One of the most commonly repeated pieces of financial advice is to skip getting your daily coffee from a cafe and start brewing your own at home. Whether or not you believe the latte factor is getting in your way of saving money, making coffee at home is typically a lot cheaper than grabbing a cup from the local coffee shop.
If you’re going to start brewing coffee at home, you need the right machine to do the job. Single-serve coffee makers brew one cup at a time, making them ideal for a household with just one or two people or for homes where only a couple of people drink coffee.
Single-serve coffee makers range in price from under $50 to well over $100. The pricier ones tend to have more features, but the more budget-friendly options still get the job done.
Full disclosure: The coffee you get from a single-serve machine doesn’t always taste as great as a cafe brew. But it does deliver your daily caffeine fix and keep you from spending $5 or more each day on a cup of joe.
How to Choose the Right Single-Serve Coffee Maker
You can hop in your car today and head over to Walmart or Target to pick up a single-serve coffee maker and enjoy a more caffeinated start to your day tomorrow. But before you pick one at random, it helps to think about what you want the machine to do and what the machine can do for you. Several factors will influence your decision:
- The Type of Coffee You Want to Make. Single-serve coffee makers can brew straight-up coffee or fancier shots of espresso. Some machines can make both, depending on the type of pod you put into them. If you never drink espresso, it doesn’t make sense to shell out for a machine that brews it when a regular old coffee maker will do.
- Your Budget. The price of single-serve coffee makers starts at well under $50 and goes up to well over several hundred dollars. While a $100 or $150 machine does some things a $50 machine can’t, you have to ask yourself if spending an extra $100 works for you right now and whether you even need the additional features in the first place.
- The Included Features. You can program some coffee makers, change the brewing temperature, or use them to make tea or soup. Some coffee makers just do one thing: brew a cup of coffee. Although it doesn’t seem like a notable feature, for added safety, auto shut-off is something to look for.
- The Cost of Ownership. If you purchase certain types of coffee makers, you’re committing yourself to using only the coffee pods produced by that brand. Coffee pods can get pricey, so it can be worth it to think about the overall cost of owning the machine before buying. A lower-price coffee maker can end up costing a lot over time if its capsules are expensive. Generally speaking, Keurig’s K-Cups and Illy capsules cost about half as much as Nespresso original pods, and Nespresso’s Vertuo pods are the priciest. All pod options cost about twice as much as coffee made from grounds and about half as much as cafe coffee.
- How Much Coffee You Drink. A single-serve coffee maker is perfect if you drink a cup or two of coffee a day or if there’s just one coffee drinker in your home. But if everyone in your family drinks coffee or if you can work your way through an entire full-size pot before you head out the door, a model that brews more coffee at once is a better choice. Fortunately, some single-serve machines allow you to brew a full pot or have an attached reservoir, making it easier to brew multiple cups in a row
- Recyclability of the Coffee Pods. Many companies that produce coffee pods also have recycling programs designed to keep plastic out of landfills. If that’s something you care about, it’s worthwhile to look at how easily you can recycle the pods. If recycling proves too difficult, look for a model that lets you use a refillable capsule or that uses standard paper filters.
- Available Varieties. Many single-serve coffee makers work with pods or capsules, such as Keurig’s K-cups, which also work in some other brand’s machines. And most big coffee brands offer their blends in one of those pods or capsules so you can brew your favorite popular coffee brands, like Starbucks or Peet’s, at home. So if you’re brand-loyal and considering a machine that uses pods or capsules, it’s essential you ensure your brand makes a pod or capsule that works in your model. Other single-serve coffee makers let you brew regular coffee grounds, meaning you can use any type of coffee you like. But it’s not all about coffee. Some single-serve coffee makers also let you make beverages like tea and hot cocoa. So if you or anyone in your family drinks those regularly, look for that feature.
Best Single-Serve Coffee Makers for Any Budget
When looking for the best single-serve coffee maker for you, you can save by shopping on Amazon. And pay attention to what reviewers say about the products. In fact, it’s the coffee makers with the best reviews that made this list, which is sorted by price point so you can find a coffee maker that works for you, no matter your budget.
1. Best Budget Single-Serve Coffee Maker: Oxo Brew
Not everyone’s a fan of the coffee produced by machines that use coffee pods — or the prices of those machines. Luckily, some devices produce one cup of coffee at a time without relying on disposable pods or pricey technology. They’re also the most eco-friendly for those who reuse coffee grounds or have access to a compost bin or curbside composting.
The Oxo Brew single-serve pour-over coffee maker lets you enjoy fancy pour-over coffee at home. You add a paper filter and some coffee grounds to the cone-shaped funnel and place it over your mug.
While most pour-over filters require you to use a kettle to pour hot water over the grounds slowly, the Oxo coffee maker comes with a small water tank that dispenses water over the coffee grounds slowly enough to create a complex brew. Since the tank controls the flow of water, you can just fill it up and let it do its thing. You don’t have to stand over the filter slowly pouring in the water.
The Oxo Brew produces a delicious cup of coffee, but it also requires a bit more work than other single-serve coffee makers. You have to boil the water separately, either in an electric kettle or in a pot on the stove, then add it to the water tank. You also have to grind beans or measure preground coffee.
Despite the extra work involved, if you’re on a budget but want cafe-style coffee at home, the Oxo device is the one for you.
2. Best Single-Serve Coffee Maker Around $50: Hamilton Beach
The Hamilton Beach single-serve coffee maker is one of the only single-serve machines on our list that doesn’t use coffee pods or K-Cups to make a cup of coffee. If you’re concerned about the waste factor of using pods or K-Cups or just want more options when it comes to your coffee blend, Hamilton Beach gives you just that in an inexpensive and well-rated machine.
Instead of a pod, the Hamilton Beach machine uses a scoop-shaped filter. You fill the scoop up to the line with your favorite ground coffee, then slide it into the front of the machine.
The coffee maker gives you the choice of brewing a regular cup of coffee for those mornings when you just need a little pick-me-up or a bold cup for those days when you want something super-strong and flavorful.
You also have the option to brew a regular-size mug of coffee (8 ounces) or fill a travel mug (14 ounces). The Hamilton Beach coffee maker delivers the 8-ounce cup of coffee in 90 seconds. It needs a bit more time, about two and a half minutes, to produce 14 ounces.
And the machine automatically shuts off after brewing your coffee.
3. Best Single-Serve Coffee Maker From $51 – $100: Cuisinart SS 10
Many single-serve coffee makers rely on K-Cups, which Keurig first created for their coffee makers. But they’re now also compatible with single-serve coffee makers made by other brands, such as the Cuisinart SS 10 single-serve coffee maker.
In addition to working with K-Cups, it includes a reusable filter cup. Using the refillable cup means you can choose any type of ground coffee you like rather than depending solely on the selection of K-Cups available at your local supermarket or online. Although K-Cups come in a wide range of flavors, roasts, and brands, if you’re into a less well-known brand, you likely won’t find a K-Cup for it.
Another benefit of the refillable cup is that it lets you skip over the recycling issue. Keurig has said it aims to make 100% of its K-Cups recyclable by the end of 2020. Right now, you can recycle some of the pods — as long as they have the recycling logo on them, are made of No. 5 plastic, and your local recycling facility accepts that type of plastic. To recycle the K-Cups, peel off the aluminum foil seal, dump out the coffee, rinse out the cup, and place it in your bin.
Using a refillable cup also makes the cost of ownership a little lower. While prices vary considerably based on brand, a cup of coffee made from a K-Cup costs about twice as much as a cup of coffee made from standard coffee grounds.
The Cuisinart model is programmable, so you can have a cup of coffee waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. There’s also an auto shut-off feature, so you don’t have to worry about switching off the machine before you head out for the day.
The coffee maker brews between 4-ounce and 12-ounce cups. The included reservoir holds 72 ounces of water, and a backlit display can tell you the time, brew size, and even brew temperature.
The Cuisinart SS 10 goes beyond making coffee. It also gives you on-demand hot water, which you can use to heat canned soup, make ramen, or brew a cup of tea. If you’re worried it can make your tea or soup taste like coffee, the rinse feature flushes out the brew chamber, removing any lingering coffee residue.
4. Best Espresso-Style Single-Serve Coffee Maker From $51 – $100: Illy iperEspresso
Sometimes, a basic cup of coffee doesn’t cut it. If you want the option of pulling a shot of espresso at home, the Illy iperEspresso machine uses Illy’s proprietary capsules for either espresso or coffee, meaning it won’t work with K-Cups or pods produced by other companies.
Since the machine only works with Illy’s capsules, your options are somewhat limited — there are no Starbucks Illy pods, for example. Price-wise, Illy capsules are similar to K-Cups and cost about half as much as a coffee or espresso at a coffee shop. You can’t recycle the pods with your city’s program, but you can order a recycle kit from the company and send them back.
With a price tag under $100, the iperEspresso machine doesn’t have much in the way of bells and whistles. The water reservoir holds 30 ounces, so you don’t have to refill it after brewing each cup, but you do have to refill it more quickly than either the Keurig or Cuisinart models, which is only an issue if you drink a lot of coffee or have guests over.
A word of warning if you’re a fan of lattes or cappuccinos: the iperEspresso only brews espresso or coffee. There’s no attached foaming wand or the option of adding one. If you like frothy steamed milk with your coffee, you can purchase a separate inexpensive milk frother for around $10 or $15.
Also, the iperEspresso machine doesn’t have an automatic shut-off. But it does go into a power-saving mode after 15 minutes of inactivity.
5. Best Single-Serve Coffee Maker Over $100: Keurig K-Select
If you’re looking for a reliable single-serve machine that uses K-Cups and has a price tag just over $100, the Keurig K-Select is a solid choice. While some Keurig models require you to fill the reservoir with a single mug of water before brewing, the K-Select has an attached 52-ounce reservoir. The attached reservoir makes it easy to enjoy cup after cup on those days when you just can’t get enough caffeine.
You can choose to make between 6 and 12 ounces of coffee using the K-Select brewer. There’s also an option to produce a strong brew. If you’re somewhat forgetful, the auto-off feature turns the machine off after a period of inactivity. The feature is programmable, so you can decide when it shuts off. An indicator light lets you know when it’s time to clean the machine.
Previously, some Keurig machines only worked with “official” K-Cups rather than those produced by competing brands. But after some backlash, the company removed the feature that restricts K-Cup use. So the K-Select machine works with the official Keurig-brand K-Cups and models produced by other companies.
6. Best Espresso-Style Single-Serve Coffee Maker Over $100: Nespresso VertuoPlus
When many people think of at-home single-serve espresso makers, they think of Nespresso and its George Clooney-starring ads. The company produces two lines of single-serve coffee maker, one that uses its original pods and pulls shots of espresso and one that uses Vertuo pods and can pull espresso shots as well as brew cups of coffee. Like K-Cups, you can find branded versions of Nespresso pods, such as Starbucks pods. The pods are also available in a variety of flavors, such as hazelnut and caramel.
Nespresso pods are made of aluminum and can be recycled. Like the Illy pods, you can’t drop them in your curbside recycling bin. Instead, you must order a recycling bag from the company and return the pods to a drop-off location near you.
The VertuoPlus machine works with the three different sizes of Vertuo pod (espresso, coffee, and Alto XL). It can produce 1.35-ounce single shots of espresso up to 14-ounce cups of coffee. It’s important to choose the right size pods for the type of coffee or espresso you want, or you can end up with a drink that’s too strong or too weak.
One neat feature of the VertuoPlus is the movable 60-ounce water reservoir. You can tuck it behind the machine or swivel it out to the side, depending on the size and layout of your kitchen counter.
Like the iperEspresso machine, the VertuoPlus has no milk frother attached, which is a disappointment considering its higher price tag. But you can use a separate frother to create steamed milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
After making your espresso, the VertuoPlus powers down automatically after nine minutes of inactivity.
7. Best Espresso-Style Single-Serve Coffee Maker for When Money Is No Object: Nespresso Creatista Plus
If you want to create a coffee shop-style experience in your home and the sky’s the limit when it comes to your budget, check out the Nespresso Creatista Plus. Costing a few hundred dollars more than any other model on this list, the Creatista Plus has what none of those models have: a milk frother.
And not just any milk frother. The wand attached to the Creatista Plus has 11 temperature settings, ranging from 133 degrees to 169 degrees Fahrenheit and eight texture settings. You can use it to make everything from macchiatos to cappuccinos to flat whites at home. A beverage selection menu built into the machine takes the guesswork out of creating your favorite coffee drink.
If you’ve ever worked as a barista or have owned an espresso maker before, you know cleaning the milk frothing wand can be a pain. Luckily, the Creatista Plus has a hassle-free wand-cleaning feature. Its steam wand automatically purges itself after use. There’s also a self-cleaning feature to keep the entire machine running smoothly.
An auto shut-off feature powers down the machine after nine minutes of inactivity.
Making coffee at home is super-convenient and can help you break the coffee shop habit. And if you work at home, having a reliable coffee maker can help you enjoy a little pick-me-up in the middle of the day without having to make the trip to a cafe.
Think about your budget and cost of ownership when picking the best coffee maker for you. But don’t forget about convenience either. No matter how cool or fancy a coffee maker is, if you never use it, it’s not the best one for you.
Do you use a single-serve coffee maker at home, or are you thinking of making the switch? What feature is most important to you?