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How Does a Keurig Work and Its K-cups

how does a keurig works and its k cups by cup of caffeine

If you are a home coffee lover you probably must be familiar with Keurig Single-Serve Brewers and their K cups. Keurig coffee brewers are very popular and are found in almost every American household. But have you ever wondered how does a Keurig work? What is its working mechanism? 

Well, In today’s article, we’ll have a detailed look at the working process of this wonderful home coffee brewer. 

Before we move on, I want to let you all know that Keurig isn’t just a fancy home/commercial brewing system. It is also well-known for its wide variety of K-cups that are available on the market right now.

So, What exactly is a K cup?

Preparing coffee using the Keurig coffee brewer is entirely a unique experience. Keurig brewers use K-cups, also known as pods, that contain freshly grounded coffee. Without a K cup, the Keurig coffee maker is useless, I’d say.
Never seen a K cup before? Here is what it looks like.

The best part about these Keurig K cups is that the coffee inside remains fresh thanks to the foil layer with which these cups are covered. This foil layer prevents moisture from ruining the taste of coffee.

Another nice thing about these k cups is that they are available in a huge variety of blends, flavors, and roasts, over 200 to be exact. That’s how Keurig users can curate a unique variety of flavored cups based on their preferences. 

The plastic used in the preparation of k cups is BPA-free, therefore safe, and also meets applicable FDA standards. One pod can make only one cup of coffee at a time with very little effort.

Above all, Keurig also offers a range of licensed vendors such as Starbucks, Illy, Dunkin Donuts, and Peets.

The only pitfall about K cups is that they aren’t widely recyclable. Green Mountain has committed to remedying that
by 2020, but still, the environmental impact is a major concern.

If you are a Keurig owner or want to be, you can surely do your part by purchasing the My K-Cup pod (View On Amazon), which is completely reusable. It can also be filled with any kind of coffee you prefer, so you can experience the flavors of your choice.

How do K cups Work?

So now that you have a brief intro on what exactly is a k cup let’s go ahead and discover how these K cups really work.

K cups are cute little disposable cups made of plastic that are sealed from all sides with a foil layer. Inside, you’ll find freshly ground coffee and a small filter that makes noise when you shake the K cup. While preparing k cups, all the air inside is removed. The purpose is to reduce the exposure of moisture and heat which results in staling of the coffee. 

The process of brewing coffee with a K cup is the simplest of all brewing processes. Just pop your K cup in and let the brewer perform the magic for you. But even before you insert your K cup, make sure to put in the water and turn the machine on so that the water inside gets hot.

Once the brewing is done there is no mess to clean up afterward. Simply toss away the pod to the dustbin and you’re done. To make sure the brewer’s performance isn’t compromised, it’s advised to always use K-cups that are under Keurig’s authorization aka Keurig’s licensed vendors such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Green Mountain, and Peets.

Take a look at this short Youtube video to see the components inside a K cup.

What is a Keurig?

It’s a simple brewing machine that prepares a single cup of coffee with the touch of a button. If you’re a Keurig owner, you won’t have to buy whole or ground coffee. Rather, you’ll purchase small plastic pods known as K-cups.

In the early 1990s, the idea of Keurig came to a man named John Sylvan. Sylvan hated the traditional drip-brewed coffee served in offices – a full pot of brewed coffee kept on a warming plate that sits and grows bitter, dense, and stale.

He imagined a machine that is able to produce a single cup of coffee in less than a minute. With this machine, it would be even simpler for the office worker to brew and take coffee and therefore no worker would have to drink stale coffee again. 

After extensive trial and error, he finally succeeded in developing a machine and a coffee pod. (1

The investments of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Specialty Coffee Company also helped John Sylvan achieve this milestone. Unfortunately, Sylvan did not work well with the new investors, and in 1997 he was forced out of Keurig, selling his stake in the company for $50,000.

keurig coffee machine - image flickr - cup of caffeine

How does a Keurig Work?

There are a number of Keurig models available, and they all have the same purpose, i.e, to give you a consistent cup of coffee in less than a minute. But what actually happens in between the process? 

In all Keurig brewer models, water is held in a large reservoir that stores large quantities of water. The Keurig brewer screen comes with options for the cup size. The Keurig 2.0 coffee makers are capable of identifying K-cups, mugs, and carafes inserted in the brewer.

So now that you’ve inserted the K-cup and pressed the brew size button, water is pumped through pressurized hoses into the heating chambers. The regular temperature for Keurig brewer is 192° Fahrenheit or 89° Celsius. This internal temperature depends on various factors such as the material of the cup. However, when it reaches the optimum temperature, the water then passes through another hose into the top of the brewer. 

The K cup is inserted into its own compartment, with a convenient handle to open and shut it down. When you shut the compartment down, a sharp needle punctures a hole from top to bottom of the K-Cup. Why? Well, the hole from the top sends hot water down through the ground coffee, whereas the bottom one lets the brewed coffee flow out

Then, the unit forces hot water into the K-cup under pressure. This pressure isn’t as high as an espresso maker, but still, it extracts the coffee quite fast compared to drip brewing. About 8 to 10 ounces of hot water will pass throughout the coffee grounds in under a minute.

How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker?

The Keurig brewers are engineered to last for years. And above all, they can also be easily maintained.

With so many parts in contact with water, descaling a Keurig Coffee Maker is ideal to keep the machine working. Keurig coffee makers support a small light, i.e, a “Descale” light that’ll light up into the message center whenever the brewer needs to be descaled.

You might be wondering, how often should I descale my Keurig? Well, the descaling frequency depends on the mineral level present in the water you’re using. Those who live in hard water areas might have to descale quite often compared to those who live in soft water areas.

Note: For less frequent descaling it is advised to use filtered or bottled water(If Possible).

When this “Descale” light appears, you can simply purchase the official Keurig descaler (View On Amazon) or use a simple mix of vinegar and water to descale the calcium build-ups inside the coffee maker pipes. If the “Descale” light still appears even after you’ve descaled the brewer, then there is one last step you have to take again. 

Kuurig Single Serve Brewers Descaler Image

Suppose you ignore the descaling message and don’t descale, you’ll receive another message alert after 6 weeks. And it continues, appearing until descaling isn’t done. For instance, due to any unknown fault, you don’t receive the descaling alert then I’d suggest you descale the brewer once every 3-6 months otherwise you’ll end up changing your machine.

Now, the tiny pins that pierce the K-cup from top to bottom also have to be cleaned out. But these shouldn’t need to be descaled; all they need is to be freed of coffee grounds remains. As you’ve descaled the brewer a few moments ago, hence the tiny metal pins sure would be hot. So, make sure to take caution while cleaning hot pins. Simply, clear out any fine coffee grind build-up, and you’re all done. 

Once you’re done with the descaling part and cleaning the metal pin. The descale light will disappear immediately and your Keurig brewer will be as good as new.

By the way, after the descaling brewing cycle is over, it is suggested to run the machine at least two times with clean and fresh water. Obviously, you’d have to wipe out all that vinegar. Otherwise, you’ll end up having a Vinegar vibe in your coffee, which is surely not a great experience. 

How to get the most out of your Keurig Coffee Maker?

The temperature achieved by the heating chamber varies from 187 to 197 degrees Celsius. Still at this temperature, you’ll hear complaints from Keurig users that Keurig-brewed coffee isn’t quite hot enough. 

keurig coffee machine and k cups - cup of caffeine

Firstly, the most common way to deal with this is to never dispense your coffee into disposable paper cups. Paper cups lose their heat very quickly– as much as ten degrees celsius within minutes. Suppose, if this is the only thing you have then make sure to double them up, to even reduce heat loss. Sure thing, using a lid (if you have one) will also help.

Instead of paper cups let’s suppose you’re using ceramic or a stainless steel cup. Then, warming the cups first will surely help in reducing the heat loss. You can either use this cute little Coffee Mug Warmer (View On Amazon) or another simpler way to perform this task is to select a water-only setting on the Keurig. From this, you have to fill the cup with hot water first and then after a few moments flush that water away. In this way, you can keep your cup of joe hot for a longer life span. By the way, using a Thermal Travel Mug (View On Amazon) with a lid is also not a bad idea.

Some Keurig Coffee Makers also let the user select water temperature. If that is the case, then always select the selector to “high”. Similarly, always select “strong” if your Keurig comes with brew option settings. That’s how you get another 30 seconds of brewing time which is enough to extract all the good coffee flavors.

Don’t forget that whatever brew size you select, the coffee quantity inside the K-Cup won’t change. The K-cup won’t get any bigger than its original size when you push the button for a larger serving. Also, the coffee to water ratio would be slightly higher and the coffee will taste weak. The only way to get stronger coffee is to simply dispense two smaller servings using two separate pods.

Which Coffee Type Works Better for Keurig?

K cups - Cup of Caffeine

The type of coffee also puts a great impact on the final taste of the brew. Keurig Coffee Makers are known for their speed and convenience, therefore, due to the risk of under-extraction from the speedy process, Dark roasts perform very well compared to light roasts.

Above all, there are a variety of k-cup flavors available at very little cost. You can even buy k-cups for hot chocolate too! 

Flavors that are the most popular among Keurig lovers are the San Francisco Bay OneCup Fog Chaser and the Starbucks Sumatra for Keurig brewers on Amazon.

Disadvantages of Keurig Coffee Maker

No coffee maker in the world is 100% efficient. Of course, there are some flaws too. Here is what we discovered in Keurig…

  1. K-cups are a lot more expensive compared to coffee grounds
  2. Keurig appliances aren’t cheap
  3. Although, K-cup manufacturers do their best to make sure the coffee inside stays fresh till the expiry date but still many coffee enthusiasts don’t even consider coffee made in Keurig to be real since the coffee inside isn’t freshly roasted
  4. You can only get one serving at a time. So, when you are with a company you might end up taking a lot of time or even run out of K-cups which is undoubtedly worrying
  5. K-cups aren’t recyclable whilst the plastic used in preparing k-cups is BPA-Free but still some studies suggest that even this type of material can have harmful effects when heated up.
  6. Lower-end Keurig models end up having very few customizable features such as brew strength, and heat strength; and they also have smaller water reservoirs


We hope this article has given you a broad view of how a Keurig works, and how you can get the most out of it. I believe, If you like having coffee brewed with simplicity, Keurig brewers are the best to go with. 

From the outside, Keurig brewers are very pretty, simple, and straightforward on the outside – while on the inside there is a detailed, complex process that leads to great rich tasting coffee within a minute.

If you are wondering out of all those Keurigs which one is the best to buy? Then, without a doubt, I’d say this Keurig K-Elite Single Serve Coffee Maker (View On Amazon) is a great investment. It’s available in three color types, saves time, consumes less energy, is user-friendly, and is worth every penny. 

Keurig K-Elite Coffee Maker, Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Brewer, With Iced Coffee Capability, Brushed Silver - cup of caffeine

On the other side, Keurig K-cups are available in not only a wide range of flavors but also roasts and blends. So, next time when you are purchasing a Keurig Coffee Maker, stay rest assured that you are making a great investment.

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