‌Best‌ ‌Pancake‌ ‌Air‌ ‌Compressors‌ ‌(2021 ‌Round-up‌ ‌Review)‌

Cody
| Last Updated: January 30, 2021

Tool Tango is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Pancake air compressors are smaller, compact, and more portable than most other compressor types. An excellent choice for a wide range of small- to mid-sized applications, you still need to do your research carefully when settling for a particular model.

In this guide, we’ll show you exactly what to look for and share with you our findings after testing some of the top-rated pancake air compressors on the market.

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best pancake air compressors:

  1. Metabo EC914S
  2. Metabo EC710S
  3. DeWalt DWFP55126

Comparison Chart of the Best Pancake Air Compressors

Product

Our Rating

Price

Metabo EC914S

  • 1.3 HP, 200 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120V

Metabo EC710S

  • 1 HP, 150 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120V

DeWalt DWFP55126

  • 0.9 HP, 165 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120V

Craftsman CMEC6150K

  • 0.8 HP, 150 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120V

Porter Cable C2002

  • 150 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120V

Bostitch BFTP02012

  • 150 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120V

What is a Pancake Air Compressor?

A pancake air compressor is a small unit with a tank shaped pretty much like a pancake. Compact and lightweight, it’s perfect for small tasks, like inflation or even spray paint. 

The best models must produce an airflow of at least 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI. Quick recovery time will also make a significant difference. And if you’re getting some extras in the package, even more reasons to consider that unit!

Can You Really Find a Pancake Air Compressor That’s Affordable?

Luckily, quality pancake air compressors don’t cost that much. Some of the best models are around $200, sometimes even a tad lower.

Since they are meant to feature a smaller size and engine, and they typically rely on oil-free pumps, they aren’t quite costly. What’s more, you’ll often find them sold with accessory kits, which brings extra value.

How to Choose a Pancake Air Compressor

Most air compressors have a tank of 6 gallons, a motor horsepower (amount of used energy) from 1 to 2 HP, and a PSI (inside tank air pressure) of 150, sometimes even 175 or 200 PSI.

To choose the best model, however, consider the following details:

CFM

The amount of air it produces dictates the type of air tools the compressor can support. As stated, the best models have at least 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI, some of them even 3.8 or 4 CFM.

Noise Level

Pancake air compressors have smaller engines and are less noisy compared to other models. Still, you’ll see options ranging from 60 dB to 90 dB. Whatever you compare, know that every 10 extra dB doubles the noise level.

Portability

Smaller doesn’t always mean easier to handle. That’s why you’re still supposed to pay attention to some details such as the weight and the overall size. You want a unit that will easily fit the storage space you have available, and that is also easy to move around.

Review of the Best Pancake Air Compressors 

With all the technical details we’ve already discussed, we can move on to looking at specific models.

We’ve picked the best overall and budget-friendly options for you, but we also spotted the best pancake air compressors from the most popular manufacturers. Here’s what each one brings to the table:

Best Overall:
Metabo EC914S

PROS

  • Excellent for pneumatic nailers
  • Durable but lightweight construction
  • Low-maintenance, oil-free operation
  • Capable of running two air tools at once
  • Outstanding power output and increased airflow

CONS

  • Only 1-year warranty
  • Not necessarily the quietest pancake air compressor

Our Review:

The best overall pancake air compressor we’ve tested is The Tank, from Metabo HPT. It’s a low-maintenance unit with 200 maximum PSI, which brings about 25% more pressure than what you’d get from the average pancake models on the market. And considering its 4 CFM @ 90 PSI, it also delivers considerably more airflow.

Needless to say, it has a sturdy stainless-steel tank and only weighs 41 lbs. It is designed to run two air tools simultaneously, with a relatively short recovery time of a few minutes. When you start it from cold, it takes about 5 minutes to gear up. Once it hits the right pressure, it will work wonders with nailing, inflating tires, or even handling some impacts for short bursts.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The Tank is powered by an industrial motor and delivers more pressure than you’ll get from any other pancake air compressor. Between 2014 and 2019, Builder & Developer Magazine awarded Metabo HPT with its “Pro Preferred Brand for pneumatic nailers” title. Indeed, this air compressor is perfect for all things nailer-related. All while making operation a breeze!

Best for the Money:
Metabo EC710S

PROS

  • Great price for the value it provides
  • Equipped with a high-efficiency motor
  • Can run multiple air tools at the same time
  • Relies on an oil-free pump for easy maintenance
  • Reliable air compressor with steady performances

CONS

  • Noise level during operation could be lower
  • Design doesn’t include any cord storage feature

Our Review:

With a limited budget, you can still get plenty of value from a 6 gallon pancake air compressor like Metabo HPT’s EC710S. Its 1 HP motor and oil-free pump reach a maximum PSI of 150, scoring 2.8 CFM @ 90 PSI. At this airflow level, you can undoubtedly run various nailers, even multiple tools, if the application requires it.

The steel roll cage with rubber grips makes it sturdy enough for worry-free transportation. All critical components are protected; the unit has a low center of gravity that makes it particularly stable; not to mention it’s even lighter than the best overall, at only 36 lbs!

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This pancake air compressor is a budget-friendly option that doesn’t skimp on quality and reliability. Despite its surprisingly-low price, it closely competes with more expensive models in the same market segment. And it does so not just performance-wise, but also through its industrial regulator and gauges that will let you make PSI adjustments easy and accurately.

Best 6 Gallon Pancake Air Compressors:
DeWalt DWFP55126

PROS

  • Affordable price point
  • Good power output for its size
  • Easy start even in cold weather
  • Portable and easily maneuverable
  • Comes from a reputable manufacturer

CONS

  • Occasional reliability issues reported
  • Noise level isn’t as low as you might hope

Our Review:

As a fan of DeWalt tools, you won’t help but notice this 6-gallon pancake air compressor. With 165 maximum PSI and airflow of 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI, it’s by far their best product in this category. The high-efficiency motor will deliver as expected, in any weather conditions, even with an extension cord if need be.

While its noise level could be lower, everything else about it is just as you expect it. Given the oil-free design, it spares you from any maintenance complications. And the high-flow regulator, along with the quality built-in couplers, will maximize your air tools’ performances.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

With this particular DeWalt pancake air compressor, you’re getting great power output and a design that will make your work a breeze. From the easy start to the convenient cord wrap, it’s built with impressive attention to detail. What’s more, it only weighs 30 lbs, meaning you’ll carry it around effortlessly.

Best Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor:
Craftsman CMEC6150K

PROS

  • Sturdy and highly portable
  • Will start easy on any weather
  • Not a demanding model, maintenance-wise
  • More than decent power output with versatile application
  • Attractive price point for a compressor with accessory kit

CONS

  • A bit on the noisy side
  • Warranty is limited to just one year

Our Review:

For a surprisingly affordable price, Craftsman is giving you more than their best small air compressor. The 6-gallon pancake unit tucks a 13-piece accessory kit in the package, to make your life easier. Speaking of which, it’s an oil-free model, asking for minimal maintenance.

The maximum pressure it can reach, of 150 PSI, is more than enough for the typical projects around the house. It’s nice that it also has two couplers for running two air tools simultaneously. And the 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI is in line with what you get from most of the best-rated pancake air compressors sold by other popular brands.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

A typical Craftsman tool, this compressor provides excellent value for the money. It is solidly built, manufactured in the USA, and accompanied by an air hose, with lots of accessories, many of which will come in handy when inflating tires. For typical home use, you’ll have a hard time finding a better one in the manufacturer’s catalog.

Best Porter Cable Pancake Air Compressor:
Porter Cable C2002

PROS

  • Good power output
  • Works well even with paint guns
  • Supports a pretty fast recovery time
  • Dependable motor and oil-free air pump
  • Features a lightweight body, highly-portable

CONS

  • Noise level isn’t the lowest you can get
  • Break-in procedure isn’t quite clearly explained

Our Review:

Ready to hit the 150 maximum PSI, this pancake air compressor from Porter Cable will allow mess-free operation with most of the air tools you have around your house. The motor and pump are durable and reliable, the shroud, the handle, and the console cover make it secure and sturdy, while carrying it around is a walk in the park.

The factory-installed pair of couplers gives you room to juggle with two air tools at once, if that’s what you want. It sits nicely on practical rubber feet, anywhere you put it. It works as intended. And maintenance won’t be a problem, since it relies on an oil-free pump. The airflow at 90 PSI is rated 2.6 CFM.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Tucked in a lightweight and small package, the best Porter Cable pancake air compressor still packs a big punch. It can fill tires, fire nailers, or paint, and you won’t have to wait for ages for it to build pressure back. Thanks to the low amp motor, starting it will never be a challenge, either.

Best Bostitch Pancake Air Compressor:
Bostitch BFTP02012

PROS

  • Designed with dual couplers
  • Includes a high-flow regulator
  • One of the lightest 6-gallon pancakes out there
  • More than enough power for home applications
  • Sold as a compressor kit, with extra accessories

CONS

  • Not the cheapest option out there
  • Includes some plastic parts in the extra kit

Our Review:

The best Bostitch air compressor on this list stands up to the expectations. Not only is it their top-rated 6-gallon pancake unit, but it is also one of the lightest ones you’ll come around. Maneuverable and with a narrow tank, it is stable and easy to store, meaning you can find a place for it or take it anywhere you need it.

Performance-wise, its maximum tank storage pressure goes up to 150 PSI. The airflow is rated as 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI. And the estimated noise level is 80 dB – not much according to the industry standards, though a bit above what we’ve seen in the previous models we tested.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Bostitch is selling the BFTP02012 pancake air compressor with 10 extra pieces. It’s a special kit with accessories for blow guns and inflation. Moreover, it throws in a 50-inch air hose made of rubber and PVC. While its price tag might catch your eye as a bit on the high side, all these accessories, along with the compressor's quality, will make you want to invest in it.

Pancake Air Compressor Pros and Cons

Going through the reviews from above, you can easily tell what makes an air compressor a good choice and what limitations it brings with. To sum it all up, here are the pros and cons:

Pros

Compact & Portable

These two are, by far, the biggest advantages of pancake air compressors. They are intentionally built small, with a limited footprint, so that they will take up less storage space and, at the same time, be easily transportable.

Quite Versatile

While they clearly cannot handle any air tool out there, the models we’ve tested, especially those with an airflow closer to 4 CFM @ 90 PSI, can work with many different air-powered tools. Inflation, brad nailing, stapling, and even painting with low-viscosity paints are all doable with a pancake model.

Affordable

As already seen, the price range for the best pancake air compressors is quite affordable. You can get a lot of power and even extra accessories in the package for a moderate price tag.

Cons

Not For Demanding Air Tools

Pancake air compressors are not designed to operate with large air tools. For higher CFMs, like the ones involved with commercial auto spray paint, sandblasters, or air grinders, you’ll have to look at other options.

Pancake vs Hotdog Air Compressor - Comparison Overview

Wondering which one to choose is a common dilemma, especially since hotdog air compressors are also on the small side and suitable for small projects. At a glance, they both win points for the compact design and portability, though the pancake air compressor has a slight advantage in this category. What’s more, a pancake model is also more stable during operation.

While somewhat bulkier, a hotdog air compressor can deliver a bit of extra power. It is more often designed with oil lubrication, as opposed to the typically oil-free pancake compressor. And it can provide a higher airflow, though the difference won’t be significant.

When To Use a Pancake Air Compressor?

The pancake air compressor is the best choice for inflation jobs or for any other jobs where you don’t need a constant airflow for a very long time.

It’s also the better choice if you’re concerned about the noise level, as hotdog models are usually louder.

And if you’re not that technical and don’t like the idea of the constant maintenance required by oil-lubed hotdog compressors, again, you’ll want to use a pancake model.

Construction workers, drywallers, roofers, and carpenters make good use of pancake air compressors for various small tasks. If you see yourself activating in one of these fields, you, too, should consider the pancake model.

Conclusion

Pancake air compressors are small but mighty to some extent. As long as you’re well aware of their best uses and the limitations that derive from their construction, you’ll be able to make a smart choice. You already know which ones are the best and why, so you’ll now want to consider your needs and preferences!

People Also Ask

Have some additional questions regarding your options or the functionality of a pancake air compressor, in general? You’re probably thinking about the following:

How Much Is A Pancake Air Compressor?

You’ll find pancake air compressors priced from around $150 to $200, occasionally even $250. Sometimes, the price can be higher because of the brand reputation, while the differences in quality aren’t necessarily that obvious.

How Does A Pancake Air Compressor Work?

The pancake air compressor works like any other type of air compressor. It has a pancake-shaped tank, where it stores pressurized air, and once you couple an air tool on it and start running it, the pressure from the air tank drops down. Once it reaches the lower limit, the pancake air compressor will again rebuild the pressure inside the tank.

How Many Cubic Feet Of Air Does A Pancake Compressor Hold?

Most pancake air compressors have a 6-gallon tank. While 6 gallons translates into 0.8 cubic feet, the actual amount of cubic feet of air from inside a pancake compressor varies depending on the pressure at which it is stored inside the tank!

You’ll have to convert the PSI into BAR, add 1 BAR to that value for the static atmospheric pressure, and multiply what you get with the volume in cubic feet.

If the pancake compressor holds air at 150 PSI, this is the equivalent of 10.34 BAR. The number of cubic feet of air would be 11.34 BAR multiplied by 0.8 cubic feet, meaning 9.072 cubic feet of air in a 6-gallon pancake compressor at 150 PSI.

How Many Watts Do I Need From An Inverter To Power My Pancake Air Compressor?

To find out how many watts your pancake air compressor would have to draw from an inverter, you must know the Amps and the Voltage. Multiply these two values and see what you get. Then, consider you’ll need a bit more than that, to compensate for the extra amp draw at startup.

For instance, if you have a 10 Amps, 110V pancake air compressor, you’ll need 1100 watts to keep it running. Ideally, your inverter should deliver at least 1400 watts, because the air compressor will draw a bit more than 10 Amps the first time you start it.

How Loud is a Pancake Air Compressor?

Depending on the motor size and the design, you’ll find pancake air compressors going from 60 dB (most likely the ones of 1 gallon) to nearly 80 dB (especially if you go for a larger, 8-gallon model). However, pancake air compressors are usually sized at 6 gallons, with 1-2 HP, and for the best-rated models in this category, 70 to 80 dB is what you’ll get.

Cody

My name is Cody and I've been a writer for Tool Tango for quite some time now. I've always had a knack for building things with my hands and creative writing, so being able to combine the two has been great. I love being able to give back to the DIY-community, while also learning a thing or two along the way. When I'm not writing, I enjoy watching Netflix with my girlfriend, fishing, and working in the shop.