Last summer Oren and I tested a Keurig machine. We’ve had more than a few customers ask us where they could get our coffee for the Keurig. Our response was, if they hadn’t bought the Keurig machine–don’t buy it, but if they had already spent $130 on it, then Keurig offers a reusable k-cup filter which could be used with any coffee. But that didn’t really satisfy us. Was it even possible to get decent coffee out of the Keurig? Everything we knew about the machine told us no, but we wanted to do something more (pseudo)scientific. The results were worse than we expected, and I quickly forgot about it…until recently when a customer asked about the Keurig and I immediately bored her to death with details about our trials with the machine.
One of the biggest problems with the k-cup (other than quality) is their waste. The pods are not recyclable. I’ve read at least one blogger claim that because they only make one cup at a time the machine is somehow “greener”. That blogger is wrong. That’s not to say that making more coffee than you can drink isn’t a waste of delicious coffee, but if the coffee is made with a traditional paper filter, everything is compostable/biodegradable.
One way the Keurig tries to get around its awful environmental impact is through the “My K-Cup” reusable filter. This is basically a mesh and hard plastic version of the disposable cups that lets you put your own coffee in the machine. We decided to give it a shot. Could the Keurig machine brew a drinkable cup of coffee if it was used with fresh Oren’s coffee?
The coffee produced by the Keurig machine was terrible. The prepackaged k-cups that came with the machine were undrinkable. Using our own fresh coffee made it only slightly better. We tried several variations of grind and weight in the reusable k-cup, but the yellow liquid that spewed from the machine was scarcely reminiscent of coffee.
Even though the Keurig only has to brew one cup at a time, it was unable to heat the water anywhere near proper temperature on the machine we tested (the ideal temperature is 200 degrees). The contact time was too short (i.e. the length of time grinds spend immersed in water before the water drips through). We tried to lengthen the contact time by packing as much coffee into the reusable cup as possible (at least twice the amount in the prepackaged k-cups) in order to slow the progress of water through the grinds. This test produced a little less than 2 ounces of brown liquid. The needle-like sprayhead did not fully wet the grinds. If the coffee isn’t wet, the flavor oils won’t extract. Most of the coffee in the Keurig cups is simply wasted and never has any effect on the brew.
At the same time we brewed a cup of coffee using a 1-cup gold filter. This method took only slightly longer than the Keurig, but as you can see in the pictures, it produced a nice full extraction with a long contact time. In the side by side photo you can see the sickly-looking Keurig coffee next to the nice dark “traditional” cup.
The Keurig is a wildly popular machine. Green Mountain Coffee is currently valued at over $12 billion primarily due to speculation on the Keurig market. However, we simply cannot in good conscience tell anyone to brew our coffee in that machine. We take pride in offering you the best coffees in the world, and you deserve to taste all the powerful flavors and subtle notes in every cup of Oren’s coffee.
You can see the photos from the test here:
Brewer Test Results