If you’re in the market for a single-serve pod style coffee maker but can’t find any Keurig machines that meet your needs, don’t worry. There are now many manufacturers offering this style of machine, plenty of which are even compatible with K-Cups.
In this article, our buyer’s guide gives you the know-how you need to choose the best single-serve Keurig alternatives, and our top picks guarantee you’ll get a best-in-class product.
How to choose the right Keurig alternative
In 2017, The National Coffee Association USA (NCA) announced that just under 30% of adult past-day coffee drinkers make coffee with a single-serve brewer.
Our buyer’s guide will walk you through their important features so you can choose the right one for your lifestyle.
What do you like to drink?
Single-cup machines usually specialize in either drip-style coffee or espresso, and your preference between these drinks can narrow down which coffee maker is best for you. A rare few machines excel at both drinks and are perfect if you like both equally.
If you prefer drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, look for a machine with a built-in steam wand or one that can be bundled with a frother.
And if you regularly enjoy tea or hot chocolate, look for one that has the option for hot water. These are particularly useful in dorm rooms or offices without a kitchen, as you can also use them for soup.
You’re probably considering a pod coffee system for its convenience, so consider what other features it offers to simplify your life. Some machines are fully programmable, while others have no more than a brew button. Along with features like timed turn-on, programmable machines offer more control over your beverage with adjustable drink sizes, temperatures, and brewing strengths, but they can be more difficult to learn and operate.
Don’t forget about cleaning, a mandatory chore for any coffee machine owner. Many machines simplify the process with automatic cleaning cycles and warnings when cleaning is due.
How much space do you have?
Single-serve pod brewers are usually very compact, built for the office desk or the galley kitchen, but this is not universally true. Think about where your machine will sit or if you will need to move it regularly to select the right size. For a portable machine, aim for something small but durably constructed so it can withstand transport.
A coffee machine’s size is largely determined by its water tank. If you have copious space and don’t intend to move your coffee maker, buying a bigger one with a large reservoir will avoid the need to constantly refill.
What about the environment?
Like all single-use products, pod-based coffee brewers have been maligned as being not good for the environment, but the news is not all bad. From a power use standpoint, many machines feature automatic shut-offs and low energy modes, which are useful in a safety context as well.
Nespresso’s aluminum pods are entirely recyclable, and the company strives to make recycling as easy as possible for the consumer, along with a number of other notable sustainability initiatives (2). K-Cups are not yet fully recyclable, but they hope to be later this year (3).
We make our capsules from aluminum because it’s a fully recyclable metal and it is an excellent material for preserving the quality of our coffee.
Of course, the best option for the environment is to use ground beans rather than a single-use capsule (4). If you want to go that route, look for a machine that includes a reusable filter pod.
K-cup coffee makers tend to be inexpensive, some of them extraordinarily so, but it’s more important to consider value for money and to balance price with durability and quality. It might be worth paying a bit more for a machine with materials like stainless steel or high-grade polymers.
If you have a large budget, a super-automatic espresso machine might be a better choice. These machines can deliver a much higher quality coffee or espresso with the convenience of a single-serve pod system and without environmental drawbacks, but at a considerably increased cost.
The 8 Best Keurig Alternatives in 2020
Venturing beyond the original Keurig brand gives you more options and a better chance to find exactly what you’re looking for. Whether it’s a great espresso or an ultra-cheap cup of java, we’ve got you covered.
Nespresso Vertuo – Best Overall
Drinks: Espresso, Coffee
- Use with: Nespresso Vertuo capsules
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 11.9 x 11.9 inches
- Water reservoir: 40 ounces
Nespresso’s new VertuoLine’s place at the top of our list is well deserved. While Nespresso has long been popular in Europe for high-quality espresso, North Americans bemoaned the lack of plain coffee. Enter the sleek and stylish Vertuo, which does both and does them well.
Built in collaboration with Breville, the Vertuo preheats in under 30 seconds and offers 5 cup sizes, up to a 14-ounce large coffee. It features Nespresso’s innovative Centrifusion technology, which spins the coffee pod at 7,000 rpm, blending the ground coffee and water to achieve optimum extraction. The result is a rich-tasting brew and thick crema, whether you’re making a coffee or an espresso.
This machine is also equipped with an intelligent extraction system, which reads a barcode on the capsule to know precisely which brewing parameters to use for the best taste. This does limit you to Nespresso’s proprietary pods, however, which are more expensive. This guarantees better quality than most, though, thanks to rigorous sourcing. The grounds are hermetically sealed in aluminum pods for maximum freshness.
Cuisinart SS-10 – Easiest to Use
Drinks: Coffee, Hot water
- Use with: K-Cups, reusable pod included
- Dimensions: 11.0 x 9.3 x 12.1 inches
- Water reservoir: 72 ounces
Cuisinart is new to the pod-based coffee brewer market, but their longstanding expertise in small appliances is apparent here. The fully programmable SS-10 has a number of user-friendly features, all accessible through a backlit LCD display.
This coffee brewer can be used with any of the great tasting K-Cup flavors or with the included HomeBarista filter cup, so you can use your favorite ground beans. Combined with a hot water option for tea, cocoa, or soup, you get a lot of brewing versatility out of this machine. Beverages can be brewed in five cup sizes and two temperature settings.
The removable water tank is a very large 72 ounces, and a charcoal water filter guarantees pure water for your brew (5). A built-in rinse feature automatically cleans the inside of the brew chamber. There is also a programmable auto-on function, for those who like their coffee ready and waiting for them, and an auto-off is triggered after 30 minutes.
The only downsides to this machine are its relatively large size compared to other single-cup brewers and its largely plastic construction, which will affect durability in the long run.
Sboly Single Serve – Best for Small Spaces
- Use with: K-Cups, reusable pod included
- Dimensions: 4.0 x 7.5 x 12.0 inches
- Water reservoir: 14 ounces
We love the low-priced Sboly because of its simple design, tiny footprint, and durable plastic and stainless steel construction. But it’s also no slouch when it comes to making coffee. This is a great option for a small apartment, office desk, or dorm room.
This little machine is compatible with all brands of K-Cups and comes with a reusable pod if you’d prefer to use your own ground coffee. With the press of a button, you can brew the K-Cup in three cup sizes, 6, 8, or 10 ounces, and the larger reusable filter allows you to brew 12 and 14-ounce options.
It takes just three minutes to heat up and brew coffee, and it shuts off automatically after brewing. Maintenance is a piece of cake as it has a one-touch automatic cleaning function, and the K-Cup piercing assembly is easily removable for cleaning.
This machine features a single-serve 14-ounce water tank, which allows it to heat up quickly but needs refilling between each coffee. For a larger household of coffee drinkers, this may be frustrating.
Breville-Nespresso Essenza Mini – Best for Espresso
Drinks: Espresso, Lungo
- Use with: Nespresso capsules
- Dimensions: 3.3 x 8.0 x 12.9 inches
- Water reservoir: 20 ounces
When it comes to capsule-based espresso machines, Switzerland’s Nespresso is the undisputed champion, known for delivering truly high-quality coffee as well as convenience. This is achieved by a rigorous approach to sourcing the best coffee beans, which are then ground and hermetically sealed for maximum freshness.
The Essenza Mini espresso machine, a collaboration with industry giant Breville, is their most compact offering, but this doesn’t preclude it from having a number of useful features. Used coffee pods are automatically ejected into an internal bin, and the 20-ounce water tank is removable for easy refilling. Also, the controls on this machine are intuitive and easy to use, making a single or double espresso at the touch of a button.
A 19 bar pump means you are getting true espresso topped with a rich crema, not just strong coffee.
This machine is extremely efficient. It heats in just 25 seconds, and you’ll be savoring your first espresso in under 2 minutes. After 3 minutes, it automatically switches to an eco-friendly low-energy mode, and after 9 minutes, it turns itself off.
Every Nespresso machine includes a welcome pack of 14 complimentary capsules covering a range of roasts and aromas, and for milky drinks, this machine can be bundled with Nespresso’s Aeroccino frother at a discount.
OXX COFFEEBOXX Job Site – Most Durable
Drinks: Coffee, Hot water
- Use with: K-Cups
- Dimensions: 11.0 x 9.0 x 11.0 inches
- Water reservoir: 85 ounces
The OXX Coffeeboxx is a unique offering that we had to include. OXX focuses on producing coffee machines for the outdoor Jobsite, and the Coffeeboxx more than delivers. The UV resistant polymer shell and stainless steel hardware encase a crush-proof chassis with a 1,500-pound load rating.
Whether you’re headed to a construction site or on an RV trip, the Oxx Coffeeboxx coffee maker can withstand whatever you encounter.
The Coffeeboxx is fully sealed to be dust and water-resistant, including the buttons on top. The leak-proof 85-ounce reservoir is made of durable plastic, so it can double as a water jug. For all this, it weighs only 12 pounds; so it’s still very portable, especially with a rubber-coated handle.
The Coffeeboxx is compatible with any brand of K-Cup. It also accepts reusable filter pods, but one is not included. Both brew strength and temperature are adjustable, and three cup sizes are possible. It takes only 30 seconds to heat up and another 75 seconds to brew. OXX knows its market; this machine is designed to accommodate the extra-large mugs and thermoses common on job sites.
The Coffeeboxx is relatively expensive, so it will probably be overkill if you’re just looking for a countertop machine.
Breville-Nespresso USA Creatista – Most Versatile
Drinks: Coffee, ristretto, espresso, lungo, cappuccino, latte, latte macchiato, flat white, and milk froth
- Use with: Nespresso capsules
- Dimensions: 7.0 x 12.5 x 12.0 inches
- Water reservoir: 50 ounces
This coffee maker is gorgeous, what Nespresso refers to as premium design, and you’ll want to display it proudly on your countertop.
Under its pretty facade, the Creatista also makes delicious drinks, pairing Nespresso’s espresso expertise with Breville’s steam wand microfoam technology to produce the best lattes and cappuccinos you can get from a pod-based machine. A 19 bar pump ensures plenty of pressure for a rich espresso, and a thermojet heating system means you’ll be ready to brew in 10 seconds.
User-adjustable settings allow you to make any beverage to your exact specifications, including 3 drink sizes, 8 milk texture levels, and 11 milk temperatures. Everything is controlled by an intuitive LCD display that walks you through drink settings and maintenance protocols. Cleaning is fully automated via a one-touch cycle, and the milk frother is automatically sterilized with hot steam after each use.
The Creatista is expensive, but it is built to last and will save you buying a separate frother. Adding to the value, each Nespresso machine also comes with a complimentary welcome set of pods spanning a range of flavors.
Hamilton Beach 49979 Flexbrew – Best Value for Money
- Use with: K-Cups, ground coffee
- Dimensions: 15.0 x 11.3 x 7.9 inches
- Water reservoir: 14 ounces
Hamilton Beach has been in the kitchen appliance field for a long time, and they’re known for their ability to make simple, high-quality, affordable products. If you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles and don’t want to pay for them, the Flexbrew delivers.
It is compatible with all K-Cups, and also comes with a small filter basket if you want to use ground beans. You can brew up to 10 ounces with the K-Cup and up to 14 ounces with ground beans, and even an 8-inch tall travel mug is accommodated.
Brewing is as simple as lowering the lid and pressing a button, and it only takes 3 minutes from start to finish. You even have the option of choosing regular or bold brew strength, a great feature when using the notoriously weak K-Cups (6). It shuts off automatically after brewing.
Several design features demonstrate Hamilton Beach’s attention to detail. An easy-view water window lets you monitor the amount of water in the tank from the front of the machine, and the cup rest doubles as storage for either the unused filter basket or K-Cup housing.
CHULUX Coffee Maker – Best budget
- Use with: K-Cups, reusable pod included
- Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.4 x 4.3 inches
- Water reservoir: 12 ounces
The Chulux one cup coffee maker is our favorite budget option, perfect for at home, in an RV, at the office, or in a dorm room. This compact little brewer is made from BPA-free plastic (7) in a series of fun colors, so it’s sure to match any decor. And even at its rock-bottom price, it manages to deliver the important features.
The Chulux accepts any brand of K-Cup and comes equipped with a reusable pod for ground beans. There aren’t any programmable functions, so operation is as simple as adding water pressing the brew button. It takes 3 minutes to heat up and brew the coffee, and it shuts down upon completion.
The metal drip tray is removable for easy cleaning and to accommodate large mugs. The cool-touch exterior means you don’t risk a scalding, even when the water inside is fully heated, a great feature if you have kids.
A downside is the 12-ounce single-serve water tank. You need to measure your water in advance because the machine will keep brewing until it’s empty. Though at less than a quarter the price of most machines, this is a small quibble.
Whether you’re looking for a cheap way to re-caffeinate at the office or a premium latte to start your day, there’s a Keurig alternative to meet your needs.
Our favorite is the new Nespresso Vertuo, which produces a remarkably high-quality drink at the touch of a button. Whether you want a rich coffee or a crema topped espresso, the Vertuo delivers in less than two minutes.
The only way to make K-Cup coffee stronger is to brew a smaller size because each K-Cup has the same amount of ground coffee. A better option is to use a refillable filter pod with ground coffee, and then you can add extra grounds.
To clean a single cup coffee machine, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which typically involve running a brew cycle with water and vinegar. Many machines offer automatic cleaning cycles to make the job easier.
No, you don’t need to buy paper filters. Refillable coffee pods are made of fine metal mesh that acts as a filter.
- Contreras, M. (2018, May 31). Why Specialty Coffee Needs to Befriend the Capsule Consumer. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2018/05/why-specialty-coffee-needs-to-befriend-the-capsule-consumers/
- Gunther, M. (2015, May 27). The good, the bad, and the ugly: sustainability at Nespresso. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/27/nespresso-sustainability-transparency-recycling-coffee-pods-values-aluminum
- Brown, D. (2019, March 13). K-cups and coffee capsules: Is your quick java fix killing the environment? Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/03/13/heres-why-your-used-k-cups-coffee-pods-arent-usually-recycled/3067283002/
- Nespresso, Ahead of the (Curb). (2019, November 20). Retrieved from https://www.freshcup.com/nespresso-ahead-of-the-curb/
- McNamara, P. (2017, July 17). 5 Benefits of Using Charcoal Water Filters. Retrieved From https://www.waterfiltersfast.com/5-Benefits-of-Using-Charcoal-Water-Filters_b_64.html
- Carman, T. (2017, February 28). How much better can coffee from a Keurig pod machine get? Retrieved From https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/how-to-hack-your-keurig-machine-and-get-a-better-cup-of-coffee/2017/02/27/93b27e02-f7d1-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html
- Bauer, B. (2019, December 18). What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331