What do the buttons on a Keurig do?

Close-up of woman inserting single-serve K-cup into a Keurig coffee maker.

You’ve finally unboxed your brand-new Keurig machine. You plug it in, fill it with water, place a coffee pod, and gently set your favorite mug down on the drip tray. You eagerly await your expertly brewed coffee, but you realize one thing: you have no idea what all of these buttons mean.

To make your cup of coffee, press the power button first to turn the machine on. Then, press the cup icon that looks the closest to your mug. If you want it strong, press the “STRONG” button first before choosing the cup size.

Still confused? Don’t be; we’ll walk you through what each button and indicator means on your Keurig machine.

Buttons You Can Find on a Keurig Coffee Brewer

Unless you bought a Keurig K-Mini, which only has one giant “Brew” button, chances are your Keurig machine has more buttons than you know what to do with. Let’s use a Keurig K-Elite machine as an example and go through each button’s function in detail. Your machine may have less than what’s included here, but the concept should stay the same.

On/Off Button

The power button has a self-explanatory icon, so it’s hard to miss. It’s usually at the top of the machine’s LED display; if the device doesn’t have a display, the button will be at the top of the lid. Once you press it, the button should illuminate green, and the entire machine should come to life.

Once you press this button, wait a few minutes before asking it to make your coffee. That’s because it needs to heat the water first, which takes about three minutes after powering up the machine. There will be quite a bit of noise as it heats the water, but it’ll quiet down once it’s finished.

Cup Size

Most of the confusion stems from the different cup icon buttons, but they’re really for the volume of the cup or mug you’re using. If you have the K-Elite machine, you’ll notice five different cup buttons depicting different sizes and shapes. Here’s what they mean:

● Extra small cup – located right below the “STRONG” button, this is for 4 ounces’ worth of hot water. Perfect for espresso-style drinks.

● Small cup – directly to the right of the extra small cup. Delivers six ounces of hot water.

● Small mug – sitting on the leftmost side of the second row of cup icons. This is for 8 ounces. You can also use this to start a cleansing brew.

● Large mug – right next to the small mug is the button for 10 ounces of hot water.

● Travel mug – the rightmost button on the second row gives you 12 ounces of hot water.

Remember that your mug or cup doesn’t necessarily have to look exactly like the button. As long as you know its capacity, you know which button to press to get the perfect brew.


If you prefer stronger coffee, press this button before selecting your cup size. If you’ve done it right, both the “STRONG” and the cup size buttons should be illuminated as you wait for your coffee.

Hot Water

Did you know you can also use your Keurig machine to make food? If it only needs hot water to cook, such as oatmeal and instant noodles, simply press the “HOT WATER” button.


You can make iced coffee through your Keurig machine with a bit of preparation. For this, you’ll need a 16-ounce mug and a lot of ice.

Fill your 16-ounce mug with ice, then place it on the drip tray. Once the machine is powered on and ready to go, press the “ICED” button. The machine knows the exact amount of water needed, so there’s no need to worry about the melted ice watering down your brew.


Keurig’s LED display usually just shows you the time, but it also gives you information about custom settings. For example, a mountain icon on the screen means your machine is in high-altitude mode. A sun or moon icon indicates the Auto On or Auto Off functionality is active.

Keurig Indicator LEDs

Now that you know what the buttons mean, it’s time to decipher what the indicator LEDs mean. They’re typically right underneath the display screen and only illuminate if there’s an issue.

Add Water

This indicator is self-explanatory; check the water reservoir if it’s blinking or solid. The water is likely below the minimum and can no longer supply enough water to make a cup. Simply pour more water into the reservoir until it reaches the MAX line, and try again.

If the indicator is still illuminated even after you’ve added water, try turning the machine off and on again. Then, remove the reservoir carefully before placing it back into its slot again. If none of these solutions work, contact the manufacturer for help.


Constant use of your Keurig machine will leave calcium and lime deposits in the water reservoir. This is normal and more prevalent in areas with hard water. If the “DESCALE” light is illuminated, it’s time to clean it.

Even if this light isn’t on, you should still descale your machine once every 3-6 months. Do it more frequently if you use your machine daily or have hard water. By getting ahead of schedule, you help your Keurig machine perform its best every time.

How To Use the Keurig Machine

Now that we know what each button and LED means, it’s time to make a cup of coffee. Here’s how you use it:

  1. Press the power button, then wait for the machine to finish heating the water.
  2. Decide if you want a stronger coffee or iced coffee. If you want neither of these, skip to the next step.
  3. If you want a stronger coffee, press “STRONG” and then the size of your mug.
  4. If you want iced coffee, fill a 16-ounce container with ice, then press “ICED”.
  5. Select the appropriate button based on the size of your mug. The sizes are 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 ounces.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?


Using a Keurig machine is neither scary nor complicated. You may encounter a bunch of buttons, but they’re not that hard to understand once you learn what each one does. On normal operations, you’ll only be pushing one or two buttons to make your coffee.

The next time you feel overwhelmed with the number of buttons on your device, take a step back and breathe. With the help of guides like this, you’ll learn how to use your Keurig machine without feeling like a rocket scientist.