The general consensus around air compressors is that they are extremely handy and useful tools for powering machines and pumping tires but are way too expensive and impractical for buying.
However, pancake air compressors avoid this fate by being extremely affordable, lightweight, and portable.
The best pancake air compressor will be perfect for inflating tires, air brushing, power low-duty air tools etc.
Even though their capabilities are limited when it comes to heavy-duty tools, they are more than enough for small-scale home garage use.
Here, we will guide you through the very best pancake compressors and give you a comprehensive buying guide for choosing the best one for you.
Buying Guide: How to Pick the Right Pancake Air Compressor
You need to make sure that the pancake compressor you are buying is in congruity with your needs and requirements from an air compressor. For that, you need to know about and understand the key features that make an air compressor.
In this section of the article, we will take a detailed look at all the features you need to consider before buying a pancake air compressor.
The capacity of the air compressor is extremely important because this is what determines its efficiency of work. It also determines how long you can use it for before depending on the motor.
The range of capacity in pancake compressors is usually 1-8 gallons. The standard capacity for any pancake compressor is 6 gallons and anything above this is quite rare.
All of the products on our list have a tank capacity of 6 gallons but that is because these products are the cream of the crop. There are compressors with much lower capacity and you should try to avoid them.
The pressure of a pancake air compressor is measured in PSI unit. PSI means pound per square inch. It goes without saying but the higher the maximum pressure can be, the better it is.
Usually, the maximum pressure is at 150 PSI and that is good enough to get all the necessary works done. In fact, as long as a pancake compressor can run over 90 PSI it is good enough to meet your needs. But a higher cap on the pressure means you have more options to work with.
If a particular action requires you to use higher amount of pressure, you can have access to that option as long as the pressure cap is high enough.
The air delivery in an air compressor is measured in CFM unit and it is one of the most crucial details of an air compressor. The air delivery will determine the quality of the overall performance of the pancake compressor. The higher the air delivery or CFM a compressor has the better.
At a specific pressure, the amount of air produced by the air compressor in 1 cubic feet per meter is called the CFM of an air compressor.
Since an air compressor performs its key functions like powering air tools and inflating tires with the air it produces, the importance of a high CFM value goes without saying.
Usually, 2.8 CFM at 90 PSI is considered ideal for a pancake compressor.
One of the key reasons people opt to buy an air compressor instead of other variants like twin-stack or hotdog is the portability that a pancake model can provide. So, the importance of portability cannot be emphasized enough.
You need to make sure a pancake air compressor is small in size and occupies less space while also being lightweight and easily maneuverable.
Almost all air compressors are quite lightweight in general, but you should make sure that doesn’t come at the cost of proper construction. Again, the construction should never be so strong that the compressor becomes borderline heavy as that essentially defeats the purpose of pancake compressors.
Another thing that makes people buy pancake air compressors is the excellent noise reduction it can offer.
Most air compressors make a lot of noise while in use. This noise is not only discordant but can also be deleterious for your hearing. Most people use hearing protections while using air compressors in general.
But in pancake compressors, the noise is reduced to a bearable extent. Some high end pancake compressors also reduce the noise level so much that you don’t even require hearing protections. So always try to make sure that the noise level is below 80 decibels.
Easy to Drain
After you are done using a pancake air compressor, you need to drain the residue air. In many models this is a difficult thing to do due to issues in the design or construction. This is a crucial task as the long term health of the air compressor depends on it.
So, you should always look for pancake compressors that are easy to drain.
Some pancake compressors come with essential accessories that you will need to operate the compressor. These may include air hoses, tire chucks, tire gauges, nails etc. Having these accessories beforehand and not needing to buy them separately saves you a lot of hassle.
List Of Best Pancake Air Compressors 2021
This is the section of the article where we talk about the top pancake air compressors currently available in the market with reviews for each. Without further ado, let’s move on with the article.
1. BOSTITCH BTFP02012
This is one of the best rated pancake air compressors and with good reason. It checks almost all the boxes when it comes to pancake compressor requirements.
Firstly, the capacity of this BOSTITCH BTFP02012 compressor is quite praiseworthy. It comes with a 6 gallon tank which is more than enough to perform all sorts of house tasks easily.
Secondly, the maneuverability of this compressor is second to none. It only weighs 29 pounds making it portable and very lightweight.
Thirdly, it delivers when it comes to power and pressure. It has a maximum pressure of 150 PSI and performs perfectly at 2.9 CFM and 90 PSI.
These are equipped with flow regulators that increase the air flow and greatly enhance the performance of the compressor. They also come with two couplers. These allow two people to use the compressor at the same time for completely different functions.
But this function and most of the function of the compressor in general is quite difficult to perform at a lower pressure and that is an issue.
The BOSTITCH BTFP02012 compressor uses a high-efficiency motor that is oil-free which gives you easy startups in cold weather.
Lastly, it has an oil free pump. That means it requires very little maintenance and it can deliver a solid and long-lasting even after that.
Unfortunately, this machine misses out on some very crucial accessories and you have to buy them separately which is an extra hassle.
- Very lightweight and maneuverable
- Has a maximum of 150 PSI
- Comes with a tank of 6 gallon capacity
- Has an oil-free pump that is long-lasting and requires low maintenance
- Equipped with flow regulators for increasing air flow
- Very difficult to use at low pressure
- Doesn’t come with any accessories
2. CRAFTSMAN Oil-Free CMEC6150K
This compressor comes with all the required features of a pancake air compressor at an extremely affordable price.
In terms of capacity, it comes with a 6 gallon tank which is the standard capacity for any compressor and is perfect for inflating tires and air brushing.
The air delivery of this machine comes at 2.6 SCFM and 90 PSI. The maximum pressure of this machine is150 PSI. Adjusting the power and pressure, you can perform a variety of functions. However, many customers have complained that this machine doesn’t perform well at maximum or high pressure.
The motor of this compressor is extremely efficient and oil-free which makes sure that it doesn’t freeze in cold weather.
Unlike the last compressor, this one comes with a multitude of accessories which includes an air hose, tire chucks, tire gauges etc.
The weight and maneuverability is also praiseworthy. It weighs only 30 pounds and can be carried very easily.
The biggest flaw of this device, according to the customers, is its inefficiency in prolonged usage. The pressure drops at a very fast rate if you use the compressor for a long time.
Overall, this is a great product from CRAFTSMAN. In fact, this might be the top pancake air compressor for the money.
- 6 gallon capacity
- Maximum if 150 PSI
- Comes with an oil free motor for easy startups in cold weather
- Comes with multiple essential accessories
- Weighs only 30 pounds and thus very maneuverable
- Doesn’t work efficiently at maximum pressure
- Pressure drops at a very fast rate during prolonged use
3. DEWALT DWFP55126
This product separates itself from most other pancake air compressors by raising the bar when it comes to power and performance. The maximum pressure on this machine is 165 PSI, which is more than any other compressors and thus gives you more options.
The pump is completely oil-free and thus requires very little maintenance. It is also extremely durable. The motor is also oil-free and efficient which allows for a great performance and easy startup in any weather condition.
The machine comes with two couplers. Because of this feature, this machine can be used by two people at the same time even if they are performing completely different tasks.
The noise reduction on this device is also very astounding. Even at higher power and pressure setting, this machine can work at only 75 decibels.
However, there have been quite a few customer complaints about the quality controls and leaks in the safety controls. Additionally, this compressor is quite a bit more expensive than all the other products on the list and it can be argued that the price is unjustified.
- Has a maximum pressure of 165 PSI
- Comes with oil free pump and motor for better and versatile performance
- Equipped with two couplers for simultaneous use by two people
- Makes very little noise
- Comparatively expensive and arguably overpriced
- Possibility of leaks in the safety controls
4. Porter Cable C2002 WK UMC
This is an underrated motor. It comes at an affordable cost and works surprisingly well for the price. While the features will not blow you away, it will certainly satisfy you and get the necessary work done. Let us first talk about the features that are nearly unique to this product only.
Firstly, this Porter Cable C2002 WK comes with two separate couplers that allow two people to use it at once. Furthermore, these are very conveniently positioned on both sides of the machine making it even more easy to use.
Secondly, it uses a low amp motor. The 6 gallon capacity is more than enough to keep the compressor functioning without needing the motor. But when it does need a motor, it is good enough to meet your needs. Additionally, it works really well in cold weather.
Thirdly, it has the perfect ratio of weight and construction. It weighs comparatively a bit more at 34 pounds which doesn’t make it excessively heavy but also ensures a better construction for the machine.
Besides the features mentioned above, this Porter Cable C2002 WK also has a capacity of 6 gallons, a maximum of 150 PSI and an oil-free low maintenance pump.
When it comes to the flaws, it makes a lot of noise and is impossible to use without proper hearing protection. It also doesn’t come with any instructions whatsoever and that makes it quite difficult to set up for beginners.
- Has a low amp motor for convenient and versatile performance
- Sufficiently lightweight without compromising much of the construction
- Has two couplers on both sides for making multi-tasking more convenient
- Comes with an oil-free and efficient pump
- Can get very noisy
- Difficult to set up
5. Briggs and Stratton Pancake
This model from Bringgs and Stratton. The specialty of this compressor is that you can achieve perfect air delivery at two different settings. These are 4.0 CFM 40 PSI and 2.8 CFM 90 PSI. Unlike most pancake air compressors, this one isn’t confined to just one accurate ratio and thus you have more options when it comes to using this one.
But there is a slightly lower cap on the pressure at only 135 PSI. that may not be a huge problem for all. But if you frequently need to work your compressor at very high pressure settings, this may be a red flag for you.
A unique feature of this compressor is the high-powered 1.5 horsepower motor. Usually motors in pancake compressors don’t focus much on power of the motor. But this one emphasizes the importance of power and gives you additional advantages even with a 6 gallon tank.
The pump is completely oil free. You almost never have to change any sort of material or lubricant in a long period of time. It also ensures a very long-lasting performance.
The overall construction is also very lightweight and thus the compressor is extremely maneuverable.
Unfortunately, there have been multiple complaints from the customers regarding short-circuit issues and this is something you have to keep in mind.
- Two different accurate power-pressure ratios to work in
- Comes with a 1.5 horse power motor
- Oil free, low maintenance pump that is also very long lasting
- Very lightweight and portable
- Multiple issues with short-circuits
- Low maximum pressure
6. Metabo HPT Pancake
This air compressor is the newer renamed version of the compressor that was formerly known as Hitachi Pancake Air Compressor. It maintains the same integrity as the Hitachi model.
But it is important to mention that this is the most expensive compressor on the list. While it has a lot of attractive features that make up for the price, an argument can still be made that the product is overpriced.
Let us go over the common features first. It has a tank of 6 gallon and a maximum pressure of 150 PSI which is common with almost all products with the list. But this product has multiple features that are uniquely its.
Firstly, the noise reduction on this is absolutely fantastic. You don’t even need to use hearing protections courtesy of its only 73 decibel sound.
Secondly, it comes with a powerful 1 horsepower motor that backs you up exceptionally well.
Thirdly, it also has two different power-pressure ratios in which the air delivery is perfect. These are 3.7 CFM 40 PSI and 2.8 CFM 90 PSI. This gives you multiple options to work with when it comes to using the compressor.
Lastly, this is the absolute perfect compressor for Brad nailers. It comes with a combo kit that ensures the best possible performance in nail guns.
We have to also mention that this machine is on the heavier side of the weight at 38 pounds. Thus it is not as maneuverable as the other compressors on the list.
- Fantastic noise reduction
- Comes with a 1 horsepower motor
- Has two accurate power-pressure ratios to work on
- Perfect pancake compressor for nail guns
- Very expensive
- Heavier than most compressors
Twin-Stack vs. Pancake Air Compressor
By now we have familiarized ourselves with the ins and outs of a pancake air compressor. Let us now learn about the twin-stack model. A twin-stack air compressor is a version of air compressor that is made by stacking two hotdog air compressors together.
When it comes to power output, the twin-stack model is superior to the pancake model. Because it is essentially two hotdog compressors in one, it has the luxury of having a higher power output. Thus, it can do many heavy duty tasks that is not possible via a pancake air compressor.
Again, the twin-stack compressor also has a higher capacity. It has two tanks in model so that really goes without saying.
But the pancake air compressor excels at portability, storage and noise reduction. The pancake model is much more lightweight compared to the twin-stack model and thus is much more portable. Again, it is also smaller in size and requires much less storage space.
Additionally, the pancake model is also much more convenient to use because it reduces the noise to a satisfactory extent. So the twin-stack model can deliver the power but falls short to the pancake model in terms of ease and convenience.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a pancake air compressor?
A pancake compressor is a smaller and more lightweight version of a traditional air compressor that is fit for small scale home use. The name of the machine comes from the shape of the compressor.
Which is better; pancake or hotdog air compressor?
The hotdog air compressor is faster and more efficient compared to the pancake model. But the pancake model is much more convenient to use, maneuverable and requires less storage space.
How long do pancake air compressors last?
Pancake compressors are generally durable. A good quality pancake compressor can last at least 5 to 10 years.
How does a pancake air compressor work?
A pancake compressor has two chambers and they are the combustion chamber and the holding chamber. The combustion chamber produces the necessary air while the holding chamber stores it.
Production and transfer of air happens through contraction and relaxation of each chamber with the help of pistons.
Why do some air compressors have two tanks?
For added capacity and more power, some air compressors have two tanks.
How big of an air compressor do I need?
The required size of an air compressor depends on the type of work you intend to do with it. Smaller compressors are usually fit for small scale home use. If the nature of your work is of a larger scale, then you should opt for a larger model.
Air compressors are an absolute blessing for people who need to perform small scale works without the hassle of traditional air compressors. The portability and the convenience of pancake compressors make it a product that is truly worth buying.
To maximize the benefits of the pancake air compressors, you should try to find the absolute best pancake air compressor and this review should serve as a guideline for you.
Of all the products we have reviewed, the Bostitch, Craftsman and Metabo pancake compressors stand tall. The Craftsman compressor is the best compressor you can find in the budget-friendly price range and the Metabo compressor is our premium pick.
Overall, our top pick for pancake compressor is the one from Bostitch for its healthy balance of performance, convenience and affordability.
Regardless of what you choose, make sure the product is congruous with your unique set of requirements. Stay safe and have a nice day!