Updated: June 8, 2015
Review: Keurig K Cup Coffee MakerIf you're into gourmet coffee, most people know that the best coffee is freshly brewed -- no one wants a cup from a pot that has been sitting around on a hot plate for an hour. That's why coffee shops brew your cup fresh, right in front of you. If you want coffee that fresh at home, one option is a single cup coffee maker. The biggest name in single cup coffee makers is probably Keurig (2 other popular competitors include the Bosch Tassimo and the Senseo). A lot of people refer to these types of coffee as pods or K-Cups or just Cups, but that comes from the brand name K-Cups, which comes from the "K" in Keurig. So what is a K Cup? How does a K-Cup coffee maker work? Why would I want a Keurig coffee maker? Is K-Cup coffee really better tasting than other home brewed coffee? In this guide, we'll cover all that, plus discuss which Keurig models are the best, let you know what price to expect, and where to get the best price if you are ready to buy.
Best Keurig Models - How Keurig Coffee Makers WorkThe Keurig single-cup coffee makers are meant to be no mess, no fuss, easy to use, fast, and convenient. The machine itself (see photos above) has a water reservoir on the side that holds 48 to 60 ounces of water. Fill it up - and you're set for the next 6-10 cups of coffee. To brew a cup of fresh coffee, you turn the power on (takes 1-2 minutes to warm up), insert a K-Cup (looks like a plastic creamer cup, with sealed lid) into the top of the machine, close it up, push the brew button, and 30-60 seconds later you have your piping hot coffee. The secret is in these K-Cups -- each one is essentially a pre-made, mini coffee filter unit, complete with freshly ground coffee, all in a airtight, sealed container. When you put it in the coffee maker, 2 holes puncture the cup (top and bottom), and then pressurized, pre-heated water flows through the K Cup (just like through a traditional coffee filter) and into your awaiting mug. When you are done, you just remove the empty K Cup and throw it away. There's nothing else to clean up on the machine or anywhere else.
The K-Cups come in many different flavors and include versions for tea and hot chocolate as well. They generally come in packs of 24 and cost around $10-14 (around 50 cents per cup of coffee). So let's review this picture -- no need to buy coffee beans, no need to buy coffee filters, no need to grind coffee, no need to set up filters and grounds, no need to throw away dripping, soggy coffee filters and used grounds. Instead, pop in clean K-Cup, push button, have coffee in 1 minute, discard empty K-Cup. It's pretty easy to see why people like the K-Cup method. The main drawback is that you can only produce 1 cup of coffee at a time -- fine in most cases, but potentially a problem if you have 6 guests over for company (though with the Keurig, each can get their own preferred flavor if they are willing to wait 1 minute in between). And you'll hear a few grumbles about coffee not being as strong as people like it, but you can always buy stronger blended K-Cups for more flavor (plus read below about how to adjust strength).
Popular K-Cup flavors include Bellaccino Coffee (Cinnamon Stick, French Vanilla, etc.), Caribou Coffee (Columbia, Fair Trade, French Roast, Sumatra), Coffee People (Chai, Cowboy, Black Tiger, Kafe-Lua, etc.), Diedrich, Emeril's Coffee, Gloria Jeans, Green Mountain, Newman's Own, Timothy's, Tully's, and many others. Again, they cost on average about 50 cents per cup -- a lot cheaper than a cup of Starbucks. So if you are looking for an easy, clean way to brew your own gourmet coffee at home, without the hassles and mess of a traditional coffee machine, we highly recommend these single cup coffee makers by Keurig.
Let's talk about the 4 main models Keurig sells. The main differences between them are the water reservoir size, the number of brew sizes you can choose from, additional timer features, and finish (the more expensive models come with chrome trim or complete stainless steel finish). The B40 (also called The Elite) is Keurig's entry-level single cup coffee maker (around $99). It offers 2 different brew cup volumes (7-1/4 and 9-1/4 oz -- a large travel mug will require 2 K-Cups) and holds 48 ounces of water in its tank -- it also has a 2 hour auto-shutoff feature so yo don't have to worry about turning off the coffee maker when you leave the house.
The B60 (also called The Special Edition) goes for about $129, and comes with a mixture of black plastic and chrome accents. It offers 3 different brew sizes (6, 8, or 10 ounces) and a 48 ounce water reservoir (enough for 8 cups -- that gets you through the week without worrying about having to fill up the machine, if you are a cup per morning person), blue backlit LCD display (also blue backlit water reservoir -- looks pretty cool and flashes when the water level is too low). The water reservoir detaches from the side of the unit, making it easy to carry over to the sink or refrigerator when you fill it with water. You can also fill the reservoir while the coffee maker is working (using a glass or water pitcher). The drip tray (the area underneath where your cup sits) is also removable and easy to clean. In terms of size on the counter, the B60 is 13" tall, is 10" wide, and 13.25" deep.
The Keurig B70 (also called The Platinum) sells for around $165. It offers everything the B60 does, plus has 4 brew sizes (5-1/4 oz, 7-1/4 oz, 9-1/4 oz, and 11-1/4 oz), a larger 60 oz. water reservoir, and more metal trim.
The Breville is the top of the line model (also known as the BKC600XL), and it really stands out being finished in stainless steel -- perfect for a modern looking kitchen. It offers 4 cup sizes, 64 oz. water reservoir, and water filtration system. The Breville is about an inch or two larger than the other models. The Breville also comes with the My K-Cup reusable coffee filter, which lets you use your own ground coffee in the machine -- just fill up the cup/mini-filter, pop into the machine, then clean out when done. For people that like their own specific coffee blends or who want more control over the strength of their coffee, the My K-Cup is a big hit. Visit Amazon to read consumer reviews, check lowest price, or BUY the Keurig Breville Coffee Maker.
The controls on all these are very easy to use. Press the Power button to turn it on, select your brew size, and press the Brew button. If you just turned it on, it will take about 2 minutes to begin heating the water. When it's ready, it will pressure heat the first load of water, and the machine makes a pressurizing noise (not super loud, but kind of noisy) and your coffee cup will vibrate a bit as water pumps through the system -- then your coffee cup will begin to fill. You can also set automated on/off times so that you skip the pre-heat wait (however, it will not brew the cup automatically, it will just have the hot water ready to go -- you'll have coffee in just 30 seconds or so at that point). When you select the brew size, you not only end up with more or less coffee, you also end up with stronger or weaker coffee. Like your coffee strong? -- make a smaller, less diluted cup. You can also adjust the temperature from 187-192 degrees (on the more expensive models) -- this coffee is HOT when it comes out, do doubt about it. Personally, I can't drink it that hot and need to let it cool a bit, but I know many people like very hot coffee. You'll probably also want to keep a towel or paper towel around as the coffee cup fills, since a little splashing is almost inevitable. The blue LCD and water reservoir lights only light up when the coffee maker is turned on. Even with the power off, the LCD clock is still visible. (Keurig also makes a model called the OfficePro Brewing System for $250, meant for small offices or conference rooms -- it's built to handle 10X the volume of a home unit).
So let's get down to it. The main complaints about these Keurig single cup coffee makers - noise, expense, hard to adjust strength of coffee. The main praise -- incredibly easy, no mess, lots of variety of flavors, just 50 cents per cup, also makes tea and hot cocoa (great for kids), coffee in just 30 seconds once warmed up, good tasting coffee, nice looking appliance, small enough to fit on most counter tops, machine is reliable and lasts a long time. So unless you need to brew entire pots of coffee, we recommend the Keurig K-Cups, whether for yourself or as a gift for a fellow coffee lover. I don't know anyone who has one who has regrets about it, they really are that good. And which model should you buy? To be honest, the K-Cups and coffee brewing process is pretty much the same from model to model -- you're going to get a great cup of coffee from whichever machine you buy. So it really comes down to price and looks. The $99 B40 is the basic machine, but fine for someone on a budget or with a simpler kitchen. If you've got a nicer home and nicer kitchen and want to spend the extra money for the stainless steel, my favorite is the Breville, but again, the coffee will taste the same as that coming out of the B40. The B60 and B70 both look a little nicer than the B40 and cost a little more. So -- pick the one you think looks the best that you can also afford -- and enjoy your coffee.