The broader shift to single-serve coffee makers is very apparent. They’re easy to use, convenient, and brew your choice of coffee in a few seconds. Statistics suggest a clear shift towards single-cup coffee brewers. Up to 42% of US (coffee maker buying) consumers owned a single-serve system.
Keurig and K-Cups have the lion’s share of the market in the single-serve arena. Keurig offers several models that work with K cups, but some other manufacturers have competing offerings too. This buying guide intends to illuminate the choices to make and factors to consider when you buy a single-serve coffee maker.
1. Small Changes In Models Make A Big Difference
There is a very large number of coffee makers and related models out there. Many of these are genuine differences in quality of brewing, while at other times, the changes are purely cosmetic. But a cursory examination can’t tell the consumer much. Every coffee maker claims to brew the “best” coffee, at the right temperature, and offer a range of features.
Differences can be big even amongst similar models. As an example, a Keurig K50 vs K55 comparison shows that K55 is objectively better. Both these models pretty much share the same look and feature-set. Yet, there is a small addition to the brewer that makes all the difference.
That’s why it is important to check for consumer reviews as well as expert opinions on these models. They make the differences between various models and companies clearer.
2. Check Dimensions And Available Counter Space
Check the size and dimensions of the coffee machine and see if it is a good fit for your counter space. K-cup coffee makers can be incredibly compact and will easily fit into the tiniest of spaces.
Some feature-rich models tend to be larger and can be as big as a conventional coffee maker. So it pays to be more careful with size and dimensions. Always keep in mind that you’ll have to access the water reservoir and some vertical space is necessary to add/remove K-cups.
3. Brew Size And Strength Adjustment
Adjusting the brew size and strength of the coffee is important to several people. If you’re among them, these are the features to look for in your K-cup coffee maker. While most brewers have some brew size options, strength adjustment is not available for all coffee makers.
Generally speaking, many Keurig machines offer “regular” and “bold” brew strength, but these are not standard across all models. A good way to get a stronger brew is to pick the low brew size option. In this approach, 4 to 6 oz usually works wonders. Interestingly, the new Keurig K Cafe goes as low as 2 oz to create a brew that can mimic the strength of an espresso.
Keurig and other K-cup coffee makers usually have brew size increments in 2 oz steps. You could look forward to brew sizes like 6, 8, 10, and 12 oz.
4. Adjustable Drip Tray, Shelves, And The Travel Mug
Most of us single-serve lovers prefer to walk away with the coffee brewed in a travel mug. And travel mugs tend to be tall! So, the expected behavior from a K-cup coffee maker is to have enough room for a travel mug.
At first glance, many machines, including those from Keurig will look like they don’t have enough room for travel mugs. But that’s half the story!
See if the coffee maker you’re picking allows the drip tray to be removed. It’s rarely needed when you need to fill a travel mug, so removing the tray shouldn’t create a mess. This frees up additional vertical space to fill your travel mug.
As an aside, if you’re filling a travel mug, rather than filling a single dose of 12 oz, consider going 2 rounds with 6 oz. The full 12 oz can end up feeling watery. Going double shot on 6 oz gets you a stronger, more robust brew.
Another interesting feature is the adjustable shelf below the dispenser. This isn’t a standard feature but is something worth looking for in your coffee maker. The shelf is especially useful when you need to brew a small cup. Rather than have the coffee dispenser pour into the small cup and have the droplets scattering around, the cup can go on a shelf.
This way, the cup is closer to the dispenser nozzle, and there’s a lower risk of coffee spills. Adjustable shelves work with multiple cup sizes, so they’re handy whether you choose to brew 4 oz or 10 oz.
5. Leaving Room For Iced Coffee
When making iced coffee, the key is getting a small and concentrated brew. Usually, this is as small as 4 oz. Many Keurig 2.0 models had this feature, though it isn’t a standard offering. Several non-Keurig K-cup coffee makers continue to offer this feature.
Those fond of iced coffee should definitely look for this feature. The defining factors here are the small brew size and a more concentrated coffee that’s prepared for the dilution coming its way from ice.
6. Your Budget Is The Key
We can go on and on about features, but the budget is the biggest constraint. Thankfully, Keurig brewers have a low-cost threshold and many models fit entry-level pricing. Some K-cup coffee makers are priced substantially below their Keurig counterparts.
However, once you start looking for more features, the price starts going up. We’ve all experienced it – the price increments between models are so small, we end up spending way beyond our budget. Always have the machine fit your budget rather than having the budget fit the machine.
7. More Pointers For Your K-Cup Coffee Maker
Other features to consider are:
- Water reservoir: A removable water reservoir is better. Also, look at the size of the water reservoir. This is a single-serve machine, but it’s more convenient not having to refill the machine after each cup.
- Ease Of Cleaning: Any coffee maker will eventually need descaling. Coffee makers with dishwasher-safe components will make things easier.
- Hot Water Dispenser: A coffee maker with hot water dispenser will make it easier to enjoy other delicacies like ramen, soup, cocoa, or tea.
- Dual Coffee Makers: Many manufacturers offer coffee makers that can work as a regular drip coffee maker as well as a single-serve coffee maker. This allows you the best of both worlds. Hamilton Beach FlexBrew series and the Keurig Duo models are excellent K-cup coffee makers for this category.