A bit of backstory… The term “jumping the shark” refers to an episode of Happy Days very late in the series, wherein the iconic Fonzie is water-skiing and must jump over a threatening shark. At that point viewers and critics alike realized that the show’s writers had run out of ideas and were simply creating fluff to keep the show on the air, so everyone could keep getting paid. This informative article from What Can I Learn Today (which is where the picture below came from) has more.
Confession – I bought a Keurig device. I’m not proud of that in retrospect, but please allow me to justify my experience to avert some of the shame I feel…
Coffee on the road
Over the years, construction defect investigations have frequently taken me to El Centro, Las Vegas, Santa Clarita and elsewhere. While there are plenty of Starbucks locations in those areas, let’s just say that I’m not the biggest fan of the green mermaid.
Most hotel rooms have coffee makers, but I implore you: Don’t ever use a hotel coffee maker! Why? You never know what a previous guest may have used that coffee maker for… (And yes, I have personally seen a coffee maker used for such purposes at a hotel near Stephenson’s Ranch – where the TV show Weeds was originally set. But I digress…)
And then there are the “complimentary breakfast bars” that so many Hampton Inns, Comfort Inns, etc. offer near their lobbies. Sure, they have coffee. So does the Discount Tire place down the street. I don’t want that.
Which brings me to how I arrived at the fateful decision to purchase a Keurig several years ago. Keurig makes a base model that it advertises for use in RVs, vacation homes, etc. Due to the compact size of the device, I realized that it would fit perfectly in my carry-on bag with my clothes. (I pack light so I rarely need the full capacity of a suitcase.)
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured the coffee wouldn’t be that bad. And to be honest, it wasn’t the worst coffee in the world – Caribou and Green Mountain have some K-cups (the “pod” that represents the consumable portion) that are OK. The best part was that the entire affair was so easy and fast – which is important when you have to be on site ready to go by 7:45 in the morning.
The problems with the Keurig system are numerous:
- Most importantly, it is impossible to maintain any level of freshness of coffee that is pre-ground and sits on store shelves or in warehouses for months prior to the end use by a consumer.
- I measured the temperature of the water exiting the “brew head” to be between 190 and 195 degrees. Optimal brewing temperature for coffee is between 200 and 205 for proper extraction.
- Coffee grounds are great for composting, because as an organic material, it biodegrades well. K-cups aren’t recyclable and they in fact take up a lot of space. Just imagine all those K-cups from your local Target sitting in a landfill.
- Price: A pound of freshly roasted coffee from my friends at Caffe Calabria runs about $15. The yield is somewhere around 48 cups of coffee, making the price per cup around $0.30. While you can buy K-cups in larger quantities online, a standard 18-count box usually runs $12 for a per cup cost of about $0.66.
Jumping the Shark
Keurig has always tried to market their machines as more than just coffee. In fact, they kind of try to position the machine as a one-stop beverage factory. You can get K-cups with tea, cocoa, and a variety of other beverages. Plus, if you have ice on hand, you aren’t limited to making hot beverages.
Aside: It should be noted that I’m just as picky about tea as I am coffee. I often drink anywhere from 3 to 8 cups of Oolong tea each afternoon (to cut down on coffee). The temperature of the water from the Keurig is actually optimal for Oolong tea. The problem is that the brew head retains enough residue from coffee brewing to taint the flavor making it unusable for anything other than coffee, in my opinion.
But the recent news announcement I saw tells me that Keurig has gone off the deep end. In an effort to re-ignite sales, Keurig has partnered with Campbell’s to deliver soup K-cups.
From the press release:
If you ever wanted soup to come out of your coffee machine, you’re in luck.
Campbell Soup Co. says it will start offering K-cup soup packs that can be made with Green Mountain’s popular single-serve coffee machines. The soups include a K-cup pack of broth that is brewed over a packet of dry pasta and vegetables.
“It’s delicious soup at the touch of a button,” Campbell CEO Denise Morrison said in a phone interview.
The only conclusion I can reach at this point is that Keurig has finally jumped the shark.
Postscript: How to get better coffee on the road
So what is a better solution for coffee from a hotel room?
Here is a post I wrote describing how to brew awesome coffee in your hotel room.
Image courtesy What Can I Learn Today