Keurig has a stranglehold on the single-serve coffee machine vertical with just cause.
The original manufacturer of single-serve brewers and K-Cup pods, Keurig was founded back in 1992. BY 1998, they launched a single-serve coffee machine aimed firmly at the office market.
As this type of ultra-convenient coffee machine started to grow in popularity, the company introduced models designed for use in the home kitchen in 2004.
A couple years later, Green Mountain acquired Keurig to the mutual benefit of both companies. Expansion was rapid. After operating as wholly-owned subsidiary for a decade, by 2014, Keurig Green Mountain became the primary brand. A 2016 buyout for $14 billion was followed by a merger two years later that created Keurig Dr Pepper. The company is now the third largest US beverage outfit.
Despite the drawbacks of single-serve coffee machines – we’ll touch on these along with the benefits today – Keurig coffee makers show no sign of becoming any less popular.
So, we’ll be highlighting the 10 strongest models from the impressive Keurig range today.
Before that, though, it’s time for some background information so your buying decision is simplified.
We’ll kick off by exploring how Keurig machines work.
- I. Our Top Picks for Keurig Coffee Makers
- II. How Does A Keurig Machine Work?
- III. Can You Only Use K- Cup Coffee Pods with Keurig Machine?
- IV. Reusable K Cup Filters: What Are They Used For?
- V. 10 Best Keurig Coffee Makers
- VI. Why Is Keurig Coffee Not Popular In Coffee Shops?
- VII. Cleaning & Descaling Your Keurig Machine
- VIII. What Should You Look For On The Buying Trail?
- IX. Common Keurig Brewing Problems
- X. Conclusion
I. Our Top Picks for Keurig Coffee Makers
|Products & Features||Image & Price|
Keurig K-Elite Our #1 Pick
Keurig K-Duo Plus
Keurig K-Office K155
II. How Does A Keurig Machine Work?
Using a single-serve Keurig coffee machine really couldn’t be much easier.
First, fill up the water reservoir. Since so much of your coffee is water, you should either use bottled water or filtered water to get things off to the right start. Not only will you end up with a crisper, cleaner taste, you’ll also minimize the amount of sediment that accumulates and scales up your machine.
Next, insert a K-Cup pod into the top of the machine as directed in the instruction manual for your particular model. The metal pod is pierced by the machine before the water comes surging through.
Push the button you want for the drink of your choice and you’ll have piping hot coffee in your cup less than a minute later.
Now, we mentioned descaling so how do you go about cleaning and descaling your Keurig machine?
III. Can You Only Use K- Cup Coffee Pods with Keurig Machine?
One of the most frequently asked questions concerning Keurig coffee machines is whether you’ll be limited to using K-Cups.
The short answer is yes.
Although K-Cups are routinely referred to as K-Cup coffee pods, they are not actually pods at all. With a true coffee pod brewer, the brewing chamber works differently. Water is sprayed over the full surface of the pod.
With a K-Cup, both the top and the bottom is pierced by the machine and the water is forced under pressure through the K-Cup.
K-Cups contain both the coffee grounds and the filter.
What all this means is that if you try to use a generic pod, you’ll end up with a weak and insipid brew.
This requirement to use proprietary pods is ramped up further in the retooled line of Keurig 2.0 machines. Thanks to an onboard bar code reader, you won’t be able to use anything other than K-Cups.
Although there are various workarounds here, we’re not going to outline them. If you don’t want to use K-Cups, you’re much better advised not to get a Keurig coffee maker at all. With so many choices at your disposal, why buy something you won’t be happy with? You’re simply setting yourself up for disappointment.
Perhaps in response to the workarounds that have floated around over recent years, Keurig has offered a solution in the form of the models that allow you to use freshly ground coffee and a permanent filter so you can get a whole carafe of your favorite roast without needing to sacrifice the option of using K-Cups when you feel like a shot of convenience.
Bottom line, then: stick to K-Cups unless you have a machine also allowing you to make use of a permanent filter. More on those right now…
IV. Reusable K Cup Filters: What Are They Used For?
The K-Cup Universal Reusable Coffee Filter allows you to use your favorite pre-ground coffee in your Keurig machine.
This is without question the best option at your disposal if the machine is compatible. We’ll look in more detail below at why using K-Cups might not be your wisest option.
Easy to use and equally straightforward to clean, you’ll get two lines with these reusable filters for cups or travel mugs. Everything is BPA-free so you can drink with a clear conscience and no contaminants.
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for as we break down the leading machines across the impressive Keurig range.
V. 10 Best Keurig Coffee Makers
1. Our #1 Pick: Keurig K-Elite
Our overall choice for the best Keurig coffee maker is the K-Elite. This is not the range-topping model as price/performance ratio was one of the categories we rated these Keurigs on. So, what makes the K-Elite so good, then?
Kicking off with the generous water reservoir, you can make 8 large cups of coffee before you need to refill. This is a precious time-saver if you always find yourself rushing around in the mornings.
Your choice of drinks is exceptional. Choose from your favorite blend of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cocoa, or an infusion to get your day started just the way you like it. You can also enjoy iced coffee without the typical dilution that spoils most cool coffee. Despite such powerful performance, the K-Elite is pretty quiet in operation.
Rack up your drinks in any sizing you like up to and including travel mugs. The drip tray slides out so you can easily place larger vessels under your K-Elite.
If you’re looking for neat design, great choice of drinks, and absolute convenience rolled into a pocket-friendly package, you can’t beat the K-Elite.
2. Budget Pick: Keurig K-Classic
Next up something for the bargain hunters with the compact but poky Keurig K-Classic.
The 48oz water tank could be larger but you’ll benefit from scaled-down dimensions overall. In some ways, this is the ideal sweetspot for anyone with a small kitchen but plenty of coffee to make in the morning.
Make 6oz, 8oz or 10oz K-Cup pods so you get your coffee just the way you like it. You won’t have such a variety of drinks at your disposal with this model. As you’d expect, the manufacturer needs to make some sacrifices to achieve such pricing.
As with all Keurig single-serve machines, using the K-Classic couldn’t be much easier. Top up the water reservoir, slide in your favorite K-Cup capsule then punch a button. In less than a minute, you’ll have lip-smacking coffee brimming your cup.
Descaling is baked in and helps your machine to stay running at its best. You can also minimize the amount of sediment that will accumulate by using a water filter. Throw in auto shut-off and you have a feature-rich single-serve gem at a price you won’t believe.
3. Keurig K-Café
The K-Café is a bulkier unit so you should be certain you have enough room in your kitchen. Overall dimensions are 12 ½ x 15 1/3 x 11 ¾ inches.
This model boasts an onboard frother. If you loathe the idea of messy clean-up duty, don’t panic. This frother is completely dishwasher-friendly.
Use your preferred K-Cup pods to brew up coffee or take advantage of the frother to build out more ambitious creamier drinks. The K-Café serves up a mean latte and cappuccino.
The 60oz water tank allows you to make a half-dozen cups of coffee before you need to refill. This is ideal for busy mornings and larger families.
In spite of such functionality, using the K-Café couldn’t be simpler. As with all single-serve machines, you can expect top-notch coffee in under a minute doing little more than pressing a button. What you lose out on in terms of flexibility, you gain tenfold in outright convenience.
4. Keurig K-Duo
The K-Duo is an innovative twist on the classic single-serve. On one side of the machine, benefit from pod-driven convenience. On the other, brew a whole carafe of your favorite freshly ground coffee. This double-duty means you’re getting unbeatable value and something for the whole family.
Choose from making 6, 8, 10, or 12 cups when you’re using the glass carafe so you can minimize wastage and personalize brewing. You’ll need to buy the permanent filter if you choose to use this side of the machine.
The standard single-serve component gives you the shotgun delivery you’d expect from Keurig along with complete consistency every time. If you want your coffee stronger and more intense, hit a button and make that happen.
Programmable through a full 24 hours, you can come downstairs to the smell of fresh coffee in the morning or return home from work to find a whole carafe steaming and waiting for your arrival.
5. Keurig K-Mini
For anyone with a tiny kitchen, the K-Mini is a space-saver par excellence. Measuring less than 5 inches across, you’ll find a home for this machine even if you live in a small apartment.
Don’t worry about the size impacting performance, though. You’ll even be able to remove the drip tray to house large and travel mugs.
This unit powers down after 90 minutes of inactivity which gives you peace of mind if you’re prone to forgetting to switch your machine off.
If you’re partial to using freshly ground coffee, you can pick up an optional permanent filter so this machine becomes blissfully multi-purpose.
Coming in a choice of colors to set off your kitchen, this diminutive single-serve machine punches above its weight.
6. Keurig K-Select
Another highly versatile Keurig up next in the form of the K-Select.
You can choose from a range of brew sizes to suit from 6oz through 12oz.
With a 52oz water tank, you can expect to make 5 cups of joe before you need to top up the reservoir. Feel free to remove the drip tray if you need to slide in your favorite travel mug.
As with all single-serve machines, operation is a snap even if you’ve never touched a coffee machine before. Fill up the water reservoir, slip in a K-Cup pod and punch a button. 60 seconds later, you’ll be enjoying primo coffee with no messy clean-up to contend with either.
The only real drawback with this machine is the slightly cheap and tacky appearance but it’s what’s inside that counts.
7. Keurig K-Duo Plus
Still not sure whether you want the ease of use afforded by a single-serve machine or the economy and capacity of a drip coffee machine?
Luckily, with the Keurig K-Duo, you can get the best of both worlds in a single unit.
When time is of the essence, slip in a K-Cup pod and get coffee in less than a minute. If you have guests over or you want to fire up coffee for the whole family, use the 12-cup carafe. You can program this so you can come into the kitchen and find a piping hot carafe ready and waiting.
The multi-directional 60oz water reservoir is ideally suited to smaller kitchen counters and provides you with the makings of enough coffee for everyone without the need to constantly top up the tank.
Aside from the ruthless price tag, there’s nothing much we can say to knock this awesome combo unit from an industry legend.
8. Keurig K-Office K155
Whether you’re looking to kit out your office or home kitchen, this pro-grade single-serve is a phenomenal way to enjoy coffee shop style drinks at a fraction of the cost.
Choose from 500 or more specialty coffees and do little more than push a button to enjoy that perfect golden cup. You can also take advantage of iced coffee when the mercury starts rising.
Navigating the color touchscreen is a cakewalk even if you’re not too tech-savvy. Programmability is first-rate.
Choose from 4 brew sizes including taller travel mugs so get your coffee just the way you like it.
Crowned with a hulking 90z water reservoir, this is a class-leading machine delivering impeccable results even if you need to pay for the privilege.
Note that this machine is not suitable for being plumbed into a water line.
9. Keurig K575
A classic in the broad and deep Keurig line, the K575 gives you the ability to rack up 10 cups before needing to refill the 80oz water tank.
Make drinks from 4oz through 10oz or opt for K-Carafe pods if you want more coffee up to 30oz.
As with most Keurigs, the K575 is highly programmable, perfect for busy households where every second counts.
If you have elderly relatives at home or anyone not too comfy with tech, the simple and intuitive touchscreen shouldn’t pose any problems. Pushing a single button is all it takes and hitting Strong will give you an intense taste sensation without needing to fiddle with the settings.
With hot water on demand amplifying your choice of drink further, the K575 is a highly capable performer across the board and wins our seal of approval.
10. Keurig Rivo
Are you a committed cappuccino and latte lover? If so, you’ll struggle to beat the Keurig Rivo. 15 bars of pressure also allows you to make short or longer espresso so you’ll be spoiled for choice.
The onboard frother lets you choose from:
- Cold froth
Just like with all Keurig’s single-serve machines, all you’ll need to do is insert your preferred K-Cup pod, hit the button and sit back until your gourmet coffee is served. What could be easier?
You’ll get all of this functionality in a machine compact enough for smaller kitchens.
VI. Why Is Keurig Coffee Not Popular In Coffee Shops?
Here at La Mano Coffee, we’re always unfailingly honest and we’re never looking to sell you on anything you don’t want.
Why do we say this?
Well, despite the immense popularity of Keurig machines and the K-Cups that power them, tell us the last time you saw a cup of single-serve pod-based coffee at your local coffee shop.
There are many reasons why coffee purists turn their noses up at K-Cups. Now, we’re not here to tell you how to drink your coffee. We understand there’s a place for these capsules just like there is sometimes a place for instant coffee or a crude pitcher of cowboy coffee made without a machine. But we are here to inform you so we’ll highlight the main drawbacks of using K-Cups right now.
- Insufficient Coffee Grounds
- Questionable Labeling
- Water Isn’t Hot Enough
- Brewing Time is Too Swift
The first reason you’re unlikely to see a pod-based coffee served up at a gourmet coffee shop is freshness.
Before you even purchase your K-Cups, the flavor is already impaired. Although pre-grinding coffee and having it packaged into neat little pods is highly convenient, the grinding process brings coffee beans into contact with oxygen. The process – called oxidation – zaps both flavor and aroma from the beans.
So, right away you’re looking at receiving coffee that’s already past its best when you opt for K-Cups. The problem is compounded since the pods are vacuum sealed. There’s even some talk of preservative chemicals used but Keurig remain tight-lipped about this. When contacted by the reputable Business Insider, the company declined to comment. This alone is suspicious.
Even worse, the way in which K-Cups are packaged can also be problematic…
As freshly roasted coffee beans start to cool, they release tiny plumes of carbon dioxide. This can continue for weeks.
It’s not possible to seal beans when they’re degasing like this so the coffee companies sidestep the issue by waiting at least 15 days before packaging them. During this period, degradation continues and you’re keep on losing both flavor and aroma before the grounds are even packaged.
Insufficient Coffee Grounds
If you’re making pour-over coffee, you’ll use up to 20g of coffee grounds for every 8oz to 10oz of water.
A K-Cup only contains 7g of grounds, not enough for a full-bodied cup of joe.
This is perhaps the primary reason you won’t find many K-Cup drinks for sale in a commercial backdrop. It’s simply not strong enough for the average customer.
Most K-Cups don’t contain information about how recently the coffee was roasted making the problem above even worse.
Keurig also offer relatively little information about the precise type of beans used or where they’re sourced from.
A lack of transparency with labeling typically points toward lower quality ingredients and most coffee shops pride themselves on the exact opposite.
Water Isn’t Hot Enough
Keurig coffee machines brew water at 192F.
Unfortunately, the NCA (National Coffee Association) along with other reputable bodies suggest the ideal temperature band for making coffee is 195F to 205F.
The inadequate temperature is responsible for the tepid taste of K-Cups and another reason you won’t find them in coffee shops.
Brewing Time is Too Swift
As a final kicker, the brewing time is too quick with K-Cups.
With contact between water and coffee grounds minimized to seconds, you benefit from enormous convenience at the expense of quality.
Before we push on to examine what you should look for when you’re looking for the best Keurig coffee maker, we’ll give you some handy hints on descaling your machine. What’s this all about and why should you bother?
VII. Cleaning & Descaling Your Keurig Machine
How often you need to clean and descale your machine is largely dependent on how hard the water is where you live along with how often you use your machine.
Minerals build up over time and this can clog up the Keurig. If you simply ignore this, performance will continue to worsen until the machine simply stops working.
Luckily, there’s no need for it to reach that stage.
As a general guideline, you should look to descale your Keurig every 3 months if you use it quite frequently. You could get away with twice-yearly cleaning if you only give your machine an occasional outing.
How To Descale Your Keurig
Before you do anything else, take care of the following basic preparation.
Empty the water reservoir.
Remove the water filter if your Keurig comes with one of these.
Make sure you disable auto shut-off so it won’t interefere with the descaling process.
Follow your brewer’s instructions and shut off the “auto-off” function so your brewer will be able to run through the entire descaling process.
Power down your Keurig.
You need some Keurig Descaling Solution for best results.
- Decant the entire bottle of descaling solution into the water reservoir
- Top up the empty descaling solution bottle with water. Pour this into the tank so the solution is ideally diluted
- Switch your Keurig on
- Put a mug of at least 10oz under the drip tray
- Lift the handle without inserting a K-Cup. Lower handle
- Select a 10oz coffee and kickstart brewing
- After this initial cleansing cycle is complete, remove the mug, decant the contents into the sink and replace under the drip tray
- Continue with this cleansing rinse until the machine prompts you with “More water please”
- Leave your machine turned on and standing for 30 minutes
- Pour any remaining solution out of the water tank. Clean this thoroughly using soap and warm water. Rinse thoroughly, dry, and replace
Rinse with Water
With descaling taken care of, it’s time to make certain all the solution is driven out of the brewing system.
How do you do that, then?
- Top up the water tank to the maximum fill level with clean water
- Return the large mug to the drip tray
- Lift the handle without inserting a K-Cup then lower it again
- Choose a 6oz brew size and allow your machine to go through a cleansing brew again
- Pour out the liquid then return the mug to the drip tray
- This process should be repeated TWELVE times. You might need to top up the water tank as you go
Cleaning the Water Tank
Cleaning the water reservoir is quick and easy.
You should carry out this routine maintenance at least once a week.
All you need to do is this:
- Remove the water reservoir and take off the lid
- Wipe down the inside using soap and warm water with a clean cloth
- Rinse out the soapy water but don’t dry the water tank. If you do this, you risk introducing lint and other tiny particles to your brewing system
- Top up the tank with water and replace
- Start a cleansing brew with hot water
- Refill and repeat
Cleaning The Other Components
You also need to pay attention to the drip tray and pod holder.
Again, these tasks should be performed weekly.
Remove the drip tray and empty it out.
Wash with warm, soapy water.
Dry the drip tray with a clean cloth and replace.
Remove the pod holder from your Keurig machine. Be very careful of the sharp needles.
Rinse the holder with warm water but skip the soap. Allow the holder to air dry then replace it. When doing so, make sure to align the arrows properly.
Run a hot cleansing brew to flush the system.
Wipe down the outside of the machine on a weekly basis, too. You’ll maintain its appearance while also ensuring nothing gets inside the machine or inside your cup.
VIII. What Should You Look For On The Buying Trail?
Before we get down to the main event with our highlight of the 10 best Keurig machines on the market, a few pointers to simplify your buying decision further.
Double down on these elements to get the most effective machine from the broad and deep range:
- Type of Drinks Available
- Brew Sizes
- Water Reservoir Capacity
- Overall Dimensions
- Strength Control
Type of Drinks Available
As with all coffee machines, Keurig coffee makers give you the option of making a wide array of drinks.
Some of these machines deliver regular coffee, others espresso, cappuccino and latte. You can get Keurig machines offering hot water on demand, too. This allows you to enjoy tea, hot chocolate or your favorite infusions.
You should check for the kind of drinks you can rack up and make sure this falls in line with what you and your family prefer.
We would also advise carefully checking out the K-Cup pods available before committing to purchase. There are hundreds of options but you should be certain that you can find the exact roast you love in advance.
You’ll be able to use a wide variety of brew sizes from small 2oz shots through to full K-Carafes.
Again, you should focus firmly on the way you and your family like to drink coffee. There is no boilerplate answer here. All that counts is getting something suitable for you.
Water Reservoir Capacity
The size of the water reservoir will obviously dictate how frequently you need to top up your machine.
The K-Mini will only make you a single cup while the K-Elite comes with a whopping 75oz water tank. This is sufficient to make up to 8 cups of joe so ideal for all the family.
Keurig brewers range from 5 inches to 10 inches across so pay close attention to overall dimensions if you have a small apartment or a cramped kitchen.
You should also think closely about placement. If you have cabinets hanging close to the work surfaces, you should make absolute sure the Keurig machine you’re looking at will make a neat fit.
Are you a fan of strong and intense coffee? If so, you can alter the brew size for a stronger drink.
Also, some Keurig machines come with an added Strong button allowing everyone in the family to get their morning cup of joe just the way they want it.
Do you like the idea of coming downstairs in the morning to a fresh cup of coffee?
Many Keurig machines come with varying degrees of programmability. Look for this along with auto shut-off if you enjoy automating the way you make your coffee.
Last but not least, you should consider durability set against your usage habits.
If you only make the occasional coffee, even the lighter-duty Keurig machines will be fit for purpose. If, on the other hand, you put your machine through its paces on the regular, you’ll be better advised shooting for a pro-grade model like the K-Office that’s built to cope with some serious punishment.
We kept our Keurig buying guide brief because these are pretty simple machines. You have far less to worry about than if you were looking for the best Italian espresso machine.
Now, how about some of the most common problems you can expect to encounter with Keurig machines?
IX. Common Keurig Brewing Problems
If you’re noticing any impairment in the quality of your Keurig machine over time, there are several elements that could be causing this.
- Does your machine need cleaning and descaling? Refer to our instructions above and make sure you keep on top of this
- Make sure the water reservoir is properly fixed in place
- Perhaps the exit needle is clogged with coffee grounds. Try running a water-only cycle. This will release anything stuck in the exit needle. If this doesn’t work, we’ll give you further directions below
- There could be air bubbles in the water line. Turn off the machine. Unplug it. Fill the water tank to the maximum level and replace. Gentle tap the machine then try again
Coffee Grounds In Your Cup
If the exit needle becomes clogged
The exit needle of your Keurig coffee maker is important as this is what allows the brewed coffee to pour into your cup for you to enjoy. If this becomes clogged with grounds, this sediment can easily end up in your finished drink.
Here’s how to avoid that if the water-only cycle doesn’t work:
- Turn off and unplug your Keurig being careful with the sharp needles as you proceed
- Push the lever in the K-Cup holder and you can access the exit needle
- If your model did not come with a dedicated needle-cleaning tool, use a toothpick
- Clean the exit needle of all grounds, top up the water tank and turn your machine back on
- Run a water-only cycle to flush all residue
What To Do If You See The More Water Error Message?
The first obvious thing to check if you see More Water displayed is that the tank is topped up.
If the water tank is full, follow these steps:
- Remove the water tank
- Thoroughly clean it with warm, soapy water
- Rinse and air dry
- Top up water tank to maximum level and replace
What To Do If You See The Oops Error Message
The Oops error message doesn’t actually mean that there’s a problem with your machine.
This message flashes up when you’re using an incompatible pod.
All Keurig 2.0 machines are designed to work only with proprietary K-Cups so expect this message if you insert a generic alternative.
These simple steps should help you to overcome most of the problems you will encounter with a Keurig machine. If you’re still struggling, you should contact Keurig. Their customer service has a somewhat checkered reputation so you might want to pack plenty of patience.
The good news, though, is that you shouldn’t expect much to go wrong. Use either the correct K-Cups or a reusable filter, keep your machine regularly cleaned and descaled, and you shouldn’t have any real problems with your Keurig.
Well, you should now be pretty clear on which Keurig machine makes most sense for you. Equally important, you should also be able to see at a glance if these machines simply don’t make the best solution for you and your family.
Single-serve machines are not for everyone. As we outlined above, you’ll create a substantial eco-footprint using so much plastic. The pods are not cheap either if you drink a lot of coffee. And there’s the taste which tends to polarize opinion.
Having said all this – and we’ll always give you the unvarnished truth here at La Mano Coffee – there’s absolutely nothing to rival the sheer convenience of Keurig coffee makers.
Don’t forget to bookmark our site. As we mentioned above, we want you to consider this your go-to resource any time you need guidance on coffee. We’ll tell it like it is and our aim is simple: to make your life easier while pointing you toward the best equipment money can buy.
See you soon!