Keurigs, Indie Coffee, and Streaming Music

I bought a Keurig brewer a few weeks ago.

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Keurig brewers are simple, one serving coffee machines. You add some water to a reservoir, hit a button, and three minutes later you have hot coffee.

All of this is centered around the K-Cup, a vacuum-sealed container of coffee grounds just enough for one cup of coffee (8oz, I think).

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You place the K-Cup into the brewer, a needle pierces the container, then you close the compartment, then some magic happens. The brewer makes a noise, sounding like something from a horror movie, but instead of getting horribly murdered by a beast the brewer spits out the coffee into your mug.

I had some reservations about going the Keurig way. I think the amount of waste generated for one cup of coffee is greater for a Keurig than a conventional machine (trash, shipping K-cups all over the world, that sort of thing). Still, my brother and sister highly recommended Keurig, basically saying it’s the best cup of coffee I can make at home.

There’s also the geek in me that sees a similarity between Keurig coffee machines and…GASP…Apple’s App Store.

How do K-Cups work? Not physically or mechanically, but in a sense there’s a process to get your coffee into a K-cup, not in the “place these grounds in the paper filter” way, but the “what papers need to be signed to even use K-Cups and how much of my profits are you going to take” way.

Because there’s a relatively few number of companies producing K-Cups 1:

  • Bigelow Tea Company
  • Cafe Escapes
  • Celestial Seasonings
  • Caribou Coffee
  • Coffee People
  • Diedrich/Gloria Jeans
  • Emeril
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Company
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
  • Newman’s Own
  • Timothy’s World Coffee
  • Tully’s
  • Twinings
  • Van Houtte
  • Wolfgang Puck

Reading this list of brands I don’t see many familiar names, except Green Mountain. There’s also Newman’s Own and Wolfgang Puck, and they aren’t even known for coffee. You like Dunkin Donuts coffee? Not available in a K-cup. Starbucks? Not available in a K-cup. That doesn’t bode well for your favorite cafe.

Maybe the more apt comparison, instead of Apple’s App store, is to streaming music services like Rdio and Spotify. If you’re an Rdio subscriber you can stream from an enormous library of music, but if Rdio doesn’t have a license for a certain piece of music, like your favorite indie band, it isn’t available to you through the service. Spotify has a way around this by also letting you play your local collection alongside their streaming library.

Keurig saw the opportunity here and made an overpriced filter that you can use to brew any coffee you want 2.

But let’s face it. Keurig machines aren’t really meant for raving coffee fans. They’re meant for people who want convenience, the same people that use crap like vegetable-oil based flavored creamers. That’s why you see Keurig machines and K-Cups at places like Bed Bath and Beyond.

If you want a really really good cup of coffee there’s a procedure more complex than “add water, hit button 3.” For most people good enough is fine, whether it’s coffee or streaming music services.

How’s the coffee from a Keurig? It’s good enough, I think.


  1. Wikipedia’s list of K-Cup varieties
  2. Keurig’s reusable filter, which has 3.5 stars on Amazon
  3. Check out Marco Arment’s coffee setup. Dude’s serious about coffee.