Have you ever wondered how to make coffee in your Keurig without using new, individual-serving K-cups? If so, you’re like millions of others who want to save money, avoid wasteful packaging, and use a Keurig machine to brew any coffee they desire.
What’s the trick to avoiding those pricey K-cups whenever you want to enjoy coffee? The answer is that there are several ways to “beat the system” and brew any brand, grind, and type of coffee in your machine.
Some options will cost you nothing, but others entail the one-time purchase of reusable plastic brewing cups.
If you want to go the “zero cost” route, there’s a bit of DIY ability involved, but nothing you can’t learn in about five minutes.
Then again, if you’re willing to fork over $10, you can get some excellent reusable pods that can be loaded with whatever kind of coffee you prefer.
The Big Picture
Here’s all the information you should need. For starters, we’ll look at the various ways people brew coffee in a Keurig machine when they don’t have fresh, brand-new K-cups for individual servings.
Next, we review why coffee lovers avoid using traditional K-cups. After that, we’ll check out the pros and cons of each technique. Last, we offer some pro tips on what not to do when you make coffee in a Keurig without original, prefilled K-cups.
Let’s get brewing.
Can You Make Keurig Coffee Without K-Cups?
Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: You can make coffee in any Keurig machine without new, unused K-cups. In other words, you need to use something, and often that replacement is a used, empty K-cup (assuming you’ve kept a few around).
Like most coffee drinkers who bought a ton of brand-new K-cups when they purchased a machine, you likely have many unused ones. So, remember not to throw out the used ones. They’ll come in very handy.
Rinse them with warm water, maybe a tiny amount of soapy water, and put them on a drying rack.
The Four Ways to Make Coffee With a Keurig Machine
There are four ways to make coffee with a Keurig, including the standard method of loading new K-cups into your machine.
Here’s the list, with comments, along with the average annual price to drink two cups per day.
- Standard: If you enjoy a couple of cups per day, buying standard Keurig K-cups and consuming them will set you back about $800 per year, or about $2.20 per day for two-cup-per-day drinkers. Note we’re assuming you already own a Keurig machine. The five-year cost of this method: is $4,000. That’s some pricey coffee.
- Reusable Cups: You have several options if you take this coffee-making route. The first method is to buy ready-made, reusable pods (which do not contain coffee) from a merchant. Note that Keurig sells one of its own called “My K-Cup,” which works well. Other retailers sell sets of three or six reusable pods identical to the original K-cups in size, shape, and function. These so-called “blank” units cost about $10 for a set of three, but prices vary by manufacturer. Expect to pay about twice that for the Keurig brand reusable ones. The average yearly cost of this method is between $200 and $300 per year, depending on what grade of coffee you use. The median value between those two extremes, $250, works out to about 68 cents per day for two cups of coffee.
Alternate Method for Reusable Units:
Instead of buying ready-made reusable units, you can repurpose some of your used K-cups. Remember to wash them with warm water and ensure the filter is in good shape.
If the filter is not in perfect shape, cut a regular coffee filter to fit snugly inside the used K-cup. Plus, don’t forget to make a DIY top for the used unit because the original top will be no good.
Fortunately, you can fashion a new top by folding a 6-inch by 6-inch piece of aluminum foil into a makeshift lid. Remember to leave some “overhang” just like you would if you put aluminum foil on top of a bowl of leftovers in the fridge.
Five-year setback to your budget: $1,250. For good coffee, that’s pretty darn cheap.
- Turkish Style: Fill your Keurig with water. Put your preferred amount of ground coffee into a cup, and let the boiling hot water fill the cup. Then, let the water and coffee grounds sit for about one minute. Now, pour the mixture through a used K-cup or one of the reusable pods, all of which have built-in filters. This technique costs the same as the above method, from $200 to $300 annually or $1,000 to $1,500 for five years.
- Instant: If you are an instant coffee fan, load up the desired amount and brand of instant java into a big cup and place it under Keurig’s water spout. Once the cup is full, add whatever you want, like cream, sugar, cinnamon, chocolate syrup, etc. Compared to ground coffee, instant is a bargain. That means you will spend about $50 per year or roughly 15 cents daily for your two-cup habit. This is the cheapest method, but remember that you’re drinking instant.
Pros and Cons of the Various Methods
Here are the essential good and bad points of the four methods outlined above:
- Standard: The obvious advantage of using regular K-cups already loaded with coffee is that you get a great-tasting beverage that’s easy to prepare. As noted above, the massive downside of the “regular method” is cost.
- Reusable K-Cups: Cost and decreased waste, in terms of packaging, are the two benefits of this approach. The disadvantage is that you must use old K-cups or purchase special units from a retailer. There’s another, more subtle hassle with the DIY method. You must clean the reusable units after each use. Even then, there can be some residue buildup over time. That’s why companies that sell reusable cups offer them in sets of three or more. Keeping them clean and functional forever is hard unless you’re a devoted and skilled cleaner.
- Turkish: Pros of the Turkish option are that it’s quick and cheap. The negative point is that you still have to run the coffee through a filter or pod to get the grounds out.
- Instant: The clear benefit of instant coffee is low cost, but people who enjoy instant brew also note that this is the simplest of all the four styles.
Why Do People Use the DIY Keurig Coffee-Making Method?
It’s all about price. Those little Keurig K-cups that come prefilled with great flavors are pricey little devils.
Most people buy a bunch of them when they get a machine and realize how costly it is to continue using them.
Note that even the Keurig company discovered this phenomenon and got smart by selling their “reusable” K-cups, called My K-cup. Besides saving money, why do coffee drinkers seek alternative ways to brew coffee with their machines?
- They like the idea of using better coffee than what Keurig includes in the ready-made pods.
- Consumers enjoy the variety of different roasts, grades, and grinds
- Some coffee drinkers prefer to reduce package waste by brewing their morning drink in a reusable container
- It’s human nature to enjoy experimenting with alternate ways to use the Keurig machine to make custom-style coffee
Don’t Make These Mistakes
There are a few pitfalls along the road to delicious coffee. It’s tempting to experiment and have fun while doing so. But take a few pointers and save yourself the hassles with the following techniques.
In other words, don’t waste your precious time with the following:
- Don’t put instant coffee into a reusable pod unit. The water will go through it too quickly and usually won’t dissolve all the powder.
- Hot chocolate instant powder also will not work well in reusable pods for the same reason as instant coffee: the hot water goes through the unit too quickly to dissolve the hot chocolate powder.
- Don’t under-fill the reusable units with ground coffee. In most cases, fill the pods about 90 percent with your homemade ground powder.
- Don’t use old or dirty K-cups. Once the pods become too messy to clean thoroughly, throw them away. If you have a lot of old K-cups around or buy a reusable unit from a retailer, always clean them after each use. That way, they’ll last a very long time.
So, the bottom line is that there are several ways to work with a Keurig machine and make excellent coffee without having to buy box after box of pricey K-cups every month. Good luck with whatever method you try.