If you only need to whip up enough coffee for yourself or only infrequently feel the need for a jolt of caffeine, then you likely don’t require a massive coffeemaker to use at home. Instead, a compact, lower-capacity model that doesn’t compromise on flavor may prove ideal for your at-home java pursuits. While lower capacity does mean smaller coffee pots, it can also mean using easily storable contraptions like a French press or pour-over coffee makers. These will also allow you to make a great cup of coffee without the need for a large machine.
Buying a smaller coffee machine does come with a few drawbacks. You won't usually find fancier features like specific brewing temperature or espresso add-ons. But what these lack in size, they make up for in simplicity.
With the help of expert input from coffee professionals, I've found the best small coffee makers that provide consistency, ease of use, and streamlined silhouettes for simple storage.
AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker
What We Love: Fast brew time, easy to operate, easy to clean, doesn’t require electricity
What We Don't Love: Can only brew up to 3 cups at a time
Our top pick for a small coffee maker comes in the form of the sleek, speedy, and manually operated AeroPress, an established favorite among baristas and coffee connoisseurs. "I love the AeroPress. It's durable, compact, and makes a fantastic cup of coffee," raves Lyndia McGauhey, a barista and the head of training at Verve Coffee Roasters in California. "I use it at home and at work!"
The AeroPress can brew a perfectly balanced cup of coffee in one minute, and because the AeroPress’s design allows you to press the coffee right into your mug (through an included microfilter), the process involves minimal cleanup. It works with both hot and cold-brew, so you can use this year-round.
The entire "machine" weighs about 6 ounces so it's easy to pack for vacation, camping, or a simple day hike. When it's time to clean up, the whole thing is safe on the top rack of a dishwasher, though it's incredibly easy to hand wash.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 4.75 x 4.5 x 11.75 inches | Capacity: 1-3 cups
Mr. Coffee 5-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
What We Love: Fits into small spaces, programmable, reasonably priced
What We Don't Love: Clock isn't backlit
The Mr. Coffee line may have a fairly retro reputation, but the brand’s 5-cup drip coffee maker is a compact, utilitarian wonder that deserves careful consideration. "The best value compact drip coffee maker is the Mr. Coffee 5-cup programable coffee maker," says coffee expert and co-founder Tom Saxon of the U.K.'s Batch Coffee. Saxon points out that this programmable machine works brilliantly in small spaces.
Even though this is compact and budget-priced, you don't have to miss out on one of the best features to develop in the coffee maker market: a timer. The unit features a clock so you can wake up to fresh coffee every morning. There's also a dishwasher-safe permanent filter and auto-pause for filling up your mug mid-brew. Though the clock isn't backlit, it's hard to find any cons with this wee coffee maker.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 9.6 x 7.1 x 10.7 inches | Capacity: 5 cups | Wattage: 650 watts
Keurig K-Elite Single Serve Coffee Maker
What We Love: Fast brew, makes one cup at a time, can be programmed for different cup sizes
What We Don't Love: Can't brew into tall travel mugs
The Keurig line is rightfully famous for its simple and straightforward pod brewing process, and the K-Elite model earns particularly glowing reviews. This single-serve brewer features a reservoir that can hold enough water for 8 cups before it needs a refill, and it can be programmed to brew both hot coffee and iced coffee.
It’s a favorite of food and coffee blogger Gloria Duggan of Homemade & Yummy. "[I] find this a quick and super-easy way to brew a cup of coffee on demand," she says. "I can brew a cup in a to-go mug and be on my way." Yes, this Keurig can brew right into your travel mug, as long as it's 7.2 inches or shorter, as well as brewing five different cups sizes.
Keep in mind that using only K-Cups might limit your coffee options, and they're not easily recyclable in all areas. To get around that issue, you can buy a few My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filters which can be filled with your own ground coffee and cleaned in the dishwasher.
Dimensions (DxWxH): 13 x 8 x 13 inches | Capacity: 8 cups | Wattage: 1470 watts
Related: The Best Keurigs
Chemex Classic Series Coffeemaker
What We Love: Display-worthy looks, glass is dishwasher-safe, produces coffee with excellent flavor
What We Don't Love: Brewing takes longer than other options
Like the AeroPress, a pour-over coffee maker represents a manual brewing system rather than an electrically powered one. Some may view this as a negative, but coffee writer and expert Asser Christensen of The Coffee Chronicler doesn't. "I'm usually a bit bemused by drip coffee makers that focus on being small since a Chemex, in so many ways, is a better solution while still taking up less counter space than an electric appliance," he says.
For those who've never brewed with a Chemex before, it's a pretty simple concept. A specially designed filter (or a pre-wet #2 filter) is placed in the top cone before being filled with coarsely ground coffee. Then boiling water is poured into the filter multiple times with different amounts as the brewed coffee drips into the bottom carafe. Once done, the coffee is ready to drink, hot or cold.
A Chemex pour-over maker consists of an aesthetically pleasing glass carafe that works in tandem with the top cone to brew coffee with nuanced flavors, low acidity, and a smooth mouthfeel. The polished wood collar design element adds to your luxurious morning cup. When you're done, the glass can be placed in the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 8.5 x 5.1 x 5.1 inches | Capacity: 3 cups, 6 cups, 8 cups, 10 cups
Related: The Best Coffee Grinders
Best Espresso Machine
Coffee Gator Espresso Machine
What We Love: Affordable, compact, brews great espresso
What We Don't Love: Doesn't come with a frothing pitcher
Espresso machines are not typically found in the "small coffee makers" category because they usually need to be on the bigger side to achieve the necessary pressure for extraction. Not so with the Coffee Gator Espresso Machine. This mini espresso maker was can brew you the perfect shot in under a minute, and our tester found it heated up in about 20 seconds.
Even though this is on the smaller side, it still gets the essential pressure for great espresso with 9 bars for extraction and 20 bars for brew speed. Our tester found the design is well thought out and easy for beginners. You simply turn the side dial once the display lights signal the water is heated. While it's making your espresso, you can froth up milk with the steam wand, which automatically empties back into the drip tray once you're done and can also be used for hot water. The easy-to-clean drip tray is removable, so if you don't have espresso demitasse cups, you can take that off to use larger mugs. The machine comes with a tamper and three types of baskets for grinds, but you'll need to add a frothing pitcher to your cart.
"I tested the Coffee Gator Espresso Machine for several weeks and it consistently brewed rich, crema-topped espresso shots. It’s also small enough and light enough that I store it in a cupboard when I’m not using it to save counter space.” — Derek Rose, Product Tester
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12.4 x 5.5 x 10.3 inches | Capacity: 44 ounces
Related: The Best Espresso Machines
Best for Cold Brew
OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker
What We Don't Love: Easy to use, no electricity required, one-touch switch to stop the brewing and release the concentrate
What We Love: Requires paper filters for sediment-free cold brew
Cold-brew enthusiasm has reached remarkably high levels over the past few years, leading many consumers to seek out coffee makers that specialize in this heat-free brewing style. Save your money at the coffee shop, though, with an easy-to-store model like this.
The OXO Good Grips Coffee Maker makes cold brewing easy with a perforated "Rainmaker" chamber that evenly distributes water over the grounds. Once the coffee passes through the reusable stainless-steel mesh filter, it enters the bottom glass carafe, which can be used to store coffee afterward. Since cold brewing takes longer than brewing with hot water, this maker does need 12-24 hours to make a full batch of concentrate. The resulting flavorful coffee concentrate can be diluted with water or milk when you’re ready to drink within the next week.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.5 x 9.5 x 14.7 inches | Capacity: 4 cups
Related: The Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers
If you need a portable coffee maker or only enough coffee for one person, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker (view at Amazon) will tick all your boxes and serve up a great cup. Those in the market for a small coffee maker that can be programmed and paused mid-brew, the Mr. Coffee 5-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker (view at Amazon) is just what you need.
What To Look for When Buying a Small Coffee Maker
The concept of a “small” coffee maker is very much in the eye of the beholder. That said, a compact coffee maker generally features a streamlined physical presence and produces fewer cups, typically make less than 5 cups, than a full-sized coffee maker, which can make up to 12 cups. The manual coffee makers on our list (AeroPress and Chemex) are particularly easy to calibrate for different quantities if you’d rather not feel locked into a certain cup capacity. If you want to stick with a machine that only produces one coffee at a time, a pod coffee maker or compact drip maker is your best bet.
The features you’ll need from a small coffee maker depend on your priorities. Manual machines are great for portability and customization, but they can take a significant amount of time when brewing. If you need speed or pre-programming, a pod-based or drip machine might work for you. You will have to give up deluxe features like digital interfaces, temperature-controlled brewing, and water filtration with compact machines.
Both the Chemex and the AeroPress can be cleaned in a dishwasher, and the AeroPress brand page even claims that a full wash cycle can be avoided in favor of a simple rinse, since “the plunger wipes the chamber.”
Electric machines require a more involved cleaning process, although some models have dishwasher-safe parts. The compartments containing coffee grounds and water can be cleaned with hot water and gentle dish soap, and a “descaling” process (using either a vinegar solution or a pre-made descaling formula) is also recommended on a regular basis.
Does the coffee-to-water ratio change for a small coffee maker?
The coffee-to-water ratio that you use will determine the overall strength of your coffee’s flavor, so your own personal preferences prove most important here. There’s no need to change the ratio of coffee to water depending on the size of your coffee maker; if you use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of coffee to 6 ounces of water (for example) in a full-sized coffee maker, then the same ratio can apply to a smaller coffee maker.
Why do you need to descale a coffee maker?
“Descaling” refers to a deep-cleaning process intended to remove mineral scale that builds up inside your coffee maker, which can affect both the flavor of the coffee and the machine’s ability to quickly and effectively brew. Some electric coffee makers feature a warning light that will inform you when it’s time to descale, but if yours doesn’t have one, then assume that you’ll need to descale a few times a year, depending on the hardness of the water used to brew.
Descaling can be accomplished by pouring a solution of water and white vinegar into the water chamber of your coffee maker and then running a brew cycle. Halfway through the cycle, turn off the machine and let it sit for an hour. Then, complete the cycle and rinse the machine by running a couple of water-only brew cycles.
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Taylor Tobin is a freelance journalist who specializes in recipe testing and deep-dives into popular dishes, ingredients, and pieces of kitchen equipment. She’s an unapologetic coffee devotee who lives solo in Austin, Texas, so small coffee makers are particularly near and dear to her heart.
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