A few years ago I invested in a reusable K cup. I did this after switching from brewed coffee to a Keurig machine.
The reusable and fillable cup was attractive for a number of reasons.
One, K cups on their own can be expensive per serving, even at Costco.
Two, commercial coffee pods use plastic, which I was trying to avoid.
And three, I got tired of emptying the spent pods–coffee grounds in the compost, aluminum foil top in the trash–so I could recycle that plastic cup.
I mean, why continue to contribute to the waste stream.
Since then I’ve learned how to brew the perfect cup of coffee at home with my reusable K cup and ground coffee.
Also, with people looking to tighten their spending belts lately, I thought it was a good idea to revisit the idea of the refillable coffee brewing cup that you can use with a Keurig.
How to use a reusable K cup filter
These refillable cups work exactly like their commercial counterparts as well as a traditional brewed coffee maker. That is, you fill the cup with ground coffee as you might a filter in a regular drip coffee machine.
After that, the Keurig forces hot water through it. Finally, the coffee drips out into your cup. But instead of a full pot of coffee, you have a single cup.
How much to fill the K cup
There is a trick to getting a cup of coffee without grounds in the brewed cup. And this is it: only fill the reusable cup as high as the stainless steel mesh is.
Any higher and the water may overflow the top and get grounds in your coffee.
Also, I found that a fuller K cup brewed slower and didn’t always give me the ounces I’d selected on the machine.
Brewing a full cup of coffee
For example, when I selected a 10-ounce cup of coffee, sometimes I’d only get six or eight ounces. Yes, I took out a measuring cup when my cup just didn’t look full enough.
This was how I learned that putting lower amounts of coffee grounds in the refillable cup actually gave me better results.
That is, when I brewed subsequent cups of coffee and kept the grounds level to below the stainless steel mesh line, I got the 10 ounces of coffee I desired.
And it was hot and delicious.
How to clean reusable K cup
It’s really easy to clean a reusable K cup after using it to brew your coffee. One, you can put it on the top rack of your dishwasher.
Or, two, you can rinse it by hand at the sink before filling again.
I have a dish scrubbing brush that I use to hand wash dishes, and it works great in the reusable K cup.
Best ground coffee for a reusable K cup
I’ll admit that Keurig machines don’t make the best coffee on the planet. Even the New York Times agrees with me.
That being said, you can brew a good cup of coffee if you choose the right kind of grounds. And I’ve found that the darkest ground coffee is the best to use with a refillable K cup.
Costco Kirkland brand ground coffee
Currently, I’m using Kirkland Signature Colombian coffee from Costco. I buy it in three pound cans for about $25. The can says to use about a tablespoon of ground coffee per six ounces brewed.
Since I’m drinking a 10-ounce cup, I’ll use slightly more than that. Either way, one of these three-pound cans of coffee lasts me for months.
That same $25 would have gotten me five cups of coffee at Starbucks. Granted, it would have been more than 10 ounces, but you get the point.
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How to put the cup in your Keurig or other compatible machine
You’ll notice that any reusable K cup filter pod you buy has an indent on the top, and a notch on the bottom. These are both important for brewing coffee.
One, the indent in the center of the cup is where the needle of the coffee machine would normally pierce the commercial K cup.
So, it’s just there as a vestigial reminder to accommodate the needle.
Two, the notch in the bottom helps you line up the cup in the machine.
If you don’t line it up properly, the top won’t close.
And if the top doesn’t close, you can’t brew your coffee.
Reusable K cup compatibility
Keurig has gotten smart about how to incentivize coffee addicts like you and me to buy their commercial pods.
With newer Keurig machines (Keurig 2.0), they’ll only brew when they read a barcode on the K cup.
Don’t have a barcode? No coffee for you!
It’s kind of like my HP Color LaserJet printer.
When I replace the printing cartridges, it checks for the HP barcode to ensure it is genuine ink. If not, it doesn’t print.
Only works with older models of Keurig coffee makers
Anyway, I have an older version of the Keurig coffee machine.
And if you’re looking to try this frugal hack of brewing Keurig coffee, I would suggest ensuring you have an older machine, too.
Off brand Keurig-like machines work with reusable K cups, too.
In fact, the very first time I tried one of these cups, my so-called Keurig brewer was actually made by Mr. Coffee.
On the flipside, if you have a Keurig 2.0 coffee brewer, you won’t be able to employ reusable K cups.
So you’ll have to decide if the long-term savings are better if you buy a new machine, albeit the older version, so you can fill your own cups of coffee.
Or if you’re OK with sticking with the status quo of barcode-enabled K cups.
Saving money with a reusable K cup pod
Back when I was using a traditional coffee brewer, I determined that my morning cup of coffee cost me just 13 cents.
Clearly, that’s a huge savings of buying coffee out at Starbucks ($4) or even Sheetz ($.99).
However, one year my family gifted me with a Keurig machine. It was then that I discovered that my cost of brewing a cup of coffee at home jumped to 50 cents per cup with commercial K cups.
Yes, that’s still cheaper than buying out, but also I did not like the waste.
Coffee costs $20 per gallon
By the way, while brewing coffee at home won’t make a huge dent in your budget, think of it this way: Starbucks coffee costs, essentially, $20 per gallon.
So if you’re complaining about gas being $5 a gallon, just think about how expensive Starbucks is by the gallon.
Anyway, once I’d invested in a reusable K cup and filled it with ground coffee I bought in bulk at Costco, I brought my cost back down to about $.13. That’s much better.
Where to buy a refillable K cup
Where can you buy one of these refillable K cups? Well, I got mine years ago on Amazon. And you still can. They come two or more to a box.
Ironically, even Keurig, maker of the original K cup, is making and selling a Keurig brand reusable filter for its Keurig machines. You can find them online and in stores.
Final thoughts on the reusable K cup
So, what do you think? Is a refillable K cup worth it to you?
My only complaint over the years is this: these reusable cups have a flip top. And inevitably, the flip top breaks off.
However, the fact that my one piece cup is now in two pieces doesn’t stop me from continuing to make my Keurig coffee at home.
Sure, lining up the cap with the bottom so it closes properly is a bit of a pain. But, to me, the money saving and the convenience makes it all worthwhile.