How to Make Amazing K Cup Coffee
K-Cups are ideal for those who want quick, no-fuss coffee. Whether you want a simple Americano brew or you're looking for something more complex (flavored, latte, cappuccino, espresso), the pods provide you with a one-touch customized brew.
If you really want to make your K-Cup coffee pop, here are a few tricks to try:
Use your own grounds. Reusable K-Cups are a gift from the coffee gods! They're only compatible with the original Keurig machines (though this YouTube tutorial will show you how to reuse a K-Cup with a 2.0), but a reusable K-Cup allows you to refill the cups with your own coffee grounds. You can use an extra-strength ground to make your coffee delicious as well as quick-brewed. The finer the ground, the stronger the flavor.
Only brew dark and bold roasts. Any light roasts will turn out like brown, barely-flavored water rather than coffee (even worse than diner coffee!). If you want coffee that actually tastes like it should, you'll need to brew only dark and extra-bold roasts.
Clean the machine. Over time, bacteria can build up in the coffee machine and alter the flavor. To prevent that, run a cup of white vinegar through the coffee maker once every couple of months. Follow that up with a cup or two of fresh water to rinse it out, and you're ready to brew with a beautifully clean machine.
Shake it first. Not the machine, the K-Cup! This is especially important for flavored cups/pods, as the flavors may settle to the bottom. A quick shake (like you would with a sugar packet or a bottle of juice) will help to distribute the flavors and more finely ground powders evenly, leading to a more even brew.
Two for the size of one. For a more flavorful brew, use two coffee pods on the lowest ounce setting. Always use the least amount of water per pod possible. The amount of grounds remain the same—the only difference is how much the coffee is diluted when brewed.
Add salt. It sounds nuts, but a pinch of salt can do wonders to bring the flavors of your coffee alive and combat the natural bitterness of K-Cup coffee. Just a pinch, though! Too much salt can make your coffee taste weird. All you need is a few grains to mellow out the acidity and make the coffee beautifully smooth.
Run a water cycle. Unless you've just finished using the Keurig, the water in the deposit is likely going to be tepid, meaning lower brewing temperatures (a common problem with the Keurig). Before you brew, run a water cycle to heat up the water and the machine. Follow it quickly with a brew, and the water will be slightly hotter—ergo, a better brewing temperature.
Use the Freedom Clip. The Freedom Clip is a special attachment that circumvents Keurig's DRM reader, allowing you to use all brands of coffee pods and cups, not just Keurig.
Don't run it to the end. The last seconds of the brewing process produce coffee that is weak and watered down. To ensure maximum flavor in your coffee, remove the cup while the coffee is still dripping. It's worth a minute or two of cleaning the reservoir to get that strong, undiluted coffee!
Use filtered water. Tap water may not taste bad, but the minerals and sediment in the water can accumulate in your coffee machine, affecting the flavor. Try using bottled or filtered water instead. You won't need to de-scale the machine as frequently, and your coffee will taste better.
Remove K-Cups right away. Don't let the K-Cup sit in the Keurig after brewing, but remove it immediately (as soon as it's cool enough to touch, of course). Leaving K-Cups inside the machine will lead to a build-up of gunk and grime.
Read the manual. Who has all that time to waste reading instructions? Well if you don't give the manual a quick skim you may find that you've been brewing the coffee wrong, leading to a weak, tasteless brew. It's worth spending a few minutes going over the instructions to make sure you know all the tricks of using the Keurig effectively.
A few simple tricks, but they can help to improve the quality of the brew produced by your Keurig—both the original machines and the 2.0!
K Cup vs. Coffee Pod
Did you know that there's a difference between K-Cups and coffee pods? Aside from the fact that "K-Cup" is the name of the cups made by the Keurig brand, there are noticeable difference between pods and cups:
K-Cups - K-Cups (or any cups, for that matter) are made of hard plastic, and the coffee ground, tea leaves, or chocolate powder is sealed in the cartridge. There is a plastic ring and a foil top, and the interior of the cartridge has a filter lining that holds the coffee during the brewing process.
Anything with the name "K-Cup" on it will only be compatible with the Keurig machines. Keurig's original machines could be used with most generic cup brands as well as K-Cups, but the Keurig 2.0 has to be hacked in order to use generic cups.
- Broad selection of blends, roasts, flavors, and varietals
- Brews a decent cup of coffee quickly
- Convenient; self-contained capsule
- Not as flavorful as coffee pods
- Pricier than pods and regular coffee
- Higher waste generation (plastic cups, foil lid, rings, etc.)
Coffee Pods -The main difference between pods and cups is that pods are made using a softer, pliable material. They are round at the bottom and flat at the top, and may be wrapped in foil or a resealable bag. The pods are placed inside the coffee machine, which have their own filter to brew the coffee.
- More surface area means better coffee extraction
- Better release of aroma during brewing
- Most of the contents (except for the wrapper) are biodegradable
- Not as easy to find as cups; mostly available online
- Fewer brewing options and flavor/blend/roast choices available
The Cost of K Cups vs. Traditional Coffee
K-Cups were among the first of the "quick brew" options for people who wanted a quality cup of coffee in a hurry. When they were initially released, they became highly popular—the "in" thing for people who wanted to try coffee in a new way. But over time, people have begun to make the shift back to regular coffee.
Why is that? Quality aside, it has a lot to do with the cost of K-Cups.
- The cost of the machine = $100 or more, compared to a $20 to $50 regular coffee machine
- The cost of the coffee = $40 or more per pound, compared to $5 to $20 per pound of regular coffee
According to one Time Magazine article, using K-Cups will cost you 250% of what you'd spend on a regular cup of coffee—66¢ per cup, compared to 28¢ per regular cup. If you drank three cups of coffee per day every day for an entire year, you'd spend an average of $400 MORE for K-Cups than you would on regular coffee.
And that's just the cost to you. This figure doesn't take into account the environmental impact the K-Cups have and the amount of waste generated.
While K-Cups are certainly stylish and user-friendly, they're not the most economical or eco-friendly option.
How Much Coffee is in a K-Cup?
Each K-Cup holds between 10 to 12 grams of coffee (depending on the fineness/coarseness of the ground), or roughly 2 heaping tablespoons.
For a dark, bold roast, this is enough to make one decent 6-ounce cup of coffee. You can get away with using 8 ounces of fluid for the coffee, but you will dilute the flavor of the brew. Thankfully, the richness of the dark, bold roast will prevent serious dilution.
For a lighter, milder roast, you're at risk of ending up with too-diluted coffee if you brew with more than 6 fluid ounces. You're better off using K-Cups to brew espressos or cappuccinos where the extra strength of the roast and the reduced water usage produces a stronger, better-flavored brew.
How Natural are K Cups?
K-Cups come in all varietals: from light to dark roast, mild to bold flavors, and a broad range of additional flavors. There are literally dozens of different types of K-Cup coffee flavors to choose from, with classics like French Vanilla, Irish Cream, Cinnamon Swirl, and White Mocha.
But how natural are these flavors? Are they natural at all, or are they loaded with artificial ingredients?
Here's the truth: K-Cups are packed with the same coffee ground you would buy in your grocery store or supermarket. Flavored coffees are made by spraying propylene glycol on the coffee beans/ground, then adding the flavoring oils or liquids afterward. The propylene glycol helps the beans/ground to hold the flavor, and it acts as a preservative. Every time you drink flavored coffee—whether it's in a K-Cup or a regular coffee machine—you're ingesting propylene glycol and natural and artificial flavorings.
Propylene glycol is a potentially harmful ingredient, with side effects that include skin irritations and allergies, respiratory issues, cardiovascular problems, neurological symptoms, and potential organ toxicity. While it is recognized by the FDA as "generally safe", those trying to live a clean life may want to avoid anything that contains the chemical.
Sadly, this includes flavored coffees of all sorts!
Are K Cups for Coffee Snobs?
Coffee snobs are the sort of people who know the difference between an Arabica and Robusta, have attended their fair share of "cuppings", and shun Starbucks as a place that sells "commercial swill". They prefer to brew their own coffee, which they've usually roasted themselves after importing free-trade beans from a country like Guatemala or Indonesia.
The idea of a K-Cup is definitely going to turn off a coffee snob. They like to have total control over the coffee—from the roasting to the grinding to the brewing to the preparing (God forbid you add milk!). They may consider using their own beans in a reusable K-Cup, but the fact that they can't control the brewing temperature and duration of the Keurig machine means they will look at the K-Cups the way they would a cup of convenience store coffee.
Can K-Cups Be Used with Other Pod Coffee Machines?
K-Cups were created by Keurig to be used with their specialized Keurig machines. Shortly after the original line of Keurig machines was released, coffee makers began to release their own generic-brand K-Cups. Over time, Keurig began to lose market share to these other coffee makers. They released the Keurig 2.0 machines that were ONLY compatible with K-Cups manufactured by Keurig.
Original Keurig machines will work with generic K-Cups. However, unless you hack the Keurig 2.0 machines, you will not be able to use generic K-Cups. There is a Digital Rights Management system that scans for a code on the K-Cups, which must be valid in order to brew the coffee.
The good news is that most K-Cups can be used with other coffee machines designed to use K-Cups. The Cuisinart SS700, for example, was built to use the Keurig K-Cups. Some brands like Bunn or Chefman also have coffee makers compatible with the K-Cups.
However, brands like Nescafe (the Nespresso), Phillips (the Senseo), and Bosch (the Tassimo) all have their own lines of pods or cups to use with their machines. You may be able to adapt the K-Cups for use with these brands, but most of them will only use their own discs, pods, or cups.