Iced coffee is a summer treat for many, and a way of life for others. But while its flavor is seen as more accessible, the sugar and caffeine-packed chilled beverage can come with a bigger barrier to entry than most other coffees. First, there's the effort involved in making it yourself, which can involve hours of prep or foresight even if you choose the "simplest" method. Alternatively, there's the time you'll likely spend in line at Dunkin' or Starbucks. Then there's the price; iced coffees don't tend to come cheap and are often several times the price of a plain old filter coffee.
So up steps Keurig. The single-serve coffee machine maker has produced the K-Iced, a version of its regular machine that is apparently optimized for iced coffee. Just fill a mug with ice, pop in one of the special K-cups designed for iced coffee, tap a couple of buttons and away you go. However, you may have several questions after reading this. Is the K-iced any good? Couldn't you just use a regular Keurig for the same purpose? And even if it does make good iced coffee, is that all it can do? Keurig sent us a K-iced and some K-cups out for testing purposes, and we set aside some time to see if the specialist machine is really worth the effort. Here's what we found.
Read more: 35 Different Types Of Coffee Explained
How Is The K-Iced Meant To Work?
The K-iced comes with a feature tailor-made for iced coffee. You do have to add a generous number of ice cubes to your cup before you start your brew. You also have to press a special button to enable the "iced" setting. The button has a little ice cube-filled glass on it. But beyond that, the K-iced should give you a better cup of iced coffee than Keurig's regular machines.
So how is the iced function different from a regular brew? Well, Keurig says two things happen when you put a brew through on the "iced" setting. The initial burst of water is hotter than usual -- which apparently serves to extract more flavor from the grounds than a regular spray of water would. After the initial hot burst, the rest of the flow is colder than a regular Keurig's output. This is designed to preserve more ice than would otherwise survive if you used a regular Keurig to make your iced coffee. Beyond that, it just functions like a regular Keurig. You put water in the reservoir, a cup on the drip tray, and a pod under the hinged lid, before punching in your settings and waiting for a minute or so.
There Is A Whole Range Of Iced K-Cups You Can Use
While you are free to use regular K-cups in your iced coffee, you're probably better off using something more specialized. There is a wide selection of pods designed specifically with iced coffee in mind. These all cost around the same as regular K-cups but have flavor blends and compositions that seem to be geared towards iced coffee as a concept and may work better with the K-Iced's unique brewing method.
Major brands including Green Mountain, Dunkin', McDonald's, and Donut Shop all produce a range of specialty K-cups meant to be brewed over a mug full of ice. You can, of course, use your favorite standard K-cup -- but the specialist ones may be optimized for this method. During our testing, we found the specialist cups to contain flavor profiles you'd tend to associate with iced coffee. They were sweeter than normal K-cups, including standard cups with sweet flavor profiles like Donut Shop's collaboration with Twix. This gave the drinks more of a dessert-like quality and created the kind of taste you may have come to expect from iced coffee.
Here's How We Tested It
We tested out a few different iced coffee pods in the K-iced. Namely, Green Mountain's "brew over ice" vanilla caramel cups, Donut Shop's Cookies + Caramel iced duos, and the McCafe iced one-step mocha frappe. This would give us a general idea of what kind of quality the machine can produce, as well as a way to directly compare it to a regular Keurig's output.
For each serving, we filled a standard-sized mug, designed for a 12-ounce serving of regular coffee, with ice. We then used the 8-ounce setting on the K-iced, which seemed to provide us with the correct amount of coffee for the ice-filled vessel. We also used the same setting on the standard Keurig we compared it with.
We also tested the other functions of the machine. All of the tests were performed over the span of several days, which gave us a good idea of how the K-Iced performed as a daily driver. This also ensured we weren't just basing our findings on a one-off or a fluke, and the machine could perform consistently.
How Does The K-Iced Perform?
During our nearly week-long testing period, we used the K-Iced almost daily and we found the results very surprising. This machine makes very good iced coffee, to the point where it was difficult to tell something like the McCafe version from a drink you would actually purchase from McDonald's. Plenty of ice seemed to have been preserved in every serving. The drinks themselves were flavorful, and not excessively watery as can happen with a bad iced coffee.
Conveniently, the machine also appeared to adjust its output to account for the ice. Ice obviously takes up a lot of space, but the 8-ounce pour left enough room in our standard mug to add milk, whipped cream, or anything else you would usually enhance a frozen blast of java with. The end result was a convenient, "ticks all of the boxes" cup of iced coffee. The only variation in flavor and quality seemed to be based on the K-cups themselves.
The machine was consistently superb. There were no hiccups, glitches, or errors. While we glanced at the instruction manual to ensure we used the machine correctly, it's not something you need to do. The controls are pretty obvious, and the K-Iced is very easy to use. The only downside was what we deem to be an excessive amount of "dripping" after using some pods -- though the drip tray conveniently catches this and the machine is very easy to clean.
Can You Use It For Regular Coffee?
Not everyone wants to drink iced coffee all of the time. Most people's Keurigs exist to serve a hot beverage in a pinch, and a specialist machine dedicated to a drink they only enjoy on occasion may be a hard sell. So can you use this as a regular Keurig on top of its special function? Yes, and it's pretty much the same as the K-express, which we liked enough to choose as one of our "kitchen must haves" of 2023.
For the "iced" function to work, you need to click the little iced button on the machine before selecting your serving size. If you skip that step and just select a serving size, it will function as a regular Keurig and give you 8, 10, or 12 ounces of hot coffee. There is also a "strong" option. This is designed to give you a more intense, flavorful, cup and is also present on a regular K-express. It is also compatible with reusable K-cups, though using one of these instead of a specialized pod for iced coffee will likely net you sub-optimal results.
If you're someone who enjoys an iced coffee on occasion, but likes it hot 90% of the time, then you will have no issues using this as a daily driver. The only drawback may be the limited water reservoir, which is the same as on our K-Express -- though other versions of the iced machine with larger reservoirs are available.
Can You Make Iced Coffee With A Regular Keurig?
So, the K-Iced does its job well. But can you make iced coffee with a regular Keurig? We happened to have a K-Express handy. Based on appearance and function, that seems to be the direct equivalent of the K-Iced, it's the same size, offers the same serving options bar the "iced" feature, and even looks pretty much the same. We used one of the specialist "iced" K-cups for our test too, in this case, it was a McCafe one-step iced mocha frappe. By trying the same type and flavor of K-cup in both, we could ensure a fair test. So, what did we find?
Well, to start with, Keurig's claim about the K-Iced preserving the ice in your cold drink was true. The version we made in the Keurig had noticeably less frozen water in it. The other issue was the volume. The 8-ounce setting, which is the lowest our Keurig could do, filled our standard mug to the brim. There was a slight worry it would overflow. So you'll be tipping some coffee out if you want to add syrups or creams.
When we took a sip, the differences were even more apparent. The regular Keurig's effort was still cold, but noticeably warmer than the K-Iced's coffee. In terms of flavor, it was pretty watery when compared to the specialist version. All in all, it was technically iced coffee -- but it wasn't a good iced coffee.
There Is Another Way, But It's Less Convenient And More Expensive
There is another way to make iced coffee, but it's less convenient. You can brew your own coffee, using one of several methods, allow it to cool if necessary, and then pour it over ice with any of the other accompaniments you tend to enjoy. Depending on the beans you choose, your personal coffee-making abilities, and the method you use, this may yield better results, just like it could potentially yield better results than you would get from a Starbucks, Dunkin', McDonald's, or any other coffee chain known for its iced beverages. You can also just buy one from one of the aforementioned chains.
But the K-Iced has two things going for it. It's likely cheaper than a homemade coffee with specialist beans and is certainly cheaper than an iced coffee bought from a chain. Even if you buy your ice in, a large bag is usually a couple of dollars. The K-cups themselves are priced similarly to regular K-cups and can cost between a dollar and $0.50 each.
It's probably the most convenient way to make good quality iced coffee. You add ice, pop the cup in, click a button, and your drink is seconds away. And let's not kid ourselves; convenience is what Keurig is based on. It's never made the best cup of coffee, but it makes a good single serving quickly. The K-iced simply adds another popular coffee style to the mix.
Alternatives Do Exist
If you pay full price for your K-Iced, you can expect to spend $99.99. This is around $20 more than the K-Express, which it seems to be an adapted version of. So it's safe to say you'll be paying $20 for the additional "iced" function, and whether that is worth it to you depends on your own personal preferences. We will say that, given the price of iced coffee in-store, it won't take many cups before the savings far exceed that $20 premium. There are also occasional sales that could see you paying around the same price for a K-Iced, at which point it's a bit of a no-brainer to pick the machine with more options -- even if said options seldom see any use.
As for alternatives, Ninja has a machine that takes K-cups and offers an iced function. It also comes with a milk frother, but it is priced $30 higher when not on sale. Hamilton Beach offers a cheaper option, and Cuisinart has an expensive choice that pairs the iced function with multiple other brewing methods including drip coffee.
Keurig also has a range of other machines that offer an iced function. As for the quality of the alternatives, we have yet to review them so we can't say with any certainty if they are any good. But we have spent time with the K-iced, and we can 100% speak for its quality.
This Is A Great Buy If You Love Iced Coffee
So ultimately, is the K-Iced worth it? That depends on you more than anything. If you're in the market for a new Keurig, the extra function is worth the extra $20. It opens up a whole new line of K-cups and will pay for itself after a few iced coffees in.
If you're a major lover of iced coffee, then it's a must-buy, even if you already have a Keurig in your kitchen. The K-Iced's compact size means it can fit almost anywhere and can be stored away easily when it isn't being used. Given the price of iced coffee from places like Starbucks and McDonald's, it will also save you an absolute fortune. Yes, there are other ways you can make iced coffee at home, but the end result, coupled with the ease of use and speed of the K-Iced, makes purchasing one an absolute no-brainer.
The only people who should say no are those who militantly dislike iced coffee, which renders its unique selling point useless, along with people who already own or just don't want to purchase a Keurig. As for everyone else, this is arguably the best all-around single-serve machine you can get for under $100. At least it is until someone comes up with some kind of cold-brew coffee pod and adds another button.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.