In the past decade or so, single-use pod-based coffee makers have taken over.
Since their appearance in the early 2000s, Keurig machines have gone on to dominate – and it is no surprise that competitors have tried to copy.
Here are our top picks for the best Keurig alternative.
Our Top Recommended
How did Keurig conquer America?
Before Keurig machines appeared, the most popular coffee makers in the US were electric drip coffee makers (1).
These had been popular from the 1970s after the release of the Mr. Coffee machine, which took over from the stovetop percolators that were the preferred brewing method before.
Long before the turn of the century, these drip coffee machines had become a common feature of offices up and down the country.
Workers in need of a caffeine boost were able to help themselves to a coffee from the ever-present pot kept warm on the hotplate.
Unfortunately, the quality of coffee that sits in a pot quickly deteriorates. Unless it is freshly brewed, most people need to add heaps of sugar and plenty of milk to disguise the bitter taste of this kind of stewed coffee.
This was where Keurig came in. By developing a machine that brewed individual cups each time, bitter office coffee soon became a thing of the past.
Such was the success of the machine that, although originally designed for the office, a home version was soon released.
The main reason for their popularity was convenience. To make a cup of coffee with a Keurig, all you needed to do was pop in the pod – “K-Cup” – of your choice and hit “brew” the machine did the rest.
This meant an end to grinding, dosing and brewing the old way; it meant coffee that was ready in seconds and it meant not cleaning up after.
Keurig also partnered with many well-known coffee brands, resulting in a wide selection of different coffees being made available for the machines.
For many people, the speed and simplicity of brewing a coffee using a Keurig K-Cup was a much better solution than the time-consuming old way of brewing coffee, and it was no wonder that these novel machines quickly took over.
Why would you want to buy an alternative to the number one brand?
In the beginning, Keurig’s patents prevented competitors from copying them.
However, once the patents expired, other companies were quick to take advantage, and a whole range of K-Cup-compatible machines began to appear, along with unofficial “rebel” K-Cups.
What are the advantages of buying a machine made by one of Keurig’s competitors?
Well, the price for one. While Keurig machines are not overly expensive – the company makes more profit on the K-Cups themselves – other machines are often cheaper.
Another reason is that with the launch of the Keurig 2.0 range, Keurig also included a DRM device that prevented the use of unofficial K-Cups.
There are ways to circumvent the device – and newer models no longer include one – but competitors’ machines allow the use of any K-Cup-style pod, not just the ones licensed by the company.
Check out this video showing how to hack a Keurig 2.0 machine.
Furthermore, some other brewers have more functionality than Keurig machines. The original Keurig brewers could only brew single cups.
Later models added the ability to brew mugs and carafes, but machines from other companies can potentially do more.
Finally, there is the type of coffee you want to make. If you want to make the kind of coffee that is available in K-Cup format, a Keurig or other K-Cup-compatible machine is obviously the best choice.
However, there are other machines that use different pods and make different styles of drink.
One example might be Nespresso machines that specialize in making espresso. If you prefer authentic espresso to K-Cup coffee, this might be a better choice. See our review below.
How to choose the best Keurig alternative
Apart from the obvious factor of price, there are a few other points to bear in mind when you consider which is the best Keurig alternative for you.
One of the most important is the type of pods you hope to use.
Keurig was the original pod-based machine in the US and since their original release, many companies have begun selling coffee in K-Cups, either official ones or “rebel” ones.
This means that if you want the largest selection of pods, you should buy a machine that accepts K-Cups.
There are many machines other than Keurig brewers that accept K-Cups, and by buying one, you will give yourself access to the widest range of single-use pods.
Other types of pods
However, K-Cup-compatible machines aren’t the only ones on the market. We’ve already mentioned Nespresso machines that make espresso with pods.
Nespresso also has another range of machines called VertuoLine that use different pods again.
While these pods are different from K-Cups and the choice is more limited, some people say the taste is better than coffee made with K-Cups.
In short, you need to consider what kind of coffee you want to make and then choose a machine that is capable of making it.
Just because K-Cups are the most popular, it doesn’t necessarily make them the best option for you.
Then, of course, you need to think about whether you want a pod-based machine at all.
There are many advantages to buying a machine that makes coffee with pods but there are also disadvantages, including price (pods are more expensive than regular coffee) and environmental concerns.
Perhaps a more traditional brewer might be better for you after all.
The best Keurig alternatives - 2019 reviews
We will assume that if you are looking for the best Keurig alternative, you are looking for a pod-based machine. Here are our five top picks.
1. HAMSWAN K Cup Coffee Maker
A great option for an alternative coffee maker that has several advantages over a Keurig machine.
This brewer is fully compatible with all K-Cups, including the original pods, the 2.0 pods and unofficial “rebel” K-Cups.
It includes a filter for use with grounds, offering the best of both worlds.
Extra features include brew strength control and automatic self-cleaning – and all at a much lower price than it costs to buy a Keurig. Excellent value for money.
2. Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine (Our Top Recommended)
If you love espresso but you also enjoy other coffee drinks, an original Nespresso might be too limiting. In that case, you might prefer a model from Nespresso’s VertuoLine.
These machines brew espresso – by spinning the pod at 7,000 revolutions per minute rather than under pressure – but can also brew other drinks like regular coffee, cappuccinos and lattes.
If you are looking for an alternative to a K-Cup brewer that can make a range of great tasting coffees, this VertuoLine machine might be well worth considering.
3. CHULUX Single Serve K-cup Coffee Maker
This is simple, efficient and compact brewer that is fully compatible with all K-Cup pods.
With one-touch brewing, using this machine could hardly be easier. It features a 12oz water reservoir and is designed to be very easy to clean.
This model is available in several attractive colors and is 100% BPA-free.
Its small size would make it a good option for kitchens with limited space or for traveling, for example in a caravan.
A good pick for someone who likes a simple, reliable machine – and this is one of the least expensive too.
4. Nespresso Essenza Mini
If you are a fan of espresso rather than long coffee drinks or coffee shop-style drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, you might prefer an original Nespresso to a K-Cup machine.
Nespresso machines use special pods to brew authentic espresso under pressure, just like in a coffee shop.
This means that if you want coffee shop quality espresso at home combined with the convenience of a pod-based machine, a Nespresso brewer is an almost unrivaled first choice.
5. Hamilton Beach (49980A) Single Serve Coffee Maker and Coffee Pot Maker
This model from Hamilton Beach is another worthy pick if you want a machine that doesn’t use K-Cups. This machine is compatible with soft pods and can also be used with ground coffee.
In this way, you have the convenience afforded by using a pod-based machine but also the freedom of being able to use any regular coffee grounds you like.
This machine is able to brew single cups and can also be used to brew carafes of coffee, making it ideal for families. Note that it is not compatible with K-Cup pods.
Plenty of options for all requirements
Keurig may be the market leader and they may be far and away the most popular brand, but there are other options worth looking at.
The most important thing to think about is what kind of machine best meets your needs. When you are clear about this, there are some great options available.
If you want to use K-Cup pods, there are machines that allow you to do so without having to find the cash for a more expensive Keurig.
For espresso fans, Nespresso is an obvious option – with VertuoLine giving more flexibility. Finally, hybrid machines accept both pods and grounds, giving the best of both worlds.
Which kind of brewer do you use? Do you have a Keurig or something else? What is the best Keurig alternative?
If you have something to add, please leave us a comment – we love to hear from you. And if you enjoyed reading our roundup, please don’t forget to share!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.