The 8 Best Keurig K Cup Coffee Pods
Maybe drinking K Cup doesn’t offer the same subtle and sophisticated flavor experience as brewing freshly ground beans. Still, it is an undeniably convenient way for a quick cup of coffee. And as long as you’re choosing the right K Cups, it need not be the bland or watery brew you might fear.
Keep reading for our K Cup buyer’s guide and our top 8 picks for this year so you can be sure you’re getting the best K Cup coffee for your Keurig coffee machine (or Keurig Alternative, if that’s how your role)
Peet’s Cafe Domingo
Peet’s Coffee is known for its well-crafted signature blends, and the Cafe Domingo is no exception. This is a smooth and balanced coffee, designed to pay tribute to the joys of lingering in a coffee shop. It’s made from beans sourced across Latin America. Domingo is an easy drinker, with flavors of nuts, chocolate, and caramel sweetness.
How to Choose the Best K Cup Coffee Pods
While coffee in pods would never be our first recommendation for a true coffee lover, there is something to be said for the convenience of a pod coffee machine. Whether you’re rushing to get out the door on a hectic morning, or desperate for a caffeine fix after a drawn-out office meeting, K Cups certainly have a valid place in the coffee world (1).
The whole point of the contraption is to provide the fastest possible path to your stimulant – without the time, labor or brain power required for even an automated drip maker.
Luckily, resigning yourself to K Cup pods does not mean settling for a bland and boring brew. This buyer’s guide will help you select the best K-Cups for your taste, ensuring a satisfying morning mug.
Related: If more of an espresso fanatic, you may want to consider a Nespresso machine instead. We’ve compiled a handy comparison of these two coffee maker brands.
Know your favorite roast.
As with all great tasting coffee beans, K cups are available with light, medium, or dark roast ground coffee. With the exception of flavored coffee, the roast level will likely have the greatest influence on the taste of your coffee.
Light roasts are characterized by a mild body and light acidity, with flavor profiles featuring fruits, florals, and citrus. The flavors typically associated with the roasting process itself, such as caramelized sugars and toastiness, are rarely present here. Instead, you’ll taste the essence of the coffee bean itself.
The ever-popular medium roasts provide a nice balance that appeals to a range of palates. They’re sweeter and less acidic than light roasts, with a slightly heavier body and just a hint of roast flavor. You can expect a flavor profile featuring caramel, nuts, fruits, and milk chocolate.
The flavor of a dark roast is dictated more by the roasting process than by the taste of the coffee bean. When done properly, a dark roast will have a rich and heavy body, coating your tongue with smooth flavors of dark chocolate and toasted nuts.
Because Keurig machines are known to yield a relatively weak cup as compared to brewing freshly roasted beans, many consumers opt for medium or dark roasts when purchasing K Cups coffee for Keurig.
These deeper roasts generally have a heavier body, and more robust, less subtle flavor notes that make them well-suited to Keurig brewing.
But don’t despair if you’re a fan of kicking off your day with a brightly acidic light roast brew. There are some good light roast K Cups to meet your needs.
Blends are more consistent.
When selecting the best coffee, the region of origin of the beans can be a significant factor. This is less important, however, when shopping for the best tasting K Cups. Though there are single-origin options, most are blends. And that’s not a bad thing. Blends tend to have more approachable flavors, ensure consistency, and keep costs affordable (2).
The reason why most roasters create blends is because consumers demand a flavour profile that is repeatable and consistent.
A blend can be any combination of coffee beans from different regions, but some styles are so popular they have a recognized name that you can seek out while shopping.
Breakfast blend coffees are light and lively, typically with fruit-forward flavors and a bright acidity designed to kickstart your day, not that you must drink them at breakfast. These lighter roasts usually contain beans from South America, often Brazil and Colombia, balanced with beans from Central America or Indonesia.
For coffee connoisseurs, the Mocha-Java blend is the world’s original blend coffee. Here, bold and earthy beans from the port of Java in Indonesia combine with bright and fruity beans from the Yemeni port of Mocha. These days, you’re more likely to find Sumatran beans combined with Ethiopian, but the flavors and spirit of this blend remain.
After-dinner blends are the counterpoint to breakfast blends, designed to soothe after an evening meal. They are typically dark roasted, full-bodied, and smooth, with flavor notes of nuts, chocolate, or spices. As befitting their name, they are often available decaffeinated.
A final type is a Single-Origin blend. A particularly expensive single-origin bean is diluted with a lesser crop from the same region to lower costs while maintaining some of the single origin’s character. This is common in specialty regions like Hawaii’s Kona or Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.
What about certifications?
A coffee certification implies that some aspect of the coffee’s production, either growing, processing, or trading, has been verified by a third party to meet a particular standard. The standards are often related to environmental or socioeconomic factors.
Frequently, different countries, and even different corporations, have their own certification process. Within the U.S., some common certifications awarded to coffee include Organic, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance (3).
Kosher certifications, also found regularly on coffee bean packaging, are a bit different. A Kosher certification ensures that a product meets the dietary standards of traditional Jewish law. In the case of coffee, this means that the product contains purely coffee, without additives. So flavored coffees, for example, are not Kosher.
To bulk buy or not to bulk buy?
K Cups are sold in a variety of quantities to satisfy the needs of different consumers, so consider your requirements before making a purchase. If you’re committed to a favorite coffee flavor or buying for a large home or office, you can purchase packs of up to 120 K Cups at a time, a bulk purchase that will certainly save money.
However, part of the appeal of single-serve coffee brewers like Keurigs can sample many different flavors, even for a day. Maybe you want to kick start your day with a breakfast blend and wind it down with an after-dinner blend. In this case, you may want to consider buying in smaller volumes or looking for companies that offer variety packs.
Watch our video review of Keurig’s K-15 single-serve brewer here:
The Top 8 Keurig K Cup Pods in 2020
Not all K Cup pods are created equal, and some rich and flavorful options on the market approach the quality of freshly ground beans. Here are 8 of our favorite best-selling K-Cups for this year. They span many roast levels and flavor profiles, so there’s something for everyone.
1. Peet’s Cafe Domingo – Best Overall
Peet’s is known for its high-quality coffee and, in particular, their well-crafted blends, so they have an excellent foundation for their K cups.
The Café Domingo is a classic medium roasted coffee, with smooth and balanced flavors sure to appeal to most palates. They make it as a blend of three Latin American coffees, carefully chosen for their inherently bright character.
The result is an easy-drinking coffee with flavors of nuts and chocolate backed by a caramel sweetness, with a crisp, clean finish.
Named after one of the original cafés opened by Alfred Peet in 1980, on Berkeley’s Domingo Avenue, this Coffee was designed to pay tribute to the joys of lingering in a coffee shop, slowly sipping on a delicious brew and enjoying conversations with friends. So brew up a cup today and savor it slowly surrounded by good company.
2. Gevalia Colombian Medium Roast Coffee – Budget Pick
Gevalia hails from Sweden, one of the world’s top 10 coffee consuming nations (4), so they know a thing or two about delivering a great brew. Though these are the lowest priced pods on our list, you would never guess it from their rich flavor, which stems from 150 years of Swedish roasting and brewing tradition.
These Colombian K-Cups are 100% arabica Colombian coffee beans, sourced from high altitude farms across the country’s mountainous regions, where the fertile soils and fresh climate guarantee ideal growing conditions and a premium product.
The result is a bright and medium-bodied coffee with a compelling flavor that is perfectly enhanced by its roast level. You’ll enjoy a taste profile featuring predominantly sweet caramel balanced by just a hint of citrus acidity.
3. Green Mountain Coffee Breakfast Blend – Best Light Roast
As Keurig’s parent company, Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee has no shortage of expertise when it comes to crafting Keurig K Cups. And that is demonstrated here in their ability to offer a fresh and flavorful brew that doesn’t need to hide behind a darker roast.
A great breakfast blend should offer the perfect morning pick me up, with vibrant acidity and bright flavors to jumpstart your day, and Green Mountain Coffee’s version certainly fits the bill. This K cup features clean flavors and balanced sweetness, with a nutty taste and silky mouthfeel.
This Green Mountain Coffee pod is the result of carefully blended Central American and Indonesian beans, the former providing the bright flavors and the latter contributing an earthy richness. Sip it first thing in the morning to start the day off on the right note, or try a cup early afternoon to beat the midday slump.
4. The Original Donut Shop – Best Medium Roast
The Original Donut Shop coffee was built on the premise of emulating the Coffee found in donut shops of old. It offers a nostalgic and straightforward brew, perfect for easing into a workday or dunking a sweet treat. Just be careful not to confuse it with donut flavored coffee, or your taste buds will be in for a surprise.
This K Cup features a classic chocolate flavor profile, but with surprisingly complex undertones of cedar, black currant and cherry, and a whiskey-like aroma. It’s has a full-body, with a syrupy mouthfeel. Yet, they balanced it with a subtle acidity. This is a brew of which you can easily enjoy several cups in a row.
Its extra bold designation refers to the quantity of coffee grounds rather than the roast level. That means you can expect the Original Donut Shop K Cup to brew up richer and more flavorful than typical Keurig K Cups.
5. Barista Prima Coffeehouse Italian Roast – Best Dark Roast
Barista Prima’s Italian Roast Coffee is a rich, heavy-bodied cup that epitomizes the age-old Italian tradition of dark-roasted coffeehouse brews. The deep roast provides the dominant flavor to this European-style Coffee, with tones of dark chocolate, ripe fruit, and berries backed by an intense smokiness.
Italian Roast is a dark roast for true dark roast lovers. Their entire dark roast line was explicitly crafted in response to consumers requesting a richer and darker K Cup, and the results have garnered them many fans.
Barista Prima sources only hand-picked, 100% arabica beans for their Keurig K Cup coffee, and they use a unique technology to pack even more grounds, and thus more flavor, into every pod (5).
This Coffee is strong enough to hold its own under a blanket of foamed milk, making it an excellent choice for a quick pseudo-latte.
6. Illy Classico Decaf Medium Roast – Best Decaf K Cup
Based in Italy, a country with a rich history when it comes to good Coffee, Illy is a household name for coffee beans, whether whole, ground, or packaged into K Cups. Founded in 1933 and still family-run, they now have a global reach, with products and cafes spread around the world.
Their Classico medium roasted coffee is an original blend of nine different Arabica beans, which yields a rich and balanced drink with notes of chocolate and caramel. The decaffeinated version provides with the same smooth taste and full-body, but with only 0.05% of the caffeine, perfect for avoiding the jitters without sacrificing great taste.
Not only does Illy produce great coffee, they are also positive corporate citizens. As a global corporation, Illy is committed to sustainability initiatives. Hence, their naming to Ethisphere’s list of the world’s most ethical companies for the seventh consecutive year, one of the few in the beverage industry (6).
7. Dunkin’ French Vanilla – Best Flavored K Cup
If you don’t want to drink flavorful coffee every day, a single-serve Keurig brewer is an excellent way to enjoy the occasional flavored treat. This Dunkin Donuts K cup, with its enticing taste of sweet vanilla and creamy, eggy custard, is one of the best tasting K Cup flavors.
This Dunkin’ Donuts offering is a nearly ideal example of the vanilla flavor. It manages to be both light and rich at the same time, with a strong vanilla flavor without being overwhelming. This coffee certainly tastes like vanilla, but importantly, it also tastes of Coffee. As it brews, it will fill your kitchen with a fragrant vanilla aroma, ensuring your mouth will be watering by the time you’re ready for your first sip.
This coffee starts with high-quality coffee beans sourced from Central and South America. They scrutinize each batch of beans in a lab for optimum size and color. Only the ideal candidates qualify for roasting, which they do slowly to achieve a perfect medium.
8. SF Bay Organic Rainforest Blend – Most Environmentally Friendly
In the past, K Cups haven’t necessarily been renowned for their positive environmental impact. Still, family-owned company SF Bay is breaking the mold by offering organic Coffee in innovative compostable coffee pods.
Their Rainforest blend is USDA certified organic, comprising a blend of 100% arabica coffee beans sourced from Mexico, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Colombia. The result is a flavorful, full-bodied brew with notes of sweet berry and dark chocolate and a subtle hint of jasmine.
The coffee pods and their lids, as well as the bag they come in, are third-party certified compostable, which is just one aspect of the company’s overall commitment to sustainability. This commitment extends throughout their product chain, including initiatives to minimize waste and pay farmers above market value for their crops.
As we’ve said before, a K Cup might not be the most flavorful way to brew a coffee, but it can be an excellent option for a busy office or a harried morning. And using this guide, you can rest assured you’re getting the best K Cups available.
The best K cup pods for us this year is Peet’s Cafe Domingo K cup, a smooth and balanced coffee, made from beans sourced across Latin America. Try it today, and enjoy the smooth flavors of nuts, chocolate, and caramel sweetness.
The most caffeinated K Cup is the Green Mountain Coffee Double Black Diamond Extra Bold K-Cup. This is according to the Keurig website. This Green Mountain Coffee dark roast K cup is a great option for the truly exhausted.
Keurig coffee can taste weak for several reasons. One of the reasons is that this style of brewing simply tends toward a weaker coffee.
Another possibility is that the piercing needle is clogged, which will cause water to flow around the K Cup and into your cup without ever extracting the coffee grounds. You can fix this by cleaning the needle using the tool provided and the manufacturer’s instructions. A regular cleaning schedule for your machine helps prevent this situation.
Finally, because every K Cup contains the same ground, brewing larger coffee sizes will result in a more watery cup.
No, you cannot use K Cups twice. While you can theoretically reinsert them into the machine and run the brew cycle, the resultant coffee will be so weak that it is not worthwhile.
- How to hack your Keurig machine and get the much better cup of coffee you deserve. (2017, March 1). Retrieved from https://nationalpost.com/life/food/how-to-hack-your-keurig-machine-and-get-the-much-better-cup-of-coffee-you-deserve
- Ospina, A. (2018, May 1). A Roaster’s Guide to Creating Coffee Blends. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/05/a-roasters-guide-to-creating-coffee-blends/
- Bradley, E. (2017, August 10). Coffee Certifications. Retrieved from https://freshcup.com/coffee-certifications/
- Smith, O. (2017, October 1). Mapped: The countries that drink the most coffee. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/countries-that-drink-the-most-coffee/
- Barista Prima Coffeehouse K-Cup Portion Packs Bring the Coffeehouse into the Home, One Cup at a Time. (2010, November 17). Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20101117005619/en/Barista-Prima-Coffeehouse-K-Cup-Portion-Packs-Bring
- The 2020 World’s Most Ethical Countries Honorees List. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://worldsmostethicalcompanies.com/honorees/?__hstc=222959556.c9958a4d22ed5155cf77d905eec20ef1.1584482855432.1584482855432.1584482855432.1&__hssc=222959556.1.1584482855434&__hsfp=1130077880