When we picture a single-serve coffee maker, the first image that comes to mind is generally a brewer that uses pods. Brands like Keurig and Nespresso lead the way in this area, making machines that focus on speed, convenience, and ease of use. But even though pod-based coffee makers are perhaps the most popular variety, there's a range of options beyond that as well. There are drip coffee makers, French presses, pour overs, and more all designed to brew a single delicious cup of coffee. We go through the best options in an array of categories below, breaking down what we like and dislike about each one.
Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker
Choice of glass or thermal carafe
Removable water reservoir
Coffee concentrate, not real espresso
Not fully programmable
This Specialty Coffee Associate-certified brewing device is extremely versatile, almost like having multiple coffee makers in one. There's a single-serve function that lets users fill a travel mug with drip coffee as you’re dashing out the door on a workday, and it makes specialty brews by frothing milk for lattes and cappuccinos. Selecting the drink size is simple thanks to the item's front-facing dial. Choose from classic coffee, super-rich, or brew for serving over ice.
Since this doesn’t require pods, you can buy your favorite coffee beans from a boutique local coffee roaster or buy inexpensive grocery store grounds to save money while still making interesting coffee drinks every day of the week. Special thermal extraction ensures full flavor no matter what you brew.
Price at time of publish: $170
Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Dimensions: 12 x 8.8 x 15 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited | Wattage: 1,500 | Voltage: 120
"With multiple brew functions, serving sizes, and other extra features, this coffee maker creates the perfect cup of joe to wake you up in the morning. However, be sure to note that it doesn't make true espresso." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Keurig K-Café Single-Serve K-Cup Coffee Maker
Multiple drink options
Easy to use
Dishwasher-safe milk frother
Not "true" espresso
Takes up a lot of counter space
There’s no doubt about it, brewing coffee with pods is convenient, and there are more and more types of coffee available every day, along with tea and other beverages. But this coffee maker is more than just convenient. It can also brew concentrated coffee shots with the push of a button, so you can create coffeehouse-style drinks at home, or choose to brew a stronger cup of coffee whenever you want it. The frother cup gives you hands-free frothing of milk, skim milk, soy milk, or almond milk, and the cup is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning when you’re done.
You can choose from four different cup sizes from 4 to 12 ounces. The 60-ounce water reservoir lets you brew multiple cups of coffee before you have to refill, saving you time in the morning. This also saves energy by turning itself off two hours after your last cup of coffee was brewed.
Price at time of publish: $190
Grounds or Pods: Pods | Dimensions: 12.5 x 15.3 x 11.7 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited | Wattage: 1,500 | Voltage: 120
"This would be an ideal machine for someone who wants to skip the many steps of using a home espresso machine but still get a very similar result." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Nespresso Essenza Mini
Compact and lightweight
Easy to use
Affordable for Nespresso maker
Small capsule container
Espresso lacks complex flavors
The Essenza Mini is one of the most affordable and compact Nespresso machines available, so it fits many different budgets and (literally) many different kitchens. We found that it takes 25 seconds for the machine to heat-up, and then roughly another 25 seconds to brew depending on which of the two drink sizes you choose. That's a tasty shot of espresso in about one minute flat. Customers shouldn't expect the same quality as a professional, thousand-dollar machine, but we gave the Essenza Mini a high score after numerous taste tastes. It also has Nespresso's signature consistency, so there won't be any randomly bad shots of espresso thrown into the mix.
The item is available in five colors, including neutrals like black and white, as well as a stand-out red. For those interested in making lattes and cappuccinos, the Essenza Mini, like most Nespresso makers, can be purchased with an Aeroccino3 Milk Frother at a reduced rate.
Price at time of publish: $179
Grounds or Pods: Pods | Dimensions: 4.3 x 8 x 12.8 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited | Wattage: 1,255 | Voltage: 120
"Ideal for anyone looking for a compact machine that produces quality espresso at home for an affordable price."
Best Pour Over
Hario V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper Size 02
Brews strong yet nuanced coffee
Compact and stylish
Pour-over coffee takes patience
The Hario V60 has long been a favorite among coffee experts and is among the most recognizable pour over coffee makers out there today. More goes into designing the small, cup-shaped brewing device than may meet the eye. The V60 is named from its "V" shape and 60-degree angle, which, along with the ribbed interior, creates an optimal rate for water to flow through coffee grounds. The precision comes through in the taste. We have tested both ceramic and glass V60s and the coffee was light, clean, and devoid of sediment. Different flavors in the coffee beans stand out too, unlike a burnt, one-note cup of joe.
The V60 is available in a wide range of colors and materials. Some have slight design variations, usually just regarding the size or shape of the base. The vast majority of V60 models are affordably priced. Brewing is extremely easy, but it requires a little patience to pour hot water over the grounds in small doses, rather than all at once.
Price at time of publish: $25
Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Dimensions: 4.7 x 4.7 x 3.7 inches | Warranty: 90 days
"This dripper is quality product at a reasonable price. It's easy to clean and store. It's aesthetically pleasing. And the handle stays cool throughout the brewing process."
Best Dual Brewer
Hamilton Beach FlexBrew 2-Way Coffee Maker
Programmable up to 24 hours
Takes K-Cups and ground coffee
Two separate water reservoirs
Grounds occasionally spill and get into cup
On one side of this machine is a 12-cup glass carafe for when you want a full pot of coffee. On the other, a single-serve brewer that works with both ground coffee and coffee pods. The single-serve side brews up to 14 ounces when using ground coffee (or 10 ounces with K-cups), which is more than enough for one cup of coffee. You can also remove the plastic cup platform to fit a travel mug before your morning commute.
Unlike many single-serve machines, the Hamilton Beach FlexBrew does not have a water reservoir for the single-cup side, so you will need to pour a cup of water every time you want one cup of coffee. Some customers also question the machine's durability, noting that issues arose around one year of use. Aside from this, the product has great reviews and other impressive features, like a 24-hour programmable timer, a pause-and-serve feature, and automatic shutoff after two hours.
Price at time of publish: $120
Grounds or Pods: Both (carafe side is grounds only) | Dimensions: 11.4 x 12.2 x 13.7 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited | Wattage: 1,050 | Voltage: 120
Best for Travel
AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker
Brews high-quality coffee, fast
Great for travel
Not the most attractive device
For some coffee lovers, the AeroPress is what first comes to mind when picturing a single-serve brewing device, especially for those who prefer non-electric coffee makers to, say, a Keurig or Nespresso product. The AeroPress is affordable, extremely compact, and gives users the flexibility to brew something like drip-style coffee or a richer, espresso-like cup depending on preference. Although it requires more hands-on effort than electric devices, it brews very quickly at around two minutes once the water is boiled.
After testing the product, our reviewer called it a "must-buy." She described the taste as smooth and similar to pour-over coffee, adding that you can also use the AeroPress to make lattes, Americanos, and even cold brew. There may be a slight learning curve, which means the first few cups might not be as tasty until you get the hang of it, but overall this coffee maker is an excellent value that you can take and use anywhere.
Price at time of publish: $40
Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Dimensions: 11.3 x 5 x 4.25 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited
"For a small investment, you get high-quality coffee, easy cleanup, and a travel companion in return. This little coffee maker would also make a great gift for any coffee lover." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best Drip Coffee
Hamilton Beach The Scoop Single-Serve Coffee Maker
Removable coffee basket
Easy to use
No filters needed
Prone to leaking
The sleek look, ease of use, simple cleanup, and flavorful coffee were praised by reviewers of this coffee maker. It can accommodate either standard coffee cups or travel mugs up to 14 ounces and 7 .25 inches high and has a bold setting for extra-strong coffee.
This has a permanent metal mesh filter, so a paper filter isn’t required, but some users prefer the flavor of coffee that has been filtered more thoroughly. This can accommodate some small paper filters made by other brands, while some users said that cutting large filters to size is easy and affordable.
Price at time of publish: $57
Grounds or Pods: Grounds | Dimensions: 8.35 x 6.7 x 8.67 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited | Wattage: 1,300 | Voltage: 120
Best for Office
Keurig K-Elite Single Serve Coffee Maker
Large water reservoir (75 ounces)
Whether your office is above the garage at home or you’ve got the corner office with a view, this coffee maker will be a great fit. This can brew from 4 to 12 ounces of coffee at a time, while the strong brew button increases the strength of the brew for a bolder cup. You won’t need to wait long since this makes a cup of coffee in less than a minute.
If you’ve got a cup of ice, you can use the iced brew setting to make iced coffee any time you like, and the 75-ounce water reservoir means you won’t have to make a lot of trips to fetch water for your brews. When you need to fill it, the reservoir is removable.
The hot water on demand button dispenses hot water for your instant oatmeal, or cup of soup or noodles for those days when you’ll be eating at your desk. It’s also handy for making tea using your favorite tea bags rather than K-Cups.
Price at time of publish: $190
Grounds or Pods: Pods | Dimensions: 12.7 x 9.9 x 13.1 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited | Wattage: 1,500 | Voltage: 120
"Like most Keurig coffee makers, the K-Elite is very easy to use and understand. We also appreciated the large removable water reservoir."
Presto MyJo Single Cup Coffee Maker
Compact and portable
Takes K-Cups and ground coffee
Valve is inconsistent, hard to clean
Plastic gets hot to touch
It doesn’t get more compact than this—you can even take it with you when you go camping since it doesn’t require electricity. All you need is hot water and ground coffee. For extra convenience at home, you can heat the coffee right in the water reservoir in your microwave.
This can use either K-cups or your own ground coffee. Once you’ve got water and coffee, you simply pump the water through the grounds and into your favorite coffee mug. The silicone grip makes this easy to hold, even when it’s full of hot water. This can make from 6-10 ounces of coffee, and it’s simple to toss the grounds, rinse the base, and brew more whenever you want it.
While this is built to be portable and compact, users were pleased with the flavor of the coffee. This can also be used to brew hot tea, simply by placing a tea bag in the space where the coffee would normally go.
Price at time of publish: $25
Grounds or Pods: Both | Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 9 inches | Warranty: 1-year limited
The Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker is more than a single-serve brewer; it can also whip up a full pot of coffee or a few shots of espresso, all at an affordable price. Another reliable option is the Keurig K-Café, which can brew a bevy of drinks with easy-to-use K-Cups.
What to Look for in a Single-Serve Coffee Maker
When to get a Keurig...
If convenience is your number one priority. You want things to be as simple as popping in a K-Cup and pressing a button, even if it means the coffee is only good instead of great.
When to get a Nespresso...
If you want the convenience that pods offer but prefer espresso to drip coffee. Maybe, if the budget is right, you even want a Nespresso maker that can brew milk-based like a latte or cappuccino, too.
When to get an AeroPress...
If you're a frequent camper, traveler, or true minimalist in the kitchen. You also don't mind putting in some extra time and elbow grease for a small serving of coffee.
When to get a French press...
If you prefer strong coffee with a heavy body—the kind that stays on your tongue for awhile. And, maybe as a surprise to some, it doesn't take much effort to use a French press.
When to get a pour over...
If you read bags of coffee beans and really want to taste what the flavor notes are supposed to be. Pour overs are generally affordable and brew a clean cup of coffee with a lot of clarity.
"If I’m making coffee for myself, it’s almost always pour over. I really believe pour over is the best way to make a cup of coffee." — Nigel Price, Founder and Owner of Drip Coffee Makers
When to get a drip coffee maker...
If you drink a whole lotta joe. It depends on the model, but some drip coffee makers let you brew a single cup up to a full pot you can drink throughout the day.
When to get an espresso maker...
If you want to feel like a home barista and make café-style drinks to boot. Even if it takes some trial and error, maybe even some coffee grounds scattered on the kitchen counter, you're in it for the long haul to pull the perfect espresso shot.
What types of coffee can single-serve brewers make?
Drip-style coffee is the most common kind that single-serve brewers make—namely that of a Keurig device—but the options don’t end there. French presses, pour-overs, and percolators are also available in single-serve form. Some machines, including ones listed above, have the versatility to brew single cups of drip coffee and other caffeinated drinks like espresso, lattes, or cappuccinos.
Can coffee pods be recycled?
With so many single-serve coffee makers relying on pods and capsules, it’s worth knowing the ins and outs of recycling. In 2020, Keurig announced its K-Cups were 100 percent recyclable after the company began producing them with polypropylene (#5 plastic), though you'll need to confirm locally, as they are not accepted in every community. As for Nespresso, another popular pod-based brand, its aluminum capsules can be recycled too. Nespresso simplifies the process by offering free capsule-recycling bags that can be dropped off (also for free) at any UPS location or Nespresso boutique. The bags hold up to 200 OriginalLine capsules or 100 VertuoLine capsules.
If your single-serve brewer uses a different type of coffee pod, check with the manufacturer to see if it can be recycled, too. Most brands post recycling information online or include it in instruction manuals.
What are “soft pods?”
Soft pods are small, paper-covered disks designed to brew one cup of coffee each. They are usually sealed in individual wrappers to keep them fresh. Many different brands manufacture soft pods, which means they are compatible with a variety of coffee makers, including ones made by Bunn, Hamilton Beach, Black & Decker, and more. Soft pods are similar to Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) Pods because of their size, shape, and material, but the two are not one in the same. Soft pods are used to brew drip coffee, while E.S.E. pods are used to brew espresso.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. Derek received an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a BA in Communications from Marist College. He began writing for The Spruce Eats in 2019.
Nigel Price is the founder and owner of Drip Coffee Makers. Nigel has worked in the coffee industry for more than a decade. Established in 2015, Drip now has multiple locations in New York City.
Specialty Coffee Association. SCA Certified Home Brewer Program.