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Drinkable office coffee?


dianem
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My group is moving to new offices in Toronto at the end of the year, and for my sins I’ve been put in charge of the coffee committee, charged to find some system that makes drinkable coffee instead of the usual swill. We have about 50-60 people, not all of whom are coffee drinkers.

My hope is to come up with something good enough and inexpensive enough to keep our staff in the office and not spending half an hour twice a day putting on their coats, boots and mittens and trekking down the block to Starbucks.

Has anyone ever had decent office coffee? Any recommendations?

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I know the fresh-ground fresh-roasted whole pot at a time snobs are going to get up in arms, but I would say go with a good quality pod machine -- the realities of an office environment aren't conducive to a highly-optimized, "slow coffee" experience like you can do at home or even in a good cafe. You want coffee to be dispensed quickly, you want to have easy cleanup, and you don't want whole pots of coffee sitting around for a long time going rancid.

With pods, you get some nice variety (you can buy several flavors at a time) and each pod is individually pre-wrapped, eliminating waste, each serving is always fresh, easy cleanup, and they can make tea with teapods as well. Any coffee distributing company should be able to get you decent prices on pods.

http://www.bunnmycafe.com/

http://www.simplehuman.com/

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The coffee services will offer several options ranging from economical, (dishwater but cheap), to some pretty good grinds. They'll usually provide the hardware and misc supplies if you agree to buy all your coffee from them. This helps to offset the added expense, in case your purchasing manager or accountant aren't coffee lovers and need convincing.

SB (thinks good coffee should be an OSHA requirement) :cool:

PS: If nothing else, the quality of the coffee is noted by your companies clients and associates. I've seen firms go to a lot of expense to lavishly furnish a conference room, and then serve prospective clients terrible coffee in a styrofoam cup. (I once chose a law firm on the basis of their coffee, the diffference was so extreme.) :wink:

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What's your budget?

We put in a super-automatic bean to cup expresso machine "Jura Impressa" that has given excellent service for an office of about 50 enigineers and programmers.

Since programmers are a mechanism to convert coffee to code, excellent and easily accessible coffee is a must have.

You can then use Lavazza or whatever beans you fancy.

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If you have a fair number of coffee drinkers (sounds as though you might) I suggest getting a pourover style airpot brewer (plumber in with an inline water filter would be far more convenient). Find a good local roaster who might give you a discoutn for buying 5 - 10 pounds per week. Get it ground by the roaster and sealed in 1 lb bags.

Grinding by the batch is always better but for a simple and not too messy solution the 3 liter airpot is superior to and cheaper than pods. Granted, one a pot full has been sitting around for awhile it loses some drinkability but I'd take 90 minute old airpot coffee made from good beans over a fresh brewed cup of ordinary office coffee any old time.

If you can't talk them into the cost of using a good local roaster you might check Costco or BJ's - they sometimes have some pretty good arabica coffee in 2 lb bags for about $10 per bag or less. But if pitching the project and pushing for highest quality offering do the math by the cup not by the pound. The coffee from a quality driven independent local roaster will be fresher and always better if they follow good practices. And only a few pennies more per cup.

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A couple of random thoughts, based on experience:

I like the idea of a pod system, but only if morale is good and employees are trustworthy. One outfit I worked for, the management and employees hated each other. That resulted in many unpleasant and unfortunate things, including some employees taking pre-measured packets of coffee home with them. In my current employment situation, we don't have to worry about theft; in fact, it's almost the opposite --employees will often furnish their own kitchen items to avoid costing the firm money.

If you go with a pot-at-a-time system, try to find a system that will dispense the coffee into thermal carafes. If you can't find such a system, or decide for other reasons to go with one that doesn't offer them, buy some and encourage employees to quickly dispense coffee into them, instead of letting it sit and cook all day. Overall coffee expenses will be lower, and coffee drinkers will be happier.

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Grinding by the batch is always better but for a simple and not too messy solution the 3 liter airpot is superior to and cheaper than pods. Granted, one a pot full has been sitting around for awhile it loses some drinkability but I'd take 90 minute old airpot coffee made from good beans over a fresh brewed cup of ordinary office coffee any old time.

So said the Coffee Forum Host. :)

You're going to be seeing a lot more pod talk from me Owen, I figured I'd give you a heads up. Get your crucifix ready. I like them, a lot, especially in my single coffee drinker household. I am now finally free of the shackles of having to grind the damn beans, boil the goddamn water, and manually brewing the damn coffee. When I'm half asleep and groggy, 10 minutes to do that is a freaking eternity. With my little Melitta machine, from cold power up to hitting the brew button to having a piping hot mug of joe, its a minute and thirty seconds, tops. If the reservoir is already primed and hot from the initial power up, a whole 30 seconds. Is it a replacement for fresh ground, French Press? Or a Moka? Or a really nice pulled espresso shot? No. Convenient and quite good for what it is? Hell yes.

Look man, pods do not have to be ordinary. You don't have to buy the Senseo or Melitta stuff you get at the supermarket -- even though after sampling it, I think that stuff is way better than your average office swill and would be a vast improvement to just about every workplace. Even local hippie roasters have the ability to make pods, although it does require a fairly substantial investment in equipment, like fifty grand, so only the medium sized mail order companies seem to be able to produce them so far -- but that is going to change as local manufacturers get in the pod contracting game. Say whatever you want, Pods are here, they are a huge freakin' success, they ain't going away, there's huge variety in them if you go 3rd party, and for people who need instant gratification, like people who work for a living, they are a godsend. And if anything else, I like the fact they piss off coffee snobs.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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No crucifix here for pod drinkers or pod advocates. I prefer either real espresso or brewed coffee (e.g. Melitta cone or vac pot) but there's nothing inherently wrong with the concept of pod coffee.

But in an office of 50 - 60 people if even half of them are coffee drinkers there are a few issues with pods - not related to coffee quality.

1) cost - if you have some heavy coffee drinkers in the group you're looking at a fairly high outlay for raw materials

2) congestion / traffic jams at the machine at key times of day

There are issues of the efficiency and economy of scale that IMHO usally make some form of drip coffee the optimal choice for a large office environment.

I've been in a number of corporate offices, mostly in the financial sector in NYC, where they had pod type machines (these use a small plastic cartridge rather than a pod and are larger machines but the concept is similar - it brews one cup at a time on demand). The coffee was very good. But not all industries or businesses have deep enough pockets to subsidize this sort of arrnagement for their employees.

As a matter of fact, when I traveled in Ireland (regrettably not known for good coffee) the only good coffee I had was served in gas station convenience stores. One purchased a small plastic cartidge of dark roast, medium roast or decaf and then inserted it into a machine that punctured the cartridge and brewed the cuppa joe.

I think a vac pot is admirable but impractical for this sceanrio. And if an airpot brewer is out of the question just do what I do in our office.We have only two or three people who have a deep appreciation for better coffee. I brew about 2/3 pot on the office's Bunn pourover brewer (the ubiquitous type with the glass carafes). The moment it's done brewing I pour it off into a thermal carafe that sits on the shelf in my office and we all draw coffee from there as needed.

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1) cost - if you have some heavy coffee drinkers in the group you're looking at a fairly high outlay for raw materials

Right, but this is why she needs to take an accurate survey of how many real coffee drinkers she has and how much they really drink. If most only drink 1 or 2 cups a day and only a few drink 3-5 you're not talking about a huge margin.

You can also use the honor system and charge 25 cents or 40 cents a pod, to offset costs. You would be surprised how effective honor systems are in tightly knit office environments or even large ones.

Another thing about pods is that people can bring in their own stash of pods and teabags (which work in most pod brewers just fine) and its very convenient to do so.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The K-Cup pod system that Keurig uses is really interesting, I'm hoping I can get a hold of one to evaluate shortly.

I've been looking at the Keurig system. The pods seem very appealing to me. There is no corporate subsidy, but we are a small office and I think that we will be able to get people to pay on a per-cup basis without too much trouble.

d.

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I think the Keurig is the machine I sampled coffee from in NYC and it looks identical to the system I tried in Ireland. The coffee was pretty good. It really had all the characteristics of a fresh brewed cup of good drip coffee.

Of course there's always the new Clover Coffee Machine (as seen at Seattle's Victrola Coffee)

but you'd best have deep pockets, a good grinder and someone willing to take good care of it.

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Our office uses Keurig coffee makers. They use single-serving coffee packets and the coffee is pretty decent.

http://www.keurig.com/

I second the Keurig. We've got one here and it's pretty darn good. When they clean the machine regularly. Which they almost never do. Remember to clean the machine from time to time! :raz:

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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The Keurig that I think might work best for her office is the Keurig B100P, which can take a direct water line in addition to over-the-top water filling. It says offices with 15-30 employees, but for 50 employees with only some of them being coffee drinkers, its probably fine. The B2003 might be overkill -- although it has some nice features over the B100P, including a hot water dispenser and auto K-Cup ejection.

Keurig B100P

Keurig B2003

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now that I've made some calls, it seems that our local Keurig supplier only carries the Timothy's coffee. And since it seems to come down to the coffee itself, I'm wondering if anyone has tried the Timothy's brand for the Keurig.

The supplier, by the way, is really pushing me to pick the Flavia system over the Keurig. But I haven't heard a single good word about Flavia....

d.

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Why bother with a local supplier? Call an internet vendor and have him send you local drop shipments, like CoffeeWhiz.com or CoffeeCow.com. I also believe Van Houtte sells its K-cups directly in Canada via its online store, and they also offer teas in K-cup.

http://www.vanhoutte.com/en/

I'll let you know about the Timothy K-Cups shortly, a Keurig B60 is making its way here soon.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Although I think the water-line version of the Keurig B100 is probably your best bet, Timothy's has a very atttractive offer on the B50 for the Christmas season:

http://www.timothys.com/landing/b50xmasoff...g=017&kwd=2for1

So if you buy a B100 or a B50 from Timothy's along with 3 boxes of K-cups, you get a second B50 free.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Why bother with a local supplier? Call an internet vendor and have him send you local drop shipments, like CoffeeWhiz.com or CoffeeCow.com. I also believe Van Houtte sells its K-cups directly in Canada via its online store, and they also offer teas in K-cup.

http://www.vanhoutte.com/en/

I'll let you know about the Timothy K-Cups shortly, a Keurig B60 is making its way here soon.

The reason for going with the local supplier is very simple: there is less effort involved. They own the equipment, they take care of installation, repairs, inventory, etc. Otherwise someone in-house has to be responsible for all of those things. I'd love to think it's going to happen, but I know from experience that it's not. Ideally, once the machine is installed, my work is done.

d.

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By the way, I've tasted a few cups of the Timothy's in the last day or so (I set up my Keurig B60 last night, my initial impressions of it are here) and I can attest that the coffee is good.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The supplier, by the way, is really pushing me to pick the Flavia system over the Keurig. But I haven't heard a single good word about Flavia....

That probably means his profit margin is higher on the Flavia. I guess the Flavia is good if you like coffee that tastes like weak instant coffee. I haven't tried the Kuerig, but it sounds like it's a much better brewing system.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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  • 4 weeks later...

We got the Keurig in yesterday on a trial basis. The suppliers in Toronto all seem to use Timothy's coffee exclusively. The dark roasts are okay, but the medium roasts I've tried so far seem weak and watery. I'm surprised, actually, given the good things I've heard about the Keurig. But perhaps we will have to just insist on dark roasts only.

d.

Edited by dianem (log)
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