One Step Closer to a Jetsons Life

The company I was working on-site at last month had one of those massive single-cup coffee makers with piped-in water, multiple containers of beans, and even a few bottles of flavoring syrups for the heathen portion of their staff who like their mana mangled. It was incredible. You told it what type of roast you wanted, whether you wanted straight drip coffee or something more akin to a latte or cappucino, then you told it how strong, what flavor (none being the only correct answer), and then you hit the button that the staff dutifully labeld as "ENGAGE!"

Your coffee was served in seconds and, to my initial surprise, it wasn't bad.Not great, but there are times when quantity is far more important than quality. 14-hour days of multiplayer gaming is one of them.

I wanted this machine in my office -- my home office. Unfortunately, constraints of the space, plumbing, and financial kind made this an impossibility. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about what a total pain-in-the-beans it is to use the Cuisinart Grind n' Brew coffee maker we currently have. Not only does it take forever to clean after each use and not only does it sound like a turbo-prop attempting to take off from my kitchen, but the thing has a nasty habit of... wait for it... spilling an entire pot of coffee on the counter. Oh, yes, apparently the design geniouses at Cuisinart never heard of a little something I like to call surface tension. The coffee doesn't always make its way through the miniscule drip holes in the top of the carafe. Instead, it floods the kitchen.

As it turns out, single-cup coffee makers have come a long way over the past years and after reading numerous reviews, I decided to give the Keurig K-Cup system a try. I was a bit hesitant at first because of the cost of the larger makers (I wanted one with a large reservoir) and because buying my coffee at Lines n Things or Macy's seems about as natural as putting your pants on two legs at a time. Nevertheless, I decided I was going to track down Keurig Platinum version and give it a try.

I think I love you...

I didn't. Instead, I was able to secure the Keurig Special Edition at Costco for far less money and it came with a box of 72 extra coffee K-Cups. I can see it now: You're wondering what the hell a K-Cup is. Don't fret, I hadn't known until a few days ago either. Let me tell you...

First things first, the Keurig Special Edition is a single-cup coffee maker that has a 48oz reservoir, three cup sizes, and digital display with timed on/off settings and 5-degrees of temperature control. I leave it at the max of 192-degrees. The coffeemaker is designed to be left on all the time -- it pumps about ten ounces of water into an internal chamber and maintains it at the desired temperature so it's ready when you are. (Wow, that sounded like a commercial. My bad.) I set it to turn on at 6:15 in the morning and turn off at 11pm at night.

To use the Keurig during that time, all I need to do is lift the lid, remove the spent K-Cup from my last serving, put a new one in (this process takes roughly 4 seconds), close the lid, and press the button for which size mug I'm using. That's it. Nothing to clean. Nothing to rinse. No grinds or beans to fret over. The water is always hot and from start to finish it takes about 20 seconds to have a cup of coffee ready to go.

And, depending on the roast you choose, it tastes fantastic.

K-Cups are little plastic containers packed with ground coffee and sealed tight. The Keurig punctures the bottom and the top, injects water through the top of the K-Cup and out the bottom into your mug. The bonus box we received with the coffee maker came with K-Cups from Green Mountain, Carribou, Tully's, and Newman's Own coffees. I learned quickly that you have to stick to the 6 or 8 oz servings if using one of the lighter roasts, and hold onto the French roast from Tully's and Newman's Own for when you want a 10oz cup. Otherwise, you risk it getting a little weak. You can, of course, remove the drip tray, place a huge travel mug under it and run two K-Cups worth of coffee into it.

Keurig's website boasts over 200 varieties of coffees, teas, and other drinks (our maker came with several teas and even hot cocoa K-Cups). They are typically sold in boxes of 18 K-Cups for $10. That works out $0.56 per cup of coffee. Depending on the size of your Starbucks addiction, this may or may not sound like a lot of money for coffee. When it comes to coffee, there are those people who think nothing of squeezing a couple weeks out of a can of five-buck can of Maxwell House grounds, and then there are those who drop upwards of five bucks on a single cup of a Clover-brewed exotic roast. And everyone in between.

I typically made a pot of coffee every morning and every night. A rather large 8 or 10 cup pot. And undoubtedly, I would end up throwing out at least one-third of it because it would sit too long. I'd typically drink 5 big mugs of coffee a day. Now, with the Keurig, that works out to about $2.75 a day in K-Cups. Definitely more than I'd spend on average on grinds, but also the same price a single venti americano fetches at Starbucks (my drink of choice). And here's the catch: there's no waste. Every cup is made to order so I'm never wasting beans on coffee that gets thrown out.

Now, I wasn't too excited about leaving a coffee maker on all day long. After all, we're all trying to reduce our energy consumption. Right? Fortunately, the Keurig draws very little energy and the water that is on-standby is kept in a very well-insulated internal chamber. The coffee maker doesn't try to heat the entire 48oz reservoir. Now, that said, I do feel a bit dirty everytime I throw one of the spent K-Cups into the garbage. I imagine that, in total, they probably use no more plastic than a foil-lined bag of beans, but I do want to look into recycling or composting the K-Cups, if at all possible. In the meantime, I'll take comfort in knowing that Kristin and I generate only a small bag of garbage each week and the K-Cups are barely the size of a Dixie cup. And, like I said before, there's no wasted coffee or water.

The only knock I have against the Keurig Ultimate is that I wish there was a 12oz setting for larger mugs (the Keurig Platinum has that) and that the K-Cups were available in grocery stores. I haven't seen them yet. Fortunately, they can be ordered from their website and judging by the May, 2009 expiration dates on the bottom of the K-Cup I just used, they last plenty long enough.

I never thought I'd buy (and like) a single-cup coffee maker after trying one of the pod coffee makers a couple years ago, but this thing looks great, is easy to use, and the coffee tastes great.


Maarten said...

We just got an automated Cuisinart so we can have coffee ready in the morning. Have to say I'm not impressed so far. We haven't had the flooding problem, but it is more work to clean than anything else I've seen, and frankly the coffee is enormously disappointing.

French press works fine for me...

Doug Walsh said...

Yeah, our Cuisinart was such a PITA to use and clean that not only did I find the french press to be easier, but going to Starbucks was more convenient too. As was using the espresso maker to make an Americano.

What a joke.