Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Keurig

Ryan McIlvain
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readJan 17, 2018


A decision by Keurig to stop advertising on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program has prompted supporters of the conservative host to destroy the company’s coffee makers — often posting footage of the results on social media. — The Associated Press, November 13, 2017


An old friend and new mother took to Facebook the other day looking for survival tips: Keurig or Nespresso? I mounted my soapbox immediately, earnestly, said my piece, and stepped back down. Then I noticed how most of her confrères and consoeurs, strangers to me, much preferred the fancier espresso maker. Well, fine, I thought, if you’re looking to come down a little from your champagne breakfasts or work the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in your silken bed sheets while the butler brings over the tiny white cups on a gleaming tray —


I’m a man of the people myself, a populist, maybe not quite as humble or populist as the billionaire real estate mogul pushing through tax breaks for major corporations from the White House, but pretty humble, pretty populist. It’s what it means to be a Keurig user — you understand the baser needs.


And the need to suppress them sometimes, smash them, throw them from multistory buildings, tee off on them with your golf iron in your cold-looking garage, in the name of something bigger than yourself.


My own Keurig sits undestroyed in my kitchen a few feet from where I write these lines. I love my coffee maker, use it every day. I do substitute out the rather wasteful K-Cup coffee pods for the biodegradable versions from the San Francisco Bay Coffee Company — Fog Chaser, Rainforest Blend, French Roast. My Keurig allows me to do this. My Keurig is intuitive, clean of design, easy to maintain, companionable.


My Keurig — waxing briefly theological — is the ground or the condition of possibility of just about any day of my life, especially weekdays.


Most mornings I’m up at five to get some writing in. I sway out to the kitchen, slot my favorite porcelain mug under the dispenser. It makes a reassuring clatter against the perforated metal drip guard underneath it. The coffee pod, earthen-looking, like a promising bulb, goes into the dispenser and comes out as coffee. Lately I’ve been on a Fog Chaser kick — no sweeteners, no creamers needed. My ideas take on more clarity and edge within minutes, images emerge from the fog. Then two hours have passed and my four-year-old James is usually scraping back the study door, smiling shyly into the new day, his oaken hair crazed, sans his glasses.


I suppose it’s more accurate to say that James is the ground or condition of possibility of any daytime meaning, especially weekday meaning, since James first created the conditions or “grounds” for the Keurig to come into our lives.


My wife Sharon and I took walks in our West L.A. neighborhood almost every night, pushing the stroller until its mewling wriggling cargo went quiet. That routine never staled off, never stretched into the flat featureless landscape you might expect it to, but then my wife and I like to walk and talk together, and most nights included a pit stop at Starbucks or The Spot or somewhere else. By the time James spoke his first word — on one of our evening walks — Sharon and I were blowing easily $250, sometimes $300, $400 a month on coffee. For Christmas that year my brother-in-law sent us the Keurig 2.0 that he swore by. It arrived at our apartment after the holidays, actually, since we hadn’t wanted to open the thing, a sleek affront, in front of Sharon’s practicing Mormon parents.


We’d both grown up Mormon, Sharon and I, and had abided for most of our lives by the Mormon Word of Wisdom that forbids coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco. One night in the heady early days of our relationship, Sharon came home from a work party tasting of red wine. I caught the tang on her kiss. I recoiled inwardly — I couldn’t help myself. I hadn’t shaken the training yet, much later to detach from the church than Sharon, later to wipe its strong taste from my moral palette.


My Keurig is the plastic arm of my rebellion, my shield against God, fear, death, all totalities.


My Keurig is the steam heat beneath my wings, the draft on which I think or dream or do any decent sentence-making before 7:30 a.m., from which I survey the word, trying to understand it a little.


I send my thoughts and sympathies down to the Keurig destroyers on the mornings after, the weeks after. How soft and undefended they must look (I’m picturing mostly men here) in their flannel pajama bottoms and cotton socks, trudging out to their cold kitchens in the morning — They hitch their step, remembering. Then they grab their keys off the counter. Fine, whatever. They’ll just go get a Starbucks.


Oh, right. Starbucks too.

Ryan McIlvain’s latest novel, The Radicals, is due out February 13.



Ryan McIlvain
Human Parts

Novelist and essayist, author of THE RADICALS, most recently—proud Floridian, mostly. Website: