Keurig 2.0 Brewer Series Overview & First Impressions
When Keurig first announced earlier this year that it was working on a new brewer which could brew both K-Cups & full carafes of coffee, we were left scratching our head as we thought the whole point of a single serve coffee machine was to… well… serve single servings of coffee. Why would anyone want a single serve coffee machine to make an entire pot (or carafe as Keurig prefers to call it) of coffee? Single serve machines were built specifically to get rid of the old customs of brewing full pots only to have them go stale or burnt (if left on a hot plate) before anyone could finish drinking the entire pot. More often then not, we’d end up dumping more coffee down the sink drain than what would end up in our mugs throughout the course of a day.
When compared to K-Cups or Vue-Packs, the new K-Carafe Packs are considerably larger (think of an oversized Travel Mug Vue-Pack) and appear to contain much more coffee. When you first realize how oversized these things are, it comes as a bit of a surprise and makes sense why you only get 8 in a retail box. That wasn’t the only surprise that the new Keurig 2.0 brewer would hold in store for us. The very controversial decision to implement DRM and make the brewer only brew licensed/coded K-Cups caused much stir and vitriol from consumers & competitors alike. Companies which were already making several unlicensed K-Cups were angry that Keurig was effectively locking them out from being able to brew their products on the new machine. Anti-competitive lawsuits emerged and all sorts of issues arose around the matter.
The last, albeit welcome, surprise was several weeks before the new Keurig 2.0 was set to launch: news emerged that we’d be getting 3 new brewers instead of 1. Aimed at various price markets, you could opt for the barebones K300 Series K350 brewer which had a 60oz water tank and a black & white touchscreen for $149.99 USD, the middle-range K400 Series K450 brewer which had a 70oz water tank, a color touchscreen & a few extra features for $169.99 USD or the top of the line K500 Series K550 brewer which had an 80oz water tank, a larger color touchscreen and all the bells & whistles to the point where you could even change the color of the light under the water tank for $199.99 USD.
There was even an unannounced Costco-exclusive K500 Series K560 model which had the same features as the K550, but came with the new Keurig 2.0 water filter & a bunch of extra K-Cups all for the same price as the entry level K350 at $149.99 USD. Although if you’re not picky on which series of machine you get, the best deal would be the Sam’s Club-exclusive (also unannounced) where you can get a K400 Series K460 which has the same features as the K450 but includes more K-Cups and the new 2.0 water filter kit as well for only $129.98 USD.
So, which version of the Keurig 2.0 should you get? That all depends on how fancy you want your brewer to be or how many extra features you require. Don’t care for a super-large water tank or multi-colored water tank lights? Go with the cheaper models. Want the Cadillac of the line-up with every possible feature & the largest water tank? Go with the most expensive model. There are a few key differences which haven’t been mentioned by Keurig which we’ve discovered during testing which seem a bit odd.
NOTE: Keurig sent our staff 2 different review units for the purpose of this Mega Review. Most of the pictures will be of the K450 model since the screens & features are mostly the same as the K350, but we also cover topics concerning the K550 model as well as there are certain features exclusive to that model.
Brewing a hot water cycle (A.K.A. How to create a button that does nothing)
Anyone who has a Keurig 1.0 brewer knows that you can brew a hot water cycle simply by opening & closing the lid then selecting which brew size you want. You had your pick of any brew size the machine could support. When the Keurig Vue brewers were released a few years ago, the only way you could do this is if you used the empty plastic shell from a used Vue-Pack due to the design of the piercing needles. Again, you could brew any size the machine supported.
With the new Keurig 2.0 brewers, we can again simply open and close the lid, however… unlike the 1.0 brewers, we’re limited to only 4oz and 6oz of hot water. Why doesn’t Keurig allow us to use anything larger than 6oz? Once you close the lid on the K350 or K450, you select between 4oz or 6oz and hit the brew button once. Ready to take a trip into BizarroWorld? The top of the line K500 Series brewers have a dedicated hot water button on the touch screen. Well, that’s until you actually press it and get a prompt telling you to open & close the lid just like on the lower-end machines. So… how is this a dedicated button? They might as well have made it display a screen that says Oops! You’re doing it wrong!
Stranger still, once you open and close the lid, you need to HOLD DOWN the brew button in order to get the hot water. Seriously? Why didn’t they do like on the lower-end machines and allow us to pick between the 4oz or 6oz setting and simply press the button once without having to hold it down? At first we thought it might allow us to brew more than 6oz, but nope… it’ll stop dispensing hot water after it hits 6oz. Why would the most expensive brewer in the lineup be less simple to use for hot water than the cheaper brewers? Note to Keurig… why didn’t you just make the dedicated button forward to the 4oz-6oz selection screen and then only require the user to press the brew button once like on the cheaper brewers?
Brewing licensed K-Cups/Vue-Packs
If you thought the hot water follies above were nothing short of marvellous, then hold onto your socks… this one’s a beauty! Remember a few months ago when Keurig started redesigning all their K-Cups to include the same Keurig Brewed black seal/logo as their Vue-Packs? Remember how there was a massive marketing campaign online and on television where Keurig kept telling us that if it didn’t have the Keurig Brewed seal/logo, it wasn’t the best quality and wasn’t guaranteed to work with your Keurig Brewer? Those K-Cups still exist. As a matter of fact, a vast majority of major retailers, big box stores and grocery stores across USA & Canada are still selling these very K-Cups on their shelves since they’re trying to clear-out their existing stock. Since the expiry dates on these older K-Cups are as far stretching as December 2014/February 2015, most stores haven’t updated their stock with newer supplies yet. Chances are if you’re like us, these older K-Cups are the same ones you have at home right now.
So you’re thinking, what’s the big deal? It has the Keurig Brewed seal/logo on it, it’s a LICENSED Keurig K-Cup which I bought in-store or ordered online DIRECT FROM KEURIG. It should work in the new Keurig 2.0 brewers, right? Keurig wouldn’t lock-out their OWN LICENSED K-CUPS from working in the newer machines, would they? Despite being OFFICIALLY LICENSED, these older K-Cups still will NOT work in the Keurig 2.0 brewers.
A closer look at how the laser/reader decodes K-Cups & Vue-Packs explains why older products don’t work. The laser/reader is located in the 9 o’clock position inside the lid. As a result, it can only scan for items located in the same position on K-Cup & Vue-Pack lids. The newer K-Cups have a white ring with a different Keurig Brewed logo printed along the edge of the lid. The newer Vue-Packs & K-Carafe Packs have a green dot in this area instead. The laser/reader scans for the text on a white background or for a green dot and then brings up the appropriate menus on the touch screen.
If none of these are present, you get an Oops! This pack wasn’t designed for this brewer error message. Before some of you craftier folk start breaking out the colored construction paper and highlighters, you might as well save your time. The laser/reader only works if you match the exact color shades & text patterns on the newer K-Cups & Vue-Packs. If you don’t match them perfectly, you still get the error message. Yes, we know there’s work-arounds, but we won’t go into the details as we’re sure most of you know how to use ye olde interwebs to figure things out on your own.
So I can’t brew my old Vue-Packs either? Nope. Apparently Keurig have just started releasing newer versions of Vue-Packs which now have the prerequisite green dot on them. They also now have a number where the old brown/blue dots were located above the output spout. You insert the newer Vue-Packs in the Keurig 2.0 brewer and then pick the appropriate number from the touchscreen menu in order to bring up relevant options. From what we can see, the number system works as follows (keep in mind we’re taking guesses here for #3 but are fairly certain about the other options):
1 is obviously for K-Carafe Packs
2 is for brewing Travel Mug Vue-Packs since the Strong button can be enabled and only travel mug sizes are available
3 is for brewing yet to be released Brew Over Ice Travel Mug Vue-Packs? The Strong button is disabled on this setting & you can only brew travel mug sizes
4 is for regular coffee Vue-Packs as the Strong button is enabled and you have all brew sizes up to 10oz
5 is for latte-style Vue-Packs since you get prompted for Step 1 frothing of the milk packs
6 is for regular size Brew Over Ice Vue-Packs as you have all brew sizes available
Oddly enough, the older Vue-Packs will also generate the same Oops! error message. Now, we can understand why Keurig would do this for unlicensed K-Cups, but guess what? There’s no such thing as unlicensed Vue-Packs! Competitors never even bothered creating their own unlicensed Vue-Packs and as far as we’re aware, no such products ever hit the market. As a result, the only Vue-Packs that ever existed were KEURIG’S OWN VUE-PACKS!
The only reasoning we can see behind this is that Keurig must figure that should their 2.0 brewers gain enough popularity, competitors might be tempted to finally start making unlicensed Vue-Packs, so as a result, they figured they’d lock-out those types of yet-to-be-created products as well while they were at it. Regardless, all the people who decided to replace their Vue brewers with a newer 2.0 brewer are in for a rude awakening when their existing stock of Vue-Packs no longer work either. Keurig will now have a whole generation of existing Vue-Pack owners equally frustrated with this decision. Again, there are work-arounds out there which we’ll let you discover on your own.
All is not completely lost when it comes to unlicensed products. Mother Parkers recently announced that they cracked the DRM on the 2.0 brewers and that their existing brands of Real Cup products would be revised and redesigned in order to work with the new brewers. As a result, all your favorites from Marley Coffee, Martinson Coffee, Higgins & Burke, etc. will still work in the new 2.0 brewers just as soon as they can hit retail shelves over the coming weeks/months. Unofficially, our sources also claim that other competitors have cracked the DRM as well, so chances are in a few months you’ll see unlicensed brands as you do now able to be brewed using Keurig 2.0.
There are things we really like about the new brewers but there are equally quite a few things we don’t. Despite the negatives, we still think the positives merit giving these brewers a chance if you’re in the market for a new machine. If you already own an older Keurig 1.0 Series brewer or one of Keurig’s Vue brewers, then you may not be as enticed to make the switch given the fact that all the new 2.0 products will still work on your older brewers. The main factor for making the switch will be just how desperately you need to brew an entire carafe instead of just a single cup. We’ll touch on the new K-Carafe Packs, the Starter Carafe which comes with each brewer and many more features in our follow-up to this review.
This concludes Part 1 of our 3-part Keurig 2.0 Reviews. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll be discussing the new menu system, brewing K-Cups, Vue-Packs & K-Carafe Packs and some of the new features which are exclusive only to the Keurig 2.0 series of brewers.
Keurig 2.0 K350/K450/K550 brewers are available direct from Keurig.com. All these machines are also available in Canada direct from Keurig.ca! The Keurig 2.0 K560 is available from Costco.com & Costco.ca but the Keurig 2.0 K460 appears to be available only in USA via SamsClub.com. You can also get the Keurig 2.0 bundle at Amazon.com.
A special thanks to SH for providing Part 1 of this Single Serve Coffee staff Review. We would also like to greatly thank Keurig Green Mountain for sending us review units for the purpose of this review.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at September 15, 2014 7:44 AM