How Does a Keurig Work? – The Mechanism Explained

You might have made hundreds of coffee cups using your favorite Keurig coffee brewer, but do you really know how does a Keurig work?

In this guide, we will walk you through the working mechanism and various elements associated with a Keurig coffee maker.

Keurig started out initially as a workplace solution to stale and bitter coffee pots. Over the years, it gained popularity and has now dominated the majority of American households for brewing coffee.

The users must think there is some magic that changes the coffee inside a small K-cup into a rich, intense, strong and bold cup of coffee. However, we know that this magic is made of circuit boards, sensors and silicon tubing.

The Keurig of today is certainly not Mr. Coffee – that was popular in the times of our forefathers. Let us have a detailed look at the functioning of this amazing and sophisticated machine that made brewing coffee a piece of cake for all of us.

Keurig – A Brief Overview

Keurig was the brainchild of John Sylvan.  His aim was to resolve the centuries old problem of workplace coffee turning bitter and stale while being in the office kitchen all day.

John Sylvan first intended to making coffee pods that would be used to making one fresh and delicious cup of coffee at a time. Then he invented the Keurig machine to be used for brewing coffee with those one-time coffee pods.

This is how Keurig company came into being. John Sylvan with his college roommate, Peter Dragone founded it in the year 1992 in Massachusetts. His rationale behind the name was that he searched for the word “excellence” in Dutch. The Keurig translation in English is neat, exquisite and elegant.

The Design & Mechanism of K-Cup

The need of Sylvan to create a single serve coffee machine originated from the original concept of brewing coffee for one individual by using a coffee pod. It is now renowned as K-Cup.

It is important to note that it took a lot of trial and error methods to make the perfect K-Cup. The K-Cup has its own unique design and functionality.

K-cup is made of a small plastic container. Fitted inside is a small filter made of paper. Inside this paper filter, coffee grounds are placed. This is much like the basket and filter design that is seen in standard electric drip coffee brewer.

The coffee and filter are packed in the K-cup and sealed with an aluminium foil lid. K-cup is sprayed with nitrogen gas during the process of sealing to ensure there is no oxygen left in the cup.  This is to ensure that the grounds don’t oxidize and thus, don’t go stale.

The result of this process gives coffee that is impeccably portioned, perfectly packaged in a compact cup and is properly sealed. The K-cup has a long and steady shelf life since it is safeguarded from oxygen, humidity and light.

How Does a Keurig Brew Coffee?

It is very simple and convenient to make coffee with a Keurig machine. You just fill water in the reservoir, press the power button, and raise the lid up to drop the K-Cup.

Upon heating of water when Keurig senses an appropriately inserted K-cup, it just requires one more button to press to choose the ounces of coffee to brew.

Within a minute, your hot, fresh and rich cup of coffee dispenses from the Keurig machine into your coffee mug. This is the entire process that is required to brew coffee from Keurig machine. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Keurig machine is indeed very simple to function, giving you a delicious cup of coffee without any trouble and hassle. Everything on the outside is exquisite and elegant.

However, on the inside, it is an entirely different machine. A complex network of tubes, wires, circuit boards, heating elements and so on. The intricacy of design behind a simple K-cup coffee mug is mind baffling.

Let’s have a look at the comprehensive inner working of a Keurig machine.

Water – An Important Brewing Element

Another fundamental element required for brewing a coffee cup with Keurig machine is water, besides the coffee grounds in the K-cup. Even though the configuration changes according to the model, every Keurig machine at home has an easily available reservoir that holds the water which would ultimately become coffee.

The reservoir on Keurig machine containing water is more than a mere tank. There are some unique functions and properties that are necessary for the safe and proficient functioning of the machine.

The Filtering System

In order to extend the life of Keurig machine and to protect the interior components and mechanisms, the water tank contains a detachable and easy to change filtering system.

The base element has a mesh screen which refrains the residue from passing through water in the Keurig. There is a charcoal activated filter that rests on top of this base element. It is locked in place by a casing consisting of a long handle. This long handle makes the removing process easy.

There is a dial at the top and the numbers on it indicate every month of the year. This is used to reminder the owner of the machine that in a certain month, the filter will need to be changed.

The charcoal filter is can be replaced and it helps get rid of chemicals and impurities from the water container. This helps prevent the build-up of calcium in the internal components and the tubing system.

Charcoal purification lessens the taste and smell off chlorine in the water. Hence, it is good for the coffee drinker as it improves the coffee’s taste that is brewed as a result.

Water Level Sensor

The water container of Keurig machines consists of a closed “pocket” that lies against the machine once water reservoir is set in place properly. There is a magnetized disc inside this enclosed pocket. It floats when water is added in the container.

The magnetic disc then interacts with a sensor which is present inside the casing of Keurig to make sure there is sufficient water that the heating unit can be filled with it, so it does not become a fire threat.

It is vital that plenty of water must be present in order to keep the disc floating. So long as sufficient water is there, the Keurig operates unexceptionally from power up via brewing.

However, when the water amount drops in the container, so does the disc. Now the sensor in Keurig is no longer in contact with the disc so the heating element turns off. The LED “Add Water” indicator light turns on. Now unless water is added in the container, the Keurig will not operate normally.

Pumping System

When a Keurig machine is switched on, water is obtained from the outside reservoir into the heating element of Keurig in order for the brewing process to take place. A small pump is located along the filtering system on the interior of Keurig machine that gets this job done.

The water is accessed by the pump via an inlet in the perpetually attached base where the reservoir is put. The water is carried through the pump through the silicon tubes that are heat resilient and is emptied into the heating chamber.

The sensors are of varying heights in this component and they make sure that the water is heated continuously with each and every use despite of changing water levels.

As a safety measure, the water level gauge as mentioned above interrupts power to the heating system unless there is sufficient water available to fill the reservoir. Without this feature, the Keurig would be damaged and would be of no use whatsoever.

The red light on the top of Keurig warns the user when more water is necessary to continue and complete the cycle of brewing.

K-Cup Needles for Brewing Coffee

When the filter water has been pumped in the Keurig machine and is heated too, it’s about time to brew coffee. As we already know that the coffee grounds used in a Keurig are pre-measured and are sealed in individual pods made of plastic that are called the K-Cups.

Let’s have a look at how Keurig accesses the coffee in K-Cup. It is done via strategic positioning of some very sharp needles.

In order to fit in a K-cup in the Keurig for brewing coffee, one has to lift the large handle atop the machine. This shows a round shaped holder where the K-Cup is positioned. It also shows a lot of warnings about sharp items such as the needles.

One needle is positioned above the K-cup in the lid area of Keurig machine that lifts when the handle is raised. The other needle is positioned at the bottom of vessel holding the K-Cup.

When a K-cup is dropped in the Keurig, one hears an audible “pop” sound as needles perforate the foil lid on the top and plastic cup at the base of K-cup.

The Journey from K-Cup to a Hot and Delicious Cup of Coffee

Once the lid of Keurig machine has been closed, the blue LED lights start flashing because of the pressure sensors. This makes the user to choose the water volume that is to be poured.

Once the button is pushed, the Keurig gets to work. It pumps the warm water out of the heating chamber and to the K-cup holder.

When the water has reached the K-cup, it is pushed through the hole made in the aluminium foil top of the K-cup. It fills the empty side of the K-cup. Now this water saturates the grounds of coffee present in the K-cup, changing the plain water into coffee.

As a result of this, the coffee comes out of the K-cup through the hole made at the bottom of the K-cup.

Keurig is All About Technology

Technology has made life pretty simple for all of us. However, we know that the easier something is to use on the outside, the complex mechanism it has on the inside. Keurig machine is not exempted from this.

With all the extravagant features and operations, it is of no surprise that Keurig is also half computer. The different printed circuit boards (PCBs) found inside the machines are the true masterminds that make it function so effortlessly.

Power Supply Board

At the bottom of Keurig machine, inside where the power cord passes in the coffee maker, this tiny power supply board is located. This simple electrical component “filters” the movement of electric current in the Keurig machine.

This power supply board also has safety features besides delivering proper electrical input. These safety features help the Keurig against damages done by high voltage that could destroy the internal components of the machine or can even cause a fire.

Internal Circuit Board

The internal circuit board is located vertically towards the right interior of the machine. This board helps with the internal functioning of Keurig. The components in internal circuit board control the electrical movement in the machine so the pumping and heating elements can function proficiently and in a safe manner.

Upper Circuit Board

The upper circuit board is located horizontally. It is right below the top functioning control panel of the machine. It is the board that allows users to give instructions to the unit.

It consists of: power button (on-off), LED indicator lights, coffee size selection buttons and the auto off control.

Cleaning a Keurig Brewer

The Keurig brewers are durable and last long with frequent use. This is one of the reasons they are easy to maintain.

The Keurig machines have a small light. It is a “descale” light that shows up on the message center when the machine requires to be descaled.

The frequency with which you need to descale your brewer depends on the water hardness level. Some people living in the areas where there is hard water have to descale more than those living in soft water areas.

When the “descale” light shows, owners can use vinegar to descale the calcium residue in brewer pipes. Descaling is simple, run less concentrated vinegar through the Keurig brewing machine. This will let the vinegar deal with the residues all around the brewer.

Products like “Dezcal” can also be used for descaling your coffee brewer. It is a chemical approved by Keurig.

Cost Effective & Smart Solution for Offices

The first Keurig coffee maker was exclusively manufactured to be used for official use. The initial Keurig machines were large-sized units used for commercial purposes. They were “piped in” to water line of a water building. Once hooked up, they were immovable.

These primary Keurig machines transformed and modernized the entire office coffee drinking experience upon their installation.

With their introduction in the market, the days of mediocre quality pots were over. There were no more fire hazards with the burners being on for these coffee pots.

With a great variety of K-cups available, employees could brew their own fresh cup of coffee any time they wanted it, any way they preferred.

Keurig Home Brewers – The Perfect Coffee Machine at Home

After their office coffee brewers, it took about 6 years for the company to release another version, one that was more compact and affordable as well for domestic uses.

By the time Keurig released the first home brewer in the year 2004, they realized that many of their competitors had already realized this opportunity and released their own home brewers.

This strategy worked in the favor of Keurig as it had already established brand equity by being a favorite in thousands of workplaces. In very less time, Keurig dominated the single serve coffee market as well.

Wrapping Up Our Keurig Mechanism Guide

Although most of us have owned and used a Keurig machine for years, we never gave much thought to the functioning of a Keurig machine and how does a Keurig work, really.

It is pretty simple and straightforward on the outside – making a cup of coffee with Keurig but is a complex and detailed process on the inside.

Keurig – initially being only famous at workplaces and offices, is a multi-billion-dollar company and multi-faceted organization today. It has dominated both commercial and domestic markets.

It has further expanded the single-serving pods by introducing tea, hot cocoa, hot chocolate and other beverages, becoming the ultimate favorite of people of today.

If you love your cup of Joe made in a Keurig, then you should also know the way it works in order to use your machine to its fullest.