Coffee has long been one of the most beloved drinks in the world and there’s really no shortage of ways to enjoy it. Many cultures have their own unique brewing and serving methods but it’s all about finding a way that tastes as good as it feels when you drink it.
One huge difference that coffee has experienced in recent years is the introduction of single-serve coffee machines. These devices, also known as K-cup makers, take a single serving of ground beans and turn it into a piping hot cup of coffee, but there are plenty of benefits that it has to traditional methods.
K-cups are quickly taking over as the preferred method for drinking coffee here in the US and other parts of the world. Where they used to be solely about convenience, these days there are so many flavors and tastes available that they really appeal to the coffee aficionado as well as those who want to save some money.
We’re going to explore more about the K-Cup revolution including how they’re used, the pros and cons they offer, and how to choose between the many different K-Cups and makers. This simple guide will tell you everything you need to know about the new wave of instant coffee and why so many people are getting on board.
Coffee is no new invention by any stretch, with reports of it being enjoyed in early civilization for thousands of years now. There is still debate about the exact origin of coffee with two competing areas being Yemen and Ethiopia, but it is known that these first instances using the bean occurred over 14 centuries ago.
The Ethiopian story that explains how coffee was discovered centers on a herder who noticed his goats acting strange and jumping all over the place one day. Upon following them he was lead to a small bush with bright red berries that the goats were eating.
The herder tried some for himself and also got the famous burst of energy that coffee is known for, spreading the word to others.
However, there was a local monastery that called the beans ‘the devil’s work’ and tossed them into the fire, only to find that this made them even better. From there, the word of coffee slowly spread around the world and there became many ways to enjoy it from all cultures across the globe.
Whether or not the Ethiopian herder story is accurate, what is known is that the spread of coffee happened all over the world. Today, we know of many different types of coffee brewing methods that take place in cultures and countries around the globe, including:
In the United States, drinking coffee has always been a little different. For many years we were known for our love of instant coffee or having a pot always brewing, but today, it’s more common to see people using a single serve coffee machine.
The single serve coffee container is commonly referred to as a pod or capsule, and this is the original term for a K-Cup. These small pods are made of materials like plastic and aluminum and within them, they feature a single dose of coffee.
Nespresso had the original idea for the coffee pod in the 1980s but it progressed over the years as more brands made their own variations. The Keurig range of pods was released in 1992 and have quickly become one of the largest selling coffee capsules in the world, as well as having a huge range of coffee makers as well.
With the invention of the single serve coffee container, we were able to say goodbye to wasted coffee. It would be rare to brew a pot of coffee and drink it all yourself or to use a French press just for one drink, and so inevitably you’d be throwing a lot out.
Over time, changes have been made to these capsules that make them more environmentally conscious and tasty, so it will be interesting to see how much further they come.
When people think of single serve coffee containers or pods, the first brand that usually comes to mind is Keurig or the K-Cup. If you’re buying a coffee maker that takes these capsules, you’ll need to know a little about them to ensure that you’re choosing the right one that will actually fit.
Keurig 1.0 was the first range of pods that the brand released and they fit in most of their older machines. However, as they released new coffee makers in 2014, they also changed the design of the capsules. This meant that most newer machines would no longer take the new style and vice versa.
Another thing to note when looking at K-Cups is their sizes and what this means for your coffee. This can range from 2-5 cup sizes so you’re able to make more than one cup of a coffee at a time if you choose, so long as you have the right capsule. As most people prefer their machines as a single serving appliance, this usually doesn’t present an issue.
There are so many ways to make coffee and with the aid of technology, we’ve added even more to the list. Single serve coffee makers are definitely the most popular choice today thanks to their reduction in wasted coffee and how easy they are to use, but why is it that K-Cups are more common?
The standout benefits of the K-Cups are the quick brewing time, the range of blends and tastes available, and how affordable they are when compared to other professionally made coffees. The main thing that people look for is a machine that can save them time in the morning, and these definitely have this to offer.
Using a single serve maker like a K-Cup machine also means less clean up and a process that is pretty streamlined. Those who like milk might have a frother attached to the machine, otherwise, it will be the simple insertion of a pod and the press of a button to have a barista made coffee each morning.
One common misconception when talking about K-Cups and related makers is that Keurig makes all of the K-Cup range. K-Cup is simply a term that’s been adopted to describe any capsule coffee pod or maker and doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s come from that company.
A good thing about these capsules and pods is that most brands create theirs to be fully compatible with other machines. So, you could have a Keurig machine and use pods made by another brand, or Keurig capsules that fit inside a Hamilton Beach coffee maker. This gives the consumer far more choice when picking a coffee maker as well as the types of coffee they use.
When you’re choosing pods, you have to be careful not to choose coffee pads which are usually only covered by some fine filter paper. Always check that the capsules or pods work with the specific machine you have otherwise you will waste money and potentially do some damage to your new coffee maker.
Many people use their coffee maker each day without giving much thought to what’s going on behind the scenes. The process these machines take to make your coffee is quite simple but very efficient which is why you get your coffee in mere seconds. There are a few parts that go into making a K-cup and all of them are as important as the next:
Making a cup of coffee with one of these machines is easy, and you simply place the K-Cup into the brewing chamber. As you pull down on the handle, a needle pierces through the foil lid which allows the hot, pressurized water to seep through and extract the flavors from the ground coffee and be filtered in the process.
The end result is a hot cup of coffee that tastes like it was made at a coffee house. Some of these coffee makers also come with a milk frother that you can use to heat up milk and make drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, and this part sometimes functions automatically for a completely hands-free coffee experience.
When looking at K-Cup coffee makers, these machines are all powered by electricity. The electricity is required to heat up water, deliver pressurized water through the capsule, and also to operate the lights and buttons on the machine. Without electricity, the K-Cup as we know it would fail to work.
If you’re looking for a single serve coffee maker that doesn’t require electricity though, like one you could take camping, the power of gravity might be able to help you out. With drip coffee methods, you can make a single cup of coffee using just hot water and ground beans so that you can enjoy the right amount wherever you go.
Most coffee lovers probably have a mixture of both on hand, just in case, something should ever go wrong. You can use your gravity powered coffee maker for camping or when the power goes out, and keep your K-Cup for those days when you want a truly delicious caffeine hit.
Before you can decide whether these K-Cup makers are right for you, it makes sense to weigh up the pros and cons. Here are some of the good and bad points that the single serve coffee revolution has to offer the modern coffee drinker.
When K-Cups were first invented people were thrilled about how easy they were to use and dispose of. However, as we become more environmentally conscious, we see that using this much plastic each day and not recycling it can do a lot of damage. Therefore, you have to choose between a single serve pod or a reusable one, and both has its benefits.
The single-serve K-Cups are obviously easier to use as you get them out of the container and make a coffee with them. However, if not recycled properly they can end up as landfill and with an estimated three million pods being used a day, that’s a lot of waste to create.
Reusable K-Cups seem to be the way of the future, and our in-depth article about their benefits and use can show you why. These cups can be reused and filled with ground coffee beans of your choice so they may be a little more effort but many believe it’s worth it.
They present a cheaper, tastier, and environmentally friendlier way to enjoy K-Cups without any of the guilt of causing waste and it seems that many people are making the switch.
Investing in something like a coffee maker, you want to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth. K-Cup coffee makers can now produce all types of drinks and not just coffee so you’ll find they get used a lot more in your household.
In addition to the many great coffee flavors they offer like light roasted and dark roasted or decaf and super strong, you can also make these drinks with K-Cup pods:
Some people prefer their coffee pretty basic and others will gladly drink the pre-made K-Cups that make a creamy, milky drink. For those who want the barista experience with an espresso base drink, you might be wondering if your K-Cup maker can also froth milk.
Not all coffee makers are capable of this function as they only feature a water reservoir and capsule holder. Some do come with a frother built in, but usually for an extra cost.
If you find that you enjoy the sweetness and creaminess of frothed milk but only have a basic machine, you can also purchase a frothing accessory like a wand or steamer that will do this part as a separate process.
Frothed milk is an important part of many café style coffee drinks including lattes, cappuccinos, and even some hot chocolates. Before you invest in your K-Cup maker, think about the types of coffee you might enjoy and whether this is a must-have accessory for the appliance.
Owning any appliance means you’re responsible for keeping it clean and maintaining it, and the same goes for K-Cup coffee makers. There are a few different ways to can clean your K-Cup maker, but as always, you should check the instruction manual for the best approach.
Dishwasher: Some parts of these machines are dishwasher friendly which makes them a lot easier to care for. Usually, them only part you have to clean regularly is the milk reservoir or frother which can be placed in the dishwasher.
Sink: Hand washing your K-Cup machine is possible, but not with any of the electrical parts. This process will take more time than the dishwasher but it also could mean a longer life for the device.
Descale: A descaling is done every three to six months for a deeper clean. Follow the instructions in your machine’s manual for the best approach. Usually, you run the machine with a full water reservoir but no K-cup capsule and let it gradually clean itself out to prevent lime and scale buildup.
Giving your machine a quick wipe down after every use is the best way to keep it clean and it requires minimal effort. A little bit of care each day will ensure it outlasts the warranty and runs expertly for many years.
In an effort to reduce wasted coffee, the single serve coffee contained was invented. Since the 1980s, this tiny little product has evolved into something even more amazing than we could have imagined, the K-Cup.
No matter how you like to drink your coffee or the tastes and strength that you prefer, these makers will let you perfect it. They are a great way to save money from buying barista-made drinks and they won’t compromise on taste like many other methods do, including instant coffee or brewing.
People are starting to take their coffee a lot more seriously and this means they’re not settling for subpar drinks any longer. If you’re someone who loves their coffee and wouldn’t mind the convenience and variety that K-Cups offer, check out our comprehensive buying guide that can show you the ropes to choosing your first machine.