To see if there’s any merit to reusable k-cups, Bill takes the Ekobrew for a spin.
By Bill Walsh
Over the past few years, the k-cup phenomenon has been sweeping the land. These machines utilize non-recyclable pods full of pre-ground coffee that go for almost $1 a piece (nearly triple what it costs for other home brew methods), yet people have been buying them up like beanie babies. The selling points seem to be that people find it fun/exciting to brew the pods and that the brewing of said pods is super quick and simple.
Now for these past few years, I have been completely opposed to this rising trend and still today, I 100% oppose the use of the single-use k-cups purely for environmental reasons (it really is needless waste), though the poor coffee aspect is also reason enough to embargo the pods as well. But since these pod coffee machines do not seem to be disappearing, I felt it was high time that I explored reusable k-cups to see if they could put forth a decent cuppa’ joe.
Stopping by a coffeehouse in my travels (Crescent Moon Coffee of Sewell, NJ), I noticed a display for Ekobrew, a reusable k-cup that claims to facilitate the brewing of a quality cup of coffee in a k-cup machine using your own coffee. Curious to see if good coffee could be had by such means, I got my hands on an Ekobrew reusable k-cup and borrowed my parents’ k-cup coffee machine to try it out.
Taking a look at the methodology of how a (reusable) k-cup works, there are two things that stood out: the necessity for an even grind and that the coffee granule size needed for optimal brewing was going to have a greater effect with the k-cup then in your regular drip or french press infusions. Given the short coffee and water interaction, the coffee grinds need to be even for duplicable and quality results (i.e. you need a burr grinder and not a blade) but also much like espresso, the granule size of the coffee grounds would need to be at the right size for the water utilized; otherwise the coffee will be too weak or two strong.
So using several different coffees, I did a side-by-side comparison between a regular pour-over/drip infusion and the Ekobrew, trying to use as similar ratios of coffee to water as possible. I also fiddled with granule size between coarse and fine, trying to see how it would affect the coffee in both cases.
Overall the results were positive. The Ekobrew produced a fairly decent cup of coffee that tended to have a french press-like body with some occasional fine silt. Compared to the drip/pourover, the Ekobrew produced a lighter coffee even with a fine grind, but a stronger coffee could be made by adding less water to k-cup process. It also seemed that more full-bodied coffees did better in the Ekobrew given the quick time of infusion.
Thus, I would have to say that if you’re dead set on keeping your k-cup coffeemaker, at least get a reusable k-cup like the Ekobrew. Not only can you use it to kill less of the environment, you can also utilize fresh, well-roasted, whole bean coffee to make a pretty tasty cup of coffee. But nonetheless, I still hold that there are many better ways to make your coffee.