How Do K-Cups Work? We Explain All

We sometimes see a question come up on our website or other forums asking the question along the lines of “what is a Keurig Pod and how does it work?”; which when we thought about it, must be a common question for those starting out looking at single serve coffee brewers and in particular those made by Keurig.

We even have friends who have used a Keurig system for a several years but didn’t know what was inside the pod or really how the coffee got from there to the coffee cup.

Inside a K CupSo what we would like to do in this short article is just go through how a pod is made-up and how this works to make your coffee or chocolate or tea (depending on your drink).

In terms of terminology, we better get that sorted here. The Keurig system (the company is now owned by Green Mountain Coffee) uses small pods to deliver their coffee. These pods are also normally called a K Cup (which is sometimes also written as K-Cup or just K Cup – from what we see there is no agreed format here, but it’s all the same thing as a Keurig Pod).

Note that the official trademarked name, held by Keurig Mountain Coffee Inc. is K-Cup.

As you can see from the picture below a K-Cup is made up of four parts; the outer plastic casing, the filter paper, the foil sealing cap and of course the coffee inside.

For those of you wanting a little more detail on the dimensions etc of the pod make up we have included the U.S. patent drawing submission (we sourced this from Wikipedia).

Keurig K-cup patent drawing

The pod houses the paper filter that is attached to the inside of the K-Cup. Then during the production process, the pod is filled with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and sealed airtight using the foil lid.

To then make your drink the K-Cup is placed in a Keurig brewer and a mug is placed on a small platform below the brew head. Once the start button is pressed, activating the brew cycle, a small hole is punctured in the bottom and top of the pod and the brewer forces hot water through the pod where it is then dispensed into the mug.

The diagram below provides an illustration of this process. As you can see the water is passed through the pod at high pressure and this, along with the temperature of the water, are major factors in the taste and consistency of the drink that is produced at the end of it.

As an aside, we find that pre-heating your coffee mug before this makes a difference in taste too (also check out our article on the heating setting for the new 2.0 series of brewers). We run a small water only hot cycle, about half filling the coffee cup. Then empty the water and place it back under the brew head ready for the coffee pore.

Keurig Pods pressure

We are sure others have some great tips in making their favorite brew and if you would like to share these with others please email them in and we will post them up on the site. We are wanting to make a new section on top tips for making a great coffee too – along with the problem solving material already covered.

As we did the research for this article we began to realize just how many K Cups there must be used around the world each year and wondered what happened to them all. So we looked into this a bit more with a recent post looking at what alternatives there might be and/or what we can do to reduce, in a very small way, the environmental impact this might be having of throwing these pods away.

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