One of the best morning indulgences is, of course, having a delicious cup of coffee, whether it’s a simple espresso shot or a glassful of something more creamy and decadent. And though most of us would love to be able to take our time with it, the hectic schedules of modern life are often less than accommodating.
Many coffee lovers will know that one of the best solutions to this issue that’s also the most financially-viable one, is to get your own compact coffee maker.
One of the more popular single-serve options are pod brewers, but for all their benefits, many connoisseurs find these pre-measured cups rather limiting. Moreover, stocking on pods might get too much for an already restricted budget, and the pods themselves become rather stale with time and lose the original flavor regardless of the quality of their source grounds.
So anyone who prefers using their own fresh grounds—or even grind whole beans before every brew—knows that a pod-only brewer won’t do them much good.
Luckily, many leading budget brands offer single-serve coffee makers without pods or at least include an option of loose grounds. Let’s examine some of the best portable options below.
List of Top Best Single Serve Coffee Makers, No Pods
|Hamilton Beach 49981A
|14 fl oz
|View on Amazon
|16 fl oz
|View on Amazon
|Mr. Coffee HotCup 2103652
|74 fl oz
|View on Amazon
|10 fl oz
|View on Amazon
|Chefman InstaCoffee Single-Serve Coffee Maker
|14 fl oz
|View on Amazon
How to Choose a Good Pod-Free Single-Serve Coffee Maker?
With such an abundance of choice on the current kitchen appliance market, particularly in the portable coffee maker segment, it’s not exactly possible to pick just one single model as the best one in any category, and especially in the saturated single-server segment.
But to understand which model would serve best for your particular needs, it’s important to get a better grasp on what exactly you prioritize in your kitchen and it works towards fulfilling your coffee needs. So when choosing a single-serve brewer, pay close attention to the following aspects:
- Capacity: how much water a coffee maker can house before a refill. For solo users, a 10-14 ounce model would work well, while dorm settings and offices may benefit from something with a larger reservoir.
- Brew sizes: larger households/workplaces will naturally need more versatile models that offer up to 5 and more brew sizes, while solo users will find standard travel mug portions perfectly serviceable.
- Wattage: the power of a coffee maker’s heater directly affects its brewing speed, so if you prefer your brew be done fast, choose models with higher wattage.
- Adjustability: this includes features of customizable brew strength, mug size accommodation, self-cleaning features, dishwasher-compatible filter baskets/scoops and more.
- Materials: typically, the best models come with a sturdy yet lightweight stainless steel body, sometimes a combination of plastic and stainless steel; more budget versions will most likely be made of plastic or plastic and chrome variations.
Review of the Best Pod-Free Single Serve Coffee Makers
Hamilton Beach 49981A
Incredibly time-efficient and simple in operation, the Scoop Single-Serve coffeemaker from Hamilton Beach makes for the best pick if you’re looking for a compact yet durable brewer that doesn’t require costly pods yet delivers precisely measured coffee servings.
- Serving sizes: 8-14 fl oz
- Reservoir capacity: 14 fl oz
- Material: Stainless steel
- Dimensions: 7.6” L x 13.5” H x 9.8” W
- Item weight: 5.58 lbs
- Swift brewing time: 90 – 150 seconds
- Easily-washable mesh scoop
- Two brew-strength settings
Able to take up to 14 ounces of water in total, this Hamilton Beach Single Serve coffee maker is designed to serve either two 8-ounce portions of one 14-ounce serving in one go before a refill. What makes it particularly useful for busy professionals and students is the swift brewing time, taking less than 90 seconds to serve a standard 8-ounce cup and delivering a maximum of 14 ounces of coffee in under 150 seconds.
Unlike the cumbersome filter-based pod-free single-serving models, the Scoop offers its own easily-washable mesh scoop—hence the brewer’s apt name—designed to be both a filter and a holder. With the scoop, you won’t need paper filters or measuring cups since it features measuring lines for each serving size and allows you to control the flavor and strength of every brew.
This model’s drip tray and cup-stand design are also aimed to higher brewing versatility: by affixing the cup-rest at the half-point between the dispenser nozzle and the drip tray, you will be able to fill regular servings, while taller travel mugs can be simply placed on the drip tray.
As for the brewing itself, the Scoop prepares coffee in just three easy steps: you will only need to scoop the necessary amount of coffee grounds, slot the filter in the top-loading holder, and press the brew button. Additionally, the coffee maker allows you to choose between two brew-strength settings: Regular, for standard drip brew, and Bold, for darker roasts and less coarse grounds. Auto shut off feature is also included for safety.
When it comes to affordable yet quality appliances, BLACK+DECKER will always be at the top of the list, and their Single Serve CM618 coffee maker is no exception—made for people on-the-go and shared living situations, the automated brewer delivers coffee fast and in optimal portions.
- Serving sizes: 5-16 fl oz
- Reservoir capacity: 16 fl oz
- Material: Plastic
- Dimensions: 9.25” L x 13” H x 11.25” W
- Item weight: 2.25 lbs
- Automated brewer
- Automatic temperature control
- Simple touch of a button
Though it’s made to be compatible with most coffee pods, the CM618 is above all valued for serving drip coffee from the loose grounds of your own choosing. Its eco-friendly design and paper-free dishwasher safe reusable filter basket allow to measure out any grounds you want, meaning you can use freshly-ground coffee beans to always get the best flavor instead of tasteless pod coffee.
Brewing is also laughably easy and can be initiated with a simple touch of a button. This doesn’t mean that the taste of coffee is doomed to be simple, quite the opposite in fact: the coffee maker’s automatic temperature control ensures every brew will be served hot but still full of the original aroma and flavor.
This model comes with a matching travel mug compatible with standard cup holders in modern cars. The mug holds 16 ounces in total, though you can use standard coffee cups for regular servings of 5 ounces.
Mr. Coffee HotCup 2103652
One of the undisputable leaders in the mid-range bracket, Mr. Coffee offers a wide selection of single-serve coffee makers, including the family-sized Mr. Coffee HotCup 2103652 with a more consistent water supply and pod-free brewing system.
- Serving sizes: 6, 8, 10, 12 fl oz
- Reservoir capacity: 74 fl oz
- Material: Plastic, chrome
- Dimensions: 9.5” L x 17” H x 14.5” W
- Item weight: 7.2 lbs
- Can be used as a hot water dispenser
- Good for travel mug
- Filter basket
The main selling point of this model is undoubtedly its capacity. Featuring a large 74-ounce illuminated reservoir, the HotCup requires considerably fewer refills compared to most single-serve brewers while still being relatively compact and suitable for small kitchens.
Available serving sizes include 6, 8, 10 and 12 ounces, though the brewer also accommodated 7-inch tall travel mugs.
Moreover, brewing itself is also made easy with the inclusion of filter basket and a neat scoop for measuring precise amounts of coffee thus improving strength control, while the machine’s water delivery system is designed for even saturation of grounds for full extraction of flavor.
Additionally, the HotCup can be used as a hot water dispenser given that its heating system is similar to that of a kettle, so you can always get the necessary amount of water for other hot drinks such as tea or even instant meals.
Coffee lovers in search of ultra-compact, one-cup coffee makers should look no further than this single-serving Salton FC1205 that delivers drip-style brew with a single touch of a button and saves the maximum amount of space.
- Serving sizes: 5-10 fl oz
- Reservoir capacity: 10 fl oz
- Material: Plastic
- Dimensions: 5.3” L x 9.5” H x 6.3” W
- Item weight: 2.02 lbs
- Drip-style brew
- Single touch of a button
Standing just below ten inches, the Salton 1-Cup is incredibly ergonomic and easy to install while also saving you money on long-term maintenance. The brewer comes with its own reusable nylon filter, so you won’t need paper filters or measuring devices for coffee grounds.
Given that its integrated water reservoir holds up to 10 ounces, the coffee maker can make two small cups before refill or a single large mug includes in the kit. It’s possible to get your brew directly into the mug and then portion it between smaller cups.
On the side, you will find a water window that allows for quick control of water levels, while the automatic shut off button illuminates during the brewing and goes dark once the brewing is done. The ease of operation makes this mini brewer especially suitable for dorms, small kitchens, rec rooms, RVs, and other spaces with restricted prep areas.
Chefman InstaCoffee Single-Serve Coffee Maker
Another great single-cup coffee maker for shared living settings, limited kitchen spaces, and small businesses, Chefman’s InstaCoffee coffee maker is one of the best compact options with a more powerful output compared to same-sized models and impressive brewing versatility for its minimalist approach.
- Serving sizes: up to 14 fl oz
- Reservoir capacity: 14 fl oz
- Material: Stainless steel, TPE
- Dimensions: 6” L x 13” H x 4.25” W
- Item weight: 2.79 lbs
- Brewing time: 30 seconds
- Supports for coffee grounds and pods
- Self-cleaning setting
- One-touch brewing system
For all its lauded smallness of frame, the InstaCoffee is actually incredibly fast able to brew coffee in just about 30 seconds and deliver it directly into the cup. And anyone who values brew versatility can adjust the strength of the coffee by regulating the amount of water in the tank for each coffee serving.
This model supports both coffee grounds and pods, and the grounds are made easier to handle with the machine’s very own reusable basket. Moreover, the InstaCoffee features a self-cleaning setting so it’s much easier to keep it clean on a daily basis.
All in all, the portable design and one-touch brewing system makes this model ideal for travel and shared dorm or office kitchens. And the brewer’s permanent filter is also suitable for loose leaf teas and even cocoa, so you can enjoy more than just coffee.
As is the case with many other home appliance categories, there is no single model of a single-serving coffee maker that would be the best option for everyone. Choosing a good coffee maker depends, above all, on your circumstances and coffee habits.
As such, those looking for a good budget model or a travel-friendly brewer would probably be best off with something like BLACK+DECKER CM618 that comes with its own thermal mug compatible with most car holders. If it’s the speed of brewing that you’re after, then a coffee maker like Chefman InstaCoffee would be most suitable for your needs. If you’re looking for the best single serve coffee maker with grinder, it would be smart to start with such options as Breville BDC650BSS or Mr. Coffee BVMC-SCGB200.
Similar to regular coffee makers, most single-serve models are equipped with heating systems designed to bring water to a boil, reaching about 100 degrees Celsius, though quite often that mark falls just below, with the maximum temp of 96 degrees Celsius.
But while the temperature capacity is more or less equal across the board, the big difference comes in with the heating power, in other words, how fast can a coffee maker heat the water to a brewing temperature. Among the fastest single-serve models, quite a few stand out, but perhaps one of the best affordable ones would be Chefman InstaCoffee that can heat water and brew coffee in just under 30 seconds.
The best coffee maker with pods for a single cup should, above all, be easy to maintain and operate since the entire point of a pod brewer is swiftness and simplicity. Other important features, according to data in numerous best single-serve coffee maker consumer reports, include the speed of brewing, quality of materials (plastic, stainless steel, chrome, etc), self-cleaning systems, brew-strength adjustment, and cup-size versatility.
Popular brewers that fit most or all of these requirements are Keurig appliances, and in particular, the single-serving Keurig K-Mini or the more family-sized K-Select the latter of which is considered by many to be the best single-serve coffee maker with pods. Other brands also don’t leave you wanting with such stellar examples as Chefman InstaCoffee.
Generally, there are plenty of excellent options offered by leading manufacturers, both high-end and budget. But if the speed of the brewing is at the top of your priorities, then it would be wise to focus on the wattage of the appliance: the higher the wattage, the faster you’ll get your coffee.
Single-serve coffee makers are definitely worth a purchase if you’re in dire need of a compact and/or budget appliance that will deliver coffee quicker and with less hassle, and industry’s best commercial single serve coffee makers are even more indispensable in an office as well as on the road, in a small kitchen or in a hostel.
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