How Do K-Cups Work – Understanding the Process

Being a true coffee addict, you might have come across the k-cup coffee brewing and all those coffee pods, but do you really know how do k-cups work?

Brewing coffee with a Keurig K-cup is simple, fast and convenient.

We all love our morning cup of coffee to be perfect – full of refreshing aroma, giving us the boost we need to go on about the frenetic day ahead. K-cups help you achieve that.

What Are K-Cups?

K-cups were a breakthrough in the coffee world when they were first introduced in 1997 by Keurig. The idea was to solve the conventional problem of office coffee, as a full pot of coffee gets stale and bitter by sitting in a pot for long hours.

Keurig is a brand that is renowned for their coffee machines. Keurig K-cups are easily and readily available. Initially designed for office use, now they are widely used in houses as well because of the convenience factor and the seamless cup of coffee.

They are available in supermarkets, convenience stores and online. They have a range of licensed vendors from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Newman’s Own, Peet’s and many more. They are widely placed and available at affordable prices.

What are K-Cups Made of?

K-cups are made of the following four components:

Outer Plastic Exterior

The exterior blocks out heat, air and light. It protects your coffee and lets it remain fresh as new. 

Paper Filter

A paper filter that extracts the maximum flavor from the coffee.

Seal of Foil

A seal of foil. It ensures that your coffee is air tight and no humidity or moisture can enter it.

A perfectly measured quantity of coffee. It provides the best taste and keeps the taste consistent whenever you use it.

Let us have a look at the structure of a K-cup in detail.

The Outside

The first thing noticed in any product is undoubtedly, its exterior. Hence it is important that the exterior is not just appealing but is able to withstand corrosion and is resistant to heat, light and harsh temperatures.

There is a tinfoil lid over a K-cup that is normally made of food safe plastic (polystyrene). The cup is not only heat resistant but moisture and light resistant as well. The contents are kept secure and fresh.

However, concerns were raised over the environmental sustainability of K-cups. A lot of companies being aware of this concern to save the environment and our planet earth, experimented with making K-cups with alternative materials.

Although finding plastics that are suited to the one being used by Keurig has proven to be challenging.

The Inside

There is a paper inside the K-cup that is fixed with an adhesive. This adhesive is food safe. Inside there is ground coffee. The exterior made up of polystyrene plastic protects it against high temperatures and make it heat and moisture resistant.

There are more steps taken to make sure that the coffee does not get stale or tastes bad for that matter.

Firstly, the coffee beans are let to degas – a process that releases carbon dioxide which is released as a result of roasting.

Secondly, once the grounded beans are put inside the cup, the inside air is mixed with nitrogen. This nitrogen is inert and refrains the product from spoiling.

How To Use K-cups?

Brewing coffee with a Keurig K-cup is simple, fast and convenient.

  1. First you have to place the K-cup in the brewing chamber of the machine.
  2. Once the chamber has been closed and handle is pulled down, a small needle will appear that will perforate the uppermost lid made up of foil.
  3. When the needle ruptures the top lid, it will penetrate the coffee with water that is pressurized and at a high temperature.
  4. Simultaneously, another needle perforates the bottom of the K-cup.
  5. When it penetrates from the bottom, a fresh coffee, rich in aroma and taste pours into your mug.
  6. Your coffee is ready without you having to even make it. How amazing is that!

Convenience Offered by K-Cups

In the modern world, where we are all so slammed up with our busy lives, having a technology where you don’t have to make an effort for your coffee is like a dream come true.

Let us now have a look at some of the positives of using k-cups:

Easy Single Cup Serving

K-cup gives you single cup serving of your favorite coffee blend. It does that when you can read up on the news and catch up on the happenings of the world.

An absolute time saver in this life when no one has time to spare in order to making their freshly brewed coffee.

More or Less Coffee? No Problem

You don’t have to measure coffee and worry about if you will accidentally pour in less or more and might ruin the taste. All you need to do is put in the K-cup into the coffee brewer and that is pretty much it!

Perfect for Beverages Other Than Coffee

K-cups are not just used for coffee, but you can also make tea, hot chocolate and any other hot beverage of your liking. Even in coffee, there is a wide range of options and blends to choose from.

Easy Cleaning

You make zero mess. This means no time and effort is wasted on cleaning. You get your hot cup of coffee and its ready to be sipped on.

Insanely Quick

Average time used on making coffee from K-cups is one minute.

You can reuse k-cups, but coffee taste might be compromised.

K-cups VS Pods

Coffee pods are flat and round in shape. Their size is generally larger. They are also called soft pods and coffee pads. They are much like the tea pods with the difference that they contain ground coffee instead.

K- cup contains ground coffee and other beverage of choice in an air-tight plastic (polystyrene) cup, as the name indicates.

One similarity between K-cups and coffee pods is that both contain ground coffee.

Compatible Coffee Brewers

It is imperative to note that K-cups only work in K-cup compatible brewers and not in ordinary coffee brewers.

The new 2.0 K-Cups are only compatible with Keurig 2.0 machines which is rather unfortunate but there’s a built-in scanner inside these machines that detects an exclusive ink on the top of the cups.

However, if you are using capsules from Keurig Dr. Pepper (previously also called Green Mountain) you should be just fine.

Caffeine Levels in K-Cups

One K-cup usually has about 75-125 mg of caffeine in them. While this is a rather vague answer, there are so many factors that determine the level of caffeine present in a K-Cup, hence you cannot say if all the k-cups have the same amount of caffeine in them.

As opposed to the popular notion that light roast has more caffeine in it than dark roast – dark roasted beans usually are exposed to heat for longer periods of time and hence caffeine is broken down.

The Keurig K-Cups contain 20 percent more coffee in them. This clearly means that the amount off caffeine in a Keurig K-cup is higher than others.

Difference of Coffee Beans

Different types of beans contain different quantities of caffeine in them.

If a coffee is ground finer, it will contain more caffeine. Keurig K-Cups usually have coffee ground on the medium to finer side. 

The amount of time a coffee is being brewed will have an effect on the quantity of caffeine that is extricated. For example, French press coffee contains one of the highest caffeine substances since the general practise is to let the coffee steep for about four minutes. 

Water Temperature

If you use hotter water for brewing coffee, it will contain higher amount of caffeine in it. Although it is highly advised that the temperature for brewing should not exceed 212 degrees.

Choosing the Perfect Blend

Hence, there are too many factors to determine exact amount of caffeine in a Keurig K-cup. But if we take all other things in consideration, an extra bold and medium roast Keurig K-Cup is likely to have higher number of calories.

If you do not wish to get a heavy dosage of caffeine, then dark roast K-Cups might just be the right option for you. They are less in caffeine content. Besides, they are less acidic as compared to the light roast K-Cups. They contain a compound called NMP, which reduces discomfort of the stomach.

Dark roasted coffee has almost double the amount of this compound as compared to the light roast coffee which is a very important factor for the health buffs who choose their K-Cups after giving a considerable thought to its contents.

How Many Times Can You Use a K-Cup

K-cups are designed for single use only. Once you have consumed the beverage, they are meant to be thrown away. However, you can reuse them through Keurig reusable coffee filters.

You can add loose ground coffee to your Keurig reusable filter each time and after each brew all you have to do is just clean it out before next use.

Recycling a K-Cup

Your K-Cup consists of 5 things. The plastic (polyester) cup, paper filter, lid, coffee (about 11gms) and nitrogen. Nitrogen is used so as to increase the life of coffee in the K-cup and prevent it from getting stale and going bad. It gives a pleasant aroma to the coffee and it lasts longer.

We have read that these things are recyclable. But the fact of the matter is, the entire K-cup cannot be recycled. In order to recycle it, one would need to take the lid off, compost the ground coffee, throw away tinfoil lid and paper filter.

The plastic exterior of your K-cup cannot be recycled fully and can only be recycled in some places.

While Keurig certainly is the market leader in manufacturing K-cups, it does not take the crown for making completely recyclable and bio-degradable K-cups.

For starters, it is a wise approach to not hoard the K-cups and limit the number of K-cups you buy from your convenience store or super market.

Keurig Patented Groundbreaking Innovation

The K-cup technology introduced first and foremost by Keurig is simple yet unbelievably ground-breaking and innovative.

Keurig K-cups are generally designed to brew a single cup of coffee, hot chocolate, tea or any other hot beverage. K-cups are single-serving coffee containers. Due to their potential to make a perfect cup of coffee, their demand is increasing rapidly and for all the right reasons.

Each K-Cup has precisely measured ground coffee and is contained in a mess free filter. It locks in the flavor and freshness in an air-tight chamber. It locks out oxygen and humidity. Pressurized water flows through the K-cup at an ideal temperature ensuring optimal brewing.

The technically advanced filter extracts maximum flavor as the coffee is brewed inside the K-Cup. You can choose from an assortment of over 200 of your favorite coffee, tea, hot cocoa, iced tea and a lot of different other beverages brewed according to your taste buds.

Impacting Coffee Lovers Lifestyle

With this incredible technology, the creators took coffee brewing to the easiest and most convenient level, one cup at a time. It is similar to drip style coffee brewing. The Keurig technology is the most advanced, sophisticated and impeccable till date.

A lot of different manufacturers have tried to replicate the quality produced by Keurig but very few have come close to producing something as done by Keurig.

Some consumers have also tried to make their own K-cups at home using special adapters, but as cost effective making your own K-cup might be, it does not taste as good or functions as seamlessly as the original K-cup.

Downside of Using K-Cups

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies with K-Cups all the time. There are some drawbacks of using them as well.

Firstly, Keurig K-Cups don’t come cheap. Since avid coffee lovers consume coffee on a daily basis, K-cups can be heavy on your pocket as compared to the regular ground coffee. For one serving, you will have to pay $0.80 and for 1 pound, around $30.

The brewing process cannot be changed to your liking and things like water, temperature and dosage are fixed. These factors cannot be controlled.

K-cups don’t necessarily contain fresh coffee. Fresh, roasted ground coffee releases carbon dioxide (CO2) till 2 weeks after it has been roasted. Hence it is not scientifically possible to make them airtight completely and seal them as it would make the cups blow up, literally.

Our Conclusion on K-Cups

The K-cups are a super-efficient and modern way of brewing your daily cup of Joe. However, to get the classic coffee taste, you need to know how do K-cups work and the best way to brew using a Keurig machine.

It is true that they help us with saving time and energy in making coffee everyday which can be a mundane task.

However, these K-Cups are also increasing the number of waste products in the world as they are not advised to be used after one time and reusing them does compromise on your coffee taste.