After taking over office break rooms, hotel rooms, and plenty of home kitchens around the world, Keurig coffee makers aren’t going anywhere. That means that K-Cups, the single-use pods that make the Keurig system the simplest (albeit most environmentally fraught) way to brew a cup of coffee, are also here to stay.
The good news is that among the thousands of K-Cup options on the market, there are many that don’t sacrifice taste for convenience. Sure, a Keurig may not produce drip-quality results, but it’s more than possible can get a pretty good cup of coffee that’s ultra-easy to make — a key factor for those of us who need coffee to do, well, anything in the morning.
SPY’s list of the best K-Cups is one in which the big names in coffee — those certain Seattle- or Boston-based coffee chains — are well-represented. That being said, there are also smaller brands making K-Cups that deserve a place in the rotation.
What the Experts Say
No one in the coffee industry will tell you that a cup brewed by a Keurig is better than one made via a more traditional method, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have advice for picking the best K-Cups. It’s all coffee, after all.
Lily Blackburn, a professional barista for 15 years and coffee expert at Kitchen Ambition, explains that “K-Cup coffee is just pre-ground coffee that has been super-sealed into a pod.” Accordingly, personal preferences with regular coffee likely apply to buying K-Cups, too — considerations like roast level, coffee origin, and flavor notes. So follow your taste buds and pick the roast level you would typically enjoy as drip.
Lukas Van Vyve of Emergent Brew adds that, when a country of origin is named, to remember the characteristics of each region: “South American coffee beans have a mild, nutty flavor, while African coffee beans often have a fruity, floral taste,” he says. Additionally, for iced coffee lovers, Mike Conti of My Morning Espresso says that “brew over ice” K-Cups are the move. These types of K-Cups tend to be stronger and can also be used for hot coffee if preferred.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Vermont Country Blend K-Cup Pods
Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee was the first company to invest in Keurig (all the way back in 1993), and the brand actually acquired Keurig in 2006. We’re not sure how much of a leg up this gives Green Mountain, but we do know that its flagship medium roast K-Cup, Vermont Country Blend, is one of the best cups of coffee one can get out of a Keurig.
Green Mountain describes the taste of this blend of light and dark 100% Arabica coffee as having “mellow, toasty flavors and a sweet brown sugar finish.” It’s a coffee that doesn’t come on too strong or too weak — in other words, it’s a crowd-pleaser and great to have on-hand for personal use (and for guests).
Victor Allen’s Morning Blend Coffee K-Cups
When made correctly, light roast coffee can offer more unique flavors, for the simple reason that its roasting process doesn’t transform the bean as much it does with medium and dark roast coffee. This light roast from Victor Allen is beloved by reviewers for its balance and acidity that doesn’t overwhelm.
Community Coffee Single-Origin Guatemala K-Cups
Single-origin coffee is beloved for the nuanced flavor that relates directly to where it was grown and cultivated. Most K-Cups aren’t single-origin, but these pods from Community Coffee are filled with beans cultivated at high altitudes in Guatemala in volcanic soil. The roaster promises “bright, full-bodied coffee that has a deep flavor with a smooth finish.”
Starbucks Mocha K-Cups
Flavored coffee is one of the areas in which K-Cups truly excel. There are K-Cups in flavors from peppermint bark to cinnamon roll, and the nature of the format means it’s possible to have one every once in a while to mix things up. It’s hard to go wrong with these mocha cups from Starbucks, a company that’s made flavored coffee part of its DNA.
Keurig Coffee Lovers’ Variety Pack
For K-Cup beginners or those tired of their current routine, mix things up with a sampler. We like this 40-pack because it’s a great assortment of what’s available: it includes offerings from Krispy Kreme, Green Mountain, and Newman’s Own, among other brands, as well light, medium, and dark roasts, both with and without flavoring.
My K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter
Keurig has made strides toward sustainability with things like recyclable pods, but this reusable filter is a much more eco-friendly solution. Simply fill the filter the night before and your morning routine — stumble out of bed, insert pod, push button, drink coffee — is as simple as it would be with regular K-Cup pods.
Frequently Asked Questions About K-Cups
What are the best K-Cups?
The best K-Cups are a matter of opinion, but your favorite will likely match whatever brand (e.g. Starbucks, Dunkin’), roast level, and flavoring preferences you have for non-Keurig coffee.
How much do K-Cups cost?
The official Keurig website lists 285 kinds of pods from 37 to 62 cents, though prices will vary at other retailers, particularly those that sell K-Cups in bulk at lower unit prices.
Are K-Cups the best way to brew coffee?
If you’re looking for an easy, relatively inexpensive (compared to other single-serve coffee systems) way to brew a single cup of decent coffee, it’s hard to beat K-Cups. If you have other priorities like taste, brewing in larger quantities, or having a place in your neighborhood to sit for hours sipping on the same latte, there are better ways to get your caffeine fix.