Best K Cups Coffee - Reviews and Buyer’s Guide
When it comes to preparing for the day, coffee is an integral part of the morning — 2.25 billion cups are consumed in the world every day. Of those, there are 75 million homes that brew their morning java using a k-cup machine multiple times a day.
Because of this on-the-go, instant gratification method, it can be easy to just grab whatever k-cups are offered at your local grocer, but there are some solid arguments about why you should still pay attention to what pods you’re buying.
If you take nothing else away from reading this, right here, today, take this: don’t settle for less than the best in your morning java, even if all you have time for is a single-cup brew method. That said, let’s deep drive into using single-cup brewers, things to think about, how to choose the right k-cup for you, and, finally, the best k-cups on the market!
K Cups vs Ground Coffee (A Tale of Environmental Impact & Freshness)
The world is on fire, both literally and figuratively. K-cups are fuel in that fire. Many are not biodegradable and most single-use products are, inherently, bad for the planet. In fact, the creator of k-cups, John Sylvan, actually regrets that he made them because of the catastrophic environmental impact.
If you’re a fan of making individual cups of coffee at a time for that fresh-brewed taste but don’t want to add to the flaming dumpster fire, I recommend taking a look at reusable k-cup pods.
There are three significant bonuses to using reusable k-cup pods — less environmental impact being the first, obviously. The second bonus with using a reusable option is that you can fill it with whatever you want. My favorite coffees don’t come in pods, like some of these absolutely laudable light roast coffees listed here, which makes a reusable pod more than worth it in my mind.
Lastly, I don’t trust a bag of pre-ground coffee or, in this case, pre-ground filled pods. I have an entire rant on this, ask me about it sometime and I can wax on about my hipster coffee ways, but, delving into the facts: coffee begins to degrade the second its ground up. Seriously. Owning a good grinder changes everything about your morning routine, including, and especially, the joy of your taste buds.
Alright! I’ve given my public service announcement about the environmental disaster that is k-cups, so, with my bit said, let’s crack on.
To Buy Brand or To Not Buy Brand?
Much like Kleenex, we often refer to all single-use pods as “k-cups,” when, in fact, k-cups are specifically made by Keurig for Keurig machines. As someone who briefly used a Keurig machine for her daily joe, I’ll admit that I sometimes bought a brand and sometimes didn’t.
The machines can be finicky, but, honestly, if I ever got an error, I just took the pod out and popped it back in again, usually to more pleasant results. I’ve heard tales of duds, but I have yet to encounter any total failures when it comes to using a Keurig machine. It is an at-your-own-risk sort of thing, to buy off-brand, but it can save some dough and let you drink a coffee you like more.
How Do K Cups Work?
K-cups really are an ingenious idea, setting aside aforementioned issues. Keurig machines have a section with a handle, which you’ll lift to insert the k-cup. Pop in the pod and firmly close the lid. When this happens, you’ll hear some puncturing noises — which is actually the answer to the question.
The puncture on the top of the k-cup lets the pressurized water reach the coffee grounds, while the puncture on the bottom of the container lets the coffee drip out slowly so it has time to actually become coffee versus just hot brown water.
This pulls together two types of machines rather neatly: a standard drip coffee maker and an espresso machine. This combo is what makes it possible to provide a ready cup of coffee in a single minute, and without the cleaning burden that comes with espresso machines.
As a bit of a tip, once the coffee has brewed, remove the used k-cup as soon as possible. The “needles” that puncture the cups can become clogged with grounds, which can lead to more time-consuming clean up later.
What Are the Best K-Cup Coffees?
The best k-cup coffee pods are the ones that provide a strong cup of coffee without any sort of burnt taste that come at reasonable prices. We’ll talk about their recycling programs, as well, and any issues that have been reported along the way so you can make an informed decision.
Stick around after the list for commonly asked questions about Keurigs and Keurig K-Cups!
Best K-Cups Coffee in 2021
Peet’s Coffee was founded by Alfred Peet in Berkley, California, in 1966. Sold in over 14,000 grocery stores, Peet’s introduced darker roast Arabica coffees and opened the first LEED Gold Certified roastery in the United States. Alfred Peet even helped Starbucks get its beginnings, allowing the three founders to copy the layout of his store and even shared his suppliers.
Peet’s Major Dickason Blend is a dark roast that offers a rich, smooth, and complex flavor. With its full-bodied flavor, Major D’s is great for drip, french press, and espresso. Plus, on top of only using the highest-quality coffees, every batch of Major Dickason is roasted by hand, not using computers.
Outside of its physical descriptors, the Major Dickason Blend has a rich history, too. It’s named after a retired army officer Key Dickason, who came to Alfred Peet with the idea for the blend. Today, this beloved favorite is a signature blend at Peet’s, and now comes in individual pods for your pleasure!
The flavor of this delicious dark roast is only one aspect of buying it, though. Peet’s Coffee pods are made of recyclable materials, so you can feel a bit better about your carbon footprint with these single-use pods. They’re also sold in a bunch of different package sizes, so you can get enough pods to sample and try, or buy in bulk to stock up.
San Francisco Bay Coffee was founded by Jon and Barbara Rogers in 1974. For forty years, the Rogers family has made high quality, sustainable, fair, and direct trade coffee. They own coffee farms in Panama, Mexico, Rwanda, and Kona, which has a dual purpose: it allows them to create unique, specialty blends, as well as be a carbon-negative company.
If you’re a fan of switching out your morning java on the regular, a variety pack can be a great way to have different options at your fingertips at all times. This SF Bay Coffee Variety Pack has four different blends, all made with 100% Arabica and certified kosher beans.
Featuring French Roast, Fog Chaser, Organic Rainforest Blend, and the Breakfast Blend, the SF Bay Coffee Variety Pack is ground and packaged fresh to retain the flavor and reduce oxidation. Let’s break these flavors down and talk about exactly what you’re getting in this pack.
SF Bay French Roast is a dark roast with a smoky finish. Savor the rich dark chocolate and toasted cinnamon cupping notes in this full-bodied brew with beans from Central and South America.
SF Bay Fog Chaser is a medium, dark roast with cupping notes of creamy milk chocolate, mandarin orange, and toffee. Filling your cup with its full bodied deliciousness, you’ll find that a cup of Fog Chaser has a nice smooth finish that will make for a great start to your day!
SF Bay Organic Rainforest Blend is a medium-to-dark roast that doesn’t disappoint those looking for a unique combination of cupping notes. Featuring a mix of sweet dark berry and dark chocolate with just a hint of jasmine, this full-bodied blend from Central America will be a real morning treat.
SF Bay Breakfast Blend is a lively blend with cupping notes of toffee, milk chocolate, and sweet mandarin. Composed of beans hailing from Central America, this light-to-medium roast is a lovely start to any morning.
SF Bay’s coffee pods are called “OneCups” and they are compostable — with one (sort of) large caveat: they are only commercial compostable. That means that they cannot be put in your recycling bin, nor can they be put in your at-home composter (if you have one of those). They must be brought to a commercial composter, some of which can be found here, or by researching composting facilities near you. This puts a lot of onus on the consumer to be not only responsible, but to go out of their way to properly dispose of these pods.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) was the first company to provide coffee for Keurig’s Single-Cup Brewing system that debuted in 1998 before subsequently buying Keurig in 2006. From there, GMCR became a big name in the K-Cup pod world, gaining licenses for Tully’s Coffee, Van Houtte, and, most recently, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters changed their name in 2014 to Keurig Green Mountain, and this delightful breakfast blend pays homage to the original company name. This light roast coffee offers a balanced blend of sweetness and nuttiness with a smooth finish. Made with 100% Arabica coffee, this blend is also orthodox union kosher.
When it comes to recycling, Keurig K-Cups haven’t made it easy. However, they’ve been working on making recyclable K-Cups since 2014 — which is when they pledged to make all new K-Cup pods recyclable by the end of 2020. There is a whole 3-step process involved in recycling the GMCR Breakfast Blend K-Cups, but they are recyclable, which is definitely a win!
The Original Donut Shop® is a favorite among K-Cup users. While I’ve eschewed the use of single-use products now, back in the day these were my favorite. This medium roast is extra bold, which means that it has more coffee than normal pods, and, while it may be bold, it’s not bitter.
These pods make up to 12 ounces of delicious morning joe using the freshest ground coffee. Another great entry from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, these K-Cups are also recyclable, as long as you follow the 3-step process described on the box.
If you’re a fan of Micky D’s coffee, you’ll enjoy the McCafe Premium K-Cups — this medium roast is made of 100% Arabica beans and works with all Keurig 1.0 and 2.0 machines. Having these K-Cup pods on hand will save you a trip to the nearest McDonald’s, at least for coffee. There really is no replicating those McGriddles, though, sorry.
Known for its smooth, balanced flavor, you can start off your day right with a cup of this rich joe and even recycle the pods afterwards.
Common Single-Use Pod FAQs
Well, for starters, not all are recyclable. There’s a huge movement towards recyclable single-use coffee pods, but we’re not quite at the point where it’s a simple toss in the recycling bin. Each brand has a different way of handling the waste from coffee pods.
Recycling Keurig K-Cups
For the ones marked recyclable, there’s a 3-step process to recycling the pods. First, you remove and dispose of the foil on top, starting from the injection point. Secondly, dump out the grounds. Third, you may now recycle the K-Cup. Not difficult, certainly, but if you consume many per day, this can get time-consuming. Also, you have to wait until they’re cool or risk burning your fingers.
While this isn’t the simple toss-and-go we’d like to see, it’s easier than some other required methods, like taking the pods to commercial composters.
Well, most single-use coffee makers use scanners to recognize their brand-name pods. If it’s a brand-name pod, you likely won’t run into this issue. If you’re using knock-offs, it can happen now and again. Sometimes simply opening the lid and reclosing it can reset the function and make it work. You can also go so far as to unplug the entire machine.
If it’s still not working, it may be a total dud, but I never ran into one that didn’t eventually work in the end. Keep trying and be sure to leave reviews if you find batches that are completely incompatible. We coffee lovers are all in this together!
I’m going to say it one more time, in closing, but don’t settle for less just because it’s in a K-Cup. Whether The Original Donut Shop® is where your heart is or the McCafe® pods, or even freshly-ground stuff in a reusable pod, there’s a Keurig option for everyone.