The best single-serve coffee makers are a convenient way of quickly brewing a quality cup of coffee that rivals what you can find in your local coffee shop.
Our favorite single-serve coffee maker, the Nespresso VertuoPlus by Breville(available at Amazon for $157.24), has a sleek design and is simply the best at what a pod coffee maker does—brew a strong, hot cup of coffee without any fuss. Its 40-ounce water reservoir is not the largest in our roundup, but its swivel bottom handle allows you to detach the tank for storage, depending on your counter space.
If your caffeine demands also include espresso and other types of coffee drinks, we recommend the Keurig K-Cafe(available on Amazon), the most versatile single-serve maker we tested.
Here are the best single-serve coffee makers we tested ranked, in order:
Our coffee had a foamy crema on top, and this single-serve coffee machine also brews espresso capsules, so you can make espresso, double espresso, and regular coffee.
Coffee drinkers will love its compact design—it can live on your countertop or store if your space is limited. The motorized head opens with a light lift, and used coffee pods are ejected into a hidden container, saving you from burning your fingers.
If you’re interested in lattes, cappuccinos or steamed milk in your coffee, a milk frother is available if you opt for a bundled package.
If you’re not ready to shell out hundreds of dollars on an Italian-made espresso machine but still crave the ability to make cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos, this machine might be right for you.
The control pad of this K-Cup coffee maker gives you the option to brew espresso shots or six ounces to 12 ounces of regular coffee. If you like your coffee more intense, there’s also a “strong” button to intensify the brew strength.
Another highlight is the dishwasher safe milk frother positioned directly on the side of the machine. To make a latte, you only need to fill the frother with skim, whole, nut, or lactose-free milk and press a button.
We love this machine’s hands-free design and intuitive control panel. A stainless steel drip tray makes it easy to clean.
The Cuisinart SS-10 is a perfectly capable pod brewer with an upscale look, but there isn’t much it does that sets it apart from similar Keurig machines.
The SS-10 does, however, come with a K-Cup filter on the side of the machine that allows you to make coffee with your own fresh grounds. All K-Cup machines are compatible with the My K-Cup reusable filter, but the SS-10 stores its reusable filter right in the machine itself.
This Cuisinart features a large water reservoir and a digital display. Options and customization are limited to cup size and brew temperature. The machine can dispense hot water for soups and tea.
While we appreciate the SS-10's ease-of-use and self-clean cycle, we found the brew basket opening mechanism to be unresponsive and slightly confusing.
The K-Elite boasts a large 75-ounce reservoir that allows you to brew more cups of coffee at once than any other model in this roundup.
It brews five different cup sizes and comes with a button to adjust the brew strength of each cup. The K-Elite also features an iced coffee option, but it is not to be confused with brewing ice-cold coffee. It just makes the coffee more concentrated so ice won’t dilute the flavor.
The drip tray can be removed to accommodate most travel mugs.
The Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo by De’Longhi is an excellent choice for people who want the convenience that comes with a pod brewer, but aren’t willing to compromise on flavor.
The Evoluo is capable of creating both espresso and regular coffee, but it can't make cocoa or iced coffee. In our tests, it brewed better tasting coffee than anything made by a K-Cup brewer, and it puts a nice crema in your cup.
The Evoluo is constructed from high-quality materials and sports a one-touch brewing system. It also is considerably more expensive than many single-serve options, and its pods also are priced higher and can be more difficult to find.
Pod type: Nespresso Vertuo * Water reservoir capacity: 40 ounces * Dimensions: 11.91 x 8.3 x 11.9 inches * Weight: 10.85 pounds
The design of this Nespresso Vertuo is almost identical to its De’Longhi model. However, we noticed extremely loud noises during brewing tests and that knocked this model down the roundup a couple of spots.
As with other VertuoLine machines, it automatically reads the barcode on the capsules to determine the brew time, size, and temperature. Also like other machines in this line, it has a one-touch brewing system. Its 40-ounce reservoir can make about five cups of coffee before it needs to be refilled.
The K-Select is bulky, but without the brewing functionality of its high-end sibling, the K-Elite. It works fine if you’re a big Keurig fan, and you’re expecting a standard cup of brew every time you hit the button. It also features a strong brew button designed to increase the strength of your coffee.
The 52-ounce water tank can make up to seven cups of coffee, and the drip tray can be removed to accommodate most travel mugs. The machine also features an auto-off programmable button if you’re worried about your appliances zapping energy. The maintenance reminder will also alert you when it’s time for descaling.
The K-Classic, which has three brewing sizes, doesn’t have any special features, and its price point makes it much less appealing than other Keurigs that do more.
Also, let’s talk about the noise. The loud machine brews average-at-best coffee—but is it really worth enduring a soul-killing sound? My answer is no.
Like the K-Select, you can program the machine to automatically shut itself off to save energy. It doesn’t feature a carafe option for filling a large mug, but the drip tray is removable for larger travel cups.
I’m Valerie Li, Reviewed’s cooking and kitchen staff writer—and I’m an avid coffee and tea drinker. For me, a day officially starts when I take my shot of espresso, brewed by my beloved De’Longhi machine. From moseying to 7-Eleven for a quick caffeine fix to traveling to Blue Mountain plantation in Jamaica, I’ve sampled coffee of many different origins and varieties.
We set up top-rated single-serve pod coffee makers and brewed at least 10 cups of coffee in each, assessing how long they took to brew, how easy their reservoirs were to fill, and how versatile they were for brewing tea, iced coffee, and hot chocolate.
We repeated this process with all machines over a week, also analyzing how simple each unit was to descale, how comfortable they were to use, how portable and well-built they were, and how effortless they were to store. We also took note of safety concerns and special features.
Other qualities we looked for included the taste of the coffee and other beverages, the speed (all options we tested averaged one cup per minute), the temperature of the brew, how easy it was to disassemble parts for cleaning, and how easy it was to recycle the pods.
What to Know About Pod Coffee Makers
The launch of in-home Keurig machines in 2004 quickly shook up the entire coffee world and changed Americans’ daily caffeine habits.
Scientifically speaking, the mechanism behind Keurigs is similar to drip coffee makers, but much faster: Pour hot water over coffee beans and pressurize it to extract juices in under one minute.
After the K-Cup technology patent expired, many more pod coffee manufacturers jumped into the game to break Keurig’s short-lived monopoly. Nestle’s Nespresso soon unveiled its more advanced VertuoLine of single-serve coffee makers with centrifusion technology, which can improve the taste tenfold.
Now, the two companies are the biggest players in the pod coffee industry.
What to Consider When Purchasing Single-Serve Coffee Makers
A pod coffee maker is undeniably the most convenient alternative to fiddling with a French press or waiting for a drip coffee maker. Here are some things to consider when looking for a single-serve coffee maker.
Pods vs. Reusable Filters
The convenience of single-serve coffee makers comes at a price, especially once you factor in the cost of pods. Before purchasing any single-serve coffee maker, you should also consider the long-term cost of pods.
K-Cup pods are widely available and don’t cost as much as pods for Nespresso machines. However, K-pods can be difficult to recycle. In contrast, Nespresso pods cost more and there are fewer flavors of coffee available. Nespresso pods are recyclable if mailed back to the company with pre-paid shipping labels, or delivered to a collection site.
Another option is reusable filters. They are more eco-friendly and can be purchased in brick-and-mortar stores and online, including on Amazon. There are a variety of types available, including silicone. If you choose a reusable mesh filter, be aware that it may be more difficult to clean.
The water reservoir capacity for pod coffee makers can vary greatly. The capacity of brewers we reviewed for the roundup ranged from 40 ounces to 75 ounces. Smaller machines can brew just a few cups, but take up less space on your countertop.
However, if you drink a number of cups of coffee each day, you likely want a machine that has a larger reservoir so you aren’t refilling it as frequently.
Like the water reservoir, the size of pod coffee makers can vary greatly. Since the larger machines will most likely live on your countertop, you should make sure you have enough space. Smaller machines can be more easily stored and can still deliver a great cup of coffee.
How to Clean a Single-Serve Coffee Maker
No matter which coffee pod brand you decide to purchase, it is important to properly care for your single-serve coffee maker.
Aside from routine cleaning, such as wiping and rinsing, you should descale your machine once every six months. Why is descaling important?
Water we use to brew coffee contains minerals, commonly calcium and magnesium. Minerals can build up over time and gradually accumulate as limescale. This can affect the brewing temperature and taste of your coffee. Eventually, it could cause your machine to malfunction.
Valerie Li Stack is a senior staff writer for Kitchen & Cooking. She is an experienced home cook with a passion for experimenting with the cuisines of countries she's visited. Driven by an interest in food science, Valerie approaches the culinary scene with a firm grasp of cooking processes and extensive knowledge of ingredients. She believes food speaks to all people regardless of language and cultural background.
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