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For many households, mornings begin the moment a K-Cup is popped into the coffee maker. Such simplicity and convenience have made pod-based brewing devices one of the most popular coffee products of the 21st century. Countless brands manufacture K-Cup coffee today, from well-known names like Starbucks and Folgers to small boutique roasters.
It may seem daunting to sort through all the identical little capsules and pick the right one for your taste buds. "Coffee pods use pre-ground coffee, and it's hard to know how fresh it is," said Patrick Cotter, Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear. "As such, it will usually have a little less flavor than a pot brewed from freshly ground coffee in a high-quality drip brewer. The number one benefit of using a pod coffee maker is convenience."
We've researched a wide array of the top options to help you on your way to the best cup. The picks below will help you enjoy delicious coffee (or tea) at the touch of a button.
For quick and reliable coffee, here are the best K-Cups.
Best Overall: The Original Donut Shop Coffee Regular K-Cup Pods
The Original Donut Shop has long been a go-to K-Cup for coffee lovers, known for its tasty blend of chocolatey and nutty. This medium roast is the type of coffee you can drink every day, cup after cup, and never tire of. The Original Donut Shop brand is owned by Keurig and makes several other varieties worth checking out—including a dark roast, a decaf roast, and even a coconut mocha blend—but regular is our favorite. It’s easy to find at a number of big-name retailers, both in-store and online. Boxes are sold in counts starting at 12 pods and working all the way up to 100.
Roast: Medium | Count: 12, 18, 32, 48, 96, 100 pods | Available In: K-Cups
"Every time I use my Keurig, I reach for one of these. I may have originally purchased a box because the packaging is so nostalgic, but the end result has proven bright, smooth, and flavorful time after time." — Taylor Rock, Associate Editor
Best Dark Roast: Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend K-Cup Pods
Many are already familiar with this delicious dark roast. After all, Peet’s is one of the most trusted brands in the coffee world, and Major Dickason’s is perhaps its most popular blend. It has long been available as a whole-bean coffee, but luckily it’s available in K-Cup form, too. The combination of chocolate and smoky notes is precisely what dark-roast drinkers adore. While the Major Dickason’s blend is on the pricier side for K-Cups, it can be purchased in a variety of sizes, including a cost-effective 96-count box. Peet’s also makes other dark roast coffees, like its French roast and single-origin Sumatra.
Roast: Dark | Count: 10, 16, 22, 24, 32, 40, 60, 66, and 70 pods | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup
Best Flavored: SF Bay Coffee French Vanilla OneCUP Coffee Pods
The coffee world is teeming with different flavors, from sweet to smoky. The right one for you comes down to personal preference, of course, but you can’t go wrong with SF Bay Coffee’s French vanilla blend. Categorized as a medium-light roast, this coffee will delight the palate with tasting notes of toasted almond, cocoa, and sweet vanilla bean. Customers say the coffee is extremely aromatic, which makes the flavors feel even more alive. French vanilla is a widely popular flavored coffee because it’s so palatable, especially compared to more niche options like pumpkin spice or caramel.
As an added bonus, SF Bay Coffee manufactures its pods from plant-based materials, which makes them entirely compostable. This may occasionally lead to grounds spilling inside your machine, but the majority of users say the pods work great and taste even better.
Roast: Medium-light | Count: 80 pods | Available In: Whole bean and pod
Best Variety Pack: Crazy Cups Custom Variety Pack
One advantage K-Cups have over whole bean coffee is that they can be purchased in variety packs. This is a terrific way to sample an array of flavors and brands, especially for coffee newbies trying to figure out what they like best. Crazy Cups sells many different variety packs, each with its own specific focus. This 40-count custom variety pack features 20 different brands, including Starbucks, Green Mountain Coffee, Eight O’Clock, and more. The flavors range from bold French and Italian roasts to sweet dessert-like treats, like Cinnabon’s classic cinnamon roll. The variety pack is also available in an 80-count version with even more brands and flavors. With so much great coffee out there, why drink the same kind every day?
Roast: Includes light, medium, and dark | Count: 20, 30, 40, and 50 pods | Available In: K-Cups
Best Light Roast: Caribou Coffee Daybreak Morning Blend K-Cup Pods
Thanks to its smooth and gentle flavor, light roast coffee is a wonderful way to get your day started. That’s why Caribou Coffee’s Daybreak Morning Blend is so aptly named. It’s bright, fruity, and has subtle undertones of sweet caramel to wake you up right. Those who drink darker coffee may worry that light roasts don’t offer enough flavor, but that’s not the case here. With beans sourced from the Americas and East Africa, the daybreak morning blend packs a hearty punch into each sip. You can find boxes that contain anywhere from 12 to 96 K-Cups. Caribou is a Minnesota-born brand with brick-and-mortar locations all across the country. The company also sells its daybreak morning blend in whole bean and ground coffee varieties.
Roast: Light | Count: 24, 72, 96 pods | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup
Best Budget: Victor Allen Coffee Single Serve Coffee Pods
To ensure value for your money when purchasing K-Cups, check the price per pod instead of the flat cost of a box. This will help you distinguish the true bargain brands. While prices vary depending on the retailer, Victor Allen’s Coffee is generally an excellent budget pick. The brand manufactures dozens of varieties, from familiar flavors like this French roast to more adventurous picks like peppermint bark and white chocolate caramel. And since buying in bulk is another tried-and-true method for saving money, customers will be pleased to know that Victor Allen’s sells many of its coffees in cost-effective 200-count boxes.
Roast: Dark | Count: 42, 80, and 200 pods | Available In: K-Cups
Best Decaf: Newman's Own Organics Special Decaf K-Cups
Unfortunately, the decaffeination process saps coffee beans of flavor. This has forced decaf drinkers to tolerate weak coffee all too often. But the highly-rated Newman’s Own special decaf blend packs in flavor while keeping out the jitters. Many reviewers praise the coffee’s balanced taste and easiness to drink, which are hallmarks of a solid medium roast.
Newman’s Own is known for selling everything from popcorn to salad dressing, but the company has carved out its place in the coffee game with a select line of K-Cups, including a caffeinated version of this same coffee. Newman’s Own Special Decaf Blend is also available in ground coffee form for those who have an alternative home-brewing device.
Roast: Medium | Count: 12, 24, 72, and 96 pods | Available In: Ground and K-Cup
Best Espresso: Café Bustelo Espresso-Syle Dark Roast Coffee K-Cup Pods
Even though Keurig coffee makers can’t brew genuine espresso, many machines have a setting for bold coffee or coffee concentrate. This feature can mean a few different things, says Cotter. "Some machines might use less water [for bold coffee]," he says, "some might brew at a different temperature, and some might pump at a lower pressure to increase extraction time."
This espresso substitute tastes great on its own, and it can also be used to make lattes and cappuccinos as long as you have a milk frother at your disposal. The best K-Cup for bold, espresso-like coffee comes from a trusted century-old name: Café Bustelo. The brand’s espresso-style dark roast has glowing online reviews, with customers praising everything from the coffee’s richness and body to its value for money. Just look for Café Bustelo's signature yellow cans and boxes when you're in the grocery store.
Roast: Dark | Count: 12, 24, 32, 48, and 80 pods | Available In: Ground and K-Cup
Best Iced Coffee: Java House Cold Brew Liquid Coffee Pods
Every season is iced-coffee season, especially with these two-in-one pods from Java House. Instead of using coffee grounds, they contain liquid coffee concentrate. So when you want a refreshing treat, simply peel off the lid, pour over ice, and add water for instant cold brew. When you’re in the mood for hot coffee, pop them into your machine like a normal K-Cup. The pods are available in several flavors, including Colombian, Sumatran, and vanilla macadamia nut. Since they don’t require hot water or electricity, you can even take them traveling, camping, and hiking. They cost more than normal K-Cups, but the added price is worth it for these wondrous dual-capable gems.
Roast: Medium | Count: 6, 12, 36 or 48 pods | Available In: Pod and cold brew
Best Hot Chocolate: Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa K-Cup Pods
Few things in life are cozier than a blanket, a fire, and a mug of hot chocolate. Many K-Cups offer this simple luxury, but the best among them comes, naturally, from Swiss Miss. These K-Cups capture the brand’s signature creaminess and sweet chocolatey flavor—all whipped up in seconds with your Keurig. You can find pods in three flavors: Milk Chocolate, Peppermint, and Reduced Calorie. Some customers mention that the powder inside the K-Cups can clump at times, leading to slight inconsistencies in the hot chocolate, but the vast majority give it positive reviews.
Count: 10, 22, 28, 44, 66, and 88 pods | Available In: K-Cup and powdered mix
Best Tea: Bigelow Tea Company English Breakfast K-Cup Pods
While Keurigs are primarily associated with coffee, many K-Cups are specifically made for tea. It’s a nice convenience when you’re in a rush or don’t feel like waiting for the kettle to boil. Bigelow Tea Company’s English breakfast is a terrific all-around option. It’s a robust black tea that has enough flavor to drink with or without milk and sugar. Plus, the moderate caffeine content
Count: 12, 18, 24, 48, 72, and 96 pods | Available In: K-Cup and tea bag
Best Green Tea: Twinings of London Green Tea K-Cup Pods
While black tea is the most popular variety, many prefer green tea for its gentler and sweeter taste. Green tea leaves are also a popular ingredient in everything from cakes to ice cream to smoothies. This green tea from Twinings of London is deliciously light, earthy, and smooth, and several reviewers also comment on the tea’s strong aroma. Twinings offers these K-Cups in counts of 12, 24, 56, and 72. The British brand sells a number of its teas in K-Cup form, including a decaf green tea for those who want to avoid the jitters.
Count: 12, 24, 48, 72, and 96 pods | Available In: K-Cup and tea bag
The Original Donut Shop K-Cups (view at Amazon) is our top overall pick. Its medium roast—a smooth blend of chocolatey and nutty—is an everyday cup that's easy to find in most major stores. If you'd rather drink a different cup every day, we recommend Crazy Cups' Variety Pack (view at Amazon). This 40-count custom variety pack features 40 different Keurig cups, though it's also available as an 80-pack.
What to Look for in K-Cups
Identifying the type of roast you like—light, medium, or dark—is a great place to start when trying a new K-Cup. But it can get even trickier than that. Keep an eye out for a coffee's tasting notes, which may be written on the item's box or online in the product details. With a dark roast, for instance, you might like one that has notes of chocolate but not notes of smokiness, or vice versa.
The cost of K-Cups can add up over time, especially since they're more expensive per serving than regular coffee. Prices vary depending on the brand you buy and the retailer you buy from, but like most non-perishables it can save money to buy in bulk. Plus, K-Cups can go months in your cupboard without losing freshness and flavor.
K-Cups aren't just for coffee. There are myriad options for tea drinkers, hot chocolate lovers, and even those who enjoy hot apple cider. Just like with coffee K-Cups, however, the taste might not be quite as good as the real thing. But nothing beats the speed and convenience with which Keurig machines make your favorite hot (and even cold) beverages.
Are K-Cups recyclable?
Yes, K-Cups can be recycled. There are just a few steps first. Once your coffee is done brewing and the K-Cup is cool to touch, remove it from the machine and take off the EASY-PEEL lid. Then compost the coffee grounds or empty them into the trash. After that, you can recycle the foil lid and the #5 plastic basket.
How much coffee is in a K-Cup?
K-Cups contain around 10 grams of coffee grounds on average and can range from 8 to 12 grams. The amount of caffeine in a K-Cup, aside from decaf options, ranges anywhere from 75 to 150 milligrams, according to Keurig.
Are all K-Cups the same size?
Yes, K-Cups have standardized dimensions to ensure they fit inside every Keurig device. This differs from Keurig's competitor, Nespresso, which manufactures coffee capsules in different sizes that are compatible with specific devices. Even though K-Cups are all the same size, most Keurig coffee makers have buttons to brew cups in different sizes—6, 8, and 10 ounces are common options, for example.
Can you use K-Cups in a Nespresso machine?
No, K-Cups are not compatible with Nespresso machines. Likewise, Nespresso capsules are not compatible with Keurig coffee makers.
Can you make iced coffee with K-Cups?
Absolutely! Iced coffee lovers have a few options when it comes to K-Cups. Some Keurig machines have a special function to brew iced coffee. All you have to do is fill a glass with ice, pop in your favorite K-Cup, and the device will produce a concentrated brew that's proportioned to taste good with ice. There are also K-Cups specifically made for iced coffee. You can put them in any Keurig device and brew normally over a glass filled with ice. Finally, any standard K-Cup can be brewed over ice in a pinch; the flavor may be noticeably diluted, however.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of coffee products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. At home, he typically makes coffee with the Bodum Brazil French Press (view at Amazon)—a great budget option, especially for those who prefer non-electric brewers. To make these K-Cup selections, he read customer reviews, third-party articles, and consulted brand information on coffee bean sourcing and tasting notes.
Patrick Cotter is the Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear. He manages the company's blog, social media, and content pages. Founded in 2005, Seattle Coffee Gear is a retailer that focuses on coffee education.