Most people can’t even begin to function without their morning cup of joe, to the point where making one with a traditional coffee maker can seem like a tall task. When you only have primitive brain operating in the morning, the best Keurig coffee makers simplify the process so even your caveman morning brain can understand: drop K-cup in K-cup sized hole. Press start. Drink coffee. Repeat.
That incredibly simple process of making a good cup of joe is exactly how Keurig coffee makers took over the coffee world. In the e-commerce world, it’s easy to use cliches like “This product revolutionized the industry” or “such and such brand disrupted the game.” But when it comes to Keurig, that’s the honest truth.
In this post, we’re going to be breaking down everything you need to know to find the perfect Keurig maker:
- Why Keurig is synonymous with single-serving coffee makers
- The drawbacks of these machines
- The best Keurig coffee makers for sale
- The best Keurig machine alternatives
- Our favorite K-Cup pods
How Keurig Changed The Coffee World Forever
Keurig coffee machines were first introduced to the home in 1992, around the same time when Starbucks started to hit its stride. This is important because Starbucks was popularizing the idea of single cups of coffee to the masses, even though single cups of coffee were (and still are) far more expensive compared to buying in bulk. By 1998, when the first K-cup Keurig machines were released, the company went all-in on a simple premise: people want a single cup of coffee in the morning, but they don’t want to pay Starbucks prices.
Keurig K-Cups, although still more expensive than bagged, bulk coffee, were less expensive than going to your local Starbucks or indie coffee shop. But for nearly a decade after developing the first K-cups, Keurig struggled to break into the “holy grail”of the coffee market — your kitchen counter. According to The Boston Globe, the turning point was the company’s acquisition by Green Mountain Coffee in 2006. Soon after, in the midst of the 2008 Great Recession, the company finally reached critical mass, and America has been obsessed with single-serving coffee ever since.
Have you ever tried to make a single cup of coffee with a pot-coffee machine? It sucks. Sure, making a pot of coffee isn’t difficult, but not everybody drinks multiple cups of coffee a day. And making a single cup’s worth in a pot is hard — it comes out too watery or like mud. In the same way that cooking for one should seem simple, but often is a more difficult task than cooking for a group, making a single cup of good coffee with a regular coffee machine is way harder than it should be. Sure, you can save what you don’t drink and reheat it, but coffee is way better when it’s fresh.
There are plenty of people in the world for whom a single cup of coffee is really all they need (this article was written by one), and Keurig coffee makers are the ideal solution: single cup, check. Fast, check. Easy, check. Consistent, check. So much so, that over 42% of American households now own a single cup coffee maker, according to Statista. And now that Keurig machines have new tricks up its sleeve like making teas, lattes, and iced drinks to go along with coffee, the best Keurig coffee machines are poised to remain a staple in our homes.
The Drawbacks of Keurig Coffee Makers
Truth be told, K-cups are a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing for our easily created morning cup of coffee, they are a curse for Mother Earth. Most K-cups are not recyclable, although Keurig is striving for 100% of their K-cups to be recyclable by the end of 2020, and 100% of all packaging to be converted to recyclable materials by 2025. Currently, there are many recyclable and compostable pods, but users still need to peel off the top foil, remove the grounds, and remove the filter from the cup before it is considered “recyclable.”
Let’s be honest: if you already aren’t willing to grind up your coffee to make your morning cup, you probably won’t be willing to take the necessary steps to recycle those pods.
Here’s a good compromise option. Keurig does make a re-useable K-cup that allows you to put your own ground coffee into it, which does two things: helps you save the environment, and allows you to brew single-serving coffee using your favorite ground coffee. You lose a little of the convenience factor, which is a big reason why you bought a Keurig in the first place. And, (speaking from experience) they are a bit of a pain to clean.
There are non-Keurig branded reusable pods, but they don’t always work with all Keurig machines, so it’s best to play it safe and buy an official reusable coffee filter from Keurig for $15.
On a much smaller scale of drawbacks (it’s hard to trump “destroying the Earth” as the number one drawback), K-cups are relatively expensive compared to bagged coffee. You can get better tasting coffee (whole bean is the way to go), and more of it, if you’re willing to take the extra time to grind your coffee before-hand (trust us, it is worth it).
What Are The Best Keurig Coffee Makers?
When you’re ready to start your morning with a minimum effort cup of coffee, it’s hard to beat a coffee maker that makes a consistently good single cup of coffee. There are a wide variety of Keurig coffee makers for sale, so we’ve rounded our recommendations for the best five Keurig coffee machines to make your purchase decision as easy as Keurig makes your morning cup of coffee.
1. Keurig K-Elite
When you want a little more control of your Keurig, spring for the K-Elite. It’s programmable, so you can set it the night before and wake up to the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. You can even control the coffee temperature, size or whether you want iced or hot coffee. Plus, the large reservoir holds up to eight cups of coffee before it needs to be refilled.
For those times when you aren’t in the mood for a cup of coffee, you can brew iced drinks, hot tea or cocoa. When you’re using your machine a lot, the Keurig K-Elite will alert you when it is time to clean it out (known as descaling). It’s a robust coffee maker for those who want premium yet easy to make coffee.
The Keurig K-Elite has a stellar 4.6 rating on Amazon with more than 4,500 reviews. Unlike other machines from Keurig, it’s only available in neutral metallic colors, but that’s a minor drawback for a single-serving coffee maker with such positive reviews. This home coffee maker will last for years with very little maintenance, and it’s an affordable option as well.
2. Keurig K-Cafe Coffee Maker
LATTE AND CAPPUCCINO LOVERS
When lattes and cappuccinos are your jam, The Keurig K-Cafe is the best Keurig coffee maker for you. The milk frother creates both hot and cold frothed milk to go with your specialty coffee drinks. And if you have a little leftover, you can store it in the fridge using the lid. Plus, cleanup is easy considering the frother is dishwasher safe. When plain ol’ coffee doesn’t do it for you anymore, this milk frothing option is the way to go.
BEST KEURIG UNDER $100
When you want a simple cup of coffee, but a few more sizing options than the K-Classic featured below, then the K-Select is a nice upgrade. With four different cup size options, as well as the ability to choose between regular and strong coffee, making a cup is still incredibly simple, but now with a little more variety. The large reservoir holds enough water for five cups of coffee.
Like the Elite, and K-Cafe options, this Keurig will let you know when it is time to descale, ensuring that you continue to have tasty fresh brews. If you’re fine without extra frills and can go without the additional size option, save some coin on the K-Classic instead. Plus, just like the popular (and retired) Keurig K-250, the K-Select comes with more fun color options to match your kitchen decor. Head to Keurig’s official store to find all of the K-Select models for sale. And considering this coffee maker only costs $90, it’s still a great option for your counter.
4. Keurig K-Classic
If you live alone or with one roommate or partner, then the best Keurig for your household might be this compact option. The K-Classic has three different cup size options — 6, 8, and 10 ounces. And that’s pretty much the extent of this coffee maker’s coffee customization. Drop a K-cup in, select a size, and drink your coffee. If you don’t need any frills, just a simple cup of joe to get you going, this is the most affordable option from Keurig.
5. Keurig K150 Commercial Coffee Maker
BEST KEURIG MACHINE FOR OFFICES
For offices with more than 10-15 people, a standard home Keurig machine won’t do. That’s when you need to upgrade to one of Keurig’s commercial coffee makers. For small- to medium-sized businesses, we recommend the Keurig K150. This coffee maker is NSF certified for foodservice use. It holds 90 oz of water in its reservoir, has an easy-to-use touchscreen and can brew coffee in a variety of sizes. If you’re a business owner or office manager searching for the best Keurig coffee makers for your company, this is a dependable option that’s perfect for mid-size businesses.
The Best Keurig Alternatives
After Keurig coffee makers became wildly popular, essentially all other coffee makers had to adapt to the new kid on the block. Keurig is not your only choice for a deluxe K-Cup coffee maker. Below you’ll find our recommendations when you want a K-cup coffee maker, but not necessarily a Keurig.
Here are the best Keurig alternatives for fans of single-serving coffee.
1. Sboly K-cup and Ground Coffee Maker
Sboly has a lot of approving customers. Its ability to make both K-cups and ground coffee makes 86% of Amazon users approve. Being able to switch between K-cups and ground coffee not only saves you time, but also allows you to get your fix of your favorite expensive bag of coffee when you have a craving. What else are Sunday mornings for?
2. Cuisinart SS-10P1
The large digital display makes it easy to make a quick cup of joe in the morning, especially when you’ve got the morning fog clouding your brain. You can use any brand of K-cup coffee pods including Keurig brand. And it has a large water reservoir to make several cups of coffee before it needs a refill. Low maintenance mornings — yes, please.
3. Hamilton Beach FlexBrew
BEST FOR LARGE CUPS
There are times when K-cups are convenient, and times when you want a fresh cup of coffee made from ground-up whole beans — and a lot of them. Get a coffee maker that can do both like the Hamilton Beach Flex Brew. All you need to do is grab a K-cup, or add fresh ground coffee into the pod holder, put it in the FlexBrew and press brew, and you can get up to 14 oz of coffee in one shot. Most Keurigs stop at 10 or 12 oz, which makes this perfect for filling up your favorite travel tumbler. It’s a simple, yet flexible Keurig alternative. Turns out it’s not just a clever name.
4. Chulux Single Serve Coffee Maker
If you don’t care about the bells and whistles and all you want is a single-serve cup of coffee made simple, the Chulux Coffee Maker is the way to go. It makes both K-Cup and ground coffee, and is as simple as one button brewing. Plus, it only costs $40. It’s an economical choice when all you really want is an easy pick-me-up in the morning.
5. Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine
Ok, so it’s not quite a K-cup machine, but this Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine makes delicious espresso drinks in your home. It uses patented centrifusion technology to spin the pod as water enters to produce that creamy delicious pour of coffee. And the included milk frother can add the finishing touches to any cap or latte. It’s a great choice if you’re willing to pay a premium on the machine and Nespresso pods.
It’s All About The K-Cup
For that single, delicious cup of coffee, it’s all about the K-cup. A K-cup puts a single cup’s worth of ground coffee into a “pod.” The pod consists of a thick plastic layer, a permeable filter layer, and a foil layer that allows the coffee to be brewed inside of this little pod. These K-cups come in virtually every variety of roast and flavor you can think of, providing coffee lovers with as many options as bagged coffee beans.
The Keurig itself has a large water reservoir that will need to be refilled every couple of days. Water is sucked from the reservoir into heating chambers where it is brought up to a high temperature. The pressurized water then makes its way to a hose towards the top of the brewer. After you put the K-cup in the hole, close the lid, and select the amount of coffee you want (often displayed in various cup sizes, from 4 oz to 10 oz). Two pins poke the K-cup — one on top to allow the water to enter the K-cup, and one in the bottom where the coffee comes out into your cup. After about 20 to 30 seconds, it’s already done brewing. All you have to do is open the lid back up and throw the cup away.
The first Keurig cups came in little plastic cups, which weren’t great for the environment (more on this below). Fortunately, you can now by compostable Keurig-friendly coffee pods, although they’re usually a little more expensive. And don’t think you can only use Keurig branded coffee pods for your Keurig machine. Thankfully, there are a handful of K-cup compatible options we love:
1. SF Bay Coffee Fog
A quick way to remove the morning “fog” this SF Bay coffee makes a delicious full-bodied, medium roast. The beans come from Central and South America, and are 100% Kosher. Plus, they are Mother Earth approved, as the pods are made from plant-based materials. Good coffee without hurting mother nature. That’s a win-win.
2. The Original Donut Shop
For those who like a bold cup of coffee, the Original Donut Shop K-cups is a medium roast that uses more coffee in each pod than your average K-cup for a stronger flavor. This bold flavored coffee is one of Amazon’s most popular with over 10,000 user reviews and 4.5 star rating. The people have spoken — bold is the way to start your morning.
3. Starbucks Pike Place Roast
When starting your morning without your Starbucks cup of coffee sounds imaginable, the Pike Place Roast K-cups are here to the rescue. This medium roast is balanced and smooth, just like you like it from the store, except now, you don’t have to wait in line like a zombie because you haven’t had your morning cup.
4. Dunkin’ Original Blend
The most popular blend from Dunkin’ can now be enjoyed from the comfort of your home in K-cup form. It’s a smooth Arabica Coffee, medium roast blend that isn’t too bitter or acidic — a great way to kick a morning off. This pack includes 60 pods, or two months of wonderful cups of coffee in the morning.
Keurig 1.0 vs. Keurig 2.0
Remember: if you’re surfing Amazon for a budget pack of K-cups for your Keurig machine, be sure to read the user reviews, not all K-cups are sized to work for Keurig 2.0 coffee machines.
As you are right to assume, Keurig 2.0 machines are the newest version of Keurig coffee makers. Unfortunately, when the upgrade happened, so did the size of the pods. (Apple users certainly know about changing port sizes). Keurig 2.0 machines user bigger pods than previous versions (1.0), but the good thing is, most 1.0 K-cup sizes are still compatible with newer machines, but it doesn’t go backward — Keurig 2.0 K-cups won’t fit in a 1.0 machine.
Cleaning Your Keurig Machine
Cleaning your Keurig is pretty straightforward. This is a process called “descaling,” which removes built-up calcium deposits which can hinder the performance of your machine. Keurig sells a descaling solution, but you can just as easily use distilled white vinegar instead. Cleaning your machine is a simple couple of steps:
- Pour the solution or vinegar into the water reservoir and run the machine without a pod.
- Run the machine until the entire reservoir is dry.
- Let the machine sit for at least a half-hour to let the solution work its magic inside of the machine.
- Clean reservoir
- Fill the reservoir with water and run at least 12 large cups worth to ensure solution or vinegar is completely removed from the machine.