How Do Keurig Brewers Work?

Updated on March 18, 2016

Keurig Brewers are amazing one-cup brewers that produce delicious, fresh-tasting coffee one cup at a time. These brewers are hailed all around the States for their efficient coffee-making method.

K-Cups, the little coffee pods specially designed to work with the brewers, are partially the reason for that magic. Beyond the K-Cups, though, the brewers are also finely tuned, efficiently engineered coffee machines.

Read on to find out more about how they work and what sets them apart from run-of-the-mill coffee brewers.

How K-Cups Work

Keurig K-Cups are little pre-packaged, freshly-ground coffee pods. Keurig lovers can find K-Cups for just about any type of coffee they prefer, no matter the roast, blend, origin, or flavoring.

These are designed to produce the perfect coffee with minimal fuss. A highly durable plastic layer, a permeable filter layer, and a moisture-proof foil layer build the structure to keep your coffee always tasting fresh.

How the Brewers Work

Beyond the structure of the K-Cups, the brewers are built to withstand high pressures and hot temperatures so that great tasting coffee is delivered each and every time.

All Keurig brewer models feature a water reservoir that stores large quantities of water—allowing the owner to simply press a button to brew their coffee. No refilling or constant pouring is needed for this efficient brewer.

  1. Once a brew size button is pressed, water is pumped through pressurized hoses into the heating chambers. Here the water is heated to the optimal temperature required to create the best-tasting coffee.
  2. After the water reaches coffee-brewing temperature, the water passes into a hose at the top of the brewer.
  3. Here, the brewer houses an opening piece in which K-Cups are inserted.
  4. Once the K-Cup is in place, the opening piece is depressed and shut.
  5. Upon doing this, small pins pierce the K-Cup to deliver the heated water and to distribute the freshly brewed coffee. One small pin punctures the foil lid, thus releasing hot water into the K-Cup. Another small pin punctures the bottom plastic layer, thus allowing the just-brewed coffee to pour straight into your mug!

How to Clean Them

The brewers are designed to last for years and to withstand frequent use. For this reason, they are also designed to be easily maintained.

Keurig brewers feature a small light— a "Descale" light that will pop up into the message center when the brewer needs to be descaled.

The frequency at which you will need to descale will depend on your neighborhood's water hardness levels. Those living in hard water areas might have to descale more often than the brewer owners living in soft water areas.


If the "Descale" light appears, owners can use vinegar to descale the calcium build up in the brewer pipes. Simply run diluted vinegar through your Keurig system, allowing the vinegar to work through the deposits all around the brewer. Alternatively, processed products like "Dezcal" is a Keurig-approved chemical that will descale your brewer.

It's important to understand how these brewers work in order to keep up the maintenance. Lucky for Keurig owners, the way these brewers work is a very simple process. If the "Descale" light still appears after you've already decaled your brewer, you might need to take one extra step.

All the pipes need to be descaled—but you've already done that. Now the tiny pins that prick the top and bottom of the K-Cup also need to be cleared out. But these do not need to be descaled. They simply need to be freed of coffee grounds!

After you've descaled your brewer, the tiny metal pins might still be hot: so take caution when cleaning the pins. Simply take a needle, paperclip, or toothpick and poke through the pins, clearing out any fine coffee grind build-up. It's as simple as that.

After you've completed a descale and a de-grinding, your "Descale" light will turn itself off and your brewer will be working at full pressure once again!

Keurig Cleanup

Have you descaled or de-grinded your Keurig brewer before?

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Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Roberta 5 months ago

        Gave my Aunt one for her 75th Birthday last Sept. She loves it, but lately there’s is the odd thing happening. When she brews a cup, the water spews out the side of the part where the pod sits. She has cleaned monthly with the vinegar solution & this never happens if she just runs a hot cup of water through. Seems to be hit and miss. She will then get a normal cup of coffee but, out of the blue, it spews the water out again. What could be the problem? Also, I don’t see anyone offering answers to these comments?

      • profile image

        Alissazim 18 months ago

        Thinking of buying the ne but my daughter likes milk in her hot chocolae

      • Taranwanderer profile image

        Taranwanderer 2 years ago

        Keurig is an excellent coffee-roasting brand. I've got one in my kitchen and cannot wait until the soda-maker comes out.

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        Debbie H 4 years ago

        Our Keurig coffee maker at the office is doing some funny stuff!! While the coffee is brewing the water flows out of the side into the dispencer also into the cup at the same time. The problem is it does give a full cup. I cleaned with vinegar. Whats wrong??

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        Mike D 4 years ago

        Have had ours for about 6 years now and use clean well water. Never have had to de-scale and use it regularly each day. Still going strong and brewing perfect cups each time! Would not part with it. I use the make your own (My Kcup kit) And folgers coffee. I also use this little tip I found to make my coffee stronger and tastier here:

        Hope this helps everyone :)

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        Alyssa 5 years ago from York, Pennsylvania

        I just found your article after writing my Keurig article. Awesome job, I linked yours to mine;-)

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        Chris 5 years ago

        I bought my keurig in 2008. Knock wood I've never had any problems with it. I only use filtered water so i've never needed to descale it. I love love love it.

      • Didge profile image

        Didge 5 years ago from Southern England

        Great hub , like it!

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        Ruffel 5 years ago

        I've had one for about a year now and its been working flawlessly. People have to understand that since this machine is so compact and has small moving parts the tiny bit of build-up will cause issues. A friend recommended using filtered water and I haven't had any issues!

        Filtered water is about $1 a gallon. Totally worth it

      • profile image

        enginefox 5 years ago

        this write up seems biased to towards Keurig Brewers. "Freshly Ground" coffee in each pod? Really?

        How long has the pod been on the shelf?

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        Galtha58 5 years ago

        You cannot buy a system at this time that uses the K-cups and does not have Keurig components. Maybe someday when their patent expires, they license the technology or someone else buys them out. For now, their coffee makers just don't seem to be a good value. For what they cost they should last 5 years or more with minimum maintenance.

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        Rickman 6 years ago

        I use Brita filtered water only (from Jug) not tap Ihave never had scale

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        Bruce 6 years ago

        Got my Keurig two (maybe three) years ago and it functions flawlessly as advertised. Is ready to go in about three minutes in the morning, and then will make multiple cups every 60 seconds. Newman's Own Bold is excellent coffee. It makes restaurant coffee seem lousy. If my Keurig should die today, I'd have a new one before breakfast tomorrow.

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        kacky 6 years ago

        Those cute little cups are horrible for the environment. They don't decompose and they can't be recycled. What's the matter with pods? My Senseo machine was only twelve bucks, it's single-serve, I can control the brew intensity and then compost the pods & grounds.

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        Ryan 6 years ago

        I called Keurig about the failure of my second brewer. They are sending a replacement even though mine was out of warranty! There may be problems with the brewer but their customer service is top-notch. I opined that there was a design problem with the brewer, given that this was the second failed unit that I've owned, but the CSR said that there were no known issues with the units. That was the only negative aspect of our conversation.

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        Ryan 6 years ago

        I've owned two Keurig platinum units. I use only filtered water, the Keurig filter in pace and descale every two months. Despite these precautions the first unit failed at the end of ten months and was replaced by Keurig. The replacement unit has died after fourteen months. It is frustrating that such an expensive unit has such a short life! I love the concept of this system but cannot afford to continue with this product. It loos as though I'll switch back to a conventional coffee maker. Keurig needs to address the design issues that are causing these failures for so many of their customers!

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        John B. 6 years ago

        We have one in our office. We've run vinegar thru it about 10 times and no joy, especially the wonderful vinegar smell. Started google searches and found 90 pages of complaints and quack fixes, like "spanking". Keurig better wake up and smell the coffee...

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        Robola 6 years ago

        After 4 years the large cup brew button is stuck. It still works if you use the two smaller cup brew buttons. I tried to order the repair parts but they don't sell them. instead they sold me a brand new B60 WR for $90.00.

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        Roy Crosier 6 years ago

        You are all in dreamland if you believe these machines will last for "years." I bought one when they first came out and paid through the nose for it. It is wonderfully convenient and makes superb coffee. It also starts to give you short cups in less than two years and no amount of cleaning, descaling or resetting the controller will fix it. I can live with a $10 toaster lasting less than two years, but paying $179 for one of these it should be trouble free for a decade. I'll buy another, but a different brand.

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        fran from Wyola 7 years ago

        Got our Kurig 3 months ago and love it. I loved it so much my acid reflux flared up and now Im back on Pepsid and decaf.

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        Jim K. from PA 7 years ago

        Wish I had purchased stock in this Company several years ago.

        Once you have used one, your not likely to go back to any other type of coffee maker !!!!!

      • profile image

        David 7 years ago

        We, too, learned about the Keurig after staying at a B&B in Vermont. They had LOTS of flavors to choose from, coffee, decaf, teas, hot chocolate. We loved it so much, we bought it the first time we saw it at Costco (where, I think, it still is). With Costco, if it breaks, bring it back; period. My boss claims that she bought and went through 4 of them and finally just gave up, throwing away her coffee supply at the end. (The first one she got was from a retiring boss of hers. She lies a lot.) We've had ZERO troubles with ours. I have it set for the hottest coffee temp and buy most of our coffee over the internet, for an average price of around 40 cents a portion. Costco often has a couple to choose from, which is a little cheaper. I like the "bold" ones; they have more coffee in them, and hence stronger.

        We never throw coffee away, and the unit produces that first cup a lot faster than a regular coffee maker. There's no setting up to do! There's no clean up to do, either! I haven't tried the extra part that lets you fill it with your own coffee -- I'm happy with what we have now. It's so worth it. Have had this unit for over 2 years, used daily several times. A bit noisy when it refills itself with water from the reservoir, but it's in the kitchen, so who cares (except the cat ). I don't have stock in the company, so I think I can say, "Buy it!"

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        Trevor 7 years ago

        I have my first cup brewed for me in the bathroom too!

        Just kidding, I don't.

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        paula 7 years ago

        I am on my second keurig. I have had them for six years and have given several as gifts. So that I am never without my coffee, I have purchased one for my country club, my mother's house and my brother's vacation home in Vermont. I have actually purchased a single cup model for in our master bathroom, for the first morning cup. We drink a lot of coffee and while some may think the cups are expensive, it is worth having one fresh cup than a pot of bitter, luke warm inexpensive coffee. Need I say more?

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        Mikee A 7 years ago

        The first machine we had failed almost "just out of the box" Leaked like sieve. Second unit (direct swap at BB&B) has been faultless. We love the reliable quality of the brew, zero cleanup and the ability to make a variety of things. My fav. is a Kalua and a dark hot chocolate = awesome moca! Price per cup is a bit high, but then none is dumped out for sitting too long. I think we are spending about the same amount overall

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        David 7 years ago

        The Keurig machine is NOT reliable coffee maker. We are going back to the old fashion machine.

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        Tom 7 years ago

        Tea is available (many varieties) as is hot chocolate. The B&B just must not have ordered it.

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        michele 7 years ago

        I recently use the Keurig Brewer at a Bed & Breakfast. It was very easy to use and the B & B offered a large selection of coffee to chose from but it would be nice if tea could be offered in this way.