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.