“K-Cup” Coffee

Coffee… good coffee… is a sine qua non for me. I suspect some of you feel the same way. Do any of you have experience of these new "k-cup" single serve machines? There is a WSJ story on this today. I use them from time to time at rectories. Thoughts about hardware? Cost effectiveness?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. mjfkhs says:

    We use the K-cup brewer at the hospital where I work switching from the more traditional coffee maker about a year ago.(we can’t help ourselves – we live on the cutting edge of technology) However the inventory buyer said we spend more on the K-ups than we did on the regular packets of coffee. Of course the staff counters that we do not waster coffee ( you know, the coffee that sits on the burner for several hours and is tossed out for a fresher pot) so it probably is ‘deficit neutral’. The equipment has worked well for a year now but was a little pricy compared with the standard coffee maker. I like the fact that you get a fresh cup each time with the K-cup (and you can have a diferent flavor each time if you wish….0f course this behavior is probably not in keeping with the manner of traditionalist so i have to indulge myself when no one is watching.)

  2. Charivari Rob says:

    I rarely drink coffee, but I have used one or two of the brands of the simple machine – put the single-serving measured container in the little drawer, cup down below, etc…

    I’ve liked it. Definitely a better cup than the average 10-cup maker, and if you don’t have a lot of people around it heads off the drink stale dregs or be wasteful question.

    Definitely an advantage in an office where it’s a hassle to get people to act like responsible adults and take their turn cleaning/making coffee. Also nice in business with waiting rooms (my car dealer’s service department) or a place they don’t mind you drinking and browsing (bookstore).

    My wife and I are thinking of getting one for home. Bit of a timesaver, less waste and cleanup than a 10-cup ‘maker or the good old percalator we use with company at the house.

  3. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I agree with “mjfkhs” that the k-cup coffee maker is probably deficit neutral. We have used sundry coffee pots over the years at the office and all of them have had the disappointing effect of building up coffee oils in the works. Inevitably the coffee turns bitter, no matter how hard you try to clean out the machine. I suggest you buy a good stove-top expresso maker and a coffee grinder. I have always been happiest with fresh grounds and a machine (like the Moka or Bonjour) that you can clean thoroughly and easily in the sink every day. Granted, this method is not a time-saver, but then again, you can find a realxing routine to go along with the coffee brewing process. It is always nice to establish a ritual around enjoying the fruits of the earth.

  4. Titus says:

    The past few months I’ve been drinking regular coffee (from Mystic Monks) most of the week and having one cup out of a Keurig machine on Fridays (our law school’s legal aid clinic has one, but I’m only there on Fridays). The k-cup coffee is definitely better stuff. I can’t speak to the cost effectiveness, just that it’s easy and quite good. The clinic even has theirs piped into a keg of distilled water because the tap water around here is so terrible.

  5. Kimberly says:

    I don’t drink coffee (is that a sin?), so I bought one of those coffee makers for my hubby, he loves it and I let people think I can make a good cup of coffee.

  6. thomas tucker says:

    Don’t know about the K cup.
    However, I do use the Nespresso espresso maker which uses single pods to make a cup of espreso and they are great!

  7. Father,

    Personally I love the Keurig machine we have. We just bought a variety box of Christmas-themed coffees (made by Green Mountain I believe, including Gingerbread, French Toast, and Spicy Eggnog flavors). It works great for us becuase we don’t have time in the morning for more than 1 or 2 cups before we head out the door, and making an entire pot is a colossal waste for us.

    I highly recommend these machines….you can even buy a personal K-cup that you can then fill with your own favorite coffee (although it takes a little practice and experimentation to get the right concentration of ground coffee when filling your own K-cup).

  8. David says:

    I drink K-cup most days at work, with Van Houtte K-cups. While it’s decent and certainly drinkable, I wouldn’t call it particularly good coffee. These machines get heavy use at work and seem to have acceptable, but not outstanding, reliability.

    At home, I get Colombian beans from Costco and grind them myself. I brew 1-2 cups at a time on a 12-cup coffee maker and find that much superior to K-cup. It also seems significantly cheaper. Initial hardware: $120 for K-cup, $50 for my Hamilton Beach 43253 coffeemaker. 3 lbs of beans last around 2 months and cost $10, or 16 cents/day. K-cups look like they’re around $50 for 100 cups, or 50 cents/day.

    Titus: aren’t you supposed to avoid using distilled water for coffee? My impression was that it harms the flavor.

  9. Father S. says:

    While I have had and have enjoyed coffee from the Keurig machines, I cannot bring myself, as a diocesan priest, to spend that kind of money on a machine. I could likely afford it, but it seems to me that there is money better spent. For one living alone, the question of waste seems moot. One never has the thought of, “Should I make a whole pot in case someone else wants some?”

    Additionally, until they put coffee with chicory in K-cups, what is the point, anyway?

  10. Thomas in MD says:

    My sister has a Keurig, and I have not yet found a pre-packaged K-cup coffee that I like yet. Albeit, that may have more to do with her taste in coffee, than in the various qualities available. I usually drink fresh-ground Peet’s Major Dickason blend from a Braun drip machine, or from a french press. I am interested to hear you can pack your own K-cups. And a question: how is the Mystic Monk coffee? I have heard only one review that it was underwhelming. I was thinking of buying some Mystic Monk Blend. Opinions?

  11. david andrew says:

    I’ve a Tassimo machine which I like primarily because it can make drinks that use milk products as well. The discs can be expensive, but handy.

    The Keurig-type machines, so far as I can tell, can only work with ground coffee and teas.

    For my money, give me a good burr grinder, French press, fresh whole beans and a kettle to boil water in.

  12. scaron says:

    Hi Father.

    My sister gave me one of these for Christmas last year and I am a fan. In general, the quality of the coffee is good, but not great – not as good as a pot of Mystic Monk or even homebrewed Starbucks – but acceptable. I would recommend Tully’s Kona blend, Caribou Blend, and Green Mountain Sumatran. There are new varieties coming out every day.

    The main attraction for me is that I am the only coffee drinker in my home, and if I brew even 1/2 a pot I don’t drink it all and I hate to waste it. Keurig is definitely more expensive per cup than brewing a pot, but with no waste is more cost effective for me.

    One last thing – they do sell a gizmo that lets you add your own ground coffee to a plastic K-cup insert – it flat out did not work for me, with about 1/2 the brew water by-passing the grounds and spilling directly into my cup. I played with amounts of coffee, grind, etc, and never could make it work.

  13. deaconjeff says:

    We have had one for over 2 years.
    I drink tea, my wife drinks coffee, and the daughter drinks hot chocolate. Each can make what they like/want. The best part is that each new cup does NOT taste like the previous one. We order our “k-cups” from Green Mountain, and have had very good customer service from them. Two additional points of note: Without a “k-cup” inserted, you can get hot water for instant soup/noodles, and second; with the adapter you can use any coffee/tea/ you wish. We have enjoyed ours and have found it to be a worthwhile investment.
    I hope this helps
    Have a blessed week.
    Deacon Jeff

  14. MarkJ says:

    Father, I have a “Nespresso” machine, which I have owned for about 3 years. It uses aluminum single-serve capsules, and every cup of coffee comes out perfect with froth on top, just like good French coffee. I really recommend this system, although it’s a bit pricey ($200 for the basic machine, plus about $0.55 per capsule). But for serving guests, it’s great. Minimal cleanup, <1 minute warmup, and you can offer caffeinated or decaf to each of your guests.

  15. Liz F says:

    LOL, Kimberly! I think it might be a sin not to love coffee, but only a venial one! My husband does not drink coffee and cannot understand why I love it so much! My daughter and I were able to bring back Ethiopian coffee when we were adopting two of our kids. It was fresh and extremely good. I also love Mystic Monk coffee. However I just had a cup of Folgers and I think it was very good, believe it or not.I think the key is strong, hot and fresh. We are trying to save money so this works for us. Okay maybe that’s a venial sin…I’m not sure! :o)

  16. Ferde Rombola says:

    In environmental termonology, what’s the opposite of ‘green?’ Let’s say it’s ‘black.’ These k-cup machines are the blackest of black environmental sins. A separate plastic cup for one cup of coffee is certain, given enough time and enough users, to overwhelm our trash dumps in the forseeable future. If you don’t drink 10 cups of coffee, don’t make 10 cups of coffee. If you prefer fresh coffee, buy a grinder and the beans and grind them. It takes less than a minute.

  17. William of the Old says:

    Ditto MarkJ’s comments………we have used the Nespesso system for the past 12 years (keep upgrading to a more sophisticated unit when they have sales)and would not use anything else. Wonderful crema, aroma, and taste. Like being in Europe. Their commercial units are in a number of the Airline lounges.

  18. Marcin says:

    Each morning my wife or I labor to manually fill our espresso machine with a measure of Lavazza and it’s great! No plastic cups, no waste. Just due bichieri…

    In any instance, have great coffee, Father!

  19. jesusthroughmary says:

    Why is addiction to caffeine more socially acceptable and less morally repugnant than any other addiction? In my opinion, all addictions are the result of moral weakness, and yet we all joke about how we can’t function without coffee.

  20. Mark01 says:

    Forget about all those machines. When my company stopped offering free coffee last year I bought a french press, and I love it. [I’ve had one for over 20 years.] You can make just one cup, no waste, buy whatever coffee you want so you aren’t beholden to whatever pods or cups are available, and it tastes great. Now when I’m home on the weekends the coffee from the drip maker we have tastes weak and bland. I want to get a french press for home too. It’s quicker too. Make sure you get one with just plastic holding the pitcher (the press itself will be metal of course, but that part doesn’t have to go in the microwave). Then all you do is pop in some water in the microwave for a few minutes, put in coffee grounds, brew for 5 minutes or so, and press. Cleanup is actually easier than I expected it to be. Makes a great, strong cup of coffee.

  21. thefeds says:

    Fr. Z,
    I’m married to a former Starbuck’s manager (with the black apron) and I would say that the best single serve cup of coffee either comes from the Melita single cup drip, or a one cup French Press. And it is OK to pre-grind the beans, as long as you keep them away from air, and out of the light. Starbucks always has pre-ground beans that they set up in the filters for the next day, and has them reay overnight. No one would notice the differnce. The big killer for taste is putting the beans in the freezer.

  22. Re: Why?

    It’s like recreation and gambling. If it doesn’t really prevent you from doing your duties, doesn’t deprive your family of your earnings, doesn’t make you break laws, doesn’t detach you from God, etc., it’s more of a weakness than a vice.

    If you’re spending thousands of dollars on stolen Jamaican Blue Mountain, or if caffeine levels dropping makes you wake up in a gutter with a cheap floozy, then it’s an addiction to worry about.

    Re: single cup

    I just have one of those single cup coffeemakers. It turns off automatically, and I’m still using up all those frou-frou little flavored vacuum-sealed coffee bags and cans that I bought super-cheap after Christmas last year. I clean the filter and such every time, and I clean the whole works with multiple white vinegar run-throughs every few months.

  23. thomas tucker says:

    The best coffee for the money, with the best taste, is Costco Colombian beans which you grind yourself right before brewing. 2 pounds of beans are only about $7 adn they tast great.

  24. Marcin says:

    It’s like recreation and gambling. If it doesn’t really prevent you from doing your duties, doesn’t deprive your family of your earnings, doesn’t make you break laws, doesn’t detach you from God, etc., it’s more of a weakness than a vice.

    Knowing of many medical benefits of coffee drinking (no kidding!), it wouldn’t even be a weakness.

  25. canonlawyer says:

    I have kept a Keurig machine in our Tribunal for years. It is wonderful. Cost effectiveness may be neutral, but no coffee goes to waste. For taste I use Diedrich’s k-cups, which I order directly from them; they do not appear on most k-cup lists, but they are a California roaster. I also have an attachment which allows me to use my own coffee from home in the Keurig. I especially like their new small machine.

  26. canonlawyer says:

    Postscript: The chancery has a Starbucks commercial machine, that grinds the beans for each individual cup it brews. That actually is cost effective. At home, for single serving, I use a small French press, but that takes time to clean.

  27. pcstokell says:

    It’s a nice concept, but… convincing beverage businesses to keep producing the “cartridges” is way too impractical, to say nothing of the environmental impact mentioned above.

    I predict these items will flood yard sales, Big Lots stores and the landfills within a couple of years.

  28. pseudomodo says:

    Probably the finest ‘tasting’ coffee I ever had was in 1995 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was offered by a micro cafe in a ramshackle row of street hawkers.

    The proprieter would put a small scoop of Sanka into a stainless steel carafe and then add some water that had been boiled to within a few nano-degrees of steam. This he mixed furiously with a spoon. He then poured a small amount of superheated evaporated milk into another carafe. The coffee mixure was then poured into the evaporated milk and then the magic began…

    The mixture was then poured over an over again in a slender stream from carafe to carafe with outstretched arms – “stretching the coffee” to expose the greatest amount of coffee surface area to the air to cool it to the perfect temperature. Then poured into a paper cup and served to the customer for less then half a Ringet – about 10 cents.

    Starbucks doesn’t even come close!

    Oh!.. what a minute…
    Starbucks just introduced it new VIA ready brew instant coffee… never mind…

  29. B Knotts says:


    At the office, I use an Aeropress. Have you ever used one? They’re only $25 or so, and while the pod brewers are less messy, I think the Aeropress is more cost-effective. The only special thing you need for it is the filters, which are inexpensive.

  30. Rob in Maine says:

    I think they are more expensive than the traditional Bunn. I did a cost analysis at work several years ago, and to make it budget neutral, we’d have to charge 10 cents a cup.

    The cheap blankity-blanks wouldn’t pay a DIME for cofeee even though they would all walk in with Starbucks.

  31. They are efficient in that they avoid the inevitable office arguments about each person not able to have their particular blend available or coffee brewed to their preferred strength.

    Drawbacks, imho, they are slow to brew. If you are in a hurry and only have time to grab a pour of what’s there (and there isn’t anything already there) it’s a pain to wait.

    Huge drawback: Uh, ONE cup?! Hello

    Signed: Coffee Addict.

  32. BMKoenig says:

    They have several of these machines where I work along with the Green Mountain coffee varieties. While it is not the best cup of coffee I have ever had, it has its advantages at 3am while on shift! It is nice to be able to make up a single cup of coffee without having the waste of a traditional coffee machine.

  33. Random Friar says:

    My personal opinion wrt coffee/caffeine as an addiction is this: we tend to be creatures that get easily addicted or habituated. It’s almost as we NEED a crutch to deal with stress. Coffee/caffeine seems a relatively benign one, and not too destructive. It can be taken too far, of course, like anything else.

    But next time you start sitting in judgment over the alcoholic or gambler or drug addict, remember to have a touch of empathy for them as you sip that quad skinny mocha venti that you can’t function without, ok?

  34. irishgirl says:

    I can’t drink coffee on a regular basis-I only do it when I’m traveling. It either gives me heartburn or palpitations.

    I’m mostly a tea drinker….

  35. adt6247 says:

    K-cup coffee varies with variety, but is overall crap.

    Do yourself a favor — get yourself a decent burr grinder, and either a small french press or manual drip rig. Buy beans whole and grind just before brewing. Cheaper, tastier, better.

    If you have a hard time getting good beans, order online. (I like http://www.counterculturecoffee.com/ and http://www.ahrre.com/) If you want to save more money and get potentially better flavor, invest in a coffee roaster. The green beans are really cheap. Roast, grind, brew, drink. Very tasty.

  36. ghp95134 says:

    I’ve been using Keurig K-Cups from CoffeeWiz.com in the lab for the past three years with great success. The machine was $100 and the inaugural batch of various flavored coffee was $50. I paid for the machine within the first year, repaid the initial coffee investment, and have been running a surplus “coffee fund” since then. Every 2 months (or as required) I place an order for about 10~12 boxes of various flavors … and still maintain a positive balance in the fund. I charge $0.75 per cup and provide free creamer, sweetener, and raw brown sugar The fund also provides biscotti (from Costco) for $.50 ea.

    The only drawback is teaching NASA scientists and engineers how to clean up their own mess; the machine sputters just a wee bit.


  37. ghp95134 says:

    jesusthroughmary asks <b…Why is addiction to caffeine more socially acceptable and less morally repugnant than any other addiction? In my opinion, all addictions are the result of moral weakness, and yet we all joke about how we can’t function without coffee…..,

    Because it is not illegal, immoral, or unethical.

  38. JoeGarcia says:

    I vouch for one of those all-in-one, push-one-button, automatic espresso machines. Williams-Sonoma has a Krups one on sale from $1299 (!) to $399. I load mine up with Starbuck’s beans — really too dark for brewed coffee, just right for espresso — from Costco and I’m good to go.

    My wife, the heretic, will also drink brewed coffee and swears by the Bodum plunge-pot.


  39. Cathy of Alex said:
    “Huge drawback: Uh, ONE cup?! Hello”

    My single-cup, single person coffeemaker makes a 16 oz. cup. Heh heh heh. And it literally only takes a minute.

    You can make a pretty tasty second cup of coffee by adding water without changing the grounds, but it’s essentially decaf. (The caffeine dissolved out into the first cup.)

  40. frival says:

    My wife bought me a Keurig for Christmas last year. After a few months I realized I was paying extra for the K-cups per cup and since I don’t waste coffee (heresy!) there was no question that it was costing me more over time. Then I discovered they have a “My K-cup” which is a metal filter with a holder in which you can put whatever coffee you like. I now grind my Mystic Monk coffee about 5 seconds before it’s brewed for each cup, and I can make as many flavors as I like if company comes with at most only changing the filter and not wasting a drop of coffee.

  41. Will D. says:

    I’m not a coffee fanatic, and I can take or leave caffeine (which makes me morally superior, apparently), so take this with a grain of salt; but I’ve been well pleased with a french press that I bought a few years ago for $20. It cranks out rich, tasty coffee with a minimum of hassle (cleaning out the grounds is a bit of a drag). And there’s no wasted effort or paper. A quick rinse every day and a run through the dishwasher once in a while keeps it serviceable.

  42. lucy says:

    Starbuck’s folks – I believe they still support Planned Parenthood financially, so please do not patronize them. [Do you believe that or know that? Is that rumor or fact? It would be helpful to know for sure what the situation is.]

    BYW: We use Gevalia coffee and love it !

  43. nhaggin says:

    Italics off, hopefully.

    Never used a K-cup. I have the Melitta ReadySetJoe plastic filter holder that takes #2 filters, which I keep with a small grinder, beans, and electric kettle in my office. Following Coffee Geek’s guide to using a pour-over brewer, I get some pretty fantastic joe without much hassle.

  44. nhaggin says:

    I can also second those who recommend a French press, but I only drink that once in a while.

  45. tzard says:

    My mother in law loves hers. She only wants one cup at a time and it does it for her. She has a brand she likes.

    Note: There is also a reusable filter where you can put your own grind for your own coffee (rather than the pre-prepared dispenser cups).

    Also note: Tea and Hot Cocoa doesn’t come out too well in our experience.

  46. wanda says:

    Bless me, Father, for I love Maxwell House.
    It has been years since I drank Starbucks,
    and these are my sins;

    I have a 40.00 Mr. Coffee Pot
    It takes a good beating,
    I drink way too much coffee.
    I never drink de-caf.

    For my Penance, I’ll say an Our Father a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.

    Oh, I forgot, I can’t stand all those icky flavors. Give me ‘high-test’ any day of the week.

  47. edwardo3 says:

    Fr. Z,

    My family loves ours! The coffee is generally excellent and well flavored, though it is a tad more expensive for us than a regular drip machine. Our machine has settings for three sizes of cups: tea cup, coffee cup and mug. We also have a filter attachment that allows us to use regular ground coffee instead of the K-cups, I would highly recommend getting one of those. I bought our machine as a Christmas Present for my parents two years ago. Neither of my parents see as well as they used to, but especially my father, who ended up making huge messes daily with our old drip coffee maker. For us it has been a blessing, especially me as I was the one always cleaning up the coffee. One thing I have noticed is that the hot chocolate they sell comes out a bit watery, but I’d rather make my own anyway.

  48. dcs says:

    We tested a Flavia machine at my old job and the controller determined that it cost 59 cents per cup compared to 4 cents per cup for our regular coffee service. So it wasn’t worth it even considering coffee that normally went to waste. I don’t imagine that the Keurig machine would be any cheaper per cup.

    And Mystic Monk coffee is great!

  49. kellym says:

    It’s hilarious – all the accoutrements that go along with coffee brewing these days is just amazing. It’s come a long way since the glass Pyrex stovetop pot with the glass stem and basket!

    I temped at an office a couple of years ago that had one of those K-Cup deals. I ended up having to use 2 of the darned things every time to get the coffee strong enough for my taste. And this was using Green Mountain coffee which is not for the faint of heart. My sister used to have one too but I think she ended up pawning it off on a family member and going back to a good coffee maker. She said it got too expensive, too.

    A few years ago we bought a Cuisinart coffee maker that uses a thermal carafe instead of a pot. I bought it refurbished on Amazon so it was quite reasonable. It’s made a huge difference – it keeps the coffee hotter longer and you don’t get that terrible burnt taste since there’s no heat other than what is needed to brew. Since it’s stainless it can go in the dishwasher and all that burnt stuff that coats the inside of the pot just gets scalded right off.

    As for beans I use Trader Joe’s French Roast, or similar from the SF Coffee Company. One good thing about SF – there’s plenty of coffee roasters. Thanks for the tip re: Starbuck’s. Won’t give them my money.

  50. Good information and discussion!

  51. david andrew says:

    @Wanda: ROFL! Best ringing of the changes on making a confession I’ve heard in a long while!

    @Kellym: My parents received one of those coffee pot arrangements with that globe with the hollow stem and the glass insert that went on the stovetop as a wedding gift all those years (over 50!) ago. Mom gave it to me back in the ’80’s when I took my first apartment. I’ve used it on and off ever since, and I’ll tell ya, it makes every bit as good a cup o’ joe as any of these expensive, plug-in, enviro-unfriendly contraptions they’ve come up with since!

    It just “shows ta go ya” that you can’t improve on simplicity!

    Please pass the half-n-half.

  52. ghlad says:

    That matching gift, is that the same as “we match the donations that our employees make?”

    If so, argh – there are a number of companies that I patronize on that list…

    It reminds me of the Sienna cell phone advertisements that list how each of the large cell phone companies support immoral causes.

    Sometimes the hermit’s life seems the best.

  53. MikeM says:

    Starbucks is an all around bad company. They not only support Planned Parenthood, but also several anti-Catholic “gay-rights” causes. Plus, they’ve been known to deal with suppliers in rather unfair ways. If you can find the story on the web still (I know the local paper’s ran it at the time and there was some web buzz about it) look at what Starbucks did to Judy’s Bakery (a bakery in the Chicago area) in 1999. My family knew Judy (not super-well) and Starbucks’ immoral practices really destroyed her. :( And they’re known to seriously rip off coffee farmers, too… that was one of the motivations for the Fair Trade “movement” in coffee.

    As for the K machine, it makes a decent cup of coffee. It’s better than many coffee machines, but not as good as a skilled coffee maker will get from a good coffee machine. I actually prefer the Tassimo machines, though.

    For those of you with the Keurig machines, Green Mountain has made some pretty substantial donations to CRS. While CRS isn’t perfect, it’s still good to see a company supporting the many good things they do!

  54. Paul Knight says:

    Thank you Father for these podcasts. I always enjoy listening to them.

    I have to say that listening to Paul VI concerning the Novus Ordo makes for difficult listening. I’m left with the feeling as if I’d just been robbed in broad daylight.

    One thing I would like to pick up on is the reference by Paul VI to Eastern liturgical traditions. This has always seemed very odd to me, after all, we are talking about what is supposed to be the Roman Rite, albeit a reformed version. However, the way that the reformed liturgy was constructed is totally in opposition to the inspiration of the Eastern rites. The result of the reforms are that the new “Roman” Rite has been stripped of it Roman character, especially when we consider the way in which it is almost universally celebrated today, with Latin, the chant and the Roman Canon more-or-less falling into disuse.

  55. Paul Knight says:

    Oops! Looks like I posted on the wrong thread.

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