Do I really need to bring to your attention that K-cup coffee and even tea are quite the trend these days? And they have been for a while now, which implies that Keurig coffee makers and K-cups are not just some fad passing through – this super-convenient and utterly delicious method of brewing is indeed here to stay. But then how do Keurig’s K-cups work?
The Keurig machine prepares your steaming hot cup of rich, full-flavored coffee in less than 60 seconds, right? At the same time, this “instant” coffee is not really instant coffee. So let’s find out what K-cups contain, how they work, and how to go about using them…
Table of Contents
- K-Cups – What Are They?
- K-Cups – How Are They Manufactured?
- K-Cups – Advantages & Drawbacks
- K-Cups – How Do They Work?
- K-Cups – How Are They Different From Coffee Pods?
- Difference Between K-Cup and Drip Brewing
- Using K-Cups with A Keurig Machine
- Frequently Asked Questions About K-Cup Brewing
- Do K-Cups Come With Filters?
- How Much Coffee In A K-Cup?
- Do You Open K-Cups Before Brewing?
- How Long Do K-Cups Last?
- How to Store K-Cups the Right Way?
- Can I Use K-Cups Without A Keurig Machine?
- How Many Times Can You Use One K-Cup?
- Why NOT to Use K-Cups?
- Are K-Cups More Expensive Than Regular Ground Coffee?
- Wrapping It Up…
K-Cups – What Are They?
A K-cup is actually a plastic cup that contains ground coffee. And it’s equipped with an aluminum lid (for a seal) and a filter lining inside. Needless to say, K-cups offer Keurig single-serve machine compatibility.
A satisfyingly broad range of flavors and each flavor is unique in its own way – that’s the beauty of K-cups. Some of the best licensed vendors of K-cups include Peet’s Coffee, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Green Mountain Coffee, and lots more.
There are K-cups packed with tea, hot chocolate, and other such hot drinks too. In short, whatever your preferences in terms of flavor, there’s a K-cup for that. All you have to do is add hot water!
K-Cups – How Are They Manufactured?
But obviously, the coffee is roasted and ground.
Moving on to the manufacturing or designing of K-cups. Paper filters are first applied to the plastic coffee pods. And then the freshly roasted, ground coffee is filled into them. How much coffee is added? The quantity of coffee starts from 9 grams and can reach as high as 18 grams as well (depends on the brand).
Speaking of which, the manufacturing process is not the same across all brands. For example, some K-cup brands make use of recyclable paper filters while some produce recyclable plastic K-cups entirely.
K-Cups – Advantages & Drawbacks
What’s the main reason for so many coffee lovers using K-cup pods? It’s because of the convenience of K-cup brewing. You get a single-serve of steaming hot, freshly brewed coffee in under a minute and without having to deal with coffee litter or leftovers.
Other benefits include
- No need to measure your coffee, hence no room for error. Perfect coffee-to-water ratio.
- No brewing mess to clean after preparing your daily coffee. At the same time, less time taken and effort spent for brewing coffee first thing in the morning. Coffee in just 60 seconds is super-fast and super-convenient indeed.
- K-cups are available in all kinds of delicious flavors and blends for you to select from. And that means a diverse coffee sipping experience every single day.
As for the downside to using K-cups…
- K-cup coffee grounds are not completely fresh because freshly roasted coffee releases CO2 (carbon dioxide) for at least 2 weeks post-roasting. And there’s no way to seal these K-cups in an airtight manner because that would then cause the capsules to actually blow up.
- Unfortunately, you cannot adjust the process of brewing to your liking when using Keurig. Meaning not being able to alter the water temperature, coffee ratio, steeping time, etc.
- Most importantly, K-cups are expensive for regular coffee drinkers. In comparison to regular coffee (the ground version of course), K-cup coffee is certainly not at all cheap ($30 or so for a single pound of K-cup coffee pods).
K-Cups – How Do They Work?
These are small-sized, disposable plastic cups with an aluminum foil seal. Inside the pods, there’s ground coffee and a paper filter. Before the K-cups are sealed, oxygen present inside is removed to preserve the flavor and aroma of the freshly roasted and ground coffee. So heat and moisture are kept as far away as possible, which protects the original quality.
For brewing, the Keurig machine first punctures top and bottom holes using two needles. Hot water is then poured into the coffee pod (optimal temperature between 195 degrees and 205 degrees Fahrenheit). At this point, the paper filter inside the K-cup prevents ground coffee from passing through.
And then your Keurig pours the fresh, aromatic, full-flavored brew into your cup.
K-Cups – How Are They Different From Coffee Pods?
Soft coffee/tea pods have a bendable, flat, and round shape. The grounds, in this case, are sealed into the filter paper. More like instant coffee filter, which means you get ready-to-go coffee grounds. K-cups, on the other hand, are designed to be used in a Keurig single-serve coffee machine only. So what is better, coffee pod or K-cup? The latter is certainly available in a broader variety of blends and flavors. But the only complaint here is that K-cups are compatible with just Keurig coffee makers. Plus, K-cups are not Earth-friendly because of the heavy use of plastic.
Difference Between K-Cup and Drip Brewing
Firstly, what is drip brewing or drip coffee? Just coffee brewing out of a simple, straightforward coffee machine. Although there are more advanced coffee machines these days that come with paper filters, drip cones, glass carafes, pour-over kettles, and whatnot. Whatever the case, these drip brewers are not Keurig machines.
A Keurig coffee maker features two needles that puncture holes into the seal and base of the K-cup in order to fill it up with hot water for coffee extraction. And the whole thing takes only 60 seconds to prepare your fresh brew.
With a drip coffee machine, boiled water is evenly poured over the coffee grounds. And then through the filter, your fresh brew drips slowly and steadily into the coffee pot placed underneath the spout. Thus, a longer brewing process.
Using K-Cups with A Keurig Machine
The first step is to check if the water reservoir in your Keurig coffee maker is full. After that, place the K-cup into its rightful chamber in the machine. The two needles in there puncture the required holes at the top and base of the coffee pod.
Now the machine pours hot water into the cup, which passes through the coffee grounds and through the paper filter inside to pour into the cup placed below the spout.
But wait a second; I’m getting a little too ahead. After you insert the K-cup, you have to choose the cup size and brew strength depending on your coffee and personal preferences.
Keep in mind that a smaller cup size means a stronger brew while a larger (standard) size prepares a more diluted or weaker-tasting cup of coffee. After all, irrespective of the brew size, the same quantity of coffee grounds is being used, right?
And then comes the temperature of the water. If your Keurig machine doesn’t brew at the temperature of your choice, here’s what you can do to fix the issue. Make it a point to avoid using paper cups as they fail to retain heat. Instead, use ceramic, glass, or even stainless steel mugs that don’t lose heat so quickly.
Also, you can also warm up the cup first. Fill your coffee cup with hot water, using Keurig’s water-only setting. Then discard the water of course. Thermal travel mugs are also a smart idea.
But ALL THIS is to be done only if your Keurig model doesn’t offer water temperature settings. Some of these machines actually do come with that feature. Although a higher temperature and stronger brew takes a longer time indeed (but just 30 seconds more).
Frequently Asked Questions About K-Cup Brewing
Do K-Cups Come With Filters?
Most of Keurig’s K-cups do come with filters made using abaca fiber (the same as tea bags). This filter is fused into the coffee pod during the manufacturing process.
How Much Coffee In A K-Cup?
A single K-cup contains 9-10 grams (2 tablespoons) of coffee that can prepare 8 ounces of coffee (standard cup size).
Do You Open K-Cups Before Brewing?
You don’t need to open the K-cup before brewing because the Keurig brewer features two needles to punctures holes into the top lid and bottom of the cup to initiate coffee extraction and brewing.
Here’s how the K-cup brewing process works – place the K-cup in the machine’s coffee chamber, and then close the lid of the coffee maker before selecting the cup size and pressing the brew button. Make sure the water reservoir is not empty!
How Long Do K-Cups Last?
What’s the shelf life of K-cups? Anywhere between 8 months and 12 months, but only when stored the right way.
How to Store K-Cups the Right Way?
Provided the aluminum seal of the K-cups is intact, you can store them in a dry, cool, and dark place for as long as 8-12 months. For instance, in your kitchen cabinet or pantry (away from direct sunlight and heat).
Can I Use K-Cups Without A Keurig Machine?
After all, K-cups contain ground coffee, right? So you can easily remove the lid and use that ground coffee in any regular coffee maker too. Just add the grounds into a filter and then let the coffee maker brew your coffee as it normally does with regular coffee grounds.
How Many Times Can You Use One K-Cup?
K-cups aren’t reusable items, so just one-time, single-serve use. That is both the best part and worst thing about such plastic capsules. Unlike reusable K-cup filters – some of these are even compatible with Keurig 1.0 and 2.0 machines. The added benefit here is that you can tweak the amount of ground coffee you use for brewing.
Why NOT to Use K-Cups?
K-cups, since they’re made using plastic, are indeed harmful to the environment. In fact, K-cups are also not safe for the body because of the plastic chemicals being subjected to heat during the brewing process. And plastic is harmful in so many ways – it disrupts hormone levels, increases the chances of cancer, damages the metabolism, and more.
Are K-Cups More Expensive Than Regular Ground Coffee?
It’s quite surprising and unfortunate how expensive K-cups really are. They cost way more (around 4x more) in comparison to ground coffee.
So if you’re a daily coffee drinker, you might want to reserve your K-cup coffee experience for special occasions or just a few times a week.
Wrapping It Up…
The convenience that Keurig’s K-cups offer is what makes them so popular. But then everything has its own pros and cons. The pros here being convenience, diverse flavors, little to no mess or leftover, etc. And then the other side of the coin – plastic cups piling up in landfills being the most undesirable quality of K-cup coffee pods.
But then you can decide based on how often you consume your coffee. Daily coffee drinkers, more often than not, prefer brewing coffee the traditional way since it’s not only more eco-friendly but also more affordable (K-cups are certainly very expensive).
As for the others, you can introduce your taste buds to the wide variety of flavors and blends of K-cups for a special treat.