Single-Serve Coffee Didn't Begin With Keurig

The ubiquity of the convenience of having easy access to single-serve in American homes is usually synonymous with Keurig, one of the most popular pod-based coffee machines. And while the momentum of third-wave coffee culture hasn't slowed down, the market for the convenience of single-serve coffee is second only to standard drip coffee makers despite the high cost per cup (per Statistica).

One testament to the popularity of K-cups is that the name itself for the single-serve brewing coffee cups is trademarked by Keurig Green Mountain, as reported by Coffee Tea Warehouse. In 2020, over 33 million households owned a Keurig machine, and the brand has the largest market share for pod-based coffee makers. However, it may surprise you that Keurig didn't invent single-serving coffee, and the company was not founded until 1990, by Peter Dragone and John Sylvan, who had no money or backing (per Cross Country Cafe), and were rather late to the single-serve coffee game.

Single-serve coffee started in the 1970s

According to Perfect Daily Grind, coffee pods were invented long before Keurig came along and single-serve coffee came onto the scene during the 1970s. One coffee company communications manager stated that after single-serve coffees, coffee bags — which are essentially like teabags, but with coffee (via Independent) — then became popular in the following decades and then single-serve pods came onto the scene in the 1990s, thanks to Nespresso.

Nespresso launched in 1986, and shortly after was marketed as a luxury item and was received with success in the European market. As their success grew, competitors like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters started Keurig in response, and the rest is history. But before the K-cup frenzy, in the 1970s machines like the Sunbeam Hot Shot gave consumers the ability to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee in 90 seconds, per Click Americana. If that's the cup of coffee you fancy, Vintage Sunbeam coffee makers are up for grabs on eBay.