While waiting at Valvoline to get my oil changed I was introduced to the Keurig Brewing system which they had in their lobby. This is a coffee and tea machine that uses self-contained cups of tea, cocoa or ground coffee. I’d previously used Senseo machines (leaky, somewhat messy). What interested me about the Keurig was that the coffee is all enclosed in a K-Cup – so there is no messy cleanup or annoying need to grind coffee. So, is this better than the old drip makers? Does it outperform similar machines like the Senseo?
My kids love Cocoa (which this machine will make) and I hate the mess they make when opening packets of the stuff. Of course the K-Cups are more expensive (for 25 K-Cups is about the going price on Amazon).
Here’s my review of the Keurig Ultra B50 which I picked up at Costco for 9 (and it included 90 K-Cups of coffee – and a reusable coffee filter – about a $100 value).
A quick look at what comes with Costco’s Ultra B50.
First, I use my handy Zibra Open It! (reviewed here) to rip through the packaging. If you don’t own Zibra’s – head to Amazon.com and grab a pair. I use mine all the time and they’re a must for opening plastic packaging without risk of finger amputation.
The starter kit that Costco includes with the Keurig B50 has four boxes (18 K-Cups each) of coffee plus one filter (reusable coffee filter that Amazon sells for $ 14.95) that accepts any coffee. Inside main the box was another 18 pack coffee assortment – for a total of almost 90 cups of coffee (some of the cups are tea and one is cocoa).
Out of the box, the coffee maker, err – I mean, Home Brewing System fits nicely in any small space. As you can see the pot has a space for your coffee cup (it brews either 7.5 or 9.5 oz). If you use a travel mug the instructions say to move part of the base so the big mug fits.
The coffee (tea and cocoa are also available) you brew in your Keurig comes sealed in cups. You do not open the cups. Rather you insert them fully sealed into the machine, and when you close the lid the cups are punctured – once on top and once on the bottom. This is how the water filters through to brew your coffee.
I’m sure that the lions share of the profits Keurig makes are from licensing their proprietary cup design to coffee suppliers. For the convenience I find that I’m willing to pay more. Heavy coffee drinkers may find buying cups ($20 for 25 via Amazon) to be too expensive. There are also a limited number of coffee suppliers who make their brew for the cups as well.
Because the K-Cup is proprietary, it’s a good idea to check the list of who supplies their coffee in the cup prior to deciding to buy a Keurig. You can always make your own cup with the empty metal filter that Costco includes in their kit – but I think that somewhat negates the value of the Keurig’s ease of use.
Coffee Partners Include:
Tea Partners Include:
Gloria Jean’s Teas
Hot Cocoa Partners Include:
Green Mountain Hot Cocoa
Ghiradelli Premium Hot Cocoa
Start your brewing process by filling the water tank on the left of the machine. To me this is the weak link of all home brewers. Unless you’ve hooked directly into a water source (which most don’t) you constantly have to watch to make sure the tank isn’t depleted. And if your Home Brewing System is in a “tight” corner of your counter it can be a pain to remove and replace the side mounted tank.
The next step is to insert one of the K-Cups into the brewing mechanism. When you close the handle the machine punctures both the top and bottom of the cup so water can be forced through and the coffee brews.
Here’s what one of the K-Cups looks like after the brewing is done. Note the holes that have been punctured. There is no dripping of water when you remove the cup. The last step in the brewing cycle is for the Keurig to blow air through the cup which removes excess water!
When you first setup the Keurig you have the option of setting the clock, an auto turn on time, and the number of hours the maker should remain on after your last brew. I found this especially helpful because I only brew once per day and don’t need to be drawing electricity constantly.
I loved how easy it was to set this clock. You simply push the “H” key for hours. The “M” key for minutes. Done!
I hated that when I unplugged this brewer that I had to re-do all my setup. Can’t they include at least a minor amount of “reserve” power so that the clock does not reset with every loss of electricity?
So how does the Home Brewing System Work?
After priming the tank for the initial brew (about a one minute process) I was ready to make coffee.
From the time I inserted the K-Cup to the time my cup was ready it took a whopping 15 seconds (9.50 oz cup). After the first cup is delivered the machine goes “offline” for about 20 seconds to replenish. Then so long as you have enough water you can make another cup.
The one downside is that the brewing mechanism is loud. It reminds me of the noise that a coffee grinder might make while you are grinding beans. It’s perhaps not THAT loud – but is certainly louder than regular drip coffee makers.
The coffee is also HOT! During my testing my daughter wanted to try making a cup of cocoa and when she removed it from the tray some splashed on her hand. It was so hot that she dropped the entire cup on the floor.
Because I’m not a heavy coffee drinker, I asked a true coffee fanatic – my good friend Mark Chinsky ( coffee addict and SAP Business One ERP Accounting Software guru ) for his opinion on this type of coffee maker. Working with accounting software for a living requires a steady stream of caffeine – and sometimes it seems as if he’s tried every coffee maker!
He’s allowed me to print his candid thoughts as follows:
Keurig is my 2nd favorite “pod” coffee maker. These things come down to the quality of the coffee beans used. Keurig is like Nintendo. They have a patented proprietary cup (which has concentrated liquid coffee in it, not ground beans) and then it is diluted with fresh water on the way into your cup. Nobody else can make a compatible cup so you are stuck with what they have to offer (and at a fairly high price per cup. About .50/cup in costco size purchases. More for gourmet stuff they don’t carry)
The green mountain coffee bean is very good IMHO.
The problem is there are alot of other good coffee’s in the world, but you can use them in the Keurig.
So if you really like the particular flavors they offer and don’t mind paying a little extra per cup, their technology is very clean and mess free. they used to be much more expensive for the machines, but have come way down (again to make the money on the cups, which of course Costco.
My favorite is the Bunn MCP:
It’s expenseive (this link is about the cheapest you can find). But it’s a bunn, who handles about 90% of the corporate coffee machines because their stuff just doesn’t break or wear out.
Makes excellent tea by just putting a tea bag in the same place you would put a pod, and then press the tea, instead of the coffee button.
The key thing about bunn is they don’t subsidize the price of the machine (trust me, that Keurig, after all the markups and shipping has to be a losing proposition for Keurig at that price) in order to get the recurring profit on the cups. (somebody say razer/razer blade??) You can use almost any “pod”, including senseo if thats your thing, and their unique design will fit it. Senseo pods suck because you need to use 2 to get any decent sized cup.
There are tons of options and places on the net to get all sorts of coffees that will work in this machine. Normally you might be reluctant to pay $25 for a pound of coffee that you find you don’t like, but alot of people will sell variety kits so you only have to brew one cup to see if you like it before ordreing more.
This is too much trouble to me, but they even sell things that you can put ordinary ground coffee in, snap it closed and it becomes the pod and is reusable. This is in case for example, you just love starbucks coffee but starbucks has sued anybody who tried to redistribute their coffee into pods (even though they don’t even offer that themselves)
This is the ultimate site for everything pod/keurig related:
I’ve removed my old drip coffee maker (the leaking Senseo long ago was dropped in my dumpster) and in it’s place is the Keurig!
Check out your local Costco for their starter kit – 90 K-Cups plus the Keurig B50 for $129. If you don’t have a Costco in your neighborhood, you can order via the mail or visit Amazon to order a different version of this machine.
What I liked:
Easy to try other brands of coffee
No measuring, grinding or washing a coffee pot
What could be better:
Machine is noisy during coffee making (about 15 seconds)
Coffee is very hot (which is a benefit to many)
Only supports 7.5 and 9.5 oz sizes – big mug drinkers
Must use proprietary K-Cups (self-filling filter available but it negates convenience)
Limited number of manufacturers produce coffee in the K-Cup
When power goes out you must manually reset the clock