Review: Solofill Cup K3 Chrome K-Cup Filter
Back when Keurig first introduced their K-Cup brewers, one of the first accessories to get introduced was the My K-Cup filter. It consisted of a steel mesh filter housed inside a plastic assembly that fit inside the brew chamber once you had removed the lower assembly that contained the bottom piercing needle and was created with the sole purpose of letting users use their own ground coffee instead of having to buy pre-packaged K-Cups should their favorite flavor not be available in K-Cup format. There were many issues that most users encountered with the first generation models which ranged from poor extraction to clogged filters and leaking coffee grinds being dumped into the bottom of their mugs.
We're not sure if the latest generation of My K-Cup filters have solved those issues since we were among the majority who decided to wait things out and see what the competition had to offer. Many 3rd-party companies tried various attempts and creating their own filters over the years but the one which stood out as being the best designed with best overall performance was the Solofill K-Cup filter. It was an all-in-one filter that had a rubber gasket around the lid which solved the coffee grind overflow problem (or so we thought) and the mesh filter was molded right into the outer plastic. The size was similar to a K-Cup which meant you didn't need to go through the extra hassle of taking apart your brewer's brew chamber... just fill the Solofill and pop it in like any other K-Cup. We've included a photo of this 1st-generation model for comparison.
Dubbed the Octaflo System, the first Solofill filters (Solofill Cup K1) used 8 slots in the lid to evenly disperse hot water over the grinds in order to ensure better extraction and fuller flavor. While this worked for the most part, there were still issues with the product. The mesh was so fine that it was a pain to clean as the grinds remained stuck inside the filter and required extra scraping to come off. Depending on the consistency of the grind, the filter could occasionally clog which resulted in the lid blowing open and coffee grinds overflowing inside the brew chamber.
Once you sorted out the issues, the final results were usually pretty decent. The coffee still had micro-grinds in the bottom of the mug often referred to as coffee sludge, but the flavor for the most part was a lot stronger than anything you'd get with the My K-Cup. A few redesigns later, the newer Decaflo-Plus System was introduced in the Solofill Cup K2 filters. Using 10 slots instead of 8, a greater amount of water was allowed to flow-through the grinds in an effort to get better flavor. We never got around to testing this redesign, so we have no idea if this new system produced any better results or not. One thing we did notice however was that repeated use of the Solofill resulted in the lid hinge cracking or breaking off altogether since it was molded directly onto the filter basket as a single piece of folded plastic. At an average cost of $15 to $18, this made for a costly design error.
This brings us to the most recent all-new redesign dubbed the Solofill Cup K3 Chrome. This 3rd-generation filter (hence the K3 in the name) was completely redesigned from scratch. The first thing they tackled was the breaking hinge... gone was the one-piece plastic molding only to be replaced by a far superior piano hinge which Solofill claims is guaranteed never to break. A quick look at the construction only seems to reinforce that claim as we highly doubt we'll have any issues whatsoever with breakage even after many years or repeated use.
Solofill also decided it was time to redesign the mesh itself, so gone is the old micro-mesh to be replaced by an all-new, custom designed micro-foil. Comprised of an alternating weave of tiny slits, the chrome coated foil supposedly solves most clogging issues by allowing a far greater amount of water to flow through the grinds and ensure better overall extraction. Included instructions even go so far as to advise what could be causing clogs in the first place such as using an espresso grind and not having the coffee grounds be coarse enough. Another new design element is the elimination of the nub underneath the filter. Now you have a flat bottom which allows the filter to stand upright and make for easier filling. There are also 2 grooves which allow the bottom piercing needle to seat the filter inside the brew chamber more securely (hence the arrows on the lid which indicate which way the filter needs to be inserted when brewing).
The lid still has the Decaflo System but has a slightly longer needle which gets inserted further into the filter basket when closed allowing for better water coverage. The lid also still uses a rubber gasket and despite what appears to be a latch on the front of the lid, there's no latching mechanism involved... the lid is still secured in place solely by pressing the lid closed so that the gasket forms a seal. We're a bit disappointed with this as we feel at true latch that snapped in place would be the 100% sure-fire guarantee that the lid wouldn't blow open during brewing. We're not sure if this was done intentionally as a way to relieve pressure should the filter become clogged or if it's simply an oversight that will be addressed during the next redesign. It may also just be intended as something to grip onto when opening the filter for clean-up. One new feature is the ability to use coffee pods much like a Kienna Kup filter. The smaller size of the 1st-generation Solofill never allowed for this, so chalk this up as a 2-for-1 bonus of the new K3 model.
There's also another version of the Solofill K-Cup filter available dubbed the K3 Gold. This model uses 24 karat gold plating on the micro-foil since gold is an inert material which won't affect the coffee's final taste and prevent instances of metallic-tasting coffee (to be honest, we think the chrome version does this inert job just fine... although the black & gold version does look a lot nicer). Keurig Vue users aren't left out either since Solofill recently introduced the first 3rd-party Vue filter with their Solofill Cup V1 Gold Vue Pack Filter (we're currently trying to obtain one for a future review).
So, just how does the new Solofill Cup K3 Chrome Filter perform? Are the new design elements worth the hype? Well... yes & no. The new hinge performs as expected and has a more solid feel overall, so we're not worried in the least that it'll snap off anytime soon. The company is so confident that this product will last a while that they've even included a limited lifetime warranty. The new micro-foil filter does indeed seem not to clog anymore but we still ended up with a fair amount of coffee sludge in the bottom of the mug despite the packaging claiming we'd have reduced amounts. We also noticed that the final flavor wasn't as strong as what we were expecting, but it could be because our grind was too coarse or that we hadn't used enough grinds in the filter. We're sure we'll eventually get the results we desire upon further experimentation.
We didn't try using any pods in the filter, so we can't comment on that, but we're fairly certain results would be comparable to the Kienna Kup filter only somewhat better since the Decaflo unit pierces the pod and allows for 10 streams of water vs. the Keurig brewer's needle directly piercing the pod and only allowing for 1 main stream of water. The fact that the water must pass through an extra paper filter later before going through the micro-foil filter means that coffee sludge would probably be greatly reduced while flavor might be a tad stronger as well since water would remain in the pod longer than it would just flowing through loose grinds.
The chrome plating on the micro-foil did allow for easier cleanup as all we had to do was turn the filter upside down, give it a few quick taps on the counter top and bam... the filter basket was 95% clean while only a slight amount of coffee grinds remained stuck to the inside of the lid. MUCH improved compared to the 1st-generation, so we're sure Solofill fans will be greatly pleased by this since a quick rinse under the kitchen faucet is all that's required for clean-up afterwards.
So, here's a quick run-through of our likes & dislikes of the new Solofill Cup K3 Chrome Filter:
- New piano hinge guaranteed never to break, filter even includes a limited lifetime warranty!
- Chrome plating on micro-foil allows for MUCH easier clean-up as grinds no longer remain stuck inside filter basket.
- Slightly longer Decaflo needle allows for better water coverage during brewing.
- New micro-foil design prevents clogging and allows for better water extraction.
- Flat bottom allows for easier filling since filter can now stand upright on its own.
- New channels under filter allow it to be seated more securely in brewer during brewing.
- Ability to use coffee pods makes this a 2-in-1 filter and adds greater versatility/choices overall.
- 100% BPA-free plastic.
- Included instructions answer any questions most users would have and notes helpful tips which advise what could potentially cause filter to clog.
- Despite claiming micro-foil reduces coffee sludge, there was still a fair amount of sludge at the bottom of our mug during our tests.
- Coffee seemed a bit weaker tasting than expected but that's likely due to user error on our behalf. We're sure better results could be achieved upon further experimentation.
- Latch on front of lid isn't really a true latch since it doesn't snap in place. Not sure if this is intentional and only allows you something to grip onto when opening the filter for clean-up or if this will be addressed during the next redesign.
We knew that as time progressed, Solofill would probably redesign their filter but we weren't expecting such a drastic redesign as what we got this time around. We're actually glad to see that the company took time to address customer concerns and we feel this new product is a lot more solid and well-designed than most of the other filters which are on the market. We also feel the durability has been vastly improved with the addition of the new hinge design and are quite happy that the new micro-foil filter is such a breeze to clean-up compared to the old mesh. You really do feel you're getting much more bang for your bucks. The fact that you can now use coffee pods doesn't mean we'll see users abandoning their pod machines anytime soon, but it's still a nice added feature which we weren't expecting.
Solofill believe in this redesign so much that they've gone so far as to create their own coffee grinder dubbed the SoloGrind which not only grinds coffee into a conventional container, but it also includes a special attachment that allows you to brew precise amounts of coffee directly into any Solofill filter. They also decided to include a K3 Chrome filter with the machine as well. We can't wait to test this grinder once it's released sometime in April 2013 and love the fact that you don't need a separate coffee grinder nor need to spoon grinds bit by bit into the filter. You just select a setting on the SoloGrind and get the perfect amount of coffee grinded directly into the Solofill filter.
With all the new design elements used on this new Solofill filter and with the innovative & creative leaps the company seems to be making with its other products, we can't wait to see what the next redesign will bring us and think this new filter is more than worthy of an investment if you're looking to brew your favorite ground coffee brand in your Keurig K-Cup brewer.
The Solofill Cup K3 Chrome K-Cup Filter will work in all Keurig K-Cup brewers and is available in Canada for $17.99 CAD at ECSCoffee.com. This Solofill filter is also available for $14.95 USD at CoffeeTitan.com in USA.
A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that this Solofill Cup K3 Chrome K-Cup Filter was supplied by ECS Coffee for the purpose of this review.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at March 6, 2013 5:27 AM