Commercial Coffee Makers: Just What Does My Workplace Need?


drinking coffee
If you count yourself among those wishing for better coffee in the office, we remind you (in the words of Star Trek Captain Jean Luc Picard): “Wishing for something does not make it so.”

Instead of accepting the acrid taste of liquid cinder (associated with the “burner effect”), we urge you to question the dominant office coffee paradigm. Be an active advocate for better brew.

“Half (50%) of the American workforce buys coffee regularly at work, spending more than $20 a week on coffee, an average of approximately $1000 a year. Better coffee in the office might help cut back this expense. Nearly one quarter (22%) of American  workers wish their company would invest in better coffee in the office.”

—Key Findings on spending habits in the workplace, from the 2012 Accounting Principles Workonomix Survey

To focus your quest, we created a guide to assist you in finding the Holy Grail—the best commercial coffee maker. Keep in mind the official definition of best at CoffeeKrave—“when we write a guide to choosing the “best” of anything in the world of coffee, we mean the best one for you. ” This particular guide consists of a set of questions to focus your research process, along with a few names you can trust.

What Do We Need for a Commercial Coffee Maker?

Note: To avoid confusion, we will be referring in this section to any caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee-based beverage as “coffee.”

The first step in determining which commercial coffee brewer will eventually become your new favorite co-worker is to assess the “coffee needs” (the short list of absolute essentials) and the “coffee wants” (typically a much, much longer list) of your office.

Start with a reporter’s basic checklist: Who, What, When and Where. (Assuming that the “why” is well understood and has provided the impetus for this research project.) Add to that list one extra question: “How much?”

The “who” is who will be drinking—is everyone opting in or are there abstainers? Another important detail to nail down is who will be responsible for preparation and cleanup. (The politics of office coffee can be quite tricky. Consider re-reading our guide to office coffee etiquette before proceeding further.)

The “what” is what form of coffee-related beverage is being requested —coffee or espresso? Caffeinated or decaffeinated? One drink, more than two but less than five drinks or an entire matrix of combinatorial possibilities?

The “when” gets the timing part down—all day long, or only in the mornings? 24 hours a day/seven days a week on demand, or only during specific hours.

The “where” is perhaps self-explanatory (the office), but it’s a topic worthy of discussion for larger workplaces.

“How much” refers to volume. Multiplying the number of co-workers who drink coffee by the estimated consumption per coffee-drinking co-worker will help you to get an overall volume assessment to inform the purchasing decision.

Ask your co-workers the above questions, actively listen to their answers, and you will be a solid 80% of the way to determining your office coffee needs. Take a poll and have some fun with it. (Like this group’s taste test, using one of the more creative rating schemas ever.)

office coffee maker

A Tale of Two Offices

To provide an illustration of these this research process in practice, let’s consider the hypothetical cases of Office A and Office B.

Office A:

  • Who: A regular crew of five people, four of whom are coffee drinkers. The group is highly collaborative and is quite likely to stick to good office coffee etiquette.
  • What: Black coffee. Given the social and environmental concerns of the group, they would prefer organic, fair trade, bird-friendly coffee.
  • When: Predominately in the morning, but an occasional afternoon cup might be required.
  • Where: It’s a small office. Anywhere is fine.
  • How much: Approximately 7 cups per average workday.


Office B:

  • Who: More than 100 people, with a regular influx of guests.
  • What: Coffee and espresso, plus a mix of other beverages.
  • When: All day long. Higher demand in the morning, followed by another peak in the early afternoon.
  • Where: Focused on the central office kitchen, but efficiency and convenience is a concern.
  • How much: High volume with high variability.

Office A’s needs would be quite nicely covered with a French Press, a Chemex or a pour-over setup. If it turns out that they prefer automatic to manual, they could consider a high quality home machine.

Office B’s needs are best left to the professionals—either an outside coffee vendor or a commercial coffee maker.


A Few Names to Consider

If your office decides to go pro, here are a few names to consider.

Bunn and Curtis both have outstanding reputations for the quality and durability of their commercial coffee brewers.

For offices with highly individual and constantly changing needs, the K-Cup commercial system is one way to go. (Although the prevalence of these machines has inspired a whole new set of coffee maker etiquette practices. See here and here for examples.) You might also look into a Nespresso machine. While these machines might not please everyone, they do remove the worry of who brewed the last pot. It might be wise to supplement a single-serve machine with a French press or Aeropress, however. Why not throw in a milk frother while you’re at it? There’s no need for office coffee to be dull or bland.

How, and how well, does your office brew? Share your workplace observations with us in the comments below.

Bonus content: NPR on the history of the coffee break. Just a little something to talk about around the water cooler . . .

Photo Credit: basibanget
Photo Credit: Graham Ballantyne


Robyn is a freelance writer, editor and a serious foodie. A native of Seattle, she has found a new home in Northern California where she splits her time about equally between hiking in the redwoods and typing in local coffee shops. In addition to writing for CoffeeKrave, Robyn is currently working on a project to produce a short animated documentary—"Clipped and Tucked"—about her adventures in cooking recipes from antique cookbooks.

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