Hands-on Gear Review

Keurig K-Cafe Review

Top Pick Award
Price:   $180 List | $179.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Super convenient, easy to use, easy to clean
Cons:  Relatively mediocre taste, milk drinks leave a bit to be desired
Bottom line:  The best, most feature laden K-Cup models we've tested
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Capacity (cups):  1
Automatic Brewing:  No
Dimensions:  17.3" x 14.2" x 14.4"
Manufacturer:   Keurig

Our Verdict

If you love the taste and convenience of K-Cups, the Keurig K-Cafe is the most advanced machine out there. It ups the variety with 6 different brew settings, and an integrated milk frother that allows you to make a reasonable facsimile of cappuccinos and lattes. It does all this with the trademark Keurig convenience, ease of use, and ease of cleaning (even the milk frother is dishwasher safe). For our money we think Nespresso capsule machines make better tasting coffee. They are also able to pull a truer shot of espresso (All the K-Cafe can really do is make a strong cup of coffee), resulting in better cappuccinos and lattes. However, Nespresso capsules are more expensive, so if you're satisfied with the taste of K-Cups this machine is the best way to go.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Monday
August 6, 2018

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It's hard to argue with convenience, and the Keurig K-Cafe is the most convenient way we've found to make coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos. We still think Nespresso machines can produce better tasting variants of all 3, but if you know you like how K-Cups taste the K-Cafe can take your experience to a whole new level.


Performance Comparison


The K-Cafe earned a mediocre overall score in our testing. This is solely due to the fact that, according to our multitude of testers, Keurig machines don't make as good a cup of coffee as other brewing methods. However, the K-Cafe was at teh top of the leaderboard for almost every other metric, so if you n=know you like how K-Cups taste you can consider this a top notch machine.

Taste


We know saying this may garner some criticism, but we don't think K-Cups taste all that good. They don't taste bad either, but they just don't stack up to the taste of fresh beans and classic brewing methods. In comparison we've found K-Cups to taste a bit weak and watery, and sometimes even to carry a plasticy aftertaste. That being said, they can still satisfy a caffeine craving, and we've found ourselves using the K-Cafe when we're in a hurry. All this combined to earn the K-Cafe a score of 3 out of 10 in our taste testing.


We do like that the K-Cafe now offers four different cup sizes (4, 6, 10, and 12 ounce). However, all of these cup sizes are brewed using the same amount of coffee, so a larger cup basically equals a weaker cup. There is a button for 'strong coffee', but we didn't notice a huge difference in taste when using this function.

The K-Cafe makes a cup that isn't quite as strong as most traditionally brewed coffee  but it still gets the job done.
The K-Cafe makes a cup that isn't quite as strong as most traditionally brewed coffee, but it still gets the job done.

If you like the convenience of capsule machines, we think Nespresso is able to brew a stronger, heartier cup. However, Nespresso capsules are more expensive and arent' ubiquitous on market shelves like K-Cups are.

Milk Drink Taste


The K-Cafe adds a milk frother to the traditional Keurig machine, offering the ability to make lattes and cappuccinos. We found these drinks to taste ok, but not great. First off, drinks like this need a good, strong shot of espresso as their base to taste really good. The K-Cafe can't brew a proper shot of espresso, it can only make a strong 'shot' of coffee. Also, the fill lines in the milk frother create a higher than optimal milk to coffee ratio. So if you want a stronger coffee taste, we'd suggest using a bit less milk than recommended.

The milk frother lets you make milk drinks  and has intuitive controls.
The milk frother lets you make milk drinks, and has intuitive controls.

In comparison, Nespresso machines can make a truer shot of espresso, resulting in better tasting espresso milk drinks. If your end goal is the best tasting, most convenient capsule cappuccino, you may want to check out Nespresso instead.

User Friendliness


You'd be hard pressed to find an easier brewing process than using the K-Cafe. Simply turn the unit on, insert a K-Cup, select you brew style and cup size, and press go. The milk frother has its own controls that let you choose whether tou want to make a latte, cappuccino, or froth milk for an iced coffee. There are also fill lines int eh cup telling you how much milk to pour for each drink (we would suggest filling slightly less than these lines suggest, unless you want a very milky drink). Spent cups can just be removed and thrown away. REfilling the water tank is also very easy thanks to the large opening. It holds 60 ounces, enough water for a cup every morning of the week. All of this combined to earn the K-Cafe a user friendliness score of 9 out of 10.


While the K-Cafe is incredibly easy to use, it doesn't distinguish itself from competing Nespresso models in that capacity. Nespresso makes similarly easy to use machines. In fact, the Vertuoline, which can make both coffee and espresso, uses barcodes to ensure the machine dials in the correct settings.

The intuitive control panel. The 'shot' button makes a stiffer brew meant to make lattes and cappuccinos.
The intuitive control panel. The 'shot' button makes a stiffer brew meant to make lattes and cappuccinos.

Convenience


This is where all Keurig machines, and the K-Cafe in particular, shine. Accordingly, it earned one of the top scores of 8 out of 10.


It only takes about 15 seconds of effort to get a K-Cup brewing, and there is virtually no cleanup. Actual brewing time is quick as well. Even with preheating we regularly were able to make a cup with less than 2 minutes of waiting (this, again, is very similar to the Nespresso machines).

We also like that the K-Cafe can accommodate travel mugs of up to 7.2 inches tall. However, this added height means you'll get some splash and splatter when using shorter mugs. This isn't a huge deal, a quick wipe with a rage clears up teh mess, but it can be a bit annoying.

Ease of Cleaning


Like most pod machines, the K-Cafe requires almost no cleanup on a daily basis. Just yank the spent pod out of the machine and throw it away. AS we mentioned above shorter mugs may produce some splatter, necessitating a quick wipe down of the machine. The milk frother is dishwasher safe, but would certainly need to be hand washed if you want to use it multiple days in a row before you run a load in the dishwasher.


Long term cleaning, which involves descaling the machine every 3-6 months, depending on how much you use it. Descaling simple gets rid of the mineral buildup you can get from constantly boiling water. Descaling the K-Cafe requires a bottle of Keurig descaling solution, running that through the machine, then running it many more times to rinse everything out. This process took us about 70 minutes with a lot of waiting around, combined with numerous trips to teh sink to refill the reservoir. Here again, the process is very similar for all the Nespresso machines we tested.

you can't beat the convenience of a capsule.
you can't beat the convenience of a capsule.

Value


Listing for $180, the Keurig K-cafe certainly isn't cheap. However, it isn't too far off the price of other capsule machines and provides you with a built-in milk frother. If you're looking to make milk drinks with your K-Cups, this is a great value. If you don't care about milk drinks and just want to make K-Cups, the $120 K55 is a better value.

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Conclusion


For K-Cup afficianados that want to be able to make some milk drinks like lattes and cappuccinso, the K-Cafe is a great mahcine. If you want the conveneice of capsules but want a stronger cup of coffee, you may want to tlook into Nespresso instead.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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