What You Need to Know: Drip Coffee Maker vs Single Serve

picture of single serve coffee maker and coffee beans

Like all strong marriages, ours has endured many heated arguments…uh….debates. Our single serve coffee maker bit the dust this week, sparking yet another highly important debate: drip coffee maker vs single serve. I fall on the single serve side. Before you dismiss my position, understand that I never truly drank coffee until law school. Even then, I only drank it to survive 24 hour study sessions. So, coffee never ranked high on my priority list…until about 4 years ago when I reached 40 years orbiting on this third rock from the sun.

So, now a busy (read: sleep deprived) mom of 3 kids, who runs a couple businesses and homeschools 2 out of 3 kids, I 100% concur with the “coffee is life,” “but first coffee,” and “need coffee now” crews. Still though, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a cup of single serve and a cup of drip brewed if you paid me. Sigh.

Naturally, when our single serve coffee maker died, we mourned, and made a Starbucks run. Then, we sprang into debate about what should replace our beloved caffeine supplier. He said: drip coffee maker. I said: single serve. Let the drip coffee maker vs single serve research commence and may the best WOMAN win. 😉 You’re gonna want to PIN this post for future reference because inevitably your coffee maker will call it quits and you’ll need a new one, stat.

If you haven’t learned by now, I love to research, probably too much. This post summarizes the results of what I found when comparing the drip coffee maker vs single serve.


First things, first. Is there a difference in cost between a drip coffee maker and a single serve? Short answer, yes. In comparing cost on these two options, one must compare not only the cost of the machine, but also the overall costs of the coffee grounds.

A quick online search reveals drip coffee makers start at around $22.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond and can go for as a high as $300, excluding the fancy espresso mahcines that go for thousands of dollars. A Black & Decker drip coffee maker sells for $33.99 on Amazon. In comparison, the single serve coffee makers start at $49.99 with this Hamilton Beach FlexBrew at Bed, Bath & Beyond. If you must have the Keurig brand name, you’ll pay upwards of $99. You pay for their cuteness.

keurig single serve coffee maker in aqua
Courtesy of Target

However, the real comparison starts when you look at the cost of the actual coffee rather than just the coffee maker. According to Money.com, the 3 cups a day coffee consumer could save more than $400 a year by sticking with the drip coffee maker over the single serve. What?!? Mind blown. Basically, we pay a price for convenience and k-cups are super convenient. On any given day in our household, we have 2-3 people consuming at least 2-3 cups of coffee a day (the kid drinks decaf). You do the math. As a budget conscious shopper, drip coffee makers win in the cost category.


Apparently, with single serve coffee you trade quality and taste for convenience and simplicity. As a coffee novice, I can tell you that I never noticed. My husband would say it might be because my coffee to creamer ratio heavily favors creamer. If you put a little coffee in your creamer, you’re my kinda coffee drinker. LOL

Because of my admitted lack of expertise in this area, I consulted experts. My husband being one of them and Business Insider being another. According to my husband, coffee from single serve pods tastes bland, stale, and “weak.” This article by Business Insider supports his position and goes further to explain why. I read it. It certainly makes sense, but honestly involves way more information than I care to know about my coffee. Something to do with the time from grinding to packaging, the temperature of the water in single serve machines, the time of brewing over the grounds in single serve machines and so on. Essentially, there’s ample support that drip brewed coffee ranks higher in quality and taste. Drip brewed coffee maker wins the quality category. (Anyone else getting nervous about my odds in winning this argument…uh….debate?)

Environmental Impact

If you are environmentally conscious, you probably cringe at the thought of how many k-cups have been consumed in my home in just the past year. And, candidly, after my research on drip coffee vs single serve, I now do too. While, we try to recycle the k-cups, my research discovered that these single use plastics are somewhat resistant to recycling. Apparently, because of their size, they are often too small for some sorting systems at recycling plants. So, despite the efforts of the environmentally friendly k-cup consumer, their efforts are being thwarted by the recycling plants themselves. That’s a scary irony. What else is too small for sorting systems?? A topic for another post, maybe? According to USA Today, “Within 10 years, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10 times.” 10 times!

On the other hand, creative drip coffee drinkers may reuse their regular brewed coffee grounds in a variety of ways. Coffee grounds make a great fertilizer, insect repellant, compost, odor neutralizer, and a great scrub for pots and pans, among other uses. While one could argue the single serve coffee makers save water because of less unused coffee and thus help the planet on water usage, in my opinion, the millions of k-cups filling landfills is more detrimental. As such, for the environmentally conscious, drip coffee makers win. (Looks like I might end up with a drip coffee maker)

instant coffee pods, k cups, and white coffee mugs on stand
Another reason I love the single serve, I love to display the pods with my decor and provide flavor options for guests.

Convenience. Single serve coffee makers have to win this category, right? After all, they were literally created for convenience. And they do. But for more reasons than you may think. Back to that water usage, single serve coffee makers with reservoirs provide the convenience of less water fill ups. Bonus, when you only make what you need, less water waste results.

My favorite thing about the single serve machine is I get to make my fragrant vanilla or hazelnut java and my husband can stick to his boring medium roast, one cup at a time. Also, because we have a child who loves coffee but is only allowed to drink decaf, the single serve allows him to enjoy his coffee at the same time. The convenience of each of us personally creating our coffee experience is a huge factor for me. Then, there’s that afternoon pick me up, or after dinner coffee craving. Without a single serve, inevitably we’d make too little or too much to satisfy those episodes.

Also, remember back in the day, all the way back to 2019, when we used to make our cup of coffee to-go and hop in the car to the office, school drop off, or whatever else occupied our day, the ability to make a grab and go cup of coffee was priceless. In fact, it no doubt saved us money on Starbucks stops. So, for the days when you just need a cup of coffee to-go, single serves are quick, with no clean up, and no waste from a full pot. In a word – convenient. Hands down, the single serve coffee maker wins the convenience category.

black woman with takeaway coffee and sandwich walking on street
Photo by Uriel Mont on Pexels.com

Sadly, my beloved single serve coffee maker stood her ground in only one category – convenience. While it’s a big factor, the other 3 do outweigh it. Alas, I don’t cave that easily. I found the perfect marriage (see what I did there) of drip coffee maker and single serve coffee maker in the Cuisinart Coffee Center Coffee Maker/Single Serve Brewer! It’s the best of both worlds! Happy coffee drinking!

XO, Christy

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