One of my obsessions is coffee. I love waking up to the aroma of a fresh pot being brewed in the morning and how it’s one of the great ways to finish off a memorable meal. Last Christmas, my family received a Keurig Platinum Brewing system, and although I prefer the taste of freshly grinding my own beans the convenience of a single cup system is intriguing. Often I need to dash out in the morning due to early meetings or my kids decide that getting ready for school isn’t a priority for them and taking the time to grind and brew isn’t ideal. Unfortunately the number of really bad cups of coffee have outnumbered the good ones and having a box of 24-48 bland, watery K-cups is just a waste of money. So a year later, I’ve decided to document the K-cups I’ve been trying and hopefully end up with decent tasting coffee.
Coffee Quality (Body and Taste)
If you’re expecting the same quality as grinding your own beans and brewing a fresh pot, you’ll have to stop kidding yourself. K-Cup, Pods, Tassimo, etc… are really about convenience – how quickly you can get out the door with something that is “ok”. The size of the grind of the coffee and how it gets brewed works much differently than a conventional drip maker – these brewers want to try to get you a cup quickly as opposed to extracting its full flavour. That’s not to say you can’t find decent k-cups/pods but it will be very rare that you will end up with a drink that has the same body or taste complexity. I current experience is that often the coffee is very one-note; hints of natural chocolate or caramel are practically non-existent. Don’t confuse this statement with flavoured coffee – what I’m talking about is how some coffees have nice sweetness to them from the type of beans being used and how its prepared. What I’ve found since using the K-Cup system is that it has made me appreciate a good cup of java even more than I used to.
The body of a traditionally brewed cup of coffee is superior than its K-cup cousin and I believe this has to do with the amount of oils that are suspended in the liquid. The oils allows the coffee to coat the tongue slightly and provide that hit of flavour and why some drinks feel creamy in the mouth. K-cups for me taste watery and doesn’t always have a nice lingering finish once you’ve swallowed.
However there are exceptions and on occasion I’ve been surprised at how well the K-cup system can work. For example grinding your own beans and using the re-usable cup provides a nice brew that almost compares with using a drip machine. The flavors are muted, but it’s decent; this also reflects in some K-cup manufactures actually take time the time to try to make the most decent coffee that they can. For example, Jetsetter and the Organic Coffee Company try to get the most out of the Keurig system, but I find that more often than not that you end up with a cup that just “ok”. You really need to hunt for good K-cups.
I find that the aroma of a brewed pot of coffee is what I miss the most using any type of pod system. Since you’re only brewing a single cup, I find that there is not enough time for the grinds to aerate properly and infuse with water to give you a sense of what the coffee is all about before drinking. Since in many systems the coffee grounds are contained within an air-tight container to prevent oxidizing it’s practically non-existent during the brewing process itself. Since taste and smell are linked this probably explains why I find many pod systems provide a very simple taste profile. If you’re not convinced, grab a cup of coffee from your favourite cafe and drink half with lid on and the rest with it off. You should find that the flavour is more pronounced and complex when you’re able to smell the brew.
My biggest complaint with all of the pod systems is the amount of environmental waste that is generated vs. brewing coffee the old fashioned way. I can’t speak for the other brewing systems but K-cups are recyclable if a little effort is used. My family takes the time to dismantle the cup so that the plastic container is recycled and the paper filter is composted. If I couldn’t recycle the K-cup there would be no way I could justify using this brewing system due to the amount of landfill I would be generating. Whichever pod/single serve system you are using make sure it supports recycling its waste!
Where Can I Find Good Coffee?
Amazingly there are not a lot of places where you can find reviews on K-Cups (or other pods). You can try Amazon or other big-box / online retailers, but you’re taking a chance on ordering a large box of something you may not enjoy. Your local mega-mart will likely have a selection of K-Cups and pods, but they generally only stock the popular brands (i.e. Starbucks, Van Houtte) and I find that they typically lack flavour. My recommendation would be the locate a speciality store like ECS Coffee or Wunzees and actually go in. Many have walls full of loose pods and K-cups where you can select an assortment to try out before committing to a box. You’ll often be able to try out a few before deciding which ones you’d want to take home and then buy them online.
What K-Cups do You Enjoy?
This holiday season I purchased a selection of individual cups from ECS Coffee. Every week I’ll be posting a review on one or two; partly because I want to remember the ones that I’ve enjoyed drinking so I can buy more of them, but hopefully these reviews help you as well. I will test every coffee in the same manner:
- I will drink the coffee black. Since I’ve met my wife, she’s convinced me that drinking black provides the best way to taste the brew. Sugar, milk and other additives mask the flavour (unless you’re getting a cappuccino or other fancy coffee drink, but he K-Cup system doesn’t brew these types of drinks).
- Filtered water through my reverse osmosis filter will be used.
- Cup size #4 on the platinum brewer. One up from the middle.
If you have any suggestions leave a comment below and I’ll give it a try!