The 10 Best K-Cup Coffees
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in January of 2017. Keurigs, and similar machines, offer a lot to java lovers, including quick preparation, an easy cleanup, and personalized flavor from cup to cup. Their popularity has led to an explosion of K-Cups, sometimes referred to as coffee pods, in all blends and types, from dark to decaf to Dutch chocolate. We think you will enjoy the following single-serve brews, all of which are Keurig 2.0 compatible. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 24, 2020:
Today's update saw the removal of Maxwell House Breakfast Blend and Green Mountain Coffee Kenya. We said goodbye to the former due to its limited range of flavor notes and overall underwhelming taste. Casual coffee drinkers who like something light and medium-bodied would do better to opt for something like Dunkin' Original Blend or Starbucks Pike Place Roast. Both of these selections do a great job of recreating the same taste you'll find in-store. By the way, we replaced the old Dunkin' and Starbucks options with listings that offer the new recyclable pods, which companies are finally starting to roll out after much anticipation.
We supplanted Green Mountain Kenya with Green Mountain Breakfast Blend, a beloved lightly roasted choice that's suitable for daily drinking, yet still complex and palatable enough to satisfy people who like gourmet coffees. It's also offered in a decaffeinated version for those who love the flavor but want none of the jitteriness that comes along with it. If you're looking for more pods in this vein, you'll want to peruse our list of decaf K-Cups.
This update also saw the addition of the Keurig Coffee Lovers' Collection. This one is ideal for households filled with coffee drinkers with varying moods and tastes. It offers a pretty solid sampling of top-notch and beloved brands in myriad flavor profiles, contains organic and fair-trade options, and has light, medium, and dark roasts included. It's a great way to discover new blends and roasts to see which ones you prefer for further purchase.
March 17, 2019:
There is no shortage of coffee flavors and brands to choose from these days, so it can be hard to know which is best. After extensive research, we have identified the grounds that consistently get the best reviews from die-hard java lovers. Its no surprise that Starbucks Pike Place Roast should claim our top spot. The company took the coffee-loving world by storm in the 90s and shows no signs of letting up any time soon. This offering is as bold as you'd expect from the brand, yet extremely smooth at the same time. For those who want the flavor without the kick, consider Caribou Blend Decaf. Most love its subtle sweetness. Now if you are one of those people that wants a strong kick in the butt in the morning paired with a mellow, yet complex flavor, you will probably want to give San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser a try. People who prefer flavored options should find Gloria Jean’s Hazelnut and Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll to their liking. Many might be surprised by the mellowness of the Maxwell House Breakfast Blend too, which is from a company generally considered a low-end grocery store brand. If you are addicted to Dunkin Donuts, but have unfortunately found yourself living far from a store, you're in luck. Dunkin' Original Blend faithfully recreates the java they brew in-store.
My K-Cup Universal Reusable Filter If you've got a local roast you just can't get enough of, try grinding it yourself and using this reusable filter from Keurig to make a cup at home. This branded filter is the only one that's approved for use in all Keurig K-Cup coffee makers. It's optimized for both cup and travel mug brew sizes, and the removable lid makes filling and cleaning easy. It's durable, BPA-free, and top-rack dishwasher safe. keurig.com
How A K-Cup Works
After everything is put together, producers remove any remaining oxygen and flush the cup with nitrogen, which is inert and helps to keep its contents from degrading.
A K-Cup is a feat of ingenuity that manages to be simultaneously complex and straightforward. Its simplicity lies in its brewing process, which is basically an imitation of what a drip brewer does, just on a single-cup scale. However, the materials and production that go into making that unassuming little container are technologically sophisticated and actually took years of development to reach perfection.
Simply put, an original K-Cup (there are newer versions that deviate slightly as the manufacturer tries to make them more eco-friendly) consists of food-safe plastic housing, an air-tight aluminum foil seal, an internal paper filter and a small amount of freshly ground caffeinated or decaf coffee beans. The body is made from a BPA-free composite plastic strong enough to protect the interior from outside moisture, oxygen, light, and anything else that may spoil its freshness.
Inside, an abaca fiber filter, which is the same material many tea bags are made from, is welded in place. It holds degassed coffee grounds in a predetermined amount that depends on the intended strength and brand packaging, but usually falls somewhere around nine grams. After everything is put together, producers remove any remaining oxygen and flush the cup with nitrogen, which is inert and helps to keep its contents from degrading.
When you insert a K-Cup into your Keurig and hit start, you begin a lightning fast brewing process. The machine pulls water from its reservoir and quickly heats it to 192 degrees, a designated temperature that the company believes to be ideal, while two hollow needles perforate the foil seal on top and the bottom portion at the same time. It then forces the hot, pressurized water through the cup and out of the chamber, where it pours straight into your empty mug.
Choosing Your Best Flavor
If you’re an amateur coffee drinker, it’s likely you’ll just take the least offensive java you can find, drown it in cream and sugar, and be done with it. There is a seemingly endless amount of variety when it comes to your morning joe, from every level of roast imaginable with infinite flavor combinations made from beans you may have never heard of. What does it all mean? Below, we’ll demystify things a bit.
This results in the four color categories that you may have heard of — light, medium, medium-dark, and dark — with the lightest shade indicating the shortest roast time.
While all K-Cups use ground coffee, you can also choose to buy whole beans and grind them yourself if you’ve stocked up on reusable cups. There are dozens of species out there, but the main ones in circulation are arabica, robusta, liberica and excelsa, the first two being the most widely used and distributed. Arabica accounts for over half of global coffee production, and for good reason — it has a smooth profile and strikes a palatable balance between sweet and acidic. Robusta, on the other hand, is a bit harsher with a grainy overtone, although it has about double the caffeine. Different beans can be strategically mixed with each other, creating special blends that offer complex notes.
Once the beans are harvested, processed, and exported, they’re stored in what’s known as a green state. At this point, they’re sponge-like and have to undergo a chemical process called roasting in order to bring out their aroma and flavor. To achieve this, roasters expose them to extremely high temperatures at a rapid pace, then quickly cool them at precisely the right moment. This method takes some serious know-how and expertise, as the roaster must stop the process at the perfect time to get the desired outcome. This results in the four color categories that you may have heard of — light, medium, medium-dark, and dark — with the lightest shade indicating the shortest roast time. Respectively, their flavors range from mild to sweet, then bittersweet to a pronounced char.
This is where additional flavor variations come in. Manufacturers have been tinkering with an extensive array of pairings over the centuries, but a few combinations stand out in the crowd. For instance, hazelnut, toffee, and caramel all seem to work well with light and medium roasts, while cherries and chocolate lend themselves to the smokiness of darker blends. Of course, these added components are not a requirement, and you can simply rely on the manufacturer's blending methods to choose the taste that best suits your preferences, from fruity or buttery to spicy and sweet — you can see how the options can be endless.
The Birth Of The K-Cup
Despite what any purist will tell you, the quest to make coffee an instant affair is not a new one. Although in some ways we tend to prioritize speed over quality these days, the idea behind a lightning-fast cup of joe was borne out of practicality more than anything else.
Over the coming decades, many people improved on this method.
In 1771, John Dring of England patented his special coffee compound. Less than a century later in America, manufacturers experimented with instant cakes and rationed them out to soldiers during the Civil War. Then, in 1901, Japanese chemist Dr. Sartori Kato finagled a powder that only required water in order to turn into a hot cuppa. Over the coming decades, many people improved on this method. While these were admirable attempts to make the coffee experience portable, and these days there are options available that taste excellent, they're still not identical to a freshly-brewed cup.
Enter the K-Cup. In the early 1990s, inventor John Sylvan endeavored to solve a problem many have encountered. Picture a typical company at around 9 a.m. — a brave employee decides to brew a pot of coffee for the entire office, only to endure comments throughout the day about how weak or strong it was. The pot sits over the course of the morning, becoming bitter and stale. Communal cupboards and fridges are packed to the gills with various creamers and bags of beans, some which have been there since last Christmas, and all labeled with identifying post-its of varying severity.
And so John partnered with his old college roommate Peter Dragone to create a machine that would process single-use cups that could suit the preferences of a wide variety of people. After much trial and error, they founded Keurig in 1992, and the rest is history.