Keurig hit the scene in 1998 with their B2000 brewer for office use. Keurig coffee makers are unique in that they are one-cup brewers featuring single use “K-Cups” of coffee. You pop the K-Cup into the machine; push a button, and voila – you have a hot, fresh cup of specialty coffee within minutes.
The K-Cup itself is a sealed package containing ground coffee (not instant) and a paper filter. When you insert the K-Cup into the machine and push the button, the machine punches a hole into both the top and bottom of the cup and forces hot, pressurized water through the grounds inside – a combination of the drip and espresso brewing methods.
The first B2000 just brewed coffee, but Keurig Introduced tea K-Cups two years later, followed by other beverages like hot chocolate and apple cider. As of 2012, Keuig offers three different brewing systems – the original K-Cup, the Vue System that allows consumers to customize the brewing process (it uses Vue packs instead of K-Cups), and the Rivo System, which makes espresso drinks including cappuccinos and lattes.
Keurig now features nine different home brewers and three Keurig-licensed home brewers made by other companies using Keurig Brewed® Technology. The company also offers seven models of work brewers engineered for commercial use, designed to brew up to 10 times the daily volume of the home brewers.
What’s good about Keurig and K-Cups?
- Keurig users rave about the ease of use. No set up, clean up or messy measuring. Just pour cool, clean water into the reservoir and push a button!
- There are over 200 varieties of beverages to choose from – light roast to dark roast coffee, flavoured iced and decaf coffee, a variety of teas and iced teas, hot chocolate, and even apple cider. The assortment is perfect for parties, offices, meetings, or even families with varying tastes.
- Consistent strength and flavour. You can count on the same results over and over.
- Always fresh and hot, because you brew your beverages one at a time.
- The machines themselves are attractive, with a clean, modern look.
What’s not so good?
- Coffee purists turn up their nose at the Keurig brewers, insisting that a truly delicious cup of premium coffee can only be made with fresh roasted and freshly ground beans, and that the Keurig maximum water boiling point is too low to brew that perfect cup of coffee.
- They’re not cheap. Even a small single serve brewer will run you around $88 on Amazon.
- Then there’s the ongoing cost of the single serve coffee and other “pods”. A “valu pack” of 80 Green Mountain Columbian coffee K-Cups is $45 on Amazon, or 56 cents a cup. Time Magazine ran an article titled Beans vs. Single-Serve Cup: Just How Much More Does K-Cup Coffee Cost? in which the writer concluded that, factoring in the cost of coffee pots and filters, K-Cup coffee costs roughly $50 per pound – well over double the price of a bag of fresh premium coffee beans.
- K-Cups can’t be recycled. The K-Cup is a self-contained plastic unit integrated with a coffee filter, coffee grounds, and plastic foil top; there is no easy way to separate the components for recycling. This has led to many calling the use of K-Cups an “environmental issue”.
- Like any coffee maker, the Keurig machine needs descaling about every three to six months to avoid the build up of lime and calcium deposits. How often you will need to descale will depend on your frequency of use and the hardness of the local water, but the good news is that the Keurig machine has a “descale” light that takes the guesswork out of when to do it.
- There are a number of complaints on consumerreports.com about the pricey coffee makers breaking down within the first year, although several consumers also report Keurig readily gave them a replacement unit.
Whatever the pros and cons, parent company Green Mountain Coffee Roasters have done an outstanding job of marketing the concept and the products. And consumers are buying in – the Keurig single cup coffee maker platform was named “Brand of the Year” in the “Coffee Maker” category in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend Equity Study, based on consumers’ rankings.
As usual, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. A half dozen competing companies have launched coffee-capsule and pod-based coffee brewers for the home and commercial markets, hoping to capitalize on Keurig’s success.