When its patent on the highly successful K-Cup technology expired in 2012, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which acquired Keurig back in 2006, needed a new gameplan. Its answer: the Keurig Vue, a single-serve coffee brewer that uses the new Vue pack, a coffee pod that's patent-protected through 2021.
Does the new design make the $199.99 Keurig Vue V700 a worthy addition to your kitchen? For many coffee drinkers we say "yes." If you're committed to pod-based coffee, the V700 and the Vue pack make a better-tasting cup than the K-Cup equivalent. And, unlike the K-Cup, the Vue pack is mostly recyclable.
The Vue V700 is a versatile machine that offers near-complete control over the way you brew your coffee. Its ease of use makes experimenting with different flavors and settings surprisingly enjoyable. The design definitely wasn't our favorite, and it's probably bigger and heavier than you'd like, but if you have the counter space to spare, then the Keurig Vue V700 is the best single serve coffee brewer that you'll find under $200, at least if you prefer pod-based coffee.
A fresh cup
So, is the Vue pack really a step up from the K-Cup? We think so. A new design and two size options give the Vue pack a distinct leg up on the K-Cup. Available in only one size, one K-Cup isn't enough to brew anything larger than a standard mug's worth of coffee to satisfaction. Vue packs, however, come in two sizes: standard and large. A single large Vue pack will easily fill a full-size travel mug with as much as 18 oz. of satisfying java. A spouted design in the Vue pack also seemed to produce a more flavorful cup of coffee than the K-Cup. Also, unlike K-Cups, Vue packs can infuse beverages with froth, offering a more authentic cafe taste.
As important as their taste, Vue packs are made of No. 5 plastic, which is recyclable in most areas. K-Cups, made of a special heat-resistant plastic, aren't recyclable anywhere.
The only real advantage K-Cups can claim over Vue packs is a larger variety of brands available for sale. Vue packs are slowly catching up, with Keurig already offering some of the most popular brands, including Tully's, Caribou, and several Starbucks blends. The increased variety of K-Cup brands also means that better deals are available, especially on bulk orders. Pricing will vary based on what kind of coffee you like to drink and how much of it you're willing to order at a time, but in general, Vue packs will currently cost you about 20 to 40 cents more per serving than the K-Cup alternatives.
Construction and design
When it comes to looks, the V700 leaves a lot to be desired. It's a lustrous, curvy coffee maker, but it's also rather bulky. At 13.1 pounds, it isn't quite the heaviest brewer that we tested, but it's close, and its bloated design certainly doesn't help matters. The V700 just feels bigger than it actually is, and certainly bigger than it ought to be. True, much of that bulk comes from the 74 oz. water reservoir that occupies the left side of the unit -- a worthy trade-off of space for functionality. But the right side is equally bulky, seemingly for no reason other than to keep the unit symmetrical. The result is an unnecessarily boxy brewer that looks more like a breadmaker than a coffee machine.
With all that size, you'd expect that the V700 would at least feel sturdy and durable, but that isn't exactly the case. The exterior housing, made of glossy black plastic, actually feels rather cheap, with the sort of semi-loose, semi-flimsy quality common to low-end printers. It inspires little confidence in the product's longevity, and gives it the look of a knock-off brand, rather than the Keurig standard-bearer.
This isn't to say that the V700 is a total eyesore. With its color touch screen, the sleek, symmetrical body design, and white LEDs shining up through the water reservoir, the V700 exudes a certain high-tech sheen. Given its bulk, however, it will likely be one of the first things people notice when they walk into your kitchen, and as such, you might find yourself wishing that it looked a little more high-end.
Brewing a cup of coffee with the V700 is a cinch -- in fact, it's hard to imagine a much easier coffee-making process without venturing into "Jetsons" territory. With the V700, you simply select your beverage on the touch screen, pop a Vue pack into place, then press the big, shiny Brew button. In less than a minute, you'll have a nice, full cup of fresh-brewed joe. Of course, the machine needs time to heat the water reservoir when you first turn it on -- typically about three minutes from room temperature to ready. Don't worry, though, because you can easily program the V700 to wake up just before you do, with water piping hot by the time you finish your groggy stumble into the kitchen.
Customizing your drink is easy, too. Simply select "Strong," and the brew time will jump to about 90 seconds, giving you a much bolder-tasting beverage. Select "Froth" for a bubbly infusion of air. Filling up a travel mug for the morning commute? Using large Vue packs is a breeze, with an equally fast brew time and no additional settings to fuss with (just tell the Vue that you're using a bigger mug). There's even a Brew Over Ice mode that automatically changes brewing settings in order to make a better chilled beverage. Change the size of your drink, change the brew temperature -- the V700 puts you in control without ever overwhelming you.