Let’s face it; work coffee sucks. Either the instant granules they provide taste terrible or it’s hard to even heat up some water in the first place. It’s an age old workplace problem and I know it all too well myself. Surely it doesn’t have to be this way. What is the best way to make coffee at work?
Being prepared is key. A portable, and easy to use, coffee gadget like an Aeropress or French Press is likely the easiest way to brew up your cup of joe. That just leaves you to bring in some coffee and find hot water. Sometimes easier said than done.
The Problems You Face Making Coffee At Work
Every working coffee fan has faced this same problem. You’re at work, would kill for a good coffee, but the work-kitchen facilities are less than adequate.
Maybe your employer, like mine, make a bit of an effort. There is a massive tub of instant Nescafe coffee granules. It’s old, slightly moist, the granules are becoming gray, and it’s always left open. Let’s not talk about how that stuff tasted.
Some will be less lucky than myself. A place I worked at when I was a student didn’t even have a means of heating of some water.
The entire process of brewing up a mug of bean juice suddenly becomes very complicated when you’re trying to do it at your workplace.
Heating The Water
Heating the water is the first hurdle to get over. I’m going to assume you at least have access to clean fresh water. If not, you’ll have to bring bottled water.
Some places will provide a hot water urn or a kettle. Other places just leave you to it.
If your employer provides you with a microwave you can absolutely use that to get your water piping hot for a brew. If you really are not even provided with a microwave you’re your simplest solution is going to be investing in an electric kettle. Now just to find a power outlet. Work can be tough.
Grinding The Beans
Straight off the bat, the easiest solution is to bring pre-ground coffee beans. But we’re not looking to kop out and take a sub-par coffee. We’re looking for a mug that’s well Above Average.
A burr grinder is by far the best for grinding your beans. They give a very consistent grind and you can choose how coarse for fine it comes out. A blade grinder on the other hand is very difficult to get a consistent grind and you really can’t choose how coarse or fine.
So you know what kind of grinder is best. Grinders can be damn noisy. Will your colleagues even be ok with all that grinding noise? Especially if you work in an open-plan office. Don’t get me started on how bad an idea open-plan offices are.
If grinding noises are going to be an issue; it might be best to grind the beans you want to use at home and take them to work in a small tub. Another option might be a small manual burr grinder. It’s hard to tell which grinder will be quieter but at least with a manual one you can turn it slowly and keep the noise down that way.
Making The Coffee
Now you’ve got a source of hot water, you’ve got some beans ready to go, but what are you going to brew the mud up in?
Choosing the right gadget for brewing your coffee in can be a tough choice. It is also heavily dependent on how you like your coffee and your means to be able to use it at work. That’s why I have dedicated an entire section on your gadget of choice.
Portability Is Key
While preparation is key; preparation depends on how practical your coffee gadget is. For your coffee gadget to be practical; it really needs to be portable.
It can’t just be portable though. It has to make sense to be used in your particular work place.
V60 or Filter Cone
A V60 is essentially a brand of filter cone. Well, Hario is the brand. A filter cone is like a non-electric drip machine funnel that you sit on top of your mug. You pop a paper filter in it, dump some coffee in the filter, gently pour hot water over it and you have coffee in your mug.
While some people like to get a special kettle to give lots of control over the pour you can just use any ordinary kettle.
You really do need something to pour the hot water over the top. This is called a pour over method after all. While a kettle is likely the easiest thing to use, you could microwave a jug of water. Just don’t try to pick up a V60 or filter cone, and hold the mug under it, to try to pour a hot water urn through it. That’s just a recipe for disaster.
Pour over methods make a mild, delicate, tasting coffee.
I like describing an Aeropress as a giant syringe. It’s a plastic cylinder, with a plunger to push hot water through ground coffee, filtered by a filter paper.
Like a V60, an Aeropress sits on top of your mug while you press the plunger down. You definitely want a particularly wide mug for an Aeropress. There is a risk of coffee scooting out of the sides; so a wide mug catches any scooty coffee.
Personally, I really like an aeropress coffee. It makes a strong tasty brew. I think that’s thanks to the little extra bit of pressure you have to give to push the coffee through. A bit like a low-pressure espresso.
A Chemex is another pour over method. Only you don’t have to sit anything on top of a mug. It looks like a vase with a big flared, funnel-like, top; to hold a filter paper.
You pour water through ground coffee in a filter paper in the top, throw away the filter when you’re finished pouring over, then you have a vase of coffee.
Like a V60, because this is a pour over method, an Chemex makes a mild, delicate, brew. It’s excellent at bringing out the sweeter flavors of the coffee bean.
Now, I know, a moka pot needs a stove. I just couldn’t leave this one out of the list. Some work places do actually provide their employees with a stove of some kind.
If you’re lucky enough to have a well-equipped work kitchen with a stove then a moka pot could be a great option for you. There is no need to heat up water beforehand because you just put the water in your moka pot, stick it on the stove, and wait for coffee to appear.
A moka pot makes a rich, strong, tasting coffee. The coffee it makes is, debatably, espresso.
I say debatably because it takes heat and pressure to make an espresso. While pressure does build up in a moka pot from the heat, it is nowhere near as much pressure as a proper espresso machine will use. An espresso machine typically uses 9 Bars of pressure; a moka pot builds up pressure closer to 1.5 Bar.
A French Press is probably the most common first coffee at home gadget. It was how I first made a brew at home and that’s because it’s really so easy to use.
It’s the simplest little mixing jar. Dump in your coffee, pour in the hot water, wait four minutes and press the plunger. Done.
It’s possibly the most practical coffee gadget for taking to work. It’s also least likely to get funny look from colleagues. Everyone knows what a French Press is; not everyone has seen a Chemex before.
Pro tip: While the ideal temperature for coffee is quite a debated point; you will not find anyone saying to use a temperature higher than 205ºF (96ºC). So freshly boiled water would be too warm at 212ºF (100ºC). I’m not saying to take a thermometer to work. Either leave your water to cool a little first, or add a little bit of cold water to your beans and mix them in before adding hot water. It does make a difference.
A pod machine is an expensive option. It would be a real investment.
The real plus to a pod machine is that it heats up the water itself. You give it electricity, water, a pod, and it spits out coffee.
Other than the price, the main downside to a pad machine is the waste from all the pods. Used unrecyclable coffee pods are becoming an increasingly common resident of landfill sites. That said, reusable coffee pods are a thing. So the unrecyclable waste doesn’t have to be a problem.
Get Everyone To Pitch In For A Drip Machine
Are there other coffee fans at your work? Why not get people to pitch in for the cost of a drip machine? Or any kind of coffee machine for that matter; Drip, pod, espresso, or otherwise.
You could even make a little coffee club out of it. At my work, we eventually got a drip machine. We all worked it that we would bring a bag of coffee in every now and again. Alternatively it could be handled as a subscription deal; everyone pitch in for the cost of the coffee every week or month.
Ask Your Boss
If there are other coffee fans at your work; how likely is it that your boss likes coffee?
Try pitching the idea of investing in a nice coffee machine to your boss. It’s no stretch of the imagination to think that a caffeinated work force is going to be more productive.
Are you the boss? Even better. Your employees will love you for it.