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Drinking in the Vue, Keurig's K-Cup successor

The single-serve coffee experience heats up this year as Keurig's newest coffee-dispensing system, Vue, primes itself to succeed the wildly popular K-Cup.

Meet the Keurig Vue V700. (Click to enlarge.)

A world without K-Cups? The horror! While a K-Cupless world may not befall the caffeine-addicted anytime soon, single-serve coffee giant Keurig recently debuted a next-gen successor called Vue that could warm the hearts and hands of geeky java lovers.

For those wondering what I'm talking about, these small plastic capsules sell in the billions annually. They contain coffee (or another beverage) and a filter; putting a K-Cup in its specific brewing device creates a single serving of that drink in less than a minute without a mess.

We checked out a Vue test unit at a Bed Bath & Beyond, the first retailer to carry the new V700 brewer (other big retailers will sell it soon). Keurig's pricey $249 Vue roaster looks similar to existing K-Cup machines, and bears many familiar components, but it doesn't take long to spot the differences.

The Vue sports a color touch screen with menus for selecting the type of Vue pack inserted. Using that menu, one can choose from eight brewing sizes or adjust temperature, water pressure, timing, and airflow settings. Keurig's latest take on home coffee brewing supports the creation of frothy cafe beverages, such as lattes and cappuccinos, by using a separate coffee and frother Vue pack for each drink (the packs are partially recyclable).

The Vue packs are shorter, stockier, and work slightly differently than the K-Cup. In addition, you can recycle a part of the Vue pack, unlike a K-Cup. Christopher MacManus/CNET

Those interested in Vue should prepare to spend, spend, and spend some more (though the per-cup price does work out to a reasonable 75 cents). Standard 16-count Vue packs cost $11.99, but the cafe beverage Vue boxes contain only eight drinks (eight coffee and eight frother packs). Since the whole system debuted just recently, Vue pack drink selection runs a bit slim (only several dozen types available) compared with the hundreds of K-Cups out there.

If you already own K-Cups, they're not compatible with the Vue brewer, and vice versa. Aside from complaints about price, the lack of backward-compatibility is one of the drawbacks mentioned in early mixed reviews on the Keurig site (yes, we live in an era where backward-compatibility for coffee must be taken into account). Some early consumer reviews also express distaste over several of the frothy cafe beverages.

I'm not quite ready to drop my working Keurig B70 Platnium K-Cup system for a Vue just yet, despite its expanded drink offerings and fancy interface. However, as Vue machines drop in price over time and drink offerings continue to expand, I expect to see the transition from K-Cup to Vue occurring in many homes and workplaces.

In related news, a Vue V1200 office model arrives later this year, which, according to Keurig, utilizes RFID technology to allow "the Vue pack to communicate the exact brewing recipe for that particular beverage to the brewer."