Discovering Single-Serve Coffee, Keurig versus Tassimo

By Jeffrey the Barak

sscompLet me start this tale with the bottom line, I prefer the Keurig. Okay, now that’s out of the way, I’ll take it from the top.

I feel like I’m on vacation, making good coffee with a single push of a button, and letting the hard work of earlier times fade into memory.

Until a month ago I was at the tail end of an obsession lasting for decades, the obsession of making espresso based drinks at home. Normally, I would be the only one drinking these concoctions, and yet, at the end I had an array of equipment worth $1,400 and still, I could produce a lousy drink if I wasn’t careful.

So one day, while out of town, I drank a cup of regular joe, and it wasn’t half bad. In fact I liked it. Upon returning home and getting some fresh milk for my latte and going through the usual grinding, wiping, cleaning, tamping, more wiping, warming, wiping, pulling, wiping, steaming, wiping etc etc. a seed in my mind began to grow. Do I really need to spend all this time every day as a full time cleaner, just to drink a few cups of coffee?

As I was cleaning the coffee ground stains out of my grout lines with bleach one day, I considered getting a coffee pot, or a French press, or a glass cone or some kind of system that would quickly and easily make a good cup of coffee, but I wanted more. I wanted to remove stale grounds and mess and even the challenge keeping milk fresh from the equation. Enter the concept of single serve coffee.

Now years ago, during my espresso equipment escalation, I had a super automatic espresso machine, which in theory would make a drink with one button push. But behind that push was a lot of hidden cleaning work and I have to say the drinks were pretty awful. So it was with some skepticism that I first turned my attention to the Bosch Tassimo and the Keurig systems.

Since the Tassimo offered the option of pseudo cappuccinos, lattes and espressos, I began with that system. I found it to be a brilliantly clever system, but the only drink varieties that were not pretty darned awful, were the brewed coffee varieties from venture partners Starbucks and Seattle’s Best. And even these were nothing to get excited about, despite their very high cost per cup. The milk drinks, lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos etc., were practically undrinkable to me, mainly due to to the Ultra-Heat-Treated milk, as were the Gevalia brand T-Discs, which were almost as bad as instant coffee.

Enter the Keurig B60. It had me at cup one. Paired with the Tully’s French and other bold blends, it was heaven in a mug right from the start. Similar as the systems may be in concept, the drink quality is very different. To put it simply, one system makes generally poor coffee and the other makes great coffee.

Also, over the course of the experiment, I trained myself to enjoy dry-powder fat-free Coffee Mate creamer in place of milk, because milk is only fresh for a short while, and with the long shelf life of the T-Discs and K-Cups, the Coffee-Mate made a lot of sense. If I was to take a trip, not only would I miss my Keurig, I’d also be able to return home and immediately be able to have a fresh cup, without shopping for milk.

As I said at the beginning, I chose the Keurig over the Tassimo. But nothing is perfect, so here are my four small criticisms of the Keurig B60.

  1. It is too tall to fit under my upper cabinets and be able to be opened to drop in a K-Cup. For this, I blame my kitchen design, not the Keurig.
  2. Compared to the Tassimo, it takes a couple of minutes to warm up and makes a sound like an electric tea kettle as it does so. The Tassimo was immediately ready as soon as the switch was flipped. However, I can program the Keurig to switch on shortly before I stumble downstairs in the morning, so I have a workaround for the slower morning start.
  3. The Keurig is also a bit noisier than the Tassimo, but still quieter than lots of things, including a grinder, a vibration pump espresso machine, a working steam wand etc . I would not call it a loud device by any standard.
  4. The water reservoir of the Keurig is a little tricky to hold onto with one hand when filling at the faucet, but then there is always a jug.

Keurig is owned by Green Mountain Coffee, and the more I look at the way they do business, the more impressed I am. The only thing I am a little uncomfortable with, is the fact that they successfully sued Kraft, the maker of the Tassimo, for seventeen million dollars, for copyright infringement with regard to the similarity of the Tassimo T-Disc system to the Keurig K-Cup system. Apparently, the court thought Keurig were right about it, but then what came before both systems? The pod. Now what if Illy sues Keurig, saying the plastic K-Cup is similar to a paper pod? Having had a Tassimo and a Keurig, I think they are very different in how they do things and I am surprised that the law suit was successful. But I wasn’t in that courtroom so maybe there was evidence of direct infringement.

Anyway, who cares about law when there’s good coffee around. And with the Keurig system, there is a lot of good coffee. Every K-Cup I have tried, is far better than even the best of the best T-Discs. And that is the bottom line. I think the Tassimo may even be a better machine than a Keurig in many ways, but if the drink is not fantastic, what’s the point? As long as you don’t use the silly travel mug button and bitterly over extract the dose of coffee in a K-Cup that was designed to make a smaller cup of coffee, you cannot go wrong with a Keurig.

8 Comments

  1. I respectfully disagree with the opinion that Keurig K-Cup coffee tastes better than Tassimo T-Disc coffee.

    I have found the reverse to be consistently true:

    –Tassimo T-Discs contain REAL milk (not fake milk like Keurig K-Cups). Sure it is European-style ‘ultra-pasteurized milk’, but that’s what Europeans use today –they are the ones who created cappuccinos and lattes. Purists feel real milk and the European style is preferable. Those used to fake, powdery coffee creamers may prefer Keurig.

    –Tassimo T-Disks are smaller, easier to store, and use less plastic than K-Cups. I understand Tassimo is also currently researching to switch to corn-based plastic (which is better for the environment and not made with petroleum).

    –Only Tassimo offers the world’s best brands: Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Gevalia, Jokob’s Cafe, etc. Cost-weary consumers will quickly find that a cup a Tassimo Starbucks coffee is MUCH less expensive than coffee-house versions –also no need to leave your home.

    I respect your opinion, but I’m afraid Tassimo wins hands down!
    And, no, I don’t work for Tassimo or Chicago-based Kraft.

  2. I respect your opinion Stephen. I must say though, if you ask any chef, farmer or baby calf what real milk is, they will not answer ultra heat treated! I doubt anyone would be able to pour some UHT into a glass and enjoy drinking the stuff, and in this day and age, Europeans use fresh milk more than Parmalat, Puroh etc.

    As far as I know there is no milk of any kind in coffee k-cups. You have to add your own fresh milk (or creamer) or it’s just black coffee. Anyway, I am pleased you enjoy those Tassimo drinks so much.

  3. Hi.

    I have used both systems (Keurig with K-Cups at work, Tassimo at home) and I prefer the Tassimo myself.
    Although I am European so that may explain why I don’t find UHT milk revolting!

    The coffees are more or less on par with each other, however when it comes to the milk based drinks and the variety I think the Tassimo takes it.
    The only annoyance I have with the Tassimo is that it doesn’t have an equivalent of the My-K-Cup filter that Keurig has to put your own blend in.

    Tassimo’s bar code system also brews the drink differently depending on what it is. A Keurig pours a hot chocolate the exact same way it pours a decaf columbian for eg.

    Still, they are both very capable systems and I like them both.

  4. People who fill their own My-K-Cups don’t need single-serve convenience. They may as well make their own espresso bar drinks for all the time they invest in that.

  5. I too have used both systems and I agree with the comments made here that the Tassimo wins hands down. The Keurig coffees taste like dishwater to me and the Tassimo also has Nabob columbian, which is a fair trade coffee and really delicious, not to mention the Starbucks varieties, including the Seattle’s Best which I think is one of the less bitter tasting coffees I have ever tried. If they do come through with the corn based container, I would say Tassimo wins, for sure. Many friends who have the Keurig have come over to try mine and have told me that they wished they had purchased the Tassimo system. Their customer service is also very good, I once had a problem with an order I placed online and they re-shipped everything at no cost to me.

  6. Farmers prefer unpasteurized milk. Personally I like both pasteurized and UHT milk. Between Tassimo and Keurig, I prefer Tassimo. Tassimo Gevalia House Blend is better than most K-cups except Starbucks Veronica.

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