The Hamilton Beach 49981A Review and why we love it

The Hamilton Beach 49981A Single Serve Coffee Maker offers one-cup coffee lovers an incredible experience. Users love that the filter is its own coffee scoop, making it a truly foolproof experience. Accommodating for cups up to 14 ounces, with regular or bold strength, this machine offers the greatest customizability of single-serve machines out there, at a very affordable price.

If you’re looking for a coffee maker that is comparable to a Keurig without spending a fortune, this machine is a strong competitor with a lower ticket price and lower maintenance cost

Master Reviewer

The Good

  • No need for a coffee scoop - your filter is your scoop
  • Adjustable cup rest allows your machine to brew directly into the cup with less splashing
  • Brews quickly – about a minute and a half for a regular-sized cup, and under two-and-a-half minutes for a 14 oz. travel mug
  • Beautiful, durable stainless steel design that complements any décor
  • Great coffee with minimal effort

The Bad

  • As with all reusable filters, there is a chance of “sediment” overflow – using a paper filter between the scoop cup and the filter screen can help with this
  • The cup rest only has two positions, so many cups will leave room for splashing. There are ways to get around this, but having more than two positions would be a better fix.
  • Some water is kept in the reservoir after brewing – something we’ve learned to adjust for, but it will need to be emptied when you clean the machine.
  • Large footprint takes up almost as much space as a full coffee maker     

In-Depth Hamilton Beach 49981A Review

When you first open the box for your new Hamilton Beach Single Serve Coffee Maker, you’ll notice that this is a very large unit for a one-cup machine. It is a little smaller than most full-sized coffee machines, but not by very much. It does, however, fit comfortably underneath most cabinets (although you will probably have to bring it out to fill it – this is pretty standard for most drip coffee makers). The design is primarily plastic, but with a stainless steel coating – which provides a reasonable durability and beautiful design, at a fraction of the cost of all-stainless units.

Also included is the Scoop Brew Basket, which is labeled with two lines, indicating the “standard” coffee measurement as well as a “bold” setting. (Please note that the “bold” coffee fill line will not produce a bold cup of coffee if you are using a larger travel mug.) Be warned that a moist scoop will cause a big mess when brewing, so if you have more than one cup of coffee in the morning (or if you don’t empty the basket after your cup is finished brewing), you are going to have a mess. This is true if you overfill the scoop as well – please note that if you fill higher than the max line inside, there will not be enough room for the water to flow through, and the basket will overflow.

This unit uses a “showerhead” that drips the hot water evenly over the top of the grounds, rather than a gravity feed to a single spot. This allows for better hot water distribution and a more even brew temperature. Underneath this showerhead you will place the filter scoop into the lower filter, which has a finer screen to catch most of the coffee that slips through the first filter. If you use very finely ground coffee, you will probably want to use a paper filter in between the two mesh filters. You should clean the filters thoroughly every 4-5 cups, or more frequently if you start to notice sludge.

We wanted to love the included drip tray – it can be adjusted to one of two positions (7 inch or about 18 cm in the lower position; 4.5 inch or about 11 ½ cm in the upper position. Unfortunately, since most coffee cups will fall somewhere between the two heights, you are probably going to experience a fair amount of splashing. We found that this can be remedied by placing something underneath your cup, so that the drip nozzle falls just inside the cup. For larger mugs, leaving the lid on the cup and aligning the drip nozzle with the hole worked well.

There are two separate brew functions to this machine: Regular and bold. In theory, the bold setting allows the water to soak through slower, which is supposed to produce a stronger flavor. The regular setting is intended for plain automatic drip coffee. We tried the unit on both settings and didn’t notice a big difference in the taste, nor was there a dramatic difference in the time it takes to brew, although there may be more of a difference with premium artisan coffees or finer grounds.

Key Facts

  • Automatic Espresso Machine
  • Under $100
  • Single Serving
  • Ground Coffee

This particular machine offers a quality cup of coffee, comparable to what you’d get from a Keurig, but just a bit stronger (due to the limitations of the K-Cup system). It also didn’t take much extra time when compared to using any other reusable filter system. It also offers greater flexibility, and we presume you could use a single-serve coffee pod in the filter basket to make use of the extras you may have after switching. (Please note that we did not actually test this theory.)

Overall, if you’re trying to decide whether to purchase this machine or splurge on a Keurig brewer, go with the Hamilton Beach. The lower cost doesn’t require a ton of extra steps or additional purchases in order to tailor your machine to use the coffee you already have. The design is nice, and the resulting coffee is pretty good. If you’re going for a smaller footprint or a truly premium experience, you’d be better off with a French press, although they do require more time to brew. If you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to get a single cup in the morning, this is a wonderful choice that allows for a great coffee experience with minimal effort.