Single serve coffee brewer?
December 9, 2009 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Coffee pod? K-cup? It's been a while, so what's the best single-serve coffee option out there for a small office with competing interests?

We care about the environment, but also like good coffee -- and the consensus is single-serve is the way to go. In the $100-$150 range, any recommendations? Analysis?
posted by piro to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our office has a K-Cup machine, and it gets a ton of use (the "rainforest espresso" is pretty good!). However, the environmentalist in me hates that all the plastic cups just get thrown away -- I don't think they are recyclable, and as far as I know (I'm not the office manager) the company won't accept them back.
posted by chowflap at 7:20 AM on December 9, 2009

We have a Keurig mini that I originally brought in just to use in my cubicle. It eventually got moved out to a common area because other people wanted to use it. It's nice because people can buy their own coffee, whatever they like, so it keeps things fair. It would probably be nice to have the bigger version of it, but so far it suits our purposes.

I have no experience with other single-serve brewers, but I really love my Keurig.
posted by cottonswab at 7:23 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

electric kettle and a couple of french presses?

Possible conflict if people don't clean them I guess.
posted by ghharr at 7:24 AM on December 9, 2009

K-cups and other plastic coffee pods are terrible for the environment (and they taste bad, if you ask me, but I'm picky about such things). The Senseo is within your price range, and their pods are made of paper. (And if someone around the office is handy, you can make your own with regular coffee filters and any coffee you like.) Only thing is, you'll probably need two pods for a full-size cup of coffee. Those can run out quick.

For the less environmentally conscious, the Tassimo is pretty good as far as single serving machines go. We had the TA 1400 at our office before we went back to an old fashioned Bunn that we love. The newer models all look close to your price range, too.
posted by katillathehun at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the ultimate single-serving but environmentally conscious, try one of these.
posted by katillathehun at 7:28 AM on December 9, 2009

We love our keurig -- I also let it run to make hot water for tea, without using a k-cup. As far as the environmental concern, you might want to consider how much coffee is wasted if whole pots are made. Also, they make a reusable adapter for regular grounds.
posted by condour75 at 7:29 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Buliding on ghharr's suggestion, how about a kettle and a couple of Aerobie Aeropresses and let everyone have their own stash of coffee. Lot less clean up than a french press and just as easy and environmentally friendly to boot.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 7:30 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Moka pots are good too if you have a stove you can get to.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:32 AM on December 9, 2009

Reuseable K-cup.

I like the Keurig. Coffee is decent and there's no pot sitting on a hotplate getting burnt and nasty.
posted by electroboy at 7:45 AM on December 9, 2009

K-Cup coffee is utterly, utterly disgusting. Seriously, just buy something that won't pollute the environment quite so much, and doesn't churn out half-assed brown water.

While a French Press would be awesome, a regular drip-based coffee machine is perfectly acceptable. Alternatively, you could look into a more elegant solution, such as a Chemex: ttp:// The local coffee shop serves from one, and it's almost as good as a press.
posted by ellF at 7:52 AM on December 9, 2009

Came here to suggest a chemex. I have the six cup and that's enough for a morning for one person, but the single serving might do you well. I actually like the chemex brand filters too, and they're biodegradable unbleached paper. Flavor is incredible, without the acidity from a french press sometimes.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:58 AM on December 9, 2009

Keep in mind that with the Keurig, the quality of the coffee varies with the brand. So if you're Keurig coffee sucks, it's probably because your company buys shitty coffee.
posted by electroboy at 8:04 AM on December 9, 2009

I have both a Keurig K-Cup and one of katillathehun's single-serve filter holders. I love both. Here's my take:

Keurig K-Cup: Positive: only uses exactly the amount of water you need for each cup. Negative: throwa-away plastic K-cup, unless use of re-usable K-cup gadget is mandated.

Filter-holder: Positive: no plastic directly consumed/wasted per cup; Negative: must also find alternative heating source for water and this probably means boiling more than a cup at a time; must also purchase filters, which are paper products that will probably not get recycled as they'll be filled with wet coffee grounds (unless you have a diligent composter working in office).

As between those two choices, seems like an eco-toss-up to me. (Kind of like CFL v. filament bulbs) IMHO; I'll wait for mass-market LEDs, thank you very much).
posted by webhund at 8:06 AM on December 9, 2009

I love my Keurig. If you watch for sales on Amazon (or buy at Costco - but not much variety), it can get pretty cheap. There is also the reusable option.

For an office it is nice because people can make what they want.

I used one at my office and then bought one for home. It makes me extremely happy.

Here's a helpful blog for sales and reviews of single servers.
posted by k8t at 8:07 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have Keurigs at work, and they break every couple of weeks. It's a large office so it gets a lot of use. Also, the coffee isn't that great.
posted by jewzilla at 8:10 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend the single cup drip filter that katillahthehun linked. But--in my opinion--anything that generates an open pile of used coffee grounds for every cup made it a passive-aggressive disaster waiting to happen in an office environment.

I use chemex at home (both the 3-cup and the 8-cup), but Guy dislikes having to stand there, pouring water by hand over the grounds as it brews. I think it's probably not a great office solution because you have to be able to heat a kettle of water, you have the pile of grounds to deal with for each person brewing a 3-cup pot, and they are a bit fragile to be kicking around a common area.

My single-cup solution at work is toddy and they do offer a big commercial brewer. Opinions on the internet on toddy seem to fall into the "I really love this" or "OMG this is the most disgusting coffee EVER" camp, so it might not be the best idea, either.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2009

Sorry to jump in and clarify -- but we're debating between k-cup and pods. Aeropress and moka and drip and percolator and chemex are all lovely, sure, but they're off the table. Are there specific machine recommendations? Suggestions for how we should evaluate among the options?
posted by piro at 9:03 AM on December 9, 2009

We had a Flavia machine at my last job. Not sure of the price - probably involves some sort of service contract - but the coffee comes in mylar pouches instead of cups. You could get quite a range of drinks, including about a dozen different types of plain/flavored coffee, cappuccino (with the "Creamy Topping" packets - try not to think too much about that one), tea, and hot chocolate. And any combination of the above. Plus hot water if you want tea bags.

The coffee was passable - I'm picky, though. They have a 1-5 scale for the strength of their coffee, with the strongest being a Spinal Tapping 7, and the 7 was the one that most resembled coffee to me. The milky drinks tended to leave solids chunks of "Creamy Topping" in your cup.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:13 AM on December 9, 2009

I have a friend with a K-Cup machine. He loves it. I have never been too impressed with the coffee, though. I think I get better results out of my Melitta pod machine, which is like half the upfront cost and probably less than half the running cost (for pods). And the waste from pods isn't nearly as bad as waste from K-Cups.

I don't really fully understand how K-Cups work — I've been told the cups contain some sort of "coffee concentrate" — but it just tastes a little off to me, and not as strong as I like. Maybe I've just tried the wrong K-Cup flavors, but I don't see a reason to mess with it given the availability of pods.

I have a Melitta pod machine (a One:One), which is designed for a small, thick pod produced by Melitta. However — and this is the true beauty of the design IMO — you can easily use the more widely available Senseo pods as well. You just have to pack the edges in a bit. (They contain the same amount of coffee, just in a wider, thinner pod.)

About the only thing I don't like about the One:One is the limited size of the water reservoir; it's enough for 2 or 3 cups (on the small, 2 on the big) and then you have to refill it. However, almost all the pod machines except for the big office ones seem to have this problem.

Mine seems well-built; I've been using it since 2005 or 06 several times a week and so far, no problems.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:17 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Read the reviews on that blog. :)
posted by k8t at 9:23 AM on December 9, 2009

At our office, we get regular visits from coffee machine salesmen, so we've had trial periods with a lot of the pod machines. We had Flavia for a brief period. It had pretty blinking lights, but nobody liked the coffee, and we had problems with the mylar pouches exploding on us. We had the Fusion model, I think, and we also found that if a cup was smaller, it sprayed coffee on the counter around it. Could've just been that model, though.
posted by katillathehun at 9:23 AM on December 9, 2009

Our office Keurig is coming up on its third year and still going strong. It's especially nice when clients visit and I can offer them half a dozen choices. Don't bother with the fancy models - the timer function is pointless, and multiple cup sizes just make the coffee too strong/weak. We like Coffee People and Timothy's pods best, and buy them from Amazon (frustration-free-packaging cases of 50) or Coffee for Less.

If you like mochas, the Donut Shop pod from Coffee People + the Ghirardelli Double Chocolate cocoa packet is my new best thing.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:07 AM on December 9, 2009

Have to offer a radically opposing view to the Keurig machines breaking down, unless they have changed their manufacturing quality over the last two years. Our office is a training center and we have had the Small Office version which has supported an average of 12-20 cups per day, 5 days a week for the last two and half years without any serious problems.

There is a massive advantage to the convenience of the K-cup. The disadvantage is that despite the variety of flavors, they mostly taste the same. However, over years of sampling dozens of flavors I have settled on the Green Mountain "Sumatran Reserve Extra Bold" as my go to flavor.

For the hard-core coffee aficionados Keurig has a DIY K-cup. Put in your own coffee and you are good to go.
posted by jeremias at 10:07 AM on December 9, 2009

Also, be sure to look into availability of supplies. Yes, you can order anything online, but it is also convenient to run into a Costco, for example and be able to pick up a cheap case of k-cups.
posted by jeremias at 10:11 AM on December 9, 2009

At my last company, we had a Keurig, and I always found the flavor and strength to be lacking. Our coffee rep gave us a Flavia to try free for two weeks, and compared to the old crap, everyone loved it. As a matter of fact, I loved it so much that I had intimate relations with it. It was like a sexy, blinky spaceship filled with happy juice.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:29 AM on December 9, 2009

In one previous office, we had K-Cups, and we were stocked on Green Mountain Coffee. It was surprisingly delicious. At the next place I worked, we had the Flavia pouches. They were downright disgusting. Nobody used them.
posted by General Malaise at 10:37 AM on December 9, 2009

As a tea drinker, I hated the K-Cup when I worked on a 2-month contract in an office that had one. I had a 14-oz cup, and when I would run the hot water, it would give me 10 oz maximum, and then I would have to wait 30 seconds for it to cycle so I could fill up the rest of the hot water. If you have a water cooler with a hot tap in the same room, that would be OK because the tea drinkers could use that instead.
posted by matildaben at 10:42 AM on December 9, 2009

You might look into the Tassimo machines. The flavor gets good reviews and they offer all sorts of beverages, from hot chocolate to "regular" coffee to espresso to cappuccino to hot tea. Each pod has a barcode that the machine reads to know how to make that drink. There are a couple of downsides: the pods are more expensive than Keurig's, and there's no option to use your own coffee with a "blank" one. However, if you like variety, then that's a good choice. Starbucks offers coffee in the Tassimo format, which some people in the office may appreciate depending on their tastes (Keurig doesn't have Starbucks). Seattle's Best is also available in Tassimo format. Keurig has Tully's, though, but I don't know how well-known their coffee is outside of the Seattle area.

If you've got espresso fiends in the office, then a machine that uses the E.S.E. (Easy Serve Espresso) packets might be a nice choice (or a secondary machine to the Keurig, perhaps). Be sure to get a pump-driven one, as these develop higher pressure than steam-driven ones. DeLonghi has one for about $100 that seems to get good reviews. Get a milk frother too so people can mix up lattes.
posted by kindall at 11:42 AM on December 9, 2009

we have a pay per use Keurig. .50 a cuppa. This keeps abuse to a minimum. It is hard plumbed into the water.
posted by Gungho at 11:54 AM on December 9, 2009

Love my home Keurig and keep debating about getting another for work. I bought it thinking I'd be green and use the reusable dispenser with my own ground, but frankly that never brews a good cup of coffee. I have to say it generates a lot less waste than brewing our communal pot at work.

Re flavors, offers a lot of sample packages. I am partial to the darker brews and teas myself. The quality of the drink depends pretty much entirely on which K cup you use.

As for durability, the key to the Keurig is to run some water through it (no pod) after brewing a cup. That keeps the needle/etc. free of clogs. You only need to descale every 3 mo or so.
posted by bearwife at 1:09 PM on December 9, 2009

2nding the Green Mountain K-cups. Sumatran Reserve and Dark Magic are both pretty solid.
posted by electroboy at 3:01 PM on December 9, 2009

Weighing in somewhat late, my office has a Flavia and a Keurig on different floors. All the coffee drinkers on the Flavia floor go to the Keurig floor for coffee and there was talk for a while of staging some sort of raid to switch out the machines; the coffee drinkers hate the Flavia. I believe our office uses Green Mountain for the Keurig. Our Flavia machine also brews tea, which is fine as long as you don't have particularly high expectations.
posted by posadnitsa at 5:57 PM on December 9, 2009

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