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The Best Single Serve Coffee Makers

The Best Single Serve Coffee Makers

I’ve tried them all. I do believe I have owned or used just about every coffee maker ever invented… from french press to percolators and from drip coffee makers to single serve.

Coffee snob? You betcha.

I once had an organizer come to my house to help make heads or tails out of my kitchen, and she was so amused by how many coffee makers we had that she took a picture of them, probably to share with all of her clients as an example of how NOT to run an organized and efficient kitchen.

While I appreciate the quality of a French Press and the affordability of drip coffee, we have finally settled on single serve coffee makers for the sheer convenience of them. Over the years, we’ve had a half-dozen (Tassimo, Keurig x 3, CBTL, and now Nespresso). Plus I used a Verismo for the past two weeks at our vacation home, so I believe that I can provide a thorough overview of the four major single serve coffee maker brands — KeurigNespressoCBTL, and Verismo. Here’s the lowdown.

The Keurig

Keurig K45

Pros

The Keurig ($100-$350) is the most popular, as we all know. I had a Keurig Mini at first, and then we liked it so much that we upgraded to a full-size Keurig. I love how universal it is, that almost everyone knows how to use one, and thatI can get the coffee K-cups just about anywhere. They aren’t proprietary with their cups, so many coffee brands make cups for the Keurig system. You can compare prices and find good deals, and there is a virtually endless list of types of coffee and other drinks offered in Keurig K-cups. Plus, you can get buy reusable filters for your Keurig and put regular coffee grounds through it if you really want to bother. (That defeats the purpose in my opinion, but to each her own!) My kids love that you can buy cups for hot chocolate, tea, apple cider, etc. It is the most versatile and the most affordable of the single serve coffee makers, however, it does not make espresso or lattes. (Several of the Keurigs do offer lattes and cappuccinos, such as the Keurig Vue, but I can’t vouch for the quality of those.

Cons

It takes a while to heat up in the morning, although I have timed mine to turn on before I wake up so I can avoid this. There is no dispenser for the pods, so you have to remove each one and toss it when you go to make the next cup, but that’s not a huge inconvenience.

I don’t like the idea of putting my coffee through plastic, and the environmental implications are a concern, although I do believe they now have recyclable K-cups? And of course, there is the option of using regular grounds in the Keurig filter. (Which still utilizes a plastic cup, unless there’s a different option I haven’t seen.) Either way, I’ve been able to stick my head in the sand and avoid those issues.

The real reason I have been pursuing other coffee maker options is because frankly, the flavor of coffee that comes from a Keurig is rather flat. I have tried a gazillion different varieties, and my favorite remains Newman’s Special Blend by Newman’s Own. I buy it in bulk on Amazon.com, but even that falls short of what ‘real’ coffee tastes like, and being the self proclaimed coffee snob that I am, I can’t be completely satisfied drinking the majority of my coffee from a Keurig.

I’ll give the Keurig 3 stars out of 5.

Verismo

Verismo

I tested the Verismo ($129) at a blogging conference a few years ago. In fact, I wrote a post about it. I never did buy one, but I happened to use one for two weeks at our vacation house in Maine last week.

Pros

The Verismo makes a good cup of coffee, and it heats up quickly in the morning, which is always appreciated! I didn’t try the milk pods to make lattes, so I can’t speak to those, but I do know that they use real milk. The coffee and espresso from the Verismo have the perfect amount of crema on top, and the flavor is full bodied, although most of the coffees have a slightly bitter flavor, so I found myself using more cream than normal to compensate for that. Verona is my favorite Starbucks coffee to use in the Verismo, and the only one I really enjoy, but that was true for the Starbucks Keurig K-Cups as well.

Cons

You can only get Starbucks coffee in the Verismo pods, and they are harder to find than Keurig K-cups, but you can easily order them on Amazon.com.

The machine is a bit quirky. For example, if you don’t put the pod in the machine just right, it will fall through, and you have to open the dispenser and fish it out. Another odd feature is that it forces you to run a rinse cycle after every cup or two, and you have to remember to do that, or again, you lose a pod down into the pod dispenser, and then you have to open it and fish it out and start again. Not a deal breaker, but both of these quirks are a bit annoying. Plus, you’re still putting your coffee through plastic, which I don’t believe is healthy.

All in all, I would give the Verismo 4 stars out of 5.

CBTL

CBTL Coffee Maker

I discovered the CBTL ($140) when I started researching espresso machines after experiencing a Nespresso at a Four Seasons hotel. The basic Nespresso machines (espresso only) are around $100, so not a huge investment. I was tempted to buy one, but as I researched, I discovered the Verismo and the CTBL — both of which claimed to make excellent espresso AND regular coffee. Of course, I thought I could be all economical and efficient by having only ONE machine, rather than two, so after reading a gazillion reviews, I decided to buy a CBTL.

Pros

The CBTL is easy to use. I like that it has 6 different cup size settings, including a travel mug, and the automatic capsule disposal. Capsules are easy to buy on Amazon, and there are enough choices to keep us happy. The espresso made from the CBTL machine is excellent, however, we found that we didn’t care as much for their coffee… which leads me to the cons.

Cons

We ended up keeping the CBTL for espresso and the Keurig for coffee, which is okay, but it means two single serve coffee makers taking space on our kitchen countertops. While the espresso from the CBTL is very good, and it makes it nice and hot, it’s not quite on par with a ‘real’ espresso maker. It doesn’t provide the crema that the Verismo and Nespresso do. Still, we were satisfied with it . . . until I was walking through Kohl’s one day, and there was a live demo offering samples from the new Nespresso VertuoLine machine.

I’ll give the CBTL 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Nespresso

Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee and Espresso Maker

The Nespresso VertuoLine ($179) is the only Nespresso machine to date that makes both brewed coffee and espresso. I was coveting one ever since I discovered it at Kohl’s last winter, and my husband gave me one for my birthday this summer. (It is $199 at Kohls, but you can earn or redeem Kohl’s Cash and YES2YOU Rewards with it, which might make it more affordable than the $179 at Amazon.com. We actually bought the VertuoLine with the Aeroccino+Milk Frother for $249.99.)

Pros

There is SO much to like about the Nespresso VertuoLine that I don’t know where to begin. For one thing, it is sleek and pretty. Of all the machines, I think it is the most attractive sitting on the counter. It has a retro vibe that’s really cool. Style matters, right!?! The whole machine is operated by a single button, and a nifty capsule recognition and code reading technology tells it to make the right size based on the capsule you’re using.

The Nespresso VertuoLine uses centrifusion technology to brew both coffee and espresso, creating an amazing amount of crema. It’s almost too much for a regular cup of coffee, to be honest. I think the Verismo does a better job at getting the right amount, but I’m not complaining because the coffee from the Nespresso VertuoLine is velvety and rich and soooo smooth. It is truly unlike any other coffee I have had from a single serve machine. I have a favorite, of course. It is the richest and darkest of their coffee roasts — Stormio.

I love that you don’t have to turn it on or wait for it to heat up. Every second counts at 5:30 AM, you know.

The 40 oz. water tank  is easily accessible, located on the side rather than on the back like many other machines. It is also the easiest to get in and out and to clean. The machine also has a removable used capsule container that holds 15-20 used capsules, also conveniently located on the side and easily removable, unlike the Verismo and CBTL machines, where you have to take the coffee tray out to access the pod dispenser.

I also like that the capsules are not plastic. Instead, they are aluminum, which supposedly keeps the coffee fresher and doesn’t pose as many health and environmental concerns. I am aware that there are health concerns with aluminum as well, but at least they offer a recycling program so you aren’t adding waste to the landfills. If I have to pick my poison, I’ll go with the aluminum over the plastic.

Nespresso Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother

If you want to make cappuccinos and lattes, you will want the milk frother ($68.19). You can buy it separately, but it’s cheaper to get the machine with milk frother combo ($184.81 at Amazon). You use your milk of choice (I much prefer this to the Verismo, where you have to buy milk pods separately.) This little gizmo produces hot milk froth in 70 seconds.

Cons

The VertuoLine is expensive, there are no two ways about it. The machine itself starts at $179, so that’s already more than the other machines. But the capsules are also expensive, and VertuoLine is only compatible with Nespresso’s own coffee and espresso capsules. It is also not compatible with the original line of Nespresso capsules, which we discovered the hard way. Because of this, each cup of coffee costs about $1.10. That’s still considerably cheaper than buying your coffee at Starbucks, especially if you consider that you can also make your own latte at home, but it’s not nearly as economical as a Keurig.

NOTE: While you CAN purchase VertuoLine capsules on Amazon.com, it is considerably cheaper to buy them directly from Nespresso.com.

One nit-picky issue I have is that it has only 2 size settings — large for coffee and small for espresso. I would prefer to have more size choices. For example, the espressos are quite small for my preferences. But I do really like the simplicity of the machine and the European aesthetic.

Our only other issue is that the coffee from the VertuoLine is not super hot, but we love everything else about it so much that we’re willing to deal with that.

I give the Nespresso VertuoLine 4.5 stars out of 5.

In Summary

Right now we have all three coffee makers in our possession. I have a huge stock of espresso capsules for my CBTL machine because I had them on auto-order from Amazon, so we need to use those up. I am having a hard time getting rid of the Keurig. It really is nice to have when we have guests and we want to offer lots of options, plus it is more economical for big groups. On the other hand, waiting for each drink to brew is a bit of a pain, so I am thinking that the best solution is to sell the Keurig and CBTL machines and keep a regular drip coffee maker in the basement and pull it out when we have company.

Whatever we decide to do, the one sure thing is our Nespresso VertuoLine. That baby stays. Both my husband and I are in agreement that it makes the best cup of coffee we’ve ever had aside from a French Press, and that is waaaaay too high maintenance for me. (I also have two of those, by the way. I know. It’s a problem.)

My friend Kelly recently did a post on the Best Coffee Maker, and she came to the same conclusion. She compares a variety of coffee makers, not just the single serve variety. If you’re a coffee hound, check out her reviews as well.

How about YOU? What is your favorite coffee maker? (And don’t say you don’t make coffee. I do not understand that language.)

Disclosure: This post is not sponsored, and I have no connections to any of the brands discussed above, although my current Keurig was sent to me for an Instagram campaign I participated in a few months ago. I have used affiliate links in this post, which help offset the costs of running this site. As always, all opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine. 

Join the Conversation

16 thoughts on “The Best Single Serve Coffee Makers

  1. Hi Jo-Lynne, We have a Saeco Vienna Plus machine. You put the beans in and it grinds them for each individual cup. So you can make any strength from espresso to Americano. We buy beans at Trader Joes but we’ve had them from almost any place like Meijer, Walmart, Kroger, etc. It is pricey, but we think well worth it. Just an idea for you.

    Lyn Swafford

  2. Thank you for this post! I’ve become dissatisfied with our Keurig and was wondering about other options. I’d seen the Nespresso but was curious to know how they perform.

  3. Great roundup on all the single serve options. As you know we love our Nespresso. I don’t love the cost of the cups, but it’s cheaper than buying it out, and certainly a small luxury I can afford given my love of coffee.

    When I make the espresso pods I just hit the button again. It will make a second ‘shot’ of espresso, and that’s usually more in line with the quantity I want when I’m using them.

  4. We have one of the original Nespresso machines and really enjoy it. It has a built-in milk frother which is a bit annoying to clean, but it makes great espresso and cappuccino. It doesn’t really make “regular” coffee, but they do sell a capsule to make a 3.75 oz cup instead of rhe 1. Oz cup their espresso capsules make. I’ve been making myself iced mochas every morning lately.

  5. I need a pot because it’s not only about the coffee, it is about the moment. I love my coffee moment each morning! My hands snugly wrapped around a mug and just Jesus, me and the quiet to begin the day. I would not like to interrupt that to have to noisily ‘brew’ my next cup. Perhaps you’re only looking at the ones that use pods, but we are in serious LOVE with our full-size Technivorm from the Netherlands. It’s low tech but high quality. No bells and whistles, just dang good coffee. I just looked and they have a single cup one as well here: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/technivorm-moccamaster-one-cup-coffee-brewer/?pkey=celectrics-technivorm||&cm_src=electrics-technivorm||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_–_-
    I can honestly vouch for their good-coffee-making-ness!
    We were at a mountain lake this past weekend and I used a Keurig and threw the coffee out. People who think that’s coffee are not coffee snobs like someone we may know and love 😉

  6. I’m happy with my Keurig 2.0, but I use a reusable cup to make each cup more economical (and that it’s more environmentally friendly is a plus). What I noticed when I first got my 2.0 was that the old K-cups did not work – the new technology made it difficult to use cups that were not licensed by Keurig. That really drove my decision to purchase the reusable cup.

  7. French press for us. My husband has experimented with a few different things and is sure that it is the best way to go. I only started drinking coffee in the last few years. Before that it was diet coke or similar diet drinks. Then at the end of 2009, I moved somewhere- isolated area of Congo- with no diet coke (and also no chocolate. Seriously.) But the only coffee you can get here is yucky instant Nescafe, and although I tried a few other kinds that people brought out and started to enjoy it more. But then we spent a month in Ethiopia, and I learned to truly appreciate coffee. The coffee there was SO GOOD!!! If you had no other reason for getting up in the morning, Ethiopian coffee is enough. 🙂 We still live where electricity is limited. We have it most of the time, but have to use things that don’t require much power. We can heat the water in the teapot on our stove or kerosene burner, then into the french press. Now our challenge is getting decent coffee out here!

  8. Heehee how was that woman who organized your kitchen supposed to know that you were gearing up for this post?! I seriously appreciate your coffee wisdom and frankly I thought it was my imagination that my K-cups didn’t taste all that amazing. If I want a fabulously bold cup of coffee I will just go to Starbucks. It’s nice to know I at least have some options moving forward!

  9. Hooray for Nespresso! I bought ours used off of a FB yard sale group and it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve made. We love it. The coffee tastes so good. We had a drip on vacation and I couldn’t wait to come home to have Nespresso.

  10. We are not coffee people really – don’t be shocked but I can’t stand coffee anything – but we love our Keurig. It heats up very quickly and there is something for the whole family. My kids even use it for just hot water for things like oatmeal. We got it because I got tired of everyone in our bible study wanting different kinds of coffee and tea, so now they can all make just what they want, even down to iced drinks.
    We also have the Breville milk frother which is one of our most used small appliances in the house. Add some Starbucks sugar free vanilla syrup and a skinny vanilla latte is ready before you know it.

  11. This is the most complete, unbiased review I’ve read on these single cup machines. Too many reviews are clearly bought and paid for. Your review has value. Thank you.

  12. Hi There! great post. We are coffee lovers (addicts :S ) but find we need a lower maintenance and quicker morning coffee making experience from our current Italian expresso one that goes on the stove (large Bialetti) – the coffee it makes is nice and strong (we make cappuccinos) but it’s limited to 2 cups and really a pain to clean and if you want a third cup you have to wait for it to cool down, clean, refill, wait for water to boil, etc….those minutes are precious. I got a gift certificate from Williams Sonoma for Xmas and was wondering which coffee maker to put it towards. I will give the Nespresso a try. Thanks again.

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