Single Cup Coffee Makers

Single serve coffee makers have become a go-to convenience for people who like their coffee without having to think about it. Plus the selection and quality of beverages available in this format continues to grow. And if your favorite coffee isn’t available in a single-serve capsule, some machines offer an option to fill your own. Read on for tips and recommendations that will help you get the most out of your own single cup machine.

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Highly Rated Models for 2019

Model
Compatible With
Keurig K-EliteAll Keurig branded K-Cup pods
Hamilton Beach 49981A Single Serve Ground Coffee

Single Serve Basics

The single cup coffee maker is a phenomenon that started with the Keurig K-Cup in 1998. The goal of this first system was to solve the problem of office coffee sitting around and getting stale throughout the day. Being able to brew one fresh cup on demand would put an end to wasted and poor-tasting coffee. Since then the single serve market has exploded into homes, offices, and public places with different brands, machines and beverage choices.

The concept is built around a capsule that is a sealed container of coffee grounds. You simply add water to the reservoir, position the capsule, and start the brew cycle. The machine heats the water to the pre-programmed temperature, pushes the pre-programmed amount of water through the capsule, and the finished drink empties into your cup.

It’s all about convenience with a foolproof, pushbutton system for consistent results every time. And the beverage options continue to increase in both quantity and quality … coffees, espresso, hot chocolate and tea.

Capsules and Pods

  • Capsules are designed with different structures that will only work with compatible machines. Examples include K-Cups, RealCups, Tassimo T-Discs and Nespresso Capsules.
  • Soft coffee pods are round and similar to a tea bag, and used in drip brew machines.
  • Hard pods, or E.S.E. pods (Easy Serving Espresso), are used in pressure-brew espresso machines.

Note that often the term ‘pod’ is used when really referring to a capsule.

Compatibility

Most machines work with one type of capsule, but now we are seeing some models that accept multiple formats. Coffee manufacturers may offer their product in more than one format. And machine manufacturers may create their own branded line of coffee capsules.

Pros and Cons

There are great advantages with single-serve coffee and many people wouldn’t think about making coffee any other way.  At the same time, there are some downsides that many people consider deal-breakers.  Let’s look at both the strengths and weaknesses here. 

  • Fast
  • Consistent flavor every time
  • Fully automatic
  • No mess
  • Hundreds of coffee/drink choices
  • Easy to store pods
  • More expensive per cup
  • No control over brewing
  • Risk of standing water in machine if not cleaned regularly
  • Concern about health effects from pod materials
  • Creates waste in the form of used pods

Tips for Best Results

  • Start with the best quality water possible. If you don’t have filtered water, consider a
    built-in filter or something like a Brita water pitcher or ZeroWater pitcher.
  • Pre-warm your cup before brewing.
  • In order to avoid any risks posed by water continuously sitting in the reservoir, clean the inside of the machine regularly.

Buyer's Checklist

  • Cost Per Cup
    There is a price for the convenience these coffee makers provide. The cost per cup when using prepackaged coffee servings is much higher than buying and brewing the coffee directly.
  • Compatible Capsules
    There are slight differences in pod/cup/capsule shape between machine manufacturers, as well as between coffee manufacturers. But cross-compatibility does exist and there are a large number of options to choose from.
  • Reusable Filters
    You’ll probably want a reusable capsule at some point, whether to reduce waste or to use your own coffee, so check if one is available.
  • Recyclable Capsules
    Note the recycling ability of the capsules you’re using or purchasing. Also, check for compatible capsules from other manufacturers or coffee companies that can be recycled.

Reviews

Keurig K-Elite Single Serve Coffee Maker

More Customization + Stronger Flavor

The K-Elite is a significant step forward in the evolution of Keurig’s coffeemaker offerings. It ups the game in two areas: customization and flavor. In the company’s own words, this machine provides “the most beverage customization in any Keurig single cup coffee maker model.”

The same simplicity of use that Keurig fans love is still there, but now you can choose from more cup sizes, a stronger brew, and adjustable temperature. In addition, you’ll also enjoy some welcome automatic features and brand new conveniences.

If you’re looking for a Keurig, this is definitely worth your consideration.

Pros

  • Fast! 1-2 minutes brew time.
  • New! Updated Design. Keurig listened to customers and created a new, sleeker look.
  • New! More Flavor. The Strong Brew feature increases brewing time for a bolder cup.
  • New! Temperature Control. Adjust heat from 187 to 192 in increments (per manufacturer)
  • New! Automatic Features. Programmable auto-on and auto-off. Have hot coffee waiting for you when you wake up.
  • New! Iced Coffee Feature. Allows you to brew directly over ice.
  • New! 5 Serving Size Options from 4 to 12 ounces.
  • Large, Removable Reservoir. The 75 oz. water reservoir allows you to brew up to 18 cups without refilling.
  • Removable Drip Tray accommodates many travel mugs and holds a full accidental brew for easy cleanup.
  • Compatible with all Keurig branded K-Cup pods.
  • Universal My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter lets you use any coffee you like.
  • Hot Water on Demand for tea, soup, and more.
  • High-Altitude Brew Setting compensates for altitudes higher than 10,000 feet.
  • Water Filter for high water quality.
  • 1 Year Manufacturer's Warranty protects you from defects in materials or workmanship under normal home use.

Cons

  • Because the Hot Water on Demand dispenses from the same nozzle as your coffee, you may need to run a cycle to rinse out the taste.
  • Some users report that the water in their machine does not reach the temperature stated by the manufacturer.
  • The controls are on the top of the machine, so if it is stored under a cabinet or shelf, it may need to be pulled out to operate.

Hamilton Beach Single Serve Scoop Coffee Maker

Use Any Ground Coffee You Like

Brew a hot, fast single cup with any loose coffee you want. No pods or capsules are involved, and the possibilities are almost endless. Use anything from off-the-shelf ground coffee to brand name flavored coffee to exotic beans that you grind yourself. And you can adjust the strength with regular and bold settings.

Good Housekeeping VIP (Very Innovative Products) Award Winner

Just scoop the coffee using the mesh scoop filter, place the filter in the machine and start the brew. You’ll have an 8 oz. cup in less than 90 seconds or a larger 14 oz. travel mug serving in less than 2.5 minutes.

Pros

+ Accepts any ground coffee
+ Choose from two cup sizes
+ No waste from pods or capsules
+ Costs less per cup than pods or capsules
+ Select regular or bold strength
+ One touch start
+ Auto shutoff
+ No need for paper filters

Cons

Slightly slower brewing time than more expensive models
Water tank is not removable