K-Cups are practically inescapable these days. They've invaded 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’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 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."
“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.”
“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.”