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Who Invented the Keurig Coffee Machine?

who invented the keurig coffee machine

Coffee lovers around the world have come to appreciate the convenience and taste the Keurig coffee machine has brought to their lives. These single-serve coffee makers allow people needing a caffeine boost the option of having a hot cup of coffee even when their day is hectic and they don’t have more than a minute to spare.

With the addition of single-serve coffee makers becoming such a major part of the coffee world, you may be curious about who invented the Keurig coffee machine. You can thank the creation of your quick, one-cup maker to John Sylvan and Peter Dragone. These two men were tired of stale, office coffee and wanted a way for people to enjoy great coffee without the need to brew an entire pot. Read on below to learn more about the Keurig coffee machine, how it came to fruition, and the men behind one of the most popular inventions of our time.

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How It All Started

In the late 1970s, John Sylvan and Peter Dragone found themselves paired as college roommates at Colby College in Maine. Both highly ambitious, they moved on from college and separately became part of the greater business world. After a few years, Sylvan decided to leave his tech job to embark on solving a problem he felt offices suffered from—stale coffee.

Always considered a tinkerer, Sylvan decided to work on a pod system for coffee and a machine designed to brew those pods. After going through quite a bit of trial and error, Sylvan reached out to his old college friend to help him develop a business plan and get the ball rolling on improving office coffee.

Peter Dragone was working at Chiquita as director of finance when Sylvan reached out to him with his idea. After discussing their goals and aspirations, the two men got together to form the company known as Keurig in 1992. It wasn’t long after that they added a third partner, Dick Sweeney, to the team.

The unusual company name came into play after Sylvan looked up the word for excellence in Dutch. They felt their coffee pods and brewing system would bring excellence to the world of coffee. So, with a name, a concept, and a plan, the Keurig company was born.

coffee pods
Image Credit: rawf8, Shutterstock

Finding Financial Backing

Sylvan, Dragone, and Sweeney knew they needed financial backing to get their idea off the ground. The prototypes of their brewing machine were unreliable and still considered a work in progress. To truly make them good enough for office use, money was needed for proper development.

The team decided to reach out to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee company, as potential investors. Interested in the concept, Green Mountain signed on in hopes of not only providing financial backing but their expertise in coffee as well.

Unfortunately, the new financial backers didn’t make things smooth sailing for the man who first envisioned the Keurig coffee machine. John Sylvan didn’t seem to take to new people getting involved, especially as Green Mountain brought in even more people and backers into the fold. In 1997, he left the company, selling his part of Keurig for only $50,000. His original partner, Peter Dragone, followed soon after.

The Launch of the Keurig Coffee Machine

The first Keurig coffee machine was offered for use in offices in 1998. By working with Green Mountain and several other coffee companies, the Keurig company was able to provide specialty coffee flavors in single-serve pods. This was a great way to appeal to office workers and lower their need to visit shops like Starbucks on their way to work each morning.

The first Keurig machines were considered quite large and were hooked up to an office’s water supply. These machines were even offered to coffee shops to help them answer the high demand of their customers. When the introduction of hot chocolate and tea pods was introduced, Keurig knew they had a hit on their hands. Especially, when the demand for an in-home version of the machine was being demanded.

Keurig K-Cafe Coffee Maker

The Keurig Comes Home

Creating a Keurig coffee maker that was small enough to fit on the kitchen counter while being affordable for families to buy took a bit of time. While the company was relying mostly on the sales of their K-Cups to the offices and coffee shops who’d purchased the original brewing machines, they embarked on expanding and answering the demands of coffee lovers worldwide.

In 2004, an at-home Keurig coffee machine hit the market. This didn’t stop the company from trying to improve on their idea though. Over the next few years, the company worked diligently to create an even smaller, “razorblade” model that took off. This model exploded the company’s sales and made K-Cups, the single-serve pods, a part of most supermarket isles.

Green Mountain Coffee Brewers Acquire Keurig

Over the years of working with the Keurig company, Green Mountain had slowly been accumulating more ownership. In 2006, full ownership of the Keurig company was taken by Green Mountain. For coffee lovers, this marked the true combination of great-tasting coffee and an easy-to-use brewing system in one nice package.

Green Mountain didn’t stop there, however. The success of the K-Cup allowed them to branch off and work with other companies such as Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. By providing K-Cups of other specialty coffee brands, more users were able to enjoy great-tasting coffee, at home, one cup at a time.

In 2018, Keurig Green Mountain decided to merge with the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. With this combination, a Keurig home bar and other creative ideas were born. Now known as Keurig Dr. Pepper, the company hopes to make more drinks available for quick-serve using their K-Cup design.

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Wrapping up

While the original creator of the Keurig and the K-Cup model, John Sylvan, now feels his invention is damaging to the environment, it’s hard not to see the convenience he brought to the world. The Keurig coffee machine and pods are now found in almost every home, office, and business you visit. His vision, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ ability to run with it, have made lives easier for coffee lovers for years. Next time you pop your favorite K-Cup in your Keurig, you may want to thank them for it.

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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