Best Espresso K Cups For 2020 — Exploring The Creativity Of Keurig

A shot of espresso is a great way to enjoy your coffee. A flavorful and complex espresso is tough to beat in taste and the kick it gives. While there is an ever-increasing number of coffee options available, the espresso can easily hold its own.



Getting a “true” espresso out of your Keurig is a tough ask. However, the ingenuity of this machine and its use of K cups makes way for a delicious espresso. We take a look at the best espresso K cups on offer and see where they stand. 

Conventionally, espresso requires high pressure to brew. These K cups creatively get around the pressure requirement to deliver a stunning shot of espresso.

Top Espresso Pods For Your Shopping List

  1. Brooklyn Beans Express-O Coffee Pods
  2. Caribou Coffee Caribou Caramel, Single-Serve Coffee K-Cup Pods
  3. Cafe Bustelo K-cup Packs, Espresso Style
  4. Lavazza Espresso Classico Keurig Rivo Pack
  5. Gevalia Mocha Latte Espresso Coffee with Froth Packets
  6. Barista Prima Espresso Roast Coffee Keurig K-Cups
  7. Timothy’s World Coffee Rainforest Espresso Coffee K-Cups
  8. Black Rhino Espresso Roast Coffee

Editor’s Choice: Cafe Bustelo K-cup Packs, Espresso Style

Cafe Bustelo K Cups

Cafe Bustelo seems like a natural pick for this section. This Cafecito (Cuban espresso) has consistently been one of the strongest K cups available. It’s bold, satisfying, and overall delicious coffee that works wonders with flavor and taste.

This dark roast is pleasant with the espresso feel. Additionally, Cafe Bustelo is remarkably easy to make, even without K cups. But since we have the added convenience of K cups here, these pretty much take the cake!

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Reviewed: Keurig Espresso Pods Of Note

1. Brooklyn Beans Express-O Coffee Pods

Brooklyn Beans Express-O Coffee Pods

Going strong and “extra bold” is the key premise of Brooklyn Beans Express-O Coffee Pods. According to the company, this coffee is “Hold on to the overhead subway strap for dear life type of strong”. I guess the moral of the story here is that it’s pretty darn strong!

It does get the flavor and feel of espresso quite right. The full-bodied cup with a strong, smoky sensation will deliver the kick you’ve been looking for. This is one of the few instances where the marketing lines from the company aren’t far off the truth. Go in with realistic expectations, and it delivers what it promises.

K Cup Highlights

  • High quality coffee
  • Strong and bold espresso roast coffee
  • Plastic cups used are recyclable

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2. Caribou Coffee Caribou Caramel, Single-Serve Coffee K-Cup Pods

A flavored espresso with a full body, this one has got things going for it. While I’m not a fan of flavored espresso in general, those new to black coffee might find it helpful. Plus, for many, a change of flavor is a welcome prospect.

Caribou Coffee Caribou Caramel, Single-Serve Coffee K-Cup Pods brew a wonderful espresso in caramel flavor. These pods brew specialty coffee and are recommended for K Café and K Latte brewers, though they are compatible with other Keurig machines as well.

K Cup Highlights

  • Caramel flavored espresso roast
  • Strong coffee
  • The flavor sits in well with the brew

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3. Cafe Bustelo K-cup Packs, Espresso Style

Café Bustelo Coffee Espresso Style Dark Roast Coffee

These pods are our top choice for this category. Cafe Bustelo K-cups brew an exceptionally strong and wonderful cup of coffee. As far as flavor is concerned, these pods get the closest to a genuine espresso. The rich, full-bodied shot of espresso with Cafe Bustelo is quite remarkable. 

Cafe Bustelo works well in any form, whether it’s the K cup or a can of the coffee. If you enjoy these pods, it might be worthwhile to get a can of this coffee and brew it with reusable K cups. It’s better for the environment and you save a good amount of money.

K Cup Highlights

  • Exceptionally strong and flavorful coffee
  • Pretty close to authentic espresso feel

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4. Lavazza Espresso Classico Keurig Rivo Pack

Lavazza Espresso Classico Keurig Rivo Pack

Lavazza Espresso Classico Keurig Rivo Pack is an exception compared to the other K cups on this list. These pods are designed to deliver a genuine espresso brewed by the Keurig Rivo. This was an espresso maker from Keurig designed to work on the pressure and temperature requirements of a classic espresso. The downside is that it’s locked to Lavazza pods.

Keurig no longer makes this machine, though pods are available for users who own the machines. If you’re interested in one, you might be able to get hold of a used machine, though there’s no benefit in that exercise.

Espresso Classico pods do brew an excellent espresso in line with the classic expectations. It is strong, flavorful, and complex, just what you want your espresso to be. This full-bodied medium roast delivers quite an experience.

K Cup Highlights

  • Excellent espresso brewed under the right pressure
  • Compatible only with Keurig Rivo machines
  • Great taste and flavor

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5. Gevalia Mocha Latte Espresso Coffee with Froth Packets

I am an admirer of Gevalia’s espresso approach. These K cups aren’t made to brew an espresso, but to build on an espresso. Sure, you can use these as regular espresso pods, but you’d be losing out on the rich taste. Gevalia builds on the espresso to deliver flavorful mocha or latte.

Gevalia Mocha Latte Espresso Coffee with Froth Packets delivers an excellent mocha experience. You’ll have to do a little more work than with conventional K cups, but it’s well worth the effort. The extra step involves using the froth packet.

To brew this Mocha Latte Espresso, place the K cup in your Keurig. As the second step, pour the froth packet into your cup. Now choose the brew settings and let the coffee pour into the cup. A delicious mocha is ready!

K Cup Highlights

  • Brews an excellent mocha
  • Great flavor, texture, and taste
  • Makes use of a two-step brewing process

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6. Barista Prima Espresso Roast Coffee Keurig K-Cups

Barista Prima Espresso Roast Coffee Keurig K-Cups

Barista Prima Espresso Roast Coffee Keurig K-Cups promise a bold, savory cup of European-style espresso. It does make a pretty good cup, though it seems to lack the complexity you’d expect from an espresso. The taste notes of bittersweet chocolate are quite enjoyable.

Though this coffee is “strong” it seems to lack the caffeine kick expected from a brew like this. It doesn’t quite hit the boldness expected. I’m not saying this is bad coffee, I’m saying I expected more. Once you remove those expectations, this is a pretty decent cup of espresso roast coffee.

K Cup Highlights

  • Strong and bold coffee, but could be better
  • The bittersweet chocolate notes can get blanketed by the “bitter” notes
  • The coffee tastes good, even with some shortcomings

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7. Timothy’s World Coffee Rainforest Espresso Coffee K-Cups

Timothy's World Coffee Rainforest Espresso Coffee K-Cups

Timothy’s World Coffee Rainforest Espresso Coffee K-Cups takes a bold approach to deliver amazing espresso-style coffee. Taking the bolder route, these K cups include 25% more coffee than the average K cup. Given the strong coffee and quantity, you get a surprisingly good and impressive brew to enjoy.

The smooth and rich coffee is full-bodied and enjoyable. Another good thing is that this coffee tends to lean on the lower side of acidity. So you get to enjoy a strong brew without having to worry about the acidity a conventional espresso brings along.

K Cup Highlights

  • Bold K Cup with 25% more coffee
  • Strong taste and flavor

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8. Black Rhino Espresso Roast Coffee

Black Rhino Espresso Roast Coffee

Black Rhino Espresso Roast Coffee takes the route of interesting packaging and branding to show that it’s a strong coffee. Keeping with the theme and to do some good, the company says a percentage of its profits are donated towards conservation efforts for the black rhino.

The espresso roast in this K cup is strong and smooth. Though it makes its strong side quite obvious, it carefully avoids going to the bitter side. It walks a fine line there, and if you’re not quite settled in with espresso roasts, this coffee might feel bitter. 

K Cup Highlights

  • Strong and flavorful coffee
  • Good espresso roast, but can feel bitter as a small espresso shot

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Honorable Mention: SF Bay Coffee Espresso Roast

SF Bay Coffee Espresso Roast

Not so long ago, SF Bay Coffee Espresso Roast would have been my top recommendation. It’s a wonderful blend with a strong taste and great flavor. Plus, they use a special packaging, which means these are compostable and biodegradable K cups

The reason I don’t specifically recommend these right now is because the flavor doesn’t quite seem to hold up to how good it used to be. Here’s hoping they find their way back to awesomeness.

Tips And FAQs Related To Espresso And Keurig Machines

Does Starbucks Make Espresso K Cups?

Not exactly. While Starbucks does offer espresso pods, they are not compatible with Keurig and other companies that have the same single-serve system. 

Starbucks offers Verismo Espresso Roast Espresso Pods that are fairly popular. However, these pods only work with Starbucks Verismo machines. As such, while these pods may look fairly similar to the K cup, these aren’t Starbucks espresso K cups.

Can You Make Espresso With A Keurig?

The average Keurig machine cannot brew a “genuine” espresso. Usually, it is recommended that espresso be brewed at a pressure of at least nine bars, and that’s something your average Keurig simply cannot achieve. Additionally, the water temperature should be in the range of 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit, but Keurigs generally stay below this temperature.

However, many K cup makers get around this problem by using creative roasts and blends that bring the flavor of coffee pretty close to espresso. It won’t be a “genuine” espresso, but it gets pretty close.

One noteworthy exception is the Keurig Rivo system. The discontinued machine was designed to brew espresso and meet the pressure and temperature requirements. Since this is a different (and discontinued) line, it can be said that the average Keurig doesn’t brew a genuine espresso.

Is Espresso Roast The Same As Espresso?

Short answer: no. Espresso is a beverage, while the espresso roast is a coffee roast. While many prefer the espresso roast to brew espresso, it is not a necessity. An espresso roast, at best, is a recommendation from the seller/manufacturer to brew espresso from the coffee. It is not a necessity to brew espresso.

Many consider the espresso roast to be slightly ahead of the French roast and just a step behind the being getting burnt. At this point of the very dark roast, the coffee bean is practically coated in oil.

This is expected to result in a rich crema that tops the espresso shot. Remember, there is no standard and the definition of espresso roast can vary from roaster-to-roaster and manufacturer-to-manufacturer.

However, you can get a perfect crema from other roasts, including medium roasts as well. So, the roast is more a matter of preference, rather than a necessity to brew espresso.

Can You Make Espresso Without A Machine?

It is possible to brew espresso without a machine. Generally, machines are used to reach the desired pressure seen necessary for a classic espresso. Other methods can be used to brew espresso without the use of pressure. 

The most common technique is the Moka Pot that has been traditionally used to brew an espresso-style beverage. Moka Pot coffee is popular and worth a try. Other methods that can be used are French press or Keurig K cups. None of these two methods will brew a genuine espresso, but they can make a good imitation.

On Using Espresso Coffee Grind With Keurig Machines

Espresso is generally brewed through a very fine coffee grind. Keurig, as a drip coffee maker, uses medium ground coffee. If you know how to use reusable K cups, never try to fill them with fine ground coffee meant for espresso. 

The fine coffee grounds will likely clog the filter and create a mess. It is better to use a specialized roast and coffee meant for your Keurig machine. Using fine coffee grounds meant for espresso will not help brew an espresso in your Keurig coffee maker.

Final Thoughts On Espresso Pods For Your Keurig

As we see, brewing espresso in your Keurig needs a bit of creativity and a touch of art. The coffee maker gets close to brewing a genuine espresso by using the best espresso K cups. It is a testament to the versatility of this machine and the creativity of K cups.

My top recommendation here would be to try the Cafe Bustelo K-cup. You can also consider the Brooklyn Beans Express-O Coffee Pods for a strong taste and kick. I’ll also recommend trying the Gevalia Mocha Latte Espresso Coffee with Froth Packets. It’s quite well-made and has excellent texture and taste.