If you drink coffee and your taste buds aren’t totally dead, good coffee at work is essential. A decent cup can work wonders, while horrid coffee can ruin an otherwise reasonable morning.
A coffee habit can run into real money. At my local Starbucks a cup of regular coffee is $1.50 for 12 ounces, $1.95 for 16 ounces, and $2.25 for 20 ounces. If you buy the smallest size 5 days a week, that’s $7.50 a week without tax or tip or over $350 a year. No lattes, no muffins – just a small, plain coffee. Dunkin Donuts, 7-Eleven or the local coffee shop may be a bit cheaper, but you still spend big bucks over time.
Now that you’re focused on how much it costs to get the smallest size take-out cup, maybe the free or cheap office coffee is looking a little better. But what to do if it’s just too awful? Don’t despair. You can salvage this situation.
- Offer to help – If your office buys from a “coffee service”, find the person in charge of that transaction and offer to find a source for better coffee. Oh, wait. You thought the coffee just appeared or ordered itself. There is a human being somewhere in the process – I promise you. Maybe he/she orders that jet fuel-like substance you detest because doing the research to switch to a different vendor wasn’t a high priority – or maybe he/she doesn’t drink coffee. Whatever the situation, try offering to make it better.
- Different coffee – If the office coffee “system” is a donated pot and packaged coffee someone buys, you might suggest switching coffees. How about an inexpensive but decent alternative coffee from a place like Costco? That store’s Seattle Mountain Coffee is excellent IMHO (in my humble opinion) and costs about $13 for 2.5 pounds, or $5.20 pound. Costco and similar stores also sell Starbucks and other “name” brands at discounts for the 2 pound and larger sizes.
- Work around the edges – If you can’t change the coffee, you can bring in raw sugar (the delicious brown, crunchy stuff that is in the packets at fancy coffee houses) and a container of whatever milk or cream you like. More on how to make steamed milk and froth later. For the moment, be assured that you can have frothy milk at the office in 1-2 minutes with a small, inexpensive gadget & a microwave. Use a favorite mug and heat it up with hot water for a minute before pouring coffee into it. You can use hot water from a tap, but if the cup is microwave safe, regular temperature tap water on high for 1 minute will give you a hot cup. After you dump the water out, the coffee you pour in will stay hot a lot longer than if you poured it into a cold cup. Just as the downfall of many a good cup of coffee has been a cold cup or bad or wrong extras, you can lift semi-bad coffee into the tolerable range.
- DIY – What if the person who orders is less accessible than the Wizard of Oz or is a witch and won’t switch. Or you’re the only one who dislikes the stuff that passes for coffee in your office and everyone else thinks you’re persnickety. Bring in your own coffee and a small French press or one-cup filter. Use that favorite cup (pre-heated of course) and hot water from the office microwave. You’ll enjoy coffee while others continue to drink stuff you wouldn’t serve your worst enemy. If you resist this idea because it seems like a lot of trouble, consider the cost savings. Even at $10 a pound for ground coffee, you will spend only about 50 cents for the same 12 ounce cup that cost you $1.50 at Starbucks – 300% savings! In a week, you save $5. If you keep up your discipline most days (falling “off the wagon” maybe once a week to buy the take-out coffee), you’ll save $170+ a year – not counting vacations or holidays. If you want to vary the figures, try this handy “cost of coffee” calculator. Don’t you have a better use for that money than to throw it at a national chain that will tempt you to spend even more money on muffins and fancy coffee/steamed milk concoctions?
- A different approach to DIY – If the office coffee is horrendous and won’t get better, and option #4 doesn’t work for you, we’re not done yet. It’s thermos time. Here is mine, carried to my office for years and still used on road trips. Make coffee at home at your leisure and bring it to work. In a note of irony, I remember buying my beloved thermos at Starbucks. No sense going to Starbucks now; I’d rather use the money saved to buy a new pair of shoes!