And Now a Message from our Sponsors: A Keurig 2.0 review

Last month my friend excitedly told me that he had ditched his expensive coffee maker with attached burr grinder for a Keurig 2.0. I scoffed at him as befitting the coffee snob who encouraged him to get a burr grinder in the first place. I haven’t actually owned a commercial coffee maker (Breville dual boiler espresso machine notwithstanding) in at least five years. When I want a cup of coffee I generally make a french press with some locally roasted coffee.

The irony of this coffee snob story is that the very next day I got an email from Influenster saying “Surprise! We’re sending you a Keurig 2.0 to test and review!” And I was ashamedly looking forward to it. I haven’t ever tried a Keurig, and have only ever noticed the army of k-cups filling the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond. I never really wanted one. But since I was getting one I decided to investigate what I was getting.

I read a few reviews and found that most of the people who loathe the Keurig 2.0 are those that owned a previous model. The short story is that the previous version would happily brew k-cups from any manufacturer, up to and including reusable cups that you could fill with your very own coffee (read this as: Keurig not making as much profit from you as they feel they should) and so the 2.0 has something akin to DRM. It reads the label off the top of the k-cup and stolidly refuses to brew off-brands. Much like the Sony CD DRM that could be thwarted with a sharpie, the Keurig DRM has a similarly easy workaround. To brew whatever k-cup you want, just cut off the top of a spent 2.0 k-cup and keep handy. If you have a rebel off-brand k-cup you want to brew, simply set the top of the 2.0 k-cup label on top of it and you’re good to go. Not that I would ever endorse that type of behavior…

When my Keurig 2.0 arrived I immediately set it up and decided to make a carafe since that’s one of the big selling points of the new model. Their version of a carafe is a little laughable—either that or my idea of a cup of coffee is inflated. It supposedly makes about 4 cups of coffee, but I think you’re very lucky to get 3 out of it. The included plastic carafe is a little lacking. You can buy a stainless steel carafe for about $30. Influenster sent me one of those too and there’s no going back to the plastic one. My main gripe about the carafe is that you have to choose between using the drip tray for a single cup of coffee, or using the carafe. There’s not a spot for both on the machine at once, so you’re left with one or the other hanging around your kitchen. I wish the carafe could just sit on top of the drip tray to save space.

While we’re talking about saving space, what do you do with all of the k-cups? If you buy more than one kind like I did because—research—then you have to figure out where to put the boxes or the individual cups themselves. They make solutions for this of course. In full disclosure, Influenster sent me a carousel that nicely holds my regular k-cups and my carafe cups, but this too takes up a ton of space and I just didn’t want it invading my limited counter space. I also don’t feel I need to wow visitors with my jaw dropping coffee selection, so it now revolves unloved in the pantry.

I would be remiss if while on the subject of space I didn’t mention the environmental impact of all the little cups too. The k-cups are apparently fully recyclable in Canada, but here in the U.S. it’s a bit of a grey area. They’re plastic #7 and some places recycle them. Some don’t. So there’s that.

With all of my nitpicky ranting you would think that I dislike the machine. I’m quite sad to say I don’t dislike it at all. I use it almost every day even if some of its use is to dispense hot water for my instant oatmeal. The hot water dispenser is my favorite feature even if I do often have to run it twice to avoid coffee-flavored oatmeal. And as I’m typing this I’m sipping a Café Escapes Café Mocha (even though I think that calling this beverage a mocha is laughable. It’s more like hot cocoa with a little caffeine kick. Mochas should have steamed milk. Sorry Keurig 2.0, but you don’t steam milk. Maybe next iteration).

The Keurig 2.0 does its job well. It makes single cups of coffee almost instantly with just the press of a button. And the variety of coffee available for it is astounding (not even counting the off-brands). After getting my machine I made it a point to visit the coffee aisle at the grocery store and see what they had. My biggest complaint about that experience was that I couldn’t tell if the boxes the stores carried were 2.0 or not. They’re not well-labeled in that regard, but none of the Keurig brand coffee I purchased was 1.0, so maybe I didn’t have to worry? I did have a hard time finding k-carafe cups. I saw them at Macy’s while Christmas shopping, and at Target, but none of my grocery stores had them. And when I did find K-carafe cups the selection was abysmal. There doesn’t seem to be nearly as much variety as with regular k-cups. Even on Keurig’s online shop there are only 10 different carafe packs (I think I saw maybe 3 different ones in stores).

My biggest deterrent from the Keurig 2.0 is the cost of the coffee itself. K-cups are anywhere from $10-18 for 16-24 cups. It almost makes my $17 bag of coffee seem reasonable. The carafes are even more expensive at around $15 for 8 cups. I feel like I’ve gotten a free printer and now I have to keep paying for outrageous amounts for ink all the time. My advice to you: save all those $5 off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. I know I’ve found a renewed use for them.

I didn’t really mention how the coffee was. Is it mind blowing, earth shattering, with notes of green popsicles and currants? No. It’s coffee. Some of it’s bitter. Some of it’s good. I personally hated all the flavored ones. The vanilla one? Vile. The hazelnut? Like scented water. But that’s personal preference and I’m pretty sure after shelling out some money to try a few different types you can find something you like. None of it is going to taste as good as a hand pour at your local shop. It’s not supposed to. At 4:30 in the morning as my husband heads out the door to work with a hot cup of coffee in hand I bet it’s pretty much ambrosia though.

P.S. I received a Keurig 2.0 450, carousel, and stainless steel carafe complimentary from Influenster for testing/reviewing purposes.
P.P.S. I never received those additional k-cups you said you’d send, Influenster. It’s OK. I just tell myself you would have sent me Folger’s Gourmet and I’m ok without them. </coffee snob>

Founder’s Day

Peet’s Headquarters, originally uploaded by sosostris.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea gave a founder’s day tour today. The tour was self-guided and the actual factory tour would have been better with a bit more direction. After viewing a timeline and a short video about the history of Peet’s we were let loose to roam the factory and it wasn’t immediately obvious where to proceed.

There was nothing in place to give insight into the coffee roasting process. There were a few roasters operating, and the operators would happily answer questions, but there was only one operator per roaster and a lot of consumers shuffling by at random intervals with varying degrees of interest. It seemed like it would have been more beneficial if there had been someone explaining how the machine worked, or what was happening at the time, rather than just letting the public gather around the roaster and ogle as the fragrant beans were swirled off into a pneumatic tube.

The next series of machines were more straightforward than the roaster. It was an assembly line that took the freshly roasted beans from a hopper and sorted them into bags, folding them and taping them closed. The finished product was ready to be boxed up and shipped out.

After seeing the magic of mechanized bagging (never again will I fret that I can never seem to close the coffee bag quite as well as when it was first opened) we got a glimpse of the cupping room. There the Peet’s staff hovered about a diminutive roaster and roasted small quantities of beans and then sampled them to determine whether to purchase the stock of beans. They actually had someone at that station whose only purpose for the day was to answer questions, so it seemed more tour-like and less like choose your own adventure.

Once done peering through the window we stood in line to play cuppers ourselves. The line didn’t seem like it was going very fast or very far. A lady brought around a little cup of Major Dickason’s blend to sample while we continued to wait. Eventually we gave up and just wandered past the table (which I believe had different coffees and possibly teas to try).

There was only one more stop on the Peet’s tour and it involved more sampling. The final room was…out of coffee. It was about 1:45, and the tour was only supposed to go until 2. I don’t think they anticipated the crowd that showed up. So, by the time we arrived there were candies to sample. They had chocolate covered cherries, but not like the syrupy, sugary, maraschino variety. It was more of a dried cherry on the inside and therefore tolerable. I don’t generally like cherries, and it wasn’t bad. They also had raspberry truffles that had a sour coating on the outside that was delightful. It reminded me of a sour jaw breaker for an instant and then gave way to the creamy raspberry suffused chocolate.

After sampling the candies and reading about the sustainability of Peet’s roastery more coffee arrived to save the caffeine deprived! There was some confusion about which coffee was in which container, so I may or may not have ended up with a piping hot cup of their JR Reserve. Regardless, it was a great cup of coffee. It started off mellow and bright and ended with a bit of a kick. I don’t normally drink my coffee black (read as: I drink mochas whenever possible), but I found that cup surprisingly palatable. It ought to be considering they sell the JR Reserve for $25 per ½ pound.

On our way out we were given a pound of House Blend that had been roasted today. Originally only the first 200 guests would walk away with coffee roasted today, but everyone who wanted a pound of coffee left with one. I think that was the most surprising moment for me, realizing that the coffee we had watched being roasted and bagged as we wandered around the warehouse was the coffee being offered to us as we left. I expected that experience from a tiny roasting company like (my favorite) Ritual Roasters in San Francisco, where their little roaster sits in the middle of the café surrounded by bags of raw coffee. But it never dawned on me that Peet’s coffee was that committed to freshness as well. Peet’s date stamps their bags of coffee. I can’t even imagine Starbucks doing the same.