Keurig 2.0 Menus, Brewing Various Packs & New Exclusive 2.0 Features
We continue today with Part 2 of our 3-part Keurig 2.0 Mega Review (you can read Part I here) by checking out the new menu system, discussing how to brew various packs in the new brewers and we also cover new features which you’ll only find on the new 2.0 brewers. One thing we’d like to tackle before we get started (and something we forgot to mention in Part 1) is how you can determine whether or not K-Cups & Vue Packs are 2.0 compatible before you even open the box.
We’re all familiar with the old Keurig Brewed logo and while most people will think this automatically means they’re getting 2.0 K-Cups or Vue Packs… this is NOT the case. Instead, you now need to look for even NEWER logos on the packaging. The new K-Cup compatibility logo is a colored rectangle with a circled checkmark on top which contains the words “For use in all Keurig K-Cup brewers”. While we’re not entirely 100% certain if boxes featuring this new logo might still contain older 1.0 K-Cups (since the use of the word all can be considered somewhat vague), we can however confirm that all the new boxes with this logo in our latest online orders & in-store purchases DID contain the newer 2.0 K-Cups which feature the Keurig Brewed grey/white ring around the lid.
As for Vue Packs, it’s considerably easier to tell as the similarly checkmarked yellow square on the top-right of the box clearly states “Compatible with Keurig Vue and Keurig 2.0 Brewers”. As you can see, there’s no doubting compatibility since it mentions the 2.0 brewer right in the text. Note to Keurig: Maybe modify the K-Cup logo to also read something like “Compatible with all Keurig K-Cup brewers including Keurig 2.0 Brewers”. At least this way you won’t be confusing the hell out of your customers or making them doubt if the boxes contain the newer 2.0 K-Cups.
We also noticed that the new K-Cup compatibility logo appears to be more prominently displayed on 12-packs vs. 24-packs. Some of the 24-packs of K-Cups we ordered had a super-tiny version of the logo which was almost hidden from view while the 12-packs we got at local stores had a much larger version of the logo displayed next to the K-Cup count on the box. So, look for these newer logos (sigh, yes… yet ANOTHER thing we have to look out for) and hopefully it should ensure you are getting 2.0 compatible K-Cups & Vue Packs inside. We’ve heard stories of people ordering direct from Keurig and still getting 1.0 K-Cups & 1.0 Vue Packs (older boxes without the new logos) in their orders, but our latest orders (late August/early September 2014) direct from Keurig.com and Keurig.ca only contained newer boxes which had 2.0 K-Cups & Vue Packs inside. This should hopefully mean that Keurig USA & Keurig Canada are no longer shipping the older 1.0 products.
So that settles that… now lets get on with the main review, shall we?
Using the Keurig 2.0 menus & brewing K-Cups
Anyone who owns a Vue will instantly be familiar with the 2.0 menu layout as well as the overall look & feel of it. Things are very similar except for the rather odd Trivial Pursuit logo when the machine is first warming up (hmm… some sort of inside joke from the R&D team perhaps?). You’ll notice the Strong button is indeed back and it functions much the same as it did on the Vue brewers. There’s also other menus which allow you to configure things like favorite brew settings for up to 3 K-Carafe packs/Vue Packs, plus you can also setup the brewer so that it’ll auto-brew a K-Carafe Pack at a preset time (we’re getting flashbacks of the old Mr. Coffee drip brewer we had in college). Lastly, you can even setup preset wallpapers on the home screen and on the K550/K560 models, you can even change the color of the water tank light between white, blue, red & green and enable something called a nightlight feature.
As far as the Strong button goes, we did notice similar results to the Vue as enabling it did produce somewhat stronger coffees when using Vue Packs, but we didn’t notice that much of a difference when we used it on a few K-Cup coffees. There was one category of K-Cups which seemed to greatly benefit from this feature however… iced teas. We tested the Strong button on an iced tea lemonade K-Cup and could instantly tell we were getting a stronger lemon taste and a more robust tea taste in the background. Could this finally be the solution to iced tea drinks that don’t get watered-down when we add the obligatory ice to them? We also tested hot cocoas & chai lattes by using the Other button. The K450 seemed to switch modes and produced much more water, in a lot less time than we got when brewing coffee. It also seemed that the water pump was pumping a greater amount of air at the end of the brew cycle in order to flush-out the K-Cup. We’d usually see remnants of caked-on powder inside K-Cups in the past when using the older 1.0 brewers, but every last bit was extracted this time around with the 2.0… impressive. We also noticed that the brew sizes for K-Cups has changed. The default remains at 8oz but the new max size is now 10oz. We have no idea why Keurig have decided to remove the 12oz size but we have no doubt this will annoy & frustrate many users who are accustomed to larger servings.
Tip: When using K-Cups, push them down onto the bottom piercing needle BEFORE you close the lid. This seemed to produce better overall results compared to just throwing a K-Cup in the brewer and closing the lid. This is likely due to the bottom piercing needle going further inside the bottom of the K-Cup and allowing better extraction of the drink.
Brewing Vue Packs
As we noted in Part 1 of our Mega Review, newer 2.0 Vue Packs now have brew setting numbers listed on them. Coffees will have mostly #4 listed which allows you to pick different brew sizes most common to average coffee mugs. Latte-based Vue Packs will have #5 listed which enables the 2-step brew/froth functions which were common on the Vue (sadly, we also get the same type of lacklustre froth results). As we noted in Part 1, setting #2 is for brewing travel mug sized Vue Packs as you can enable the Strong button, #3 is for what we can only guess are upcoming brew-over-ice travel mug Vue Packs? (we’re taking a guess here since the Strong button is disabled) & #6 is likely for the regular sized brew-over-ice Vue Packs or something else (again, we’re taking guesses here).
You need to press Vue Packs down into place when inserting them in the machine as a new spring-loaded mechanism has to expand in order to make way for the bottom of a Vue Pack. This is an ingenious solution which one of the designers thought up after observing his kids playing with Legos. You insert a Vue Pack or K-Carafe Pack, and the front output spout causes the spring-loaded mechanism to expand. Since the mechanism is attached to the K-Cup piercing needle, it causes the needle to retract out of the way so that it doesn’t pierce the bottom of the Vue Pack or K-Carafe Pack. When you remove the used packs, the mechanism & the K-Cup piercing needle pop right back into place. That’s some near-Apple level designing mojo right there.
Overall, we seemed to get slightly better results from Vue Packs compared to K-Cups. Don’t get us wrong, we still got good results from K-Cups when compared to 1.0 brewers, but the Vue Packs seemed to give slightly better tasting coffees & teas (likely due to slightly larger amounts being used in the filters). We still managed to get decent results from various K-Cups when using the Strong button.
Brewing K-Carafe Packs
And so we come to the main selling point of the 2.0 brewers… the infamous K-Carafe Packs. So, just what is a K-Carafe Pack? In our opinion, it’s nothing more than an oversized Travel Mug Vue Pack with more coffee in it. We were expecting the coffee to be rather weak/watery (especially since the Strong button is disabled when brewing K-Carafe Packs), but were surprised to see this wasn’t the case. This is likely due to a new water diffuser/plastic spike attached to the centre of the foil lid. The spike is long enough to reach near the bottom of the K-Carafe Pack and there are perforations on each side & at the end of the spike to ensure hot water gets distributed evenly throughout the coffee grinds during brewing. Given that K-Carafe Packs are the largest sized packs we’ve seen for a Keurig system yet (the new ginormous Bolt Packs notwithstanding), this spike diffuser system is yet another ingenious feature which we weren’t expecting.
We were also impressed with the performance of the starter carafe itself (a higher-end stainless steel thermal version is available separately for about $30 USD/$40 CAD). Given the fact that this starter model is NOT supposed to be thermal, we were surprised to see coffee remain fairly hot for 30 minutes after brewing and were floored that the coffee was still relatively warm at best up to 90 minutes after brewing (we were certain it’d be ice-cold by that point). This is pretty good performance for someone who wants 2-3 cups of coffee in the morning before heading off to work (trust us, some mornings it takes us that many cups just to wake up).
When you insert a K-Carafe Pack, you can pick how many cups you want to make (1-2 cups, 3-4 cups or 5-6 cups). We opted for the default 3-4 cup setting and found that this almost filled the carafe to the top in about 3-4 minutes (the machine did seem to pause shortly at one point to allow the boiler to warm back up). This setting produced about three 8oz cups and we’re guessing the 5-6 cup setting would have produced closer to four 8oz cups since there wasn’t that much more room left in the carafe (we’re guessing Keurig must figure most people use 6oz mugs in order to obtain the servings numbers they’re stating). The starter carafe itself is nicely constructed and has a chrome-stye handle along with dark tinted see-through plastic near the top lip. The lid is designed to be left on the carafe during brewing with holes for the coffee to drip through. It also contains a rubber gasket which helps retain much of the heat. The plastic also appears to be double-walled which provides somewhat thermal-like results without actually being truly thermal.
While this feature may not interest most single serve coffee users, the ones that have been longing for this should appreciate the touches that Keurig have put into it. We also think the thermal version of the carafe would likely produce much better results (our guesstimates would be 1-2 hours hot, 2-3 hours warm). The fact that Keurig actually thought to properly infuse water into the K-Carafe Packs by using a new water spike/diffuser goes to show that some serious thought went into these new packs and that they weren’t just something the company threw together at the last minute. Our final verdict? The new K-Carafe feature will be a hit amongst people who often have company over or for those who host lots of parties & family get-togethers. For the average person who doesn’t often do this, it’s a feature which (while nice to have) is one we can live without and is likely something we won’t be using all that often (this still didn’t stop us from buying a box of K-Carafe Packs online a few days ago just so we’d have some on standby).
New features exclusive to 2.0 brewers
You can now set reminders which will pop up alerts on the touch screen. The first one is a water filter replacement reminder. You can enable this on the settings screen and it will display an alert when it’s time to change the water filter. We have no idea if this will reset should there be a power outage (we hope not). This works in conjunction with the new 2.0 water filter which has a reminder dial built-in.
The next new feature is a descaling reminder. The machine will now keep track of how long you’ve been using it and will display an alert when it determines it’s time to descale the brewer. You can opt to ignore it, but we’d recommend sticking to the schedule unless the alert happens to pop up less than a month after you’ve previously descaled everything (although if you use particularly hard water, the warning may pop up more often than those who used filtered or bottled water).
The final new feature is a high altitude mode for using the brewer in geographical locations which are higher above sea level than most average cities across North America. Since we don't live in a high altitude area, we didn't really test this feature extensively to see what the differences would be. We can only guess that it affects the way the water pump processes water and it may increase the brew temperature by a few degrees. If you actually use this feature, please feel free to let us know the results in the comments section below this review.
We think these are 3 rather handy reminders/features and they should help curb improper maintenance for those who tend to forget to change the filters or descale the machine regularly (we’ll admit we’ve forgotten a few times in the past, but then again… we've got close to 8 machines on our countertop… most people have 2 or 3). Odd tasting drinks & clogged machines due to scale build-up should now hopefully be a thing of the past and people who live in high altitude areas should hopefully see better performance out of their brewers.
This concludes Part 2 of our 3-part Mega Review. Stay tuned for Part 3 where we’ll discuss our likes, dislikes, nitpicks & final thoughts/conclusion on the Keurig 2.0 Brewer Series. We’ll also show you something we’re sure most 2.0 users haven’t even discovered yet and to be honest, it’s a fairly weird feature to have on a single serve coffee brewer. Sorry, no teasers… you’ll have to check out Part 3 to find out what we’re talking about.
Keurig 2.0 K350/K450/K550 brewers are available direct from Keurig.com and 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 2 of this Single Serve Coffee staff Mega Review. We would also like to greatly thank Keurig for sending us review units for the purpose of this review.
Read More in: Keurig & K-Cups | Keurig Vue & V-Cups | Reviews | Single Serve Coffee Machines
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Posted by Jay Brewer at September 22, 2014 7:44 AM