Ahh…the coffee break. It’s a great way to connect with co-workers. It can give you a much-needed boost mid-morning or mid-afternoon. But so often the coffee at the office is abysmal.
Sometimes it’s your turn to make the coffee. You’ve sallied into the break room, favorite mug in hand. But the coffee pot is empty. The dastardly fiend that took the last cup didn’t heed the sign on the wall. This sign clearly indicates that if you take the last cup you should make more. Maybe the sign even has a picture of Spock to bring gravity to this social contract.
You take this as an opportunity to show the team how it’s done. You boldly step up and take your turn. You selflessly stand, mug in hand, protecting the pot until the machine has poured out its last drop.
So, why does the coffee still suck? You followed the best online advice you could find. You made sure that no one robbed the pot. You made sure that the ratios were right. You did everything! So, Why??
Well, here are a few reasons and a few suggestions:
The Coffee Quality is Low
Coffee can bust an office budget. The solution? Buy something cheap. Also, cleanup and preparation take time away from office tasks. Solution? Buy something convenient.
When you combine convenience and economy you can usually expect awful results. Enter the Pre-Ground coffee filter packs! These are terrible – but horribly convenient. These are usually bad in multiple ways. The grind is usually off. The dose is usually low. The quality is usually far less than specialty grade. And the freshness is an absolute afterthought.
Here are a few places to acquire good coffee:
And don’t forget your local farmer’s market!
However, it’s not all about the coffee…
The Brewing Equipment is Dirty
Has anyone ever cleaned the coffee maker?
Coffee has oils that can go rancid over time. It also has sugars that can assist in growing mold. It can be glorious or gruesome.
If the brewing equipment is never cleaned you can even wind up getting sick. Never mind taste – we’re talking health! Here are a few resources to help you clean your brewer at home and at work:
Make sure you check out the Gathering Grounds article. Personally, I detest the vinegar method.
Of course, you could go for straight citric acid:
But, it’s not all about cleanliness… (It’s next to godliness, you know?)
The Water is Plain Tap (or worse)
Where does the water come from that goes into the brewer? Is there a water line from the sink? Does it have a filter? Does everyone just use the tap water at the sink to fill up the reservoir? Is that water filtered? Do you see a theme?
Most tap water is terrible in coffee. Chlorine makes the coffee bitter. Would you make coffee with pool water? No. Sometimes bio-film develops in old water lines. Who wants that in their coffee? Do some poking around and see where the water is coming from.
You want to use filtered water. Really. So, install an under-sink filter for all to use at work. Not allowed? Bring in a Brita or other filtered water pitcher. Label it just for coffee use. Or use it for drinking water too. Just make sure to change the filter regularly.
The Real Solution?
Who manages the break room? Ask what you could do to help. Don’t think you can sell him or her on better coffee conditions for work?
Offer to clean and maintain the equipment. Suggest an office pool to offset the cost for better beans. Some members of that pool may want to form a “coffee task force.” You could train the members of the task force. Proper preparation and cleanup will assure better results. You could also offer to buy the coffee yourself for a partial reimbursement. Of maybe just buy it outright.
Bottom line: If the quality increases, tastes will change. The expectations will change. This may lead to a change in supply and demand. If the coffee is better, more people will stay in the office for the next coffee break. More work and conversations will occur in the office, instead of the coffee shop. Making better coffee in the office could bring about a change in morale and productivity.
See if you can sell that to the office manager.
If you can’t, do what you can do. Your co-workers will thank you.