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.
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.