Smaller housing coupled with the rise of minimalist aesthetics and tiny homes makes for a prime market space for small coffee makers. But is a smaller brewer the best coffee maker for you? Take a look at our picks for the best 4-cup coffee maker to see if these machines are right for you.
Is it Wise to Downsize?
First, let’s look at what exactly a 4-cup coffee maker is about. “4 cups” does not mean four full coffee cups. In fact, a 4-cup coffee maker brews about 20 oz of coffee. That is likely to only fill about two standard coffee mugs (with a little extra to top someone off) or one large travel mug.
So, a 4 cup brewer certainly isn’t going to fuel a full house of coffee drinkers. However, it is the perfect choice to brew for two. If that sounds like you, then there are several other perks to downsizing your brewer, such as:
- Less space: Smaller footprints mean you may be able to keep your brewer on your counter, even if space is a bit tight,
- Easy storage: If you do decide to stow away your coffee maker when it’s not in use, the smaller frame will ensure that you aren’t eating up precious kitchen storage space.
- Shorter wait: Even if your brewer doesn’t have a pause and pour option, you won’t have to wait as long for the full brew to finish and be on your way.
- Less waste: For those of you who find out you are pouring out the leftovers of an oversized pot, you may find you appreciate the reduced waste of a smaller brewer.
If those perks sound tempting, read on for some of our favorite 4-cup coffee makers!
Best 4 Cup Coffee Makers
To start, we are going to strictly look at 4-cup drip coffee makers; however, if you are interested in seeing 5-cup and manual options as well, scroll through to our ” Honorable Mentions” section. Now, let’s get into it.
Cuisinart 4-Cup Coffee Maker (DCC-450BK)
First up, our personal favorite 4-cup coffee maker is the DCC-450BK from Cuisinart. This model features a stainless-steel thermal carafe, which stands out from the slew of glass-carafe options.
The carafe has a dripless pour spout and a knuckle guard. Plus, since this is a small brewer, you won’t have to worry as much about keeping track of how much you are drinking. In addition to the nifty carafe, the Cuisinart coffee maker features brew-pause functionality, auto-off, and an ON indicator light.
The DCC-450BK measures 10″ x 8″ x 5.25″ and weighs 3.3 pounds. So it is fairly light and compact, though it is slightly on the taller side.
Mr. Coffee Switch Coffee Maker (TF5-RB)
Next up, for those of you who want a no-nonsense, reliable machine for your daily brewing needs, take a look at the Mr. Coffee Switch coffee maker. This is a classic machine– straightforward, efficient, and user-friendly.
This Mr. Coffee machine features a glass carafe and warming plate combo, which is perfectly appropriate for a small brewer. (For larger pots, try to avoid hot plates because, over time, they can give your coffee a burnt taste). Also, there is a brew-pause function, On/off light indicator + switch, removable filter basket, and dual water windows.
This brewer is of pretty average stature, measuring 6.37″ x 7.16″ x 9.64″, and is fairly light, weighing just 2.5 lbs. Overall, this is a great, no-fuss coffee maker from Mr. Coffee.
Gevi 4-cup Coffee Maker (CMV4008V)
For something just a touch more sophisticated than the Mr. Coffee Switch, we want to introduce you to the Gevi 4-Cup coffee maker. Best for people who want a tad more polish in their brewers but still appreciate simplicity and efficiency.
Like the Mr. Coffee, there is a lighted On/Off switch with one-touch operation as well as a water reservoir window, but we have to admit the design is impressively sleek. Plus, this brewer will heat up and brew in about a minute, allow you to pause the brew, and keep your coffee warm for 2 hours with its built-in insulation board.
On top of that, this machine is easy to clean, with all detachable parts. It is one of the most compact models on the list, measuring 5.5″ x 9.1″ x 6.9″ and weighing 2.3 lbs.
Mr. Coffee Programmable Coffee Maker (DRX5-RB)
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On a similar note, if you are interested in staying in the Mr. Coffee line but want an extra bell or whistle, check out their programmable coffee maker. This one allows you to set a brewing time for the future, so you can wake up to the smell of your morning coffee!
In addition to the extra programmability, this coffee maker also has an on/off indicator light, brew pause, dual water window (to show the fill of the water reservoir), and a removable filter basket (to make it easy to clean). Plus, the DRX5 has cord storage, which is perfect if you prefer to keep your counter neat or need to stow away your coffee maker.
This brewer is a pretty average size for a compact coffee maker. It measures 9.6″ x 7.1″ x 6.1″ and weighs 3.1 lbs.
Now, if you’re interested in expanding your search slightly beyond the stand 4-cup coffee maker, drip brewer line up to find the best coffee machine for you, we’ve got you covered.
Below we’ve pulled a few 5-cup options, which should still be appropriate for a two-person household or a multi-cup drinker. Also, we have a couple of our favorite manual 4-cup brewers in case the drip coffee maker isn’t your style.
Best 5 Cup Coffee Makers
Zojirushi Zutto 5-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-DAC50)
First up, if you have a slightly bigger budget to work with, we recommend checking out the Zojirushi Zutto 5-cup coffee maker. The design of this brewer takes a couple of clear, innovative departures from a standard drip brewer while still giving you that classic feel.
The Zutto features a filter cone that sits inside the decanter, allowing for great extraction while maintaining a sleek, compact profile. Also, the water reservoir is concealed and removable. With this machine, you get an attractive design as well as an effective, reliable coffee maker, which can be a hard-to-come-by combination.
Additionally, this Zutto machine has a couple of the standard features you’d expect: a replaceable water filter, reservoir window with measurements, a lighted on/off switch, etc. It measures a tad on the large side at 6″ x 9″ x 11″, but we think this machine is worth the extra bucks and counter space.
KRUPS Simply Brew Compact Coffee Maker
Interested in the idea of having just a little extra space but would prefer something a little more traditional? Check out the Krups Simply Brew.
The Simply brew still perfect for 1 or two people and features an attractive modern design with a premium stainless steel finish. Plus, the no-drip spout makes it easy to clean up after brewing. The brewer also includes a backlit on/off switch, a conveniently located water tank, sleek glass carafe, and (most excitingly) a permanent coffee filter.
Both the carafe and filter are dishwasher safe. This KRUPS brewer measures 9″ x 4″ x 11″ and weighs 3.4 lbs.
Best Manual 4 Cup Coffee Makers
Are you convinced the best coffee makers for you are going to be manual ones? Well, we even have a couple of recommendations for you. Even though most manual coffee makers with carafes are slightly on the larger side, there are a few that are perfect for smaller crowds.
OAMCEG 20 oz Pour Over Coffee Maker
Not only is this Pour-Over coffee maker one of the best looking designs out there, but it’s also impressively innovative in its functionality.
This manual coffee maker includes an anti-scald wooden handle, a gracefully curved BPA-free borosilicate glass carafe, a v-shaped spout for easy pouring, and a permanent dual-layer stainless steel filter. If you are looking for something easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to maintain, this might be the best choice for your coffee needs.
At 20 oz (4 cups) it can brew about 2 true cups of coffee at a time, allowing it to keep up with the traditional, automatic drippers we picked for the best 4 cup coffee maker.
Bodum 4 Cup French Press Coffee Maker
Next up, if a Pour over sounds a little too involved for you, try out this 4-cup French press coffee maker from Bodum. It can brew great, full-bodied coffee in about 4 minutes, with minimal effort on your end.
The carafe is made of ultra-light, heat-resistant borosilicate glass and includes a handle and plunger knob made of BPA free plastic. The filter is a 3-part stainless steel mesh, so you won’t need to worry about single-use paper filters.
All the components (from carafe to cap) are also dishwasher safe and the lid allows you to close off the spout, preventing spillage and keeping your coffee warm for longer periods. So you can enjoy nice, warm cups of coffee without any assistance from a warming plate.
Things to Consider
Before you choose exactly what coffee maker is best for your coffee brewing needs, let us 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 brews. No one wants subpar coffee, so here are a few things you should look out for.
We all know that “I need a cup of coffee YESTERDAY” feeling. Patience is a virtue that some of us caffeine fiends often struggle with, especially in the morning. That is why it is important to consider how fast your coffee machine can get from water and grounds to freshly brewed coffee.
The best machines on the market can heat up in less than a minute and brew about as fast. Others can take their sweet time. And even others have programmable brew times, so you can simply wake up to coffee with zero wait time.
If you are the type of person who is fine with puttering around while your brewer does its thing, then you might be able to save by going with a slower brewer. In fact, you may even enjoy going with an immersion-style brewer like a French Press.
However, for those of you who are particularly impatient, make sure your brewer has a brew-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.
The main things to look at with your filter 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 put your grounds in or vice versa, that probably is not the best option.
Also, the type of filter is important. Some coffee machines will simply have a filter basket into which you place a disposable paper filter. If you want to cut down your waste with one of these, you would have to buy a compatible permanent filter separately.
On the other hand, some coffee maker brands now offer their machines with permanent filters. This is great if you are concerned about not being able to find a good fit when buying separately or simply do not want to make multiple purchases.
One of the biggest factors that separates mediocre coffee makers from the best ones is the 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 at a few things: wattage, heating mechanism, storage mechanism, and warming plate.
The first two factors aren’t likely to vary much, as these smaller machines tend to have similar systems. However, you are likely to see some variation in the latter two. The build material of the carafe and whether it is double-walled etc. will have a pretty significant impact on how long your coffee stays hot (we’ll explain all that in the next section).
A warming plate can also be effective at keeping your coffee hot, but you will need to look for features like auto-off to make sure you won’t accidentally end up with burnt-tasting coffee.
All of that said, the most sure-fire 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 certainly affect the temperature of your brew, but there are also a few other things to consider.
Most small coffee makers will have a glass carafe and a warming plate. The advantages of a glass carafe are that you can see how much coffee you have left and it is typically more visually appealing. However, heat can escape rather quickly out of a glass carafe, so you must rely on the warming plate, whose added heat will diminish the quality of the brew over time.
The alternative is a thermal carafe, 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.
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 placement of the filter basket and water reservoir 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 earned their spots thanks to their innovative design choices.
On top of little conveniences, perhaps the most important 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 every time you want a cup of coffee or two. That would defeat the point of going for the convenient small-scale brewer.
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, such as the timer on the Mr. Coffee DRX5-RB. However, most of the other perks included with these machines are smaller 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 taking out the used grounds and such, but it also means washing the different components of your coffee machine.
Things to look for that indicate this will be a relatively easy 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 and/or permanent filter about as often.
Less frequently, you will want to clean your water tank and give the outside of the machine a good wipe-down. This is to keep your machine running 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 of a hot plate. You may shatter it or otherwise compromise the structural integrity of the carafe. Let the carafe cool first before rinsing.
Different from regular cleaning, sometimes (about once a month or so for a daily user) you will need to perform regular upkeep to maintain your machine. Most importantly, this means you need to descale the brewer.
Descaling is intended to remove the build-up of minerals from water. These minerals are present in both 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.
Most small coffee machines, like the ones in this article, 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 6-12 months.
How to Descale a Coffee Machine:
To descale your machine you can either use a vinegar solution or a proprietary descaler, whichever one suits you.
Here are the steps to descaling your coffee maker (best done on the weekend and AFTER you’ve already had your fill of coffee that morning):
- 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.
- Completely fill your water chamber with a 1:1 vinegar to water solution (or the recommended amount of descaler)
- Check to make sure your carafe is in place and start the brew cycle and allow it to run completely*
- Empty and rinse the carafe again
- Run the machine through 2-3 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.
*If you do not descale regularly, you will need to stop the brewing process halfway through and let the solution sit in the machine for about an hour before finishing the cycle.
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 major upkeep.
Whew, that was a lot of information to absorb, huh? Here is a quick recap of our recommendations and tips:
- Go with the Cuisinart DCC-450BK if you want an all-around great, compact brewer or if you are specifically interested in having a thermal carafe instead of a glass one with a hotplate.
- Go for the Mr. Coffee Switch if simplicity is your buzzword
- For a couple of extra bells and whistles and ultra-sleek designs, try the Mr. Coffee Programmable or Gevi coffee makers
- Go for the Zojirushi Zutto if you want next-level innovation and design; just care about the extra space and sleek look of a 5-cup? Check out the KRUPS Simply Brew.
- For minimal cleanup and maximum brew control all in a compact package, try a manual brewer: Bodum‘s French Press or OAMCEG Pour Over.
No matter what your needs are, we’re positive one of these should be your perfect tool to brew for two.