Drinky Coffee Logo

Keurig K Express vs Keurig K Compact

See how we review products

Last updated: January 2, 2024

Quick Answer: I’d recommend the Keurig K Compact if you are primarily brewing with standard, single-use K-cups, and the Keurig K Express if you want to brew with reusable K-cups. 

The Keurig K Compact and Keurig K Express are two of Keurig’s cheapest coffee makers.

They look different (the K Compact is much uglier), offer different serving sizes, and the Keurig K Express has a “strong” button and a descale light which the K Compact does not have.

Since the two machines have different functionalities, it doesn’t make sense to say that one is outright better than the other.

Instead, I’m going to run through the two machines’ differing features and explain the situations in which you would want one over the other. That way you can decide which one is best for you based on how you plan on using your machine.

Should I Buy the Keurig K Express vs Keurig K Compact (Quick Answer)?

I’d recommend the Keurig K Compact over the Keurig Express if you are going to mainly brew with standard, single-use K-cups. 

Standard K-cups only hold enough coffee to brew 6 oz serving sizes. Since the K Express starts at 8 oz serving sizes, it will always brew a watery coffee with a standard K-cup. 

The Keurig K Compact offers 6 oz serving sizes, so makes a better-tasting coffee than the K Express when you brew in this way.

Great value
Keurig K Compact
$89.00 ($89.00 / Count)
The Keurig K Compact’s 6 oz serving option means that it makes a better #
tasting coffee with standard K-cups than the Keurig K Express.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 04:27 pm GMT

I’d recommend the Keurig K Express if you plan on mainly brewing with reusable K-cups or prefer to drink 8 oz and 10 oz coffees.

The K Express’s inclusion of a strong button means it makes better-tasting 8 oz and 10 oz servings of coffee than the K Compact.

Best for 8 oz and 10 oz servings
Keurig K Express
$89.99 $69.99
The Keurig K Express’s inclusion of a strong button means it makes a better 8 oz and 10 oz coffee than the Keurig K Compact.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 11:56 am GMT

I’d recommend the Keurig K Express Essentials over both the K Compact and K Express.

The Keurig K Essentials has the same basic design as the Keurig K Express but (unlike the K Express) offers 6 oz serving sizes.

This means that it combines the Keurig K Express’s usability with the Keurig K Compact’s ability to make a good coffee with standard K-cups.

Better than the Keurig K Express and K Compact
Keurig K Express Essentials
$94.58
The Keurig K Express combines the Keurig Express’s user-friendliness with the K Compact’s ability to make good coffee with standard K-cups.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 10:41 am GMT

Better than the Keurig K Express and K Compact

The Keurig K Express combines the Keurig Express’s user-friendliness with the K Compact’s ability to make good coffee with standard K-cups.

Overview of Keurig K Express and Keurig K Compact

The Keurig K Express and the Keurig K Compact are both single-serve coffee makers with reservoirs that can store water between brews.

You can therefore make a K-cup of coffee at the touch of a button with both machines (although the K Express can brew coffee faster than the K Compact).

The table below shows the key specifications of the Keurig K Express and Keurig K Compact. I’ll also include the Keurig K Express Essentials’ specs in this table as I’m going to talk about this machine in detail later on:

Specification Keurig K Express Keurig K Compact Keurig K Express Essentials
Dimensions (width x depth x height)
5.10” W x 12.80” D x 12.60” H
8.20” W x 13.20” D x 12.50” H
6.50” W x 12.20” D x 11.3” H
Maximum height with lid up
16.80 inches
16.30 inches
16.80 inches
Mug clearance (drip tray removed)
7.40 inches
7.00 inches
7.00 inches
Available serving sizes
8 oz, 10 oz, 12 oz
6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz
6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz
Strength settings
2
1
1
Descale light
Yes
No
Yes
Reservoir capacity
42 oz
36 oz
36 oz
Removable reservoir
Yes
Yes
Yes
Where to buy

What are the Differences Between the Keurig K Express and Keurig K Compact?

Here are the differences between the two machines:

The K Express has 8 oz, 10 oz & 12 oz Serving Sizes; The K Compact has 6 oz, 8 oz, and 10 oz Serving Sizes

The Keurig K Compact’s ability to brew a 6 oz coffee means that it will make better coffee with standard, single-use K-cups than the Keurig K Express.

K-cups only hold 10.5 grams of ground coffee. This is only enough to brew 6.5 oz of coffee.

Any servings larger than 6.5 oz brewed with a standard K-cup will come out watery as there are not enough coffee grounds to extract into such a large quantity of water.

This is why I recommend the K Compact over the K Express if you only plan on brewing with standard K-cups.

Winner: Keurig K Compact

The K Express Has a “Strong” Button, but The K Compact Does Not

The Keurig Express’s inclusion of a strong button means that it will make 8 oz and 10 oz servings of coffee better than the Keurig K Compact.

I’d still recommend using reusable K-cups when brewing these serving sizes, as they can hold up to 17 grams of coffee grounds. This is enough ground coffee to make up to a 10 oz serving of coffee and still hit the ideal 1:18 ground coffee to water ratio needed to make a good cup of drip coffee.

The K Express’s inclusion of a “strong” button is why I recommend the machine for those wanting to brew with reusable K-cups. 

Even if you brew with standard K-cups, the K Express will still make a better-tasting 8 oz and 10 oz coffee than the K Compact. However, even the Express’s coffee will be watery if you brew these servings with standard, single-use K-cups.

You can find out more about how the “strong” button affects a Keurig coffee maker’s performance in my comparison of Keurig Express vs Mini

Winner: Keurig K Express

The Keurig K Compact is Bigger and Uglier than the Keurig Express

The Keurig Compact uses Keurig’s “old style” oblong design whereas the Keurig Express has a sleeker design.

As a result:

  • The Keurig Express is three inches slimmer than the compact (the differences in their depth and height are negligible
  • The Keurig Express is a better-looking machine than the K Compact (I know aesthetics are subjective but…c’mon)

Winner: Keurig K Express

The Keurig K Express has an Easier to Carry Water Reservoir than the Keurig K Compact

The Keurig K Express has a tall thin water reservoir. It has a lip in the top of the tank which can act as a handle, allowing you to carry the reservoir with one hand.

The Keurig K Compact has a flatter, wider reservoir with no obvious place to hold it. You, therefore, need to carry the reservoir with two hands.

It’s difficult to carry and reattach the K Compact’s full water reservoir without spilling water everywhere.

You should be able to easily carry and reattach the K Express’s full reservoir without any spilling.

Winner: Keurig K Express

The Keurig K Express has a Faster Heating Mechanism than the Keurig K Compact

The table below shows how fast the two machines heat up your brewing water and brew an 8 oz coffee. These numbers assume that you have just turned the machine on and have not used it to brew a coffee recently (so it is not already warm):

Keurig K Express Keurig K Compact
Time to heat water (from off)
10 seconds
105 seconds
Time to brew an 8 oz coffee (from off)
70 seconds
150 seconds

As you can see, it takes the Keurig K Express about half the time to brew a coffee as it takes the K Compact.

Winner: Keurig K Express

The Keurig K Express Has a Descale Warning Light, the Keurig K Compact Does Not

While it’s useful to know when your coffee machine needs to be descaled, Keurig’s descale warning systems (on all machines) often succumb to faults.

I’ve seen countless reports of Keurig users complaining that their machine’s descale light will not stop flashing, even after you descale it.

I could find several complaints like this for the Keurig K Express, you can see an example of this below:

“This is my 2nd and last Keurig. It works as advertised, except that after 6 months the descale light goes on and never, ever, ever goes off. You can descale till the cows come home, but it won’t change a thing. If you don’t believe what I’m saying, google this problem. There are hundreds of suggestions because it’s an epidemic.” Amazon review of Keurig K Express, February 2023.

I think that the Keurig K Express’s descale warning light is actually one of the machine’s weaknesses because of how finickity it can make the descaling process (I will talk more about this later).

Winner: Keurig K Compact

Price

In March 2023, I could find the Keurig K Express retailing for $20 less than the Keurig K Compact.

Prices tend to fluctuate for both of these items, but it seems that the Keurig Express is generally slightly cheaper than the K Compact.

If you want to find out more about the Keurig K Compact then please see my Keurig K Compact review.

Winner: Keurig K Express

What do the Keurig K Express and Keurig K Compact Have in Common?

The two machines have the following in common:

  • They are both compatible with standard and reusable K-cups
  • They both have removable water reservoirs, drip trays, and K-cup ports 
  • They can both brew a coffee at the touch of a button

Now that we’ve gone through the basics of these two machines I am now going to compare them against the following criteria:

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

Quality of Coffee

The Keurig K Compact makes better-tasting coffee with standard K-cups than the Keurig K Express. The Keurig K Express makes better-tasting coffee with reusable K-cups than the Keurig Compact.

The Keurig Compact is better at brewing with standard K-cups than the Keurig Express because of its ability to brew 6 oz serving sizes.

K-cups are designed to brew 6 oz serving sizes. They do not hold enough ground coffee to brew coffees any bigger than this. Coffees larger than 6 oz always come out watery when made with K-cups.

The Keurig Express makes better 8 oz and 10 oz coffee than the Keurig Compact because of its inclusion of a “strong” button.

This lengthens the K Express’s brewing time from 60 to 80 seconds. Longer brewing times create better-tasting coffee as the ground coffee has more time to extract into your brewing water (the K Compact’s maximum brewing time is 60 seconds).

I would still recommend always brewing 8 oz and 10 oz coffees with reusable K-cups as these hold more ground coffee than standard, single-use K-cups so can actually make a decently strong 8 oz and 10 oz serving.

Quality of Coffee Winner: Keurig K Compact for standard K-cups, Keurig K Express for reusable K-cups

Functionalities

Although the Keurig K Express has more functionalities than the K Compact, the K Compact has the most important feature a Keurig machine can have: the 6 oz serving size.

The table below shows the functionalities of the Keurig K Express and Keurig K Compact:

Functionality Keurig K Express Keurig K Compact
Available serving sizes
8 oz, 10 oz, 12 oz
6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz
Multiple strength settings
Yes
No
Does it warn you when it needs to be descaled
Yes
No

Although the K Express can do more than the K Compact, I’m reluctant to say that one has a better range of functionalities than the other. This is because:

  • Keurig’s descale warning systems are so erratic that they are a hindrance to the machine as much as a help
  • If you plan on brewing with standard, single-use K-cups then the ability to brew a 6 oz serving is more important to coffee quality than having multiple strength settings.

I think that these two machines are really neck and neck as far as functionalities go. Each has one functionality that the other lacks (6 oz serving for the Compact and a “strong” button for the Express).

Winner: Draw

Ease of Use & Cleaning

The Keurig K Express’s more ergonomic reservoir makes it easier to make a coffee with than the Keurig K Compact.

Ease of Making Coffee

The Keurig K Express is easier to fill up with water than the Keurig K Compact because it has a tall, thin reservoir with a lip at the top that acts as a handle.

You can hold the Express’s reservoir with one hand (even when full) and its relatively small opening at the top means that you can easily walk around with it when it’s full to the brim and not spill any water.

The same cannot be said for the K Compact’s water tank. This is much wider and has a large opening in the top. You need to carry it with two hands and it’s really hard to carry it when full without spilling water down yourself and on the floor. 

It’s easier just to keep it on the back of the machine and fill it with another cup.

Making a coffee with both machines is an identical process, although the Keurig K Express takes about half the time to make a coffee as the K Compact because of its much faster heating system.

Ease of Cleaning & Descaling

Both machines are easy to clean because all their parts that come into direct contact with coffee or water can be removed and washed directly in the sink or dishwasher.

Although the two machines are descaled in pretty much the same way, the Express has a “descale” mode which is supposed to guide you through the descaling process.

Unfortunately, this descale mode is poorly designed and actually makes descaling the K Express more difficult than the K Compact. 

Specifically, the K Express will sometimes stay in descale mode after you have descaled, making the machine unusable until you have run a load of rinse cycles to turn off the descaling mode. 

The K Compact has no such descale mode so you will never have this problem.

Ease of Use and Cleaning Winner: Keurig K Compact (because descaling the K Express can be such a pain)

Design and Build Quality

The Keurig K Express is more ergonomically designed and has a better heating system than the Keurig K Compact.

External Build Quality

The Keurig K Express is more ergonomically designed than the Keurig Compact.

The three benefits that the Keurig Express’s design has over the Keurig K Compact are:

  • The K Express is three inches slimmer than the K Compact, so is a better machine for those with limited countertop space.
  • The K Express is easier to fill with water than the K Compact
  • The K Express’s buttons on the front of the machine are easier to see for those with restricted height than the K Compact’s buttons which sit on the top of the machine

Commenting on the K Express’s front-facing buttons, a YouTube commenter on this video said:

“As a person in a wheelchair that can’t see the top of things, the buttons on the front of the Essential make a huge difference”

Internal Build Quality

The Keurig K Express has a better heating system than the Keurig K Compact.

This allows you to make a coffee in 70 seconds with the K Express, compared to the K Compact’s 150 seconds.

The K Express is therefore a better option than the K Compact if you want a machine that can make multiple cups of coffee in quick succession. The K Express will be able to do this much faster than the K Compact.

Reliability and Known Issues

When researching these two machines, I found that each had one technical issue that would occur time and time again. These are:

Keurig K Express’s Descale Light Won’t Turn Off

I found four complaints on Amazon reviews, and two complaints on the Keurig subreddit, that the Keurig K Express’s descale light never turns off or comes on far too often

It seems that the fix for this is to put the Keurig K Express into descale mode and to descale it exactly according to its instruction manual.

Just filling the machine up with a descaling solution and having it brew will not turn off the descale light (even if it does descale the machine).

You can find a video on how to activate the Keurig K Express’s descale mode and descale the machine according to its instructions, below:

A lot of people complaining about this problem said that they did descale their machine and that the descale light still stayed on. 

Unfortunately, I cannot verify if they followed the Express’s descale instructions, or just descaled the machine, not in descale mode. However I think because the descaling process is so unintuitive, many think that their descale light is malfunctioning when really they just need to descale their machine in its descale mode.

Keurig K Compact’s “All Lights On” Error

I found several complaints on the Keurig subreddit that the K Compact’s lights would all illuminate at once and that the machine would be completely unusable.

The most common cause of this is a block in the machine’s pump. You can see a YouTube short of someone fixing this problem here.

Again, this is not a guaranteed fix, and opening the machine in the way in the video will void any warranty you have on the machine.

Descaling the machine regularly will make this problem less likely to occur.

I think that the Compact’s “all lights on” error is a worse problem than the Express’s descale light not turning off. The “all lights on” error are harder to fix and render the machine useless when it happens. 

You can still use the K Express when its descale light is on, so this is just an annoyance rather than a fatal issue.

Design and Build Quality Winner: Keurig K Express

Value For Money

The Keurig K Express is generally slightly cheaper than the Keurig K Compact.

Even though the K Compact makes worse coffee with standard K-cups than the K Express, I still think the Express offers better value for money than the Compact due to its higher build quality and cheaper price.

Value for Money Winner: Keurig K Compact

Keurig K Express Essentials: The Best of Both Machines

I’d recommend the Keurig K Express Essentials over both the Keurig K Express and K Compact.

The K Express Essentials combines the Express’s user-friendly design with the Compact’s ability to make a 6 oz coffee, meaning that you have the best parts of both machines.

Although the K Express Essentials does not have a strong button, I’d still rank its coffee over the Express because of its ability to brew 6 oz serving sizes.

The Essentials is a bit less easily available than the K Express or the K Compact. It is mainly sold at Walmart but can also be found on Amazon.

Better than the Keurig K Express and K Compact
Keurig K Express Essentials
$94.58
The Keurig K Express combines the Keurig Express’s user-friendliness with the K Compact’s ability to make good coffee with standard K-cups.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 10:41 am GMT

Final Verdict

I’d recommend the Keurig K Compact over the K Express if you want to primarily brew with standard, single-use K-cups.

Best for brewing with standard K cups
Keurig K Compact
$89.00 ($89.00 / Count)
The Keurig K Compact’s 6 oz serving option means that it makes a better-tasting coffee with standard K-cups than the Keurig K Express.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/02/2024 04:27 pm GMT

I’d recommend the Keurig K Express over the K Compact if you want to primarily brew larger coffee with reusable K-cups.

If you plan on brewing with a combination of single-use and reusable K-cups, then I’d recommend the Keurig K Express over the K Compact because of its superior build quality.

Best for 8 oz and 10 oz servings
Keurig K Express
$89.99 $69.99
The Keurig K Express’s inclusion of a strong button means it makes a better 8 oz and 10 oz coffee than the Keurig K Compact.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 11:56 am GMT

Related Articles