Pros: Cost effective
Makes great coffee
Superb customer service
Cons: Possible leakage from top of cap, resolved by purchasing washers for a better seal.
What's wrong with K-cups?
There's nothing "wrong" with K-cups, they brew a great cup of coffee and are very convenient to use. But there are economical, practical, and environmental consequences to using them. Compared to conventional drip coffee makers, K-cups are much more expensive per cup brewed. If you have a particular type of coffee you like but it's not available in a K-cup, you're unable to make it in a Keurig coffee maker without some kind of brewing alternative. And then there's the environmental factor: K-cups are not recyclable and will take up space in a landfill for many years, even though the individual components (aluminum foil, plastic, coffee grounds) are recyclable or biodegradable. We've become a disposable society where using consumables and then throwing them away is the normal thing to do. I like my Keurig coffee maker because it allows me to make a quick cup of fresh coffee whenever I want. But I don't like the expense and waste of using K-cups.
Alternatives to the K-cup Dilema
Keurig offers one alternative with it's My-Kup, a metal-screened filter/container that is used in place of the K-cup holder. With it you can add your own coffee to the My-Kup filter, put it into the Keurig brewer, and make coffee as you would normally do. Sounds like a good idea, and it is. But there are problems. It can't be used with the K-cup holder in place, you have to pop the K-cup holder out of the coffee maker and them snap the My-Kup filter in. Not hard, but a little tricky until you get the hang of it. I wonder if over time this might wear on the plastic clips that secure them in the coffee maker.
A K-cup forces hot water to flow into the top of the cup, through the grounds, and out one hole in the bottom with a little pressure. Keurig's My-Kup filter allows water to flow out the sides and bottom, meaning less water flow through the grounds which results in a weaker cup of coffee. If you try to compensate by filling it with more coffee grounds, the grounds have a tendency to overflow into the coffee cup. If you use too fine a grind in an attempt to extract more flavor, you also end up with grounds in your cup and the filter can be difficult to clean all the grounds out. Despite trying all the alternatives of grind, fill volume, packing grounds in the filter, etc., I end up with a weaker cup of coffee than K-cups will brew, often with coffee grounds and a bitter taste in the bottom of the cup.
I discovered My-Kaps on amazon.com while trying to find the best price for K-cups. My-Kaps are plastic covers made to fit inside a K-cup. Using them requires you to remove the foil top from a used K-cup, dump the coffee grinds, and rinse out the cup. You re-fill the K-cup with coffee, put the My-Kap on top and it's ready to be used again. They seemed like a good idea so I decided to give them a try. $9.99 for 3 of them with a cleaning brush included seemed a little pricey for what they are, but more cost effective than Keurig's My-Kup which is more expensive. They were eligible for free shipping with a purchase of $25 or more. I needed more K-cups anyway since my wife prefers to use them, so I ordered a bulk pack (see my review for Coffee People - Donut Shop K-cups) and got them both with no shipping costs. Delivery time was 6 days. I've had nothing but good experiences with amazon.com, including immediate free replacement of an expensive electronic that was defective, and I fully recommend using them for on-line purchases.
My Experience Using Them
The My-Kaps and brush were packed in a plastic bag. No instructions were included. They may ship with instructions if ordered directly from My-Kap, but there is an instruction video at http://www.my-kap.com. The caps themselves are made of heavy plastic and seem to be very durable, I wouldn't expect them to break or wear out from normal usage. Using them is pretty straightforward:
1. Take a used K-cup, remove the foil top. Empty the used coffee grounds from the cup.
2. Rinse out the cup, using the brush if needed to get any stubborn grounds off the paper filter.
3. Set the cup aside to dry before re-filling with fresh coffee, unless you're going to use it right away.
4. Fill the clean cup with the coffee of your choice.
5. Press the My-Kap on the top of the cup.
6. Insert the re-filled cup with My-Kap lid into the coffee machine, lining up the original puncture hole so the tube that makes the puncture goes into the original hole.
7. Brew your cup of coffee.
8. Allow the K-cup to cool before removing from the machine, remove the My-Kap and repeat from step 1 to re-use.
This may sound like a lot of steps but the process is fairly quick and simple. The My-Kap fits snugly inside the top of the K-cup; the first time a K-cup is re-used the fit is very snug and requires more pressure to insert, but it's not difficult and fits easier with future uses. Since you're filling your own K-cup, you have the ability to control how fine the coffee is ground and how much you use. For my personal taste I've found the best results with a fine grind and about 1 1/4 coffee measures per cup of coffee. The brush supplied with the caps also serves as a tool for removing them from a used cup. Insert the end of the brush into the center hole and pry, the cap comes loose. Using the My-Kaps I've consistently been able to brew a good cup of coffee, every bit as good as commercial K-cups, with no grounds leaking into the cup or bitterness in the bottom of the cup. I can use whatever coffee I want and am not limited to what I can get in a K-cup, and it's much less expensive and more environmentally friendly. I get multiple uses from each purchased K-cup since they're reusable many times. That's that's the good part.
Here's the not-so-perfect part. Most of the time I'm getting some water leakage from the top of the My-Kap. The leakage appears to be coming from around the hole where the upper tube that dispenses water into the K-cup enters the cap. There's not a lot of leakage and most of the time it drips right into my coffee cup, but sometimes it'll drip around the cup into the spill tray at the bottom of my Keurig. I've tried pulling down the rubber washer on the Keurig's injection tube (the part that puntures a K-cups top) to make sure there's a good seal and being careful not to push the My-Kap too far into the K-cup, but I haven't been able to resolve the leakage issue to my satisfaction. Making sure the My-Kap is level on the K-cup and not inserted crooked at all helps, as does not inserting past the lip of the cup, but there's still some leakage, probably about 7 times out of 10.
Now THAT'S Customer Service!
I sent an email to My-Kap explaining the issue and requesting a pack of washers free of charge. In less than 5 minutes they responded, saying that leakage does not occur for most customers so washers are not routinely included, but that they would send me a pack free of charge. Soon afterword I received another personal email from the Marketing Director of the company who also stated that leakage is a known issue for a minority of customers and from their testing is believed to be caused by variations with injector tube placement in different coffee makers. In addition to the washers he wanted to send some prototypes of different caps they've been working on to address leakage issues, to see if they made a difference in my machine. Two days later the washers, prototype caps, and a few other product samples were delivered to my home. WOW! How is that for customer service? I've never before experienced such exemplary customer service anywhere. So my hat is off to the people at My-Kap, they proved to me they're willing to go the extra mile and then some to achieve customer satisfaction. That alone makes doing business with them worthwhile in my book.
Using the Washers
The washers are made of a dense rubber material and resemble faucet washers except for being white in color. They fit into a recessed area on top of the cap, essentially making the cap thicker. When the K-cup compartment of the coffee brewer is closed, the washer on the injection tube seals against the washer on the cap. I proceeded to brew my first cup of coffee and was very pleased with the results: no leakage. Over the past 5 days I've been brewing multiple cups per day with washers on the caps and there has been no leakage during brewing at all. Problem solved, the washers did the trick.
Interestingly, I didn't experience any leakage with the prototype caps either. Their top surface where the injection tube enters is convex (the regular caps are flat) so it's a little taller at that point. My guess is that a combination of shape difference and greater height makes a better seal than the regular caps. But also due to their shape, if there was leakage the washers probably wouldn't fit or seal as well as on the flat caps. I'll let the people at My-Kap know what my experience with the prototypes.
The only other thing to note is that in all cases when the K-cup enclosure is opened and tilted forward to remove the cup and spent grounds, there's always a few drops of moisture on top that will spill onto the counter. So either have something handy to catch those drops, or just have your coffee cup there to catch it.
Are the My-Kaps worth purchasing? They most definitely are. I'd recommend getting them directly from the manufacturer at the website (http://www.my-kap.com) along with the washers. Purchase a set of 3 caps with the brush, a separate removal tool (50 cents more) and a set of washers, total price of $13.48, to get free shipping - otherwise you'd pay almost $16 to get just the caps and washers shipped (shipping charged on orders less than $13). They're also available in larger packs if you'd like to prepare more cups at once ahead of time and have them ready for use, which would be a good way to minimize the additional time and effort required to use them.
After having used the My-Kaps for several months I want to update my review with some additional information:
1. After multiple uses, the top of the k-cup can become sligthly stretched and the My-Kap lid will go into the k-cup farther than it did originally. This can be a cause of leakage which is usually minor. If leakage is excessive you've gotten as many practical re-uses of the k-cup and it's time to throw it away. You can tell if the top is stretched by looking at the My-Kap after it's put in place. If the kap sits below the top of the k-cup than the k-cup is stretched and likely to leak.
2. The newer BPA free caps appear to be slightly bigger in diameter than the original caps. On some Keurig machines this may cause the k-cup to split at the very top which can result in some leakage. My mother has an older Keurig that does this. My Keurig and my sister's do not have this problem. But if the k-cup splits it's time to throw it out.
My opinion of the My-Kaps remains unchanged, they're worth purchasing and I continue to recommend them to friends.