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Finding the ideal coffee maker can be a challenging endeavor. Coffee machines range in style (drip, French press, espresso), size, and cost. And then there are these, the single-serve machines. These make it easy for you to have a single cup without brewing a whole pot.
Grabbing a cup of coffee throughout the day is normal for many people, and, as a result, the coffee machine that’s right for you is the one that provides high-quality coffee while still managing to be easy to use. If you’d rather have coffee ready as you roll out of bed, you’ll want to make sure it has an internal timer. Also, if you intend to leave your coffee machine on the kitchen counter for accessibility, it’s worth considering some aesthetic elements, too. Functional and stylish, the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is our number one recommendation.
"Knowing how you like your coffee can help narrow down your decision," says Tom Saxon, a former barista and the co-founder of Batch Coffee. "If you like milky espresso-based coffees, then a coffee maker that’s compatible with pods is your answer. If you like black coffee, then consider opting for a coffee maker that can brew coffee grounds."
Our list of top machines offers something for every type of discerning coffee drinker. These are the best single-serve coffee makers to consider.
Best Overall: Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12 x 8.8 x 15 inches | Weight: 9.2 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 50 ounces
A single-serve machine that can operate both as a quick, one-person fix and as a high-end specialty unit, this Ninja coffee machine really does it all. A dial control allows you to choose your cup size from the six available, and a travel mug will easily fit underneath the coffee dispenser. There's also a folding arm to handle smaller cups. No matter what the size, you'll have brew options of classic coffee, super-rich, iced coffee, or specialty.
This is not a pod machine, so you can add whatever particular brand of coffee you happen to prefer. The included scoop will correctly measure out your coffee depending on brew size. The machine’s thermal extraction also guarantees that your coffee will be as delicious as it should be. A fold-away milk frother helps make lattes, cappuccinos, and more.
Best Budget: Hamilton Beach 49980 2-Way Coffee Maker with 12 Cup Carafe & Pod Brewing
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11 x 12.2 x 13.9 inches | Weight: 7.1 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 60 ounces
This affordable drip coffee maker produces reliably good coffee with an added bonus: a dual capacity brewing function that allows for both single-servings and coffee for a crowd. The machine makes a 12-cup carafe, in addition to its single-serving options, though it can only brew one side at a time.
You can program this machine so that it’s set to make a cup when you wake up in the morning (automatic shut-off turns it off after two hours). It's also compatible with soft pods if you'd rather someone else did all the measuring. A brew strength selector offers options when it comes to personal preference.
Keep in mind that the travel mug side can handle mugs up to 6.5 inches in height, and one isn't included. All in all, it’s a workhorse machine that’s perfect for households with flexible needs.
Best Coffee & Espresso Maker: Nespresso by Breville VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.9 x 8.3 x 11.9 inches | Weight: 11 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 40 ounces
This one-touch espresso machine can brew up to five different styles and sizes of coffee, from the 1.3-ounce espresso to a 14-ounce alto. It can also be used to produce superlative iced coffee. The patented extraction method—Centrifusion—spins the capsule up to 7,000 rotations per minute, producing a truly excellent coffee or espresso.
Capsules are automatically ejected after use, and the machine brews in about 15 to 20 seconds, a fast, efficient, and streamlined process that delivers coffee right when you need it. And the cup support is adjustable, meaning you can fit that travel mug in there, should you wish to take your coffee to go.
Related: The Best Nespresso Machines
Best Luxury: Cuisinart SS-10 Premium Single-Serve Coffeemaker in Matte Black
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11 x 9.3 x 12.1 inches | Weight: 9.4 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 72 ounces
The Cuisinart Premium Single Serve Coffee Maker is a star in its class, with five cup settings that range from four to 12 ounces. This fast-brewing machine is compatible with K-Cups for pod coffee, but you can also insert the filter cup and brew your own favorite version.
A hot water button produces steamy water fast, which you can use for tea, hot chocolate, and instant soup. The rinse feature keeps the unit clean between cups, and the water reservoir with a filter can also be removed for separate cleaning. A larger unit than most, this is most appropriate for households with accommodating counter space.
Best for Ground Coffee: Hamilton Beach The Scoop Single-Serve Coffee Maker
Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.4 x 6.7 x 13.5 inches | Weight: 5.75 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 14 ounces
This easy-to-use unit from Hamilton Beach takes up very little space and packs a big punch for a small machine. It can use both standard coffee cups and travel mugs up to 7.5 inches high. There is a separate setting for strong coffee, for those who prefer it bold. Whatever you're brewing, the most time it'll take is 2.5 minutes. Saxon recommends the Hamilton Beach Scoop Coffee Maker for anyone who appreciates fresh coffee and its delicious flavors.
"This machine works in a similar manner to many other drip brewers but is super easy and quick to use," he says. "Simply use the scoop to measure out your coffee grounds and place them in the brew chamber. The showerhead then pours over the perfect temperature brew water to extract the most delicious coffee. This coffee maker straddles many needs when it comes to coffee drinkers: it’s perfect for those that need coffee quickly in the morning but also doesn’t compromise on taste. It is also great for the one cuppers and leaves little waste for cleaning up."
There’s no paper filter required for this machine since it comes equipped with a permanent metal mesh version. If you do prefer a paper filter, however, there are some small versions that will work with this model. This machine’s size makes it a great fit for homes with compact kitchens.
Best for Iced Coffee: Keurig K-Elite Single Serve Coffee Maker
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.7 x 9.9 x 13.1 inches | Weight: 8 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 75 ounces
This all-around useful coffee maker is a particularly good bed for iced coffee drinkers. The Keurig K-Elite can brew from four to 12 ounces of coffee at a time, with a strong brew setting that can please even the boldest of coffee drinkers. If you want to brew from your own grounds, you can create your own K-cup with its reusable coffee filter. And the brew is fast, too, clocking in at under a minute.
The iced brew setting produces this chilly option with the press of a button (just add ice). A large reservoir means that you can sip your single-serve over and over again without refilling. There’s also a hot water setting for teas, instant soups, hot chocolate, and even oatmeal.
Related: The Best Cold-Brew Coffee Makers
Best Pod: Keurig K-Café Single Serve Coffee, Latte & Cappuccino Maker
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.7 x 15.3 x 12.5 inches | Weight: 10 pounds | Reservoir Capacity: 60 ounces
This affordable pod coffee maker offers tons of flexible options. In addition to regular coffee, it brews espresso, so you can make your cappuccinos and lattes just the way you like them. A frother cup that comes with the machine turns milk into a foam with zero labor involved (it’s hands-free). The frother is also dishwasher-safe, so that’s one fewer thing to clean by hand.
The machine offers four cup sizes, from four to 12 ounces, and contains a 60-ounce water reservoir for multiple brews. An automatic shutoff turns the coffee machine off after two hours to save energy. Because of the pods, it’s a no-fuss, no-muss solution to single-serve coffee.
Related: The Best Drip Coffee Makers
The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker (view at Amazon) does everything you need it to do—and plenty more, including specialty drinks. If you want to take the plunge with a pod machine, the Nespresso by Breville VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker (view at Amazon) is a great starting point.
What to Look for in a Single-Serve Coffee Maker
Pods vs. Grounds
There are three main ways to brew coffee: using single-serve pods, pre-ground coffee, or grinding your own coffee beans. The former is the fastest, but the latter is the freshest. Coffee grounds you can purchase at the supermarket offer a happy medium in terms of speed and flavor.
"When selecting your single-serve coffee maker, you’ll be faced with a host of different price ranges, functionalities, and sizes. The first thing you need to ask yourself is how you want to brew coffee," says Saxon. "Do you prefer coffee grounds, coffee beans, or pods? There is no right answer here and it all depends on how you consume coffee."
Choosing between pods and grounds usually comes down to preference, but convenience, time, and money are also factors. "Brewing freshly ground coffee takes a few extra minutes to get the freshest taste, but push-of-a-button brews can’t be beaten in terms of ease," Saxon explains.
In terms of price, pods come at a premium. You pay more for the extra packaging and convenience. For the best value, go for grounds. While you may see a plethora of exciting pod flavors at the grocery store, pods actually limit the type of coffee you can make. There are more types of coffee grounds to choose from if you like to mix it up.
The most important feature of a single-serve coffee maker is producing the best cup of coffee, but the features may not stop there. Some features like rinsing between uses and automatic shutoff can make your morning coffee experience much smoother. Other features to look for include adjustable temperature control, pre-programmed settings, and LCD display.
Coffee isn’t the only drink you can make with some single-serve coffee makers. If your machine uses pods, you can purchase pods for hot chocolate, apple cider, tea, and more. You can also make iced coffee, iced tea, and cold lemonade by brewing over a glass of ice. Some machines can even make espresso.
Having an array of brew sizes is also a consideration for versatility. Many machines have preset cup sizes so you can brew the perfect amount of coffee each time.
How do you clean a single-serve coffee maker?
Some single-serve coffee makers have a rinse feature to help with cleaning, but you should descale your coffee machine every few months. Fill the water chamber with equal parts water and vinegar and brew until the vinegar taste no longer lingers. Since vinegar has natural antimicrobial properties, it’s a simple way to clean your single-serve coffee maker.
Can you use a single-serve coffee machine to just make hot water?
If your single-serve coffee machine has a hot water button, you can use it to make just hot water. You can use this to make tea, oatmeal, and instant ramen. Machines that use pods can make hot water by brewing without a pod in place.
Can you use single-serve coffee makers in dorm rooms?
Coffee machines are permitted in most dorms if they don’t use a warming plate to heat up. Single-serve coffee makers are perfect for dorm rooms since they tend to have a smaller footprint, and individuals who live alone or with a roommate may not need a full pot of coffee.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Hannah Selinger has written about food and drinks for local and national publications since 2015. A former sommelier, Hannah has worked for some of New York’s top restaurant groups, including Laurent Tourondel’s BLT group and David Chang’s Momofuku group. Her work has appeared in Eater, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, and more. Hannah lives with a coffee-obsessive, whose unparalleled taste informs her high level of coffee-based knowledge.
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