What to Look for in a Single Cup Coffee Maker

So you think you’re ready to buy a one cup coffee maker, but with so many on the market, you don’t know which one to get. To narrow down your choices, you should first decide which of the three common types you want:

  • Manual
  • Electric drip
  • Coffee pod machines

The type you choose will depend on how cost-conscious you are and how much you value convenience.


Cup of Coffee

Cup of coffee, by dyobmit, via flickr

Manual coffee makers will be the least expensive choice, starting at under $20. These fall into two general categories: drip, and manual press. To make coffee with either of these types of coffee makers, you’ll need to boil water to pour over your fresh coffee grounds.

The drip coffee makers are either plastic or porcelain. The porcelain ones are great for everyday home use, while the plastic ones are perfect for camping and other outdoor activities. Both types require #2 coffee filters, unless you can find one with an integrated gold filter. Those will be more expensive initially, but may save you money in the long run.

Manual press (or french press) coffee makers use a plunger with an integrated filter. To use these, you place coarsely-ground coffee into the bottom of your pot, pour your hot water in, and wait for a few minutes before placing the plunger and lid into the pot and pressing down on the plunger. Many people love the rich flavor you can get from coffee made with a french press, so these can be a great option for people that like a strong cup.

Electric Drip

Electric drip coffee makers are a step up in both convenience in cost when compared to manual coffee makers.

Some single serving coffee makers are tall enough to accommodate a travel mug, or may even include one in the box. This would be a great feature to consider if you normally take your coffee on the go. There are also a few models that work with either standard coffee mugs or with travel mugs.

Some other features you might want to consider are:

  • Programmability – this lets you set a timer so you never have to wait for your first morning cup
  • Automatic shut-off – a great safety/energy-saving feature for those of us that tend to be forgetful.
  • Integrated bean hopper and brewer – these hold your coffee beans and grind them for you right before brewing
  • Charcoal water filter – which removes impurities from your water, making a better-tasting cup

Also, there are a few coffee machines on the market that can either make a single cup of coffee or a pot at a time. If you normally make a full pot in the morning but want just a single cup in the afternoon, this would be a perfect choice.

 Coffee Pods

Philips Senseo

Philips Senseo Coffee Maker, by Cristiano Betta via Flickr

Are you a fan of the coffee pod-style brewers? One big advantage of coffee pods is their convenience. No need to measure; you just use one pod per cup. Also, if you buy the same brand and variety, you should get a consistent taste.

There are some disadvantages to coffee pod machines though–they tend to be more expensive than either standard electric drip makers or manual makers, and the convenient packaging of their coffee is also pretty wasteful. You can, however, find some coffee pods that are biodegradable, and some that are refillable (which aren’t nearly as convenient as the ordinary disposable type).

Another thing you have to be aware of is that coffee pods aren’t necessarily interchangeable, so you have to make sure the ones you buy are compatible with your make and model. You should also make sure that the brands and types of coffee available for the machine you’re planning to buy suits your taste.

Price Range for One Cup Coffee Makers

The price for single cup coffee makers varies greatly. You can find some for as low as under $20 and some upwards of $100. While price is not necessarily an indication of quality, the more expensive models are likely to boast features such as being easier to clean, having an automatic clean cycle, or just operating more quietly.

Final advice

Before buying a single cup coffee maker, think about the features that are most important to you, then get online and read a few reviews. With a little effort, you’re sure to find the perfect machine for your needs.