Nothing beats having a good drip coffee maker on your countertop. Think about it: coffee on demand, and it’s cheaper than hitting up the Starbucks drive-thru every day — can you imagine anything better?
Unfortunately, though, not everyone has the space for a large machine with all the bells and whistles. Smaller housing coupled with the popularity of the minimalist aesthetic and tiny homes keeps small coffee makers — specifically those with a 4-cup capacity, which we’ll be focusing on here — in demand.
But is a smaller brewer best for you? Read on to find out, plus learn all about our picks for the best 4-cup models. And who knows? You just might find a compact model on our list that’s perfect for you.
At a Glance: Our Top 5 Picks For Best 4-Cup Coffee Maker
Is it Wise to Downsize?
First, let us clarify exactly what a 4-cup coffee maker actually is. We should start by letting you know that four cups does not mean four full coffee cups. A 4-cup coffee maker only brews about 20 ounces of coffee, which is only enough to fill about two standard-size coffee mugs (plus a little extra to top someone off) or one large travel mug.
Unfortunately, that means none of the products on our coffee maker list below will fuel a house full of coffee drinkers…at least not in one brewing cycle. But they all make fine choices if you’re brewing for just one or two.
Besides that, there are several other perks of downsizing your brewer. Small coffee machines…
- Occupy less space and can easily be stored: Smaller footprints mean you may be able to keep your brewer on your counter, even if space is a bit tight. If you do decide to stow away your coffee maker when it’s not in use, its smaller frame will ensure you aren’t wasting any precious kitchen storage space.
- Have a shorter brew time: Even if your machine doesn’t have a brewing pause feature that lets you pour a cup before the carafe is full (without making a mess), you won’t have to wait as long for the entire pot to brew and can go on your way sooner.
- Produce less waste: For those of you who find that you are regularly pouring out the leftover coffee from an oversized pot, you may find you appreciate the reduced waste of a smaller brewer.
Any of those perks sound tempting? Then, read on to learn about some of our favorite 4-cup coffee makers!
Quick Summary: Best 4-Cup Coffee Maker
|CUISINART DCC-450BK 4-CUP COFFEE MAKER||Check On Amazon →|
|MR. COFFEE SWITCH COFFEE MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
|CAPRESSO 303.01 4-CUP ESPRESSO AND CAPPUCCINO MACHINE||Check On Amazon →|
|OAMCEG POUR-OVER COFFEE MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
|BODUM CHAMBORD FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
|BLACK + DECKER 5-CUP COFFEE MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
|ZOJIRUSHI ZUTTO 5-CUP COFFEE MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
|KRUPS SIMPLY BREW COMPACT COFFEE MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
Roasty Rankings: Best 4-Cup Coffee Makers
Now, for the moment of truth — let’s look at the best drip coffee makers for making a 4-cup pot of coffee. Whether you’ve just got limited counter space and need a compact machine or you just prefer making smaller batches of coffee in the morning, we’re sure you’ll find a 4-cup machine on our list that will meet all of your needs and is in your price range.
And if you’re convinced your best bet to get fresh coffee every day is by using a manual brewing method, we’ve got a couple of recommendations for you, too. Though most manual coffee makers with carafes are slightly on the larger side, we’ve found a few that are perfect for getting coffee ready for a smaller crowd.
Cuisinart DCC-450BK 4-Cup Coffee Maker DCC-450BK
First up is our personal favorite: Cuisinart‘s DCC-450BK 4-cup coffee maker. This little drip machine features a stainless-steel thermal carafe, which stands out from the slew of glass options on the market. It’s also got a drip-free spout and a knuckle guard, so when you’re rushing to pour the first mug of joe early in the morning, you won’t make a mess or burn your hand.
In addition to the nifty features above, the Cuisinart coffee maker also has a brew-pause feature, a 30-minute automatic shutoff, and a power indicator light.
Plus, since this is such a small brewer — weighing a little over three pounds and measuring 10 by 8 by 5.25 inches — you won’t have to worry much about how much storage space it takes up.
Mr. Coffee Switch Coffee Maker (TF5-RB)
If you’re among the coffee lovers who want a no-nonsense, reliable, and simple coffee maker that will fulfill all your daily brewing desires, take a look at the Mr. Coffee Switch coffee maker. It’s a classic — straightforward, efficient, and user-friendly, too!
The Mr. Coffee machine’s glass carafe and coffee warmer plate combination is perfect for a brewer with such a small and compact design, as hot plates can make your coffee taste burnt over time if you’re using a larger pot. There’s also brew-pause functionality, a power indicator light and switch, a removable filter basket, and dual water windows.
This 4-cup maker is of pretty average stature, measuring 6.37 by 7.16 by 9.64 inches. It’s relatively lightweight, too, weighing a little over two pounds.
Capresso 303.01 4-Cup Espresso and Cappuccino Machine
Don’t waste any more time standing in a long café line waiting for a specialty drink; enjoy your coffee fresh every single morning by brewing it yourself with this 4-cup espresso and cappuccino machine from Capresso.
Load the little machine with fresh water and your favorite pre-ground coffee — fine grinds, of course — and watch up to four cups of rich, freshly-brewed espresso flow into the glass carafe. It’s even equipped with a built-in steaming wand, so you can get perfectly frothy milk without having to buy any extra accessories.
OAMCEG Pour-Over Coffee Maker
Our first manual 4-cup brewer comes from OAMCEG, and not only is this pour-over coffee maker one of the best-looking brewers out there, but it’s impressively innovative, too.
This excellent coffee maker has an anti-scald wooden handle, a gracefully curved BPA-free borosilicate glass carafe, a V-shaped spout for easy pours, and a permanent dual-layer stainless-steel filter. If you’re looking for something easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to maintain, this might be the best choice for brewing your favorite coffee grounds in the morning.
Its 20-ounce capacity can brew about two actual cups of coffee at a time, allowing it to keep up with the traditional automatic drippers we highlighted above.
Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker
If the pour-over coffee experience sounds a little too involved for you, give this 4-cup French press coffee maker from Bodum a try. Pour your favorite ground coffee beans and hot water into this French press, and in about four minutes, you’ll be enjoying great, full-bodied coffee with minimal effort on your part.
The high-quality glass carafe is ultra-light and heat resistant, and it also includes a handle and plunger knob made of BPA-free plastic. The filter is a three-part stainless-steel mesh, so you won’t need to worry about stocking up on single-use paper filters.
All of the brewer’s components, from cap to carafe, are dishwasher-friendly, and you can even close off the spout with the carafe lid. That prevents spillage and keeps your coffee warm for a longer period, so you can enjoy nice, hot cups of coffee without having to use a heating plate.
And Just In Case 4 Cups Isn’t Enough…
Now, we know the point of this article was to introduce you to our favorite 4-cup coffee makers, but let’s be honest: when it comes to coffee, the more, the merrier. That’s why we’ve decided to include a 5-cup drip coffee maker (or two) as well.
Like the offerings above, the 5-cup capacity of these brewers means they’re still appropriate for a two-person household or a multi-cup drinker.
BLACK + DECKER 5-Cup Coffee Maker
You might’ve seen BLACK + DECKER’s logo printed on all your dad’s favorite tools, but the American brand makes more than just gear for handymen. The company makes a great little 5-cup brewer that we’re sure you’ll love as much as we do.
The compact coffee brewer comes equipped with a Sneak-A-Cup feature — another name for the brew-pause function — that allows you to pour yourself a piping hot cup before the carafe is full and without making a mess.
Its additional features include a permanent grounds filter that eliminates the need for expensive and wasteful paper filters and a lighted power switch. This little brewer’s small size, simple design, and affordable price point make this machine the perfect choice for a college student with little space to spare and not a lot of money to spend.
Zojirushi Zutto 5-Cup Coffee Maker
If you can afford a bigger-budget option, we highly recommend checking out the Zojirushi Zutto 5-cup coffee maker. This brewer’s design takes a couple of clear and innovative departures from the standard drip maker while still giving you that classic feel.
These coffee makers have cone-shaped filters that sit inside their decanters, allowing for excellent extraction while maintaining a compact and sleek design. It’s also got a removable water reservoir, a replaceable water filter, a reservoir window with measurement markings, and a lit on/off switch.
This machine is an effective, reliable coffee maker. Plus, it’s attractive, too — that combination can be hard to come by in a brewer. It’s a bit larger than the other coffee pots, but we think it’s a worthwhile purchase if you’re working with a few extra bucks in your budget and aren’t working with limited space on your counter.
KRUPS Simply Brew Compact Coffee Maker
Interested in the idea of a 5-cup coffee machine that manages to be compact and traditional simultaneously? Check out KRUPS‘s Simply Brew dripper.
The Simply Brew makes just the right quantity of coffee for one or two people while still boasting a modern design and premium stainless-steel finish. Plus, the drip-free pouring spout and dishwasher-safe carafe and filter ensure the cleaning process is painless. Additional features include a backlit on/off switch, a conveniently located water tank, a sleek glass carafe, and, most excitingly, a permanent coffee filter.
Things to Consider
Before you decide precisely which coffee maker to buy to make the most of your coffee brewing process, let’s take a look at a few of the factors that could affect your decision.
First and foremost, the primary concern with any coffee machine purchase is how it handles your beloved coffee beans. No one wants subpar joe, so here are a few brewing characteristics you should look out for.
We all know that “I need a cup of coffee, like, yesterday” urgency. Patience is a virtue that many of us caffeine fiends struggle with, especially in the morning, and that’s why, when shopping for a decent coffee maker, you should consider how fast it can turn your hot water and ground coffee into a fresh cup of java.
The best machines on the market can heat up and brew coffee in minutes, while other less impressive brewers just take their sweet time. If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself a machine with a programmable setting that allows you to set it ahead of time and wake up to freshly brewed coffee with no wait time.
But if you are the type of person who’s okay with puttering around the kitchen while your brewer does its thing, you might be able to save yourself a few dollars by going with a slower brewer. You’ll probably even enjoy an immersion-style brewer, like a French press.
However, for those of you who are particularly impatient, make sure your machine has a brewing pause function so you can suck down each cup as the coffee fills the carafe. You may also want to consider increasing your budget to invest in a higher-end, faster coffee machine.
A good filter is key to optimal coffee extraction, and the main things you’ll want to keep in mind here are placement and type.
The placement of the filter or filter basket impacts the ergonomics of the coffee maker. If you have to fight to get around the water reservoir to add your grounds, that’s probably not the best option.
The filter type is essential, too. Some coffee machines just have a filter basket in which you put a disposable paper filter. Those are fine but look into reusable filters for your machine if you want to cut down on waste. Some coffee maker brands include permanent filters with their products, which saves you the hassle of finding a filter that’s a good fit for your brewer, or you just don’t want to make multiple purchases.
One of the most significant factors separating mediocre coffee makers from the best ones is the machine’s ability to brew hot coffee and keep it that way.
All of the coffee makers we’ve selected will brew acceptably hot cups of coffee. However, if you are particularly concerned about having a less-than-piping hot cup of coffee, you’ll need to look closely at a few things: wattage, heating mechanism, storage mechanism, and warming plate.
The first two factors — wattage and heating mechanism — aren’t likely to vary much, as most of these smaller machines tend to have similar systems. However, you are likely to see some variation in the latter two factors. The carafe’s build material and whether or not it is double-walled will have a pretty significant impact on how long your coffee stays hot, but we’ll explain all that further in the next section.
A warming plate can also be effective at keeping your coffee hot, but you will need to make sure your brewer has an auto-off feature so you don’t accidentally end up with burnt-tasting coffee.
All of that said, the most surefire way to make sure you have hot coffee is to heat your water and use a manual brewer.
As we mentioned above, the type of carafe you have will undoubtedly affect the temperature of your brew, but there are also a few other things to consider besides the material from which it’s made.
Most small coffee makers will have a durable glass carafe and a warming plate. A glass carafe has its advantages, like allowing you to see how much coffee you have left and being more visually appealing. However, heat can escape from a glass carafe rather quickly, which means you have to rely heavily on the warming plate. Unfortunately, the added heat of the plate can diminish the quality of the brew over time, so your leftover coffee may taste a little burned.
The alternative is a thermal carafe, which is usually made of double-walled stainless steel. The coffee stays hotter for longer in this carafe type, but this function is often more of a “nice-to-have” than a “must-have” for smaller coffee makers. It’s also harder to know how much coffee you have left with a thermal carafe because the sides are opaque.
Aside from the build material, pay attention to the spout on the carafe. Many higher-quality options will have non-drip spouts, which are perfect for groggy morning coffee pouring. Also, less spillage means minimal clean-up.
And since we mentioned the build material of your carafe, let’s talk about your coffee maker’s construction. Typically, your brewer will be made from one of three things: plastic, stainless steel, or glass. But in some cases, the brewer may be a combination of these materials.
To help you make an informed decision on what kind of 4-cup brewer to buy, we’re going to walk you through some of the most notable characteristics of each material.
Plastic coffee makers tend to rank at the bottom of the totem pole, partially because lower quality, cheaper machines tend to be made of the stuff, but also because, when plastic comes in contact with hot water, it can release chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA).
So, if your search for an affordable model to purchase has led you to something made of plastic (or has any plastic on it at all), be sure it’s BPA-free, so you know you’re getting the healthiest cup of coffee possible.
Many at-home baristas swear by stainless steel brewers because they’re so durable. So, even if you weren’t thrilled about how much you paid for that more expensive stainless steel coffee maker, you’ll probably change your tune a few years down the road when you’re still using it with no problems.
We like stainless steel because it doesn’t contain plastic (duh), so that means you’ll just be tasting the goodness of regular coffee, not the plastic-like aftertaste the hot joe will pick up after sitting in a plastic container for too long.
Glass coffee makers are another widely purchased type, but this is mostly for aesthetic purposes. When it comes to keeping your coffee warm, glass doesn’t do as well as stainless steel; it requires a heat source, like a warming plate, to keep your brew from getting cold before you’ve had a chance to finish it.
And obviously, glass isn’t the most durable of options, either — one wrong move and your beloved glass coffee maker and all its contents could be all over the floor! On the bright side, a glass coffee maker won’t give your drink the strange taste a plastic one might, but if you leave it on the warming plate too long, it may taste a bit burned, so be careful.
Design & Dimensions
While it may sound a bit shallow, the design of your coffee maker does matter on several levels. The most obvious is the aesthetic appeal of the coffee maker, but the best coffee makers also consider functionality a vital part of their design value.
Anything from the filter basket and water reservoir placement to the choice to have a dedicated on/off switch and have it backlit can impact your brewing experience. Several of the higher-end coffee maker options we’ve selected have earned their spots thanks to their innovative design choices.
On top of little conveniences, perhaps the most critical part of a coffee machine design is its dimensions. Sure, it might brew a mean cup of coffee, but can it fit under your upper cabinets? Is it going to be too big to keep on your counter?
You do NOT want to have to pack and unpack your coffee maker any time you want a cup of coffee or two. That would defeat the point of going for the convenient and compact coffee maker.
Last but not least, take a look at the programmability of the machines you are considering. While most small brewers, like these four cup coffee makers, will have relatively minimal programmability. They are usually focused more on ease of use and delivering a simple brew of delicious coffee every day.
A few of the machines do have some level of programmability, like a 24-hour timer that lets you schedule your brew. However, most of the other perks included with these machines are more minor conveniences, like auto-pause and shutoff features.
If you are looking for high-level programmability, such as temperature and advanced volume control, you may want to look into getting a larger brewer.
Alternatively, if you need a small brewer that does allow significant control over the various factors that impact the outcome of your brew, consider choosing a manual brewer such as the OAMCEG Pour-Over or Bodum French Press. Manual brewers are popular with at-home baristas who want to experiment with their brews and have more free reign over things like ground saturation, water temperature, etc.
No one wants a coffee maker to quit on them just a few months after buying it. That is why maintenance is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a new machine.
Part one of proper coffee maker maintenance is basic cleaning. That includes disposing of the used grounds and such, but it also means washing the different components of your coffee machine.
Things to look for indicating this will be a relatively straightforward process are “removable components” and “dishwasher safe.” You will have to remove and clean the carafe every time you brew your coffee. Also, it is a good idea to wash your filter basket or permanent filter just as often.
You’ll also want to clean your water tank and give the outside of your machine a good wipe-down. You don’t have to do this every single day, but don’t wait too long between cleanings; even this keeps your brewer in tip-top shape on the day-to-day.
Note: Do not put a hot glass carafe directly into cold water after pouring out hot coffee or taking it off a hot plate. You may shatter it or otherwise compromise the structural integrity of the carafe. Let the carafe cool first before rinsing.
Unlike regular cleaning, sometimes (about once a month or so for a daily user), you will need to perform routine upkeep to maintain your machine. Most importantly, this means you need to descale the brewer.
Descaling removes the build-up of minerals from water. These minerals are present in soft and hard water, though those with hard water will need to descale more frequently, as hard water has a greater concentration of those minerals.
Like the ones in this article, most small coffee machines are not going to come with a fancy-schmancy auto-descaling function, so you will need to do it yourself to keep your brewer running for more than six to 12 months.
How to Descale a Coffee Machine:
To descale your machine, you can either use a vinegar solution or a proprietary descaling solution, whichever one suits you. You should do this at least once every three months and preferably after you’ve had your coffee fix that day.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Empty, rinse, and dry your carafe. Don’t bother fully cleaning it, as you’ll need to do so after descaling.
- Completely dispose of any grounds left in your machine. That includes rinsing the permanent filter and possibly the filter basket as well.
- Fill your water chamber with a 1:1 vinegar (or the recommended amount of descaling solution) and water mixture.
- Check to make sure your carafe is in place and start the brew cycle and allow it to run completely. (Note: if you do not descale your machine regularly — and you should! — you will need to stop the brewing process halfway through and let the solution sit in the coffee maker for about an hour before finishing the brew cycle.)
- Empty and rinse the carafe again.
- Run the machine through two to three more cycles using only clean water, allowing the machine to rest for a bit in between. If everything is dishwasher safe, you can also run the components through the washer for good measure.
Tip: To reduce the frequency you have to descale your machine, simply use filtered or spring water!
If all of that doesn’t sound like your cup of coffee, try a manual brewer. A French press or pour-over will simply need to be cleaned after each use and will not require such intense upkeep.
How many watts does a 4-cup coffee maker use?
The wattage of your coffee maker depends on the brand and model you buy, but on average, small coffee pots — those that brew four or five cups of coffee — typically use between 550 and 900 watts of power.
Are 4-cup coffee makers better for your budget?
We already know that 4-cup coffee makers are great for saving valuable kitchen counter space, but do they do much to save you a few bucks?
They can, but only if you do your research! Coffee maker brands charge different prices for their products, so if you’re looking to purchase the most affordable model possible, make sure to steer clear of higher-end brands and say no to a machine with any price-increasing additional features. With such a wide variety of devices on the market, you’re sure to find a decent coffee maker that won’t drain your wallet.
Now, we know that was a lot of information to absorb, but we hope our guide to the best 4-cup coffee maker helps you find the best brewer for you. No matter your needs, we’re positive something above is your perfect tool for brewing small batches of joe.