Since hitting on the market, Keurig machines have made the process of drinking coffee much easier than ever before. Unfortunately, that ease has come, for some, at the cost of the coffee’s taste.
When I first tried Keurig Coffee I was pretty put off – it was bitter, burnt, and watery. But with over 33 million households in America using Keurig machines, surely I was doing something wrong!?
I’ve found the following 6 key reasons why your Keurig coffee tastes bad and some simple steps you can do to improve the taste right away.
- Quality: Use Higher Quality K-cup coffee from recognized brands
- Water: use a water filter and replace your water filter every other month
- Filter: You may need to change the water filter.
- Descale: descale and clean your Keurig every 3 months
- Rise: rinse any leftover descaling solution after descaling
- Single Use: Only brew a single cup of coffee per K-cup
Why Listen To Us? Well, because we KNOW coffee! In fact, we make our own coffee, coffee machine cleaners, and reusable capsules which we've sold to over 41 countries. Our team ouf experts include Tristan (an engineer), Claire (a food writer) and Richy (a barista). So, whether you're looking for a recipe or repair guide, we've got you covered 💚
Table of Contents
Why Does Keurig Coffee Taste Bad?
When it comes to Keurig K-Cups tasting bad, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with your Keurig machine and virtually any issue you’re having can be fixed pretty easily.
The bad news is that pretty much every issue you’re having is really your fault. (Sorry! Don’t shoot the messenger!)
Keep reading as I explain:
Reason #1. Your Coffee May Just Not Be Good
This is the simplest step and, for many, should be the first thing you look into. What many people don’t realize is that a lot of cheaper K Cups contain really bad quality coffee.
It’s not just a difference of Frosted Flakes vs. store brand Frosted Flakes, where the only difference is the branding. Often, these companies may use Robusta beans over Arabica. (Robusta is a much cheaper option for coffee production but will often result in a more bitter coffee.) Or will take the C-grade beans (We call it Nescafe grade!)
What’s the Solution?
Now, you don’t even need to break the bank on premium coffee to see the difference. If you’re usually buying the cheaper stuff, just switch over to Starbucks, Newman’s Own, or Green Mountain. These are all delicious coffee brands that are also very affordable.
We’ve got some helpful guides for selecting the best K-Cups for you needs in the links below
- Our guide to the best overall k-cup subscriptions
- Our guide to the best decaf k-cups
- Our guide to the best hot chocolate k-cups
- Our guide to the best chai latte k-cups
- And also the best reusable k-cups
Bad coffee may be an easy fix but if you’re messing up in some other key areas, it can still taste unreasonably bitter and burnt. That’s where the next reasons come in.
Reason #2. The Machine Needs To Be Descaled
This was actually my problem and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it.
I guess I just figured it automatically cleaned itself?
Descaling is the process of running a special solution through your coffee machine to break down any limescale buildup and flush it out. This ‘scale’ clogs the internal pipework potentially damaging your machine, but also harbors dirt, grime, and coffee residue which can result in your coffee tasting really… well.. awful!
Tip: This is the first thing I check when someones coffee machine is tasting gross!
What’s the Solution?
Descaling is simple and only takes about 15 or 20 minutes every 2 or 3 months. We’re written a bunch of guides below, specific to your Keurig machine.
Not the right machine for you? Check out our other descaling guides for Keurig coffee machines below:
Reason #3. Your Coffee’s Water Filter May Need to be Changed
We just finished talking about using filtered water, but did you know that your Keurig machine actually has a water filter in it? Now, don’t think that this negates reason #2. The filter on your machine is not going to be properly equipped of getting all the crud out of your water, so don’t expect it to.
Still, virtually all water will have some amounts of calcium that will stay even after being steamed. This remaining calcium can eventually lead to large deposits that end up in your coffee. These, while not obvious enough to be noticeable by you inherently, are big enough of an issue to affect the taste of the coffee.
What’s the Solution?
This is a very easy fix. If you haven’t already, grab a pack of replacement water filters for you keurig machine. We bought these ones from amazon as they are cheaper than buying in-store.
Then simply swap it out with the one in your machine, or follow this guide to help you replace your keurig water filter.
Learn More: We’ve got this full guide on how to change your Keurigs water filter
- PERFECT FIT - These Keurig-compatible replacement coffee filters are a universal fit for almost all Keurig machines, including: SMART Brewer Group: K-Café SMART, K-Supreme SMART, K-Supreme Plus SMART Traditional Brewer Group: K-Classic, K-Café, K- Café Special Edition, K-Latte, K-Elite, K-Compact, K-Select K-Duo Series: K-Duo Essentials, K-Duo, K-Duo Special Edition, K-DuoPlus, K-Supreme, K-SupremePlus Brewers, K-Slim Series: K-Slim, K-Slim + Iced K-Express, and K-Express Essentials
Reason #4. Your Tap Water Isn’t Very Good
Just as easy as replacing your coffee is replacing the quality of your water. You’d be surprised to know just how much stuff is tap water; much of it, not only being bad for your health but causing a pretty big impact on the taste.
What kind of things? Well, these range from Chlorine, Fluoride, Heavy Metals, Lead & Copper particles, nitrates, pesticides, and even runoff!
The ones listed are honestly only a handful listed because this isn’t a health article and I don’t want to scare you too bad. The ultimate point I’m getting at is that your tap water has got a lot more in it than just H20. These additions flatten the taste of your coffee, often making it drinkable only after throwing in a ton of milk and sugar.
What’s the Solution?
When it comes to fixing the issue, there are really two things you can do.
The first is to use bottled water. Most bottled and packaged water goes through a filtration process or is bottled at clean water sources. You’ll ideally want to find any bottled water that references “reverse osmosis” or “distilled” as those methods completely remove any additions that might be tacked onto your water. It’s a super simple method and you can just make a point to grab a gallon every time you hit the grocery store.
The second method is to invest in a home filter system or a quality water filter for your sink faucet. If you’re like me and think that’s way too much to spend on a cup of coffee, then grab a countertop Brita filter.
I use this extra large Brita filter from amazon which cost me around $40
- The UltraMax water dispenser is made without BPA and can hold 27 cups of water; enough to fill nine 24-ounce reusable water bottles; packaging may vary
Reason #5. Your Machine May Still Have Some Residuals from Descaling
If you’ve washed out your Keurig and cleaned out the water filter, you may think that’s enough to avoid any bad tastes; and you’d be right from a certain perspective.
Unfortunately, there can be some slight residuals that stick around that you’ll need to clear out, otherwise you’ll notice a slight vinegar taste to your coffee.
What’s the Solution?
To fix the problem, all you’re going to want to do is run the Keurig with some water to essentially “boil out” anything that’s still there. Here’s a brief rundown on what you’re going to do:
- Make sure there’s no pod in the machine. Remember that you’re not actually making coffee right now.
- Fill the reservoir up with water until it’s full. Whatever the maximum amount is, you’re going to fill it to that level. Remember to use filtered water if at all possible.
- Run your Keurig until all the water is finished. Each time you fill a cup, just dump the water and redo the process.
This should ideally remove the taste. If it’s really bad, you may have to do this entire process one or two more times.
If you’ve done it several times and there’s still a hint of vinegar in your coffee, consider adding half a teaspoon of baking soda to your water. This should fix the problem. Depending on the situation, you may have to do this process a few more times as well.
Reason #6. You’re Using a K-Cup More than Once
Lastly, I know this may seem stupid, but I know some people who try and use a K cup more than once.
(I think they’re the same people who reuse tea bags too..)
So to clarify, each k-cup is meant for only a single cup of coffee. The problem is that we often think that because can leave one in and the remaining contents “look” like coffee, that it’s going to be of the same quality.
As you’d expect, every time you pour boiling hot water through those grounds, you’re scalding them again and again. Worse, since much is washed through the first and second time, each cup you use is going to taste worse and worse.
What’s the Solution?
You’ve got two options really;
- The expensive option: Buy more K Cups
- Or the smart option: Get a reusable K Cup
Let’s talk about option 2.
Reusable K-cups are the same size and shape as the regular single use pods, but are made of sturdy plastic or (better) stainless steel so they can be cleaned and reused. They usually also have some seals and hinges so the lid can be taken on and off without leaking.
The best reusable K-cup capsules on the market are hands down The Green Pods Reusable K Cups because they’re the only design that’s plastic-free and only use food-grade stainless steel and silicone. Many of the reusable k cups we tested either broke or clogged, whereas The Green Pods could be chucked in the dishwasher and be good to go again.
Our Advice: Although this takes some extra effort, the money saved (and the environmental impact) makes it well worth it. When your reusable k-cup is high quality and well maintained, it can last for years. Of course, this depends on how you wash it, how much you use it, and other factors that impact wear and tear.
Conclusion: How To Fix Bad-Tasting Keurig Coffee
If you’ve got bad-tasting coffee with your Keurig, it doesn’t mean you need a new machine or you just have to deal with what you’ve got. There are fixes, and most of those fixes are really simple and really easy. By following some simple maintenance, choosing better quality pods, descaling regularly, and using better water, you can almost completely transform your coffee quality overnight.
Follow these tips, and I promise you will be MUCH happier because of them.