Best Coffee Makers for College Students

CR's experts round up the best inexpensive drip and single-serve machines that will get you on your way

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Whether college means in-person or online classes this year, great coffee can help students get up and running. Make it easy to get a fix with a quality coffee maker. At Consumer Reports, we test both full-sized and single-serve coffee makers. Each type has its advantages.

“Full-sized coffee makers brew a stronger cup and offer more features,” says Ginny Lui, CR’s test engineer for coffee makers. “Single-serve machines are a great option if you want to brew a cup quickly.”

In our tests, full-sized coffee makers typically take about 10 minutes to brew a full pot, and some are even faster. But if you need your cup of joe as quickly as possible, try a self-serve drip machine or a single-serve model that uses disposable pods.

For drip coffee makers, we conduct a brew-performance test to measure the brew temperature and contact time (how long water stays within the sweet spot of 195° F to 205° F for brewing). For single-serve (pod) coffee makers, our engineers evaluate the temperature consistency and size consistency of individual cups of coffee. Both types also undergo convenience tests to evaluate how easy it is to set timers, clean the machine, and more.

Below are six models grouped by type (not ranked in performance order) that stood out in our tests for their consistent brewing and simple operation. For more options, check out our coffee maker ratings.

CR’s take: It takes 10 minutes to brew a pot of coffee in the Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Programmable 49465R. And at about $25, it costs the same or less than one week of takeout coffee from a barista. The Hamilton Beach has automatic shut-off, a nice feature for busy students. Brew performance is top-notch—in that test, this model earns an Excellent rating—and our testers find the machine convenient to use and clean.

CR’s take: You’ll pay more for the Cuisinart 14 Cup Programmable DCC-3200 than the Hamilton Beach above, but you’ll get more features, including a permanent filter and a light that indicates when the machine needs cleaning (a good reminder for a student who might otherwise overlook this chore). It also takes 10 minutes to brew a full pot but makes two more cups than the Hamilton Beach. It’s a cinch to operate and clean, earning a Very Good rating for convenience. In our tests, we also fill the filter almost to the top with grounds, which can happen when you skip measuring and just dump the coffee in. Some models overflowed in that test, making a mess of the counter. This Cuisinart didn’t.

CR’s take: The Cuisinart Coffee on Demand DCC-3000 dispenses coffee one cup at a time. Once the coffee is brewed, just place your travel mug under the reservoir, push the lever, and you’re good to go. The self-serve machine filled the entire 12-cup reservoir with freshly brewed coffee in 9 minutes, and it earns an Excellent rating for brew performance. The reservoir is easy to remove and clean. It’s also programmable, so a busy student can set it and have coffee ready the minute their a.m. alarm goes off.

CR’s take: In 8 minutes you can fill a large travel mug from the Hamilton Beach BrewStation Summit 4846[4]. The trade-off? Brew performance isn’t quite as good as that of the Cuisinart above, though this model still earns a Very Good rating in that test. It comes with auto-shutoff, a cleaning indicator, and a reservoir big enough to hold about 10 cups of piping hot joe.

CR’s take: The Touch Brewer T214B is a little slow when it comes to the first cup of the morning, but it makes up for it with speedier repeat cups, earning a Very Good rating in that test. Our testers also find that it brews cups that are very consistent in size and temperature. The only real downside to this model is that it doesn’t offer as many features as competitors. You’ll get only auto-shutoff, a height-adjustable drip tray, and a removable water reservoir.

CR’s take: If Nespresso is the preferred brand, rather than Keurig, try the Nespresso Essenza Mini. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s one of the best Nespresso brewers in our ratings. It earns high marks across the board but receives only a Good rating for temperature consistency, meaning some cups might be hotter than others. The Essenza Mini comes with a removable reservoir, a height-adjustable drip tray, and auto-shutoff. Wrapped in a deep red finish, this little brewer will add a bit of flair to the dorm room.