Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Please don't Keurig

Yes, K-Cups are difficult to recycle and are made of unspecified #7 plastic (which may be bad for humans), so if you're greenish or paranoid-healthy, you won't do Keurig on general principles. If you're cheap, K-Cups are outrageously expensive coffee. An analysis showed that K-Cup coffee runs the equivalent of $50/pound.*

So K-Cups aren't green, healthy, or frugal coffee. Let's get to the important point: K-Cups produce miserable, lousy coffee. I've tried some, we have it available at the office, and I've tried to like it, but most complaints I've heard seem accurate:
  1. It's stale. Ground coffee stays flavorful for minutes, not months, even ground coffee which purports to be stored in nitrogen-flushed, hermetically sealed pods. The oils are off; the taste left weeks before.
  2. It's a fixed amount of grounds, whether you brew 4oz or 12oz. That's just wrong. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), who just might know a little about good coffee, recommends around 55g of coffee grounds per liter of water. With K-Cups, you get a choice of an overly strong little cup or a watery big cup. (Hint: It's bad either way.)
  3. It's a lousy brewing system. Keurig advertises that they brew at 192F, and they brew a cup in around 40 seconds. That's a bit too cool and way too fast. Citing the SCAA again, a correctly brewed cup will use water between 195 and 205F (actually a bit hotter: the Celsius spec is 92 to 96C, which is 197 to 205F), and brewing will take between 4 and 8 minutes. Less than 4 minutes and you under-extract and get weak coffee, more than 8 and you over-extract and get bitter coffee.
See my article if you're interested in brewing great coffee. Those who sell K-Cups seem to work around the poor brewing system by using over-roasted coffee -- lots of K-Cup coffee tastes vaguely *bux-ish. One amusing review mentioned "burnt and watery."

And to top it all off, Keurig Green Mountain, owner of Green Mountain Roasters, Keurig and the K-Cup patent, is engaged in some interesting revenue enhancement: The original K-Cup patent expired in 2012. Now that they don't get royalties on every K-Cup produced, they're going the route of Digital Rights Management: The new Keurig 2.0 machines will digitally recognize "authorized" K-Cups. No digital signature on your K-Cup? No cup of coffee.

If you disliked this behavior with printer ink, you'll enjoy it even less when you're caffeine-deprived. (The DRM appears to be easy to hack at the moment. Google "keurig drm hack".) Investors aren't all that happy with this either: Keurig Green Mountain's (GMCR) stock price is down quite a bit from the year's peak.

K-Cups: Not green, probably unhealthy, definitely not frugal now and in the future, and just bad coffee. Convenient, like microwave burritos, and as appetizing. 

Please, please don't Keurig.

PS: In May 2015, Keurig announced they were bringing back the "My K-Cup" reusable K-Cup, which allows you to use your own beans, but as far as I can find, they are maintaining the 2.0 DRM. They're now "reaching out" to some brands of non-licensed cups with new easier licensing terms. Meh. Even if they dropped the DRM, it's still a poor way to brew.

* In contrast, Panama's Hacienda Esmerelda Gesha coffee, considered one of the best coffees in the world, runs a little over $90/pound as roasted by a top roaster. (Yes, I know about Finca el Injerto gesha from Guatemala. It's sold out and outrageously priced when available, even for gesha.) If you like gesha (haven't tried it yet, myself) and you're a home roaster, you can get beans from an unnamed Guatemalan farm for under $22/pound, for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment