What Do The Buttons On a Keurig Do? How To Use A K-cup Machine

Just got your new Keurig machine and aren’t too sure what the buttons do? Here’s what you want to know.

Keurig coffee brewers have different buttons depending on the model but most are quite easy to understand. Most brewers have: On/off, size, and strong buttons. Some of the higher-end models add a few features to the machine that have their own buttons.

Find out all the buttons and what they do below. You can also find out how to brew your first cup of coffee with your machine.

Keurig Machine Buttons

There are a lot of different machines that brew with K-cups. Most of them are from Keurig but some other brands make coffee brewers that can use the same cups. I’ll just look at the Keurig machine buttons in this article but the other machines often do things very similarly although they might seem a bit different.

How many buttons you have on your coffee brewer depends on the model. Keurig has quite a few coffee brewers that all use the K-cups. While they look different, the buttons often do the same things although the more expensive models do have a few more features with separate buttons to control those features.

The K-mini only has two buttons: on/off and start. You decide the cup size by how much you fill the reservoir. It’s super simple but also a bit basic. Pretty much all other Keurig brewers have a few more buttons.

Here are the buttons you can find on a Keurig coffee brewer:

  • On/off: I really hope the functionality of this button doesn’t require any explanation. Some brewers do have an auto-off function so if you left it alone for a while and it’s turned off, just turn it back on.
  • Cup size: Some brewers have separate buttons for the different sizes while others have a plus or minus button. The result is the same.  You simply select how much coffee you want. It’s up to you to put the correct size cup in the machine. Most Keurig coffee brewers have a drip tray so the mess is limited if your cup is too small but it’s still a waste. Keep in mind, that the amount of coffee grounds in the cup stays the same no matter what size you select. That means when you select a bigger cup, more water is pushed through the same amount of grounds so you’ll have a more watery cup. You’ll get a thicker, fuller-bodied cup of coffee on the smallest size. That means the cup size selection will impact the taste of the coffee, not only the amount.
  • Strong: This is a function that’s not available on all Keurig machines. This button mainly impacts the bitterness of the coffee because that’s what most people associate with strength. It increases the strength by using a slower water flow rate. The water will pulse instead of a constant stream This means the water is in contact with the coffee grounds longer and has more time to extract them resulting in more bitter coffee. If this results in good tasting coffee depends on your taste and the specific cup you’re using.
  • Hot water: This button allows you to take hot water from the machine without a cup in place. This can be useful for brewing tea, instant noodles, etc.
  • Iced: A few Keurig machines have an ‘iced’ button. This engages a different brewing process that makes coffee the right way to serve over ice. Because ice dilutes coffee quite a bit, you want the coffee to be bold and strong. Keep in mind, that coffee brewed using this button is meant to be coffee served over ice so without ice it probably tastes a bit too intense.
  • Display: OK this is not a button. But sometimes you’ll have a display with some buttons (usually a setting and up/down button) next to it. What you can adjust here depends on the model. On the K-Elite you can set the Auto-off, brew temperature, clock, and automatic start. The automatic start means you can put in the cup and set exactly the time the machine will brew. So if you can’t wait one minute after waking up to get your caffeine, this is a good feature.  

Keurig indicator LED’s:

Besides buttons, there are a few indicator LEDs on most Keurig machines that tell you what’s going on

  • Add water: The reservoir is almost empty and should be refilled.
  • Descale: Water has minerals in it that can leave sediment on internal parts of the coffee machine. That sediment is called ‘scale’. This scale can clog up your coffee maker which means water doesn’t go where it should. When the machine detects there is too much buildup and starts to endanger the functionality of the machine, it will warn you through this LED. Check the manual of your machine for the exact descaling procedure. In most cases, it involves running the machine without a cup but with a cleaning solution in the water reservoir.

First time brewing K-cup coffee with a Keurig

Keurig machines are very easy to use. Even though there are a few buttons, first-time use is quite easy. Here’s how you do it.

Before you start:

  • Even though it’s not mentioned by the manufacturer, it’s a good idea to clean the water reservoir and pod holder before first use. You don’t know what got in there during transportation. Be careful, the pod holder has sharp needles on the bottom.
  • Also, the absolute first cup is probably best discarded after brewing. Just use the first cup to flush out the machine on the inside to get rid of anything that got in there in the factory or transportation. If your machine has a hot water function, you can use that to flush it.
  • You can choose to use the water filter that comes with some models. If you’re using tap water, it’s recommended to use this filter. If you have your own water filtration system it’s not necessary.

Brewing your first cup with a Keurig:

  • Turn on the machine.
  • Fill the water reservoir.
  • Place a cup/mug on the drip tray.
  • Open the pod holder cover. How this is done differs from machine to machine but usually, there is a little ledge you can pull on just above where the coffee comes out.
  • Take a K-cup from the packaging. Don’t take the foil off the cup.
  • Put the K-cup in the holder. You don’t have to push the cup in the holder hard enough to puncture the cup, that’ll be done when closing the machine.
  • Close the pod cover. There might be a little resistance from the needles puncturing the cup but it should be pretty smooth and click closed.
  • Select your desired cup size.
  • Wait until coffee stops coming out of the machine.

It’s super simple and basically, the only mistake you can make is putting the K-cup in the machine the wrong way around (which is very unlikely because that doesn’t really fit) and removing the foil on top of the cup. That’s a mistake you’ll only make once because it’ll be a mess if you do that.


Welcome to CoffeeImproved! Since falling in love with coffee, I've been on a journey to improve my morning cup day by day. That means I've tried many different brew methods, beans and equipment and experimented with all of them to find what I like. This is where I share what I've learned with you.

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