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Keurig Mini vs. Classic vs. Cafe vs. Elite Compared

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K-Cup Coffee Makers Compared

No need for formal introductions – since you’re here you’re obviously a K-Cup fan, which is understandable. Making coffee has never been easier, all thanks to the pods. However, not all Keurig machines are the same and this is exactly what this is about: an in-depth look at some of the most popular models Mini, Classic, Cafe, and Elite, to help you decide which one is best for you.

All Keurig K-Cup models operate similarly, so the main differences between them are the capacity of their water reservoirs, how many cups sizes there are, and, of course, the special features. Let’s have a look at each model.

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Keurig K-Mini

As the name says, this is a small version, suitable for personal use.

  • It’s very compact and fits anywhere, as it is less than 5 inches wide, perfect for small spaces.
  • Brew size: 6-12 oz.
  • Water reservoir – single-cup tank.
  • Suitable for travel mugs as the removable drip tray allows you to fit in a mug up to 7 inches tall.
  • Energy efficient – the machine turns off automatically 90 seconds after the coffee is ready.
  • Works with traditional K-pods or with the reusable coffee capsule.
  • Multiple colors available..

There is also a Keurig K-Cup Mini Plus model, which is equally small and compact but comes with a detachable water reservoir and pod storage unit that fits in the machine and can hold up to 9 pods. 

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Keurig K-Classic

The best known Keurig model and the one you will find in many American kitchens.

  • Not as compact as the K-Mini. The K-Classic will require twice as much counter space.
  • Brew size: suitable for the most popular K-Cup pod sizes. You can make 6, 8 or 10 oz of coffee in one go. Use the 6-ounce brew size to achieve the strongest brew.
  • Water reservoir – Large 48 oz water tank, which allows you to brew 6 cups of coffee before having to refill. The water reservoir is removable, which is very convenient for either cleaning or refilling.
  • Auto turn off – The machine is programmed to turn itself off after it has been idle for two hours.
  • Travel mug friendly – you can fit in a 7 inches tall coffee mug.
  • Compatible with the K-Cup reusable filter.
  • Available in multiple colors to complement your kitchen decor.
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Keurig K-Cafe

The Keurig K-Cafe was created with the coffee-shop addict in mind, as this is one of the few Keurig models that also allows you to make cappuccino or latte.

  • Brew size: 6, 8, 10, 12 oz.
  • Water reservoir: this model comes with a removable 60 oz water tank so you won’t have to bother with refilling it as often as with other coffee makers.
  • Compatible with K-Cup reusable capsule.
  • Travel mug friendly: this model can accommodate travel mugs up to 7.2” tall.
  • Smart start: this feature allows the machine to heat up easily and you won’t have to wait for the water to get hot before selecting your brew.
  • Auto turn off: the machine will turn itself off after two hours of sitting idle unless you disable this feature and keep the coffee maker on at all times.
  • Comes in an elegant charcoal color

The Keurig K-Cafe is for cappuccino and latte lovers. Now, Keurig is not an espresso maker, so you might be a bit confused about this feature. This model has a button that allows you to make a 2oz shot of concentrated coffee, which is the closest to an espresso a Keurig machine brew can get. Not quite as smooth as the espresso at your coffee shop and you won’t see the distinctive espresso crema on top of a Keurig shot, but it is concentrated enough to make a decent cappuccino.

How to make cappuccino with Keurig K-Cafe

The coffee maker comes with a frother which can be used to foam whatever milk you prefer, including skim, almond, and soy milk. However, not all types of milk are suitable for making foam so it is pretty much a trial and error process. It works with either hot or cold milk. The frother is dishwasher safe so cleaning it won’t be a bother. To prepare cappuccino or latte is quite easy:

  1. Brew one 2oz shot of concentrated coffee
  2. Froth your milk in the meantime
  3. Enjoy your favorite drink
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Keurig K-Elite

A stylish coffee maker with more features than the K-Mini or the K-Classic.

  • Brew size: You can choose between 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 oz.
  • Water reservoir: Large removable 75 oz water tank, enough to make up to 8 cups before having to refill.
  • Travel mug friendly – you can fill a 7.2 inches high mug for coffee to go.
  • Quiet brew technology – the machine makes less noise than other coffee makers while in use.
  • Temperature control – this model allows you to modify the setting for water temperature, a feature you won’t find on other models.
  • Compatible with K-Cup reusable coffee grounds capsule.

The Keurig K-Elite comes with some very interesting and useful features. For instance, this model has a strong brew button which allows you to increase the strength of your brew.

Even more impressive than that is the iced coffee feature which allows you to brew your coffee over ice, perfect for a hot summer day.

And, if you’d rather have tea the machine has a hot water on demand button.

Another useful feature of the K-Elite model is the water filter which removes strange tastes and impurities from your regular tap water. On all the other models it is recommended to use filtered or spring water for best results. Stay away from soft-water, with reduced mineral content which is not the best choice when it comes to making coffee.

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What do all these models have in common?

All the Keurig coffee makers listed above are single-cup models, therefore they are suitable for home use, rather than an office environment where you are better off with carafe model. 

Easy to use

Like all Keurig machines, all the above-mentioned models are simple to use and reliable and they’re pretty low maintenance. One of the features you will like about them is the removable drip tray, which allows for easier clean-up and extra space for your mug if needed.

Various skill levels

They are perfect for novices as well as expert coffee lovers. You don’t have to know anything about coffee machines to simply place a pod in, press the button and wait for your drink.

Quick brewing

And you won’t have to wait much, as your coffee will be ready in roughly one minute. However, people who are not happy with pre-packed grounds and want to experiment are free to do so using the reusable coffee filter that comes with every model.

Coffee to go

What makes Keurig machines so attractive is the travel mug friendly feature, which will save you a lot of money since you can easily prepare your coffee-to-go and won’t’ be tempted to buy your coffee on the road.

Even using K-pods, the price per cup is very affordable, not to mention how cheap it is to make a brew using store-bought coffee grounds.

What are the differences?

The K-Mini has basically a single cup water tank, which means you will have to fill it every time you want to make coffee. Also, the water reservoir is not removable, which might be a bit complicated when you have to clean it.

On the other hand, the Mini won’t alert you when it’s time to do some descaling, whereas the K-Classic model has a bright red light button to warn you when you need to clean the machine. This is very important because all coffee makers tend to function poorly when they get scale deposits.

The K-Elite model is the only one that allows you to adjust the strength of your brew.

Tips for making K-Cup coffee better

A true coffee enthusiast always has a few tricks up his sleeve and here are a few tips to improve your K-Cup.

  • If you find your coffee is too weak make sure to always select the 6 oz cup as the higher ounce settings essentially water down your coffee.
  • Order a reusable filter cup and start using your own beans. Also, to make things even better take the cup of a discarded K-pod and insert it into the reusable filter to create a double chamber that will keep the water in longer, enhancing the extraction process. You will have to wait a bit longer for your coffee, but it will be stronger.
  • Another way to make your coffee stronger is by taking the cup out before the brewing process is over. The last remaining drops are watery anyway so you don’t need them.
  • A complaint you often hear about coffee makers, not just about Keurig models, is that the water is not hot enough. It’s not just a problem of personal preference, as water that is not hot enough will result in an under-extracted brew. You can get rid of this problem by letting the machine run a cycle of water before brewing, so when you put in your pod the water will be adequately hot. Having the machine run without coffee is also good to keep your machine clean.
  • Switch to a dark roast type of coffee if your K-Cup is too weak for your taste. If you’re using K-Pods, Green Mountain Kenyan AA is the best.
  • If you find your coffee too bitter add just a pinch of salt, which will give your brew a smoother taste. Again this is a trick that works for other coffee makers as well.
  • If you find the coffee has an odd taste, it might be time for descaling, which you can easily do with a water and vinegar solution. Don’t forget, to put it through a hot water cycle to eliminate the vinegar.

The Verdict

All the models listed above are good at their job, they give you a single cup of coffee in less than a minute, what more can you ask for? The choice between them depends on your needs and preference.

The Keurig K-Mini is the perfect choice for a single person or for college students who don’t have much space in their room. The K-Mini is barely 5 inches wide, it can fit anywhere. Since you can fill your travel mug in 60 seconds it’s great when you want coffee you can take with you to classes or at work. At the same time, since it’s so compact, you can also take the Mini with you when you travel and save a lot of money on shop-bought coffee.

The Keurig K-Classic works better for a couple as it has a larger water tank than a Mini. And it looks fancier on the kitchen counter. Other than that, it doesn’t offer any advantages over a Mini.

If you’re interested in cold drinks, then the Keurig K-Elite is the best model for you, since it brews directly over ice. And, of course, the water filter will come in handy if you don’t have one in your house. Certainly beats buying bottled water specifically for your coffee.

The Keurig K-Cafe obviously appeals to cappuccino fans and, indeed, this model will provide a decent beverage. On the other hand, if you’re really into cappuccino and lattes why not invest in a real espresso maker. The K-Cafe gives you a concentrated brew, but the machine lacks the pressure needed to extract a real espresso. If you’ll be making cappuccino only occasionally, then you don’t have a problem and the K-Cafe can still be used for regular black coffee and you can make a lot of it in a single brewing.

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