Keurig coffee makers are very commonly found in homes, business, and hotel rooms all across the country these days. They are fast convienient and simple to use. In fact most people that never make coffee can use them without any experience at all. The problem is thopugh that the coffee they make is no where nearly as good as it is when prepared in a manual pour over coffee dripper.
Pour over coffee drippers are frequently the next step people take when they start getting into making great coffee at home. They take longer to prepare than brewing a single k-cup into a mug but the quality of your cup of coffee is so much higher. Let’s compare them a bit just a bit to start with.
Keurig coffee is brewed from pre-ground coffee beans pre-packaged inside k-cups which don’t usually have enough grounds inside them to make a full bodied cup of coffee. Pour over coffee however allows a person to use fresh ground beans to get the right taste from their coffee and to use the correct amount of grounds to get a full-strength cup. Although they both make single servings at a time the pour over coffee makers require manual control of thew brew compared to the automated process of a Keurig machine.
In many homes you’ll actually find a person owning both a k-cup brewer and a pour over dripper. In my home I own both including a larger Chemex, which is a form of pour over coffee maker that’s more appropriate for making larger batches of coffee, as well as a 12-cup carafe coffee maker, and a Nespresso machine for shots of espresso.
This quantity of coffee making equipment may be excessive for most people but I believe in using tools for their intended purpose and not using tools that are meant to do lots of things marginally well at best.
Now let’s dive deeper into why pour over coffee can be either just as good as pod coffee from k-cup machines or way better.
Why Pour Over Coffee Is So Much Better Than Keurig Coffee
Although you can brew a 12-ounce cup of coffee from most Keurig machines the quality of coffee will be terrible so I choose to only use the Keurig for those times that speed is the most important thing.
If I want a single serving of high quality coffee then I’ll opt for the dripper pictured above. If I want to make a batch of really amazing coffee then I’ll use my Chemex and if I want to just make a big pot of coffee for family members to grab and go then I will brew a carafe from my Oxo.
What’s good to keep in mind though is that all of these methods are versions of filtered coffee… and more precisely they are all forms of drip coffee. Each is prepared by pouring hot water through coffee grounds. The coffee drips out the bottom and into a cup or carafe.
Keurig machines do this incredibly fast but produce somewhat weak coffee from pre-ground and pre-packaged grounds. Drip machines do this for larger portions of coffee in a slow automated process that can take over ten min with little control over temperature and bloom. With pour over devices like drippers or Chemex style carafes everything can be controlled precisely resulting in the best potential brew quality possible.
If we use the ratio of 1 gram of coffee for every 17 grams of water then for a 10-ounce cup of coffee requiers just shy of 300 grams of water. If we divide 300 by 17 then we get 17.6. That means if you want to make a 10-ounce cup of coffee then you should grind approximately 18 grams of coffee beans because a small portion of it will be lost in the grinder and never make it into your dripper.
You can then boil some water or heat it to the exact temperature optimal for brewing coffee, 195-degrees, and then slowly and steadily pour it over your grind.
Pour over let’s you control all the variables. Your beans and grounds can be perfectly fresh and ground, your water can be the right temp, your amount of grounds used can be tailored to exactly what you need, and the drippers and pour over devices can be cleaned well, unlike any Keurig machine.
Pour over coffee is simply better.
Why Keurig Coffee Makes Worse Coffee
Although Keurig and other third party k-cup coffee makers have become very popular with many audiences in recent years despite their pricey nature. K-cup style coffee is usually mass produced, ground, and packaged well in advance of you buying it from your local store. Who knows how long it was stored in a warehouse before you ever got your hands on it.
Sure k-cup doesn’t really expire but coffee in general loses it’s freshness shortly after being ground even if it is soon thereafter vacuum sealed in a coffee container or k-cup. This pre-ground nature of the product coupled with the potentially long shelf life of the k-cups can greatly (and negatively) affect the taste of coffee.
Still, Keurig is very popular, given its convenience. I would suggest however that anyone making single cups of Keurig coffee regularly should consider switching to pour over because it’s not that much more work, it’s cheaper, tastes better, and it is actually more sanitary.
If you brew with a Keurig for any amount of time you will quickly find that coffee grit and grime build up in the needle basket which has to be cleaned out from time to time. The case gets dirty and must be wiped down, the needles get clogged and need to be maintained… but what about the water reservoir and internal tubing?
These components also get dirty and are extremely hard if not impossible to clean all the way. There are of course cleaners and descalers that you can purchase and running vinegar through the system regularly helps but it doesn’t work like magic. There are still pockets of bacteria that linger that just can’t be cleaned all the way. All of this contributes to a net negative influence on your coffee’s taste.
On the other hand when I use my coffee dripper I rinse it out under the sink’s tap and then every few days I run it through the dishwasher. There are no moving parts or crevices, the pour over devices are always as clean as possible no matter if I’m using glass drippers, ceramic, or plastic.
Drinking coffee from a k-cup is almost like you are drinking old coffee through a dirty machine that isn’t calibrated properly.
Although it is not instant coffee it is fast and easy but the problems are numerous, which takes us to price.
Is Making Pour Over Coffee Cheaper Than Brewing Keurig K-Cups?
For total starters you can get the cheapest k-cup brewer on the market and be out $30-$40 or you can get a top of the line Keurig machine for somewhere around $150. Compare that to the really awesome pour-over coffee drippers that only run you in the vicinity of $10-$20 or so… even the big Chemex drippers come in lower in cost than most of the low end k-cup coffee makers.
Now consider the longevity of the device. Most Keurig machines get replaced after only a couple of years either due to equipment failure or due to the disgusting factor. It’s hard to keep them clean from the inside out and most people end up giving up once they realize they’ve fallen too far behind and they don’t trust the cleanliness of their machine any more.
Pour over coffee makers however are for the most part single piece units with no moving or electronic parts. They can be fully submerged and sanitized in the sink or run through the dishwasher without damage. In essence they have an indefinite lifespan so long as you don’t break them. Of course ceramic and glass drippers are more likely to be broken than plastic but on average most people won’t have to replace a pour-over contraption any time soon and certainly not every couple of years.
I would say that the average pour-over dripper is much cheaper than the Keurig over the long haul and we haven’t even taken the coffee grind itself into consideration yet.
Big coffee brands offer their own K-cups. Starbucks, Green Mountain, Dunkin’ Donuts, Tully’s, and Nescafe have patented Keurig coffee pods. The promise is that you will be able to bring home the taste of your favorite coffee brands and enjoy a cup at the comfort of your own home. The flip side is you have to overpay for these products compared to buying bags of plain pre-ground coffee.
Each K-Cup has the following contents:
- an airtight seal that seals in coffee ground freshness.
- an advanced paper filter so the coffee ground doesn’t make it into your cup
When you hit the brew button on your Keurig coffee maker, the machine forces hot water through the K-Cup at the optimal pressure and temperature. That’s how you get a cup of fresh coffee so quick. Unfortunately the coffee on the inside of the k-cup is not very much – 11 grams to be exact.
If you estimate the cost of a k-cup (11 grams) to be approximately $0.50 each then you are paying the equivelant of $12.86 for a 10 ounce bag (283 grams) of ground coffee.
To buy pre-ground coffee from an average (not premium) store bought brand that’s a lot of money… especially when you are guaranteed to get tiny cups of full bodied coffee from those k-cups or normal sized cups of weak coffee from them.
I would rather go to my local roastery and buy a bag of premium whole bean coffee for that $12 per 10oz price and use it in my dripper. I’ll probably save a bit of money over the long term and get a better tasting cup of coffee every time.
Are Keurig Coffee Makers Ever Worth It?
Just like any other kind of brew, K-cup coffee has its pros and cons. I’ve really gone deep into it’s cons so far but I do still feel that they are worth it in many different cases. Goodness, I own a few Keurig’s and I use them regularly myself.
If you ask your grandparents about how coffee is made they will probably tell you that the K-cup is very futuristic. It’s something they would have never dreamed of during the time when percolators were commonly used to brew coffee.
There is no doubt that using a k-cup coffee maker is beyond convenient. Nothing is simpler then just putting a cup in the chamber, closing the lid and hitting a single button. I used mine daily during the first year of my last two baby’s lives. When you are up at 5am holding a wakeful baby then nothing short of a k-cup will do. I don’t know how parents made coffee at that hour while dealing with small kids.
The Pros of Brewing K-Cup Coffee
- It’s Incredibly Fast
- It’s Super Easy
- Reusable K-Cups Are Available
- Fancy Flavors Are Available such as Chai tea, vanilla latte, lemonade, and pumpkin spice just to name a few.
- Coffee is Consistent, Cup After Cup
- Not Environmentally Friendly
- More Expensive For The Machines & Coffee
- Poor Quality Coffee Grind, Limited To Pre-Ground (not fresh) – Silver lining is that not everyone can tell the difference.
That last point however is the key.
No matter how poor the quality of k-cup coffee is when compared to what is attainable from fresh ground beans brewed manually in a pour over device most people simply won’t be able to tell the difference or appreciate the difference.
We live in a world where lots of people think that the coffee served from their local gas station or McDonalds is “just fine”. Those people will not likely ever appreciate the difference between pour over and k-cup coffee.
If you or someone you know is like that then that’s fine. If you (or they) are keen on the Keurig system then no doubt they will love it.
Did You Know There Are Different Types of Pou Over Coffee?
Pour over is the stuff baristas are made of. Most coffee snobs love pour over coffee more than just about anything, save for French Press coffee of course. There’s a reason for that; they can craft coffee exactly how they like to the quality standards they prefer but the method of making pour over can change a bit depending on what equipment you have or how much coffee you are making.
Some of the most popular pour over coffee makers are the Chemex pour over carafs and drippers like the Hario V60 or the fancier cone drippers from the likes of Coffee Gator or Oxo.
The equipment for each of these looks very fancy and impressive but the biggest difference is how the drippers filter the coffee and how much coffee they make.
Chemex coffee dripeprs use a thick paper filter to make larger batches of pour over coffee while the Hario V60 and similar single cup drippers are best for 6-12oz at a time. The middle zone, the travel mug sized dripper market is full of cone style dripeprs that come with small carafes, some of them offer steel dripper cones while others are designed to be used with paper filters first.
Paper filters will of course stop more grind particles and oils from getting into you cup, kind of like standard drip or Keurig-style coffee, but the stainless mesh filters will offer more body and oils to your coffee making it feel a lot more like french press coffee in your mouth.
No matter which style of pour over you go for it should yield you a smooth cup of well balanced coffee due to its temperature control and gentle process of pouring hot water over freshly ground coffee.
The Pros of Making Pour Over Coffee
- Pour over coffee can produce a magnificent cup of coffee allowing all flavors of the beans to extract.
- Pour over is a fun way to experiment and taste the difference between various varieties of coffee and brewing methods. You can pull all the levers to refine the taste of your coffee in all the subtle ways.
- The bonded paper filters catch sediment and oils, preventing bitterness.
- You can brew more than one cup at a time if you want to.
The Cons to Pour Over Coffee
- There are lots of accessories and small pieces to making pour over coffee that each have to be managed manually.
- Each individual accessory must be washed and stored like other kitchen tools and utensils.
- Most pour over brewers only make one cup at a time.
- You have to physically be present for the entire brewing process, start to finish and it almost always requires focus and two hands.
For better tasting coffee you should use coffee grounds with the coarseness of table salt. Also, using a gooseneck kettle to pour your water will give you the best control of water flow over the coffee grounds. You don’t want to pour water too quickly over the coffee grind. Let the water flow gradually and see how it seeps through the coffee ground, extracting the natural flavor of coffee beans. This process could take 5 minutes, but the resulting cup of coffee has a smooth and creamy taste.
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Which Do I Think Is Better?
Again, the way you make coffee is always a matter of personal preference. I own Keurig machines and use them frequently but only when I want to make coffee for convenience. For those times I want to make a really great cup of coffee then I will take the time to grind beans fresh and setup the pour over dripper or Chemex. It’s all a matter of what works for me at the time.
I don’t think pour over coffee is ever worth the trouble if you are going to be brewing pre-ground coffee grind as quickly as possible. It’s just to messy and cumbersome for poor quality inputs but if you can’t ever be bothered to clean and descale your Keurig machines then that’s probably not a good option either.
If you prefer convenience, like getting a cup of coffee with just one push of a button, and you are fine maintaining your k-cup brewers then owning a Keurig machine a great idea. Get a pod machine for your home use and enjoy “instant” brewed coffee in just a matter of minutes but I would suggest you own a small single cup dripper anyway as a fall back, mostly because they can be so inexpensive.
If you love experimenting with different coffee brews and beans and roasts then pour over coffee will be your best friend. These devices are good pieces of equipment to own if you want coffee appreciation moments with your friends. However these aren’t as easy to use every day before work because they take so much of your time.
Unless you like getting up early the pour over routine in the morning may become a chore that you don’t want to take on. Preparing and cleaning up the equipment will take several minutes. It’s not exactly a convenient type of coffee brew. But the taste is remarkable. If you fancy rich and flavorful cups of coffee then set aside enough time and use your pour over coffee dripper as much as possible.
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Gamble Bay Coffee