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How to make Keurig coffee taste better

Simple things to get the best coffee from your Keurig.

Brian Bennett / CNET

The convenience of Neat coffee makersDrop a toad, press the button and seconds later you’ll have a steaming cup of joe in your hands. Quality and taste, on the other hand, are not Keurig̵

7;s strong points. Pods can be on store shelves or in your pantry for months, far from what you get with beans freshly roasted and ground. Even worse, Keurig K cups contain less coffee grounds than is needed to brew ideal java.

That said, there are certainly things you can do to get the most out of your machine. From preheating and revisiting your water supply to choosing the right settings and accessories, this guide has tips you’ll want to try.

Check your tap water quality with a TDS meter.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Use water that is pure

You can’t make a good cup of coffee without using clean, pure water. One way to confirm the quality of your water supply is to contact your local water company. That’s no problem here in Louisville, Kentucky, where the city water company takes its mission seriously. After all, for excellent bourbon you need top quality water.

Another way to check your tap water is to test it yourself. The easiest method is to create a TDS meterThese portable devices measure the total amount of dissolved solids, or TDS, in water by checking for electrical conductivity. The more impurities that are present, the less conductive a water sample will be.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the maximum TDS level for drinking water should not exceed 500 parts per million. Anything higher is associated with the hardness of the water, stains and a salty taste.

A quick reading on my kitchen faucet came in at a solid TDS of 185ppm. While that number is somewhat outside of the Specialty Coffee Association brewing regulations, it is well below EPA guidelines. To lower that value even further I could or could use bottled filtered water

Preheat the machine

Extracting flavor from coffee grounds is a tricky job, so before brewing your first cup of the day, it’s a good idea to give your Keurig machine some help by preheating it. The reason for this is simple: good coffee needs water that is hot enough to extract its flavor the moment it hits the coffee grounds – ideally between 195 and 203 degrees F (90-95 C).

The easiest way to help that is to run a pod-free brew cycle first. It sounds like a small step, but it makes a difference. Water exiting the second cycle of my Keurig machine was a full 10 degrees hotter than the first time.

There were only 11.1 grams of ground coffee in this K-cup.

Brian Bennett / CNET

Brew it stronger

A major shortcoming of Keurig coffee pads is that they contain a relatively small amount of coffee. For example, my Keurig Donut Shop K cup came with 11.1 grams of ground coffee. For a standard 12-ounce cup of Joe, I usually use about twice as much (20 grams). Anything less tastes weak and watery.

Brewing a 12-ounce cup from a Keurig pod makes a weak Joe.

Brian Bennett / CNET

If your Keurig brew offers multiple cup options, choose the smallest available to prepare a more concentrated brew. For example, a 12-ounce cup brewed from a Donut Shop pod had a low TDS rate of 0.8%. When I made a smaller 8-ounce cup with an identical K-cup, I measured a TDS percentage of 1%.

That’s still below the SCA’s gold cup standard (1.15-1.35% TDS), yet it was an improvement over cup # 1 – and one I could taste.

Put fresh coffee in your pods

One final, easy way to get around the shortcomings of disposable K-cups is to skip them altogether and buy a reusable one that you fill with your own coffee grounds. Many companies even sell them Neat hawk his own modelThere are also many different styles to choose from. You will find everything about it cheap plastic K cups all the way up to beautiful, stainless steel K-cups

With such an accessory you will undoubtedly make better coffee than before (not to mention the environmental benefits). For best results, get a good coffee grinder and grind your own beans right before brewing, using about twice as much of the ground as you’ll find in a typical K cup. Your taste buds will thank you.

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