KEURIG BLOWS! Painfully mediocre coffee -- for only $50 a pound!

Much about the art and science of the consumer market is mysterious, but nothing's stranger than the seeming popularity of those coffee-pod brewing contraptions sold under brand names such as Keurig
Here's what's strange about them: First -- speaking with the authority of a coffee devotee with my own genuine Italian espresso machine at home -- the coffee they make is horrible. Second, it's ridiculously expensive.

Keurig uses plastic and foil pods filled with about 10 grams of ground coffee each (some are less, some "bold" brews are a little more), which are placed in the brewing device, automatically pierced with a needle, and inundated with hot water. The coffee-making process is mess-free. That's the good news, but once you've said that you've said everything. The result is typically a flavorless brew of brown hot water. The pods are discarded after a single brew, creating a detestable volume of non-recyclable packaging waste.

Keurig's single-serve pods, or K-Cups, sell on its website in packs of 24 for about $16.50. That's about $30 per pound of coffee; the price for some blends licensed from Starbucks can approach $50 per pound.
For comparison, at Peet's you can get a pound of top-flight fresh Italian or French roast for $15. For the same sum, Keurig will sell you half a pound of Folgers, which you can find in canisters at Wal-Mart for less than five bucks per pound.

How do you spell "sucker"? 

We're witnessing, of course, an ancient trick in consumer marketing: slice the baloney thinner, and you can charge much more per slice. A friend of mine once calculated, based on the price of a plastic box of Tic-Tacs, that he was spending the equivalent of $16 for a pound of sugar. (A 5-pound sack of raw sugar at Wal-Mart: $2.62.)

Vermont-based Keurig Green Mountain knows that consumer acceptance of its high-priced coffee pods is poised on a knife edge. This became especially clear after key patents on its K-Cups expired in 2012. Unlicensed companies jumped into the K-Cup market, and refillable K-Cups even appeared, allowing you to spoon bulk Folgers into a little basket and brew your brown water on the cheap.

Keurig's latest strategy is to use techology to freeze out competitors. According to Chief Executive Brian Kelley's statement on a recent earnings conference call, its Keurig 2.0 brewing machines will use "interactive technology" to accept only Keurig-approved pods. Think of it as DRM for coffee. 

The idea, the company said, is to ensure the system produces "excellent quality beverages, (to) produce simply and consistently every brew, every time."

It also said it would roll out the new technology in a "consumer friendly" way. Why doubt them? They've got millions of customers already believing their coffee is good; to get that experience "consistently" should please the Keurig faithful no end.  

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8 of the world's great coffee cities

(CNN) -- Fifteenth-century Arabs were the first to cultivate coffee and a Frenchman was behind the 1843 debut of the world's first commercial espresso machine. There have been a few leaps forward since then.

"People are more and more interested in where the beans come from, and how they're harvested and roasted," says New Zealand barista champion Nick Clark of Wellington's Flight Coffee.

"There are so many variables involved in producing a great cup of coffee these days, and the industry has had to evolve to meet growing consumer expectations."
The world's best coffee cities are those where the coffee isn't just good -- it's great.

Aussies and Kiwis opened the city's first espresso-focused coffee shops (such as Flat White and Kaffeine) a decade ago and they've been popping up across the city ever since.
"London still has a long way to go with café service, but in the past five years there's been so much growth, which is a great thing to be part of," says Estelle Bright, head barista at London's Caravan.

Local order: Flat white or cappuccino.

"London is still in the grip of the flat white craze, but cappuccinos are similarly popular," says Bright.

Top shops: East London boasts the highest concentration of quality coffee shops and cafes. Allpress

"The coffee culture in Melbourne is just incredible," says reigning World Barista Champion Pete Licata, from the United States.
Coffee is such an integral part of the Melbourne lifestyle that the city even hosts an annual coffee expo.

Local order: Piccolo latte.
While lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites remain popular, piccolo lattes (made with less milk so the espresso tastes stronger) are the drink du jour.

Top shops: "It's nearly impossible to find a bad cup of coffee in Melbourne," says Licata.
For real coffee purists, there's Axil Coffeehouse Roasters in Hawthorn (322 Burwood Road), Auction 

Scandinavians drink more coffee per head than anyone else.
Scandinavians drink more coffee per head than anyone else.

Reykjavik, Iceland
After the Dutch, Scandinavians have the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world.
While Finns drink the most among Scandinavians, Icelanders are also coffee crazy.
"Not too long ago, cafés in Reykjavík were more about the food," says Kristin Thora, a barista at Icelandic institution Kaffitar and reigning National Cupping Champion.
"You'd have coffee and cake and didn't mind how the coffee was as long as the cake was good.
"Then, about 25 years ago, people started to care about how their coffee was served."
With Iceland's lack of commercial coffee behemoths, smaller businesses have had a chance to flourish.
Now you can hardly walk a city block without passing a coffee shop.

Local order: Latte or cappuccino.

"Drip coffee is popular in the home, but Icelanders tend go to coffeehouses for espresso-based drinks," says Thora.

Top shops: With seven coffee shops and a roaster to its name, Kaffitar is the closest thing Iceland has to a coffee chain. Stofan and Kaffismidja are hipster faves.


The Health Benefits of Coffee

Super video by WebMD on the wonderful health benefits of coffee.

View the video here.