In terms of cost, and despite its being a ‘middle-end’ model, a brand new K-Select costs around $130 and that’s not accounting for all the consumable k-cups or bags of coffee should you, earth-friendly reader, opt for the reusable k-cup basket.
As regards this latter bit of information, get ready to clean the unit more regularly and thoroughly as bits of bean often escape the capsule, clog the piercing mechanism, and could send you running to the hills in exasperation when you can’t quite figure out why the hot water won’t dispense or your cup o’ joe has grinds in it.
F3 (or, form, fit, and function):
With functionality at the fore, it should come as no surprise that this might be the best k-cup coffee maker. And what more could you want given the founders of the machine built it with disposable pods in mind? Well, we’ll get into the ‘disposable bit’ in a second.
Conversely, it should come as no surprise that it might not always fit (neatly) into a home or office nook. When open, the model stands at nearly 18-inches in height and a stout 11-inches wide. That means refilling the 48-ounce tank could be a bit problematic depending on the location of this single serve coffee maker in the home, within a kiosk, or on the desktop.
Again, the size of the unit can be a bit much and with electric cords and cables all factored in to set-up, it can take up even more counter-space than originally designated. Still, and for the office or kiosk, this unit could be a good fit as it is a force to be reckoned with and, so, would be unlikely to ’sprout legs and walk away’ (i.e., get nicked).
This unit works best with disposable k-cups and is by far the best k cup coffee makers on the market. This could, of course, come with some consternation if, after a long workday, you look down in the rubbish bin and see the equivalent of a small mountain waiting to just be chucked in the landfill. This could be especially disheartening for the gardener used to putting used grounds in the compost as they’re not protectively sealed in plastic and consigned to their fate: the garbage heap.
Nespresso Pixie (The Upgrade)
Right, so, you know your coffee. You haven’t owned a Mr. Coffee since, uh, never!
What’s more, you grind your own beans and you care about sustainability.
But don’t be too quick to write off the single serve coffee maker, or espresso maker, as it were, especially when it comes to the Nespresso Pixie Coffee Machine.
This magical one cup k cup coffee maker, which might invoke thoughts of Tinker Bell and the like, should not be underestimated. It may be small, but it is mighty.
The Pixie pulls shots in two cup sizes that, not-so ironically, align with the appropriate size of a double or single shot of espresso, which it generates at 19-bars of pressure (again, this is in excess of a real espresso machine, which means a faster shot and less time spent waiting for your cup o’ joe).
What’s more, it only takes seconds to heat up (unlike the Keurig, which can take minutes) and it pairs nicely with a hot water maker for MTO Americanos or a French Press that doubles as a milk frother for the DIY latte artist in the office or at home.
Out of the 13 models that Nespresso offers, this is the most economic and the second lowest in overall cost.
The product comes in at an astounding $180 and what’s really shocking is that the capsules are 30 cents cheaper than their k-cup cousins!
F3 (or, form, fit, and function):
The Pixie, though small, is still a bit clunky as it is built for functionality with a few bells and whistles slapped on (in our humble opinion) for good measure.
Take for instance, the capsule-catching bin that could fit four dozen used capsules, but we are not sure why you would not simply recycle them after each ‘go’.
Still, the aluminum panels and compact size is a big upgrade from the Keurig.
Yes, you could go even more economically and environmentally friendly by using gravity (which is to say, your Aeropress), but why fuss with the mess when you can simply plug this little bugger in at the office, kiosk, or hotel room and follow on with instructional videos (free of charge!) on the Nespresso website.
That is, assuming, you need additional assistance since this machine has blinking indicators as to what to press next in order to get the ideal shot of espresso.
Again, this is the best single serve coffee maker with no pods. This could be a huge selling point for the individual who is worried about waste and non-biodegradable plastic k-cups.
Nespresso is able to achieve their sustainability goals (which also include considerate sourcing from developing nations (and who doesn’t love that!?)) through their intellectual property rights around the design and manufacture of their proprietary aluminum capsules, which are recyclable!
Ok, so, shameless plug: this is my (former barista) machine of choice! But don’t let that sway you, continue reading for more hands-off single serve coffee makers!
Cuisinart SS-10 (The Machine)
Regardless of whether or not you buy into the single serve coffee maker revolution or not, you have to hand it to Cuisinart.
This company has seen its fair share of hype and hoopla over food-focused gadgetry since Julia Child made the brand, founded in the 1970s, synonymous with quality kitchenware.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Cuisinart’s SS-10 single serve coffee maker is not only top of the line, but, quite possibly, the best single serve coffee maker on our list. Here’s why:
As with all things Cuisinart, the consumer gets more than just a great piece of equipment.
With this particular model, the coffee connoisseur will get the standard warranty (three years!), fantastic user manuals, an easy-to-read backlit LCD screen, the quietest single serve coffee maker on the market, the best single serve programmable coffee maker, the largest water tank for a single serve coffee maker out there (80 ounces!), and an on-demand hot water tap that users can have at the ready for soup, tea, hot chocolate, oatmeal, and more.
Given the number of bells and whistles that come with the SS-700, again, it should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that this is the most expensive model out there at around $200.
The unit more than pays for itself, however, in versatility and reliability.
Additionally, it does use k-cups, but those can be easily swapped out with the SS-RFC-1, or the HomeBarista Resuable Filter Cup (included).
While great for the environment, this is also great news in terms of compatibility and limiting the likelihood of leaks when trying to marry up a non-Cuisinart k-shaped basket.
F3 (or, form, fit, and function):
Julia Child would be proud with the design, form, fit, and functionality of the SS-10. There is very little that the machine does not do and given how easy it is to program, it can be a totally hands-off fixture for any household.
Cuisinart even though to add a rinse control setting for the brew chamber in order to keep the machine running optimally as well as to ensure a great tasting cup o’ joe any time of day (or night).
The SS-10 is the best single serve programmable coffee maker and the massive water tank means fewer refills, which translates to less manipulation of the machine, fewer ‘breakdowns’ and more longevity.
But who cares?!
Even if there is an issue you are more than likely still covered by the 3-year warranty and all the online guides and videos can even allow you to troubleshoot issues before they, er, become real issues!
The ‘matching’ reusable filter basket is a must use for the economically- and environmentally-conscious.
As stated, this means fewer leaks, less cleaning up around the unit, and fewer issues with the drip tray and guards as there will be a far smaller risk of coffee grinds migrating into the reservoir or into the brewing system.
Primula Single Serve Brew Buddy (The Bargain)
So, just like the team here at CoffeeGrindGuru.com try not to associate the word ‘single’ with the word ‘coffee’ nor do we like to state ‘cheap’ around either of those terms.
But when it all comes down to it, isn’t the whole idea of the homebrew to keep things, er, cheap?
So, in that spirit, we bring to you, o’ money-minded coffee consumer, quite possibly, the cheapest single serve coffee maker out there, or the Primula Single Serve Coffee Brew Buddy.
Right, so like we said, the key feature for this MTO mug o’ joe is its price point. Not only does it come in at well under $10, but it is also able to be used for tea, soup, oatmeal, and the like.
It’s great for the office worker who might not have free access to the canteen as well as the camper just looking to get some sips of the good stuff between huts and hikes.
Additionally, it’s easy to pack in luggage whether that’s for corporate travel or more campsite fun.
The finely woven mesh basket means that not only can you save on the cost of k-cups (which, again, run around 60 cents per cup o’joe or tea or hot cocoa), but you can still serve up a single-origin or a nice blended varietal whenever the mood strikes you.
This means you can still make good use of your burr coffee grinder and serve up a MTO coffee after purchasing your favorite ethically sourced beans from the local grocery or directly from the smallhold farmer.
This ‘cheap’ single serve coffee maker is really a bare-bones, eight-ounce version of the Chemex, Hario, Kalita, or Clever pourover.
And, so, just like the Chemex, it does not necessarily travel well full.
Yes, it is packable, but if you need to sip on the go, the functionality of this coffee buddy leaves one short of a lid.
All of this is to say that the Brew Buddy is not multi-functional and its fit and form are very, very limited to a certain kind of user (stationary!).
One might assume that this cheap single serve coffee maker is pretty turnkey, but given that it is not electric (unless we consider you ‘the machine’, dear reader) and will require some pre-morning prep if you need to hurry out the door the next morning.
That said, it is certainly feasible to grind your coffee the night before and ensure you have a kettle full of water ready to boil the next day.
But pushing a button? Right, you will have to look beyond the Primula.
This cost-conscious pourover single serve coffee maker is certainly friendly on the wallet and the forest, ocean, and land, but the same could not be said for your time.
As with all things, there is a trade-off when it comes to the cheap single serve coffee maker and it comes in the form of sourcing and purchasing beans, grinding your favorite roast, heating enough water to get your caffeine-fix, and taking the time to savor your cup before heading out the door.
Mother Nature will appreciate your gesture; we’re just not sure about your boss.
Dolce Gusto Esperto 2 (The Entertainer)
Should you find yourself with lots of guests or, perhaps (and worse!), hosting several conferences a year at your corporate headquarters or in the office, then you may need more than a single serve coffee maker in order to keep your customers caffeinated.
Now, the team at CoffeeGrindGuru.com previously reviewed a nice combo-option in the form of the Cuisinart SS-15 Coffee Center should you find yourself in this situation more than a few times per week.
But let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that you really need to dazzle and impress some clients just coming off a red-eye.
Then we would recommend you look no further than the Dolce Gusto Esperta 2 pod coffee machine which is one of the best compact single serve coffee makers to buy in 2020.
Right, that’s a mouthful (not mouthfeel!), but with the DeLonghi name you get their manufacturer’s two-year guarantee.
Another key feature is the machine’s ability to pull shots at 15-bars of pressure. This is on the lower end of ‘commercial-grade’, but still within spec when you want to make an espresso-based drink.
On that note, the versatility of this R2D2-looking ‘bot’ is incredible: the Esperta 2 can make over 40 different varieties of hot or cold beverage in a number of different sizes, strengths, and styles.
This single serve coffee-slash-cappuccino-slash-latte-slash-you-name-it machine is on the higher side of the Nescafe range of products, but still very affordable.
Where the brand gets you, however, is the number of pods (and they are plastic) that you need in order to make all 40 shades of coffee.
Want to make a latte? That requires two pods (i.e., the milk capsule and the espresso capsule). Want to make macchiato or mocha? Those also require two pods each, but they need to be the special chocolate ones.
You get the idea.
So, while a true espresso-only single serve coffee maker cup will run you about 60 cents per cup and k-cups average 93 cents, any of the milk-based creative cups from the Esperta 2 are well over one dollar a piece.
Now, we’re not telling you to hightail it back to your local Fivebucks, but do please consider that this machine may require deeper pockets to consistently run than most.
F3 (or, form, fit, and function)
We really were not joking earlier when we referred to the Esperta 2 as R2D2.
Its design is, well, not for everyone and it has very few buttons and blips and beeps in which to communicate with you, dear coffee aficionado.
Still, it’s all about functionality, which this little robot, er, single serve coffee machine has in spades.
The best part? It’s small and compact just like the Star Wars character weighing in at just five pounds with a light volume capacity of 3.3 cups.
While the Esperta 2 is, er, minimal in stature, that does not mean it isn’t always high maintenance.
If you're looking for one of the best small k cup coffee makers you can buy, this is certainly a model you should consider.
Many reviews highlight the fact that drinks often splash out or away from the drip tray given the device’s demure status and so necessitates quite a bit of cleanup.
And while this single serve coffee maker does come with some great videos, it might be one of those gadgets that is only used on occasion or when you are feeling especially creative.
We bet you already know we are going to say about the (not-so) environmentally-friendly aspect of this machine.
With most drinks requiring not one, but two plastic capsules, the waste heap piles up twice as fast as most single serve brewers.
This might not be a terrible thing if, in fact, you only need to pull out the little ‘bot’ for special occasions or clients, but just be warned that it is not the best when it comes to your wallet or the long-term sustainability of earth’s many ecosystems.
Though we here at CoffeeGrindGuru.com may not be personally sold on every aspect of the single serve machine, there are certainly pros and cons when considering each brewer.
That said, we would encourage the home, workspace, or kiosk looking to invest in one of these bad boys to think, first, about the entire system and whether it is ultimately worth it financially and environmentally.
Finally, and in closing, the cost of (and headache incurred whilst) repairing and maintaining such a machine might be worth a look since, more often times than not, they don’t hold up against strenuous wear-and-tear…
or maybe that’s just on account of our overusing the poor thing morning, noon, and night!
Still food, or drink, for thought! And until next time, keep calm and (single serve) coffee on!