Coffee throughout the ages has played an important and often critical role in people’s lives and daily operation. Be it in the halls of the bais medrash, at work, or even waking in the morning, many individuals look toward coffee as a vital boost to their daily energy. In fact, this beverage is so important to some that the Mishna Berura (89:22) rules that one may drink unsweetened black coffee before Shacharis in the morning, so that he will be able to daven with the proper concentration. This seemingly innocuous beverage has been almost universally accepted as kosher, with little issue regarding the vessels used, as most coffee machines are dedicated only for coffee.
Recent technological advances in the beverage industry have allowed for private individuals to enjoy the taste of fresh brewed coffee — once the exclusive domain of coffee houses — in the privacy of their own home or workplace. This remarkable machine, known as a Keurig® brewer, allows one to brew coffee through the use of specially patented K-Cup® packs in a matter of seconds. Keurig brewers allow for specific varieties and blends for each individual, without having to make large batches or wait long periods of time for it to brew. Although this may seem very simple and easy to the average consumer, numerous halachic components need to be addressed to maintain the kashrus of the brewer. Included in these topics are the possibility of non-certified K-Cup® packs, kashering, Pesach status, and tevilas kaylim.
Q: Are there any K-Cup® packs which are not certified kosher, or are they all kosher?
A: As of this writing (February 2012) Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., the makers of the K-Cup® packs, has two brands of K-Cup® packs that are not certified kosher: Café Escapes® and Swiss Miss®. Additionally, there are a number of K-Cup® packs that are certified kosher dairy.
Q: Is it possible for someone to create their own “K-Cup” with mystery flavors, thus potentially causing the Keurig to be non-kosher?
A: Yes! It should be noted that it is possible to purchase reusable cartridges that fit into Keurig machines that can be filled with any brand of coffee/cocoa/tea. Therefore, while it is true that most K-Cup packs are kosher and pareve, one should not immediately assume that any Keurig machine may be used.
Q: I am at work and my co-worker placed his non-kosher mug underneath the spout. Can I use this afterwards? I was in the yeshiva lunch room and I saw Shimon pour milk into his coffee while his K-Cup® pack was brewing. If I make a coffee in the Keurig and then eat the yeshiva’s signature “Meat Surprise,” can I drink my coffee while munching on this delectable fleishig delicacy?
A: The Mishnah (Machshirin 5:10) says that pouring a hot ta’hor liquid into a cold tamei liquid does not form a chibur l’tumah. The Mordechai relates this halacha to issur v’heter as well. Therefore, the non-kosher mug will not affect the kashrus of the Keurig machine. Similarly, if one placed a mug with milk underneath a pareve Keurig machine, there is no need to kasher. Even though zeiya from the mug will rise up to the Keurig, the spout – which is hot – will deflect the zeiya from the kli sheini.
Q: The Keurig was used for an uncertified flavor just minutes ago. Can I kasher it by just running a cycle of hot water?
A: In an office environment where it is not possible to idle the Keurig for 24 hours (i.e. the machine is used every day by co-workers with potentially non-kosher or dairy K-Cup® packs), one may be lenient to kasher the Keurig machine without waiting 24 hours. One should wipe out the cup holder all around (inside and underneath) with damp paper towels and then run hot water through the machine so that it touches all surfaces. It has been found that ripping out the bottom of a Styrofoam cup and placing it over the bottom of the cup holder will cause the holder to fill with hot water.
Kashering with irui is acceptable since the Keurig machine works through irui. The few ounces of hot coffee that run through these pipes do not qualify as an extended irui. In industrial settings we view the flow of product through the pipes as a continuation of the kli rishon, because the irui of hundreds of gallons of water for an extended period of time saturates the walls of the pipes such that there are no difanos mikareros. This obviously does not take place in a Keurig machine. Therefore, any non-kosher bliyos would not penetrate further than a k’dei klipa of the piping. By running a cup of hot water through the pipes there will definitely be more than shishim k’neged this k’dei klipa1. Although Rema (O.C. 452:2 as explained by Pri Migadim) writes that the minhag is not to kasher ben yomo kailim even if one will have shishim, in shas hadchak situations, one may be maikel2.
Q: In my heimishe office, someone by accident treifed up the Keurig Brewer. Can it be kashered?
A: The Keurig machine is mostly made of plastic. While there are differing opinions as to whether plastic can be kashered for Pesach, the prevailing opinion is that for year-round use one may kasher plastic. Therefore, if one purchased a used Keurig machine they may kasher it by cleaning out the cup holder, making sure it has not been used in 24 hours and then kashering by running hot water through the system.
Q: The other week I was driving, and saw a sign for a garage sale. Naturally, I pulled over to see what they had. Lo and behold they had a used Keurig machine for sale. Can I buy it and kasher it?
A: According to what we just said, if one purchased a used Keurig machine, they may kasher it by cleaning out the cup holder, ascertaining that it has not been used in 24 hours and then kashering by running hot water through the system.
Q: I am desperate for my Keurig brewed coffee, can my private Keurig be kashered for Pesach?
A: Although regular unflavored coffee grounds are always kosher for Pesach, many of the flavored K-Cup® packs are not. Therefore one may not use their year-round or office Keurig on Pesach. What about kashering the machine? Aside from the issue of whether one may kasher plastic for Pesach, there is also a question as to whether one may kasher narrow tubing. Magen Avrohom (O.C. 452:11) says that narrow tubes that cannot be scrubbed clean should not be kashered for Pesach. Others are more maikel if hot detergent is poured through those tubes3, since the detergent is an effective cleanser. Additionally, the detergent serves as a davar ha’pogem.
Q: Are there any K-Cup varieties that are kosher for Pesach? I just love “Extra Bold Fair Trade Organic Sumatran Reserve”?
A: For those wishing to invest in a new Keurig machine, there are indeed several dozen K-Cup® packs that are acceptable for Pesach, even though they are not labeled OU-P. A complete list is available on the OU website (www.oukosher.org/products). Oh, and yes, it is acceptable for Pesach without special certification.
Q: Does a Keurig require tevilas kaylim? Isn’t it basically a computer?
A: Unlike most other hot water urns that can withstand being dunked in water, so long as they are properly dried, the Keurig machine has a digital component that cannot survive getting wet. Additionally, even if one were to attempt to toivel a Keurig machine, the inner chamber will not fill with water. Water will only enter the inside chamber by being pumped through. So tevila is not really an option.
Rav Yisroel Belsky, the OU halachic decider (posek), holds that we may view the Keurig machine as a plastic kli, which is exempt from tevila. This is because the entire visible machine is indeed plastic. The metal receptacle and element which are in the recesses of the machine are not accessible. Although there are two pins that pierce and inject hot water into the K-Cup® pack, it is not clear that these pins require tevila. It is possible that they are like a can opener. If one wishes to remove the pins and toivel them, with some cajoling they can be removed (at least in some models).
Q: How does one obviate the need for tevilas kaylim?
A: If one sells a portion of the Keurig machine to a non-Jew, this would alleviate any question of tevila, because even a kli that is owned bi’shutfos (partnership) with a non-Jew is exempt from tevila4. Likewise, if an office has a coffee service contract that supplies and owns the Keurig machine then there is no chiyuv tevila, so long as the service company is at least partially owned by non-Jews.
1. Shach Y.D. 137:11 and Taz Y.D. 137:4
2. Sefer Hagalos Kaylim Perek 6 Halacha 12
3. See Teshuvas Va’yaan Yosef O.C. 222
4. Rema Y.D. 120:11
(By Rabbi Eli Eleff and Rabbi Eli Gersten – OU Kosher Rabbinic Coordinators)