The Yin to Keurig coffee’s convenient and delicious Yang is the cost and waste of all those single-use K-cups. If you’re a frugal, environmentally-conscious coffee drinker, you find yourself wondering, “Can you reuse K-cups?”
Making a second cup of coffee with a single-use pod has a flavor tradeoff to its environmental and budgetary benefits. Here are some advantages and problems that come with reusing your K-cups.
How Many Times Can You Use A K-Cup?
You may be able to use a K-cup twice, depending on how picky you are about your coffee. Some people insist there’s hardly any difference at all between the first and second cups. Others say that the second cup tastes like watered-down mud.
We recommend you experiment for yourself to see if you can tell the difference. Our experiment told us that the second cup is tolerable, at least for our taste, but the third cup is undrinkable.
K-cups are tiny plastic cups filled with coffee grounds and sealed. When you put a K-cup in your Keurig, the machine pierces the top and bottom of the cup and forces water through the concealed coffee grounds to make coffee.
Just like you can reuse the regular coffee grounds from a standard coffee machine, you can also reuse your K-cups. The problem is that the law of diminishing returns begins to raise its ugly head with every reuse.
The great flavor you get the first time around will drop every time you reuse the coffee in your K-cup. By the time you get to the third or fourth cup, you might just be drinking slightly browned water.
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Advantages of Reusing Your K-Cups
If you’re interested in doing the least harm to the greatest number of people, the main benefit of reusing your K-cups will be waste reduction. Experts estimate that more than 50 billion used coffee pods get added to landfills across the globe every year.
- Reusing each K-cup at least once will cut your personal coffee waste in half and put you squarely on the path toward drastically reducing your carbon footprint.
- You can cut your coffee budget in half if you use each K-cup twice.
- A K-cup encore can make a nice warm coffee-flavored, barely-caffeinated beverage to drink before bed.
If your wallet worries you more than your waste, let’s do a bit of math. The average K-cup costs about 50 cents. Drinking one coffee every day will cost you nearly $200 a year in pods alone. If you drink two coffees per day, the math gets easier. You’ll spend a dollar a day in pods, a total of $365 every year.
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Reusing your K-cups will also reduce your caffeine intake. If you’re the type of person who prefers slightly less strong coffee, whether for the flavor or the jitters, that second cup may hit the spot. It will still give your drink an unmistakable coffee flavor but with reduced caffeine and accompanying stimulation.
If you plan to recycle your K-cups, we recommend buying the highest-quality pods possible to make sure the second cup stays drinkable. If you buy expensive coffee but use each pod twice, you’ll still save money.
Problems With Using A K-Cup Twice
The main problem with double-dipping your K-cups is the strength of the coffee. Each was designed to make about 6 ounces of strong coffee or a slightly larger amount of slightly weaker coffee.
Since they weren’t designed to make two cups, reusing a coffee pod is like looking for a long-term relationship on Tinder. You can do it, but it’s not for the faint-hearted, and the quality may suffer.
Another issue is the problem of over-extraction. All the best flavors in the coffee grounds dissolve into the water with the first brew. There’s still flavor left for a second brew, but it will most likely be more bitter than the first.
If you don’t mind your coffee a bit bitter, carry on with your déjà brew. If you find the extra acidity annoying, you can actually balance it out by adding a sprinkle of salt.
The sodium in salt helps neutralize bitter flavors in your mouth. Your taste buds are programmed to fixate much more on saltiness than bitterness. A few grains of salt can do an even better job of covering up bitter undertones than a spoonful of sugar.
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What Is Better Than Reusing A K-Cup?
If you want to wind down your waste without foregoing flavor or sacrificing speed, you can use a reusable K-cup brand. Reusable K-cups are designed to be refilled with your favorite coffee grounds.
You can also use used single-use K-cups for craft projects or storage of small items like herbs, beads, or buttons. The drained coffee grounds inside are rich in nitrogen and can make good fertilizer for some plants.
Experiment with using a K-cup twice to see if you can stand the slight strength reduction. Add a touch of salt to cover any extra acidity.
We recommend sticking to two cups tops per pod. In our experiments, the third time had no charm.