I’m not a morning person, yet for the better part of a decade, I started my weekday mornings the same way: Peel myself out of bed, zombie shuffle to the shower, and listen to podcasts with heavy eyelids on the way to the office. When I got there, I’d head straight to the Keurig machine for a pick-me-up.
The models changed over the years, and eventually I was swiping through touchscreen menus instead of pushing physical buttons, but the process was always straightforward and nearly foolproof. Pop the top, insert a pod, press the button.
I’ve never really felt the urge to own a Keurig myself, but after testing the K-Café for a month or so, I’m a convert. The coffee is still more or less the same (it tastes fine), but the K-Café’s 4-ounce concentrated Shot option and dead-easy milk frother let me mix up my routine. With them, I was able to make lattes and cappuccinos quicker than it often takes to place an order at Starbucks.
You can tell that this K-Café is a little different just by looking at it, mixing up the same-y design of prior K-machines. For years, you could take any Keurig machine, put it in a carnival house of mirrors, and see what all the others looked like. They were a little taller or a little fatter, but they all had the same winged-spout, king-cobra design. The K-Café and K-Mini Plus are refreshingly minimalist, by comparison. They have large circular curves and fewer details to get lost in, with sleeker metal K-Cup lifting mechanisms and uncluttered controls.
The water tank and frother jut off either side of the K-Café, each with a similar half moon look to them. They make the foot-tall Keurig a little wider than it needs to be, at about 15 inches, but they also make it easy to use. The tank holds 60 ounces of water, about enough for six full cups of coffee. If you often use it for 4-ounce shots, like I do, the reservoir may last a week or more before requiring a refill.
There are also buttons for 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12-ounce cups of coffee, with a special Strong button to concentrate the coffee a bit. I like that you can just select a cup size while its heating instead of having to wait for it to prepare itself, too. Cups up to 7.2 inches tall can fit, which means it can handle moderately-sized travel mugs. (Keurig nerds should know this model has no temperature control, digital clock, or auto-on functionality.)
I’ve tried a few new coffee flavors lately, and the Laughing Man Columbian Roast that came with my unit has a dark, semi-rich taste that I like. You can also use your own coffee with a reusable filter.
Easy Foam, Easy Clean
Espresso snobs, no, the 4-ounce Keurig shot doesn’t have crema, and isn’t as potent as a fresh pull from an expensive La Marzocco rig. But it’s a good substitute if your standards aren’t too high—especially if you’re using it to mix. The K-Café’s magic is in the froth. The stainless steel frothing jug makes heating and micro-foaming faster and easier than most electric frothers. Just pour your milk of choice into the jug (there are lines for “latte” and “capp” inside) and drop it into its nest, which has a little button that’s activated by weight.
You then tap the Latte, Capp, or Cold button and it will froth your milk to perfection. Once it automatically stops, you can pour it into your coffee, tell Alexa to play “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” and kick your feet up.
Most espresso machines have a steam wand, which tends to get filthy and takes some time to master, and electric frothers (including the one on the more affordable Keurig K-Latte) often have a nonstick coating that oddly seems to make hot milk stick to them, requiring extra scrubbing.
That’s why I preferred the K-Café frother—it’s simple! The jug has no electronics in it. A magnet in the base spins an agitator ring in the jug to foam the milk. The frother doesn’t have a nonstick coating either, meaning it can go in the dishwasher, but honestly all you’ll really need to do is run it under a faucet for a second between uses.
On the downside, the Latte option produced more foam than I often wanted, and the foamer rattled a bit if the handle wasn’t facing forward. And if you’re a leftie like me, it will take a couple of days to get used to pouring with your right hand. (Like all good things in this cruel world, the frother is made for righties.) Still, its pros easily canceled out these minor cons, even if I was unable to use my dominant hand to create works of foam art.
This $180 Keurig isn’t for the hardcore espresso enthusiast or coffee connoisseur. There isn’t a K-Cup in this universe that’ll taste as good as a good burr grinder, a portafilter, and 15 bars of hot H20 blasting through your favorite roast. But if you like pod coffee or want a way to make a damn quick latte or cappuccino with very little hassle or cleanup, the K-Café is an attractive way to get your fix.