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How Do K Cups Work? Everything You Need To Know

You might have seen it on social media or even on a television series. If you haven’t been living under a rock, chances are, you’ve seen a Keurig. This contraption may look intimidating at first because of its trendy or edgy aesthetic. Ironically, a Keurig is a push-button coffee machine, a must-have for any coffee lover.

For any person who just needs a morning cup to kick start their day, brewing should be the least of their worries, and that is exactly what a Keurig aims to do.

What is a Keurig?

A Keurig is a push-button coffee machine that brews single-cup coffees with the use of plastic pods called “K-cups”. It was invented by John Sylvan in 1992. Sylvan, who had just quit his job at a tech company, was thinking of a way to provide a solution to the problem of every office in America, pots of coffee becoming stale.

His hobby of tinkering led him to create a machine that produces single-serve coffee grounds. With that thought, he approached Peter Dragone, who was the director of finance for a produce distributing company. The duo in 1992, founded and named their company Keurig, which means excellence in Dutch.

Keurig a push-button coffee machine
Keurig a push-button coffee machine

However, they ran out of funding as they were still working on their prototypes. Eventually, they approached Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to help them out and in 1997, plastic pods were first offered by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters which were specially designed for the “Keurig Single-Cup Brewing System”.

Keurig was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters from 2006 to 2014 until the company changed its name to Keurig Green Mountain. In 2018, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group announced its merger with Keurig Green Mountain, creating the third-largest beverage company in North America.

Today, the Keurig is still being manufactured by the company, Keurig Dr. Pepper. What was originally intended for office spaces, the Keurig gained traction with the coffee community and coffee aficionados began to purchase the coffee machines for their own homes.

Keurig uses plastic pods called K-cups
Keurig uses plastic pods called K-cups

The K-cup

As previously mentioned, a Keurig uses plastic pods called K-cups which houses the coffee good for a single serving. Together with the coffee, a filter is placed inside the plastic capsule and covered with an aluminum foil lid. It then goes inside the Keurig and acts as a portafilter, as in an espresso machine.

Aside from coffee, K-cups have been developed to contain tea leaves, cocoa powder, or even fruit powder. Each capsule is flushed with nitrogen, tightly sealed to maintain freshness, and protect its contents from light, moisture, and air.

The original patent for the K-cup already expired in 2012 but Keurig has since innovated better designs and newer pods. As of 2015, Keurig offers more than 400 variations of flavors and beverages from 60 different brands which include coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, dairy-based beverages, lemonades, cider, and Brew Over Ice pods for iced drinks.

K-cups have recently been the subject of controversy, the issue being the plastic capsules not being recyclable. To address this concern, Keurig users are encouraged to buy Zero Waste Boxes which can contain up to 600 pods and will be sent to recycling once full.

Quick Fact: It can also be used for Nespresso and Dolce Gusto-type capsules and pods. For now, Keurig has developed reusable K-cups that can be filled with any type of coffee.

The Keurig Brewer System: How it works

Since its inception, Keurig has sold a wide variety of brewing system models for both home and commercial use. Different brands like Breville, Mr. Coffee, and Cuisinart have produced their models of the Keurig since 2010. Despite that, all models go on basically the same principle: brewing a single cup of coffee at a push of a button.

The simple brewing process starts by placing a K-cup inside your Keurig. Using a handle on the Keurig to secure the capsule, a spray nozzle punches a hole through the aluminum foil cover, while the bottom is pierced with a discharge nozzle.

After pressing the button of your desired brew size, pressurized hot water coming from a small water tank is then coursed through the machine and the pod at a default temperature of 192℉ (89℃). There may also be some models which allow water temperature adjustments.

Coffee will flow through the external spout, directly into your mug. With the combined brewing processes of espresso and drip coffee, you are now able to enjoy your single cup of coffee with no fear of having to brew a whole pot only for it to grow stale.

It may look like the Keurig coffee machine is hard to maintain, but the brewers were designed to withstand frequent use. Because of this, a Keurig calls for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Quick Fact: Every Keurig has a small “Descale” light feature which indicates when your brewer needs to be cleaned.

The question of how often you need to clean your machine depends on how hard the water is in your area. For areas that have harder water, Keurig brewers may be required to be cleaned more frequently than in areas with softer water.

The “Descale” indicator means that there is a build-up of calcium in the water hose of the machine. To clean your Keurig, simply run some vinegar through the brewing system to get rid of the calcium deposits. There are also commercially available cleaning alternatives like Dezcal, which is a Keurig-approved agent in cleaning your brewer.

Aside from the hose and piping, you would also want to check the pins inside the brewer. Because you’re using pre-packaged coffee, it’s only common that some granules will be stuck to the pins that pierce your cup.

After descaling your machine, the metal pins are still very hot so be careful. To clean them, take a small stick, a needle, or a paper clip and shake off any extra grounds of coffee that are stuck. Once you’re done, the descaling light will turn off and your machine is now ready to use.

Now you know how a Keurig works, from how it makes your coffee to how you clean and maintain it. But what about these compact machines that make coffee lovers so attracted to them?

It's convenient to use Keurig
It’s convenient to use Keurig

1. It’s convenient

For anyone who lives and breathes coffee or just any person who just needs a caffeine kick at any time of day, it’s just a bother to wait for your ordinary coffee machine to brew a whole pot of coffee. By the time you get up to grab a second cup, your coffee has already become bitter, stale, and dense. It’s a waste of time and a waste of coffee.

It only takes just about 4-5 minutes to heat the water in your Keurig. Once the water is heated, the brewing process lasts about 60 seconds for an 8-ounce cup. No time nor coffee was wasted.

Having a Keurig means you’re never drinking stale coffee again. One K-cup produces one cup of coffee so flavor-wise, it never disappoints. And because you already have pre-measured coffee, you never have to worry about the coffee-to-water ratio, or your coffee being too watery or too strong. It’s instant coffee without the instant taste.

Quick Fact: Another added convenience by a Keurig is that you don’t have to wash a lot of brewing paraphernalia. When you disengage the handle, the disposable K-cup pops out and just throws it into the bin. The only thing you need to wash is your coffee mug.

Also, because of the rising popularity of K-cups, different flavors and brands are now available in grocery stores, so restocking or getting to try out new flavors won’t be a problem.

Keurig has partnered with new coffee brands
Keurig has partnered with new coffee brands

2. Customizable coffee

Owning a Keurig is coffee heaven for the coffee lover. It’s all your favorite coffee brands and flavors rolled into one appliance on your countertop.

With 400 varieties of flavors from 60 different brands, you can have a Dunkin Donuts coffee today and a Kahula tomorrow without having to leave your own home. K-cups also come in a Brew Over Ice variety for your ice-based drinks.

Getting tired of coffee? Have a hot chocolate or a fruit tea beverage brewed straight into your favorite mug.

Newer Keurig models also feature heat and temperature adjustment settings for you to enjoy your perfect cup of coffee at your desired temperature. You can also choose the correct coffee size Keurig coffee machines also have the most options concerning machines and settings compared to any other brewer.

Keurig has partnered with your favorite coffee brands to give you your favorite coffee straight out of your brewer. Some of the most popular brands include Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Folgers, Krispy Kreme, Cinnabon, Maxwell House, Tully’s, and McCafé.

Meanwhile, coffee flavors vary from classic roast, Italian roast, breakfast blend, Hawaiian blend, decaf, French vanilla, to pumpkin spice. Non-coffee options feature the following flavors; sweet and unsweetened iced tea, café con leche, café con chocolate, lemonade, apple cider, English breakfast tea, milk chocolate hot cocoa.

Keurig also launched Campbell Soup Kits that came with noodles and a soup pot. It’s not just the K-cups that offer a variety of selections. Keurig brewers also come in different sizes for that perfect fit in your office pantry or kitchen countertop.

Since 2015, Keurig has been expanding constantly to improve previous models and develop newer ones to expand to new markets and demographics.

For example, Keurig introduced the K-Mug, which was a specially designed reusable pod that is used for travel-sized tumblers, or the Keurig 2.0 model which was a newly debuted model of the Keurig in 2015 that was able to brew four-cup carafes.

Quick Fact: They also offer different models for different purposes like home use, commercial, office, hospital, and there are also models specially made for college or university campuses.

3. Premium quality coffee for less

For almost thirty years, Keurig has been consistently innovating ways on how to enjoy a perfect cup of coffee in your home or your office. Keurig has been producing high-quality products from coffee machines to producing a variety of beverages you can have with the K-cup.

Keurig producing high-quality products
Keurig produces high-quality products

It should be no question that Keurig is a brand that has been loved by any person who drinks coffee. Keurig has dominated the single-serve coffee industry and it is a given that for the length of time they have been improving our coffee experience, that they only produce premium quality goods.

Undoubtedly, what makes their coffee deserve a place in our kitchen countertops is that you can indulge in high-quality coffee for a lesser value. You can never go wrong with quality and convenience when it comes to Keurig.

A Keurig is a delightful must-have for any kitchen or office space
A Keurig is a delightful must-have for any kitchen or office space


Modern-day woes require modern-day solutions and let’s face it, we are living in an era where you need to keep hustling. Wasting time is definitely out of the books as you are getting paid every precious minute. If you can do something about cutting downtime to do anything else and focus on work, then so be it.

Should you be waiting for each second to pass getting a perfect measurement for your coffee grounds, waiting for it to drip in a pot, and having to wash everything when one machine can do that for you?

A Keurig brewer would require you to dig deeper in your pockets, but investing in this convenient caffeine contraption would save you more money than you think. From your one-time purchase of a brewer, you are assured of top-quality coffee from your kitchen for less than the price.

What may look intimidating or sophisticated at first is a convenient appliance that is a wonderful addition to your coffee experience. Whether you’re a certified coffee addict, or someone who just enjoys a warm cup now and then, a Keurig is a delightful must-have for any kitchen or office space.

It takes no thought to brew, is easy to clean, and saves you a lot of money in the long run. The best part is, you never have to drink stale coffee from a pot again.

About Rencel Leyran