The Best Single-Serve Coffee Maker for a Quick and Easy Cup That Actually Tastes Good

We don’t generally recommend pod coffee, but after testing a dozen machines we found some that were pretty good.
A Nespresso VertuoPlus and a Bruvi Brewer on a kitchen countertop.
Photo by Travis Rainey, Styling by Joseph De Leo

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When it comes to single-serve coffee makers, Keurig is everywhere — recent estimates suggest as many as 40 million US households use a Keurig machine. But in our testing, that popularity didn’t translate to quality. We aren’t recommending any Keurig machines here, though after testing 15 popular makes and models, our writers and editors found that you could actually do worse (more on that below).

While the best single-serve coffee makers aren’t likely to win any contests against a good pour-over coffee or the best espresso machines, some are capable of brewing really good coffee, or even a good “espresso,” (we’ll use quotes as a nod to any readers who want to get metaphysical about what exactly is required for a real espresso shot).

And fortunately, that good coffee comes from machines that are fast, easy to use, and even address the problem of plastic waste from coffee pods by making reusable capsules and more sustainable capsules out of recyclable or biodegradable materials.

So if you’re all about ease and convenience with an eye toward sustainability, our top pick is a one-touch coffee maker that requires the least cleanup or attention of any machine we tested. It also produces some of the best coffee and espresso-style shots—and happens to do so from recyclable capsules.

After a lot of brewing (and maybe a little too much caffeine), we arrived at our number one choice for single-serve coffee, below. Keep reading to learn more about how we tested and what we really thought of the 14 other machines we tried.

The best single-serve coffee maker: Nespresso Vertuo Plus

Nespresso Vertuo Plus Coffee and Espresso Machine by De'Longhi, Black

If you want a single-serve coffee maker that makes great coffee and espresso with little to no effort, we enthusiastically recommend the Nespresso Vertuo Plus. It should be noted that Nespresso predates Keurig, and this machine is part of the brand’s newer Vertuoline, which employs a precision brewing system for one-touch fool-proof coffee drinks. In the world of coffee pods, this machine is a game changer.

Here’s how it works: The rim of every dome-shaped Verto capsule is printed with a barcode with information about what’s inside. All the user has to do is tap the lever to open the lid, pop in a pod, close the lid, and press the machine’s only button. The machine then reads the barcode and automatically adjusts the settings to brew a cup of coffee or shot of espresso suited to the coffee inside the pod every single time.

The Vertuo Plus heats up in just 20 seconds and uses centrifuge technology to make smooth, well-balanced coffee and espresso in four sizes ranging from 1.35 to 8 ounces, with a beautiful crema in every cup. (if you aren’t into crema, Nespresso machines aren’t for you, because it is an unavoidable feature of every cup.)

Other features include a removable 40-ounce water tank (the Deluxe model holds 60 ounces) that can be rotated to make it fit on your counter and a drip tray that can be adjusted or removed to accommodate both short espresso cups and tall travel mugs. Used pods automatically fall into an attached receptacle that can hold at least 10 large capsules, and other than keeping the water tank full and descaling every six months or so, this machine doesn’t need any cleaning or maintenance. A small selection of Nespresso Vertuo pods can be found at Target, Amazon, and other big box retailers, but you’ll find far more variety (and less Starbucks branding) at, where you can also set up a subscription so you never run out of your favorites.

What we didn’t love about the Nespresso Vertuo Plus

Nespresso offers free recycling bags with prepaid UPS labels for returning used pods, but for those who don’t have easy access to a UPS driver or drop-off point, the process may be tedious. (New Yorkers however, can drop their pods right into their blue recycling bins, no bag required.) And though I appreciate that Nespresso’s pods are fully and easily recyclable, this is one of the few single-serve coffee machines that doesn’t officially accommodate a reusable pod. Given the barcode system, a refillable pod likely wouldn’t produce a great cup of Joe, and customer reviews of after-market options support this theory. Still, Nespresso’s proprietary capsules and lack of a refillable option are certainly drawbacks for those who would rather avoid single-use pods altogether.

Size8.7" x 12.7" x 12.8"
Water reservoir capacity40 oz. (standard) 60 oz. (deluxe)
Coffee sizes1.3 oz., 2.7 oz., 5 oz., 8 oz.
Recyclable podsYes
Used pod capacity10

How we tested single-serve coffee makers

In an attempt to find the best single-serve coffee maker, we drank a lot of good, bad, and in-between coffee, sampling different roasts, brew sizes, and styles. Because some brewers only accept proprietary pods, it was impossible to compare apples to apples across the board, but we did our best to find something that would be compatible with a majority of the machines. I ended up with a selection of Starbucks Veranda pods that worked in all but one (the Bruvi) and the lighter roast made it easier to detect the notes and nuance in each cup. We also tested the K-cup compatible machines using higher-end pods from the Italian brand Illy. Additionally, I used freshly-ground coffee to test the machines with refillable pods.

As pod coffee goes, it doesn't come better (or more crema-topped) than Nespresso.

Emily Farris

What we looked for

Ease of use

The big selling point of any pod machine is convenience so we looked for machines that were easy to use and considered the following: How many buttons does a user have to push before brewing a cup of coffee? Is the interface intuitive or too complicated? If the machine offers options for different brew types and sizes, do they feel overwhelming or still convenient? Is the water reservoir sufficient for making multiple cups of coffee or does it need to be refilled for each use?

Coffee taste and texture

We won’t pretend that even the very best pod machine can compete with the flavor of coffee from a pour-over or French press, but within this category there’s a broad spectrum that ranges from “quite good” to “godawful.” We gave preference to machines that could produce a well-balanced cup of coffee with a smooth finish.


These machines are made for use in residential kitchens and since not everybody has unlimited counterspace, we looked for machines that didn’t have a huge footprint. Even better if they could tuck under upper cabinets.


While most single-serve coffee makers aren’t prohibitively expensive, they’re still an investment, so we looked for machines that felt like they were built to last. We also considered whether the manufacturer offered any sort of warranty.

Cleaning and maintenance

Daily maintenance would kind of defeat the purpose of these quick-and-easy coffee makers so we considered the following: Does the machine require any sort of daily cleaning? If so, is it easy? Is there a receptacle for pods or do they need to be manually removed after each use? How often does the machine need to be descaled? Are the instructions for cleaning and descaling clear and easy to follow? Is there a disposable water filter that needs to be regularly replaced or a reusable filter that requires special care?

Look and feel

If something is going to take up semi-permanent residence on your countertop, you want it to look good. With that in mind, we paid attention to the style and finishes of each machine.

Other single-serve coffee makers I tested

We’ll note here that we limited this test to automatic single cup brewers because we think that’s what most people are looking for in a single-serve machine. We didn’t try brewers like Aeropress or the Clever dripper, both of which make coffee we like, but have brewing methods that take much more work than pod machines. We also really like the Spinn Coffee Maker, but since it’s closer to a super-automatic espresso machine than a Nespresso or a Keurig, we left off this list.


Epi’s reviews editor, Noah Kaufman is a big fan of the Bruvi single-serve coffee brewer—and for good reason. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, it has a lot to offer in terms of functionality. The touch-screen control panel allows users to choose between eight cup sizes and it features a selection of one-touch brewing options including buttons for low acid, americano, iced coffee, and cold brew. Of course, any single-serve coffee maker can be used to brew coffee or espresso-style shots over ice, but the Bruvi’s cold brew setting takes a few more minutes than a hot drink and uses cooler water, too. Similar to the Nespresso Vertuoline, the Bruvi reads data on the proprietary pods and adjusts a variety of brewing factors accordingly, but the user still can pick the highlighted default cup size or select another—and there’s always the option to make manual modifications by tapping the screen for “stronger,” “hotter,” or “low acid.” When brewed in eight ounce sizes without any additional settings, the light- and medium-roast coffees were well-balanced and nuanced—especially for something from a pod machine. That said, there was always a little sediment in the bottom of my cup and we were far less impressed with the espressos. One very nice environmental plus of the Bruvi though is that the brand promises that the treated polypropylene cups it uses, which are unlike any others on the market, will mostly break down in a landfill. That means no worrying about whether something is recyclable or what type of composter you should send your pods to (Bruvi also has a refillable pod for those who want to use their own specialty coffee). If you want the convenience of a pod machine with the kind of versatility and functionality you’d get from a high-end drip coffee maker, the Bruvi is a great choice—though it may be too robust and pricey for some coffee drinkers who just want something quick and easy in the mornings.

The Bruvi Bundle

Nespresso Essenza Mini

The Essenza Mini is a compact single-serve espresso maker that’s part of Nespresso’s Original line. Unlike the VertuoLine’s centrifuge extraction, the Original machines use pressure-driven extraction and smaller, more angular pods. This mini brewer uses 19 bars of pressure to extract one of two cup sizes from Original pods: a 1.35-ounce single espresso shot or a 3.7-ounce Lungo. (It should be noted that while 19 bars of pressure is more than double the standard nine bars required of a professional espresso machine, the experts at Home Grounds advise against reading too much into that number because a lot of the pressure is actually diminished within the less-powerful brewing mechanisms of a plug-and-go machine.) Though the Essenza Mini technically doesn’t make regular coffee, it’s certainly worth considering if you want a high-quality compact machine and prefer to drink lattes, cappuccinos, or americanos over a standard cup of drip-style coffee. The removable drip tray and water tank also make this small machine super easy to travel with or store.

L’or Barista Coffee & Espresso System

Though L’or machines have been available in France since the 90s, the L’or Barista Coffee & Espresso System is only starting to gain popularity in the US. Like the Nespresso Vertuo, it brews both coffee and espresso-style drinks, but the process is slightly different. The L’or accepts both the brand’s proprietary coffee capsules as well as Nespresso Original espresso pods (you can use L’or espresso pods in an Original Nespresso machine and vice versa). Operating the machine is simple; for either drink style, you can choose between three brew sizes and coffee or espresso is extracted under 19 bars of pressure through two dispensing spouts—which produce a crema that rivals Nespresso’s. In the final round of testing, we brewed the same pods at the same size (3.7 ounces) in this machine and the Nespresso Essenza Mini and while the differences were subtle, we consistently found that the espresso from the Nespresso machine was ever-so-slightly more balanced with a smoother finish. Overall, this is one of the only single serve coffee makers that feels like a true competitor to Nespresso, but the system would benefit from printing cup size recommendations on the pods (e.g. “this pod tastes best when brewed small”).

L'OR The Barista System Coffee and Espresso Machine

Instant Dual Pod Plus

Of all the single serve coffee makers we tested, the Instant Dual Pod Plus was the most pleasant surprise. From the maker of the do-it-all Instant Pot, this machine has the ability to brew a good cup of coffee or espresso-style shot from K-Cups, Original Nespresso pods, and the brand’s own compostable pods (NOTE: they require an industrial composting environment rather than a regular old backyard compost pile). Additionally there’s an included refillable pod for brewing single servings of your favorite coffee, as well as a hot water button for tea. This brewer delivered on all fronts and even produced a nice crema on the espresso shots. The regular coffee was far better than anything we got from a Keurig, too. If you like really hot coffee, the Dual Pod Plus brews slightly hotter than the Nespresso and most other machines we tried, but not so hot that it scorches the coffee. While we wouldn’t want replace a Vertuo Plus with this (it’s pretty big and we prefer Nespresso capsules to K-Cups), we'd be happy if our hotel or vacation rental had this on the counter. Because it’s so versatile, it’s also a great option for a home with both Nespresso and K-cup devotees, as well as small offices and teachers’ lounges.

Instant Dual Pod Plus

Nespresso Vertuo Next

The Vertuo Next is another machine from Nespresso’s Vertuoline and while it brews just as beautifully as the Vertuo Plus we recommend above, it has a few features that set it apart. First, the pros: Though this is smaller than the Vertuo Plus, it can brew bigger coffee sizes. Where the Plus brews four sizes and can make a maximum of eight ounces of coffee from one pod, the Next has five brew size options and accepts pods that brew 18 ounces at a time (there’s a compatible carafe that can be used with the larger pods, too). If you love the quality and ease of a Nespresso but want the ability to brew more than a single cup at once, this is a good option. But because the Next is a smaller machine, it has a slightly smaller water reservoir than the Plus, and the top of the Next doesn’t open automatically, either. Instead, you have to lock and unlock it via a lever on the lid. It feels like it takes a little too much force to make it happen, especially until you get used to the mechanism. Finally, it has Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity—which seems kinda gimmicky, but some users may appreciate receiving maintenance alerts and firmware updates, as well as capsule tracking so you can remember to order more before you run out. Overall, using this machine was a less pleasant experience than using the Vertuo Plus, so if you don’t need the 18-ounce pour or the app connectivity, you may want to pass on this model in favor of the Plus.

Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by De'Longhi

Nespresso Vertuo Pop+

Nespresso’s space-saving, colorful follow up to our reigning favorite, the Nespresso Vertuo Plus comes with a slightly lower price tag and produces the same quality coffee. The Vertuo Pop+ has the same smart tech as the Vertuo Plus—it can read each pod to determine how much water to use, though there is an option to top up your beverage with additional water if you don’t like your coffee as strong. Unlike several other machines we tested (including some other Nespresso machines), the Vertuo Pop+ won’t accommodate a standard pint glass for iced coffee, even with the cup shelf removed. We found this a problem using the Iced Leggero pods, that brewed 7.7 ounces of coffee, which overflowed smaller ice-filled cups. Also, unlike some other Nespresso machine models, the water reservoir on this one is fixed in its position at the left rear of the machine. You can’t pivot it to make it more streamlined or shift its position to the other side. The reservoir is also smaller than the Vertuo Plus. Vertuo Pop+ machines offer options of 25.4 ounces on the standard model and 32 ounces on the deluxe. But because Nespresso uses precise brewing amounts ranging from shots to full cups of coffee, we  could go several days without a refill. Still the Vertuo Plus has more convenient features, so we continue to recommend that machine unless one of the nine colorways of the Pop+ strikes your fancy.

Nespresso Vertuo Pop+

Cuisinart Premium Single Serve Brewer

The Cuisinart Premium Single Serve Brewer is a popular one-cup coffee maker that works with K-Cups and also comes with a reusable mesh pod you can fill with your favorite ground coffee. It’s billed as fully programmable, and the simple control panel allows users to pick one of five cup sizes and two brew temperatures (other features, like the auto-on and shutoff seem somewhat unnecessary for a single cup coffee brewer). The removable 72-ounce water tank means you won’t have to fill it too often, but it does require a charcoal filter insert that needs to be replaced every 60 days or after 60 uses. While this machine can’t compete with the Nespresso, it’s certainly an upgrade if you’re used to using a Keurig. In multiple rounds of testing using the same K-Cups in both, the coffee from the Cuisinart consistently had more depth of flavor and was less murky. (One thing to note about the reusable pod: We initially had issues getting the machine to register it and only got it to work after rotating the adapter about 5 degrees clockwise from the supposedly proper alignment.)

Cuisinart Premium Single Serve Brewer

Cuisinart Grind & Brew Single-Serve Coffee Maker

The Grind & Brew takes the Single Serve Brewer and adds the option to use fresh coffee beans instead of the pre-ground stuff, which we are always in favor of. Like the Single Serve Brewer above you can chose to use Keurig-style pods or the built-in conical burr grinder. The grinder grinds beans into what Cuisinart calls a HomeBarista cups, which acts as a sort of reusable pod. It comes with three preset brewing volumes — eight, ten, and twelve ounces — though it used 10 grams of coffee grounds regardless of the size if you chose the freshly ground option. This freshly-ground option beat out the K-cups in taste and complexity (though was still not as good as Nespresso capsules). Using the eight-ounce brew option produced the best results with both the pods and fresh grounds, however the fresh grounds fared better than the watered-down pods when opting for ten- and twelve-ounce pours. The mesh filter did leave a bit of silt at the bottom of the cup so the last couple sips were gritty. Another disappointment: The grinder lacks any settings, so it’s impossible to change to a coarser or finer grind for different beans. It also retains some loose coffee grounds in the dispenser, so when the machine is knocked or jostled, it creates a bit of a mess on the drip tray. While the 48-ounce water reservoir is big enough to keep refills to a minimum, dumping, rinsing, and emptying and refilling the HomeBarista cup every single time we wanted another cup of coffee was tedious, especially in a two-coffee-drinker household like the one we tested in.

Cuisinart Grind and Brew Single-Serve Coffee Maker

Ninja DualBrew Pro

Ninja’s DualBrew Pro Specialty Coffee System is a modular brewer centered around a 12-cup drip coffee maker with a detachable milk frother and K-Cup adapter. While this machine has a lot going for it—including a bevy of options for brew size and strength—if you’re looking for the convenience of a pod machine, you’ll likely find this too big and too complicated. It’s a drip coffee maker first; the frother and K-cup capabilities are add-ons and the whole thing has to be reconfigured to switch between carafe mode and single-serve mode. That said, if you mostly make pots of coffee but want the ability to pop in a pod every once in a while, this could be a good choice if you have the counter space to spare. It brews K-cups better than a Keurig machine and while the model we tested came with a few starter paper filters for brewing into the carafe, you can also get a reusable mesh filter if you want to cut down on waste. We didn’t find Ninja brand refillable pods but there are some compatible aftermarket options that look promising.

Ninja DualBrew Pro System 12-Cup Coffee Maker

Keurig K-Mini

When we first published this story the Keurig K-Mini is Amazon's top-selling single-serve brewer. And it's clear why: It's incredibly compact, it comes in a variety of pretty colors, it has a price point around $100, and K-Cups dominated the market long enough that they became the default for tens of millions of American households. If we didn’t know anything about coffee or just wanted something to have on hand to offer guests a cup, we might pick this machine too. But we do know better and after trying a wide variety of pods, we didn’t get one decent cup of coffee out of the K-Mini or the more expensive Keurigs we tested. There was no depth of flavor, and the coffee was consistently watery and overly bitter at the same time. Additionally, the internal water reservoir in this machine only holds enough for one cup and needs to be refilled with every brew.

Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker

Keurig K-Supreme Smart

The K-Supreme Smart Single Serve Coffee Maker seems to be Keurig’s attempt to compete with the Nespresso Vertuo line. It is not a close second. Even if you ignore the fact that it makes bad coffee, the technology doesn’t live up to the marketing claims and the machine itself can’t seem to handle some of its own features. It does have options for brew strength and temperature, and you can save up to 10 of your favorite settings as presets, but the whole system leaves a lot to be desired. One of the main selling points is that the K-Supreme Smart is supposed to recognize what K-Cup pod you put in it and customize the brew settings accordingly, though you do still need to choose your brew size  (6, 8, 10, or 12 ounces) and you can adjust the brew temperature if you’d like, too. App connectivity allows for remote brewing (a feature that seems pointless for a single-serve device) and K-cup pod inventory management (possibly helpful), but the machine froze when we tried to brew back-to-back cups of coffee. We actually had to unplug it a few times to get the “please wait” message off of the display. This Keurig does have a 66-ounce water reservoir, but no pod receptacle; the used K-cups need to be removed by hand after each brew.

Keurig K-Supreme Smart Single Serve Coffee Maker

Keurig K-Iced Essentials

We haven’t liked Keurig hot coffee, but this newer machine offered the option to try it cold. Unfortunately a drop in temperature couldn’t save the flavor of the K-cups. Even the most concentrated 6-ounce size was weaker with less aroma than a pot brewed with the same brand and roast of beans in a drip coffee maker, and it came with a metallic aftertaste. The iced setting also only reduces the finished coffee by nine degrees, dropping it from 165℉ to 154℉, so we still got a watered down drink as much of the ice melted into the coffee (and then required more ice to properly chill, to boot). It does brew quickly if you’re in a hurry, it takes just 72 seconds, but fast brewing can often run counter to quality brewing as speedy flavor extraction is usually weaker flavor extraction, so your coffee may benefit from a little more patience. One nice thing about this machine, though, is that the pour spout is high enough to accommodate a pint glass—the kind you’d probably want to drink iced coffee out of. But if we’re comparing apples to apples, or, rather, capsules to capsules, it still produced lackluster coffee compared to the whole line of Nespresso machines

Keurig K-Iced Essentials

Hamilton Beach FlexBrew Single-Serve Coffee Maker (DISCONTINUED)

The coffee from the Keurigs was not great. The Hamilton Beach FlexBrew unfortunately went under that low bar. It is a versatile single-serve coffee maker that allows for brewing three cup sizes and two brew strengths, comes with a reusable pod for brewing your own ground coffee, and has a removable 40-ounce water tank. It also has a hot water button for tea, instant ramen, and the like. On paper, it looks pretty good. Unfortunately, it makes a lot of noise when it’s working, and worse, brews noticeably hotter than the other machines we tested. It brewed so hot that it scalded the coffee. Even locally-roasted, freshly-ground beans couldn’t redeem this thing. If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to the Keurig that also lets you use whatever type of coffee you want in a reusable pod, this is not it.

Hamilton Beach Gen 3 FlexBrew Single-Serve Coffee Maker

Amazon Basics Compact Dual Brew Single Serve Capsule Coffee Maker

The Epi product testing team has been pleasantly surprised by a handful of Amazon Basics gadgets (Exhibit A: the kitchen scale) so we were curious to see if the single-serve coffee maker was worth considering. It is not. When we brewed the same K-cup pod in this machine and a Keurig, the dark liquid that came out of the Amazon house brand’s coffee maker was worse in every way (taste, texture, and temperature). The only thing we can compare it to is what you'd drink out of styrofoam and desperation while waiting all day for a car repair. Sadly, the freshly-ground, high-quality coffee we put into the reusable pod wasn’t much better. This one is a hard pass.

Amazon Basics Compact Dual Brew Single Serve Capsule Coffee Maker

Additional testing and reporting by Adam Campbell-Schmitt

Why should you trust Epicurious?

We’re home cooks just like you—and we bring a home cook’s perspective to all of our rigorous testing. But unlike you, we have an extra 10 hours a day to spend geeking out over kitchen tools because it is literally our job. We don’t only use our recommended products in controlled settings, we bring the best ones into our own kitchens to help us put dinner on the table on a Wednesday night for our families, or to throw a dinner party for 12. When we recommend a product, you should trust that we’ve used it—a lot—just like you will. Read more about our testing process and philosophy here.