The 19 Most Popular K-Cups, Ranked By a Coffee Expert
This barista would even pay money for one of these at a coffee shop.
K-Cups are practically inescapable these days. They've invaded every office, every lazy human's kitchen counter, and half of the aisle space at all suburban Bed Bath & Beyond locations. Hell, even staunch environmentalists desperate for caffeine have compromised their morals and used a K-Cup at some point.
And nearly every brand is making a single-serving coffee pod these days. Starbucks? Check. Dunkin' Donuts? You betcha. Even Cinnabon, the maker of mall food court cinnamon rolls, makes K-Cups. But with hundreds of coffee K-Cups out there -- and at least a few dozen in your office pantry -- which one's really worth the (minimal) time?
We asked Josh Taves, a 12-year coffee industry vet (who has spent time working as a barista as well as training them) and the director of business development for Denver’s Novo Coffee -- one of the finest coffee shops in the country -- for help. He did a blind tasting of 19 of the most popular K-Cups like a true (and highly caffeinated) hero. In the end, few proved to be worth drinking, though a couple did impress our judge. Here are the results:
"It tastes like 90% dark chocolate or baker's chocolate. Most dark chocolate is only 65 -70%, so this is much more bitter. The coffee also tastes old, and a little fishy."
"Unfortunately, this was not an enjoyable experience. It tastes chemically, tarry, and pungent."
“It tastes like wet cardboard, which is a sign of old, raw product. Not old, roasted product -- it’s pre-roast. Old, green coffee is harvested and sat too long before it was roasted.”
"It tastes a little like curry or móle. It's very gamey and overwhelmingly roasted in flavor."
"This one has some peanut and cashew flavors to it. While it has a medium body [and doesn't taste too heavy], it does taste old."
"It tastes like sugar-free flavoring."
“It’s a little thin -- it’s a little dusty tasting. There’s dark chocolate and shoe leather. And a little bit of raisin sweetness, but also some leguminous vegetable notes mixed with some roastiness. It’s all right. It’s drinkable, but not enjoyable. For a K-Cup, it’s fine.”
"This one tastes like caramel without milk, I don't mind it. The coffee also has some vegetal flavors like that of sugar snap peas."
"This tastes like hotel coffee. It's less offensive than some other ones I tried, but only because it's so weak. It's like brown water."
"It tastes like a low-quality coffee, as there's not a lot going on flavor-wise. Even though there is a little bit of cinnamon sweetness in the finish, overall it's weak and old when you drink it."
"This doesn't taste like coffee at all. Instead it tastes like a hazelnut milkshake. If you put hazelnut syrup in water and heated it up, this is what you'd get. It's not bad, but it's also not coffee."
"It tastes like a cinnamon roll! There's still a little bit of coffee flavor, however, unlike the [aforementioned] hazelnut coffee. But still, it's mostly flavoring."
“This tastes like an old dark roast. The darker the roast the more it’ll taste old faster. It’s fine [overall], it’s probably on par with most things you get at the grocery store and make in your home coffeepot.”
"It has a nice body to it and it’s nutty and chocolatey."
“This is alright -- it tastes like a dark roast. It’s a little chocolatey and a little nutty. It’s also weak. There’s a little bit of sweetness to it. If I had to guess, it’s a poorly roasted Colombian coffee. It’s not bad, especially as it cools off. It gets a little sweeter. There’s a little more coffee flavor and a little less roast flavor.”
"There were very few negatives to this coffee. It started with good flavors and it didn't taste old."
"I'm getting some sweetness and caramel. Compared to the other K-Cup coffees I've tried, this has a heavier body, which is a good thing."
"It's very clean in flavor. It lacks bitterness and astringency in the finish, which is nice. I wouldn't be upset drinking a cup of this, but I would be upset paying for it."
"It's not bad! It has some moderate sweetness and it has some acidity that pops. I can see an importer sending us this coffee [to try to get us to sell it], and us saying, 'It's OK, but no.'"