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.***

Episode 9: I Need a Drink


Whether it’s celebrating the new year, starting off the 12th Night celebration or congratulating yourself for getting the mammoth end-of-year to-do list, done, a drink with a kick can do wonders. After all, what we call cordials and liqueurs were once known as restoratives!

As I rambled mentioned on the show, one of my many sites is Sips & Shots, where I create a new cocktail a week and post about other beverage interests from time to time. And if my voice sounds a little rough on the recording, all I can say is it’s a good thing I recorded when I did as I woke up with practically no voice at all the next day!

Now, what you’re really here for, the music:

Pumpkin Pie–Russell Wolff
Alcohol–O Sweet Static
In the Bar Tonight–Dakota
Crazy When She Drinks–Lee Rocker
Sipping Tea–The Gentlemen Callers
Cold Beer–Jeff Ronay
Glass of Wine–The New Autonomous Folksingers
Wine of Her Lips–Billy Bourbon
Vodka Kosovo–On Wave
Martini Time–AirFerg
Ginned Up–John Hughes
Gin & Tonic–Sammy Barker
The Old Black Rum–Great Big Sea
The Saltee Tango–Stoat
Only the Tequila Talking (feat. John Popper)–Lisa Bouchelle
Sweet Tequila–Brain Buckit
Whiskey Time–The Whiskey River Band
Nancy Whisky–Murder the Stout
Drinking Like a Fiddler–Dust Rhinos

And that’s us for another month. Please, everyone, if you do imbibe, don’t be a drunken monkey–use a designated drive, take a cab, or drink at home and do so in moderation.

Fun’s better if you can remember it the next day!

50 Shots of America–Colorado


Welcome to our continuing trek across the Unites States in search of fun facts and tasty cocktails. This week we’re in the Rocky Mountains, visiting Colorado!


Imperceptible Kink

Imperceptible Kink

After many changes of hands and disputes over the years, the free Territory of Colorado was organized by outgoing-President Buchanan in February of 1861. Named for the Colorado River, it would more than 15 years before Colorado would officially become a state in August of 1876–100 years after we declaration our independence from British rule–with boundaries made up of latitude and longitude markings, not natural boundaries (and it’s only 1 of 3 states like this).

While gold and silver were big pulls to the Centennial State in the 1800s, more than half the Colorado population is settled in the greater-Denver area where industry and agriculture now hold sway. Denver, Aspen and Boulder are well-known foodie destinations but the natural splendor of the state’s many parks, forests, trails and refuges help keep the population fit and healthy. It’s also making a name for itself in wine–both the grape and fruit-based varieties–while maintaining the largest annual production of beer in the country.

Of course, what I first think of, when Colorado comes to mind, is John Denver. Now, granted, he’s not a native son but he was adopted as their official Poet Laureate in 1977 and his song, Rocky Mountain High, is one of the 2 state songs for Colorado. I went through a bit of a folk music phase about 10 years ago and Denver was one of my favorites. Even so, I’m still finding songs of his I didn’t know were his to begin with. If I had to narrow it down to a top 5, just off the top of my head, the list would include:

  • My Sweet Lady
  • Wild Montana Sky
  • Goodbye Again
  • A Song for All Lovers
  • Perhaps Love (with Placido Domingo)

And, oh, 5 is not nearly enough but, well, I’m digressing and there’s a cocktail to get to!


Earlier I mentioned that the borders of Colorado are based on lines of latitude and longitude. Apparently, though, the surveyors charged with marking the official border faced some challenges while tracing the longitudinal border with Utah resulting in “several nearly imperceptible kinks.”

Oh, that’s just too good a phrase to pass up. Hence…

The Imperceptible Kink

1 oz Sleepytime-infused Tequila*
1/2 oz Peach Nectar
1/2 oz Beer

Combine over ice and shake vigorously–not quite like crossing the Continental Divide, but close. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

*To Infuse Tequila: Heat 2 oz of Tequila until steamy and fragrant and remove from heat. Add 1 Sleepytime tea bag and steep for approximately 2 minutes. Remove the tea bag and let the mixture cool until ready to use. Tip: this smells great but don’t inhale too deeply or you’ll find yourself choking on the alcohol fumes. Not that we did that or anything…

Colorado boasts a significant Hispanic population, so we’ve got a Tequila base to represent that. I’ve had cocktails served to me with both tequila and beer, and with Coors being a Colorado company and all the microbreweries there, it seemed a natural addition. Peach is apparently one of the common fruit-based wines produced there but I was still looking for something else–something to give that hint of imperceptible kink!

Enter Celestial Seasonings, a Boulder company since 1969. I have several of their products in my tea cabinet and felt Sleepytime, with its definite floral taste and aroma, would pair perfectly with the botanical taste of tequila. The end result is a cocktail with a clean, crisp feel, a hint of peach and beer at the end and that little something else that you’re not quite sure about. That’s the infused tequila.


Next week we’re heading a north to meet the Dakotas! Until then… Safe Sipping!

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50 Shots of America–Missouri

Meet Me at the Fair

Meet Me at the Fair

Now, if you were paying attention last week when Maine was added to the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise, then you’re probably not surprised that the Show-Me state is taking it’s place as #24 at the bar this week!

And speaking of that nick-name (unofficial–they don’t have an official one!), what does it mean?

While no one is 100% sure, the strong favorites are

  • the requirement of workers being shown, rather than told, how to do a particular job (lots of immigrants, maybe a language barrier thing, too); or
  • a speech by Congressman Vandiver in 1899 where he basically said “frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.”

Basically, actions speak louder than words, in Missouri.

So let’s just head over to the cocktail shaker, shall we?

Meet Me at the Fair

1 Tea bag
1 bottle German beer
1/2 oz Honey
1/2 oz Irish cream

Cold-steep the tea bag in the beer a minimum of 20 minutes. Combine 1 oz of the tea-beer, the honey and Irish cream over ice and shake it like your mixing up some instant pancakes. Strain into a small sugar cone and drink it before the cone dissolves.

The explanation:

The name comes from the song (and movie of the same name) Meet Me In St. Louis and refers to the 1904 World’s Fair that saw the creation of iced tea (don’t worry, southerners, Missouri was considered part of the South when it joined the union) and the ice cream cone. The two largest ancestral groups in Missouri are German and Irish and the state maintains some of the most lenient alcohol regulations in the country. Finally, there was a border dispute between Missouri and Iowa over an area known as the Honey Lands–the main casualty of which was a stand of 3 bee-hive holding trees; the state insect is the honey bee.

Oh, and the pancake reference? Aunt Jemima pancake mix was the first of it’s kind, invented in St Joseph in 1889.

Limoncello Diary, Part 1


The other week I read somewhere about someone making their own Limoncello. A virtual ear perked up at that–I’m always up for trying something new! Then Grace flat-out asked how to make Limoncello this weekend.

Oh, it’s on!

That was just the little nudge I needed to add lemons and grain alcohol to my shopping list this Saturday and away we go!

First, of course, I did a little digging as to the how to. I’ve found recipes that are done in a weekend all the way up to 3 months and a few points in between.

Limoncello is, essentially, a lemon-infused alcohol sipped after dinner in Italy. It’s fairly simple to make since you don’t need to distill or ferment anything, you just need the patience of a saint to let it sit for up to three months. While the recipes that suggest a weekend or week’s wait is all that’s require are, I’m sure, perfectly fine, the peanut gallery is actually very helpful in persuading me to do it longer, a la LimoncelloQuest.

***I should also point out that, should you play along and make your own Limoncello with me, that you can drink it at home and share it with friends but under no circumstances should you attempt to sell it without proper authority of the Bureau of Alcohol and whatever-else in your area. End public service (and save your ass) announcement.***

Ben over at LimoncelloQuest has been incredibly thorough in practice and documentation of his mission to create amazing Limoncello so I’m going to use his experience and the base for my forray into infused liquor, adjusting as necessary, though his recipe mirrors others I’ve found across the Internet with the exception of time involved.

All we’re using is the zest, so choose lemons based solely on their appearance. I know, I know, it’s not fair to the lemon’s inner beauty but we’re looking for thick skin so I think they can take it. Buy organic if you can. This will save you time cleaning off waxes and pesticides.

Prepping the Lemon Zest

Prepping the Lemon Zest

Zest the lemons avoiding the white, spongy pith beneat the surface. LQ prefers a microplane but I prefer a simple paring knife. Remove strips of lemon peel and then clean up any of the inevitable pith that tags along. Unless you know of a source of square lemons, it’s going to happen.

Mincing Zest

Mincing Zest

While I had no intention of reducing the zest to dust, I do believe if giving the alcohol ample surface area to harvest the cirtus oils from. Once cleaned of all pith I reduced the strips to small matchsticks. I briefly considered freezing the zest strips before slicing them up, going back to my recent observation about ice and zest, and I suppose you could shave off a week or two that way but for this go round I figured we could do it the long way to start.

Lemon, Meet Alcohol

Lemon, Meet Alcohol

I used 8 large lemons for the single 750 mL bottle of 151 Everclear (grain alcohol). Some folks think Vodka is a good base alcohol, others prefer a cleaner grain alcohol. Inside a 2 qt “cracker jar” I picked up at Wal-Mart that morning the lemon zest and the alcohol had their first handshake. The lid seemed fairly tight but it did have a cardboard insert rather than metal or plastic so I placed a piece of plastic wrap over the opening before screwing on the lid.

A Good Beginning

A Good Beginning

It’s going to be cozy for 45 days, give or take, before we add a quart of sugar syrup and let it sit for another 45 days. But for this first week we’re going to be swirling and shaking it around several times a day. We were surprised that within minutes the Everclear had taken on a yellow hue, certainly a positive sign!

Over the next 3 months I’ll be doing a check-in with the limoncello-to-be and post a photo every week so we can see how things develop over time. Once we get closer to the end (early October) and it’s time to start straining and tasting, I’ll do a quickie batch and Todd & I will taste the two and compare.

If you decide to play along and make a batch of limoncello alongside Todd & I, let us know in the comments.

And, in the mean time, turn those now-naked lemons into lemonade! 8 lemons yeilded a smidge over 1.5 cups of juice, a perfect amount to combine with a sugar syrup of 3/4 c sugar and 2 1/4 cups water, making a quart of lemonade concentrate to be combined with equal parts water, sparkling water, soda or (as we prefer) strongly brewed Earl Grey Tea.