This New Machine May Make You A Barista

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As much as I love technology, my favorite way to make coffee in the morning is with my moka pot. There are no buttons on it or apps to connect with. Essentially, it’s just a percolator that I fill with freshly ground coffee and water and then place on an over burner. Within about three minutes, it yields a delicious cup of very rich and dark coffee – not quite espresso but super close. I like a robust, strong roast. Many of the plug-in coffee makers I’ve owned tend to generate weaker, flat brews. Which is why I went to this pure, Italian-born form of making my morning Joe. Yeah, it’s slightly more work. But it’s totally worthwhile.

But then the Keurig folks asked if I’d like to try their new K-Cafe SMART brewer that was introduced last week. While it’s loaded with bells and whistles to craft perfect and consistent lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos and more – it even has a built-in milk frother to ease the process – what intrigued me was its ability to pull single or double shots from a regular old K-cup. And as with the moka pot, Keurig seems careful not to call these shots espresso. But that’s okay – strong coffee is great without crema, too. So I accepted the invitation to see how it stacked up.

First thing I did after plugging it in and of course cleaning out the water reservoir was make a single shot of dark coffee. It was awesome. Then I made some iced coffee for my wife, and a full cup for myself. Next, I downloaded the Keurig app that connects to the machine. While you don’t need it to operate the machine, it can make life a lot easier – letting you create drinks from your cell phone, as well as adjusting and customizing strength, temperature and brew size. Plus the app offers 70 recipes – I will definitely be trying the one that mixes root beer and coffee – along with easy step-by-step instructions. It’s honestly foolproof.

The frother is outstanding. Put your choice of milk or creamer in it up to its fill line, and then select if you want the froth to be cold, warm, warmer or hot. It takes it from there, making really creamy, silky froth – even from the likes of almond milk and soy milk that don’t normally froth well, in my experience.

I’ve made a dozen or two cappuccinos and mochas now, and they’ve seriously turned out at coffee-shop level. When I asked Keurig executives how the machine makes shots so concentrated – much like a Nespresso machine – they told me that the key lies in the way the water flows through the K-cup. It's much slower so you get that concentrated cup and helps bring out that full extraction and flavor. And the machine holds a reusable and separately sold My K-cup holder instead of a plastic pod, which allows you to use your own coffee – or espresso in my case – and not have to throw out pods.

Now I have a choice in the morning. For the immediate future – and especially on busy days – the Keurig is going to be my go-to wake-up device. It costs $250.

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