Coffee Equipment Rating:
4.5 out of 5 coffee pots
Keurig Vue V700 Single Cup Home Brewing System
Suggested Price: $249.00
Available at Keurig.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, and other retailers
Legend has it that coffee was discovered by a bunch of nomadic herders in eastern Africa many years ago. After their goats feasted on the berries of a particular plant, they became much more active and energetic. Turns out these goats were the first critters to get a buzz from the caffeine contained in the berries of these original wild coffee shrubs. People have been looking for a way to make the perfect cup of Joe ever since.
The Keurig® Vue™ V700 Single Cup Home Brewing System is the latest effort to try to achieve that coffee perfection. The folks at Keurig sent us a free Vue Brewing System so that we could put it through its paces. The system consists of a specialized coffee maker that uses small plastic capsules containing pre-measured doses of coffee, as well as other ready-to-brew goodies, one cup at a time. If you’re familiar with the ubiquitous K-Cup systems out there, you have an idea of where the Vue starts.
While the Vue makes a single cup at a time and uses a plastic portion pack, the similarity with the K-Cup machines ends there. The Vue portion pack is considerably larger than a K-Cup capsule—the two are not interchangeable—and unlike the K-Cup machine that punctures the top and bottom of the vertically-oriented capsule, in the Vue brewer the capsule sits on its side and the foil top is pierced in two places to allow the hot water to flow in and the beverage to flow out into your waiting cup. Inside the portion pack, your coffee is encased in a filter that keeps the grounds corralled and out of your mug, avoiding the all-too-familiar gunk that collects in the bottom of your cup when your usual brew is made with a French press. When you’re all done, you can do the right thing environmentally by peeling off the foil cover and removing the filter material and disposing of them in the trash, composting the coffee grounds, and recycling the exterior plastic container: it’s made of Polypropylene and can be recycled in communities that accept Type 5 plastic for recycling.
To use the machine, you plug it into a grounded 3-prong outlet. Fill the removable reservoir with up to 74 ounces of water, and you’re ready to brew several cups of your favorite beverage before you have to think about refilling. It has a power switch on top, but aside from that, all the Vue’s functionality is driven by a touchscreen interface. Push the power switch and it takes about 2 1/2 minutes to bring the water in its reservoir up to temperature. Open the brew handle on the top of the machine, insert your portion pack, and close the handle. The touchscreen now fires-up and gives you the choices necessary to make your coffee or other tasty beverage.
The top level of the touchscreen interface is a menu of three choices: Coffee & Tea (the default), Cafe (which lets you brew cafe-style drinks with special two-part portion packs), and Brew Over Ice, a special setting that lets you brew iced drinks.
On the Coffee & Tea page, you can choose from three different beverage types: Coffee (and Coffee Strong), Tea/Other, and Hot Cocoa. There is an option to select from several different cup sizes, ranging from a small 4 oz. cup up to an 18 oz. travel mug. We started with a cup of Barista Prima Coffeehouse “House Blend”, a medium-dark roast coffee. With our brewer preheated, it took only 50 seconds to brew our cup, using the standard Coffee setting and an 8 oz. cup. The resulting brew had a good strong coffee flavor and aroma with no hint of bitterness or grassiness, generally the result of either over- or under-roasting the coffee beans. The brew was smooth and had a good mouth feel, and could easily become our go-to coffee for get up and get going in the morning, as well as a nice finish to a favorite dinner.
On the Cafe page, we decided to check out the Barista Prima Coffeehouse “Vanilla Latte”. For cafe-style drinks, there are actually two separate portion packs, Step 1 that carries the Vanilla Latte Frother—the milk-based ingredients—and Step 2 that delivers the House Blend Coffee that’s the other half of this offering. When brewing a Cafe drink, the touchscreen leads you through the two steps. It takes 30 seconds and uses 4 oz. of water to reconstitute the dairy ingredients, and once that’s finished, you remove the spent portion pack and replace it with the Step 2 pack containing the coffee itself. Pressing the Brew button again starts the 45 second process of brewing 4 oz. of coffee. The resulting cup is light in color and has a strong vanilla fragrance. A taste of this cup gives you good vanilla and coffee flavors, although there is a slight off note in the taste, perhaps reminiscent of an artificial sweetener or non-dairy component, even though the ingredients panel of the package assures us that the sweetener is indeed sugar, and the whitening component includes nonfat dry milk, cream, and “natural flavor”. The drink is quite sweet, although it weighs in at a rather modest 100 calories for the cup, probably a lot less than what you’re getting at your local coffee house.
For an iced offering, we wanted to try Celestial Seasonings “Southern Sweet Tea”. Following the instructions, we filled a 16 oz. plastic tumbler with ice and brewed a serving of iced tea. It took about 45 seconds to dispense 6 oz. of tea into our cup. Since it was brewed over ice, the tea was ready to drink as iced almost instantly. It had a good strong black tea flavor, with a touch of the tannins you would expect in a black tea, and was quite sweet, since evaporated cane juice was the first ingredient listed on the label, with a helping of a stevia-derived sweetener added for good measure.
One of our summertime favorites is iced coffee, and it’s easy to brew up a glass with the Vue. We used the same House Blend as with our hot coffee, this time selecting Strong as an option. The Vue dispenses 6 oz of hot water to make our glass of iced coffee, and it took about a full minute to brew. As with the tea, since we were brewing over ice, we could drink our coffee as soon as the coffee stopped flowing. While we enjoyed the medium-dark roast of the House Blend when we had it hot, it seemed more harsh and bitter when we had it over ice. We’re not sure whether this is because of choosing Strong, or because it was brewed over ice. Adding a bit of sugar and creamer to our drink—a favorite of many iced coffee aficionados—helped take that edge off.
The brewer comes with fairly detailed instructions. Along with the various choices for different types of drinks, the brewer allows you to choose different cup sizes, as well as letting you tailor the temperature of your brewing water to your specifications, with choices ranging from 187 degrees up to a high of 197 degree water. While it all looks fairly complicated, it’s actually fairly easy to make your drinks with this system. By the second or third cup, we were zooming along like an old pro.
It has a built in timer, allowing you to have your brewer meet you first thing in the morning with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee, although in practical terms, the brew process is so quick, I’m not sure we would ever use this functionality.
The Vue brewer is a substantial piece of hardware, measuring approximately 11 inches wide by 12 inches deep and 13 inches tall, although when the brew handle on the top of the machine is raised—necessary to load a new portion pack or remove a spent one from the machine—it measures almost 17 inches tall, meaning it may be a tight squeeze if you stick it on your kitchen counter where it has to fit under any cabinets above it. Putting it in a location without cabinets overhead might be a good idea.
The touchscreen interface may present issues for folks of shorter stature. The viewing angle for the LCD display is fairly narrow, meaning that it can be tricky to differentiate between the selected (brown) option and the non-selected (gray) options if you are outside of this angle. The touchscreen itself sits at almost 50 inches off the floor, when located on a standard-height 36-inch kitchen counter, so for shorter folks it may be necessary to stand quite close to the brewer to achieve the proper viewing angle.
Functionally, the only real issue we ran across in using the brewer was that with a couple of the coffee portion packs, there was a bit of leakage of the coffee grounds. This tended to manifest itself in dropping some grounds into the cup, as well as leaving the top of the portion pack with grounds stuck to it as we removed it from the machine. We were able to clear the resulting mess from the machine by performing a “cleansing brew,” basically just running water through an empty portion pack in the machine.
There are a wide variety of portion packs available for the Vue brewer, running the gamut from coffee (including Half-Caff and decaffeinated), tea (black and herbal), apple cider, and cocoa, plus several of the two-part Cafe drinks. Depending of the individual variety chosen, there are typically 12 to 16 servings in a box (8 servings for the two-part drinks), with the suggested retail ranging from $9.99 to $13.99 per box. While this may seem a bit pricey for a home-brewed cup of coffee, it’s certainly a lot cheaper and more convenient than queueing up at your local Coffee-R-Us.
Overall, the Keurig Vue V700 Single Cup Home Brewing System seems to be a pretty well thought out set up, and could be a welcome addition to your morning routine, or any other time when you want a single cup fast.