We’re sharing our real-world experience of choosing the best office coffee maker ever.
It’s Monday morning and you can’t wait to cuddle up at your desk with your free cup of office coffee. You drop your bags at your workspace and head to the office coffee maker in the kitchen, but the glass coffee decanter is empty.
Even though you didn’t finish the last cup, you’re forced to do the dirty work of brewing a fresh pot and have to wait an excruciating twenty minutes for caffeine to hit your bloodstream. Now your entire Monday is ruined because someone was selfish and didn’t feel like following the social customs of the coffee maker.
If you’re looking to avoid this scenario, along with other coffee machine pet peeves, follow along with our story of how we chose the best office coffee maker.
Growing quickly? Moving offices? It’s time for a new coffee maker.
Circa January 2016, we were adding headcount and realized a new office space was on the horizon. We already had a "bean to cup" Jura coffee machine, but we knew that wouldn't be able to handle everyone's needs on its own. With additional caffeine addicts to feed and a brand new space to deck out, my brave colleagues Brendan and Chris realized it was time to pitch the acquisition of a new office coffee machine.
Our advice to you: plan ahead and find the right time to propose the idea. Here are some opportune times to plot your coffee machine strategy:
- Renovating the office
- Moving into a new space
- Adding headcount rapidly
- Recently secured funding
If your current coffee situation is nonexistent or straight garbage, you could also use those scenarios as a reason to upgrade. You may need to use additional powers of persuasion by showing the benefits of offering free coffee in the first place or by taking a colleague taste survey if the current stuff simply doesn’t taste good.
What kind of coffee machines are out there for office use?
Natural coffee aficionados, Brendan and Chris had a good idea of what they wanted but weren’t sure what the full landscape looked like for commercial coffee machines. To research the topic, they talked to local coffee shop Gracenote, where they had become regulars while at the old office.
If you feel unsure of the options, talk to friends in other companies with great coffee setups, or make friends with the owner of a local coffee spot. We learned that our office essentially goes through the same amount of coffee per day as a coffee shop in a small town, so it would be appropriate to level up to an industrial coffee maker. Here are the subcategories for the field of office coffee makers (there's not a strict naming standard, so we tried to organize them in a way that made sense):
- Multi Cup
- Basic Coffee Maker
- Commercial Multi Cup Decanter
- Commercial Multi Cup Thermos
- Commercial Multi Cup Urn
- Commercial Single Cup
- Single Serve Pod
- With Water Tank
- With Water Line
- Bean to Cup
- Espresso/Cappuccino Specialist
- All Specialty Coffee
- Barista Style
- Espresso Machine
There is one other option to install the ever trendy cold brew tap, which we’ll be covering in the near future.
What characteristics should I look for in an office coffee maker?
Resident coffee snobs Brendan and Chris specifically wanted to upgrade the taste of our coffee, lessen the maintenance required, and increase the overall output so no one was waiting around in the morning. Our existing machine’s biggest headache was that every dozen cups or so, you had to refill the water tank and clean the grounds out. Then, once a month, Chris had to take an hour out of his busy schedule to thoroughly clean the entire thing, in a process that sounds so complicated that I can’t even explain it here.
For your office, you’ll want to consider all of the following factors:
- How many people and cups of coffee does the machine need to support daily?
- How many cups can you brew at the same time?
- What kind of cup size options are there?
- How long does it take to brew?
- What is your budget?
- Do we have to start small or can we go crazy and hire a full-time barista?
- What do your own resident coffee snobs think of the taste and quality of each option?
- What kind of coffee does the machine cater to -- if you go with a coffee machine vendor, are you limited by the vendor’s partners?
- Or does the machine only use pods?
Do people want a variety of coffees available? This is a big deal, because if you skimp on quality then you’ll see employees constantly leaving to get coffee and miss the mark on the benefit before it's even used.
- What is the process for one person to make a cup or pot of coffee?
- Is it complicated or pretty straightforward?
- Is it a shared responsibility where one person makes a new pot every 12 cups?
- Or is it an individual responsibility?
- Does the machine grind beans or do you need a separate grinder?
- Do all employees or a designated person have to clean the machine?
- How often do you have clean it?
- How long does it take to clean?
- Environmental impact:
- Are you looking for the most sustainable option?
- Do you want it to have a hot water tap for the tea drinkers?
- Do you want it to be water line compatible so no one has to refill a tank?
If you're overwhelmed by the options, you can also go the full-service vendor route, but be prepared to pay more and be limited in terms of certain choices.
What we learned in the process of finding our office coffee machine:
- The taste makes or breaks it. Focusing on the taste allows people to feel fully comfortable and supported in the office. Great tasting coffee can encourage employees to come to the office instead of working remotely and stay in the office instead of heading out for a coffee break (not that there’s anything wrong with flexible working).
- Don't be afraid of high costs. The more expensive options can be worthwhile if it saves time when people are making a cup of coffee, performing maintenance, or cleaning the machine. They are often truly industrial machines that are more durable, too.
- Putting in a water line is not that scary. Water lines are easy enough to put in, especially if you already have a kitchen setup or you are moving/renovating offices. Ask your ops colleague to put in a request with your building. It will save employees a lot of time and annoyances not having to fill up a tank.
Everyone's least favorite coffee machine message[/caption]
- A shared pot of coffee is not as easy as it sounds.Multi-cup options could result in the tragedy of the commons when the shared benefit becomes a lose-lose situation. Some offices use the motto of “Kill the Joe? Make some mo’,” but then the first person has to wait 20 minutes for a fresh cup, the next set of people may encounter a stale cup, and usually the last person sneaks away without setting up a fresh pot (the WORST!).
So, what did office coffee maker did we go with?
Why is it so great?
- Produces great tasting coffee, partially because it has perfect water temperatures -- even the snobbiest of snobs agree
- Brews 1-2 fresh cups at a time and each cup takes anywhere from 1-4 minutes, depending on the size. With 40+ people looking forward to coffee every day, no one waits in line
- Has a direct water line so no one has to refill the tank
- No cleaning required besides dumping the filter and beans after use (which takes approximately 0.5 seconds)
- Has a hot water tap for the tea drinkers
- You can customize the preset cup sizes. Be warned: 12oz is a full 12oz, so drop it down to 11oz if you want to be able to carry your mug anywhere!
What we wish someone told us beforehand:
The single cup filter process is not as complicated as we thought. Our fancy new machine requires each employee to place a new filter in one of the baskets and measure out a serving of grounds. So far, no one has had any issues learning the Robin way. Brendan and Chris were more worried about this than they should have been, but that also helped them over-explain the steps and led to a smooth transition for our new Curtis coffee machine.
We added an easy taste upgrade by adding a bean grinder and switched from pre-ground to whole beans. Anyone using grounds can do this. Also, you don’t have to be whole-bean only! You can have whole beans for the snobs, and grounds for the lazy. Though people don’t seem to mind the few seconds it takes to grind beans in our office. - Chris, Robin's Coffee Expert
How do you get a new coffee maker approved?
For our coffee saviors, their argument was all about saving people time. Focus on the productivity and time savings associated with employees coming to the office, staying in the office, getting coffee faster, and not having to clean and maintain it.
How do you onboard the office to a new coffee machine?
Pretty quickly Brendan and Chris learned that people refuse to read instructions until someone teaches them in person, and then the reaction is, “Oh, that’s easy.” The guys decided to post in Slack with photo instructions and a video and gif. Nowadays, department heads are in charge of teaching the new people the way. I learned on my first day in a matter of seconds, so you know it has to be pretty straightforward. If you go with a slightly more complex coffee maker, like we did, then you can follow the same path we took. If the benefit is really great, free coffee, chances are people will listen up and brew away.
We hope you enjoyed our journey to the world’s greatest office coffee, and wish you the best luck in being your office’s coffee champion. It’s a big responsibility, but someone’s gotta do it. Afterall, better coffee makes for a better workplace. And we’re all about that.