Drinky Coffee Logo

Keurig K-Cafe Review

See how we review products

Last updated: December 7, 2023

Quick Answer: While I recommend the Keurig K-Cafe, you should be aware that it does not make real espresso (or anything close to it). If you want a similar machine that makes real espresso I’d recommend the Nespresso Vertuo Deluxe.

This is my Keurig K-Cafe review where I give the lowdown on Keurig’s only coffee maker with a built-in milk frother.

I’ll be covering:

  • Whether the Keurig K-Cafe’s “shot” feature can create real espresso (or anything approximating it).
  • Whether the Keurig K-Cafe’s milk frother can steam and froth milk as well as a steam wand.
  • If the Keurig K-Cafe suffers from the reliability issues that are so prevalent in Keurig’s other multi-functional machines.

Let’s go.

Should I Get the Keurig K-Cafe (Quick Verdict)?

I’d recommend the Keurig K-Cafe if you want to make lattes and cappuccinos at home but are willing to accept that these won’t have the strength or “coffee punch” of coffee shop versions of these drinks.

Keurig Latte Machine
Keurig K Cafe
$189.99 $179.64

The Keurig K Cafe is the only Keurig machine that can steam milk for latte and cappuccino style drinks.

Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 11:49 am GMT
Quality of Drinks
7/10
Functionalities
9/10
Ease of Use & Cleaning
9/10
Design and Build Quality
7/10
Value for Money
8/10

If you want a similar machine that can make more real espresso drinks then I’d recommend the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe.

Unlike the K-Cafe, the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe brews coffee under pressure. 

This pressurized brewing is the defining characteristic that separates an espresso from drip coffee.

The Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe will therefore give you a drinkable black espresso (the K-Cafe can’t do this) and will allow you to make much stronger milk-based drinks than the K-Cafe.  

Makes real espresso, unlike the Keurig K-Cafe

The Nespresso VertuoPlus deluxe brews coffee under pressure allowing it to make real espresso, unlike the Keurig K-Cafe.

Keurig K-Cafe: An Overview

The Keurig K-Cafe is a single-serve coffee maker that can make the following types of drinks:

  • Drip coffee using standard and reusable K-cups in 6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz, and 12 oz serving sizes.
  • 2 oz servings of drip coffee using standard and reusable K-cups. This is called “shot” and is meant to resemble espresso (but doesn’t).
  • Three types of steamed milk that you can use to top your coffee with: a thick textured foamed milk (called “capp”), a thinner textured foamed milk (called “latte”) and a cold foam (called “cold”).

Here is a table showing the Keurig K-Cafe’s specifications:

Specification Keurig K-Cafe
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
15.30” W x 11.70” D x 12.50” H
Maximum height with lid up
16.70 inches
Maximum cup clearance (drip tray removed)
6.2 inches (7.2 inches)
Water reservoir capacity
60 oz
Available serving sizes
2 oz (shot), 6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz, 12 oz
Strength Settings
2 settings
Built in milk frother
Yes
Milk steaming settings
3
Multistream technology
No
Iced coffee mode
No
Can it take reusable K cups?
Yes

Keurig K Cafe Pros

It can make the lowest-effort latte and cappuccino of any coffee maker on the market.

It can make cold foam which is not something you can do with an espresso machine.

It is an inexpensive machine considering the wide range of drinks that it offers.

Keurig K Cafe Cons

It’s coffee “shot” doesn’t resemble espresso at all.

There are cheaper espresso machines that can make better lattes and cappuccinos (they are more effort to use, however).

Its milk frother is not the most durable and gets less powerful over time.

Now that we’ve gone through the basics of the K-Cafe, I’m going to assess the machine across the following five criteria:

  • Quality of drinks
  • Functionalities
  • Ease of use
  • Design and build quality
  • Value for money

Quality of Drinks

The Keurig K-Cafe can make good standard coffee and its milk frother can steam and froth milk surprisingly well. The only drink that the K-Cafe cannot make well is its coffee shots.

Quality of Coffee (Excluding Shots)

The Keurig K-Cafe can make good drip coffee so long as you brew 6 oz servings and use the “strong” button.

K-cups only hold enough ground coffee (10.5 grams) to brew a maximum of 6.5 oz of coffee. 

Any servings larger than this will come out watery with a standard K-cup as there is not enough ground coffee to sufficiently flavor such a large quantity of water.

You should use a reusable K-cup for 8 oz and 10 oz servings because these can hold more ground coffee than a standard K-cup.

Since the Keurig K-Cafe has a “strong” button it can make the following servings of coffee well:

  • 6 oz brewed with a standard K-cup with the “strong” button on.
  • 8 oz brewed with a reusable K-cup with the “strong” button on.
  • 10 oz brewed with a reusable K-cup with the “strong” button on.

12 oz serving sizes will always come out watery regardless of whether you use a standard or reusable K-cup.

To put things into perspective, the Keurig K-Cafe’s coffee quality is on par with:

Its coffee is superior to machines that lack a 6 oz serving option or a strong button. This includes:

The Keurig K-Cafe’s coffee is inferior to the K Supreme range of machines as it does not brew your coffee for as long as these machines.

Quality of Coffee Shots

The Keurig K-Cafe’s coffee shots aren’t good.

This is because the machine brews these coffee shots with two ounces of water and without any pressure.

Two ounces of water do not provide enough solvent for your ground coffee to extract properly. This lack of enough solvent is why espresso needs pressure for extraction to occur.

The K-Cafe’s coffee shots are therefore weak and sharp.

To be fair they are adequate (but not great) for milk-based drinks where the milk can mask the coffee’s sharpness, but I wouldn’t want to drink these as a plain espresso or Americano.

Quality of Milk Foam

You can see how the Keurig K-Cafe steams and foams milk in the video below (watch from 7:33 to 11:20 to see all three types of milk):

I’m impressed with what I see.

I own a fancy espresso machine (the Breville Barista Pro) with a really high-quality steam wand. While the steam wand will create a larger quantity of foam with the same amount of milk, the difference is not huge.

I’m particularly impressed with how the cold foam looks as I cannot make that at all with a steam wand.

The upshot of this is while your lattes and cappuccinos might be a bit weak tasting and lacking in any punchy coffee flavor, their texture should still be good.

Quality of Drinks Rating: 7/10

Functionalities

The Keurig K-Cafe is the only Keurig coffee maker that offers coffee shots and milk steaming and frothing. The fact that it does this in addition to making better than average K-cup coffee makes it very impressive from a functionalities standpoint.

The Keurig K-Cafe can make:

  • Good drip coffee with K-cups
  • Good hot and cold foamed milk
  • Decent latte and cappuccino
  • Poor coffee shots (I don’t want to call them espresso)

This makes it one of the most functionality-rich Keurig coffee makers. 

It can pretty much make standard coffees as well as all but the most expensive Keurig machines and can make good foamed milk on top of that. 

Functionalities Rating: 9/10

Ease of Use and Cleaning

The Keurig K-Cafe is the lowest-effort cappuccino/latte maker on the market.

Ease of Use

The Keurig K-Cafe is, like all Keurig machines, really easy to use.

To make a coffee, just put it in your K-cup, select the serving size you want, and press brew.

The K-Cafe’s foolproof control panel

To steam milk, just put your milk to the fill line depending on the texture of milk you want, and then press the button corresponding to that texture.

Diagram of K-Cafe’s milk jug. The buttons are on the front of the machine where the milk jug sits

The only coffee maker that can make latte and cappuccino that comes close to the K-Cafe’s ease of use is the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe. The VertuoPlus Deluxe is around $70 more expensive than the K-Cafe, however.

Ease of Cleaning

The Keurig K-Cafe is easy to clean.

  • Its water tank, drip tray, and K-cup port can be removed from the machine and cleaned straight in the sink. The drip tray and water tank can go in the dishwasher.
  • Its milk jug can be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher (just be careful not to lose the little whizzer inside it).
  • The K-cup needles need to be deep cleaned every few weeks with a toothpick or straightened-out paperclip (fortunately the machine has just one needle in the top that requires this. A lot of Keurig’s have five needles which makes this much more of a pain to do).
This is how you clean a Keurig machine’s needle

The only other cleaning you have to do is just wiping down smudges on the machine’s surface. I’d recommend getting the machine in black so it hides these smudges.

Ease of Descaling

You descale the Keurig K-Cafe by filling the machine up with a descaling solution, having it run a 12 oz brew, waiting 30 minutes, and then having it run a dozen 12 oz brews with plain water (this washes out the descaling solution from the machine’s internal pipes.

The Keurig K-Cafe is one of the easier Keurig coffee makers to descale.

This is because the machine does not have a descaling mode.

Although Keurig’s descale mode is meant to make descaling easier, it actually makes the descaling process way more complicated and has a nasty tendency to put the machine in an infinite loop of needing to descale.

Many Keurig machines (especially in the K Supreme range) have been rendered unusable as a result of this.

The Keurig K-Cafe’s lack of a descaling mode means that it does not have this vulnerability during descaling and that descaling the machine is a very painless process.

Ease of Use and Cleaning: 9/10

Design and Build Quality

The Keurig K-Cafe is one of the more reliable Keurig coffee makers. Its pump does have a tendency to deteriorate within its first year of ownership. However, this is a problem across all Keurig models.

External Build Quality and Design

The Keurig K-Cafe’s exterior is made almost entirely of plastic. This is standard for Keurig machines.

The only part of the K-Cafe that is a bit flimsy is its K-cup port. The port is on a hinge, rather than fixed to the machine. This hinge seems like it could break if you put a lot of weight on it, so just be careful when you put your K-cup in the port.

I like that the K-Cafe’s drip tray actually attaches to the machine. 

This is an oversight of a lot of Keurig machines (most notably the K Elite) where the drip tray just sits on the machine rather than attaching to it so it can slide around easily.

The K Elite is by far the widest of all Keurig machines because it needs to accommodate a milk frother. 

I like that the machine is not very deep, as I think that a lack of depth is more important than a lack of width with appliances (deep appliances “jut out” on your counter taking up food prep space).

If you want a slightly fancier-looking machine you can opt for the Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition.

The Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition is the same as the K-Cafe but it has a nickel-colored finish on its exterior, as well as a metal handle for its water reservoir and a metal drip tray grill.

The K-Cafe Special Edition’s exterior is still made out of plastic, the nickel finish just refers to the machine’s color rather than its actual material.

Internal Build Quality and Reliability

While the K-Cafe’s coffee brewer is reliable, its milk frother has a tendency to deteriorate over time.

The K-Cafe’s milk frother losing power, and therefore the ability to make your milk properly frothy is by far the most common complaint that users have with this machine.

You can see an example of this complaint below:

Everything worked great for about a week, but then the frother stopped frothing. It spins, but the milk or cream isn’t frothy anymore. I still use it for making coffee but have since bought a separate frother from a different brand. Amazon reviewer, January 2023

I also saw reports from a lot of users saying that their K-Cafe’s milk frother worked like new years into ownership so I don’t think this is a problem that affects all models.

Design and Build Quality: 6/10

Value For Money

The Keurig K-Cafe is good value for money in my opinion.

Very few coffee makers can make drip coffee and decent milk-based coffee drinks, and the ones that do tend to be more expensive than the K-Cafe.

When you take into account the fact that automatic milk frothers tend to cost close to $100 alone, and the K-Cafe is less than double that, it really demonstrates how good value this machine is.

Value For Money Rating: 8/10

Product Alternatives

I’d recommend the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe and the Delonghi ECP3420 as alternatives to the Keurig K-Cafe.

Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe – More Expensive than the K-Cafe but Better in Every Way

Like the K-Cafe, the Nespresso VertuoPlus can also make drip coffee, espresso style coffee, and has a milk frother that can make hot and cold foam.

Makes real espresso, unlike the Keurig K-Cafe

The Nespresso VertuoPlus deluxe brews coffee under pressure allowing it to make real espresso, unlike the Keurig K-Cafe.

Unlike the K-Cafe, the VertuoPlus Deluxe:

  • Can make an espresso that you will be happy to drink black.
  • Has a very high quality and reliable milk frother that will not deteriorate over time.

Nespresso machines also generally have a higher build quality and better warranty than Keurig machines. You can find out more about this in my comparison of Nespresso vs Keurig.

The only drawback of the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe is that it is more expensive than the Keurig K-Cafe. Not only is the machine more expensive outright, but each Nespresso pod costs on average $0.60 more than each K-cup.

This means that if you were to make one coffee every day with a Nespresso machine you would spend an extra $219 compared to a Keurig machine.

Delonghi ECP3420 – Cheaper and Makes Better Latte and Cappuccino than the K-Cafe

The Delonghi ECP3420 is a simple, inexpensive (but still good) espresso machine.

While it can’t make coffee with K-cups, it doesn’t take any longer to make coffee than the Keurig K-Cafe.

Because it makes real espresso, its cappuccino, and latte will be better than the K-Cafe’s. You need to steam your milk with a steam wand, but because the Delonghi uses a panarello steam wand, this is very easy to do.

Cheaper and makes better Espresso than the K-Cafe

The Delonghi ECP3420 makes real espresso. Although it’s a bit more work to use than the K-Cafe, you can make a coffee just as quickly with it once you have done it a few times.

In short, if you want to make better coffee and save a bit of money (actually a lot of money once you factor in the cost of K-cups vs ground coffee) then the Delonghi ECP3420 is a good option.

For more information on this machine please see my Delonghi ECP3420 review.

Final Thoughts

The Keurig K-Cafe can make good K-cup coffee and good milk-based coffee drinks, especially considering how cheap and easy to use this is.

I’d avoid this machine if you want real espresso, but for an easy-but-still-decent latte or cappuccino, it’s a solid option.

Quality of Drinks
7/10
Functionalities
9/10
Ease of Use & Cleaning
9/10
Design and Build Quality
7/10
Value for Money
8/10

Related Articles