What's the Best Small Coffee Maker?
A small coffee maker doesn’t mean a sacrifice in performance or durability. These coffee makers typically include all of the popular features of larger models, and at a more affordable price. Whether you have limited counter space, need a small model for your office or guest house, you’re on a budget, or you’re the only coffee drinker in your home, a small coffee maker is the perfect solution.
Some of the most common types include under-cabinet, space savers, and personal coffee makers. In this hub, we’ll explore each type, so you can better decide which one is right for you.
The Under Cabinet Small Coffee Maker
The under cabinet small coffee maker is a great choice for anyone who has little counter space to spare. It mounts neatly under the cabinet, and can be used in the home, RV, or camper. Some models are better than others, and many of the flaws experienced with this type of coffee maker can be fixed using simple, homemade solutions. There are many complaints about under cabinet coffee makers overflowing and leaking, but this is most often due to incorrect usage.
The Space Saver Small Coffee Maker
The space saver small coffee maker is similar to a normal counter top maker. It is typically created smaller to accommodate space constraints, and can come in a variety of capacities. From a 12-cup brew to as little as one cup at a time, the space saver small coffee maker is a great choice for the lone coffee drinker, or as a backup at the office.
The Personal Small Coffee Maker
The personal small coffee maker brews only one serving of coffee at a time, usually into a thermal mug that can be transported. This is a great choice if you’re the only one in your home who drinks coffee, or if you need a quick grab-and-go solution to the morning coffee fix.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular small coffee maker brands.
Black & Decker ODC440B Spacemaker Coffeemaker
The Black & Decker Spacemaker (pictured to the right) is a small coffee maker that can still brew a large cup of coffee. It features a twelve cup capacity, programmable timer, sneak-a-cup feature, and auto-shutoff. There are very few models of under cabinet coffee makers, and the Black & Decker Spacemaker is at the head of the class. However, there are a few disadvantages to this model, many of which can be overcome if you like the idea of saving counter space.
The timer has a tendency to race forward, making it impossible to program the machine to brew coffee at a specified time. This happens frequently in some models and not at all in others. Luckily, there is a fix. Unplug the coffee maker and wait ten minutes. Plug in again and the timer will reset, allowing you to program the machine.
The instances of overflow with this particular model can also be remedied by using the machine correctly. Make sure you always push the coffee back on the warming plate until you hear it click. This signifies that it is locked and will not leak or overflow. I've been using this model in my small apartment for over six months and have not had a problem, as long as I make sure to lock the reservoir into place.
Black & Decker DCM18 Brew 'N Go Coffeemaker
The Black & Decker Brew ‘N Go (pictured to the right) is a personal small coffee maker that brews hot coffee in a 15-ounce travel mug you can take on the go. The insulated mug can fit into most car cup holders, and also fits all Black & Decker Brew ‘N Go models. A permanent, dishwasher safe filter is included (how green!) so you don’t have to buy disposables. However, disposable filters can be used if necessary. It can also heat water for cocoa, oatmeal, tea, and other instant foods.
This small coffee maker takes up precious little space on your counter, and brews a cup quickly. There is no warming element, so you can’t allow the coffee to sit for hours without growing cold. However, the mug is microwavable so you can heat your coffee later if it sits too long. Also, keep in mind the mug is thermally insulated – which means it keeps your coffee hot for quite some time.
There seem to be a few tips and tricks to using the Brew ‘N Go effectively. For instance, brewing with the cover off will prevent overflow, and using drip or cone ground coffee will prevent grounds from floating in the reservoir. Using espresso is not recommended, as it is too finely ground for use with this small coffee maker.
Mr. Coffee Programmable Coffeemaker
Not as small as a personal small coffee maker, this Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker is still a space saver. It brews four cups at a time, and takes up less space on the counter than larger, 12-cup models. It’s the perfect size for up to two coffee drinkers, and is extremely easy to use.
The timer settings, not often present on a small coffee maker, work wonderfully, and provide a great feature for on-the-go coffee drinkers. But, perhaps the most impressive feature of the Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker is the brew pause (see video below). By removing the coffee pot from the warming plate, you stop the flow of coffee so you don’t have to wait for the entire pot to brew.
Other features include a removable filter cup for easy cleaning, visible water level window, on and off indicator light, and cord storage. Plus, this is one of the only programmable 4-cup coffee makers on the market. The only disadvantage of this small coffee maker is that it takes more time to brew a pot of coffee than larger models. However, with the brew pause feature, you won’t have to wait on it to finish.
Mr. Coffee Brewing Pause Feature
Using a Percolator to Brew Coffee in Small Spaces
If you grew up in the 1940s or 1950s, chances are you remember the percolator. However, modern versions of this wonderful coffee brewing invention can also be used when space is tight. Plus, a percolator offers many benefits that other types of coffee makers can’t compete with. My mother has used a percolator for years as a small coffee maker replacement, and if you try one, you might find you’re hooked, too.
A percolator can be used in the home, or while camping. There are electric percolators available, as well as the old-fashioned non-electric models. Both are easy to use and clean, and will brew a super-hot robust cup of coffee in seconds. A percolator will last for years, and never give you problems, particularly the non-electric versions. You simply heat the percolator on the stove top and wait as your coffee is brewed.
Another benefit of the percolator as a small coffee maker replacement is that it can make as much coffee as larger drip models. Plus, it stores neatly underneath the cabinet to save space. Most versions can be washed in the dishwasher for even greater convenience. They make a great back up when there is no electricity, and will even stand up to every day use.
Some of the most popular brands include the Farberware Classic Yosemite Stainless Steel Percolator (pictured to the right), Presto 02811 12-Cup Stainless Steel Coffeemaker, and Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker. These are all highly rated for performance and durability.
How to Use a Percolator
French Press Coffee Maker
Another good small coffee maker option is the French Press, also known as the plunger pot. The French Press Coffee Maker brews a full-bodied, rich cup of coffee without the need for electricity. You simply add hot water and freshly ground coffee, steep for a few minutes, and then use the "plunger" to strain the coffee grounds from the liquid. It's very easy to use, comes in a variety of sizes (1-cup all the way to 12-cup) and makes coffee that most aficionados believe is superior to the coffee made in traditional machines.
If you've never seen a French Press in action, check out my "French Press Coffee How-To Guide" to see how it's used. You might decide it's the right small coffee maker for you, especially if you like to drink your coffee fresh. It doesn't do so well at keeping the coffee warm, which makes it ideal for the 1- to 2-cup lone drinker or couple on busy mornings.
Which Small Coffee Maker is Right for Me?
When choosing a small coffee maker, consider your specific needs. If you have little counter space, a percolator or under cabinet coffee maker may be the best choice. However, if you simply want a small coffee maker because you don’t drink much coffee, or are the only coffee drinker in your house, a personal coffee maker might be right for you.
Consider space requirements, features you can’t live without (such as programmability), and how much coffee you need to brew each day. If you’re looking for a backup small coffee maker, you can’t go wrong with a personal model, or a space saver 4-cup maker.
Look for online reviews before making a decision. Many times other users will be able to give you a real insight into the performance of a small coffee maker. Companies often just want to sell to you, and won’t inform you of potential disadvantages of particular coffee maker brands and models. Do your research and you’ll be better off in the long run.
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