The modern workplace can be a mix of offices and cubes, hot desks and hotels, or an open floor plan where the team is now called a pod. There is one constant across every possible office configuration: the modern office runs on coffee.
Companies can choose from hundreds of coffee-making options, including the classic Hamilton Beach urn brewing 45 cups of joe at a time or the most sophisticated cappuccino robot in human history extruding impeccable no fat foam with cinnamon dust on top. How do you decide which coffee creator is best for your company?
The tastes in coffee are no less diverse at AskCody so we put together a rundown of the best options for caffeinating a modern office. Let’s get into the good, the bad, and the café con leches.
The Cafe X Coffee Robot
The Café X 2.0 is a fully automated robotic coffeebar that’s been terminating yawns in San Francisco’s Metreon mall for over a year. This bionic barista uses a six-axis robotic arm to make a variety of espresso, matcha, and cold brew coffee drinks. This is a fast way to get your team a real, effector made cup of coffee – the Café X can product about two high quality espresso drinks a minute. Regulars can order using an app that saves their precise drink profile.
Like most hardware automation, training and human intervention is still required. A coffee ambassador has to come at least once a day to refill the machines. You may need to leverage that ambassador to coax people into initially trying the machine, just like how Café X handles foot-traffic at the Metreon. Pricing hasn’t been announced, so a coffee robot may also cost you more than the $250,000 average price of a coffee café buildout.
When you just can’t get that shot of espresso fast enough, the Nespresso machine will hit you with a single or double faster than you can scroll through your Instagram feed. Each single-serving pod of coffee comes with the feel good fact that the Nespresso company is an industry leader in fair trade. The company – a division of Nestle – has even trained coffee farmers and revived coffee production in war-weary South Sudan.
But every coffee pod has a dark side. The majority of Nespresso’s single serving aluminum pods end up in landfills. These pods are energy intensive to make and are not biodegradable. That means billions of dollars’ worth of coffee pods are added to landfills each year, where they will sit for the next 150 to 500 years. Even those that are recycled – of which no accurate numbers have been released – require an incredible amount of energy to shred. Those coffee consumers who are allured by that quick high-quality dose of caffeine also have to be able to swallow the environmental implications.
Nespresso pods are a perfect fit for 24 hour offices
Pourover coffee cups are efficient and low waste, some new models don't even require a paper filter. This single-serving coffee option is an excellent choice for those who are conscious of the waste produced every day in the modern office. And coffee snobs will tell you the process of pourover requires a little bit of expertise but creates the best tasting, freshest brew.
The argument can be made that pourover coffee is inefficient, requiring the brewer to spend a little bit more time in the office kitchen while producing a single serving. It's much harder to share a pourover than a french press. Small offices may not also have the space to set up multiple pourover stations or boil water quickly enough to make this method mainstream.
Pourover cups are a perfect fit for publishers and content creators
The French Press is the most social coffee option for the modern office. It allows for a whole conversation to develop while the grounds slowly steep into the hot water. The smell is also intoxicating – a great way to show a new client or employee that you care about their experience.
All of the French Press’ good qualities are also the worst. This is the only option on the list that takes longer than the pour-over. The intoxicating smell can travel pretty far, especially in an open office. And the most social of your team members could easily spend half an afternoon enticing formerly-busy coworkers into conversations.
Ze French Press is a perfect fit for an ad agency
Automated Coffee kiosks
When speed and caffeine are more important than the level of quality of the coffee, the coffee kiosk serves as today’s modern water cooler. Coffee kiosks produce a reliably mediocre cup of coffee every time. These machines are easy to clean and store. And depending on what the office orders, come with a wide variety of coffee and other drink blends, such as hot chocolate and tea. Many coffee kiosks can serve up to 1,200 cups a day without any maintenance required.
As with most high volume food options though, the coffee produced is usually relatively low quality for the same price of most other coffee brewing machines that deliver higher quality brews. We like to think of the coffee kiosk as the cubicle farm of caffeinated beverages. It’s not pretty, it’s almost always complained about, but it gets the job done.
Coffee kiosks are a perfect fit for Fortune 1000 enterprises
The Classic Mr. Coffee
You can’t get much more reliable than a good old-fashioned Mr. Coffee. This no-frills, low-energy coffee option is for the coffee purist. Mr. Coffee is the 501 jeans of the coffee world - it can be found in almost every home and it just works. Many hipsters and your dad agree: You cannot go wrong with Mr. Coffee.
Perhaps this is why the first ever webcam was set up to monitor the coffee pot that sat outside the computer laboratory at the University of Cambridge, England. A live video feed of the coffee pot was delivered to all desktop computers connected to the network, saving scientists the disappointment of discovering an empty pot the next time they went for their coffee refill.
The cons, however, include that feeling you get when you walk into the office kitchen and see a pot of coffee sitting on the counter. You have no idea when or how strongly it was brewed, how long it’s been sitting there, who brewed it in the first place. Is it Starbucks Blonde or from a bucket of Maxwell House?
Tired of trekking down to the company cafeteria every time he wanted a cup of coffee, my ever-practical father brought in his own Mr. Coffee to his private office. But because no one was sharing that daily pot, he ended up drinking the entire thing himself every day and eventually gave himself a stomach ulcer. That was the end of private Mr. Coffee for my dad and should be a word of caution to others, for goodness’ sake just walk to the cafeteria.
Mr. Coffee is a perfect fit for a scrappy boot-strapped startup
Your Local Coffee Shop
Setting up a company account at the local coffee shop is an excellent way to support community roots, promote the buy-local economic model, and encourage employees to get some fresh air a few times a day. This has the double benefit of establishing real corporate stewardship and supporting the health and socialization needs of employees.
Additionally, many employees across industries have found breaking the routine of the office environment and setting up shop at the local coffee shop serves a healthy boost to the bottom line. An MIT Media Lab study found that group coffee breaks can increase productivity. Maybe it’s the smell of coffee in the air or the hum of murmured conversations but many workers can be found productively pounding away at laptops and tablets in coffee shops everywhere. A company account at the local shop further encourages this flexible working scenario for non-traditional workstyles.
Managing another vendor relationship introduces some additional management overhead, especially with an unsophisticated local coffee shop. There are some easy workarounds here, like buying gift certificates in bulk or having a corporate coffee card at the reception desk. Wicked winter weather may not be conducive to coffee breaks.
A local coffee shop is the perfect fit for a hip scale up
The in-office coffee shop
On the other hand, many companies who pride themselves on state-of-the-art office setups bring the local coffee shop directly into the office. Why not have the best amenities right in your office? This style of company culture emphasizes luxury and convenience in an attempt to attract and keep top talent.
RetailMeNot, pictured above, believes an in-house, full service coffee bar promotes intra-office community when employees mingle while waiting for their coffee. Patrons have access to every variety of coffee available at most coffee shops, and freshness and quality can’t be topped. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of brewing coffee and burning venture capital to really get the fingers flying over keyboards?
Nothing says venture capital bubble like an in-office coffee shop. This is a costly project that involves multiple departments with significant capex and opex costs. It can also backfire on employee morale if you encourage using a new, in-house coffee shop that serves bad coffee.
An in-office coffee shop is the perfect fit for an Austin unicorn
Ah, the Aeropress. A favored device of coffee nerds, tinkerers, and engineers. The Aeropress uses a tube of forced air pressure to extract the flavor from the coffee grounds for a single cup of coffee. It produces coffee with similar flavor profile of an espresso and the short brewing time reduces acidity*. This is also the most scientific-looking coffee creator on the list with a very cool apparatus that developers will find irresistible.
The Aeropress may look harmless, but it has had disastrous results in offices, especially those with expensive, portable technologies resting on seemingly every surface. Here we submit evidence A:
AskCody’s Head of Marketing has experienced the despair of the Aeropress (human) error at two “cool” coworking spaces. There is nothing that makes you feel less cool faster than an explosion of hot water and coffee grinds soaking your khakis. When it comes to the quest of that perfect cup of caffeinated goodness, we can’t fault him for trying.
An Aeropress is the perfect fit for the R&D department
There’s no denying that unlimited access to caffeine has improved the lives of office workers. In the days when coffee options vary wildly, it’s good corporate policy to provide your employees with plenty of options. And please make ours a double.