Coffee!

Among my many personality shortcomings, one I will freely admit to is that I am a bit of a coffee snob. My preferred brewing methods are either my french press or my AeroPress, I have both a decent quality pump-driven espresso machine and a burr grinder, I dislike Starbucks, and my favourite source of beans is a local coffee shop that roasts their own beans literally right there in the middle of the store. I have, for some time, been dismissive of the latest “fad” in brewing, the Keurig K-Cup system.

My disdain for the brewers that made Keurig a household word is not founded in ignorance. We have one at my EMS job, which I have used on several occasions. The best I can say for it is that, when using the right K-Cup, and on the “small” coffee cup size selection, it produces an acceptable brew (surprisingly, the best one I’ve found so far is a Folgers blend – Black Silk). Otherwise, I have found that with most of the K-Cups available, it can be compared to a Sirius Cybernetics Nutri-matic Drinks Machine, in that it produces a liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coffee.

This is not surprising when you consider what makes a good cup of coffee, and what ruins coffee. The grounds have been sitting in that little cup for who knows how long before you get them, though the fact that the cups are well sealed helps. That little K-Cup doesn’t hold enough ground coffee for more than a 6 ounce cup. The machine brews with the water at most at a mere 192° F, outside the recommended temperature range of 195°-205° F. The water’s time in contact with the grounds is much shorter than recommended, though I believe this is alleviated by brewing it under pressure, much like in an AeroPress or espresso machine.

But recently I stumbled on something new: the Keurig Vue system. This new system addresses some of the more critical issues with K-Cup brewers, and seems to be fairly well thought out.

The most egregious flaws with the K-Cups are, of course, the amount of coffee and the brewing temperature. The Vue system squarely addresses both of these issues. The maximum brew temperature has been brought to within the recommended range, at 197° F (though bringing it up to at least 200° F would have been better, IMO). The new Vue-Packs are not only larger, now capable of holding sufficient grounds for even a 10 oz. cup, but are available in an even larger “travel mug” size that supposedly holds enough coffee for an 18 oz. mug. The ability of the machine to handle various sizes of Vue Packs also means suppliers have the ability to choose the larger size if their particular blend needs more coffee for a standard sized cup.

On top of that, the Vue brewer has specific settings for different types of beverages (coffee, tea/other, iced coffee/tea), adjusting pump speed and flow rates according to what you are making – and there’s even a “strong” setting for coffee that pulses the water flow to allow it a little more time in contact with the grounds – as opposed to the K-Cup systems which only have a “one size fits none” setting. For those who care, the Vue Packs are recyclable, unlike K-Cups.

I had been considering a new “convenience” brewer. I love my both my AeroPress and my french press, but neither method is something that could be considered “quick and easy”. With all this in mind, and after checking various reviews, I decided to buy one. In a worst case scenario, I could always return it if I was disappointed.

After using it over the weekend, and before work this morning,  I have actually been pretty impressed. I’ve gotten what I would consider good quality coffee out of it every time. It doesn’t match freshly roasted, freshly ground beans brewed in a french press, but very few methods do, and it’s still quite palatable. I did a comparison this morning, and it even beats the Starbucks from a Bunn that we have at work hands down. It provides good, hot water for making cider or hot chocolate, and even the Sleepytime Herbal Tea that came in the included sampler was good.

There are two drawbacks: 1) there is no equivalent to the My K-Cup “brew your own” reusable filter cup, yet, though a comment on Keurig’s Facebook page makes me think they are planning on releasing one fairly soon; and 2) it does not accept K-Cups*, so selection and availability is currently somewhat limited (Target sells Vue Packs, and you can order them online from Amazon or from Keurig’s website).

Bottom line: I’m liking the Keurig Vue V700, and I think it was worth every penny I paid for it.

END OF LINE

* There is an unofficial hack that lets you use K-Cups in the Vue, but no official adapter. You also lose the advantage of the increased amount of coffee grounds in Vue Packs. I suspect a similar method, combined with a hack allowing you to reuse a K-Cup (video link), may allow you to use the My K-Cup in the Vue also.

[Silly FTC disclaimer: I paid my own hard earned cash for this brewer, at full price (minus a 20% discount coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond for signing up for their emails) and a box of Vue Packs, so you can just bite me.]

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