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Why Does Keurig Coffee Taste Bad? (and what to do about it)

Keurig coffee machines completely changed the way that we drank coffee a few years ago. But many find the coffee doesn’t always taste as good as it should and wonder why does Keurig coffee taste bad?

If Keurig coffee tastes burnt, bitter, or stale start by thoroughly cleaning the machine, descaling the Keurig and changing the water filter. But also ensure high-quality K-cups are being used with coffee that is made from 100% arabica beans.

But honestly, there are a lot more reasons than just those. So let’s keep digging in!

If you’re tired of dealing with inconsistent Keurig coffee taste and quality, it’s time to figure out how to make a change.

Good tasting coffee isn’t as far off as you might think! Let’s discuss a few possibilities in the next section.

Check out all my coffee product recommendations (click to see my list) with additional features and direct links to Amazon for easy purchase.

I always hand-select items that I own, have used, or researched well. That way, I can ensure they are great items. I also give not only higher-end models but inexpensive alternatives as well. So my choices work for any budget.

How do you make Keurig coffee taste better?

To improve the flavor of Keurig coffee:

  1. Only use 100% arabica coffee K-cups
  2. Only brew 1 cup per K-cup
  3. Change the water filter every 2 months if you use the Keurig daily
  4. Descale the Keurig every 6 months
  5. Wash the water reservoir and removable parts regularly

Keurig machines usually aren’t responsible for the bad taste in coffee – unless, of course, they’re not taken care of.

To ensure good taste, you should follow the descaling schedule, change the water filter in your machine, and clean it regularly.

Also, you’re supposed to use cold, filtered water before you pour it into the Keurig machine. Tap water that isn’t filtered can flatten the taste right away.

Of course, most Keurig models have their own water filters. So as long as you’re changing yours often, this isn’t likely the reason.

And speaking of Keurig water filters, are they universal or do you have to buy those expensive Keurig ones? Luckily I give you the answer and some money-saving tips in a recent article.

Just click that to read it on my site.

These quick fixes can often improve the taste immediately. But unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. If you’re checking all of the boxes, but your coffee still tastes bland or gross, then the issue might be the coffee itself.

Some companies sell pods that cost a fraction of the big brand names.

Many people who see the lower cost of these non-name-brand pods attribute the discount to the lack of branding. And while this might be a valid reason, there’s often another reason: the coffee isn’t as good.

We’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of coffee manufacturing here. However, you should note that one of the main reasons some coffee tastes better than others is that some companies simply make better coffee. If you’re buying coffee at bottom-of-the-barrel prices, you should consider trying a more expensive option.

Another possibility is that you’re not drinking a type of coffee suitable for your taste palate.

The taste of coffee depends on the beans you use (Arabica and Robusta are two of the most popular options), as well as the color of the roast.

Generally speaking, you NEVER want to buy any coffee made with Robusta beans.

They are low quality and will never taste as good as 100% Arabica coffee beans. Robusta beans are less expensive to produce which is why they exist. But they result in a much more bitter cup of coffee.

But if you shelled out $80 bucks or more for a Keurig, now is not the time to cut corners.

How do I get the vinegar taste out of my Keurig after cleaning or descaling?

As a general rule, after cleaning or descaling a Keurig, brew water only, without a K-cup, until the water reservoir is empty. Then repeat 2-3 times. Additionally, adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water reservoir and brewing until empty will help neutralize any remaining acidity.

If you’ve just finished descaling your Keurig machine and you suddenly taste a vinegar hint in your coffee, you can get rid of it quickly. Everything that you need for the process is right in your kitchen cabinet.

But let’s review those steps with a little greater detail:

  1. Remove the pod from the machine. 
  2. Pour water into the reservoir until it’s completely full and then run the machine over and over until the reservoir is empty again. Make sure that there isn’t a pod in the dispenser throughout this process. 
  3. You might need to do this with 2 to 3 full reservoirs in total.
  4. If you still can’t remove the vinegar taste, try adding ½ of a teaspoon of baking soda. It’s known to neutralize vinegar, and it also has a very bland taste that counterbalances the bitterness.
  5. Thoroughly mix baking soda into the water reservoir until it’s dissolved, run the machine three times, and repeat the process if it’s necessary.

Sometimes Keurig owners will notice that the descaling light doesn’t go off after descaling.

Very irritating. Especially if you just want that first cup of coffee in the morning. Luckily, I take the mystery and irritation out of that situation in a recent article.

In a recent article, I walk through all the possibilities and solutions that will get you brewing again in no time! Just click the link to read that on my site.

What is the best tasting coffee for Keurig?

There are all sorts of coffee brands to choose from when it comes to a Keurig machine. You can enjoy your favorite brands like Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee, or you can feel free to branch out to the lesser-known brands.

Just click either of those links to see the K-cup selection on Amazon.

For me, Peet’s is my all-time favorite. It’s also worth pointing out that Alfred Peet is the man who trained Starbucks on how to roast coffee back when they were just starting out.

One of the biggest companies that came onto the scene is Green Mountain Coffee. They have a light roast that’s been a favorite for people across the world.

The high caffeine content paired with the rich flavor is as good as any other. They also offer a number of Fair Trade Coffees in K cups.

Another great choice for the budget-conscious is Cameron’s Coffee.

They have several varieties of organic coffee at the cheapest price I’ve seen. But they also pioneered the eco-cup which is a biodegradable K cup. Most brands of K cups are plastic and obviously not great for the environment.

Just click any of those links to see the K-cup selection on Amazon.

Here are a handful of other top-quality coffees to try out with your Keurig machine:

  1. Peet’s Light Roast (wonderful flavor paired with a smooth taste for sensitive stomachs)
  2. Cameron’s Organic Breakfast Blend Coffee (the cheapest 100% organic Arabica bean coffee I’ve found and in an eco-friendly pod)
  3. Newman’s Own Decaf Blend (fruity, chocolatey taste with a flavor similar to caffeinated coffee blends)
  4. San Francisco Bay One Decaf (another flavorful decaf blend with a deep, bold taste and aroma. Also in a biodegradable pod similar to Cameron’s)

If you’re new to the world of Keurig or pod coffee makers in general, you may have a lot of questions.

Luckily, I have a comprehensive guide to pod coffee makers where I break it all down and answer all the top questions including the #1 complaint all Keurig owners have.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

My Keurig coffee tastes bad all of a sudden – what to do!

When Keurig coffee suddenly starts tasting bad, that is an indicator that it is time for routine cleaning. Change the water filter, run a descaling solution, and then rinse thoroughly, and wash all removable parts with soap and water.

Many Keurig owners don’t follow the recommended schedule for descaling and filter changes. They’re both crucial to maintaining a good flavor in every cup.

Without using a descaling solution (click to see the best deal on Amazon), calcium deposits will begin to form throughout the machine.

Almost all sources of water contain trace amounts of calcium that stay behind when steam evaporates and pours out the coffee. The taste of calcium is subtle, but it can immediately ruin your coffee.

As far as filter changes are concerned, you’ll end up using and tasting non-filtered water if you don’t change it enough. The varying flavors of tap water depend on your city’s water supply, which can change throughout the week. Always follow the filter schedule!

Finally, you should always clean your machine after each use.

Leaving a used pod overnight might be convenient, but the stale, old coffee grounds leave a foul taste behind. Wipe the machine down with wet paper towels, and don’t forget to clean the needle!

Wondering if it’s OK to leave your Keurig on all day?

After all, not only could that affect the flavor, but maybe it uses a lot of electricity too or will just cause it to wear out faster?

Luckily, in a recent article, I examine these questions and get some answers. What really surprised me was how much power gets used doing that.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Why does my Keurig coffee taste burnt?

As a general rule, a Keurig coffee maker that produces burnt coffee has a build-up of coffee bean oils in the K-cup holder and around the exit needle. Clean those parts thoroughly with soap and water.

As mentioned in the previous section, the residue and old coffee grounds left behind can have an impact on your future cups of coffee.

And oily residue from the coffee itself is a big part of that.

It might not seem like a big deal, but when coffee grounds are stuck in the pod chamber, they begin to burn from excess steam after each use.

Without regularly cleaning the machine, those burnt grounds continue to accumulate. When the water pours through a new coffee pod, some of that old, burnt taste goes right along with it.

That’s just one of the many reasons that you need to stay consistent with maintenance!

Final Thoughts

Keurig machines produce delicious coffee if you follow the right steps. Here are the key takeaways from the article to ensure a high-quality cup every time:

  • Buy the right coffee. Old, stale, low-quality coffee brands won’t ever taste good!
  • Clean your machine and follow the recommended maintenance schedule.
  • Baking soda and full flushes of the reservoir can fix many common issues.
  • Green Mountain Coffee, Starbucks, Peet’s, and San Francisco Bay make some of the best K-cup coffee pods around.

One other consideration for a great cup of coffee is how hot the water is when brewing.

Most of us never think about this since most coffee makers don’t allow us to set a brew temp. But the temperature of the water makes a huge difference!

In a recent article, I cover all the most popular coffee makers and recommended brew temps, including the temperatures the pros like Starbucks brew at. So if you’ve ever wondered what coffee makes make the hottest coffee, you won’t want to miss that one.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

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Jeff Campbell


Thursday 17th of December 2020

I have an issue with some K-cups, especially annoying with my favorite ones. Too often, I select a pod and the seal on top is flat to concave rather than slightly rounded. When I've brewed these flatter ones, the taste is nasty. It seems that these don't get "pressurized" or whatever, maybe due to the seals not being tight. The freshness dates on the boxes are never past. I find these way too often and wonder if this is a common complaint.

Jeff Campbell

Friday 18th of December 2020

Hi Nancy

Interesting! I hadn't ever thought about that before, nor have I heard of the issue before. I take it you don't see it consistently, just with 1 or 2 out of a box of K-cups?