We’re not afraid to say it: the K-cup single serve coffee solution has revolutionized how we drink coffee. French presses are finicky and time-consuming and traditional drip brewers make far too much for a single person. Plus, grinding and measuring the right amount of beans can be a hassle. And though K-cups aren’t great for the environment, they offer a decent vacuum seal and a convenience that is perfect for grab and go in the mornings. Keurig’s patents expired, which is why there are so many ‘knock-off’ K-cups on the market now, and led Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to create and release the Keurig 2.0 models (one of which we reviewed recently).
So why would you want to consider an alternate company with their own version of a brewer, especially when it can’t even use the larger new Keurig cup styles? Because that 2.0 system includes DRM, a special lock that prevents other companies from releasing their own, and even restricts you to prevent the use of older cups. Sure, you can trick your brewer, but it’s annoying. Plus, the new Remington iCoffee Opus single cup brewer includes two nifty features that set it apart from others, including the solid Bunn MCU we also checked out not long ago.
For starters, we liked the steam idea employed here, connecting to their more traditional drip/pot brewer, the original iCoffee. The Opus uses a thin needle to pierce the K-cup lid but has the needle spin, which helps make sure that all of the coffee in the pod is more evenly extracted and reduces the bitter flavors that come from over-dosing some parts of the coffee grounds. With most K-cups, we honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference… but when we used our own Brooklyn Roasting and Cafe Grumpy beans in their special reusable filter basket, the flavor profiles became much more distinct and the Opus took higher marks than the competition. It did take a few seconds longer to finish a cup in our tests (and our original version had some temperature issues, fixed in the new production models), and the Opus has a slightly smaller reservoir than some. Our main issues were with finishing- the plastic employed looks and feels a little cheap, glossier and with a screen thats a definite step back from many K-cup brewers. Plus, we missed some adjustability (the Opus lacks temperature controls, for instance).
What you get in trade is much more finely-grained control over the size of the cup (the amount of hot water dispensed), via a nifty analog knob they call Dial-a-Brew. Instead of choosing from a couple of pre-sets, you can select from any half-ounce increment from four to twelve ounces. The machine does use a bit more water than that, likely due to the face that some gets absorbed or evaporated, but results were reasonably close to as selected (and consistent). The iCoffee Opus is a solid alternative, with some advantages over others, and is priced fairly well at $140 or so, in stores and online.