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Keurig coffee makers occupy a strange space in the coffee world. Allow me to present to you the Keurig Paradox; the brand itself is both one of the most recognizable names in coffee in America and, at the same time, offers some of the weakest coffee makers on the market worldwide. How does this add up? How does Keurig manage to survive and thrive in a free market like this?
Keurig's initial success came from what was, admittedly, an original idea: coffee on-demand in the office space that wasn't from a stale pot someone brewed 5 hours ago. An excellent idea to be sure, deserving of respect, but times have changed and the brand currently succeeds because of a very simple calculus; they have a low upfront cost, and you've heard of them already.
Thus, the brand has momentum. It's in the zeitgeist, for better or worse. In this article, we'll discuss better and more affordable options, and why Keurig is one of the worst ones you could pick.
Caution: the following statements are stronger than any coffee you'll get out of a Keurig.
Arguably, the most attractive quality of a Keurig nowadays is its low cost of entry. If you were to take a glance at the price range of all Keurigs on the market, you can expect to spend between $60 and $250 on one of their single-serve coffee makersat the time of this writing. Honestly, yeah, that's pretty cheap. Sounds like a good deal right? It is (until you think about it).
Keurigs take proprietary K-Cups to function, and they're expensive. Here's where you can expect to bury all the money you saved by getting a cheap coffee maker. Before we get into cost, though, let's talk about what you can find in a K-Cup capsule. Underneath the colorful aluminum lid of a K-Cup is pre-ground coffee, which means two really important things: the grind will be inconsistent between batches and the coffee has already lost some of its freshness.
This severely limits quality, and your drink will suffer for it. Such contents will cost you about 60 cents per capsule, sometimes more. Now, according to Statista, the average American drinks about 2 cups of coffee per day. If you're in a household that drinks maybe 2 coffees a day, this translates to $37 a month. In a year, that's upwards of $430. After 5 years, your $60 Keurig you got on sale will have cost you over $2,200.
Conversely, while a Keurig has hidden costs, automatic coffee machines like the Gaggia Brera have hidden savings. The upfront cost of a Brera, as of this writing, is about $450. For many customers, we understand $450 can be an intimidating number, but keep reading.
The Brera primarily uses whole bean coffee, which is both fresher than pre-ground and offers better, more flavorful results in the cup. The built-in ceramic burr grinder grinds beans fresh right when you want a coffee for the freshest results you could hope for. Now, whole bean coffee tends to come in 1 kg or 2.2 lbs. bags, which are around $20 a bag. A great example is Maromas Orphea. You can get almost 100 shots out of a 2.2 lbs. bag of coffee, which brings the cost per cup to around 20 cents (read: a third of the cost of a K-Cup). That's about $12 per month and $146 per year.
After 5 years of owning the Brera, you'll have spent $744 on coffee for a net cost of $1194 if we include the cost of the machine. That's less than half the long-term cost of a $60 Keurig, making the Brera both better and less expensive than the least expensive Keurig when it's on sale.
Keep in mind that these are pretty generous metrics. If we go by the New York Times' findings that K-Cups can cost $50 per pound, then we're looking at a much more hellish cost. We did the math and, even in 2019, the numbers check out; you could be spending 89 cents per capsule or $50 a pound. Compared to our previous example of Maromas Orphea, that's more than twice the cost of gourmet whole bean coffee.
If we use our equation from earlier of 2 cups of coffee per day, and figure in New York Times' findings of 8 grams of coffee per Folger's Black Silk capsule, that comes to 5.8 kg or 12.9 lbs of coffee used in a year. At $50 a pound, that's $645 per year. For comparison, you would need to buy 6 bags of Maromas Orphea (a total of 13.2 lbs of coffee) running you a much more manageable $120.
So, the Gaggia Brera is less expensive to own and operate than the least expensive Keurig, and it makes better coffee. On even playing field, an automatic coffee maker like the Brera crushes the Keurig, but the playing field isn't even. Whereas the Keurig stops at coffee, it's one and only job, the Brera has a lot more going for it.
Here's a quick breakdown of the extra features you'll find on the Brera when comparing to a Keurig that we haven't already discussed:
Some of these features can be found on more expensive Keurigs depending on the model, but why compare to those when the Brera is already less expensive than their cheapest offering? At this point, it's better to burn your money than buy a Keurig, but if you're going to do that, you might as well get something that values your time.
If the long-term cost of owning a Keurig hasn’t already scared you. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions about owning a Keurig that might help to drive our point home.
We hate to break it to you, but K-cups aren’t entirely recyclable. The only portion of the cup that is recyclable is the aluminum cover that seals the coffee inside of the K-cup, the rest of the capsule, which is made from plastic, isn’t recyclable. You might think that you can just rinse the plastic cup and throw it in your recycling bin, but according to National Geographic, a staggering 91% of plastic isn’t actually being recycled. So your good deed just might go to waste.
For all of you eco-conscious coffee drinkers, that means the first K-cup that you have ever used is probably still sitting in landfills! A better alternative would be to use fresh, whole bean coffee which can be composted after use or can be used as fertilizer in your garden, so you can enjoy your cup of coffee guilt-free, and you’re helping out the planet too.
You wouldn’t go to a classic burger joint for a fresh, hearty and healthy salad, or go to a car dealership to purchase a bike, right? Our point is, espresso machines are made to do what they do best, make espresso. And Keurigs are made to brew traditional American-style coffee. While a two-in-one situation sounds ideal for any coffee and espresso lover, the reality is, if you want a latte, cappuccino, ristretto, flat white, macchiato or a plethora of other espresso and milk-based beverages, espresso machines do it best.
They’re made to apply more bars of pressure through coffee pucks to create a signature rich and creamy espresso that you just won’t get with a Keurig. Also for many machines, like super-automatics, they grind the beans to the proper grind size in order to deliver a consistency that is suitable for making espresso beverages. As we covered earlier, the coffee found in K-cups have inconsistent grind size and is usually not suitable for making espresso beverages.
In theory, yes you can brew a regular coffee from your Keurig and drop a couple of ice cubes in there to make an iced coffee, and there are some Keurig models that give you the option to brew “iced coffee”, however, we have some in-house baristas who have tried both options and we’ve found that the result is watered down which greatly reduced the flavor that we love and crave in iced coffee, especially on a hot day.
If you’re an iced coffee lover, the kind who goes for an iced coffee even on the most brutal days in winter, we suggest going for a SCA-certified brewer that is made to brew the gold standard of coffee so you can still taste all of the amazing flavors of your coffee. We recommend checking out the Braun Multiserve Brewing System. It can brew a whole pot of iced coffee in 8 minutes or less, and you can expect that your coffee won’t be watered down, it’ll be jam-packed with flavor, and you’ll have a whole pot to share with a friend, or keep to yourself because it’s just that good.
Although many Keurig models come with various perks including choosing your cup size and use indicator lights throughout the brewing process, this is the standard on many espresso machines that offer a lot more. On luxury super-automatics, you can create drink profiles for you and your family, on commercial-style prosumers, you can use flow control to alter the flavor and results of your coffee, whether that’s to achieve a drip-style coffee or if you want a little more of the chocolatey and smokey flavors in your morning cup of joe. Unfortunately, that’s not something you’ll find on even the most expensive Keurig. Espresso machines are all about giving users even more options to play with so that you can become a true home barista.
According to Statista, about 42% of American consumers own a single-serve coffee brewing system, and we’re willing to bet that a majority own Keurigs. While we can’t convince everyone to throw out their Keurig for a better and more affordable option in the long run, what we can say to anyone reading this, is that investing in a better quality, more durable espresso machine or coffeemaker will both save your taste buds and the planet because you won’t be using K-cups, but it will also save your wallet, so you’re not spending your hard-earned money, for mediocre coffee.
For an exhaustive list of automatic coffee machines that are more worth your time, have better value, and respect your taste buds, click here.