Tuesday Reviews-Day: Keurig 2.0 K550

Tuesday Revews-Day

It’s a fun day when new toys come in the mail.

I give points for packaging, and the booklet that came with the brewer is quite spiffy with it's tissue liners, etc.

I give points for packaging, and the booklet that came with the brewer is quite spiffy with it’s tissue liners, etc.

Though I suppose it’s not quite right to call the new Keurig 2.0 system a toy, it’s more like a workhorse! I received the K550 model through an Influenster promotion and have been getting to know my new coffee maker for the past couple of weeks. Now, since this was a promotion, I figured they’d be sending out the basic model (the 350) and, believe me, I wouldn’t be complaining! I’ve wanted a Keurig for some time but I couldn’t quite justify the cost just for me since Todd drinks neither coffee nor tea. So when I picked up my brewer and found it was the large, feature-full K550 I was even more impressed, and impatient to try it out!

My first brew! See the black circle on the lid? That tells you it's the updated K-Cup that'll work in this brewer.

My first brew! See the black circle on the lid? That tells you it’s the updated K-Cup that’ll work in this brewer.

Things I love about my K550:

  • An 80 oz reservoir with a charcoal filter that means I only need to fill it up once a week (on average) for my morning coffees and evening teas. And when it needs a refill the screen asks nicely, “More water, please”
  • The brewing size options and strength control that does the measuring for me at a push of a button, saving me time, and not making me think too hard about using either a regular cup or a travel mug.
  • The choice of tank light colors to match my kitchen—it’s a small but nice detail and the little touches are what set them apart from the more utilitarian machines.
  • And, of course, the ability to brew a carafe as well as a cup! This was another big detractor to buying a Keurig in the past, since I want to be able to offer my guests coffee and cup-by-cut can be tedious in group situations.
The tank light in "action." There's also a nightlight feature that comes in pretty handy if you forget to leave the light over the stove on ;-)

The tank light in “action.” There’s also a nightlight feature that comes in pretty handy if you forget to leave the light over the stove on 😉

Some things I’m not 100% on board with:

  • It doesn’t work with the refillable pods. This has to do with the machine reading the code on the K-Cup lids for quality control issues. So my Mr. Coffee will only be put on the shelf until the old coffee stash is used up, not put out to pasture just yet.
  • The auto-brew function is only for carafes. A bit of a bummer, but it’s still so quick to brew the single-servings in the morning there’s no immediate inconvenience.
  • The samples that ship with the brewer are all caffeinated, and I don’t really do caffeine for medical reasons. You’d think that at least one sample in the multi-pack could be decaf or even one of the herbal tea blends, right? After all, judging by the website offerings, 16% of their K-Cup varieties are caffeine free in one way or another!

That last one I’d researched so I picked up a couple boxes of decaf K-Cups before the brewer arrived, then a few more when I next went to the store. Since I’d been under the weather I was drinking more tea than anything else, and a surprising perk to using the K-Cups was no tea bag in the mug to deal with. I mean, sure, duh, but it was one of those things that I was so used to dealing with that not having to was pretty cool. It’s also nice for evening cup of Sleepytime that I bring up to bed with me, not having to worry about the tea bag or a mug. My Earl Grey Decaf K-Cups are on their way and I’m really looking forward to them!

Yummy coffee on a messy desk... such is my life!

Yummy coffee on a messy desk… such is my life!

As for coffee, I’ve been switching between the Green Mountain Hazelnut Decaf and the Donut Shop Decaf in the mornings, occasionally swapping in Tazo’s Zen Green tea (not totally caffeine free, but fairly low; low enough where it doesn’t trigger my arrhythmia in any case). I’ve also got a few more cases of K-Cups coming in to try out: the current buy 2 get 2 free offer when you register your brewer at Keurig.com comes in handy for stocking up, especially if your local selection is a little spotty.

One of the big complaints I’ve seen among reviews is the fact that the older K-Cups won’t work with the 2.0 system for the same reason the refillable pods don’t: the lids don’t have the right encoding or whatever and if you try to put one in the machine it’ll give you a rather polite ‘Oops!’ message and not let you brew it. If you already have a stash of K-Cups, you may want to put off upgrading to the 2.0 system until your stock has run low.

With the size and strength brewing options of the 2.0, not to mention the little check box for teas or other specialty items, I really hope Keurig will come out with their own refillable K-Cup that’ll work in the 2.0 brewers. I’d definitely buy one so I can use it with the loose teas I have. Plus, for folks who like to support local beaneries that don’t have the volume to produce K-Cups, it’d be a great way for Keurig to bridge the gap between local coffee producers and their brewers. In the mean time, the K550 does have the option to dispense up to 6oz of hot water at a go, so I could still use my stock of tea bags up. (I suppose it’s also useful for watering down coffee for those who like theirs on the weaker side. Different strokes!)

The hot water feature. The option comes up whenever you close the top after removing the spent K-Cup, or you can press the little water droplet on the side of the screen.

The hot water feature. The option comes up whenever you close the top after removing the spent K-Cup, or you can press the little water droplet on the side of the screen.

The K-Cups do have a major leg-up on the convenience factor, though, and I certainly like that the only clean-up is taking out the used pod. The brewers do require periodic maintenance, but even that doesn’t seem too onerous (use of a descaling solution for build-up and then running a reservoir or two of water to rinse it out), and I think the use of the optional filter in the tank is supposed to keep the mineral build-up to a minimum.

Overall I’m thrilled to finally have a Keurig of my own, and I look forward to trying out the carafe feature over the holidays (when I can brew a pot of “leaded” for my family and still make my own decaf without any extra fuss). It’s made my morning and evening routines that much easier–even a few minutes saved each day adds up!

***In case I didn’t make it painfully clear already, I was sent a Keurig 2.0 K550 brewer for the purpose of testing and review through my participation with Influenster.com. All opinions expressed are my own.***

AlcoHOLidays | Devil’s Food Cake Day | Cocoa Diablo



Does chocolate cake sound good to anyone else right about now?

This coming Sunday, May 19, is National Devil’s Food Cake Day and I’m pretty much sold on the idea, truth be told. Might have to squeeze in some baking between appointments on Saturday.

What makes Devil’s Food cake different from other chocolate cakes? Good question! Generally speaking (i.e., according to Wikipedia), Devil’s Food cake usually contains coffee and usually uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate for the primary flavoring agent.

Of course it would have been super simple to construct a cake-sweet cocktail for today with chocolate vodka, chocolate syrup, some Kahlua and maybe some milk to tie it all together, but we’ve been down that road and that cocktail–while tasty!–has been done to death. Instead, let’s take a different path today. A more feisty path.

Does madness follow down this road? Maybe so, but it’s tasty madness.

Cocoa Diablo

2 oz strongly-brewed Coffee (preferably chilled)
1 1/2 oz Dark Chocolate Vodka (like Van Gogh)
1/2 oz Absolut Pepar
pinch of Spicy Rim Blend

Spicy Rim Blend: 1 part red chili powder, 2 parts powdered ginger, 4 parts cocoa powder

Run a wedge of lemon or lime around the outer edge of a cocktail glass then drag the rim of the glass through the Spicy Rim Blend. If you’re unsure of your guests’ heat tolerance, only rim one half of the glass.

Combine the cocktail ingredients over ice in the bottom of a shaker and shake like Mephistopheles, himself, is on your tail. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass and sip with caution.

If you make this with warm or hot coffee, you will end up with more water in the mix–this may or may not be a good thing to your thinking. Proceed accordingly. This looks like your average chocolate martini (sans milk, obviously) with a cocoa powder rim. Looks can be deceiving. Fact is, this is a more-spicy-than-sweet chocolate cocktail that lives up to it’s name. It’s not a relaxing cocktail to wind down a dinner with, more of a get the party started tipple.. And, yes, it might be useful if you feel like daring a friend to try something shocking.


AlcoHOLidays | St Patrick’s Day | Sweet Irish Coffee


jwalker_sweetirishcoffeeOn St Patrick’s Day, everybody has a touch of the Irish in them!

Granted, the day has devolved (in many areas, including my own college-anchored town) into an excuse to drink watered-down, green-tinted beer for a ridiculously long time. It’ll be interesting to see if that is at all curbed by March 17 falling on a Sunday this year, but I have my doubts.

As most folks know, St Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to the pagan Irish. Though we think of green as the natural color for St Patrick’s Day, originally the color most associated with him was blue. But (probably) because the story goes he used a shamrock to teach the idea of the trinity, so more and more people took to wearing shamrocks on his feast day, and it just sort of took off from there.

While beer, especially Guinness, is a more common drink for St Paddy’s Day (and, yes, it is spelled with d’s, not t’s, in deference to the Irish spelling of Pádraig), Irish whiskey is pretty popular, too.

One of the most excellent ways to drink Irish whiskey (if you don’t fancy it straight), is in the popular after dinner treat: Irish Coffee.

To see an really impressive way to make Irish Coffee en masse, check out this video courtesy of Concannon Irish Whiskey:

(Direct link for the feed readers: How to Make Irish Coffee)

Some  recipes for Irish Coffee I’ve seen call for only the whiskey and the coffee–no sugar, no cream. That just makes me shudder. In fact, after making one like that (but with the sugar cubes) it was still too bitter for my liking. I like my coffee flavored and sweet, with or without the alcohol, so here’s my take on this classic.

Sweet Irish Coffee

3 Sugar Cubes
4 oz Coffee, brewed strong
1 oz Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1 spoonful Vanilla Ice Cream

Prepare your Irish Coffee glass by filling it with hot water as the coffee brews. When the coffee is ready, pour out the water and add the sugar cubes and coffee to the mug, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the Irish whiskey and chocolate liqueur and top with a spoonful of ice cream.

Our local ice cream shop serves an affogato–a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of their sweet cream ice cream–which served as a partial inspiration for today’s twist on an old stand-by. Whipping heavy cream isn’t particularly difficult, but I had some lactose-free Breyers vanilla in the freezer, so I thought I’d give it a try as a substitute. For the whiskey I used Concannon Irish Whiskey (that I reviewed on Tuesday) and for the chocolate liqueur I, of course, used Godiva. The resulting drink is still a strong Irish Coffee but with a sweeter edge making it perfect for after a meal.

I had to search my local Cost Plus World Market to find where they’d hidden the Irish Coffee glasses, and the smallest I could find actually hold 8 oz, but we’ll just let that slide, right? The reason for pre-warming the glass is two-fold. First, just like chilling a glass for a cold drink, it helps the drink maintain its temperature. Second, coffee is very hot and while most coffee mugs can stand it, some of your more delicate glassware is not as tough and adding hot coffee to cold glass could lead to some bad breaks.

If you do choose to go out to your favorite watering hole this Sunday, make sure you have a designated driver or the number of a cab company handy. A DUI would sure put a damper on your day!


Give Me 3 CCs–Stat!

3-C Martini

3-C Martini

Unlike a goodly portion of human adults, I don’t rely on a cup of coffee or three to start my day (part of it is that whole no-caffeine thing, of course). Sure, I indulge in the occasional Venti Decaf Soy Caramel Macchiatto when I manage to leave the house a little early but, for the most part, my coffee-flavored indulgences happen later in the day.

Much later.

A good after-dinner coffee drink–with plenty of cream, of course–can only be improved by one thing, in my mind: chocolate. So I offer up this take on the chocolate coffee martini.

3-C Martini

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Coffee
3/4 oz Irish Cream Liqueur
3/4 oz Chocolate Liqueur (Godiva, preferred)
Garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings

Combine liquid ingredients over ice and shake enough to knock the last vestiges of sleep from your thoughts. (Not that I’d advocate this as a morning beverage, unless we’re talking Sunday brunch and you’re not going anywhere for a while!) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with whipped cream and freshly-shaved chocolate.

I made two versions of this drink–one with coffee and the other with coffee liqueur. While the Kahlua version was divine, the coffee flavor is much more muted than if you use fresh coffee, straight from the pot. In the latter, thanks to the other ingredients, the coffee is strong but not bitter. Feel free to substitute based on your personal preferences.

The one thing you’re not going to want to substitute is anything other than a premium vodka. I’ve often been told that the better the vodka, the cleaner the flavor. Or, in some cases, the lack of flavor–at least readily discernible flavor. Not being a vodka-neat type, I didn’t really think much about it until I received a bottle of a premium vodka to try–Cinco Vodka from San Antonio, TX–and now I am a true believer! When placed next to a common call brand vodka the finish and feeling that the Cinco gave was far beyond the burn that the call brand gave. So consider this your tip of the week–buy a better vodka and reap the rewards!

50 Shots of America–Washington


The countdown of the last 10 states in the series continues with the northwest corner of the contiguous 48…


Caramel MacchiappleDid you know that when the powers that be in the Washington Territory petitioned for statehood in 1885, they wanted to be known as the state of Columbia? Congress, however, thought it would be too easily confused with the District of Columbia, the Nation’s capital. It’s ironic, then, that they didn’t have a problem naming it the State of Washington, don’t you think?

It might be a pretty big state, but around 60% of it’s residents are cluster in the Seattle metro area, and is home to some serious heavy-hitters in tech: Amazon, Google and Microsoft. It’s known for it’s apple orchards, boasts actual rain forests and is the birthplace of a little, hardly known coffee company 😉

I know not everyone is a fan of Starbucks. I love shopping local, including for my coffee beverages, but oh… oh I love the crazy caloric rush that is the Caramel Macchiato (Caramel Latte almost anywhere esle). And, like some sort of a joke, my coffee order is a bit complex: Venti Decaf Soy Caramel Macchiato.


The More Complicated the Coffee...

The More Complicated the Coffee...

But would coffee and apples taste good together?

Caramel MacchiApple

1 oz Coffee Liqueur
1/2 oz Sour Apple Schnapps
1/4 oz Caramel Syrup

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake like Mount St Helens getting ready to blow. Strain into a chilled cordial glass (or demitasse) and sip.

The tart of the apple goes extremely well with the smooth caramel and coffee mixture. The Swedish Fish-garnish is a nod to another local landmark: Pike Place Market where the fish go flying.


Only 8 more states to go!