About 18 months ago, I wrote an article about three different under cabinet coffee maker models, all made by Black & Decker. When I wrote that article, I was pretty pessimistic about all of them. The Amazon reviews were (and still are) spotty at best, and it seems that the only model that is consistently available now is the SCM2000BD (Amazon link).
If you’re in the market for this type of coffee maker, it’s probably because you have precious little counter space. Maybe you need a coffee maker for your RV, or you need one for your college dorm room. Whatever your situation is, there are lots of alternatives to mounting a coffee maker under a kitchen cabinet.
Below are some ideas that may help you in your battle for counter space. Granted, a true “under cabinet coffee maker” might be ideal for your situation, but hopefully one of these alternatives will meet your needs.
And bonus! Your coffee will probably be way better than whatever a Black & Decker Spacemaker coffee maker can produce. I like Black & Decker a lot and I think they make some great products, but their Spacemaker coffee maker (as of now) isn’t one of them.
Alternative #1: Buy a coffee maker that has the smallest countertop footprint possible.
If you have a teeny tiny corner of counter space available, you might not need an under counter coffee maker at all! Coffee makers come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them are designed to be compact. Coffee makers that produce 8 cups or more tend to take up a fair amount of space and aren’t all that friendly to cramped kitchens. But there are numerous 4-cup and single-serve models that have a surprisingly small footprint.
I’ve written about Black & Decker’s Brew ‘n Go coffee maker before (read review). It’s probably one of the simplest drip coffee makers ever made, and for that reason it’s well-known for its longevity. It comes with a permanent filter, and the travel mug in the picture is included. And it’s small enough that you can keep it on the kitchen counter without it getting in the way.
It may not brew like an SCAA certified coffee maker, but if you’re okay with “pretty good” coffee, give the Black & Decker DCM18S a look. You’ll save counter space, spend very little, and you get your morning coffee without a lot of fuss! Goal achieved.
Just like the Black & Decker coffee maker above, this AdirChef Grab N Go includes both a permanent filter and a travel mug. But is it better than the Black & Decker? That’s up for debate, but the overall Amazon reviews on this coffee maker are better — 4-star and 5-star reviews make up 85% of the AdirChef reviews vs. 75% for the Black & Decker.
It can also accommodate a slightly taller cup (about 1/4 inch taller) than the Black & Decker Brew ‘n Go. Both models come with a travel mug that has elicited some complaints, but customers seem to prefer the AdirChef mug for what appears to be marginally superior construction.
As far as previous owners of the Black & Decker Brew ‘n Go are concerned, they seem pretty split over whether the AdirChef is better. If you lack confidence in the AdirChef brand name, go with the Black & Decker. If you’ve tried the Black & Decker and didn’t love it, go with AdirChef. It’s really kind of a tossup. Either way, you’ll be getting a small, space-saving coffee maker.
If single-serve just ain’t how you roll, Cuisinart’s little 4-cup coffee maker is about as small as you can get. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that a “4-cup” coffee maker isn’t going to produce 4x as much coffee as the Black & Decker and AdirChef single-serve models discussed above. How many cups can fit in any given coffee pot is going to be calculated based on the SCAA cupping standard of just over 5 oz. per cup. Therefore, this 4-cup carafe should hold a bit more than 20 oz. of coffee, or roughly the equivalent of two “standard-sized” (11-12 oz.) coffee mugs.
The Amazon reviews on this coffee maker are mostly positive with about 62% giving it 4-star and 5-star ratings as of this writing. As for the people who gave it 3 stars or less, their complaints are nothing new in the world of coffee makers. Leaky carafe, overflowing coffee, plastic taste, etc.
As I’ve said before in many a review: some complaints are probably the result of user error. Others are probably due to failures in quality control or just lousy design. At this price point, no coffee maker is going to be without its critics, so save the box in case you want to return it! Hopefully you’ll be among the 62% who think it’s a great buy. One thing you can definitely count on, however, is that the Cuisinart DCC-450BK won’t take up much space on your kitchen counter.
Wanna get fancy and do espresso instead? Nespresso is well-known for their very compact espresso machines. The Nespresso CitiZ is only about five inches wide, so it won’t hog all your counter space. And yes, it’s much more expensive than the coffee makers mentioned above, but espresso machines tend to be kind of pricey. Full-size espresso machines can easily reach the $1,000 mark and beyond. The good news is that the reviews on this little espresso machine are outstanding. As of this writing, 85% of the Amazon reviews on the Nespresso CitiZ are 4-star or 5-star ratings.
You should also be aware that this coffee maker uses pods, much like a Keurig would. There are reusable Nespresso pods available, so if you buy a Nespresso machine, you really should go reusable. Reusable pods are available in both plastic and stainless steel, and they can really save you a lot of money over buying prepackaged pods. Plus you’ll be doing Earth a big favor.
Alternative #2: Buy a coffee maker that you can easily store in a kitchen cabinet and take out when needed.
I already know what you’re thinking: “This sounds really inconvenient!” And if you’re thinking about typical drip coffee makers, I would totally agree with you. But not all coffee makers drip coffee down into a carafe! What I’m talking about here are French presses and percolators. Unlike traditional drip coffee makers, most percolators have a handle. A lot of French presses have handles as well, but even if they don’t, they’re still small enough to move easily.
If you’re curious about French presses, here’s a list of seven great ones. With a French press, you boil water separately and then pour it over your coffee grounds. Wait a few minutes, and suddenly you’ve got coffee that tastes amazing.
Percolators work a bit differently. Instead of steeping coffee grounds in hot water, a percolator will cycle hot water over coffee grounds that sit in a basket at the top of the unit. Percolators were very common back in the ’70s and ’80s, and for some reason they lost popularity for a while. But now they’re back and people really seem to love the coffee they produce.
At the end of this section, we will also discuss the classic Chemex coffee maker because it’s amazing as heck.
This French press by Secura isn’t on my list of 7 Best French Presses, but it probably should be. As of today, it’s the #1 best-selling French press on Amazon, and the customer ratings are through the roof. A full 95% of customers have given this French press a rating of either 4 or 5 stars, which is an impressive feat for any product.
There are a few different reasons that people love this French press so much. It’s made of high-quality stainless steel. It very reliably keeps coffee grounds out of the coffee. It’s easy to clean. Truth is, there are other French presses that perform just as well this Secura model. In fact, the SterlingPro French press is practically the exact same thing but with a different name! The bottom line is that this a quality French press, and keeping it hidden away in a kitchen cabinet will save you from having to shuffle things around on your limited kitchen counter space.
French Press Coffee & Tea Maker Complete Bundle | 34 oz | No Unsafe Plastic Lid Best Coffee Pot with Stainless Steel & Double German Glass
Kitchen Supreme’s French press kit isn’t just a French press. It comes with four filter screens, a coffee scoop, and a pretty cool steel spoon that’s designed to be mounted on the side of the French press. Some people prefer a French press that’s made of glass so that the coffee is visible. Glass may not retain heat quite as well as stainless steel, but it does allow you to judge the “doneness” of your coffee by looking at the color.
So, is this Kitchen Supreme French press better than the one above that’s made by Secura? Honestly, it’s probably the same. This one comes with a cool side-mounting spoon, but it’s mostly made of glass instead of being all stainless steel. Decisions, decisions! Just go with the one you like better. Provided you use it properly, your coffee will come out great no matter which one you choose.
Some percolators are electric. Some need an external heat source, such as a stove or campfire. This Coletti Bozeman percolator is the kind that needs a heat source. It’s about as low-tech as a coffee maker can get, but people who own this percolator LOVE it. There isn’t a single molecule of plastic on this thing, and it’s solidly built from 18/8 stainless steel.
If you like the idea of making coffee on your stovetop, this unit is the way to go. It’s totally suitable for camping, and it’s built to last a long time. And if the company itself is important to you, apparently Coletti is a family-owned business that aims to be socially conscious. This is Coletti’s response to an Amazon customer who asked where the Coletti Bozeman is manufactured:
Designed in Leavenworth, Kansas. Manufactured in Jiangmen city, Guangdong Province, China. Our factory is small (100 people) and takes great care of their employees. All our profits are reinvested in the fight against human trafficking. The modest salary I receive from this family owned business goes toward putting our seven kids through college.
If you think this is the type of coffee maker your grandma would use when company comes over … well, you’re probably right. But it still makes great coffee! The main difference between this Farberware percolator and the Coletti Bozeman above is that this one is electric. No stove or campfire needed. Oh, and it also looks a bit more, shall we say, “dainty.”
The main takeaway here is that this percolator works just like any other percolator! And it’s also available in a 4-cup model. Can you use this fancy percolator on a daily basis for your morning coffee? Absolutely! Just add water, add coffee, plug it in, and let it do its thing. And who cares if it’s a little fancy?! There’s no law against starting your day off with a little class. Especially if you’re a sissy. I’M KIDDING. Geez!
Hey, wait a minute … this is neither a French press nor a percolator! But it IS a great alternative to the under cabinet coffee maker. The Chemex coffee maker consists of a uniquely shaped carafe and special Chemex paper filters. I wrote a review of the Chemex here. This coffee maker is synonymous with the pour-over method of coffee brewing, and anybody who owns one will tell you that it is the single best way to make coffee.
If you’ve never tried making coffee with the pour-over method before, there are two things you should know. First, you’re the one in control, not a machine. This allows you to refine your technique and get the water temperature just right. Second, perfect coffee takes time. I wouldn’t recommend using a Chemex if you’re in a hurry to leave for work! But if you have the time to do pour over coffee, and if counter space in your kitchen is limited, the Chemex is a coffee maker that you will fall in love with.
Alternative #3: Buy a coffee maker that you can fit in a drawer.
That’s right! Some coffee makers are so small that you can stick them in a drawer. Of course, we’re talking about manual coffee makers that you place on top of a coffee cup, but they’re still great for making coffee. And much like the Chemex above, they’re not really ideal if you’re in the habit of rushing in the morning. Making coffee through manual methods results in a great cup of coffee, but it takes a bit more time than pushing a button on a drip coffee maker.
I wrote a whole review of the AeroPress a while back. This is one of the more unique coffee makers on the market, and the coffee it produces is insanely good. Part of the reason is that you’re really making an espresso-ish coffee concentrate. You can choose to drink that concentrate the way you’d drink espresso, or you can dilute it with water or milk.
The way an AeroPress works is you’re basically forcing water through coffee grounds with a plastic plunger. You place the AeroPress on top of a coffee cup, add coffee and hot water, and press with all your might! It doesn’t take Herculean strength, but you do need to give it some good pressure. The AeroPress is essentially a small collection of plastic parts that you can easily toss into a drawer when finished. You will need to heat up water separately, but the result is worth the effort.
My first instinct was to put the Brewologist Pour Over Coffee Filter here (read review). I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a thing for that particular coffee cone. But you know what? It’s time to give the legendary Hario V60 some love.
The Brewologist and the Hario V60 are more or less the same product, but from different eras. The Hario V60 is made of ceramic, and you have to put a coffee filter in it. It has a uniqueness that’s sort of a throwback to a simpler time, and the ceramic design is undoubtedly better at retaining water heat than stainless steel.
The Brewologist, on the other hand, is all stainless steel and no paper filter is needed. Heat retention is not one of the Brewologist’s goals. Its goal is to be a convenient, use-anywhere pour-over coffee filter.
I can’t tell you which is better. The Hario V60‘s ceramic design gives it a certain edge, but the Brewologist Pour Over Coffee Filter doesn’t require a paper filter and it won’t shatter if you drop it. They both come highly rated by Amazon customers, and they both provide worthy methods of doing pour-over coffee.
Alternative #4: Buy a multifunction “breakfast center.”
I gotta be honest — I wouldn’t buy one of these things myself. They look ridiculous! Also, I am neither traveling in an RV, nor am I a college student in a dorm room. But everyone has different needs and different tastes. If space is at such a premium that a 3-in-1 appliance is what you need, then step right up!
It’s a coffee maker! It’s a toaster oven! It’s a really tiny griddle! I have to admit, this little thing is pretty ingenious. Sure, it looks like a companion piece to a 7-year-old’s Easy-Bake oven, but this is a serious appliance that will cook real food and make real coffee.
The Amazon reviews on this unit aren’t exactly jaw-dropping. In fact, precious few of the 3-in-1 “breakfast centers” on Amazon have what you would call “rave” reviews. My theory on this is that any product that combines two or more other products is likely to suck in one way or another.
Are you old enough to remember those “combo” TV/VCRs they used to sell? You got a mediocre TV and a mediocre VCR, all in one convenient package. Combo coffee grinder and coffee maker, the so-called grind-and-brew models? More of the same. A not-so-great coffee grinder built into a not-so-great coffee maker.
The reason I bring all this up is not to dissuade you from buying a “breakfast center” if that’s what you really want or need. My goal is to get you to temper your expectations. You will not be cooking Breakfast at the Four Seasons with this or any other similar product.
Now, with that said, this Elite Cuisine 3-in-1 Breakfast Center has actually made a lot of people happy! 58% of buyers gave it a rating of 4 or 5 stars. That’s 412 out of 711 buyers who really like it. Not bad! Those people knew what to expect from an inexpensive appliance such as this. Critics of this Breakfast Center have some valid complaints, but I think many of them also need a reality check. “Cheaply made”? Come on, man! My reply to that would be, “Cheaply bought.”
Buy with low expectations, plan on using it for light-duty cooking, and you’ll be happy with it!
There’s just a small handful of companies in the 3-in-1 breakfast center racket, and Nostalgia is apparently a big player. This “Breakfast Station” (as opposed to Elite Cuisine’s “Breakfast Center” above) has the same three functions: toaster oven, griddle, and coffee maker. And since I’ve already delivered my soliloquy on expectations vs. performance, I have to say that I’m pretty impressed by this appliance’s Amazon ratings.
Overall, the customer ratings on Nostalgia’s 3-in-1 are better than Elite Cuisine’s above. As of this writing, this Nostalgia 3-in-1 Breakfast Station has earned 501 ratings of 4 or 5 stars out of 689 reviews total. That’s a very healthy 73%! That’s better than a lot of Cuisinart products.
If you’re short on space and need something like this Breakfast Station, you don’t have a lot of options. In a way, I suppose that’s good news. Your decision is simple! If cooking one egg at a time is enough for you, then go with Elite Cuisine’s smaller model. But if you’re perhaps cooking for two, then Nostalgia is probably the way to go, assuming you have room for this “Family Size” appliance.
So there you have it! Black & Decker may have done away with their under cabinet coffee makers (for now), but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your coffee. In some ways, the absence of under cabinet coffee makers might even be a good thing.
Many of the alternatives that I’ve presented here are easy on counter space and also represent some of the most tried-and-true methods of coffee brewing ever invented by mankind. Pour-over coffee? Ok, it’s not fast. But if you can deal with that, I can guarantee that you will LOVE your coffee. With a true under cabinet coffee maker, your coffee will be meh at best. French press coffee is also outstanding, as evidenced by the hundreds of different French press models on the market today. Percolators are old school, but they’re making a comeback for a reason. AeroPress coffee is so incredible that it has spawned an entire subculture. And who ever thought that an espresso machine could be so gosh-darned tiny??
The point is this: If you’re short on counter space, buying an under cabinet coffee maker is not your only option. Whether you’re in a dorm room, on a boat, touring the country in a big RV, or just living in a small apartment, you have choices. You have a LOT of choices. Some choices entail more effort than others. Some will require you to sacrifice quality for convenience. Do some looking, and I’m sure you’ll find your perfect coffee maker somewhere in between.