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How to Make Coffee at Work (That You Actually Want to Drink)

Does the phrase ‘office coffee’ dredge up visions of burned-out coffee pots and sludge that tastes like rocket fuel? No more! Read on for tips that’ll brew something delicious at work.

8 min read

Most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else. That makes the creature comforts of the office even more important, and the coffee break can be the ultimate day-maker or day-breaker. If you and your deskmates are struggling in the coffee department, and don’t have one of those big fancy espresso machines in the office, now is the time to bring a little caffeinated love into the workplace. Here’s how.

If You’re the Sole Coffee Drinker

If you're the sole coffee drinker paddling through a sea of tea, it's a cinch to set up a small personal brewing station that can be kept at your desk, stashed in a drawer, or tucked into a safe corner. A grinder would be a nice touch (but it's probably a bit much if you're on your own in the caffeinated struggle). If your office doesn’t have a grinder, you can bring a week’s worth of coffee grounds from home in an airtight container so it stays fresh.

A small manual brewer will sit snuggly next to your sticky-notes and pencil cup, and a low-maintenance, sturdy brewer like a Pour-Over or French Press along with a hot-water kettle is pretty much all you need.

How to Brew French Press Coffee at Work

Feeling the French press? Good choice as this method is known for brewing up rich, bold coffee. Plus it takes up next to no space on your desk or in the office kitchen. Start with coarsely ground beans (too fine and the grounds will work their way through the filter). Add grinds to the bottom of the French press, then pour in hot water (195 to 205 degrees is ideal and an electric tea kettle is an easy heating method, especially if your office doesn’t have a cooktop or stove). Stir grounds, then place lid of French press on top to keep in heat—but don’t press down yet. Let steep for four minutes, then slowly press down plunger to strain out grounds. Pour and enjoy!

Form an Office Coffee Coalition

Brewing for yourself and a few officemates? It might make sense to form a coffee coalition, to ensure all of your cups overfloweth with the perfect joe . Scrap the K-cups and invest in a 9-Cup Coffee Maker, which can satisfy a small office multiple times throughout the day. A burr grinder (which grinds coffee beans more consistently than a blade grinder) is also great to have.

Keep the Conference Fueled (or How to Make Coffee for a Large Group)

When the whole department gathers for a pow wow, you’re going to need to call in the big guns. The OXO Brew 12-Cup Coffee Maker makes up to 60 ounces of gold-standard coffee, then keeps it warm in a double-walled stainless steel carafe. The maker is programmable, so you can set it before heading home for the day and have a full pot ready to go for the morning meeting. And it won’t take up a ton of space; its compact size tucks tidily under most countertops.

Gather Helpful Supplies

Printing out an easy recipe (such as 2 tablespoons of coffee per every 1 cup of water) and posting it near the equipment takes the pressure off that one office coffee nerd, and keeping filters and drinking accessories (like milk or sugar) in a shared space will make everyone happy. Even if your bosses won't buy the machines with company funds, a minimal contribution from a few interested folks should make paying out of pocket a lot less painful.

Assign Bean Duty

Nominate someone to keep the beans stocked up. A group of 5–10 people can each pitch in a few bucks a month and join a whole-bean subscription service that curates a rotating selection of fresh coffee from artisanal roasters near and far, shipping them to your door on a regular schedule. Choose the beans that’ll best fit your preferred method of brewing. You may also make a monthly "coffee KP duty" calendar, assigning a different coworker to keep an eye on cleanliness and filter inventory every week. Speaking of cleaning….

How to Clean Your Coffee Gear at Work

Coffee oils from beans build up on gear and can go rancid, which ruins a good cup of coffee faster than you can say, “Yuk!” So a few times a year, it’s a good idea to deep clean coffee grinders and makers to keep your office coffee tasting fresh and delicious.

  • To clean a grinder: Clear out crevices using a kitchen appliance cleaning set, then grind a cleaning tablet or ½ cup of uncooked white rice in the machine, as though they were beans. Tablets or rice will absorb any residual oils and knock out leftover coffee grounds. Lastly, refresh and reset the machine by grinding a tablespoon of coffee.
  • To clean a brewer: Run a cycle using water and a descaling solution to clear out any mineral or coffee oil build up on your coffee maker. (Avoid white vinegar as the taste will linger and get into your coffee.) Rinse out machine by running one more cycle with only water. If needed, you can also soak the machine’s small parts in a bath of hot water and descaling solution. Rinse and reassemble.
  • To clean a French press: Wash with hot water and soap in sink. This French press(Opens in a new window) simplifies getting grounds out with a built-in grounds lifter. A bottle brush makes it easy to get down to and around the rounded base.

Treat Yourself

Most importantly of all, remember that coffee breaks are you-time, and you should make the most of them. Bring along a sweet treat to dunk and keep a favorite mug on hand or buy a special one just for the office. This thermal coffee mug keeps drinks hot for 12 hours or cold for 24, comes in a 16 or 20 ounce size, and is leakproof so it travels well. The mugs also come in a range of colors so you’ll be able to easily spot yours in the cupboard line up.

Now that the coffee part of your coffee break is perfected, fine tune the conversation with a treasure trove of coffee-related fun facts, like what the difference is between coffee and espresso, how much caffeine is in decaf and more (ahem) buzz-worthy tidbits.

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