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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.
This customization and ease of use come largely via the touch screen. The touch sensitivity is just right, making for a no-stress experience as you key in exactly what kind of drink you're thirsty for. There's something inherently reassuring about a machine that provides basic, step-by-step instructions in real time, even for those of us who might consider ourselves tech-savvy. Try programming a screen-free coffee maker to brew your half-size cup extra hot and extra bold at 5:30 in the morning, then see how tech-savvy you feel. A little guidance is a near necessity for anyone craving something more than the default cup of coffee, and Keurig understands this. The V700's touch screen does the job, and does it admirably.
General usage of the V700 is simple as well. When needed, there's a cleverly designed platform you can lift up out of the drip tray to give smallish mugs a boost. You can also pull the drip tray away completely in mere seconds for easy cleanup, or to clear room for taller travel mugs. As for the reservoir, it takes up roughly the left quarter of the machine, making it about the size of a small pitcher and easy enough to fill. It lifts straight out and settles back down into place without much difficulty, or you can simply open the lid and pour the water straight in. One gripe -- the 74-ounce reservoir capacity is generous, but the water sensor at the bottom of the pitcher is much too tall, meaning that your V700 will start telling you to refill the reservoir as soon as it's only about half empty, which can get annoying.
The V700 brews a cup of coffee on the slower side of the single-serve brewers we tested. It still falls under the ever-important sub-60-second mark, a reasonable benchmark for a coffee maker sold based on its speed and convenience. I wouldn't let an extra 10 seconds per cup impede a purchase.
As stated before, the V700's greatest asset is the Vue pack, which consistently beat out its K-Cup counterparts across multiple brands of coffee in our taste tests. That said, you'll need to temper your expectations somewhat because, like any quick-brewed beverage, Vue pack coffee is a tad on the watery side. It still maintains respectable flavor, especially if you take advantage of the machine's Strong mode, which slows the brewing process down to help give your coffee more kick. You can also tell the V700 to use a little less water, which will make your drink smaller but more potent.
Another attractive feature is the V700's setting for making iced beverages. With one touch, you can tell the machine that you'd like a cold drink. The V700 will brew coffee or tea into your cup of ice, automatically adjusting the brew speed and amount of water used. The result is a very satisfying iced beverage -- not too strong, not too watery.
One feature we would have liked to have seen included with the unit is a reusable Vue pack like the one included with the
Keurig recommends replacing the cartridge in the V700's water filter every two months, and offers a six-pack of refills for $24.95 on its Web site. The company also provides step-by-step instructions for descaling the V700 with vinegar in the event of mineral buildup in the machine's inner workings. The brew head detaches from the unit with the click of a button for easy cleaning, then snaps right back into place.
Service and support
Keurig warrants that the V700 will be free of defects in materials or workmanship under normal home use for one year from the date of purchase. You can return defective machines within this period for a free replacement unit, which will come with its own one-year warranty. Troubleshooting help is available toll-free 7 days a week at 866-901-BREW (866-901-2739). The Keurig Web site also features a series of how-to and troubleshooting videos, though the current offerings all showcase earlier K-Cup models.
The V700 has its flaws, but on balance, it consistently brews perfectly good coffee to your specific tastes, and does it with ease. For its touch screen and ease of use alone, it merits strong consideration, especially from the eco-conscious consumers Keurig seems to be targeting with its recyclable Vue packs.