How do K-Cups work

How do K-cups work [The 2023 Ultimate Guide + More]

Keurig is a brand that’s mostly known their coffee machines. In fact, I’d say that it’s almost impossible not to stumble upon a Keurig machine these days – they’re that common! And they also have something called K-Cups, which are essentially trademark coffee pods, which include lots of top-rated K-Cup pods. But how do K-Cups work, really?

The way K-Cups work is quite simple – pressurized hot water from your K Cup-compatible coffeemaker (e.g. a Keurig unit) gets pumped into the K Cup via a hollow needle that punctures the K-Cup’s top.

Then another hollow needle punctures the bottom of the pod and the coffee gets dispensed right into your cup.

Sounds dead simple? It is.

But that’s why the K-Cup technology is so brilliant – it lets you brew exactly one cup/serving of your favorite coffee, nice and easy.

I’d also like to mention that these pods have a paper filter that’s wrapped around the ground coffee inside the K-Cup’s chamber.

This is obviously a must because the entire brewing process takes place inside the K-Cup pod as the brewing here takes less than a minute.

Then the ready-to-drink coffee gets poured directly into your cup from the pod.

How are K-Cups Manufactured?

It all starts with the roasting and grinding of the coffee.

Then the paper filter is applied to the K-Cup pod and they are filled with freshly roasted ground coffee.

Now, the actual amount of coffee inside K-Cups may vary from 9 grams all the way up to 18 grams.

This obviously depends on the manufacturer, because Keurig is not the only company to make such coffee pods.

Some K-Cup pods are manufactured on US soil, but others in Canada and even China!

And since different brands manufacture and offer K-Cups (not just Keurig), there are slight differences in the manufacturing process.

This is mainly related to a few things, such as:

  • Some manufacturers use recyclable paper filters
  • Others rely on recyclable plastic covers and foil lids

As you can see, it simply depends on how environmentally-friendly a given manufacturer is.

Some may even go to extremes by checking whether a K-Cup meets specific ground coffee proportions or not.

And if it doesn’t, some manufacturers may even ditch them and sell only the ones that pass the tests.

What are the Advantages to Using K-Cups?

The main benefit of brewing coffee with K-Cup coffee pods is the sheer convenience they offer.

K-Cups give you precisely one cup (i.e. serving) of your favorite coffee blend fast and easy, without any mess or leftover waste.

Basically, with these capsules convenience is king.

To sum it up, these are the primary advantages to using K-Cup pods:

  • You don’t have to measure coffee, all that you have to do is drop the pod into your coffee brewer that’s compatible with K Cups
  • There’s a wide variety of available blends and flavors to choose from
  • You’re not stuck with the same coffee taste and flavor like you would be if you’re using regular ground coffee
  • There’s almost no mess once brewing finishes since you throw them away right after your cup of joe is ready
  • Making coffee with K-Cups will save you tons of time as most K Cup-compatible machines brew coffee in around a minute (some even less)

In short, it’s safe to conclude that if you value convenience and diversity the most, then K-Cup pods will be your thing.

However, it’s not all roses and flowers with these capsules! Here are the most obvious drawbacks to using them:

  • K-Cups are certainly way pricier than regular ground coffee and even other coffee pods, since you can expect to pay around $0.80 per pod/serving or roughly $30 for 1 pound of K-Cup pods
  • You can’t alter the brewing process and although there are plenty of flavors you can’t tweak things like steep time, water temperature or the dosage
  • The coffee in K-Cups isn’t exactly fresh because freshly-roasted ground coffee emits carbon dioxide (CO2) up to two weeks after being roasted. Thus, it’d be impossible to airtight-seal them as the capsules would literally blow up
How do K Cups work
This is what soft coffee pods look like – quite similar to tea bags, just circular and slightly bigger!

What is the Difference Between Coffee Pods and K-Cups?

Coffee pods (i.e. soft pods, coffee pads) are quite similar to tea pods, with the exception that they contain ground coffee, have a flat and round shape and are generally larger.

K-Cups is ground coffee (or even tea and chocolate) that’s airtight-sealed inside a plastic cup (i.e. capsule, pod).

Or to put it simply, the only common thing between them is that they both contain coffee grounds inside.

Keep in mind that K-Cups DO NOT work in regular coffee brewers and coffee pods (or soft pods) DO NOT work in Keurig (or K Cup-compatible machines) coffee makers!

If you want to brew coffee using both soft pods and K-Cups, then your only option would be a multi-use coffeemaker.

Something along the lines of the
BUNN multi-use home coffee maker  that has 4 different drawers – one for K-Cups, one for soft pods, one for ground coffee and one for water.

On a side note, note that Keurig 2.0 machines only work with the new 2.0 K-Cups.

That’s because there’s an in-built scanner in these Keurig units that detects a unique ink that’s on the top of these capsules.

Yep, that’s quite unfortunate.

But you should be just fine if you’re using capsules from Keurig Dr. Pepper (formerly Green Mountain) for Keurig 2.0 brewers.

K-Cups vs Soft Pods – Which One Is The Better Option?

If you want more variety then K-Cups and if you’re on a budget then go for soft pods.

And if you’re using a Keurig brewer you only have one option since it won’t brew coffee with soft pods.

On the other hand, a coffeemaker that works with soft pods (i.e. coffee pads) might be useless for K-Cup capsules.

Honestly, though, it’s all down to your own personal preference.

But to help you, here’s a direct comparison of the two, highlight each’s perks:

K-Cup Pros

  • Offers a much wider variety of flavors and blends
  • Can be found almost anywhere (online and offline)
  • Only this brewing method is available on most Keurig units

Coffee pads (soft pods)

  • Generally less expensive than K Cups
  • Provide better extraction of the coffee due to their larger flat surface
  • Has more aroma during the brewing process since the coffee grounds “breathe” (they’re not packed inside a plastic cup)

Victor Allen's Coffee Variety Pack,...

How Many Times Can You Use One K Cup?

Just once and then you have to ditch it.

That’s because K-Cups are meant to be a 1 serving-only coffee capsules.

Subsequently, if you want a quick cup of your favorite coffee, you simply put a K Cup in your coffeemaker and start brewing.

Also, while this is the beauty of these plastic capsules, it’s also their curse.

Even if you’re getting a delicious cup of joe in no time, you might just want to add more ground coffee.

Or what if you find the whole K-Cup thing rather wasteful? Since you can’t add or decrease the amount of coffee inside these capsules, you’re left with only one option.

And that’s the Keurig My K-Cup Reusable K-Cup Pod Coffee...  that works with both Keurig 1.0 and 2.0 units.

The My K-Cup reusable filters are made of 3 parts – the filter holder, the filter basket and the lid.

Check Price on Amazon

This is basically the modern and updated version of the original (now discontinued) My K-Cup filters.

It’s ideal if you’d like to control exactly how much ground coffee you put before you brew.

Even better, it’s compatible with all 1.0 and 2.0 K-Cup coffee machines!

How do K Cups work
Yep, this is instant coffee i.e. crystalized coffee granules derived from brewed coffee beans.

Is The Coffee In K Cups Instant?

No, K-Cups are filled with regular ground coffee.

In fact, the brewing process when using these capsules is pretty much identical to the way you’d make coffee with ground coffee.

Pressurized hot water enters the brewing chamber of the pod, as the coffee grounds begin to steep, brew and ultimately end up in your cup.

You see, K-Cups are just ground coffee in a plastic container with a filter inside.

But with the main difference that they offer just a single-serve (cup) of java, thus being more convenient if you want just a single dose of coffee.

As for instant coffee and K-Cups, the only similarity is the convenience factor.

You’re basically getting a cup of coffee ready in less than a minute.

Instant coffee is just crystalized coffee granules that dissolve when in contact with hot water. The coffee K-Cup is regular ground coffee!

That’s exactly what the real difference between the coffee that’s inside K-Cups and the one in instant coffee products.

Even the best instant coffee will probably never taste as good as ground coffee, although it’s super convenient.

On top of that, Keurig knows that, so they’ve decided to combine the best of both worlds.

The end result is called K-Cups and it gives us all a chance to enjoy a cup of tasty coffee without having our patience tested.


So, the way K Cups work is apparently quite simple, yet brilliant and super-efficient.

Hot water under pressure enters the plastic pod via a hollow needle and ground coffee inside starts brewing.

Then another hollow needle punctures the bottom of the pod and the freshly brewed coffee makes its way into your cup.

It doesn’t get simpler than that if you ask me, yet no one has thought of it… apart from Keurig.

Do you personally like brewing coffee using K-Cups though or are you a fan of measuring the ground coffee yourself?

We’d love to know what your thoughts are, so make sure to leave a comment below!

CEO at CoffeeLifious | | Website | + posts

Simon is a coffee enthusiast who has spent years exploring the world of coffee. He has a deep passion for the art of brewing and enjoys experimenting with different brewing methods to create the perfect cup of coffee. His love for coffee has led him to become an expert in the field, and he is known for his meticulous attention to detail when it comes to selecting and brewing the perfect cup. Simon is also an avid traveler who loves incorporating new flavors and techniques into his brewing.

Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2 thoughts on “How do K-cups work [The 2023 Ultimate Guide + More]”

  1. I was surprised to read that k cups are filled with regular ground coffee. This is great to know, especially since I want to get some. It would really speed up my process in the morning.

    1. Hi there Kate!

      Yep, that’s the beauty of K-Cups – the sheer convenience that they offer.

      You’re basically getting delicious ground coffee in a single pod that’ll give you a tasty cup of java in no time.

      And it should definitely speed things up for you in the morning, especially if you’re used to slower and more tedious brewing methods.

      Cheers and God bless,

      — Simon

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