Pros: A beautiful-looking unit that makes delicious, hot coffee, easy to customize your drink, recyclable cups.
Cons: Expensive unit, slower, doesn't use K-Cups, fewer varieties of coffee, cups are more expensive.
I have a Keurig OfficePro at work and we just love it. We've gone through a number of "single-shot" coffee makers because we love offering our guests and clients a hot beverage when they come in for consultations. Tea, coffee, herbal tea, cocoa, we can offer a fresh, hot drink to anyone who wishes.
I now have the latest model, the VUE, which is so different than the original Keurig brewer, I'd like to go over the features, differences, pros and yes, the cons of this top-of-the-line brewer.
The Keurig Vue is large and much more sleek than most of the current Keurig models. The top is smooth, glossy plastic with a 1 x 2" touch screen on the right, an on-off button on the back top and a big "brew" button in the middle of the cup port lid. It is larger and I think a lot more handsome than the original Keurig.
The mug grate is a two piece base that has a cylindrical drain grate and the entire unit lifts off in case the mug you are using is so tall that the drain base makes the mug hit the brewing outlet. More on this later.
The reservoir is on the left as you face the unit, has a lift port for filling and comes off to look quite a bit like a slim pitcher without a handle, in case you wish to fill it at the sink or your in-sink filter. The serial number, by the way, is on the wall that is covered by the reservoir when it is back in place. The reservoir holds about 3/4 of a liter.
Cups and Coffee Selection
The VUE cup is DIFFERENT than the K-cup. That's right, you cannot use K-cups in the VUE. The VUE unit is a two-part pod, consisting of type 5 plastic, a sort of round sieve, filled with a thin filter containing your coffee, tea or cocoa (or milk!) and topped with a foil seal. It goes into the VUE with the little nub or tongue forward and the foil has a tab on the other side that you pull off when you are finished brewing. This pulls out the coffee, filter and foil and leaves a smooth plastic cup, much thicker than a K-Cup, that is recyclable, that is, if your recycling will take type 5 plastic.
There are 10 times fewer selections of coffee and beverages at this time than the K-cups (20 vs about 200 for K-cups.) So be warned, at this time, your favorite brew may not be available.
Nor is there a self-fillable reusable VUE cup at this time, and I wonder if either the new patent on the VUE or the fact that a filter is needed behind the cup will even allow for a self-fill reusable cup to be offered.
Some of the current (but by no means all) beverages include milk chocolate cocoa, Donut Shop coffee, Celestial Seasonings tea including Sleepytime, Gloria Jean's Hazelnut, Green Mountain Nantucket Blend and its iced cousin, Iced Nantucket and a 2 part cappuccino with non-fat milk, not non-dairy creamer.
To use the unit, fill the reservoir, clear it out per instructions and then allow to pre-heat. When the unit is ready, the touch screen shows that you can brew, until then it gives you a time estimate (under five min.)
Pop in a VUE cup, and then on the touch screen, choose beverage type and cup size and strength. You can do "cafe" which are the two-part milk-and-coffee foaming cappuccino drinks, coffee (strong or regular, cups from 4 oz to 18 oz) and other, such as tea. The touch screen is simple to use, the graphics are well laid out and absolutely the best thing about the VUE.
After you set up your brew (this takes only a few seconds) hit the big BREW button in the middle of the top and it starts grunting and groaning. The pump pre-wets the grounds (for better brewing) and slowly drips the hot liquid into your cup. The temperature is supposed to be hotter than the current Keurigs and it seems to be hotter; my coffee is at exactly the right temperature when I'm finished brewing. About 184 degrees.
To discard, of course, open the lid and pull out the VUE cup. Now the dilemma: to recycle or not? If you recycle, it's a bit of a messy job to find the tab, pull it off the (hot) inner pod and not spill grounds. Use a wastebasket under it or wait until it cools. Discard coffee and foil in the garbage and the cup goes to the recycling. (I'd compost the coffee and filter, but the foil doesn't come off, so no dice.)
I did several brews; the cappuccino and the Donut Shop. The cappucino was brewed on 8oz but in retrospect, 6oz would have been preferalble as I like stronger coffee. The first pod is milk (nonfat dry milk) and foams up ...a bit. No strong foam you can draw a little tree picture in. It dissipates pretty quickly. The coffee pod goes in next (when you choose "cafe" it guides you through the two parts of brewing.) You get a fairly bland if good cappuccino, certainly better than the imitation variety with nondairy creamer. If you have lactose intolerance, this is NOT for you. It is milk, real milk, even if dehydrated.
The Donut Shop (Keurig's popular blend) was a big success. Brewed on 8oz, it tastes remarkably like the coffee beloved by those who stop for their "Dunkies" fix in the morning. I put in some evaporated milk and a bit of sugar and it was almost indistinguishable in taste.
I then brewed it on 6oz and it was very much like European cafe filtre-- or cafe coffee, those cups of smooth, strong coffee you get in Konditerei in Germany or cafes and bistros in France. I was surprised how similar it was to standard cafe coffee (not the Italian kind) you get in much of Europe.
So far, I have not tried tea or cocoa. I always think a tea pod is a waste, as you can pour out hot water into a mug and then dunk in a bag. But for office use, when you don't want fiddling with wet bags on your conference table, the tea pod is a great idea. More elegant.
The VUE claims to hold travel mugs for direct machine-to-mug brewing but be warned; most of the insulated steel mugs I own (typically 18-20oz) were yet too tall for the VUE. You pull away the entire drain area and pop the mug under the brewing outlet but most mugs I had simply didn't fit. I am not alone in this observation. If you decide to buy a VUE, when you go shopping, bring a mug along and test it out. If your fave mug is a no-go, you can brew into another vessel and pour it in, or find a new fave mug that will fit. It's a bit short, no matter what they say about travel mugs.
Slower, noisier than the standard Keurig with K-cups. No doubt about it. A better brew, I think, and hotter, but definitely slower. It prewets the grounds and pumps through slowly to get a more thorough brewing by exposing the grounds to more time in the hot water.
This top-of-the-line new Keurig VUE has some advantages (beautiful to look at, great coffee) and some disadvantages (mugs may not fit under the brew spout and there are at this point fewer varieties of coffee. AND your store may not stock VUE and they are going to cost more as they are obviously more expensive to make and fewer people own the VUE at this point than the popular Keurig K-Cup style.)
It takes longer to brew a single cup.
The coffee IS better, IS hotter, is easy to make with the beautiful touch screen and if your office is a dynamic, elegant venue and you want to impress your guests, the VUE will impress.
The recycling is a good idea as there is a report that landfills are seeing an influx of the little white cups. I always thought it was sad that the dominant, "winner" of the single-shot world was the least "green" of all, but K-cups keep coffee fresh and filter pods loose in bags or even in foil go stale and none of the competing single serving machines make anywhere near as good coffee.
The action to recycle the pod is clunky--you have to pull away the foil and inner pouch and it can tear and be messy and too hot on the hands. Not pleasant, but better for the environment.
The cups will probably cost more and not drop in price anytime soon. There are fewer varieties, ten times fewer! Your local grocery may not stock VUE cups. The unit is more expensive also, than the base model of the K-Cup Keurig but it is definitely high-end in appearance.