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Coffee at work: When will we hit the tipping point?

The coffee at my job is terrible. And when I think about it, the coffee at all of my jobs has been terrible since I've started working. But here in the US we've gone through something of a "coffee discovery" since the late 80s. I say this because I recall that that was when we first started to see a wide array of whole beans being provided at general places like supermarkets. On top of that there are of course the ubiquitous Starbucks and other independent coffee houses. So there is this attention given to "good" coffee these days.
I was in Italy for work and on coffee break we'd take these little individual espresso bean cartridges, plug them into the coffee maker and have an excellent espresso (khaki colored foam and all). I don't see that happening anytime soon in the American office break area but anything would be an improvement to what we are getting now. When will it tip?

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  1. Wow. I don't know what your workplace rules are, but when I worked at the office, we had our own coffee maker in our common area that we purchased ourselves and bought our own (good) coffee. No Folgers for us, thanks.

    1. Probably never, as long as good coffee is expensive and bad coffee is cheap. When the company is paying, they'd rather spend money on office supplies and rent than good coffee, which makes sense to me. I've known people who brought in their own mini-coffee makers, or even those Senseo one-cup brewers, because they hated the coffee that the office provided.
      Personally, I kind of enjoy the fact that I can get better coffee outside the office. It gives me a reason to get away from work for 20 minutes to head to Starbucks.

      1. My company has a whole building to themselves, with a kitchen on each floor, and in general the coffee in the building is AWFUL. I'm "lucky" enough to work on the executive floor, and our bigwigs insisted on better coffee for our floor only! All day I see people from other floors sneak up here for our coffee, I have friends on other floors who call me to go scope out the kitchen and see if there's a fresh brew. Ha. It's no Italian espresso, but it's not bad.

        1. I know of a few places that are using pod systems with better quality coffee, so there is hope.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jzerocsk

            I worked in an office with one of those pod systems, it was great!

          2. I work in a large research institute. Almost everyone here who drinks coffee has a grinder and a french press or drip filter machine in his/her office. Enough people have electric water pots that boil water for anyone to get water. Most have really good beans.

            I would have assumed that the situation would be about the same in offices in the US. What gives?

            5 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Sam: Does the company pay for these coffee supplies at people's desks, or do the individuals bring/pay for their own supplies?

              Because yes, in the U.S., plenty of people have their own gourmet coffee kits at their desks, but they pay for the stuff themselves. but I agree with Andiereed and Ajs228 above -- companies have other priorities than supplying gourmet coffee. I'm sure people will make the argument of "good coffee, happy workers, greater productivity" - whatever. I'd rather have more cash in my bonus (especially since I don't guzzle coffee all day long)....

              1. re: Neely_Ohara

                No, everyone pays for their own brew kit and supplies.

                I guess its pretty much the same here and there, then. Thanks.

              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I believe those electric water kettles are against fire code in most buildings.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  The last two places I worked, the owners/managers banned people from bringing their own machines, because it was a fire hazard and also unsightly to have 5 or 6 coffee machines cluttering up the kitchen.

                  Personally, I've given up hope on getting good coffee in the office. I either drink diet coke or go out for coffee if I must have a caffeine fix during the workday.

                  1. re: DanaB

                    I've also basically given up on it in the office (and it's just as well--I make my cherished first cup in the morning with freshly ground stuff and savor it while read the morning newspaper, I probably don't need any more caffeine than that)...they make it so weak that it's like tea. Occasionally, a kindred soul will double the ground coffee amount and we'll actually have a decent pot...but I have to be in the right place at the right time to even know about it. I try to tell folks that you can always fix a cup of coffee that's too strong but you cannot fix a cup of coffee that's too weak.

                2. We have a nice Keurig brewer at work but I rarely use it because I like coffee a lot stronger than what the machine brews. So I keep a Melitta plastic cone, filters, and my own coffee at hand. Sometimes I use the K-cups but only to open two of them and pour into my Melitta...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jimmy Buffet

                    I've seen those machines in quite a few of my friends' offices. Here we have a "coffee club" where people pitch in and good coffee is bought for brewing in the machine in one area. It's a small office, so it's easy to keep track of who's in the "club" and who's not.

                    My boyfriend's office has a Keurig, too, along with at least 6 coffee blends and a couple tea blends in the K-cups. They also provide creamer (not the powedered stuff). Needless to say, I drink more coffee when I visit his office than when I'm at my own. But I'm okay with just a cup or two in the morning. By the time I'm dropping in the afternoon, it's almost time to go home where my own good coffee is.

                  2. Be careful what you wish for. I worked in an office with amazing coffee from Pete's. It was so good (and the job so miserable) that I found myself making many, many trips a day to the kitchen.

                    I made so many trips, that one of my co-workers actually did a coffee intervention on me. He said part of what was making me so miserable was all that coffee. I soon left for a job that had no coffee, which was sad but I could run out for one big, good cup ( the cost of which adds up).

                    My current office has very average coffee, which is fine. I no longer feel tempted to drink more than a cup or two.

                    1. We have several choices of coffee in my office. Cafeteria has Starbs plus the regular brand and every floor has a machine. The machine is either the new Starbucks machine (takes a long time per cup because the machine grinds beans pre-brew) or individual Green Mountain Keurig-type cups in 15 varieties. My floor also has an espresso/cap machine. Likewise we have 12+ varieties of teas.

                      So i am way away from the fulcrum on the tipping scale and glad to be here.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        Dude, where do you work? Starbucks headquarters?

                        1. re: ajs228

                          lol. Most likely a Law firm. It fits a description of one outfit in Manhattan. They don't care - it all gets billed to the client!

                          1. re: welle

                            Sorry 19 question left. And i am not sure which law firms you use in NY but everyone i use has coffee and snacks for every meeting i go to and yes they bill me, the client.

                      2. My last office was on the 25th floor of a building on Miracle Mile, and there were no coffee houses in easy walking distance. The company bought the office coffee from the same people we got our paper from, so it was bad. And the cafeteria downstairs had bad coffee too. One of my coworkers brought in his own pot and almost started a fire by leaving it on overnight.

                        My previous employer stopped offering coffee at all, since everyone wanted good coffee and there were at least 3 espresso shops within 3 blocks. So everyone took a walk once or twice a day.

                        Which is better, which is worse? Now I work from home and can drink whatever I want.

                        1. I have a Senseo at home. I like it very much, & if I liked where I worked enough, I would get one for my office. I think if the prices come down more, I would bet that offices might be willing to purchase them. #1, they have an auto-off feature which prevents pots from burning up, & #2 They could tell employees to get their own pods.
                          My husband's ofc. has some other Italian brand machine, that has metal coffee pods in a variety of seemingly cool flavors. As mentioned earlier, Melitta also makes a "refillable" pod, so one isn't stuck with having to purchase $$ pre-made pods if one would prefer. The product is 2 pieces that can be filled with any grounds (tea/espresso/reg. coffee) snapped together & can then be reused.

                          1. We have the pod coffee and it's mezza mezz'. The problem is you need good quality and properly temp'ed water too. And clean, clean, clean equipment. We get none of those at my workplace, sadly.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: thegolferbitch

                              I was going to mention this, too. I think the bigger problem in offices isn't the quality of the coffee as much as not having anyone to clean the equipment. A few years ago my office switched vendors and they provided a brand new coffee maker and airpots. It wasn't the world's best coffee, but it tasted amazing compared to the old vendor's coffee.

                              But a few months later, I noticed that the coffee never tasted good anymore - no one ever cleaned any of the equipment or changed the water filter.

                            2. I will come clean...I drink Folgers at work. See the thing is, work isn't happy time. It's supposed to suck. So the coffee should be drinkable and highly caffeinated, but not delicious. Plus who can stop and enjoy their coffee when the world is supposedly burning down around them? That's why I drink good...or at least decent coffee at home, and use it to fuel myself at work.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: luniz

                                Sounds like you need to change the paradigm, Luniz.

                                When the walls are falling down around you at work, nothing better than a deep breath and a sip of good coffee. Give it a spin, no downside from your description of the current state of affairs.

                                Remember the green grass on the other side of the fence may be crab-grass and weeds.

                                1. re: luniz

                                  Wow, this is a very sad post, Luniz. It's actually sadder that you feel so strongly that work sucks -- bad coffee is a minor irritant, in that scenario.

                                2. You'd think in a newsroom we'd have better coffee. At a previous paper we had a local family-owned place bring their traveling cart to us and made lattes to order on election night. Le sigh. . .

                                  The best was when I was in Miami and was dating this guy who worked in tech support for MTV Latin America, which was headquartered in the same building as the China Grill. They had cafe con leche all day long. OMG I'd get so much work done. . .

                                  1. I wish we were at the tipping point already. At work we have this horrible coffee machine contraption that you can't open and clean. So every day it gets dirtier and the vendor people never come and clean it. Plus the older doctors that make all the decisions LIKE Folgers and that's all they buy. Needless to say, I do not drink the coffee there. I bring a french press sometimes and brew my own and get mobbed by a whole bunch of people who want what I am brewing. I should charge, I would make a fortune!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: glazebrookgirl

                                      My husband was just doing buisness in Brazil and he said the coffee in the office was amazing -- Two big carafes, one sweetened and one not, and very thick -- thicker than Turkish coffee. They served it in demitasse cups. It is enough to make someone emigrate.

                                      1. re: gridder

                                        Yes, disposable plastic demitasse cups; plus the ubiquitous (in Brasil) liquid artificial sweetner.

                                    2. Quite a timely story in yesterday's WSJ on the topic.....

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                        We have one of those starbucks machine. Takes a couple of minutes from push the button to taste. And yes it does taste very good.

                                      2. You must have had some bad experiences because most places I have worked has had really good coffee. My last two jobs we had the pods, with tons of different choices of flavors. The other ones we had Starbucks.

                                        1. It could be worse, you could be a tea drinker. Mmm, stale bags of Lipton, yum! I feel sorry for the tea lovers among us.

                                          I've always had pretty good coffee wherever I work. Where I work now we used to have mediocre coffee because our DC headquarters picked it out. We looked into it, and Peet's wasn't much more expensive so we switched. If you're so inclined, if you do a cost analysis and find coffee that's around the same price, you might be able to convince your office to switch. I should feel guilty, we get good coffee and I rarely drink it!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: writergirl

                                            Tea's easy to DIY, though. Most offices have at least a microwave, if not instant-on hot water. I keep oodles of loose tea in my office.

                                          2. As one the posts above says, it doesn't matter if you use Folgers or Starbuck's Kona or Blue Mountain---if the equipment never gets cleaned, the coffee from it is not going to taste very good.
                                            The dynamic in an office setting is that it is always someone's job to do things like cleaning the coffee maker (or washing the cups in the sink or throwing out moldy food in the commual fridge), not mine.
                                            You want good coffee, do something about it---take the lead and wash the equipment every day and/or bring in your own personal set-up with good coffee. It is not the employer's job to serve you quality coffee.

                                            1. I work in the public sector and coffee isn't provided (we are lucky to get bottled water, although actually tap water in the bay area is just fine. However, the justification for providing the bottled water is that there will be something to drink in the event of a major earthquake....)

                                              So, employees tried putting together a pool of money to make our own, but it didn't work. Our tastes in coffee, desired strength, etc just varied too much. There was also the issue that only some folks would contribute either money or time to keep the pot clean. Now those of use who drink coffee go to the espresso place downstairs.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                My coffee habit started when I had a job with two pots of Petes going at all times. The company was mismanaged and went out of business (not because of the coffee) but not before they made me into a total coffee snob! Thanks guys. Now I would rather do without than drink bad coffee. Alas, I just started a new job and there is no coffee pot at all so I brew a big pot in the morning (usually the organic D'aquino from TJs) and have really bonded with my huge travel mug .

                                                1. re: hungrydyke

                                                  I am in the Office Coffee and Vending business so I found this thread to be interesting. I have seen it all : no coffee at all to full blown $10,000 espress machines in breakrooms. We offer solutions for every scenario whether the company pays or the employees have to foot the bill. We use Keurig brewers (with or without a coin pay option), Pod brewers, conventional decanter brewing systems, Brio Vending machines (great quality single cup bean grinder based brewers, and Hot Drink Centers that offer various hot beverages including coffee, hot chocolate, and flavored drinks like English Toffee and Strawberry Steamers. Most companies view it as a "perk" for their employees and appreciate a professional service provider. It can be expensive, but to some companies (especially those owned/managed by someone that is passionate about quality coffee) it seems to be an important part of making the workplace more enjoyable.

                                              2. I've been working in silicon valley for nearly 20 years. I've never worked in a
                                                place that didn't have an espresso machine and decent coffee. No wait, I did
                                                once and I had to stash a bag of beans in the freezer and use a french press.
                                                But that job didn't last long.

                                                I used to think that Starbucks was a force for Good and would bring tasty coffee
                                                to the middle of the country where things were bad. But then they got there and
                                                it turned out all anybody wanted was CaramelMochaMarshmelloFrappoChinos.
                                                May as well drink a hot Slurpee. Things are only slightly better than before.

                                                1. Lukcy me, I have some of the world's best coffees brewing all around me every day. Then again I work in a coffeehouse that serves Intelligentsia.

                                                  The last office I worked in had the K-cups. Wasn't so bad for regular coffee, although when somebody would brew the flavored stuff, my tummy would turnover from that smell. I understand that Green Mountain has K-cups that actually garnered a 90-plus rating from Ken Davids. So if you've got a Keurig, see if your office will splurge on the Green Mountain over Starbucks or whatever else you're using.

                                                  Pods... meh. Glad I don't have to do that.

                                                  If I had to go back to a corporate office that had a Bunn with the glass carafes sitting on the hot plate until the whole office stunk of burned coffee, I think I might exercise my Second Amendment rights and just blow the thing up.

                                                  You'd think that given the number of employees who go out for coffee thus reducing productivity, that more offices would get the point and serve better coffee in their buildings.

                                                  1. I can brew a pot of coffee at 6:00 am and my insulated container keeps it hot until 4:00 pm or so. Why bother with all teh hassles of company coffee services?

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: jlawrence01

                                                      you're kidding! What brand is this? It is a thermos or a pot?

                                                      1. re: stellamystar

                                                        Thermos NCD-106NL

                                                        Avoid the Trudeau insulated containers that you find at Macy's as they don't work very well (~3 hours) and they leak.

                                                        My coffee was made at 6:30 am this morning and 110F at 7:00 pm.

                                                      2. re: jlawrence01

                                                        I have a starbucks thermos that is similar. When I am going on a 1 day trip to a place that might not have good coffee, used to bring a thermos and it would be still warm and drinkable in 24+hours if it remained closed the entire time. Can't do that now with the liquid rules at the airport.

                                                        1. re: orangewasabi

                                                          All I have to do is to locate a similar mug that holds the coffee hot until it is consumed. Fortunately, food and beverage temperature is not all that important to me.

                                                      3. I work in an office that has half a dozen coffee shops within a five minute walk, and there's always someone who is going out and offers to bring back drinks for everyone. And I keep a microwave and a water tank in my office with lots of tea. I also keep our conference room supplied with assorted tea bags next to the water cooler/heater; it makes a big difference in the all-afternoon meetings to be able to get up and get a little something. We used to have a coffee pot but too often it went uncleaned or got left on - I keep thinking about bringing in a Senseo or something similar but so far have resisted. Dunno what I'd do in one of those huge hive buildings with bad coffee and a half hour effort to get somewhere with decent brew.