Single serve coffee makers come in hundreds of shapes, sizes and functionalities, ranging from fully-manual drip coffee makers to completely automatic “add your coffee, set and forget about it” type of machines.
These coffee brewing devices can be broken down into four groups:
- Single Cup Drip Coffee Makers
- Manual Brewing
- Espresso Machines
Pod Coffee Machines
Pod or capsule coffee machines use plastic or, more recently, paper-pods that contain ground coffee to brew an espresso-like coffee. Pod machines often accumulate a sufficient amount of pressure to generate a decent espresso-like coffee. However, there are two drawbacks to these machines:
- Most pods and capsules that the machines use comprise of non-recyclable, single-use plastic. Some capsule coffee companies have been working to address the issue, and have come up with compostable paper capsules or reusable plastic ones. Perhaps the industry will shift in this direction and get rid of single-use plastic pods entirely.
- The coffee inside capsules must be pre-ground, meaning the quality will certainly be impacted compared to freshly ground and roasted coffee. On top of that, the coffee quality inside these pods has, until recently, been fairly poor.
Single Cup Drip Coffee Makers
Drip coffee makers are known as large machines that make a huge batch of freshly brewed coffee. They are quick and easy, and many of them are equipped delayed start timer. This means you can wake up to coffee being brewed in the morning. These same drip coffee machines exist in single-serve versions – no reason to drink four cups of coffee on your own.
These machines offer both flavor quality and ease of use. Add in high-quality, freshly roasted ground coffee with the recommended water amount, and that’s it. You’ll get a decent result if the coffee you use is good. Be sure to check our curated guide on how to choose the drip coffee maker that is suitable for you.
Manual brewing refers to any way of making coffee that’s not electrically powered. Instead, the person using the device controls the brew. This comes in numerous forms, and the brew flavor can vary significantly from each device.
There’s something to be said about the manual coffee brewers – it’s a little bit of a ritual – a process if you will. You first weigh your coffee out, grind it, and prepare the brewing equipment, heating it, so everything is just right. Slowly and carefully, you start brewing. When the process is complete, you have a drink that your own two hands made.
Yes, manual brewers are completely manual, which means there’s more to learn about them that a fully-automated machine.
And, that’s the point of manual brewing machines. You learn how to make your own perfect cup of “heaven.” You learn how to adjust things, so the coffee fits your particular palette. There are thousands of techniques and ways to brew with these machines – due to their flexibility.
Of course, they do take longer to prepare a single cup of coffee and require even more care than other machines, but it’s worth it if you want a great tasting coffee. We’ll go more in-depth about manual brewers and reviewing our favorites in an upcoming article.
These machines are a great way to get a single cup of coffee largely because you can only brew one at a time. Espresso is, in most people’s opinion, the only way to have coffee. There is certainly nothing like a beautifully crafted espresso in the morning hours.
Espresso coffee, however, is the most difficult to get right, and it’s also the most expensive option of all single serve coffee makers. It’s not just the machine that’s expensive, but also the grinders that produce the results that are expensive.
Like any manual brewing device, an espresso machine gives you control in producing the perfect cup. However, like the manual brewers, there is a learning curve to them. We’ll look deeper into our favorite espresso machines in a future article.
11 Tips To Help You Choose A Single Serve Coffee Maker
When we’re talking reliability, one thing we look at is build quality. Is the device or machine made of plastic? If so, it is high-quality plastic. Are there any moving parts? If so, how smoothly do they move? Are they clunky? Can any part of the device break? If so, how many of them?
We also look at how consistent the machine or device is. Does it produce the same result every time – all the time? This is what we want – a reliable, well-built, consistent coffee maker.
This boils down to personal choice – you can have it fast or slow, but should still stay within the recommended brew times. Speed is a big factor for some people when buying a coffee maker. After all, parents getting kids ready for school are on a time crunch, which means the brew time may be a key point for them.
Coffee makers can vary in their prices – from under $20 for a manual brewing device to more than $300 for a domestic espresso machine. Value for money is important.
How many steps must you go through to have a delicious cup of coffee in your hand? Do you have to do a lot of preparing – rinsing filters, grinding coffee, setting times, etc. – to start the brewing process. How easy is it to clean?
In my book, extra points go to capacity if it can serve for multiple purposes. If a device brews just one cup, it means brewing a second time for another cup. Or, I’ll have to purchase another device to handle more than one cup at a time. At the same time, if I want to brew one cup, but only have a machine that brews multiple cups, there’s a need for another device. Many drip coffee makers have a minimum amount you can brew – something I would consider a minute drawback.
Ease of Use
Some machines work with a touch of a button; others don’t have buttons. A pod or capsule coffee machine is easier than an Aeropress.
One of the most important things when brewing coffee is water temperature. This is due to the rate at which coffee beans extract under different water temperatures. Colder water leads to a lower extraction rate compared to higher temperatures, which have a higher extraction rate.
With manual brews, the user controls everything including the brew temperature. However, with single serve drip coffee machines, the machine is in charge of the brew temperature consistency. The majority of good machines will have a stable brew temperature to ensure the best possible extraction.
You could take the same exact coffee and brew it in multiple devices, and end up with different tasting coffee each time. This difference could be big such as the difference from a pod and a drip, or it could be small such as one pod to another pod. Brew speed, convenience and ease of use all affect the taste.
Most people do not have a huge kitchen to house a commercial-sized coffee machine. If you do, I’d love to see your kitchen. Your kitchen space will play a role in what kind of machine you get.
Does the device need filters or extra bits? Does it comes with or offer additional accessories that add to the feature list?
How much waste is there after every use? Most products have some type of environmental impact. For example, an espresso machine uses more power than a manual brewing device. For example, the Hario V60 uses disposable single-use paper filters, but a Nespresso pod machine uses single-use plastic capsules, which is has more of a negative impact on the environment.