12/15/2011

Drip Brew vs. Keurig

A few months ago, my good friend Jacob Yoder sent me an article proclaiming Keurig, or similar single-cup coffee brewers, as "the beginning of the end for great coffee". As owner of Muddy Dog Roasting CoJim Pelligrini's article is well written, and asserts valid points concerning the mass-production of single cup coffees---namely that licensing products such as K-cups/Tassimo prohibits diversity in coffee roasting. To be honest, I have been a long-time supporter of quality roasts brewed via french-press...except I don't have that kind of time or resources at my workstation to accomodate such complex coffee procedures, but kudos to those of you who do.

As a challenge, I would give up my trusty Keurig brewer for one month and drink only drip-brew coffee. I had so many initial questions: Which would I prefer? What are the pros and cons of the two devices? Is the flavor superior in one brewer over the other?, etc.

The rest of this post is dedicated to answering those questions. For the continuation of this post let us assume that I only have the capability of either the single-cup brewer or the drip-brewer, and that french presses, to-go coffees, or percalators do not excist. I brew coffee in my office and am therefore limited to these two brewing methods.

After one month of use, I created the table below [Fig 1]. This table shows a win/loss assignment for each category, then totals the number of wins/losses in the bottom row. Some categories are subjective, such as flavor, whereas others are very clear, such as electrical consumption. Essentially the drip-brew coffee maker wins in areas of price and flavor range, and the Keurig wins in categories of consistency and ease-of-use. It was surprising to see that, even with the complexity of preparation, the drip-brewer's prep-time was consistently faster than the Keurig. Although it should be noted that the average times below assume that all ingredients/materials need to brew are already set-out and ready for use. In real life I actually have to walk to first floor restroom to wash-out the pot and go to a vending machine for bottled water. Take a minute to examine the chart, the results are straight-forward:

Fig 1
What exactly is the brew process for each machine: I have broken down the two machines' brew process into the next two photo collages [Fig 2 & 3 respectively].

Here is the 9-step process for a drip brewer. The steps are: 1) Rinse-out pot 2) Add water 3) Measure Grounds 4) Place filter/grounds 5) Turn-on 6) Brew 7) Serve/Enjoy 8) Turn-off 9) Remove/Discard grounds:

drip_coffee
Fig 2, Drip brewer process


Here is the 6-step process for a Keurig brewer: 1) Add water 2) Turn on 3) Add K-cup 4) Brew 5) Remove K-cup 6) Serve/Enjoy

keurig
Fig 3, Keurig brew process

The processes only differ by 3 steps, but it is clear that the Keurig is simpler and requires fewer products to brew a cup. The same is true where maintainance is concerend, the Keurig machine needs very little maintainance. In fact running through a no-cup cycle accounts for 90% of keeping it clean. The drip brewer however has multiple parts, a glass pot, and is difficult to clean in a men's room.

Lastly, I found that when I used my Keurig coffee maker I would only drink one (maybe two) cups per day. One cup was the perfect taste and serving size for most mornings. However, once I switched to the drip-brewer I began to drink as many as 4 cups per morning---because there was 30oz of coffee brewed and I didn't want to dump all of it down the drain, The increased amount of coffee is not favorable to me, because I found that even on the weekends I was craving more and more coffee. Its going to take me a couple of weeks to come-down from my caffeine high...

So will single-cup brewers, like the Keurig, signal the beginning of the end for great coffee? I hardly think so---afterall the microwave oven did not see the end of gourmet cooking. For me, in my office, the Keurig single-cup brewer is by far the superior choice, in terms of ease-of-use, flavor, consistency, and materials needed. It just makes sense. Yes the initial cost of the unit is 4 or 5 times more than the drip brewer, but to me it is worth it for the lack of hassles and serving size.

1 comment:

Grinzalot2 GB said...

Since you LIKE pod coffee far better than drip, you wasted your time & coffee with a super-cheap $20 machine. Plus, for those of us who prefer coffees not available in K-cups, the mess & inconvenience of those refillable K-cups is worst than for a pot of drip.

Try a Cuisinart DCC 3000 drip which also eliminates the carafe. With the right beans & grind for your tastes - you'll assign the Keurig to permanent instant hot drink duty.