We've tested a number of Keurig machines, and for the most part we've found the coffee produced to taste the same no matter what machine it's made with. The K-Elite is the only machine that slightly bucks that trend. In our side-by-side taste tests we found that the K-Elite produced an ever so slight reduction in that plasticy aftertaste that many people complain about with K-Cups. If you already can't stomach K-Cups because of the plastic taste, the K-Elite certainly doesn't do enough to fix that problem. However, if you're already hooked on the convenience of K-Cups and find that plastic taste a minor annoyance, this machine may improve your Keurig experience a little bit.
Keurig K-Elite Review
Pros: Convenient, easy to use, easy to clean
Cons: Mediocre taste
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Functionally the Keurig K-Elite isn't much different from its predecessors, except for the addition of 'strong' and 'iced' brew settings. The one slight difference we did notice is a minor reduction in the plastic taste many associate with K-Cups, but this difference wasn't big enough for us to suggest this machine to K-Cup haters.
Like all of the Keurig machines we've tested, the K-Elite performed amazingly in all of out tests except for the taste test. For more details read on below.
This has long been the Achilles heel of Keurig machines. Though they are incredibly convenient, the plastic pods and likely old coffee just can't compare to the taste of fresher beans made in a classic coffee maker. That's not to say coffee from the K-Elite tastes bad, just that it isn't as good the coffee from other machines. If you've already tasted coffee from a Keurig machine and liked it, you'll likely be pleased with the taste produced by the K-Elite.
Overall, we do think that Nespresso capsules produce a stronger, better tasting cup of coffee. The aluminum capsules also totally eliminate any plastic taste. That does come at a cost, however, as the capsules tend to be 50-100% more expensive than K-Cups.
Less Plastic Taste? Maybe…
One thing we did notice with the K-Elite is that it produces just slightly less of a plastic aftertaste than other Keurig machines we've tested (like the K55). This difference is very minor, and we really only noticed it at all by doing back-to-back taste tests. So if the plastic taste has always been slightly annoying but you dealt with it because of the convenience of Keurig machines, the K-Elite might be a worthwhile upgrade. If you've always wanted a Keurig machine but just can't get over the plastic taste, this machine certainly is not the answer to your wishes.
When you're talking convenience, it's pretty hard to beat a Keurig machine. All of the Keurig models we've tested, including the K-Elite, can heat water and make a cup of coffee in less than 2 minutes. The brewing process also only requires about 10 seconds of effort with inserting the capsule, punching int he desired settings, and hitting go. In comparison to Nespresso machines, the level of convenience is essentially even.
The only real complaint we can levy against the K-Elite when it comes to convenience is the fact that it can create some splatter when using a shorter mug. All of Keurig's newer machines have been designed to accommodate large travel mugs of up to 7.2" tall. This is great, but when you use a normal mug that long fall tends to create some splatter. It's not a big deal, requiring only a quick wipe to clean up the mess, but it certainly isn't ideal either.
The K-Elite was again at the top of the leaderboard in our user friendliness testing, along with all the other Keurig and Nespresso models we tested. The simple, intuitive control let even Keurig newbies make a cup without instruction. The 48oz water reservoir has a large opening and is easy to fill, and spent pods can easily be removed and thrown away.
Ease of Cleaning
Like all of the capsule machines we've tested, the K-Elite requires close to zero cleaning on a daily basis. Spent pods can just be thrown away, and the only thing you really have to clean is the mug you drink your coffee from. As we mentioned above shorter mugs do represent a chance for the coffee to splatter, so you may have to do an occasional wipe down if you have shorter mugs (or you could just stack 2 mugs on top of one another to get closer to the sprout).
Long term cleaning of the K-Elite requires a descaling procedure every 3-6 months to remove built up minerals from all the boiling water. This requires a descaling solution and lots of refilling the water tank to flush the machine out. This task took us 70 minutes to complete, which is longer than the descaling process for most machines. However, you only have to do it 2-4 times a year, and the process is straightforward, so it's not too much of a hassle.
It's a bit hard to pin down the K-Elite's value. The list price of $170 is at the higher end for a capsule machine. Also, for just $10 more you can get the K-Cafe, which does essentially the exact same things and has a built-in milk frother. The $120 K55 also performs very similarly. Therefore, that premium you pay for the K-Elite is really only worth it if you think a slight reduction in the plastic aftertaste present in many K-Cups is really going to improve your morning experience.
The K-Elite is a good machine, but the only advantage it offers over other more feature and/or less expensive Keurig machines is the fact that it reduces the plastic aftertaste of many K-Cups just a bit.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata