How Does A Single Serve Coffee Maker Work?
There are three essential differences between a traditional electric coffee maker and a "single serve." The first is, quite obviously, the serving size. The second is that a single serve doesn't require you to measure out grounds or rinse pots. And the third is that a single serve brews coffee grounds that are placed inside a plastic container or a paper pouch.
The majority of single serve coffee makers feature a filter, which is used like a basket for holding the grounds. Water is boiled in a plastic reservoir, which then transfers the water (via a tube) into the filter. The boiling water saturates the grounds, absorbing their flavor, before dripping down into a centrally-located cup.
Most of today's single serve machines will shut themselves off if left unattended. A lot of models feature detachable parts for cleaning, as well. That said, customers are cautioned against fidgeting with the inner-mechanisms of certain single serve machines (particularly those that are manufactured by Keurig). The inner-workings of these machines are prone to feature razor-sharp devices. These devices are used for puncturing a single-serve container with holes.
Single Serve Coffee Considerations, Before You Buy
Your single-serve decision should probably come down to purchasing a reliable model that brews the type of caffeinated drinks you drink most. If the only caffeinated blend you drink is coffee, you can consolidate your research by determining which single serve can brew the best cup. If, however, you'd prefer the option of brewing cappuccino, espresso, hot cocoa, or even tea, it's going to be a little more difficult to zero in on the best choice. You may want to do a Google search under the term "single serve coffee maker," adding the names of some of your favorite caffeinated drinks to see what comes up.
You may also want to take a look at how many different brands of "coffee capsule" a specific single serve machine can use. Keurigs use K-cups (and only K-cups), but other manufacturers may not be K-cup compatible at all. Beyond that, look into how quickly a single serve can brew each cup, how easy the dispenser is to refill, and whether any individual components are removable, so you can rinse and clean them at will.
Last but not least, you may want to read some customer reviews or visit some coffee-related message boards. Every manufacturer is going to boast about its products, but an objective consumer can tell you what to avoid.
A Brief History of the Single Serve Coffee Maker
The process of making coffee is simple. You take some roasted beans, you grind them, and you boil them with water, allowing the flavor to seep in. For centuries this was achieved with little more than a pot (or a pan) and a still-burning flame. The process of brewing coffee by using a drip filter was originated in France, well over 100 years ago. Early filters were made of non-disposable materials, like burlap or cloth, and - over time - this negatively affected the coffee's taste. The problem was solved by the pumping percolator, a free-standing kettle which “perked” coffee by continually cycling boiled water through fresh beans. Percolators went from being a household item to becoming outdated during the eighties, as electric coffee makers succeeded in simplifying the process. You can still find traditional percolators in a lot of banquet halls, and they’re a mainstay at cheap hotels, as well.
The process of making coffee didn't change much when transitioning from a traditional percolator to an electric pot. Water was still heated, siphoned through a tube, and left to drip into a filter. The major difference had to do with convenience. Electric coffee makers featured an automatic timer, so your coffee would be brewing before you even stepped out of bed in the morning. You could see the water perking, and the process was completed within minutes. The taste was smooth, if less robust.
And that is where the single serve comes in. As a modern extension of the French press, single-serve coffee makers have condensed the process of brewing from minutes into seconds. Keurig is the biggest name in the industry, and much like Apple, Keurig controls its brewing process from end-to-end. You cannot use a Keurig without purchasing K-cups. And that means an endless stream of revenue for the thriving Keurig brand.