KEURIG ELITE BREWER – ONE PERSON’S LUXURY IS ANOTHER’S ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Keurig Elite Brewer Model #K45

Keurig Elite Model #K45 with coffee mug

Keurig Elite Model #K45

Keurig My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter in box
Keurig My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter
40-count K-Cup assortment showing tops of K-Cups
40-count K-Cup assortment
Pros: Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, and more! No more lugging a heavy carafe or reheating day-old coffee!

Cons: K-Cups can get pricey. My K-Cup reusable filter is cheaper but labor intensive.

Once upon a time, I would never have considered buying a Keurig Brewer for my home. I was impressed with the mini style some hotels put in their rooms for courtesy coffee and the top-of-the-line model in our apartment complex office, but why would I need something like that in my kitchen?

My smug attitude changed when I realized that pouring coffee from my 12-cup pot felt like lifting an anvil – even when there was only a small amount left. A smaller pot makes no sense because it would be sitting in the sink waiting for a thorough cleaning three or four times a day, and was still too heavy for me to control. I speak from experience. We had a small one for a while, and it was a nuisance. Finally, I got tired of teetering by the stove to reheat coffee in the overhead microwave. The amount of time I can be on my feet has been dwindling for years. Now, I can feel my ankles turn to jelly within a minute or two. Making lunch and reheating coffee is much more challenging than it was even a year ago. Let’s face it, the Keurig is assistive technology. I can have as many cups of coffee (or just about anything else) as I want without having to get out of my wheelchair. It’s safer, especially on bad days.

I decided to do my homework before taking the plunge into push-button coffee. I compared all the models we could afford and looked at other brands, too. The clincher for staying with Keurig is that the company also makes My K-cup, a reusable filter that allows me to continue using my regular coffee daily and get K-Cups for special treats. More about My K-Cup later.

The genius of Keurig’s system is that so many families live together on different schedules. This is true for us, especially since I retired. I’m not a morning person, so my husband’s sweet gesture of a daily breakfast in bed would be cold coffee and lukewarm oatmeal by the time I was awake enough to eat it. This is no longer a problem because I can now make my own coffee and have breakfast on my schedule.

Another issue Keurig addresses is that we have different tastes and moods. One person only drinks tea, but his wife is a coffee drinker. There are people who can only drink decaf sharing a kitchen with someone who prefers regular. The kids want hot cocoa. A Keurig brewer can be all things to all people. There’s no need to juggle the tea kettle, coffee maker, and microwave to handle hot drinks. Because the mug or cup is the final destination and K-Cups stay sealed (except for holes poked on its top and bottom), cleanup is barely noticeable.

How it works:
The K-Cup holds one serving of ground coffee, tea, or cocoa. It sits in a receptacle (Keurig calls it the K-Cup holder assembly). When you close the lid, two needles poke holes in the top and bottom of the K-Cup. A pre-measured cup of water is heated and dripped through the K-Cup and into the coffee mug you place on the removable pedestal. Removing the pedestal allows extra tall commuter mugs to fit under the drip holes.

The Keurig Elite comes in black, white, and blue. I chose black to match my stove and dishwasher. I noticed similar models in red.

My favorite features:
Water container – This sleek, nearly crescent shaped container detaches from the unit and can be filled in the sink. It only takes a few minutes for the entire process.

Three cup sizes – The three buttons represent a small cup (5.25 ounces), a small mug (7.25 ounces), and a large mug (9.25 ounces).

Auto-off – This feature turns the brewer off after two hours, saving energy, and helping the absentminded among us.

Reminder lights – Lights tell you when the water is hot enough to brew, ask how much to brew, signal that the water container needs to be refilled, and even when the brewer needs to be descaled (see below for an explanation of descaling).

There are a few things to keep in mind, though:
Maintenance – The main extra task is called “descaling.” Keurig sells a descaling formula that combats the damage hard water does to coffee makers. I have to admit that I was never one of the people who brewed vinegar washes in standard coffee makers, and mineral deposits plagued our old coffee makers. The Keurig brewer has a light to remind us when it’s time to descale.

The owner’s manual encourages the use of bottled or filtered water. The Elite model has a charcoal filter assembly that fits inside the water container and needs to be replaced every two months.

The container, while weighing much less than a coffee maker carafe, still needs to be refilled. It holds 48 ounces, which in our house lasts about three days. I sometimes get a little ticked off when I’m craving my coffee-fix, and that little blue light comes on. It’s only a slight annoyance because refilling the container is a quick chore.

One more thing:
K-Cups vs. My K-Cup – The K-Cups are clean, no fuss, no muss. Each K-Cup is intended for one serving, but it’s possible to stretch it for a second slightly weaker serving for tight budgets. While I don’t recognize all the brand names, there are many brands I do know: Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings, Cinnabon, Dunkin’ Donuts, Emeril’s, Folgers Gourmet Selections, Ghirardelli, Kahlúa, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Lipton, Newman’s Own Organics, Snapple, Starbucks, Swiss Miss, Tetley Tea, Tully’s, Twinings of London, and Wolfgang Puck. The Keurig Elite came with a dozen K-Cups. They were mostly coffees with a hot chocolate and a couple of teas.

My favorite was Tully’s Italian Roast Extra Bold Coffee. The aroma filled the kitchen and made a promise that the flavor kept. I love a strong coffee that holds up even when it cools off. At breakfast, I take a combination of16 pills, capsules, and soft gels with my coffee. After downing them, I read the paper while sipping the rest of my cup. It often gets cold during my morning ritual. I need a coffee that doesn’t lose its flavor when it stands for a bit.

Pricing information is current as of August 26, 2014. Keurig plans to increase prices by about 10% in November 2014. This is strictly a general guide. The K-Cups are priced at around $15-20 for a box of 24. Sign up for membership and get a 10-15% discount. There is no shipping charge for orders over $45. If you think you might want to get a supply of K-Cups, take advantage of the product registration offer. When you register your brewer online, you’ll receive a coupon code for two free boxes when you buy two boxes. The discount has a long life, which gives you time to decide on the varieties you might want. The code I received has an expiration date of December 31, 2099.

Another way to go, especially if you have a favorite coffee that doesn’t come in K-Cup form, is My K-Cup. This is a reusable coffee filter (made by Keurig)that fits in your Keurig brewer’s assembly housing (the section that holds the K-Cup during brewing). Until you get used to the extra work involved, you’ll miss the K-Cup simplicity. First, you need to remove the K-Cup holder assembly from the assembly housing (it just pops out when you follow the instructions). Then you fill the filter basket with two tablespoons of your coffee, put it inside the filter holder, gently screw the lid on, and place the filter in the assembly housing. The coffee brews as usual. The taste? It’s at least as good as it was when I made it by the pot in my old coffee maker. However, my coffee seems to get a nearly black residue that collects at the bottom of the cup. This is something I haven’t seen since the old percolator days. It isn’t pleasant to accidentally drink some of it. The texture is gritty and tastes like Postum (another old memory I could have done without). When you use a K-Cup, there is no residue. The coffee is uniform in appearance and flavor right down to the bottom of the cup.

The extra work comes in afterward when you have to empty the filter basket and wash the three parts. Although My K-Cup is dishwasher safe, it needs to be secured to keep it from falling through the racks. As much as I depend on our dishwasher, it’s easier for me to use a toothbrush to lightly scrub coffee stains and grounds. I use my old coffee filters as a receptacle for the grounds. It keeps the mess to a minimum.

My verdict? I’m ambivalent. The extra work necessary to use My K-Cup isn’t the end of the world for my three cups a day. However, the extra labor will add up if you have several cups to make or need to switch between My K-Cup and the holder assembly to make a beverage in a standard K-Cup. That’s what happened yesterday morning when my husband decided he wanted hot tea.

Yet, I don’t know how long we can afford to keep using K-Cups exclusively after the big coupon order runs out. At the rate of three cups of coffee a day, eight dozen K-Cups will last me about a month – if I’m the only one drinking it. After that, it’ll be about $60 a month to feed my habit vs. about $10 a month with My K-Cup. In the long run, my sense is that I’ll probably look for bargains in K-Cups after the initial big coupon runs out. Amazon has a cornucopia of K-Cup deals, and a close friend told me about a sale at Costco. Like anything else, once you learn the ropes, you can find bargains just about anywhere.

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