Right now, it’s hard to find a kitchen on Instagram that doesn’t have a Keurig. A single cup coffee maker is a no fuss option that brews coffee quickly and makes clean-up as painless as possible. It requires little effort if any – the only thing easier than using a Keurig is going to Starbucks and paying them to brew the coffee for you.
However, Keurig coffee makers are far from perfect and if you’re looking to make the most of your morning routine and your budget, you might want to consider other options as well.
Here’s what you need to know before buying a Keurig coffee maker:
1. It’s quick, but only if you leave it on
Keurig will save you time if you drink several cups throughout the day and you keep your coffee maker on all the time. On average, Keurig needs 60 seconds to brew 8-ounce cup and 30 – 60 seconds to reheat the water for the next cup. Just insert the pod and you don’t have to deal with ground coffee or cleaning filter basket after that. However, just like any other coffee maker, it needs to heat the water first.
Depending on the model, this usually takes 3-4 minutes, so you will need to wait 4 to 5 minutes to have that first cup ready. If you leave it on all the time, the machine will be ready for brewing quickly. If not, you will need to wait for the machine to heat up again every time you turn it on, which means another 4-5 minutes. My drip machine needs 30 seconds to start brewing, and 6 minutes to brew a full pot. French press takes 4 minutes to brew from 2 to 6 cups (you will need to heat the water in a kettle first, but that’s great brewing time for a $30 coffee maker).
So, if you want to make single cups several times a day or you normally keep your coffee maker on all the time, Keurig is great. But, if you only drink coffee in the morning, you like to refill your cup, or you rarely drink coffee alone, you probably don’t need a single cup machine. In that case, a regular drip machine with auto ON can also be a great choice. You can get everything ready the night before, set the timer and the coffee will be waiting for you in the morning.
2. Keurig is not a lifetime investment
If I would need to pick just one reason for not recommending a Keurig, it’s the quality. My first Keurig Elite worked perfectly for 5 years, but in the last couple of years, their quality dropped significantly. Most models feel cheap and flimsy, and they simply don’t last. Brewing partial cups, not brewing at all, leaking water tanks, dead screens on 2.0 models, there are so many complaints from customers.
Even the two latest models K-Elite and K-Cafe have issues. Both seem to have problems with GFCI outlets, while K-Cafe also has issues with the milk frother. Of course, I’m not saying that all Keurig units are bad, but if you’re looking to make a lifetime investment or you expect to get a top quality machine for the price you’re paying, Keurig is not the best choice. In terms of quality or longevity, Keurig is hard to recommend.
3. The taste
Keurig makes an average cup of coffee. If you’re not a coffee snob and you want a brewer for regular home use, Keurig is just fine. What I don’t like is that you can’t do much about it, besides finding a k-cup that works for you, or maybe brewing at smaller cup setting if the coffee is too watery. Here are a couple of ways to make Keurig coffee taste better.
Keurig brews coffee at 192°F which is slightly lower than optimal brewing temperature (195°–205°F). Also, some units can smell a lot like plastic. That’s not always the case, but it happens. Now, I know that great tasting coffee comes at a higher price, but why would you spend $170 for a machine that makes an average cup of coffee?! The $130 Bonavita is cheaper and makes better coffee.
4. Plastic, plastic, plastic
The biggest concern with the Keurig is how wasteful the system is. The pods are not recyclable (there are just a few recyclable k-cup options but the company says they hope to change this soon), and this is a huge problem. Most people are slowly switching to reusable pods because they allow you to use ground coffee, which saves money and helps reduce waste. But that’s not really any different than using drip machine and ground coffee, right?!
Others are more worried that chemicals from plastic may leak into our food and drinks. The single cup machines are made out of plastic, the pods are plastic and while everything is BPA free, some people prefer to avoid plastic all together. If you’re concerned about this as well, and you’d like to reduce exposure to chemicals in plastic as much as possible, you really don’t need a Keurig. I recommend getting a French press or Chemex instead. Here are my favorite plastic-free brewing options.
Keurig is one of the easiest coffee makers to keep clean on a daily basis because you don’t have to wash anything – you just take out the pod and throw it in the trash. Actually somewhat inaccurate. The coffee oils and grounds will build up over time and this can result in poor performance or bad tasting coffee. So, you need to disassemble the k-cup holder from time to time to clean everything. Also, Keurig has an inner tank and hoses which can’t be reached. So, while daily maintenance is painless, it’s almost impossible to deep clean these machines.
I always recommend coffee makers with removable parts that are easy to reach and keep clean on a daily/ weekly basis. Look for completely removable brew basket, filter holder and spray arm (basically anything that comes in contact with coffee grounds or oils).
6. Pods cost more
Depending on the brand, one k-cup costs from $0.40 – $0.60. When you use ground coffee the price per cup is usually around $0.20 – $0.30. That’s 50% less per cup of coffee. Even if you use high-quality coffee beans from specialty roasters, a cup of coffee at home will cost $0.65 per cup, which is almost the price of one regular Keurig k-cup. You can get some cheap non-branded k-cups on Amazon for around $0.35 – $0.40 per pod.
What are good alternatives
If money is no object: Techivorm Moccamaster
The $300 Technivorm Moccamaster is expensive but it makes the best cup of coffee. All parts that come in contact with coffee are removable and they are easy to clean. The machine preheats super fast and needs 6 minutes to brew a full pot. Moccamaster is made in the Netherlands, it’s handbuilt, has a copper boiler and comes with 5-year warranty. As far as coffee taste, it’s one of SCAA certified home brewers which means it brews at right water temperature, brewing time, right volume and water flow. Best of all, it comes in almost 20 different colors! If you’re looking for quality, ease of use and a great tasting coffee, you will absolutely love this machine.
Ok, so it might not be as fancy as a k-cup machine but who cares. This $30 coffee maker is almost as easy to use and makes a really good cup of coffee. What’s more important is that it makes a strong cup of coffee, so if that’s something you’re looking for, look no further. You will need to heat the water separately, but everything else is just perfect – it’s small, portable, it’s a breeze to use and it’s plastic free. In fact, if you get a stainless steel press (perfect if you’re clumsy as I am), it will definitely last longer than a Keurig.
Related: How to use a French press
If you really want a single serve machine, check out the Nespresso VertuoLine. While Nespresso pods are more expensive than k-cups ($1.10 per coffee capsule, $0.85 per espresso capsule) and you need to order pods online, Nespresso has more options. This machine makes espresso and regular coffee. By default, brewed coffee capsule makes 7.7 oz, while espresso makes 1.35 oz, but you can easily adjust the volume manually or set the desired water volume for your coffee and for espresso (from 0.3 ounces up to 17 ounces!). Nespresso has a recycling program for their pods so you can recycle them and generally, the coffee tastes better.
Weigh the options and really think about what will be better for you — and your budget. I hope this helps!
What do you use to make your morning java? Tell us in the comments. Don’t forget to add what you love (or don’t love) about it.