Most of the posts and reviews on the new Keurig 2.0 coffee machines seem to fall into one of four groups:
- An ad for the machine.
- A review recapping the same information as the ad coupled some basic hands-on info and a rant or two.
- A rant about the new DRM approach being employed by Keurig.
- A rant about why you should be using (insert another brand coffee maker here) or a french press.
This post is not any of these things. It is intended to provide some additional information to those considering a Keurig 2.0 brewer and some tips & tricks to those who already have one. (Personally, I’m not a fan of DRM in any form, but I decided to purchase one of these machines for my office at work anyway.)
Keurig 2.0 Models – Clarification
First, a quick word on model numbers for the new machines. Many of the posts and reviews describe three models: the K300, K400, and K500. These model numbers appear based on the early descriptions and ads from Keurig, and were also used by a number of stores when preparing their websites for preorders. However, about a week prior to the actual release of the machines, Keurig updated their site and stores scrambled to make adjustments. The actual model numbers of the released machines are K350, K450, and K550. As far as I know, there is no difference in the features of the machine; they just went with a different model number for some reason. In other words, the K300 was released as the K350, and so on.
An Overlooked Feature
Most of the reviews I’ve read spend a great deal of time warning the reader about all the non-Keurig-branded K-cups they will no longer be able to use in their machine. And if purchasing “off-brand” K-cups is important to you, that is very important information. The other main topic covered is the availability of new K-carafe packs to brew a carafe of coffee. However, an often overlooked feature of the Keurig 2.0 machines is the fact that, in addition to K-cups and K-carafes, the machine also supports Vue cups. Even Keurig’s site and the owner’s manual that comes with the brewer fails to really point this out, though the information is out there if you look hard enough.
One question I had prior to purchasing the brewer was this: how are the needles arranged? If you’re not aware, K-cups use an input needle on top and an output needle on bottom, while Vue cups use two needles on top. Turns out the K2.0 machines have three needles, two on top and one on bottom. When you put the larger-diameter Vue cup in the machine, the lower needle swings out of position. When a K-cup is inserted, the second top needle lies outside the edge of the cup. It’s actually very well thought out and seems well-built.
The DRM Ink on Your K-Cups and Vue Cups
So there has been a lot of talk about the pros and cons of the new DRM strategy being employed by Keurig, but not a lot of information detailing exactly what customers need to look for to ensure their cups will work with a K2.0 brewer. Right now, there is a mix of older K2.0-incompatible K-cups and Vue cups and newer K2.0-compatible cups. This mix exists in physical stores, online stores, and even Keurig’s own website. Hopefully, this will only improve over time, but for now here are a few things to look for, both on the cup itself and on the box.
K2.0-compatible K-cups have a pale ring with the words “Keurig Brewed” around the edge. Do not mistake the classic dark brown circular Keurig Brewed logo, which also appears on the cups, as an indicator that the cup will work in a K2.0 machine. This logo appears on older cups as well. It is the pale ring you are looking for. If your K-cup is missing this ring, the K2.0 brewer will reject it. But there may be a workaround, keep reading.
So far, it does not appear that boxes of K-cups are clearly marked as supporting K2.0 machines. However, older boxes are often marked as being incompatible with Vue machines, which means the box was likely produced prior to the inception of the K2.0 DRM and will not work in the new machines. When you’re in a store, I recommend looking for boxes that read “For use in all Keurig K-Cup brewers”. I haven’t confirmed this is a surefire way to get the right K-cups, but it’s worked for me so far. Unfortunately, this isn’t much help when ordering online.
The original Vue cups have a black edge, the circular Keurig Brewed logo at the top, and a brown coffee symbol at the bottom (where the output needle is inserted. These older cups are similarly incompatible with the new K2.0 brewers. Newer K2.0-compatible Vue cups include two key features: a pale green dot on the left side which is used for DRM and a K2.0-friendly numerical setting at the bottom. More on the settings in a minute.
Fortunately, the Vue boxes are a little more customer-friendly. Older Vue packs simply read “Not for K-cup brewers” and are K2.0-incompatible. The newer Vue cups are clearly marked as “Compatible with Keurig Vue and Keurig 2.0 brewers”.
Trick: Use Old Vue Cups in your K2.0 Brewer
So what happens if you have older Vue cups or accidentally buy some? Well, there is a simple workaround that will allow you to brew an older Vue cup in your new machine. (This could theoretically work with old K-cups as well, but it’s much easier with Vue cups.) Basically, you’re going to use a label from a used newer Vue cup to fool the machine.
First, after you’ve brewed some coffee using a newer K2.0-compatible Vue cup, save the foil top. Vue cups are designed to be peeled apart and recycled, so this is easily accomplished by grabbing the tab at the top of the cup and peeling the foil off (after it’s cooled). This is one reason why this trick is easier with Vue cups; K-cups are really meant to be taken apart. The latte frother Vue cups work well for this because after you use them, there is nothing left in the cup. Probably a good idea to rinse and dry the label too.
Next, I recommend cutting off part of the label. The objective is to keep both the DRM dot and the tab at the top while removing the foil from the areas where the needles will be inserted. This may not be necessary, but it reduces the chance of problems and lets you reuse the same label more than once.
Next, lay the modified label on top of your old-style Vue cup and hook the tab over the edge to help align the label and hold it in place. This is another reason why this is easier with a Vue cup; the K-cup does not have the convenient tab. You might be able to accomplish something similar with a piece of tape, but that could lead to unforeseen complications.
Finally, insert the cup into the brewer. The K2.0 machines have a small black plastic tab at the bottom edge of the chamber. Pulling down on this tab makes room for a Vue cup; it also moves the bottom needle out of position. Pull down on the tab and insert the cup. Press gently and the entire rim of the chamber will expand slightly, allowing the Vue cup to fit easily but snugly into position. If the tab on the label is hooked over the edge, the rim of the chamber will also help hold the label in position. This is yet another reason why this is more difficult with a K-cup, as they do not fit into the chamber in the same way. Now simply pull down on the lever to close the machine, which should recognize the cup as K2.0 compatible and give you a choice of brew settings.
K2.0 Vue Cup Settings
As I mentioned, the manual that accompanies the brewer hardly mentions Vue cups, and it provides very little information on the associated color-coded numerical settings. Supposedly, these settings should correspond to specific temperatures and other particulars necessary to produce an ideal brew, but we don’t know much. K-Carafe packs, which are essentially just tall Vue cups, use setting 1 (purple). Normal coffee Vue cups use setting 4 (brown). Two-part cappuccino/frother Vue cups use setting 5 (cyan). As for 2 (yellow), 3 (green), and 6 (orange), I’m not sure what they are used for. Keurig makes reference to “future innovations” relating to these settings on their website. Based on a chart in the manual, we know that settings 2 and 3 both use larger cup sizes, so I’m guessing these are for travel mug-sized Vue cups, but I haven’t seen a K2.0-compatible variety of these to confirm.
Basically, you just push whatever button corresponds to the cup you’re using, or use a setting from a similar style cup if you’re using the trick above. Each setting has a corresponding range of brew sizes, and the standard 4 setting for coffee tops out at 10 oz. so if you need a larger amount you could select 2 or 3 instead for larger options. Just keep in mind the strength of the coffee may be affected. I encountered a similar issue when using the 5 setting for a frother/coffee combination. When selecting 5 you will be directed to insert the frother cup first, which produces 4 oz. as with Vue brewers. You are then told to insert the coffee cup, and the setting defaults to a Strong brew, also like the Vue brewers. However, while my home Vue brewer allows me to increase the brew size to 6 oz. at this point, the K2.0 brewer is limited to only 4 oz. I’m not sure of the reason for this, but there is a simple workaround. Simply touch one of the arrows by the 5 and select a new setting. I’d suggest 4 with your preferred brew size, and remember to reselect Strong.
So that’s all for now. If I come across any more useful information or tricks I’ll post them here.