Out of K-cups and wondering if you can use the bag of normal coffee you have laying around? Here’s what you need to know.
It’s possible to use regular ground coffee in a Keurig machine but, it requires the use of reusable K-cups. Reusable K-cups can be filled with any type of coffee. This saves money, plastic waste and can also be used to improve the taste of the brew.
You can find out what to pay attention to and how you can brew with normal coffee in a Keurig.
Can You Use Regular Coffee In a Keurig Brewer?
By regular coffee, most people mean a bag of pre-ground coffee. So is it possible to somehow use that in a Keurig machine?
While they might seem a little mysterious, K-cups are not that special. They are plastic cups with a certain amount of ground coffee inside of them. Some of the cups have a paper filter element inside of them as well.
The coffee inside the cups is just normal ground coffee. However, the difference with a normal coffee maker is that it’s inside a sealed cup. That sealed cup is filled with nitrogen so the coffee grounds don’t go stale and oxidize much slower.
Another difference is how the water gets to the grounds. The cups are sealed but punctured by some needles when you put the cup in the machine. The needles inject and extract the water/coffee. So it’s not possible to just throw some ground coffee in the machine instead of a cup and expect it to make coffee. That would become quite a mess.
However, it certainly is possible to use regular coffee in a Keurig machine. You do need cups you can fill yourself though. These reusable cups are commonly and cheaply available on Amazon. Just getting a set of those, will allow you to fill them with any coffee you want and put it in a Keurig machine.
The only thing to get right is the size of the coffee particles (Grind size) and the amount of coffee. If you buy pre-ground coffee, use the one that’s for filter coffee. Espresso grounds are often too fine and you’ll get bitter coffee and possibly the filter gets clogged.
In general, K-cups are filled with 9-12 grams of ground coffee. If you use dark roasted coffee, 12 grams is good. For light roasts 9 grams will work and for medium roasts something in between. Weighing out the amount of coffee you put in really pays of in the taste of the final cup.
Why Use Regular Coffee In a Keurig?
There are two reasons why you would use regular coffee with reusable cups in a Keurig machine:
The taste we’ll go into below but let’s take a look at the costs. Because you can actually save quite a bit of money by filling your own cups but it does come at the cost of convenience. Getting coffee, filling the cups and cleaning them properly after use does take more time and effort. But it does save quite a bit of plastic waste.
It can also save money.
A pack of 32 Illy Classico K-cups costs about $25-$30 depending on sales. So let’s say $27.50. That’s 32 cups of coffee for $27.50 or about $0.86 per cup.
A can of that same Illy Classico for espresso or filter coffee makers costs $10-$13, let’s call it $11.50. There is 250 grams of coffee in that can.
The amount of coffee grounds in a K-cup differ a little depending on brand and roast level. In general, the amount of coffee grounds in a K-cup ranges from 9-12 grams. Dark roasts are usually closer to the 12 grams while light roasts are more towards the 9 grams. Since Illy Classico is a medium roast, we can take the average of 10.5 grams.
250/10.5= 23.8. That means with a bag/can of 250 grams of ground coffee, you can brew a little more than 23 cups or in other words: $0.48 per cup. Since that 250 gram can costs about $11.50, you could buy 2 cans (to make 46 cups of coffee) and still pay less than for 1 box of Illy Classico K-cups.
Another popular choice that’s available in both cups and bags is the Starbucks Breakfast blend.
A 96 pack Starbucks Breakfast blends K-cups: About $68 or $0.71 per cup.
You can get a combo of 3 -12 oz. bags of the same Starbucks Breakfast blend for about $23. That’s 1020 grams for just $23. That means you can fill a little more than 97 K-cups for $23 or $0.237 per cup.
How big the difference is between two coffees that are the same but one is packed in K-cups and the other in a big bag, is different per coffee. But the big bag is always going to be cheaper because there is just a lot less packaging material in it you have to pay for.
Of course to use the bigger, cheaper bags of coffee, you need reusable cups. Those cups cost money as well. However, they are well worth the money. There are tons of choices for reusable K-cups for under $10 and then you get 4 or 6 of them. You’ll make that money back in savings very quickly.
For example the difference per cup for Illy Classico is $0.38. $10/$0.38=26.3. So after 27 cups, you’ll break even.
The difference per cup for the Starbucks Breakfast Blend is 0.473. $10/0.473= 21.14. So after 22 cups you’ll break even.
However, reusable cups almost exclusively use a stainless steel screen to filter out the grounds. Normal K-cups have a paper filter inside. Paper filters filter more grounds and oils out of the coffee which leads to a different taste. Not everyone is a fan of metal filtered coffee.
There is a solution though: paper filters for reusable cups. They allow you to get as close to the taste of normal K-cups are possible. They do add about $0.05 per cups though. So it’ll take a little longer before you break even.
How To Use Reusable Cups To Get The Best Coffee
Reusable K-cups help save you money and produce less plastic waste which is already a win-win situation (except for the producers of K-cups).
Where things get exciting though is the potential improvements in taste though. You can fill the reusable cups with any coffee you like. From the most exclusive specialty coffee to the pre-ground supermarket coffee, it’s all possible. Whatever you like the taste of you can put in the cups. You could even add cardamom, and/or cinnamon powder or other spices to make your cup more interesting and create your own pumpkin spice coffee.
If you are less interested in th money savings and more interested in the potential taste improvements, you can spend the extra money on better coffee. Specialty coffee isn’t cheap but if you’ve never tried any you should, just to see if you like it.
Take a look at Volcanica coffee for example (Amazon link). While their coffee is a lot more expensive than the big brands, it’s much higher quality as well. And if you do the math, you’ll see that even this higher quality coffee is still cheaper than most K-cups.
If you want to use Pre-ground coffee, make sure it’s fresh. Coffee goes stale pretty quickly after being ground and the taste goes downhill. Try to find a local coffee roaster and ask them for some help. They can guide you through what you need and they can grind it for you as well. That way you support a local business and you have fresher, better tasting coffee.
I know, you bought a Keurig for the convenience but if you really want the best tasting coffee, you want to grind fresh beans just before using the grounds. You’ll get decent results by using high quality pre-ground coffee but grinding your own just takes it up a notch.
You can get a basic hand grinder for about $30 but if you want a pleasurable grinding experience, spending a bit more and going for the Timemore C2 is a good idea (Amazon link). That is a very fast and smooth grinder that also feels great in your hand and will last a long time with its stainless steel burrs and machined metal body. The C2 will grind the 12 grams for a K-cup in about 25 seconds so it’s not that much of a time investment.
Electric grinders are also an option but expect to pay quite a lot more than for a hand grinder. The Baratza Encore (Amazon link) is a solid choice for an electric grinder.
For K-cups, you can grind medium-fine to medium (roughly table salt size particles). The good thing is that you have another factor of control over your coffee by controlling the grind size. The downside is that you have to somewhat understand what you’re doing to get the best results.
Grinding your own coffee is a pleasure for some people and others hate it. I personally enjoy the hands on experience and the aromas that are released. However, since you bought a Keurig machine likely for convenience, grinding your own coffee might not be up your alley.
If you’re not sure, start by getting good coffee ground by your local roaster and see if you like the results and take it from there.
That said, if you don’t want a new hobby, maybe don’t get a coffee grinder. It’s very easy to get into coffee way more than other people think is normal…