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K-Cup portion packs are a form of single cup brewing system first introduced in 1998 by Keurig incorporated. Initially used only for coffee, k-cup varieties now include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, iced tea and coffee, as well as fruit drinks, lemonade and apple cider. Each K-Cup is a plastic container with a coffee filter inside. Ground coffee beans are packed in the K-Cup and sealed air-tight with a combination plastic and foil lid. When the K-Cup is placed in a Keurig brewer, the brewer punctures both the foil lid and the bottom of the K-Cup and forces hot water under pressure through the K-Cup and into a mug. Keurig licenses its K-Cup technology to coffee roasters and tea makers such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Diedrich/Gloria Jeans, Timothy's World Coffee, Van Houtte, Caribou Coffee, Celestial Seasonings, Bigelow Tea Company, Twinings, Tully's, Coffee People and Newman's Own.
Keurig's patents on the original K-Cup design expired in September 2012. Keurig holds at least one additional, still-active US patent and another patent application, detailing improvements that have subsequently been incorporated in their K-Cup design.
Keurig K-Cups come in a range of varieties, flavors, and blend options. They offer single-origin coffees from Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sumatra. They also offer custom coffee blends, Organic Coffees, Fair Trade and flavored coffees. And a variety of roasts including Extra Bold Roasts - with 30% more ground coffee, Dark Roast, Medium Roast, Light Roast, Flavored, Decaf, Fair Trade Certified and Organic Coffee Roasts.
K-Cups also offer English Breakfast, Chamomile and Earl Grey decaf, Chai, Peppermint and Mango tea, from a wide range of companies such as Bigelow, Cafe Escapes, Celestial Seasonings, Gloria Jean's Tea, Timothy's Tea and Twinings Tea.
They also offer premium hot chocolate from brands such as Cafe Escapes, Green Mountain Coffee, Timothy's and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.
Environmental and cost concerns
K-cups also are more costly than brewing a regular cup of coffee. Many estimates put the cost of a K-cup at double the price of a regular cup of coffee.
- LA Times - Keurig Environmental Impact
- My K-Cup
- Time Magazine