Tag Archives: Keurig

A K-cup Familiar To Our Canadian Friends

In the States, you can pick up a rock and toss it in any direction … and hit a Starbucks.  In Canada, it’s another name and store.

Most Canadians will understand a visit to Timmy's."

Most Canadians will understand a visit to “Timmy’s.”

I spied a new coffee offering in my supermarket K-cup display.  This one is marked with a logo familiar to many who call Canada home. “Tim Horton’s” is very similar to Duncan Donuts here in the US, a nice little store that can be found pretty much everywhere.  They serve lots of good coffee along with some of the most decadent pastries I have ever seen.  Yes, they are mostly donuts and their variants, but I’ve personally never seen a collection of colors, frostings, sprinkles and fillings like I did at a Tim Horton’s in Ontario some years back.  They are everywhere, and they are always, always occupied with hordes of locals tossing back coffee and packing away calories to fight off the cold.

I had a cup of the standard drip, prepared “regular” which means sugar and cream.  It tasted quite satisfying, a dark, full bodied roast that stood up to the add ins.  Maybe it was the cool air, but I recall the smell of the brew to be particularly attractive.  It was full and fresh, just a few minutes old.  I had it with a glazed donut of some design and called it breakfast.  A happy memory which always leaves me wondering why “Timmy’s” as the locals sometime call their stores haven’t tried a legitimate expansion into the United States.  There’s always room for good coffee and donuts in my opinion.

Anyway, I was brought back to this experience when I saw Tim Horton’s cups in the supermarket.  I was only able to snag a decaf box, as all the regular seemed snapped up. (Hmmm…. maybe people DO know about Horton goodness here in the Southern United States).  While I would have preferred the regular for a test drive, I’ve been sampling the decaf over the past few days.

I was wondering if this K version of this memorable cup could live up to my expectations.  Rarely does popular coffee outlets make the jump to the Keurig Universe without bumps and jolts.  Horton’s was not an exception.

The actual cup is a rigid side version, not one with the expanding folds that are filtering into the market.  It worked without issue in my machine, and when set to the large mug size offered a slightly weak looking cup of decaf coffee.

The flavor of the coffee was a bit on the bright side, more of a medium roast than anything taking on a lot of roast characteristics.  It was by no means bold.  This particular K-cup yields better when set to a medium mug setting, and there’s no way to steal a second brew.  I want to say that the decaffeination process steals a good bit of personality from these beans and what you get is a cup that tastes … just okay.  Not horrible and I will finish the box, but not something you make a special trip for.  And it is certainly not in agreement with the robust and heat-giving cups that the real Horton’s serve north of the border.

This is not complete thumbs down.  It is a satisfactory cup of decaf, just nothing to write home about.  Especially if your home is in Canada.  I will keep an eye open for the caffeinated version at my local store and see if that fares any better.

Update: verdict on horton’s regular coffee k-cup

I was able to find and sample Tim Horton’s regular coffee in K-Cup.  Again, it was satisfactory, but not a coffee that you would want to drive across town for.  It is not the cup you’ll get at a Tim Horton’s Bake Shop.  The brewed cup is overly bright and thin, with some grassy aftertastes that I did not find overly pleasing.  Like the decaf version, this cup is simply “okay,” but not a brand you would consider paying a premium for.  Is it the exact same stuff they brew in the restaurants?  Perhaps, but the translation to the Keurig system and the very short brew time may limit how well this brew can match the store brewed cup.

The upshot:  If you have access to Timmy’s, simply drive in and grab a cup, maybe some baked goods.  You’ll spend about the same money as you would on a 12 pack of these cups and have a much better time.

Keurig works up a froth with Gevalia

Mocha Latte is the R rated version of chocolate milk.
I say that because Moca Latte has a smooth creamy favor.  It has a yummy mouth-coating quality that lingers like a melting malt ball.  It’s a kid’s dream, thick and luscious with a flavor so fat it hangs like a froth mustache on your upper lip.  But moca has some forbidden qualities as well.  It has the very grown up nip of a dark roasted espresso and a nutty fullness that wins out over the sheer sweet that children would prefer.  Most kids I know would take a sip and then stick out a tongue in defeat.  So close, but yet so far in children’s terms.  But a nice mocha can be just the ticket to the adult tongue.

But what has all this frothiness have to do with Keurig?  Drop in a cup and get a cup of coffee – no froth allowed.  Or is that actually the case?

Image of Mocha Latte box

Gevalia’s Mocha Latte “Kit”

Keurig gets complex with Gevalia’s Mocha Latte 2 part kit.

Gevalia, who has entered the K-arena with some wonderful coffees, as introduced a 2 part kit for preparing a frothy cup of moca latte.  The kit consists of a powder packet that is poured dry into the bottom of the coffee cup.  Then a quite ordinary looking K cup is placed in the holster.  With the machine set to a medium cup size, the hot water passes though the coffee …. and magic takes place.

2013-12-24 09.57.45

As the hot coffee hits the powder, a reaction occurs.  The powder in the cup begins to pop and sputter to life, creating a blanket of foam about a half inch thick.  As a man who grew up in the United States, I am reminded of a popular candy called “Pop Rocks” that would sputter and crack once exposed to whatever corrosive qualities my saliva contained.   You can give it a few stirs with a stick or a spoon to mix in all the powder, and you wind up with a cup of mocha latte that looks and smells pretty good.  There’s still a few pops and cracks, but that fades quickly leaving a nice cup of foamy drink.  A little squirt of canned whipped cream makes this an impressive looking treat.

The impressive fireworks aside, how does this powdered “latte” foam actually taste?  The best way is to tell you what it is NOT:

1.  It is NOT truly frothed whole milk with lots of fat and all the things that make a latte like this stick to your ribs, among other places.

2.  It is NOT Cremora on steroids.  It has a true coating quality that offers the impression of something containing significant milkfat.  There’s mocha flavoring in the powder as well, and while it isn’t overhelmingly “malted” it is a pleasant taste that works well with the brewed coffee.

3.  It is NOT an uncompromising replacement for a coffee house mocha latte.  You want the real deal, you’ve got to put on your coat and go get it or invest in a whole lot more equipment than a Keurig.

4.  It is NOT expensive in calories.  Gevalia clams 80 calories per serving.  You have to stay away from any extra sugar or whipped cream to stay on that target.

5.  It is NOT expensive in money, relatively speaking.  At the time of this writing, Amazon.com was selling in bulk (36 cups) for 1.22 a cup.  compare this to 4-6 dollars for a store made beverage and it’s a good deal.  Compare it to a nice, simple cup of really good Joe and yeah … it’s a bit of extra change.

Gevalia did very well with this tricked out powder and K-cup combination.  It is a worthy, quick and easy cup that you can offer a guest or whip up for yourself.  It is a great way to avoid a fattening desert and it will leave you feeling quite happy that you’ve had something naughty to drink.

The Coffee Whisperer recommends Gevalia’s Mocha Latte for Keurig!

Keurig Tip: DON’T wait for the “De-scale” warning to come on!

Have you noticed that the Keurig you got about 10 months ago is sounding horrible? Rattling and groaning with each sip of fresh water?  Before you start cursing the cheap build of the K-line of machines, there is one remedy you need to try.  I did, and it possibly saved me from buying a whole new machine for the new year.  It might save you too.

I don’t know about your Keurig use, but the one in my household gets beaten on pretty severely each day.  Maybe 6 cups are brewed each and every day without fail.  The big cups too, so what is that?  Six times grande times seven days times four weeks times twelve months …. what, about 23 thousand gallons of brew?  Well maybe not that much, but it’s still a lot.  And that water has a tendency to leave deposits and gum up the machine.  You need to pay attention to that scale, because it is a silent killer.  It is the cholesterol of the Keurig, and soon your K will be DOA if you don’t clean it out often.

I employ a very simple (and recommended) process of cleaning the device.   I offer the following for entertainment only and if anything at all goes wrong at any time in any place in the known universe I can’t be held responsible.  In other words, use this at your own risk.  (Sorry, lawyer repellant)

First, run all the water out of the Keurig by dispensing hot water until the “Add Water” light starts to blink.   Then remove the water tank and empty out the water that remains.  Put it back onto the machine.  Then fill it completely to the rim with WHITE VINEGAR from a gallon container.  PLAIN WHITE Vinegar, please, nothing else, nothing flavored.  Allow the Keurig to suck some of the vinegar into it’s plumbing.

Run a large cup through your machine to make sure that there’s nothing but vinegar in the device.  Then let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Run another cup through.  You will get a wonderful cup of hot vinegar, a great way to open your sinuses.  Then after another 5 minutes, run another cup through.  Keep tossing the old vinegar and refilling the cup every 5 minutes until the “Add Water” light blinks on.

Pop off the tank, dump the remaining  vinegar.  Rinse under the tap completely until the smell of vinegar seems removed.  Then replace the tank on the Keurig and refill with clean tap water.  Run this too through your machine, except you need not wait 5 minutes in between.  Just run it through.

If you have no interest in being super detailed, you can simply stop there.  Rinse the holster with tap water and refill with your preferred source of brewing water and you’re done.  This should eliminate most scale and keep your machine happy and clean.

Do this every three to six months (depending how much minerals are in your water) and your K machine will thank you with many happy, trouble free cups of java!

Are you being green, or are you being cheap?

When I was a kid, mom and dad would buy soft drink by the six pack.  We would open each 12 ounce can by it’s pull tab pop top.  I would quickly consider the killing power of the aluminum pop top, perhaps running my thumb daringly along one side.  Just as quickly, my tadpole brain would turn again to the sweet soda awaiting me.  With a practiced flick of my hand the pop top would go sailing into the street.  Or the grass.  Or into the water … but never in the trash.

I can't tell you how many of these I happily ripped from the top of soda cans.

A few long chugs later (young boys never sip carbonated drinks, you can’t build up a decent belch that way) the can was ready for disposal.  In those days the can was really a CAN, rolled and stiff.  It wouldn’t collapse in your hand unless you were Larry Czonka or that guy on “Kung Fu.”  I was limited to stomping on it with my foot, twisting it into an angular arc. Sometimes this too would find itself dropped into a bush or  behind a park bench.

The final littering crime was interestingly the one that concerned us the least.  We would take the clear plastic ring and often toss it into the waterway and watch it float away.  It was small, nearly invisible compared to the twisted metal can … but as we all know now, it was a danger to marine life and for all practical purposes it would never fall apart and go away.

Back in the 1970s, we didn’t really understand.  We thought it was all about keeping things pretty.  “Keep America Beautful” was the saying on TV.  But beauty was only a small part of it.  Something that every schoolchild knows and understands.

The first real anti-pollution campaign, circa 1971

Fast forward to modern day.  We are a smart, green, earth-loving population.  We also love our coffee.  So a great many people have raised an eyebrow to the Keurig system and it’s disposable plastic cups.  How can an educated, love-the-mama coffee drinker continually toss plastic and foil cups into the landfill with every cup of joe he consumes?

Some folks just shrug and toss back their java.  No belching, however.  There are others that look for a better, cheaper way to love their Keurig and love-the-mama.  And that is a reusable cup system.  We’ve looked a a few here at the Coffee Whisperer, and now here is one that seems too simple to work well.

But it does.

My-Kap is a small, plastic top that will fit into the open top of a used Keurig coffee cup.  It has the look and feel of a poker chip, and you have to fight the urge to flip it into the air like a movie gangster.  It has a hole in it’s center for the infusion of hot water.  If you’re like me, you’d guess this thing is too simple to work well in the long run.  It’s got to leak or make a mess or something.  But in practice working with it is very simple.

A My-Kap set, available from Amazon. Note the brush is NOT to scale.

You have to start with a freshly used K-cup.  Yes, you are reusing the plastic cup … and the paper filter inside.  Yes, I know.  Reusing a coffee filter?  It does sound bad, but in practice the offense is small.  More on that later.  Preparing the used cup is simple.  use a scissor or a small knife to enlarge the entry hole in the foil top.  You are trying to preserve the paper filter inside, so don’t get too crazy with your cutting.  Just enlarge the hole enough so you can get a finger in and start slowly peeling the foil back to the cup’s edge.  The foil might give away cleanly, or it might leave a small strip along the top of the edge.  This won’t matter, as the My-Kap slips inside the lip of the cup and form it’s seal there.

VIDEO: Preparing a used K-Cup Video

To clear the old coffee out of the cup, simply hold the cup under running water.  The old grounds are flushed out easily, and for coffee that’s reluctant to leave My Kap supplies a small brush.  The brush helps to clear out the folds of the paper filter with a few whisks.  The brush came with a 3-Kap retail package from Amazon, which cost about 10 dollars.

After cleaning, you can immediately reload the cup with coffee, or set it aside to allow the paper filter to dry.  I found I can fill a cup with about a heaping tablespoon of ground coffee.  A medium grind, or a grind intended for “drip” seems to work the best.  Once filled, simply press the My-Kap disk into the top of the cup, in a fashion similar to plugging a bottle with a cork.

Then, simply load the cup, and use it just like a regular Keurig cup.  The quality of the coffee is really pretty good, perhaps better than mesh screen based replacement cups, since those seem to deposit more sediment in the bottom of my cup.  The paper filter seems to block most of the sediment and gives you a fairly clean cup.

VIDEO: How to refill a K-Kup using My-Kap system

On the subject of the filters: it is easy to raise an eyebrow over reusing a paper filter.  The filter does absorb a good bit of the oil and fine sediment that would make a cup bitter.  But in practice, I found the contamination I expected wasn’t really very apparent.  I didn’t note a great deal of degradation over multiple uses and I didn’t detect any real “cross-contamination” between coffee flavors.  Now, I did not try this with a flavored dessert coffee with a strong additive, so your mileage may vary.  In spite of my findings, many folks would prefer a clean paper filter and the folks at My-Kup is providing paper filters and templates to construct entirely fresh Keurig cups.  I did not try the paper filters; as I think the hassle factor in “gutting” a little plastic cup and re-lining it with fresh paper totally negates the convenience of the Keurig system in the first place.  My advice, try the replacement kaps first, and if you can’t handle the old filter, move to a mesh screen solution.

VIDEO: Cleaning a My-Kap prepared Keurig Cup

I found a few negatives with the My K-Kap.
First, I found my assembled kups would leak around the top a bit.  This isn’t a show stopper, as the excess water simply runs around the holder and then down into your coffee cup.  There’s a wipe up factor, and the leaked water will leave some sediment that will, over time, goop up your holster.  Popping the holster out of the machine and giving it a quick rinse is simple and something you should do anyway.

Next, if you wish to reuse the used cup (I’ve gotten 5-6 uses out of a single cup, just turning the cup so the bottom hole is freshly punched each time) you have to rinse the silly thing out.  This involves removing the My-Kap insert.  You need to a tool to do this easily, as there’s no exposed edge for you to pry upward.  I used the handle of the supplied brush, or you can use the tine of a fork.  The folks at My-Kap have an accessory to do this, but a fork seems to work fine.  But again, there’s additional hassle factor, and that is not what made Keurig what it is.

My take:  I thought that the My-Kap was going to be a half-baked solution to reusing Keurig plastic cups.  I felt that the whole-cup solutions discussed elsewhere on this blog would clearly be the “right” way to tackle the waste problem (and cost problem) inherent in the Keurig system.  But I was wrong.  The My-Kap approach is simple, very cheap, and really not that much of a hassle.  You can get about 4-5 easy reuses of the old cup, radically driving down your cost per cup of coffee.  It works, and as long as you’re willing to deal with a paper filter that’s no longer virginal ( I like “seasoned”) it makes a pretty good brew.

Best of all, you’ve saved another few ounces of plastic from being landfilled.  There’s a pop-top sitting buried deep in a Florida landfill with my name on it.  I didn’t know any better then.  I do now, and with a small bit of effort I can save some money and in a very small way help keep the world beautiful.

 

Do It Yourself K-Cup: Keurig’s Solution

The idea is to save money.  Save the planet as well, a tiny little K-cup at a time.
I have always said the greatest thing about the Keurig is how darned convenient it is … pop in a cup, press a button and pop the used cup out.  Factoring in the clean up process there is no other form of coffee making that’s easier than this.  But the cost of that bit of convenience is rather high … about 21 dollars a pound of coffee, by my estimate.  How can you use the cheap stuff in your Keurig so it doesn’t cost you a fortune in little cups?  You use an aftermarket reusable cup, that’s how.

There are several different brands out there, each taking a slightly different approach to the “no deposit, no return” goal we seek.  Keurig has their own, called “My K-Cup.”  The “My K-Cup” is the most elaborate of any of the reusable solutions I’ve seen, not only having a rewashable mesh basket but an entire holster that replaces the regular black one that comes with the coffee machine.  The black one has the puncture needle in the bottom, and since the mesh basket has no need for this the gray colored “MyKC” omits this and simply funnels the coffee down into your cup.  So, or a holster, a mesh screen coffee basket and a screw on top, you will part with about 17 dollars at Amazon.  Not great, but not really that bad if you can go from 67 cents a cup of coffee to say … 35 cents.  The device would pay for itself in a single change of seasons.

But what sort of coffee does it make?

You have to practice with it.
Oh, sure … there’s little black markings inside the little black cup to help you get the right amount of coffee.  That is, if you can see the little black markings.  But the first set of brews were not all that good, a little off.  But with more practice and patience I was able to get it to a state of … just okay.  I got it to qualify as perfectly acceptable, drinking while doing other things coffee.  Not great, stop in your tracks and thank the coffee gods -coffee.  But that’s okay.  If you want heart stopping, bring tears of joy to your eyes coffee, you’d have a 750 dollar Rancillo Silvia on the counter, not a Keurig.  But there is some work ahead of you to get the most from this device.

I used some pretty good coffee to start with.  I got a bag of Peet’s Decaf Major Dickenson’s, which is a darker roast that should hold up nicely to the Keurig’s short brewing time.  I find that lighter coffees suffer with the K- treatment, the water just isn’t in contact with the grounds long enough to extract the lighter flavors.  Darker does better, and the Maj. D. did just fine.  I used pre-ground, as this is pretty close to perfect for drip (what the Keurig calls for) and the particles are pretty uniform in size.  If you grind your own, beware of the blade type grinder, as they chop the beans up and have very irregular size.  If you don’t have a burr type grinder (more expensive but worth it) just buy it pre-ground and keep the bag sealed to air whenever it is stored.

I found a few quirks with the MyKC design.  First, you do have to swap holsters whenever you want to roll your own.  Not a big deal at all, but I’ve already gotten frustrated calls from home when I forgot to put the original holster back in and a family member couldn’t get her regular cup to work in the machine.  Loading the coffee in the mesh bag was a challenge because you need three hands:  the basket/holster won’t stand up on the counter due to the holster’s tapered bottom.  If you have holster in one hand, coffee spoon in the other, then you need to hope your bag of ground coffee won’t fall over while you’re spooning out the dose.  I found a way around this:  I stand up the mesh basket/holster assembly in a demitasse cup while I hold the spoon and bag in my now-free hands.  The lid screws on easily, but you are warned not to over tighten …. the plastic might break.

Actually brewing with the MyKC is no different than any other K-Cup device.  The brew runs out the bottom and a shot of steam/air clears the upper piercing needle.  I noted that the flow of coffee seems faster and greater than with a regular plastic cup.  I wonder if the additional time the water is in contact with the grounds gives the standard cup an advantage, allowing a little more extraction and a fuller flavor.  I found that a full basket/large mug setting got me a decent flavor and boldness.  I think that running a small mug would make it quite strong … maybe to some folks taste, but if I want strong I’d rather use an espresso.

Cleaning is simple, but I recommend doing it immediately after brewing.  Just pop out the assembly, pop open the top under running water and rinse out the basket.  You don’t want the grounds to dry to any degree, as they will “set” in the basket and turn to a hard crumbly substance.  This makes for a clean up thats at least twice as long and will mean lots of coffee grounds under your fingernails.  Just do it when it is wet, and it will flush clean with just holding it under the tap.

All the parts are machine washable, and I’d recommend that after a few days.  The coffee oils do cling and begin to discolor the plastic.  Keeping parts like this perfectly clean is important for flavor, so make a point to run them through with the dishes when you think of it.

All in all, My K-Cup is a good add on for the Keurig.  Points off for the additional hassle of having to change cup holsters and NOT being able to stand the holster up while filling with ground coffee.  Points on for a well built and easily cleaned mesh basket that looks tough enough to last a good long time.  Keurig also sells extra baskets so you can reload for guests with a minimum of rinsing and drying.

There are other choices in the “roll your own” category of K-Cup replacements.   We will look at another popular choice, the eko-brew, in the coming days.

Roll Your Own K-Cups

Prices are out of control these days.
Gasoline continues to flirt with all time highs, that 50 cent candy bar now costs a dollar, and the charge for a gallon of milk makes you think there’s gold in them there utters.  And coffee is no exception.  The price for a pound of bulk roasted beans is well over 10 dollars at this writing (that’s the cheap stuff) and the the more you process the coffee, the more expensive it becomes.  Ground coffee costs more … oh, it might have the same price as a pound of bulk beans, but didja notice that its only 14 ounces of coffee, not a full pound?  Uh-huh.  And the slow rise doesn’t stop there.  Instant coffee is really steep in price, with those pre-packaged paper “pods” not too far behind.  Any coffee that requires grinding, forming, freeze-drying, ice-crystalling, bagging or boxing adds more pesos to the pound.  And the creation of K-cups are no exception.

If you’ve got the feeling that those little plastic cups are expensive, you’d be right.
I’ve not actually put it on a scale or measure, but I think most coffee K-cups hold about a tablespoon to 1-1/2 tablespoons of coffee.  Maybe about 14 grams by weight.  Right now, I can get a 24 cup package of Caribou Blend for 16.99, or about .67 cents a cup.   That means you’re dropping 67 cents for 14 grams of ground coffee.  There’s 454 grams in a pound.  Do some loose math and you’ll see you’re buying coffee at about the cost of 21 dollars a pound.  Sure there’s the cup and the filter inside and the manufacturing cost, but still … you’re spending 21 dollars a POUND on coffee this way.  That’s pretty steep.   And beyond that, there’s the MORALITY of the K-cup versus Mother Earth.

Imagine a world that, when viewed from the cold, vast, emptiness of space seems to be nothing  but a wide ocean of heaving gray and black.  No land, no animals, simply little gray dots upon more gray dots, falling and rolling over one another.  That is the future of earth if this K-Cup thing goes unchecked.  Humanity will drown in plastic, lose its way in punctured foil.  Billions upon billions of used K-Cups will overflow from the landfills like wrathful vengeance from heaven.  And man will be snuffed out under an avalanche of little plastic cups with a hole in the bottom.  Ugly picture, but one that is coming if we don’t find a better, more earth friendly way to conserve the resources our Keurig’s consume.  And that brings us to the topic of this entry:

Save the mama, save your wallet:  roll your own K-Cups!

There are several ways to get this done.  Here are but a few:

If the Keurig was a muscle car, The My K-Cup would be a factory aftermarket part.

First, Keurig has the “My K-Cup” system that you can buy for about 16 dollars at the time of this writing.  It replaces the snap out cup holster in your machine, holds a mesh and plastic basket and has a screw on top that mimics the hole punctured in the foil.  I’ll talk about the “My K-Cup” in a coming post, but a quick “pro” is you can isolate strongly flavored coffees (think hazelnut or holiday blends) from contaminating other coffees you make afterwords.  A “con” is you have to snap in and out some parts to make the thing work.

The ekobrew, for those who wish to decrease their Keurig's coffee-footprint.

Then there’s the ekobrew Cup, a direct replacement for the disposable K-cup.  No special holster, it behaves and handles like a regular little cup.  It has a permanent cup with an attached lid and wires mesh sides.  About 10 dollars, but they’ve been spotted on ebay for much less.  The upside is it requires no holster change, so its easy.  The downside is it tends to coat the holster in fine grounds and requires a “blank shot” of water to rinse the system.

There’s the EZ-Cup, a truly roll-your-own K-cup that has disposable paper filters inserted into a solid, non-disposable plastic housing.  About 14 dollars and you have to keep a supply of these little tiny paper filters.  I haven’t used them, so it will have to wait for my full review.  The itty-bitty paper filter does seem to be a hassle, but we’ll wait and see.

I hope that bush isn't to scale, or I'm going to lose it pretty quickly!

For the real recyclers among us, there’s the Kaps for K-Cups, which allow you to reuse the cup and built in filter by giving you a snap on cap that is snapped on once the punctured foil is pulled away.  They even give you a little brush so you can brush the old grounds out of the filter!  Yum!  3 Kaps  for 10 dollars.

I have tried the Keurig and the ekobrew cups.  I have plans to at least try as many alternative forms of “cups” as I can stand.  But I get the impression that the the first two are the most popular, so I’ll be putting together my review of these little reusables in the next few days.  They all should technically save the earth from ecological destruction and stretch your coffee-addiction dollar to the max.  But how do they work, and more importantly, how do they TASTE?

I’ll let you know.

How Does a Keurig Work?

The Keurig has been on the Coffee Whisperer’s test bench for about two months now.  I’m impressed.  Does it make the absolute best cup of coffee that I’ve ever had?  No.  But it does create a perfectly drinkable cup with the lowest effort of any coffee system, including instants.  How does the K system make this happen?  How does it turn ground coffee into brew in under a minute?  It does this by blending together two traditional ways of making cafe:   It is part drip, part espresso.  A glimpse inside a K cup will illustrate this.

This cutaway view will show you what you’d see if you tore a used K cup apart … there’s a paper filter bonded to the top of the cup.  The cup holster assembly punches a hole in the top foil and pops a smaller passageway  in the bottom.  The 192 degree hot water is pushed through the top hole under pressure and moved through the grounds.  While not extremely high pressure, it IS greater than standard drip coffee makers that rely on gravity to pull the hot water down through the coffee and filter medium.  This pressurized process allows the 8- 10 ounces of water to move through the device in under a minute, extracting the flavors of the final product.  So while there are qualities of a drip system in place, the water mimics the characteristics of a pressurized espresso system.

The difference comes into play when it’s time to clear the spent grounds.  A espresso machine will require a swift rap on a knock box or trash bin to release the coffee “puck” and then a rinse under running water to clean the portafilter.  Then there’s some brushing to clean the metal screen that distributes water from the group head.  The Keurig requires a lift of the handle and cup removal.  We’ll talk later about the need or wisdom of running an empty shot through the machine as part of regular maintenance.  But here’s the real magic of the Keurig:  it’s EASY.  It’s easy to use, and easy to clean.  No brainer, grab a cup and you’ve got it  … coffee maker.  That is indeed the attraction of this system, you can’t make a fresh cup any easier.  Are there some downsides?  Any compromises?  Yes, sure.  But you get a solid cup without a bunch of hassle.  Actually no hassle.

And that’s how a Keurig works.   Basically.    There’s buttons and features and stuff.  But if you’re interested in how the coffee comes out….well, there you are.

The Blizkeurig!

They – Are – everywhere!

Leading up to the holidays, I noted that just about every store in my area had Keurig machines available for purchase.  Not just a couple, but damn near all of them, or so it seemed.  Sure the big-boxes had them, but also fashion-department stores, electronics stores, even home improvement centers had rows of coffee machines and stacks of small “kup” boxes.  It seems that the Koffee juggernaut had staged a world-wide conquest.  And if the picked over shelves were any indication, the blitzkrieg had been successful.  I decided that it was time to learn more about these machines, as they now seem to be firmly entrenched in homes across the globe.

Making fun of Keurig.

I have in recent months (now years) made fun of the Keurig coffee machine.  When I first looked at one, I immediately thought back to my very first career job, working in a place that had a coffee vending machine.  You may know what I’m talking about: a big, refrigerator-like device that had an itty bitty little door that would put on a show for 25 cents.  After eating your quarter a little paper cup would drop down and a stream of hot brown liquid would pour in.   This brown liquid was a mix of “brewed” coffee with a dusting of some instant flavor and coloring.  A healthy hit of powered creamer and sugar got this close to drinkable.  Close.  NOT drinkable.  I unfortunately associated this sad performance with the counter top Keurig.

The old coffee machine of the bad old days.

 Giving the Keurig a break.

While the Keurig could be accused of putting on a similar show, it is not fair to lump the K-machine into the same catagory of those old change-stealing machines.  For starters, the brewing technology is rather interesting.  Unlike that old refrigerator that tried to make coffee, Keurig says there is no “instant” flavorings or other accelerants to make up for a very brief brew time.  They’ve also made a brewing system that at the heart of things is very clean, very convenient and attractive on the countertop.  You’re always about 45 seconds away from a Keurig brewed cup, and that alone is reason for looking into this device.

And look into I will.  I turned a thoughtful but mis-sized clothing gift into a “Special Edition” Keurig, and I’ve been testing it since Christmas.  I will have a running report on the system, it’s ups and downs, and what I think of the available coffees for the system.