I gave my parents a K-Cup coffee brewer a couple of months ago, when I suddenly found myself with an extra one.

Mr. Coffee K-Cup coffee brewer
Mr. Coffee K-Cup coffee brewer

Of course, one of the potential problems with these coffee makers is the cost of the single serving K-Cup units. And since my parents don’t drink coffee – they only buy it for their children – my mom decided a taste test was in order. Could I tell the difference between Grove Square (42¢ per serving) and Starbucks (100¢ per serving)?

To raise the stakes in this taste test, Grove Square makes some pretty big claims on its website:

Grove Square™ was created as an alternative for people who love coffee and share our belief that it doesn’t need to be grandiose, complicated – or overpriced. We remember a time when coffee was simply hot and delicious, and we’ve made it our mission to provide that classic flavor, quality and value with single-cup convenience.

And there’s another wrinkle — I don’t drink coffee black. On the rarest of occasions, I’ll just add milk. Once in a while, I’ll mix in both milk and sugar. But usually, I’ll add some cocoa and make a mocha.

So here’s how we did the taste test: I prepared a cocoa/milk/sugar mixture…

Milk, cocoa, and sugar

And then my mom brewed a cup of each kind of coffee and distributed the mixture evenly, so that I wouldn’t know which was which.

Cheap mocha? Expensive mocha?
Cheap mocha? Expensive mocha?

(Note the spiffy coffee mugs from Lenox!)

So… how did they compare?

I’ll get straight to the point… it doesn’t look good for the cheap coffee. Even while Mom was brewing the coffee, I had my suspicions based just on smell. Then I sat down to taste things…

Double your mocha!
Double your mocha!

I sipped one… then sipped the other… and got a funny look on my face.

I repeated the test… no doubt about it.

I couldn’t taste any coffee in the one mug. My mocha mix completely covered any coffee taste. In the other mug, I got the wake-up kick that I like – a bold flavor accentuated by the cocoa, mellowed just slightly by sugar and skim milk.

Sorry Grove Square — you just didn’t make the cut. But what about the crazy cost of the Starbucks?

Here’s my recommendation…

K-Cup reusable coffee filter
K-Cup reusable coffee filter

This is what I’ve purchased for my home machine. It pays for itself after about 12 cups, even if you’re drinking more expensive coffee. And I think I’ve figured out how to reproduce the flavor of the pre-packaged K-Cups: grind the coffee fresh and grind it fine.

And now I just need to get my mom a coffee grinder.