Sniffen Packets

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The best K-cup I've ever had

I work in an office that provides free coffee. Some floors have Keurig machines, some have Flavia, some have fancier grind-and-brew machines. They range from acceptable (the grind-and-brew) to… less than acceptable (most Keurig) to illness-inducing (Flavia). I keep an aeropress in the office kitchen, and a decent burr grinder, and bring in my own beans—that can pretty reliably hit my standard for decent coffee. The down sides are the time—no matter how nice the ritual feels, sometimes I don’t have 15 minutes to make a cup of coffee—plus the noise and the fussiness of keeping the setup clean.

A year ago a friend told me about his new work with a revolutionary coffee business aiming to deliver excellent coffee for office setups. Cometeeer is shipping K-cups that make coffee “as good as I can make at home”. Given what I make at home, that’s quite a claim! My first shipment showed up from them today; they’re apparently hitting a beta phase.

What you get

Cometeer boxes of pods

For $60, I got a box of 32 aluminum K-cups: four boxes, each holding eight pods. Unlike typical K-cups, these are pure aluminum shells—no plastic, so totally recyclable. Inside each is a frozen coffee extract, not the normal fine-ground coffee & filter of a K-cup. The whole thing comes Fedex Ground with a block of dry ice to keep it solid. That made for a great afternoon of homeschool science class—nice timing, Cometeer!

If you have a K-cup machine, presumably there’s some way to thaw this just a bit and then have the machine spike and brew it; for my use I just peel open the pod, drop the frozen puck inside into a mug, and add eight ounces of 200 °F water.

How it tastes

Cometeer offers the pods in light, medium, or dark roasts, or a mix of the three. I ordered light roast; I’m going to drink it black, and most of what I brew and enjoy at home is East African beans, as lightly roasted as I can find. So far I’ve tried the Yirgacheffe. It’s far and away the best K-cup I’ve ever had. It’s very good coffee. If I’d paid $4 for this cup in Kendall Square, I’d be perfectly happy with it. The flavor is bright and fresh. If brewed normally, I’d say it was roasted within the last week or two, and ground today.

The texture of the coffee is thin. There’s clearly no sediment, no fine grounds that made it through the filter. On a spectrum from instant coffee through French Press to Turkish, this is right there with the instant. Even my coffees made from cold brew extract have more body than this—perhaps more oil makes it through into those?

That’s hardly fatal: this is a very good cup of coffee, better than I can get in my indulgent tech workplace. The flavor is great. It’s just thin. If you add milk to your coffee, I don’t think you’ll even notice.

I’m interested to see how flavor evolves over the next month. The pods will stay in my freezer—it’ll take me much more than a month to got through 32 of them, given I’m mixing in other coffee sources.

Dark patterns

Cometeer only lets you sign up for a subscription right now: 32 pods every 1, 2, or 4 weeks. That’s way more than I need. I had to email them to get a link at which I could manage or cancel my subscription.

The right way to sell these is to sell them, and to offer a subscription for those who want it—even at a discount. Any business that lets you start a subscription over the web but requires interaction to cancel? That’s not someone I trust to do more business with.

Future uses

I don’t need 32 of these a month. Perhaps when offices reopen, something like that will appeal. I’d love to be able to bring two of these for a backpacking trip. I’d love to be able to keep a box of decaf in my chest freezer. I don’t drink decaf often, but it’s a pain to turn over a grinder to make decaf, and this would be a nice way to have some available.

This isn’t price-competitive with ordering single-origin Counter Choice or Blue Bottle coffee beans for delivery: those are $30.15 for 680 g = 44 cups of coffee, the way I brew it. That’s less than 70 ¢/cup for some of the best coffee you can get on Earth. Cometeer’s coming in at more than 180 ¢/cup. Yes, I had to buy and maintain a grinder and a kettle and an aeropress and filters… but given I have those sunk costs, this probably can’t be a regular home-use object for me.