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Keurig K-Cafe review

Keurig goes coffeehouse with an effortless espresso-like experience

Keurig K-Cafe on kitchen counter
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The K-Cafe is a unique Keurig machine that can effortlessly froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos and brew a cup of coffee in less than a minute. While not a proper espresso machine, the K-Cafe provides a similar taste and feel with a strong shot of coffee.

Pros

  • +

    Brews a cup in under two minutes

  • +

    Incredibly easy-to-use frother

  • +

    Strong and shot options offer better K-Cup flavor

  • +

    Large build

Cons

  • -

    Lukewarm brew temperatures

  • -

    Easier for right-handed users

Keurig K-Cafe: Specs

Reservoir Capacity: 60 ounces
Size: 12.5 x 15.3 x 12 inches
Brew sizes: 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-ounce cups
Removable water reservoir: Yes
Milk frother: Yes
Strength settings: No
Iced coffee: Yes
Auto off: Yes

The K-Cafe is a coffee shop upgrade to the Keurig line of machines — that is, it brings the coffee shop vibe to your home by way of a milk frother, and the ability to produce concentrated two-ounce shots of pod coffee that replicates the taste of espresso. While the machine doesn’t make actual espresso, it does a great job of getting close to that experience using the K-Cup coffee pods you already know and love. And the best part about it: it’s straightforward to use.   

Like many Keurig machines, its design may hog counter space. Still, its 60-ounce water reservoir and milk frother feel like great additions that don’t show an excess of plastic, like previous iterations. But at $189, is the K-Cafe genuinely worth the splurge? And will it replace your visits to Starbucks? Find out why this is one of the best Keurig coffee makers in our Keurig K-Cafe review. 

Keurig K-Cafe review: Price and availability

At $189, the K-Cafe is far from the most accessible Keurig machine, but it’s worth noting that it’s the only one with a milk frother. Keurig sells a standalone frother for $89, so if you’re purchasing a K-Classic machine retailing at $119, you’d be saving by buying the K-Cafe for all of its added bells and whistles. Like other Keurig machines, the K-Cafe is also frequently on sale for much less.

Keeping with the lineage of Keurig, the K-Cafe can only use K-Cup branded pods to brew coffee, tea, and hot cocoa. K-Cups can run anywhere between $7 to $14 per 12-pack, depending on the brand name, which makes it roughly 60 cents to $1.15 per pod. If you’re looking to save money with a Keurig, consider purchasing a reusable K-Cup pod (opens in new tab) compatible with this machine.

Keurig K-Cafe review: Features

The K-Cafe can brew coffee, pour espresso-like shots, and froth milk in less time than driving to your closest coffee shop. 

Keurig K-Cafe on kitchen counter

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Keeping with the Keurig name, brewing a cup of coffee takes less than a minute with the K-Cafe. The center console of the machine can pour a 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-ounce single-serve cup. The K-Cafe can also make a stronger brew with the press of the machine’s “strong” button, which makes a slightly more robust single-serve cup for a longer wait time. On the left of the K-Cafe is a 60-ounce water reservoir with a handle on it, which makes filling it underneath a sink or with a pitcher a cinch.

Keurig K-Cafe water tank

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The K-Cafe also has a latte and cappuccino option, which brews a 2-ounce shot of your choice of K-Cup, replicating the taste of espresso. Because Keurig machines don’t apply pressure to its coffee pods, it's far from traditional — a lack of pressure means no layer of crema, or foam, on top of these shots. However, that full pour packs a powerful punch. You can also hit the “strong” button for an even stronger shot.

Unique to the K-Cafe is its frother, which can make foam for lattes and cappuccinos, hot or iced. The frother is to the right of the coffee brewer, and it houses a stainless steel pitcher with a lid that can hold four ounces of milk. 

Keurig K-Cafe milk frother

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Inside that pitcher are two lines that indicate how much milk is needed for a latte and cappuccino. You just press a button to tell the K-Cafe which drink you’re making milk for, and the frothing ring located on the inside of the pitcher will spin as the pitcher heats up in a few minutes, resulting in rich foam for your Keurig “shot.” Hitting the “cold” button makes foam appropriate for an iced latte or cappuccino, cooling your milk.

Keurig K-Cafe review: Design

The K-Cafe is quite large, but not as enormous as the K-Classic. It shares a similar curved peak which you will find on most Keurigs, but on its right side is a milk frother shorter than the machine’s center station. The whole machine is roughly 12.5-inches high (14 with its latch open), 14.5-inches wide, and 12-inches deep. The frother housing is about 5-inches tall, which extends to roughly 7-inches with its pitcher inside.

Keurig K-Cafe milk frother settings buttons

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Even though the K-Cafe is pretty big, I like its design for my counter space. If I were to replace my coffee maker and introduce an espresso machine into the kitchen, the K-Cafe seems like it’d be saving a lot of appliance space with its three-in-one package.

The handle on the water reservoir is also an awesome addition for carrying to the sink. Other models have you awkwardly holding the tank by its curved plastic sides, hoping not to drop and crack it.

Keurig K-Cafe review: Performance

I’m usually not a fan of Keurig coffee pods as I tend to find them stale, flavorless, and flat. But the K-Cafe made me reconsider the K-Cup, thanks to the machine’s newest tricks. While I still don’t enjoy regular 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-ounce servings of K-Cups, the K-Cafe offers three new options for me as a coffee drinker: a stronger brew, an espresso-like shot, and steamed milk.

Keurig K-Cafe milk frother

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Let’s start with the machine’s “strong” feature. After an initial start-up rinse, I brewed a regular 6-ounce cup to see if it was the standard K-Cup I wasn’t a fan of and, yep, still stale. The machine heated up in 28 seconds and brewed a serving for me in 32 seconds flat. I decided to brew another 6-ounce serving, this time tapping the strong option, and after one minute and 12 seconds, I was presented with a slowly poured, more intense cup of coffee. That strong option makes the K-Cafe pour a cup at a lengthier pace, but in exchange for a fuller cup of coffee. That button makes a huge difference compared to other Keurig models that lack it.

A major selling point of the K-Cafe is its ability to pour espresso-like shots, and I wasn’t disappointed with this feature either. Using a single serving of Publix-branded decaf house roast, I decided to make a cappuccino. I popped in the K-Cup, tapped the latte/cappuccino button, and pressed the giant K button in the middle to begin brewing. 30 seconds later, out comes a 2-ounce serving of a more intense and concentrated version of the coffee I wanted. That shot isn’t espresso per se — Keurig machines cannot make crema as they can’t build pressure — but it’s pretty close to the real thing in smell and looks.

Keurig K-Cafe cup of espresso

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Part two of that expresso-like experience is layering the 2-ounce shot with steamed milk using the K-Cafe’s milk frother. I poured in 4-ounces of oat milk into the steaming pitcher, closed its lid, and just tapped the “cappuccino” button.

Keurig K-Cafe milk frother

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One minute and 45 seconds later, the milk is heated up, foam is made, and I can pour the pitcher directly over my shot. Because I used oat milk — a dairy alternative that has barely any fat content — my foam was a little thinner than anticipated, though still really warm and enjoyable.

Keurig K-Cafe cappuccino

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Although I love these K-Cafe features, the machine is lacking in terms of reaching temperature. According to the National Coffee Association, the optimal coffee cup is brewed between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, and the K-Cafe can’t provide it. With each shot, cup of coffee, and pitcher of froth made, nothing exceeded 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

Furthermore, the K-Cafe can’t produce a shot simultaneously while it heats milk, which means once you brew a shot, it’ll sit for just under two minutes before you can toss warm milk over it. For one latte, I pulled a shot at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then took 1 minute and 45 seconds to froth some milk. During that warming process, the shot cooled to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, while the milk heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. After I poured the milk, my drink sat at 153 degrees before I could drink it. The K-Cafe can make warm drinks ready to consume as soon as brewing is finished, but it won’t make anything as close to piping hot as you get in a coffee shop.

Keurig K-Cafe on kitchen counter

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My time with the K-Cafe logged about 160 KWH of energy, the most out of any other Keurig we tested. However, the machine’s auto-off feature turns off the K-Cafe after two hours of inactivity which may help save on those costs. We recorded a decibel volume of 75dB during operation, with the machine’s loudest noise output being at the tail end of the brewing cycle, following its final coffee sputtering, making it one of the louder Keurigs.

Keurig K-Cafe review: Ease of Use

Brewing is as simple as with any Keurig machine: just insert a K-Cup into the pod compartment, tap a brew size, and wait for your cup of coffee. The K-Cafe adds the “strong” and “latte/cappuccino” buttons to its main panel, but those qualifiers are also activated with just a tap. It’s quick and painless brewing coffee and shots with the K-Cafe.

Keurig K-Cafe settings buttons

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Frothing milk is even easier. The frother cradle holds a stainless steel pitcher that you fill with cold milk and warm with a tap of one of two buttons: latte or cappuccino. The inside of the pitcher has two lines to indicate which drink you’d like to make, so you can fill it to the appropriate level. No dealing with a steam wand that gets crusty either — after pouring your hot (or cold, if you tap that button beforehand) milk, you can give the pitcher a quick rinse with water to remove any liquid without much scrubbing at all. You can even toss the pitcher in the dishwasher for a deeper cleanse. The drip tray and water reservoir are also dishwasher safe.

Keurig K-Cafe milk frother parts

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Like all Keurigs, you’ll also need to descale the K-Cafe every three to six months. But through regular use, the K-Cafe doesn’t require much outside of the occasional wash of its parts.

Keurig K-Cafe review: Verdict

If you’re looking for an effortless at-home coffee experience that can replicate a trip to the coffee shop, the K-Cafe is your best shot. This Keurig machine has the power to brew a tasty cup of coffee in less than one minute and an accompanying cup of steamed milk in just under two. Although it can’t give the exact taste of espresso, the K-Cafe comes pretty close, and the added “strong” feature makes an intense, great-tasting serving of coffee. Its large 60-ounce water reservoir also makes filling it less frequent, while maintenance is simple thanks to dishwasher-friendly parts.

Its price might deter those looking for an entry-level Keurig, and for those, we recommend the K-Slim. However, if you can swing the splurge, the K-Cafe comes close to replicating the feeling of a Nespresso. The K-Cafe doesn’t use pressure to craft its coffee, so its cups are less intense than its rival, but fans of coffee pods will definitely get a morning kick out of this substantial Keurig appliance.