There is nothing better than the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. Conversely, there is nothing worse than the smell of burned or stale coffee in the evening. When you are up and out the door in the morning, it is easy to forget to turn the coffee pot off. Then you come back to the ungodly reek of seared coffee that has now scorched itself onto your pot. In order to avoid this unnecessary tragedy, you should consider a single-cup coffee maker. They are faster and simpler than standard coffee brewers and won’t make your house smell like a caffeine cesspool. Here, we’ve compiled the best you can find.
Best Single-Serve Brewers
Nespresso Vertuo Plus
Keurig K-Mini Single Serve
Best for Espresso
Best Filter Machine
Technivorm Moccamaster Cup-One
Most Versatile Filter Machine
Ninja CM-401 Specialty 10-Cup Coffee Maker
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Types of Single-Serve Machines
Capsule Machines: Capsule machines use pods with coffee inside of them to brew. More expensive than grounds or beans, capsules do offer speed and convenience over non-capsule machines (aka filter machines). Capsule pod types can range from K-cups, which were originally made by Keurig but now can be found from hundreds of different brands and are a bit more versatile (even including some hot chocolate or tea options); to Nespresso pods, which are either the Original or the Vertuo pods (more on Vertuo later); to any number of proprietary pods from other coffee systems, which means, if you own that machine, you have to purchase the pods through the company (who own a patent on the tech).
Filter Machines: Unlike pod machines, filter machines require a bit of extra “work” for good coffee. The main step you’ll want to take is grinding your beans prior to putting your grounds in the coffee maker, although it’s not a requirement. You’ll also need to figure out how much of the coffee you’ll want per cup. Filter machines, or drip machines for our purposes, may or may not have a blooming feature, although you’ll be plenty satisfied with the options we’ve provided for you down below.
What to Look For
Taste: Obviously, the flavor of the coffee is the most important factor once you’ve graduated from a Mr. Coffee. The taste of the coffee will really come down to personal preference, and can often have to do with how you make it (with non-pod machines). As for the pod-based machines, you can look for the number of options available for that specific unit.
Versatility: If you only want to drink espresso for the rest of your life, then go right ahead (and we honestly can’t blame you), but if you like switching things up, make sure that your machine can as well. Some are better with espresso, while others ditto for larger cups.
Pods: Pod machines can be the gift that keeps on giving, dragooning you into buying more pods each month, which pound-for-pound are more expensive than beans or grounds. So it’s important to calculate how much the pods are going to cost you when factoring in the price of the machine. Also, certain units, like the ones from Nespresso’s Vertuo line, use proprietary pods that you can’t get anywhere else.
Speed: Don’t confuse speed with efficiency. Often times a faster brew can mean rushed flavor, just like certain long-brew coffees can become too bitter. Finding a balance in speed is key. If you can afford to wait, it shouldn’t be an issue — you can even get something else done in the meantime — but there are some units that take an awkward amount of time, forcing you to just sit there and wait idly.
Footprint: Giant espresso machines have been known to take up a bit of space, which is one of the many benefits of this current heyday for pod machines. You want a unit that can perform well without needing a lot of room to do so. That said, there are a couple of picks on this list that are worth the extra space.
Nespresso Vertuo Plus
- Flavors and styles for every type of coffee drinker
- Good price
- Quick coffee-making
- Best tasting pod machine
- Company’s app is really easy to use
- Proprietary pods can get pricey
Best Overall: When it comes to taste, versatility, speed, footprint, and price, the points all converge at Nespresso’s Vertuo Plus, the best in its top-tier Vertuo line, which uses proprietary pods only sold by Nespresso. Unlike other pod machines, which can deliver a range of sizes from a single pod, the Vertuo pods are carefully crafted. In other words, your coffee’s flavor is appointed to its size ahead of time (lesser machines will simply infuse extra water into the pod, creating a weaker flavor). Across those sizes, there are over 40 different blends, ranging in profile, intensity, and flavor. If you’re wondering how it works, there’s a special barcode underneath each pod, which tells the machine how much water to use. The unit then spins the pods at 7,000rpm to mix the grounds before pressing water through it. After a short amount of time (espresso shots only take about 30 seconds) your brew pours out with a layer of crema on top. As a pod machine and even an overall experience, Nespresso’s Vertuo Plus will take you on a coffee adventure every time.
Pod/Filter Types: Nespresso Vertuo pods
Styles: Espresso, coffee, flavored coffee
Keurig K-Mini Single Serve
- Super compact
- Pods are easy to come by
- Pods can be inexpensive
- Several color options
- Not the best tasting coffee
Best Budget-Friendly: Although Nespresso will give you significantly better brews than Keurig, the K-cups for the latter can be made by anyone and purchased anywhere. Likewise, you’ll save a lot on both the machine and the pods themselves. As for the K-Mini, you’ll also save some space. There’s no external tank like with the Nespresso — instead, it’s built into the top of the machine, allowing for the 4.5-inch width of the unit, and holds up to 12oz at a time. While the flavors of your coffee won’t be as refined and complex as some other single-serves, it’s still much better than a drip machine of the same price. There are also several attractive colors available for the K-Mini.
Pod/Filter Types: K-cups
Styles: Coffee, tea, hot chocolate
- Great tasting coffee
- Crema on top of each pour
- Also makes regular coffee
- Proprietary pods are cheaper than Nespresso’s Vertuo
- Small footprint
- Not a great cup stand underneath
- Could be cheaper
Best for Espresso: Much like the K-Mini, the L’OR Barista is quite the compact unit, stretching just 7” wide (albeit 16” deep). Not as well known as its two biggest competitors, L’OR has been around for the better part of three decades. Now, the French company is finally getting noticed Stateside and some prefer the espresso shots over those offered by Nespresso. While not as many flavor/blend options, the L’OR pods are actually a bit cheaper as well, and can be found at third-party stores. As for the drinks themselves, the BARISTA can make both espresso- and coffee-sized beverages, which both taste excellent and come with a helping of crema on top.
Pod/Filter Types: L’OR pods or Nespresso Original pods
Styles: Espresso, coffee
- Makes lliterally any type of coffee
- You can program and brew from your phone
- Uses its tech to adjust brewing to every type of pod
- Biodegradable pods
- Takes up a lot of room
Best Upgrade: For the coffee lovers who want every type of brew — even in the same day — the Bruvi is the new kid on the block, and with a steep price tag. Using its own proprietary pods, the all-in-one machine can give you espresso, Americano, latte, and, yes, regular ol’ black coffee. Even more intriguing, you can get cold brew from the pods as well. Much like the Vertuo, Bruvi scans each of its pods to adjust a variety of parameters inside the machine, such as temperature, pressure, and brew time. After you pop the capsules out, you can throw them in the trash, guilt-free, since they’re designed to be completely compostable. And for added convenience and luxury, you can program and start brewing right from your smartphone.
Pod/Filter Types: Bruvi B-pods
Styles: Espresso, coffee, lattes, and pretty much everything
Technivorm Moccamaster Cup-One
- Perhaps the best-tasting drip coffee you can buy
- Blooms coffee ahead of time
- Fantastic temeprature control and flow rate
- Streams water through grounds to agitate during brewing process
- Looks great on your counter
- No extra features
Best Filter Machine: A drip coffee machine can make you a decent cup of coffee as long as the water is purified, the grounds are fresh, and you don’t leave it on the hot plate. However, the ceiling is still relatively low compared to units that cost ten times more. And its consistency will definitely dip once you start making more than one cup at a time. When it comes to drip coffee machines, few can get the job done like Technivorm’s fan-favorite Moccamaster, single-serve or otherwise. The single-serve Cup-One version doesn’t have any features aside from its “on” switch, the reservoir only holds 10oz, and it’s not the cheapest model on the market, but the legacy brand has built its reputation since releasing the first full-sized models in the ‘60s. What sets the Moccamaster apart are its temperature control and flow rate. It will bloom the grounds for you and also has a stream of water that agitates the grounds throughout the brewing process. What results is one delicious cup of coffee. Oh yeah, and it looks classy on your countertop as well.
Pod/Filter Types: Paper filters
Ninja CM401 Specialty 10-Cup Coffee Maker
- Makes six sizes of coffee
- Makes iced coffee
- Built-in milk frother
- Removable reservoir is easy to clean
- Shower head is difficult to take apart for cleaning
Most Versatile Filter Machine: Just because you want your daily single-serve cup of coffee doesn’t mean you always want just one cup at a time. After all, there is plenty of value to having a sizable coffee pot system. However, most standard drip machines can never find the kind of consistency afforded by Ninja’s CM401 Specialty, capable of making as much as 10 cups if you want to but still being able to perfect a single cup of coffee. As one of the most flexible systems around, the CM401 really lets you dictate the size of the coffee you want, with six options, including a single cup, XL cup, travel mug, half carafe, full carafe, and even a 4-ounce Specialty Brew. There’s a setting for iced coffee as well as a fold-away milk frother. Not to mention, it’s easy to clean with a large removable water reservoir and has a really good price tag.
Pod/Filter Types: Permanent filter
Styles: Coffee is six sizes + iced coffee
The Best Camp Coffee Makers
If you’re looking to brew some coffee on your next adventure in the wild, check out our guide to the best camp coffee makers.