Keurig 2.0 is hot garbage

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A French press — my favorite way to drink coffee.

I like coffee, and I’m not all that snobby about it. Now, I don’t want my coffee to taste like hazelnuts or chocolate raspberry — I want coffee flavored coffee, usually back, sometimes with cream, never with sugar. But I like pretty much any kind of coffee, whether it’s the Folger’s I run through my drip pot at work, the house-roasted beans I take pour-over style at my local coffee shop, or the various varieties I make for myself at home in my French press. I’ve had lovely cafe au lait in the French Quarter of New Orleans, beautifully poured lattes in Seattle’s Pioneer Square — and on the flip side, I’ve had more than a few cups of wretched vending machine coffee in the English department building at the University of Arkansas. What I haven’t had — until today that is — is a coffee maker that dictated what coffee could be put in it.

Picture this: you grab your French press, and instead of that Fair Trade, lovingly roasted coffee that you normally buy, all you have is the can of Maxwell House you keep in the back of the pantry for emergencies. You plop a few tablespoons into the press, pour in the hot water…and your French press flashes an error at you for using an unapproved coffee and refuses to brew. Sound crazy? Sound far-fetched? Sounds like the Keurig 2.0 to me.

Now, the Keurig craze has never really caught on with me — I normally like more than one cup of coffee at a sitting, and the entire process of k-cups seems to produce a lot of wasteful trash with its single-use cups. I’ve also never had a cup of Keurig coffee that rated much better than instant — although I admit that most of my experience with the machines comes from hotel rooms, so I’m sure decent Keurig coffee is out there. But with the invention of reusable k-cups and Keurig pods that could be filled with any sort of coffee, I softened my view of the machines; they seem great for people who only like one cup at a time, especially if those folks are pressed for time. So when my mother-in-law bought a Keurig machine, I was happy for her, and looked forward to trying some of the varieties she’d bought to go with it.

Then she hit a snag: some of the K-cups worked in the machine, and some did not. She had purchased two types of reusable k-cups; neither type worked. About three minutes of internet sleuthing gave us the answer: Keurig 2.0 machines only work with Keurig brand k-cups. Instead of using their vast technological resources to build a machine that made a better cup of coffee, Keurig engineers installed a little sensor located right on the left of where the k-cup sits that can detect the foil ring around each official k-cup — and only then will the damn thing brew.

Are you freakin’ kidding me? DRM (digital rights management) in a flippin’ COFFEE MAKER? Welcome to America in the 21st century, folks — your damn coffee maker can pick and choose what coffee it’s going to brew, and it doesn’t matter that you’ve already handed the folks at Keurig an amount of money TEN TIMES what my French press cost, you’re going to have to keep shelling out money for their special k-cups forever and always if you want to use the machine.

Of course, you can hack the thing, something that took me about 5 minutes to accomplish. I cut one of the rings off of an “official” cup, taped it over the sensor, and had some bootleg coffee pouring in no time flat. And there are already third party k-cup makers who have supposedly managed to bypass the sensor in order to keep selling their own brand of cups. But the sheer fact that I had to break out the utility knife just to get my mother-in-law’s Keurig to make a cup of fresh-ground Caribou coffee makes me want to break stuff. And it still wasn’t as good as my French press.

The way I see it, this can only damage the Keurig brand. They’ve aggressively marketed the 2.0 with little to no mention that the machine will only brew approved pods. That’s not how you build trust in your brand. As for me, I’ll stick to the French press — or just buy this Bunn Multi-use coffee maker that uses pods (of any type), loose coffee, tea bags, or any number of other methods of getting a hot beverage in the cup. I know one thing for sure: my next coffee maker purchase won’t be a Keurig.

Final Seattle Round-up

zeitgeist

Zeitgeist Coffee

As the second week of 2013 gets underway, I find myself possessed of a few odds and ends from Seattle that are not quite big enough to make into a whole post but too good to just forget. So as a way of capping my on-going series from the Pacific Northwest, I present to you this round-up of all the little things worth knowing:

Best Coffee Shop: How do you pick a favorite coffee shop in a part of the world known for them? Take two tired people, add in a lot of walking in the cold, and stir with the fortuitous find of Zeitgeist Coffee. This Pioneer Square coffee shop was spacious, wonderfully noisy, and served up huge cups of strong, creamy coffee that warmed us and got us back up and going when we needed it most.

Mr. D's Gyros

Mr. D’s Gyros

Best Street Food: We ate a lot of good street food, but our hands-down favorite was the gyros wrap from Mr. D’s Greek Delicacies in the Pike Place Market. Tender shaved lamb, tangy tzatziki, and soft pita made this one heck of a sandwich. I’m a little nuts for gyros anyway, so it was a great pleasure for me to eat this messy mass of Mediterranean deliciousness.

Best Food we Bought for Other People but Wound up Eating Ourselves: Chukar Cherries. Not only that but we ate more free samples than was probably polite. Don’t worry, we brought some replacements home for everyone else.

Fish n' Chips

Fish n’ Chips

Biggest Discrepancy: The waterfront was home to both our most expensive meal and our least, with the least being a paper tray of crispy battered cod and a pile of potato wedges served alongside a bowl of clam chowder. While nothing about this little meal was mind-blowing, the fish was hot and tasty, the potatoes nice and mealy, and the chowder was creamy and good. As a quick meal, we certainly could have done worse (and, in fact, probably did).

There were, of course, a few places that just barely rate a mention, including the strange little Mexican place we had nachos and Coronas at on our second night, the odd-ball coffee shop/art gallery where we shook off our celebratory post-election hangovers, and the many pastries and snacks we grabbed on the go. Seattle is a great town for food, and while Jess and I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface, we just take that as a reason to go back. Cheers!

 

Coffee Break: Cherry Street Coffee House

One of the main things Seattle is known for is coffee, and we managed to to drink enough quality java during our stay that I can almost forgive the city for foisting the over-roasted abomination that is Starbucks on the rest of the country. Our first full morning found us needing a jolt of caffeine to counteract the effects of the time zone changes we had made in addition to the end of Daylight Saving Time. Lucky for us, the friendly red glow of a Cherry Street Coffee House location was visible from the front of our Harbor Steps condo, and we wiped the sleep from our eyes and made the best sleepy shambling beeline we could to the front door.

Now to be perfectly honest, the coffee at Cherry Street wasn’t anything special. Jess ordered a respectable latte, while I contented myself with a strong, but slightly over-roasted Americano. The flavor was decent, but there were strong overtones of acid and burnt flavors that overwhelmed the natural sweetness that can often be coaxed from a coffee bean. Still, a dash of half-and-half did the trick of cutting that acidic flavor and allowed us to move on to what was the best part of our visit: the Tomato Bagel. Being a tomato lover, Jess immediately picked this item from the menu, while I went for the classic lox — which was unfortunately sold out. Taking a cue from my better half, I ordered a tomato bagel, too, and we were both treated to a large toasted bagel topped with a healthy schmear of cream cheese and several slices of a lovely bright red Roma tomato. I was skeptical about how this was all going to go down until I took the first bite — and it was pure bliss. Warm toasted bread gave way to the cool, rich tomatoes with all that luscious cream cheese holding everything together. It made for a great breakfast, but I could see myself grabbing one of these for lunch or an afternoon snack.

Cherry Street Coffee House wasn’t the best coffee we had in Seattle, but the service was good and lively, and that tomato bagel will always have a special place in our hearts. There are several locations around the city, so if you need some carbs and cream cheese, give them a try.

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