Keurig is an American manufacturer of coffee makers. More to the point, the products they make and sell are without a doubt the future of coffee preparation and consumption. Their products are more or less exactly what you'd expect to find in any film or novel set in the future in which consumer electronics have advanced to the point where convenience and speed trumps all else.
The main line of Keurig products are what they refer to as Brewing Systems. A number of different models exist, but the common premise is that each of them makes a single cup of coffee (or tea, hot cocoa, or nearly any other hot beverage), using a single serving of coffee grounds contained in what they call a K-Cup. The key is convenience, though the tidiness and speed are also what sells these appliances. Other coffee companies make similar machines but Keurig seems to be the most recognized. I've encountered Keurig brewers in bank lobbies, hotel rooms, offices, auto repair shops, homes and desks. It really does seem like we're living in the future.
Despite the wide variety of models and prices (ranging from about $70 to about $250 in 2012 US dollars), the only real difference between them is the amount of water they hold (8oz to 90oz) and the cup sizes they can accommodate (4oz to 10oz). Whereas the simplest model can hold enough water to fill a single coffee mug (8-10oz), the more industrial, professional models can hold enough water to fill 10-12 mugs. Some of the higher-end models also have separate hot water spigots. All models, however, require a new K-Cup to brew a cup. Reusing K-Cups tends to result in weak or diluted coffee.
Brewing a single cup takes about three minutes. You open the K-Cup receptacle and insert your preferred K-Cup, then pour cold or unheated water into the reservoir. Place your mug under the spout and press the "brew" button. This begins the water-heating process, which is indicated by a shushing sound as the water boils. After two minutes, the hot water is forced through the K-Cup, which is punctured on its top and underside by a pair of small spikes in the receptacle. The water mixes with the grounds in the K-Cup and then trickles down into the mug. An overflow tray at the bottom collects any excess liquid, though given the focus on single-serving, there often isn't any excess. It fills the mug with what appears to be the perfect amount of liquid; enough that it won't overflow when milk or sugar is added to it or when stirred.
Traditional coffee grounds can be used with any Keurig brewing system, although to do so, a separate filter cup must be purchased. It's the same size as a single-serving K-Cup, but it's made out of wire mesh and it's reusable. This is something of a blessing for me, as I have long been addicted to New Orleans-style coffee and chicory, and as of this writing, no one sells this style of coffee in a K-Cup. (Emeril's "Big Easy Bold" K-Cup does not contain chicory; don't let the name fool you.) (UPDATE SUMMER 2013: French Market Coffee, Community Coffee and PJ's Coffee all now sell coffee and chicory K-cups!) I suppose you could also use the K-Cup filter to replace your co-worker's preferred K-Cup with Folgers® Crystals™. Let's see if she notices!
A surprisingly large number of hot beverage makers have brought K-Cup versions of their products to market in recent years. Apart from Keurig itself, they include:
In addition to the above, almost every major supermarket chain in the United States also makes and sells their own store-brand K-cups in various flavors. Sellers include Safeway, Walmart, Kirkland (CostCo) and many others, some regional, some national.
The "next generation", according to Keurig, is the Vue brewing system. Its base model, the V700, is fully programmable, has a brew strength and temperature control, can accommodate eight cup sizes and can hold up to 74oz of water. It uses the new Vue-cup, which is reusable and can also be used to brew cold drinks like iced coffee. I have yet to see a Vue maker or try it out. It sounds like further evidence of our living in the future, and that's OK by me. It's also far less wasteful.
Keurig, the corporate entity, was formed in 1990 by two gents named Peter Dragone and John Sylvan. It languished in relative obscurity until 2006, when it was purchased by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of that company. The single-serving hot beverage industry that they basically invented has become very popular since then and it's still showing regular and steady growth. Keurig, Inc. was founded and is headquartered in Reading, Massachusetts.
I purchased a Keurig B130 DeskPro brewer for my girlfriend's birthday about six weeks ago and it has seen very regular use since then. The B130 is one of the cheaper models (the one I got was $70 at Amazon), but we have been very satisfied with it. It's very easy to use and requires hardly any maintenance—the overflow tray at the bottom needs to be emptied every few brews, and after brewing a chai latte K-Cup, it needs to run a water-only brew cycle for internal cleaning. Beyond that, any fool could use it. My only qualm is with the price of the K-Cups. A dozen typically costs $9 at a brick-and-mortar store. They're cheaper online, but as a whole, it's much more expensive per cup to when compared to buying traditional coffee grounds, where $9 or $10 will get you 60 ounces of traditional coffee grounds that should take months to consume. Ach, such is the price of convenience, I suppose.
I highly recommend the Donut House K-Cup. It reminds me of the sort of coffee I used to get at diners very early in the morning after a night of clubbing, and of the cider mills I frequented as a child growing up in Michigan.
Amazon: Keurig storefront