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Setting Up an Office Coffee Station

Office coffee stations don’t have to be sullen corners of the break room—the sad, neglected sibling of the water cooler. The truth of the matter is that they’re places that can stir excitement with the right amount of variety, accessibility, and care that goes into your offerings. Employees may even thank you for bringing a bright spot—a splash of color—to their mornings.

Why Do I Need an Office Coffee Station?

Even the simplest coffee operation still demands a checklist.

There are cups, stirrers, creamers, sugars, brewers, and more, and they all can add up to a big, disorganized mess if you let the deliveries pile up with nowhere to put them. And if workers are sorting through a mess, they’re generally not very happy and probably not spending time on the projects.

Beyond that, it’s just natural to want an office coffee station to feel intuitive. People enjoy the click of their Keurig when they hear their personally selected pod punctured, the instinctive reach into the fridge for their milk of choice, and the seamless selection of their favorite mug that doesn’t require digging through a cabinet or the dishwasher.

If nothing else, consider it a reflection of how organized your overall office space is.

What Are the Essentials for Office Coffee Stations?

Once you’ve taken the leap and purchased your coffee maker of choice, the next step is to check off your list of necessary supplies. Here are some must-haves for your office coffee station. While these are a good start, you can always use your imagination and team’s input to expand your offerings. Here are our picks for the essentials:

  • Milks. Gone are the days when the office could use just one creamer. Generally, you’ll need one cream-leaning product, like Half & Half, as well as a 2 percent or skim milk option for those who like a lighter option.

    Have at least one non-dairy selection for those who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy-free diet. Gratefully, there are many non-dairy milks to choose from: almond, cashew, soy, oats, rice, and coconut milk all do just fine for adding color and texture to a cup of coffee.

    There are also “barista blends” of almond milks that are ideal for adding to coffee or frothing a latte, if you have an espresso machine. Pro tip: The nutty flavors of almonds and cashews tend to go well with most coffee blends; it’s the safest bet. (Also, coffee’s acids will make soy curdle.) For backup, keep a plain powder creamer. And for extra backup, consider keeping a vegan powder creamer next to it, often made from coconut milk and sugar.

    Flavored dairy or non-dairy creamers are another unexpected treat that can liven up your office coffee station’s “milk” selection, too.

  • Sugars. While you’ll want a simple sugar—go for a sugar in the raw, which retains a touch of molasses for extra flavor—there are plenty of other choices to pad your area so that it will feel just like a commercial coffee station.

    Invest in a thin glass bottle with a steel pourer for simple syrup, which makes blending a breeze. Stevia is a natural sweetener to keep around that is actually sweeter than sugar, still has zero calories, and can be bought as easy-to-store packets. And, of course, stock up on reserves of classic Sweet’n Low, Equal, or Splenda as artificial sugar choices.

    If you really want to round out the selection, fill some spice shakers with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla powder.

  • Coffee stirrers. Stirrers can be one of the most wasteful elements of coffee, churning out lots of plastic per year. Today, there are technology-generated workarounds, like the Stircle electronic and reusable stirrer, but it’s generally advisable to keep a pack of wood stirrers around as an option and have a reusable metal spoon nicely displayed in your coffee area—placed prominently in a cup. Washing one spoon each morning is a lot simpler and less wasteful than constantly purchasing new stirrers.

  • A towel. Coffee is messy. Encourage everyone to soak up excess water or brush away grinds from the countertop by always having a separate kitchen towel just for the station.

  • Water pitcher. No matter what brew method you’ve gone with for your office coffee station, you’ll need access to water constantly. Filtered water, at that. Pick a sizeable-but-stylish pitcher that lives next to the coffee brewer, ideally, labeled with a “Fill” line.

Of course, the best advice for picking these items is to listen to your employees. Be sure to survey their needs and preferences before making any bulk purchases for your office coffee station.

Office Coffee Ideas for Organizing the Station

The final step of the office-coffee-station-making process is adding direction and nuance.

  • Label your open dates. Few office-kitchen experiences are more frustrating than being delighted to find your favorite milk or condiment, only to be left in the dark as to when it was first opened. Practice food safety—and sheer courtesy—by keeping labels nearby to date when a milk was first opened. Especially if a variety that’s not frequently used.
  • Keep brewing instructions handy. For a Keurig this will be fairly straightforward, but the biggest barrier to entry for drinking coffee at the office is not knowing how to make it—and not wanting to be the one to ask for help. Keep a laminated sheet of paper near the brewer, or in a nearby drawer, with step-by-step instructions for the coffee-to-water ratio, brew time, machine settings, and average brew time. If you have a manual brewer, also leave instructions on working a device like a French press—essentially, reminding them how easy it actually is. If you have a more involved pour-over brewing device, list the items necessary for the perfect cup, like a scale, grinder, gooseneck kettle, etc.if you’ve invested in them, and the ideal grind settings, brew time, and water temperature. Variety is the spice of life, but comprehension is what keeps it moving.
  • Coffee containers. If you’re using pods, it’s worth purchasing one of the display carousels and consistently refilling them with new choices. Otherwise, for bagged coffee, don’t let the beans or grinds mope in their original packaging, where they’ll also lose freshness at a fast rate. Coffee begs for a dark hiding place and an air-tight seal; seek out a few jars of your choice and label them accordingly.
  • Add a flavor shot of personality. Coffee stations can be a fun—and collaborative—decorating opportunity for the office. Pick a corner of the office kitchen’s counter and transform it just for the coffee. Get personal with mug choices, complement the brewing machine with storage containers that have some flair—even add a plant to make the space feel abuzz. If you have space, consider hanging your mugs for aesthetics, easy access, and storage savings. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a small whiteboard to the space to leave morning messages.

No office coffee station is complete without the actual coffee. Victor Allen’s Coffee streamlines that process by offering customizable coffee subscriptions. Subscriptions are flexible and the flavor varieties—in bagged and pod form—are plentiful.

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