Is A Keurig Coffee Brewer Worth Buying? Keurig Economics


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Is a Keurig brewer worth buying? There are a few factors that go into making that decision and it’s not the same for everone.

By using a Keurig and single use K-cups, you are paying a premium for convenience. Using reusable K-cups and filling them with ground coffee can actually be cheaper than a drip coffee maker if you don’t factor in the cost of the Keurig machine.

Let’s dive in a little deeper so you can make a decision for yourself.

Who Is a Keurig Brewer For?

The first thing you should take into consideration is who a Keurig machine is meant for. If it’s not for you, paying anything would be too much.

A Keurig is mainly built as a Nespresso competitor. Nespresso is an incredibly profitable venture for Nestle so it should be no surprise that other companies are trying to get into the coffee cup game and successfully so in Keurigs case. All coffee pod brewers are single cup brewers. You can usually choose the amount of liquid you get but it’s meant to be for a single person.

If you mainly brew coffee a single cup at a time, a Keurig is a convenient solution. Need more than one cup at the same time? A drip brewer is still a better option.

Coffee pod machines are very popular and the main reason for this is convenience and an upgrade in taste over the standard large batch drip coffee brewer. They also brew a single cup which can be a pro or con depending on your situation.

Keurig machines (and other pod brewers) are very convenient and fast. You put a K-cup in the machine, place a mug on the drip tray and push a button. About a minute later, you have a fresh cup of coffee. This combination of speed and ease of use is hard to beat with especially if you combine that with what is acceptable taste for most people. Sure, instant coffee is even easier but it’s not like that tastes very good in most cases.

The taste is usually better compared to coffee that comes from a cheap drip brewer and/or has been kept hot for a while. If it’s good, that’s up to you to decide. It’s a good idea to try a cup from a Keurig brewer before you buy one.

If you expect the coffee quality you get from a good coffee shop, a Keurig machine is not going to provide that. It’s possible to get better tasting coffee from a drip coffee maker but requires a drip maker that’s a bit higher quality than the most basic ones and the use of good coffee, preferably freshly ground.

For most people, a K-cup coffee brewer is going to be good enough coffee that’s very easy to make and if that’s you, you should consider it.

Suggested: How to make K-cup coffee taste better?

How Much Does a Keurig Brewer Cost?

K-cup brewers come in a range with different qualities, features and looks. They range from about $40 for a non-Keurig branded machine to up to #275 for a higher end domestic Keurig machine. They do have some commercial models that are more expensive but for at home, there is no reason to get one of those.

If you want a little more information, I’ve written a whole post about how muck K-cup Keurig brewers cost

The branded Keurig machines start at about $70 and go up from there. How much you should spend depends mainly on the features you want. Taste wise there isn’t going to be a big difference for the basic settings. However, the more expensive machines have more options and features that can help to fine-tune the taste to your liking.

Some of the most important features that are possible on Keurig machines:

  • Cup size: Most K-cup brewers have the option to select which size cup you want. The most basic machines actually lack this option and it’s important to have. All it does is push more or less water through the K-cup and so fill your mug more or less.
  • ‘Strong’ button: This changes the brew program to push water through the K-cup in pulses so it hangs out with the coffee grounds longer. This makes stronger coffee but comes at the expense of more bitterness. Some people like this, others don’t but it’s good to have the option. Especially if you like to mix your coffee with milk, that extra bitterness can be nice.
  • Hot water: Some brewers have the option to just give you hot water without needing to put a K-cup in the machine. This can be good if you want to brew coffee or make instant noodles and don’t have a kettle.
  • Temperature control: The higher end models have a display and a menu with some settings. One of the most important settings there is the temperature control. This doesn’t only change the temperature of the liquid that comes out but also the brew temperature. The brew temperature can change how strong your coffee is brewed. Hotter water makes stronger, but also more bitter coffee.
  • Timer: If you don’t care about the temperature, maybe this feature will interest you: A timer. You put the cup in and set the timer to whatever time you want. It then brews automatically at that time. Great for getting coffee first thing in the morning without having to do anything. Don’t forget to put a mug on the drip tray though.
  • Milk frother: Would you like a latte? Most Keurig brewers don’t have the option to make this. Some of them have a built in automatic milk frother. So you’ll still have to combine the coffee and milk yourself but it only takes the push of a single button to get both.

Suggested: What do the buttons on a Keurig do?

If you like all the features but don’t need the milk frother, the K-Elite (Amazon) is a great option. If you want a built in milk frother, the K-café (Amazon) will do the trick.

On the other hand, if you just want a simple brewer that makes you a cup of coffee and nothing else, the K-Mini Plus (Amazon) is a good option. You just put in the amount of water you want and it brews that much. If you want it stronger, there is a strong button and that’s it. Cheap, small, simple.

How Much Does a Keurig Cost To Run?

The buying price of the machine is one thing. Over the lifespan of the machine, the running costs are a much bigger expense. Here’s where things get interesting. You’re probably aware you’re paying a premium for K-cups over a normal bag of coffee but how much might surprise you.

It can be difficult to compare K-cups and bags of coffee since they’re often not exactly the same. There are a few coffees we can compare one on one though:

  • Starbucks Breakfast blend 32 K-cups: $22
  • Starbucks Breakfast Blend 28 oz. (793 gr). Ground coffee: $15

For the K-cups that means you pay $0.69 per cup.

For the ground coffee you can look at it two ways;

  • Use reusable K-cups
  • Use a drip coffee maker

K-cups are filled with 9-12 grams of ground coffee depending on roast level. For a medium roast like the Breakfast blend, it’ll be around 10.5 grams. That means you could fill 75.5 K-cups with the 28 oz. bag of coffee. This means only $0.20 per cup. You’ll have to buy reusable cups but that’s only a small one time expense.

The difference per cup is $0.49. That might not sound like a lot but if you drink one cup a day, that’s $178 per year. The reusable cups cost about $10 so you would save about $168 per year by changing to reusable cups.

Suggested: Can you use regular coffee grounds in a Keurig brewer?

In a drip coffee maker, I like to use a bit more grounds; 18.75 grams per 10 oz./300 ml.  That means you can make 42 cups of coffee with the 28 oz. bag which means $0.36 per cup. This is still a lot cheaper than K-cups. You could buy quite expensive specialty coffee, brew it with a pour over method and it’s still cheaper than K-cups.

You do have to factor in the cost of the paper filters here which is about $0.02 a piece for the basic ones. That means you pay about $0.38 per cup. That’s still $0.31 cheaper than K-cups. That’s a $113.15 saving per year at a single cup a day.

Total coffee cost per year @ 1 cup a day:

  • Starbucks K-cups: +-$251.85
  • Reusable K-cups with starbucks coffee: $73 (+$10 for reusable cups)
  • Starbucks coffee in drip coffee brewer: $138.7

Of course this is just one example but there is just no way that something packed per portion in a plastic cup is cheaper than in a single large bag.

The reusable K-cups are clearly the cheapest but you have to buy a Keurig machine. Most people already have a drip coffee maker so that’s no added cost. You can make good drip coffee but it requires a more expensive machine (A good one can actually cost more than a high end Keurig) and some technique (And ideally freshly ground coffee). Most people that like the convenience of a Keurig are not looking to spend more time and effort brewing their coffee.

So the Reusable K-cups are looking pretty good here. However, you are giving up a little in taste and convenience. The single use K-cups are nitrogen packed which means the coffee grounds don’t touch any oxygen until the cup is pierced. This keeps the coffee fresh for longer resulting in a better taste.

Using a bag of pre-ground coffee to fill reusable K-cups is significantly cheaper but you’ll lose a little taste because the bag is opened regularly and that will cause the coffee to go stale over time. Filling the cups also takes a bit more time.

You could get good results grinding fresh beans and putting those grounds in a reusable K-cup but at that point, it’s really defeating the purpose of a Keurig machine and you’re better off using a different brew method.

The difference in cost between a drip machine and reusable K-cups is almost enough to buy a basic Keurig brewer after one year. And after two years the difference is enough to buy a nice one.

Single use K-cups are significantly more expensive which is the price you pay for convenience. If that’s worth it is up to you. It wouldn’t be for me but I like the process of brewing coffee so using K-cups would actually take something away from my enjoyment of coffee.

Suggested: What’s the difference between K-cups and regular coffee?

Environmental cost

This isn’t only a problem for Keurigs but all coffee pod style brewers. They are incredibly wasteful. The brewing process itself is actually not bad and comparable to other styles of brewing. The cups themselves are a problem though.

They are made of plastic and/or aluminum and are single use items. After brewing you throw them out. In Keurigs case they are claiming to make their cups from only recyclable plastic but the chances of that plastic actually being recycled is a question.

Convenience comes at a cost and not only a monetary one. Even if it does get recycled, it probably goes through a facility that’s to some degree financed by your tax money anyways. This might not be a reason for you to change your coffee habits but it’s something to be aware of.

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