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Single cup coffee brewers…

I like coffee. I’m not a connoisseur: I prefer something like a basic arabica blend- more or less what Tim Hortons or McDonald’s serves. I may not define good coffee as something pooped out of a civet’s butt, but a good cup of coffee (based on my definition of “good”) is a crucial part of every day. I drink perhaps three or four 12+ ounce cups per day in total: more than I should, but less than some.

Irene can’t drink coffee any more, so brewing an entire pot each morning is not efficient. And a regular brewer isn’t very effective at producing a couple of cups- the magic that takes place when the hot water passes through the ground beans loses effectiveness. And instant coffee is barely a substitute: yes, I drink it, and it serves the minimal purpose of something calling itself “coffee” I.E.: jumpstarts my brain, but I can’t really say I enjoy it very much.

As a result of these factors, I’ve been exploring various single cup brewing systems. The “to go cup” brewers you can buy for $15 suffer from more or less the same problem as trying to run two cups through a brewer designed for a pot: the water and the coffee don’t intermingle quite the way they are supposed to. That leaves fancy gizmos like the Tassimo and Keurig single cup brewers.

I’ve been reading up on these two competing products for quite some time now. Tassimo is the new(er) kid on the block, with the machine being marketed by Braun and Kraft being the sole manufacturer of coffee supplies. Kraft works with other coffee companies (E.G.: Starbucks) to produce “T-disks” (the coffee inserts), but the actual manufacturing and distribution all goes through Kraft themselves. Of the two, Tassimo is the more “geek” enhanced: each T-disk has a barcode that the coffee maker reads to tell it how to brew, and this includes supporting things like frothing/heating milk. So the Tassimo can produce other things beyond just coffee: something sort of like espresso, or cappuccino, or a latte.

The Keurig has been around for a while. Although their coffee maker uses a microprocessor to control temperature and such, the actual coffee inserts (K-Cups) are not “smart”: they are well engineered coffee + filter gadgets, but possess no fancy barcodes and just deliver coffee. You get neither milk, nor espresso, nor latte out of a K-Cup. Keurig licenses the K-Cup technology to dozens of coffee companies, and there are hundreds of choices: most of them from the more “elite” coffee manufacturers. And as an interesting option, you can buy a little reusable K-Cup and fill it with your own coffee if you want.

Everything I read seemed to indicate that the Keurig makes better coffee than the Tassimo system: this review is a good example illustrating the general consensus. But in my area, at least, I’ve not had any luck finding anyone selling Keurig K-Cup packs. I can buy the machine at London Drugs, but not the coffee. Tassimo T-Disks, on the other hand, are available everywhere: the power of the Kraft distribution system, no doubt. So I’ve been on the fence, drinking instant coffee and trying to make up my mind, for several months.

I finally broke down today and ordered two boxes of K-Cup coffee from Green Mountain Coffee. That’s 48 cups of coffee, more or less, for about $45 including shipping. Ouch: makes me wonder if I would have been smarter to hook a pipe up to the nearest Tim Hortons and pipe the stuff to my house, but whatever. Now I’ll have to go pick up the machine itself, and maybe the reusuable K-Cup thingy so I can make some coffee while I wait for my delivery. I’ll write something up here on the blog in a month or so, after the coffee has arrived and I’ve had a chance to try it out.

Update: I found a Canadian coffee company that makes K-Cup coffee: Timothy’s Coffee. I had read about Timothy’s previously, but didn’t realize they were Canadian. I’ll order a batch of coffee from them as well and compare 😉

4 comments to Single cup coffee brewers…

  • I bought my sister one and Billie one for Christmas … they love them.

    Yes, the coffee has to be ordered for the most part, but it has been working out to about 50 cents a cup. Timothy’s has been our supplier, ( I actually ordered the machines from them as well,) but there is also http://www.vanhoutte.com/ in Canada

    You might also try Sears, we’ve found k cups there.

    I bought both of them the filter so you can use regular coffee, but it doesn’t produce as good a product. The grind isn’t as fine as the stuff in a premade K cup.

    Consensus from the coffee drinkers is that it is good coffee, and while more expensive, they don’t make 12 cups just to drink 3 and have half a tin of coffee go stale. The ability to have a variety of flavours is also a plus.

    You can also use the coffee maker as a hot water machine, run it without a k-cup for tea or hot chocolate. I have never tried the hot chocolate k cups, but they are not well reviewed. As for Tea …it isn’t steeped so it doesn’t really cut it. The Green tea is passable, and the lemon drink is not bad. Regular teas though, stick to Tetley and a kettle.

    I think you’ll like it… but you may find you drink more coffee simply because it’s fresh, fast ( about 60 seconds if the machine is warmed up,) and the flavour you feel like at the moment.

  • Interesting: it’s good to hear that someone I know is using the Keurig- thanks, Chris. I’ll buy the reusable filter thing so I can use “regular” coffee when I’m out of K-Cups, but I’m not surprised it doesn’t work as well. Might be something where you have to grind your own to get the grind fine enough? I have no clue.

    How loud are the machines, Chris? I listened to a couple of sample recordings and they didn’t sound too bad, but one of the complaints I’ve read is that the single cup machines are a bit noisy. The Tassimo are supposedly really loud compared to the Keurig… but it is hard to compare based on a scratchy recording.

    I didn’t really expect the tea to be very good either, but it is nice to have that confirmed. I have three boxes of K-Cups on order: one “sampler” pack from Green Mountain; one box of their “Fair trade” Columbian; and a “K-Cup variety pack” from Timothy’s. The Timothy’s pack includes some tea: I figured I’d give it a try just to see how it worked. The shipping on the coffee is the killer: $15 or thereabouts for 24 coffees, then $9 for shipping from Timothys and $15 from Green Mountain (in the US).

    I’m trying all the different types because, although I’m not a coffee snob, I have found that different manufacturers produce substantially different versions even using the same beans. My theory is that I can narrow down my preferences by trying a bunch of varieties in rapid succession: either that, or end up with a lot of coffee types I don’t want to drink 🙂 Once I decide what kinds of coffees I like, I’ll have to order bigger batches to cut down on the percentage impact of the shipping.

    I also bought a K-Cup carousel from Timothy’s to store/display the coffees- it’s a gimmick, but I thought it looked kind of neat. The silly thing is that I still haven’t bought the machine itself yet 😉 I’ll probably see about picking one up tomorrow.

  • It’s cheaper if you buy a single type box rather than a sample pack, and shipping is cheaper ( sometimes it’s free or deeply discounted,) if you buy more boxes – which you will I suspect.

    As to noise, they have a pump and if you don’t have a solid counter that will act as a resonator and make the noise louder … but it won’t make nearly as much noise as your ices dispenser. It’s sort of like an aquarium air pump … since your living quarters are separate from your kitchen it will be a non issue for you. From what I’ve heard from people that have heard both, the tassimo sounds more like a miniature espresso machine.

    The generally consensus from the coffee drinkers ar the big pluses:
    1) Freshness / flavour
    2) Speed and convenience – pop in a kcup, push a button ans voila! Coffee
    3) Variety – note 3 people can have 3 different typse of coffee is they want.

    Minuses:
    1) cost – minor. Offset by increased enjoyment and less waste
    2) can’t get K cups at the local store – major especially since none of the folks in my family are big into ordering online.

  • I prefer the Keurig machines myself. While they aren’t as fancy as the Tassimos (as you noted), I think the coffee comes out better.

    Don’t know, just personal preference.

    Scott

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