This article may not have anything to do with mobility, but there is no denying that it involves tech. Even some DRM type technology. And what technophobe has not relied on a burst of caffeine to get through a tenuous challenge. I was first introduced to Keurig coffee brewing in the mid 90s while visiting Gillette’s offices in Boston. Keurig was a Boston based company and that’s where they launched their first commercial brewing systems. Actually, while visiting Braun’s offices (a Gillette division at the time) I got to use a Keurig prototype machine that used 4” long coffee filled tubes vs. the all familiar K-Cups that we have today. We got Keurig machines in all our company’s offices as soon as they became available. Everyone has memorable moments. I still remember being on a flight to Chicago and seeing the first available Keurig consumer machine in a SkyMall catalog. I ordered my brewer right there on the plane. Yeah, I drink a lot of coffee. Straight up, as it was meant to be.
The Keurig 2.0 Brewing system was announced earlier this year and I didn’t think much of it as my Platinum brewer was working just fine. They had already released a new system called Vue a couple years back, and that didn’t do much to shake up the coffee drinking community. So I figured 2.0 was more of the same. After all, how much better can you make sliced bread anyway. K-Cups just work. Period. While thinking about what to get my sister for Christmas I decided that she was due for a new Keurig brewer. I have been purchasing coffee through the Keurig website, well since forever. So I have accumulated 1,000s of points which can used to offset the cost of brewers and accessories (but no coffee). So the new Keurig 2.0 K450 Brewer that retails for $169.99 would be all mine for $85 + 500 points, with free shipping. What’s not to like. Oh, and I can order another dozen brewers tomorrow without making a severe dent in my point totals, which never expire btw. When Sis tore off the meticulously applied wrapping paper on Christmas day, I was somewhat dismayed to be informed that her old machine had bitten the dust earlier that year and she already replaced it with a low tech model (probably much better for her low tech mind). Only took a few seconds for me to decide that she was getting $75 in Keurig gift certificates (the $10 reduction was for my troubles) instead and I got myself a new brewer. Which was a lot easier than packing it up and returning. Although I am certain that the always gracious Keurig would have been happy to accept the return, no questions. She was happy with the outcome. A win-win.
The very first thing I saw when opening the flap of the box was the below insert card. Hmm, do they really mean that “some” older K-Cups “might” not work with a 2.0 brewer. Why? Ok, I surmised, they probably developed some new tech that can determine if it’s a light or dark roast brew, and maybe adjust the temperature or water volume, or brew time accordingly. But surely there would be a way to disable this new option.
As I read through the manual though, which I always do before plugging something in, I realized that Keurig was dead serious. My old K-Cups will NOT work with this new machine. After plugging her in and priming with some filtered water I tried an older, certified K-Cup and sure enough I got this message. Damn.
After additional research on their site, and remembering things through my own observations, I realized that Keurig had decided to lock out all non-licensed K-Cups from the 2.0 brewing system. Let’s face it, Keurig does not make anything on the machines they sell. Especially the $85 machine I got with free shipping. They make their money on selling “licensed” K-Cups. Lots and lots of licensed K-Cups. They make nothing, nor do they benefit from knockoffs. Aside from maybe selling more machines at cost, or below cost. Additionally, after talking to a service rep yesterday, the knockoff cups can clog machines due to their design, and often offer an underwhelming k-cup experience. Not good when working so hard to build up a brand. Keurig needed a solution. I suppose that somewhere along the way, a t wasn’t crossed, or an i wasn’t dotted, and competitors found a way around, what I assume is a patented K-Cup design. My guess is the patents they have filed for the new K-Cup lids, either based on print design, or maybe something imbedded in the ink itself, are foolproof. Or, for Keurig’s sake, let’s at least hope so.
The new 2.0 Keurig brewers are filled with all kinds of new tech, including multiple sensors and color touch displays. The K550 even has LEDs that can change color. Not only can this brewer accommodate conventional K-Cups, it can also handle K-Carafe cups that can brew 4-5 cups of coffee at a time. And remember that Vue system I mentioned. That’s didn’t work out all that well for Keurig, so they are incorporating their Vue system into the Keurig 2.0 Brewer. Vue cups are currently being rebranded (#2 on the chart below) for use with 2.0 brewers.
But wait! What about all my old K-Cups that won’t work with my new machine? I called the 866 number yesterday and was greeted by a very informed CSR who walked me through the process. Even though my account revealed that I was a long time Keurig user, she needed to walk me through identifying counterfeit Keurig K-Cups and ways to avoid them. Once you have completed the conversion to certified product, Keurig wants to ensure that you don’t run into any problems in the future. Before calling, I had already taken an inventory of my pantry and even offered to send the CSR photos to prove I really owned these K-Cups. Not necessary she said. How many old, non-compliant, K-Cups do you have today? About 85. Plus a few more, but they are really old so I don’t expect you to replace them. Ok, I am sending you coupons, with free shipping, for (4) 22-24 count boxes and (2) 5 Pack sample boxes. That’s 106 K-Cups. Is that good? Yep, that’s good with me. That’s about $68 in free coffee at my Club discounted (15% off) price. So, how much did they make on my $85 brewer with free shipping? Keurig will definitely be taking a bit of a hit during this transition and reeducation process,. But in the long run, Green Mountain Coffee (they own Keurig) will bring their shareholders more profitability. And their customers a more consistent and positive experience. Nothing wrong with that.
While I was out shopping today I snapped a few photos of several knockoff brands of K-Cups, or Single Serve coffee cups, as they are sometimes referred to. I am familiar with the Barnie’s brand as I purchased (2) 12 packs a month ago when they were on sale. Before learning anything about Keurig 2.0 and counterfeit K-Cups, I knew these things sucked already after trying the first one. Tasted like watered down crap, like what you would expect out of a vending machine with those cups that have playing cards printed on the side of them. Definitely not up to Keurig standards. What really surprised me was that most of these knockoffs were still demanding prices of $7.99-$8.99 a box. So, they’re not any cheaper and they’re not paying any royalties to Keurig. Greedy bastards indeed.
I included the Twinings Chai above as a warning. Although these are certified Keurig K-Cups, they don’t have the new checkbox, as you can see in the examples below. The CSR told me this new branding was introduced in January 2014 and all old stock was supposed to be exhausted/pulled before January 2015, but there may still be some old, “non-compliant” official K-Cups floating around. If they’re still in the store next week, I may have to alert the store manager.
So there you have it. When you wake up around noon on New Year’s Day, you may be wishing you had one of these at your disposal. Might I recommend; Millstone – Foglifter, Emeril’s – Big Easy Bold, Tully’s – Hawaiian Blend, or Caribou – Caribou Blend, as some of my personal favorites. Then again, on the 1st, you might want to consider Jet Fuel or Black Tiger. Just sayin.