The Best Keurig Coffee Makers
Prior to 2004, Keurig hot beverage machines could only be found in offices. After 2004, the Keurig Company began selling the machines directly to consumers. There are dozens of Keurig models, but they all have one thing in common… The ubiquitous K-Cup.
K-Cups come in many different varieties and are not just coffee. Offerings include teas (both black and herbal), soups, cider, iced beverages, hot chocolate, and of course, coffee.
Within two minutes of turning on the machine, you have a hot beverage, all ready to drink! I will admit that I am a super coffee snob, but I typically don’t fire on all cylinders first thing in the morning, and my first cup is invariably from my Keurig. But more on that later…
Things to consider before buying a Keurig
Keurigs are a great way to make a quick hot drink (Not to mention iced drinks – virtually any K-Cup can be brewed over ice), but there are several things to consider before purchasing one.
The cost – these machines range from about $70 – $200. The price is certainly lower than the Moka Master, but still, not cheap. In addition to the cost of the machine, there is the cost of the K-Cups, which average about $.50 per cup.
There is a “My K-Cup” (link to my k cup here) option which allows you to buy a reusable K-Cup and fill it with your own coffee or tea, so this could be an option to keep ongoing costs down. As well, some models come with water filtration cartridges, which is another ongoing cost to consider.
The environmental impact – Lots of people have Keurigs, and lots of spent K-Cups get discarded. Keurig has pledged that all of their K-Cups will be fully recyclable by 2020, and many companies currently make recyclable K-Cups. This could limit your choices, but for the environmentally conscious, this is a good option.
Size of the machine – Depending on the amount of available counter real estate you have, some of the models have a large footprint while others are compact. As well, machines make a single cup of coffee on demand. That said, a few models offer a carafe and a super-sized K-Cup to make a pot at a time.
Presenting… The Keurig
Keurig’s claim to fame is that its coffee machines make a single cup of coffee on demand. The coffee is delivered in the form of a K-Cup. K-Cups can be filled with a wondrous assortment of goodies including coffee, tea, cocoa powder, cider, and even soup!
The K-Cup itself is made of a plastic layer, a filter layer, and a foil layer, all working in concert to keep the beverage fresh until ready to brew. K-Cups resemble oversized creamer packets found at your favorite diner.
The coffee maker itself has a water reservoir. When you want a cup of coffee, you put a K-Cup in the cradle, close it, and press the appropriate button for the size cup that you want brewed. The number of options depends on the model that you purchase.
There are a number of features offered by the suit of Keurig machines. Not every model offers every feature, but our comparison chart (link to comparison article) can help you purchase the model that has all of the features that you want!
- Quiet brew technology – Many of the Keurig models are designed to be very quiet while they brew. This feature is generally not available in the commercial models, as they use a stronger pump. All of the Keurig models are pretty quiet, and since brewing only takes about a minute, any noise they make is almost incidental.
- Water filtration – Many Keurig models come with a water filtration option, in the form of a replaceable charcoal filter pod that fits into the water reservoir. This is a great option if you have hard or poor quality water.
- Energy saving mode – In models with this feature, the machine turns itself off after a specific period of disuse.
- Programmable features – These adjustable settings include language and time. Some models allow you to set the brew temperature as well as auto off.
- Digital display – Machines that offer this option contain full digital displays, as opposed to buttons and LEDs. The digital display models allow control via touch screen, have a digital clock display and may even offer a night light setting.
- My K-Cup compatibility – These machines allow you to use a reusable K-Cup insert that allows you to use your own coffee, as opposed to purchasing pre-filled K-Cups. The 2.0 models only allow you to use Keurig branded or licensed K-Cups.
There are three basic categories of Keurig machines, all containing multiple models.
- The Keurig Classic Series – These are the more basic models. They make a great cup of coffee, and take up less counter space than the other series. Great as an entry level coffee maker.
- The Keurig Plus Series – These have more bells and whistles than the Classic series machines. They have touch screen controls, generally have larger water reservoirs, and can brew a four-cup carafe of coffee with K-Carafe pods.
- The Keurig Commercial Series – These models are meant for heavy use in offices or other businesses. They have very large water reservoirs and a much bigger footprint. These machines are available through authorized dealers.
Cleaning your Keurig
Before I get to reviewing specific models, I’d like to add that Keurig claims that their machines will last several years if properly cared for (as will most appliances you own).
This is a fairly easy task (link to How to clean your Keurig article), and is as simple as washing the washable parts of the unit and descaling when necessary.
The Keurig Models We Are Talking About
Keurig K 475 Single Serve Programmable K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker
This is pretty much the top of the line when it comes to Keurig home brew systems. This machine has a 70-ounce water reservoir which is removable for easy filling. The machine brews 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 ounce cups as well as a carafe with 22, 26, and 30 ounce choices. Please note that the carafe is sold separately (link here to carafe).
Unlike many of the other models, this one allows you to choose a brew strength regardless of the size serving that you choose. There is also the option of choosing brew temperature. The large color touchscreen with digital clock makes it easy to control the machine. As well, you can program the machine to turn on or off automatically.
(I find that programming the machine to turn on is a bit ridiculous, as it only takes a minute or so to brew a cup of coffee, but that’s just me!). On the other hand, the auto-off feature is a great one for saving energy.
The two biggest cons to this model are that the carafe is sold separately, and as with all of the other 2.0 models, you must use Keurig licensed K-cups.
Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker
This is a bit more basic than the K475 with a smaller water tank and simpler push-button operation. It brews 6, 8, and 10 ounce portions. If you like your coffee very strong, I recommend brewing the 6 ounce bres. The water tank is a generous (but not enormous) 48 ounces, enough for about 6 brew cycles between fills. The reservoir is removable for easy filling.
As with other models, the brew time is less than a minute. This model only requires you to turn it on, insert your k-cup, and press the size brew that you want. A descaling indicator is present on the machine, and the option of auto-off is available to save energy.
This is a great model for those with very little kitchen counter space – the unit is less than 5” wide! The model even posts pod storage that allows you to keep up to 9 K-Cup pods handy. And if that isn’t enough, the model has a cord storage compartment! This model tends to brew a stronger cup.
Unlike earlier mini models, this one has a removable reservoir. It only holds enough water for a single brew, but it is far easier to fill than models without a removable reservoir. This model brews any cup size between 6 and 12 ounces.
Accommodates a 6” high mug with drip tray, and any 7” or shorter travel mug with drip tray removed. The machine automatically turns off 90 seconds after the brew cycle is completed.
Keurig Cafe SE Single Serve K-Cup Pod, Special Edition
Here’s the Keurig that wants to do it all! It has an integral milk frother to make coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos. Just add frothed milk to your favorite K-cup pod. I was skeptical at first about this model. Purist that I am, I just didn’t think that adding frothed milk to an ordinary cup of coffee would be any good (and in general, it isn’t), but this model offers a “coffee shot” feature that brews a concentrated shot of coffee. Perfect for specialty coffee drinks.
Like the other higher end models that Keurig offers, this machine makes coffee in 6, 8, 10, and 12 ounce sizes and also offers the ability to control the strength of your cup regardless of the size brew.
The controls are simple buttons on this machine. It has a 60 ounce water reservoir, boasts a nickel colored finish, and (this is a big one for me…) the frother is dishwasher safe! Another nicety is that this is a single button operation. Most models require you to turn them on and wait for the water to heat before you can hit the brew button.
With this model, heating and brewing are a single operation. As with all of the Keurig models, this on has an auto-off feature, and a removable drip tray to accommodate a 7.2” or shorter travel mug.