Office Coffee Solutions – What are the options?

Office Coffee Solutions – What are the options?

Office Coffee Solutions – What are the options?

With Café Culture booming and around 100 million cups of coffee drank each day in the UK, it’s no longer seen as acceptable to serve poor quality coffee in the office; rather than providing a much needed caffeine boost, poor office coffee selection can be seen as a bugbear for employees. Once the standard offering, a tin of Nescafe Original can signal to staff that you really are penny pinching!

A well thought out coffee offering doesn’t need to be expensive or complex and will ultimately depend on the needs and size of your individual office. However it can be a minefield just trying to research your options as a quick search on Google will show; you’ll find yourself bombarded with ‘sponsored ad’ after ‘sponsored ad’ claiming they have the perfect ‘one size fits all’ solution, which ultimately doesn’t exist.

Whilst every business would love to have an on-site Starbucks, Costa or Caffe Nero, for businesses with less than 1000 people on that individual site this just isn’t feasible or cost effective. 

Beyond an on-site coffee shop, here we will look at the different options, which include:

• Instant Coffee

• Instant Coffee Vending

• Bean-to-cup Machines

• Coffee Pod Machines

• Thermal Pot Filtered Ground Coffee 

There are up and down sides to each business / office coffee solution, and we’ll try to give an honest opinion on these below…

Coffee beans
High Quality Instant Coffee
So first, let’s address the elephant in the room – instant coffee doesn’t have the best reputation! In days gone by Instant Coffee meant bland, tasteless coffee - however this no longer has to be the case; many suppliers are able to offer premium freeze fried instant coffee, which when made right can rival barista brewed coffee for taste and depth of flavour – yes, really!

Armed with only some high quality instant coffee, semi skimmed milk and a milk frother (even the Ikea milk frothers for £1 do the job!) you can replicate all your barista favourites, from caffe latte to cappuccino; add in hot chocolate powder for a mocha, or a coffee syrup for a seasonally flavoured masterpiece; head to our social media channels for inspiration!
Whilst you can pick up really low quality coffee for even cheaper, premium instant coffee can still be an incredibly cost effective solution with cost per cup as low as 5 pence each. If you have 30 members of staff drinking 3 cups per day each, that’s £90 per month over 20 working days.
Top tip - don’t be fooled by the fine-ground coffee’s which many brands now sell as ‘premium’- they are often just standard coffee but ground much finer so beyond looking better, often don’t taste any different!
Being transported dry means the coffee is lighter and more compact, reducing the carbon footprint and is therefore a slightly ‘greener’ option.
Many of the premium coffees on offer are often ethically certified thus allowing you to improve the sustainability of your office. This can include any of Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic Certified, FNC Certified, UTZ or Proudly Made in Africa certifications to name just a few; we’re going to cover ethical and sustainable coffee on our blog in the next few weeks, which will talk about the main ethical ‘brands’ and what they stand for – watch this space! 
Countries of origin are starting to really take pride in their instant coffee; for example the FNC in Colombia oversees all exported coffee to ensure it meets high quality standards, as well as ensuring high ethical standards within the supply chain. If you look beyond the big suppliers like Nescafe and Kenco there are some fantastic options out there, offering high quality instant coffee at a competitive price - and these really should be considered before you write off instant as a solution to your office coffee. 
In summary, looking at the positives of instant coffee:
• High quality options giving lots of flavour, comparable to fresh coffee
• Many ethical and sustainable options on the market
• Easy to make a coffee how you like it
• Flexible & easily stored with a long shelf-life compared to fresh beans
• Very cost effective
• Very time effective when making multiple cups at once
• No cleaning or maintenance required
• Easy and low cost to have multiple brew stations around larger offices
• Can be used in tandem with any of the other options
Looking at the negatives:
• Requires a kettle
• Some very cheap low quality instant coffees can taste very generic and bland
• Not always seen as a premium offering on the face of it
Comparative Monthly Cost: £90 (90 cups of coffee per day, 20 days per month)
Verdict: Great all round solution for companies small and large providing you use the right instant coffee. Whilst it doesn’t have the ‘wow factor’ of more complex solutions, if you pick the right instant coffee supplier it doesn’t have to be an inferior end result and at a far cheaper cost. Can be used in tandem with machines.
Instant Coffee Vending Machines
With the rise in the quality of instant coffee, some suppliers have begun to offer instant coffee based vending machines. We don’t need to go into too much detail on the coffee itself as we have above, so we will just talk about the pro’s and con’s of the machines themselves.

Pro’s, they are very convenient and remove the need for a kettle; a push of a button and your coffee and hot water are dispensed into your chosen container. As they typically use instant coffee and dried milk, they can be easy enough to clean and usually just need topping up with water, coffee and powdered milk.
On the flip side this ease of use can often stem creativity; a ‘zero fuss’ solution is far from the premium coffee offerings businesses are starting to see as key to employee happiness. Also, fixed amounts of coffee & milk powder mean you can’t easily adjust the amount of each you put in so you are stuck with what someone else deemed the correct mixture. Finally, many people don’t enjoy their coffee with powdered milk.
Verdict: If we’re honest we aren’t massive fan of these; you typically find this type of machine in builders merchants where low cost coffee to keep customers happy for 5 minutes is the name of the game - however for office coffee use, these will not enhance your offering.
Bean To Cup Machines
Bean to Cup machines take roasted coffee beans, grind them, and brew them all in one go. 

Whilst a few years ago you would have struggled to find good quality beans for your Bean to Cup machine nowadays it seems there is a huge variety of roasters from international brands through to local suppliers offering high quality beans which really can make you a great coffee the can rival any coffee house with the coffee itself costing between 10-25 pence per cup dependent on the quality and ethical certifications of the coffee.
Timing really depends on what model machine you go for but typically fall between 40-50 seconds per cup – so actually very quick when making a single cup, however if you are making 5-6 cups you can find by the time you have finished them all the first cup has lost a lot of its heat.
To give a comparison to instant above, the same 30 staff drinking 3 cups per day at 15 pence per cup would cost £270 plus the cost of the machine itself, which we will cover below.
It isn’t all positive however; machines which are suited to the constant demand of an office tend to be very expensive, whether you look to buy, lease or rent. Prices to buy can range from £800 for a very small machine upto £9000 for a commercial unit designed for constant use - and due to using fresh milk they all require constant ongoing cleaning to keep them performing at their best and preventing breakdowns. A small low cost machine suited to an office of 30 would cost in the region of £75 per month to lease on a 2 year deal, taking monthly spend to £355.
Steer clear of Bean to Cup machines which use powdered milk; it’s almost sacrilege to ruin fresh coffee in such a way!
The Positives of Bean to Cup Machines:
• Fast for single cups or small rounds
• Tasty, fresh coffee
• Relatively cheap cost per cup when compared to pod coffee
• Machines often have the ability to offer different options including hot chocolates and other coffee variants like a mocha
• Bean to Cup machines often look attractive in an office or kitchen
The Negatives of Bean to Cup machines:
• Slow overall total time when making a number of cups
• Expensive compared to high quality instant coffee
• Can build up a queue/delay if multiple people go to use the machine around the same time
• Beans lose their freshness around a week of being roasted, at which point they lose their benefit over instant coffee
• Machines require lots of ongoing cleaning and occasional deep cleans to maintain performance and taste
• Expensive up front cost of the machine, which can run into thousands
• Usually tied into a contract if you choose to rent or lease the machine, which often also include costly maintenance visits too
Comparative Monthly Cost: £355 (90 cups of coffee per day, 20 days per month)
Verdict: Bean to Cup Machines will suit businesses where staff members typically only make their own coffee and at different points during the day. It also needs to be a business less interested in cost, and where someone is able to take responsibility for ongoing cleaning, maintenance and refilling of the machine.
Coffee Pod Machines
Coffee pod machines have seen a massive boost in popularity over the last few years, initially in the home market but this has now spread to the workplace too. Offering fresh tasting coffee and simple convenience, it is often seen as a good compromise for small offices.

Companies like Nespresso, Tassimo, De’Longhi and Bosch all manufacture a variety of pod machines suited to small office use, and these often come in at a fraction of their Bean to Cup counterparts. Avoiding the smaller machines designed purely for low volume home use, a reasonably well built Nespresso or similar will cost in the region of £150.
The positives are clear, and for offices with 10 or less staff members make a lot of sense; they produce a good tasting coffee and there is a variety of flavours and styles. It is reasonably fast for single cups taking 45-60 seconds dependent on machine, and incredibly simple; there is some cleaning required but on the whole they are low maintenance.
Unfortunately as with every option there are downsides. Firstly, the pods can be expensive with Nespresso pods costing around 50 pence each. It might not seem much on the face of things but soon adds up when used daily - a 30 person office drinking 3 cups of Nespresso per day each can add up to £900 in just a month!
There are other suppliers offering much cheaper pods, however online reviews will often tell you that you get what you pay for; once you dip below the 30 pence per pod threshold you’ll find the quality of the coffee really starts to suffer.
Similar to the Bean to Cup machine, Pod machines really do suffer when it comes to making multiple cups; assuming 60 seconds per cup, just trying to make four cups mean the first one has been sat for 3 minutes by the time you have finished the last.
Finally is the environmental impact. With each individual portion being wrapped separately there is a lot of packaging and waste that comes with Pods, and if these are plastic that really adds to the rubbish pile - especially bad for ethically and sustainably minded companies. Whilst Nespresso have now switched to recyclable foil pods, this means storing used pods until they can be recycled properly together; there are also various companies offering compostable Pods, however this can add considerably to the cost per pod.
Positives of a Pod Machine:
• Nice Tasting Coffee 
• Lot of varieties and flavours on the market
• Lots of suppliers offering pods for the different machines
• Machines are much cheaper than Bean to Cup machines
• Relatively quick for single cups
• Low maintenance
• Good for small meeting rooms
Negatives of a Pod Machines:
• Slow when making multiple cups
• Pods can work out as very expensive, especially if you have 10+ members of staff in your office
• Lots of waste for each cup made
• Not great environmentally unless you chose a supplier offering good quality coffee in compostable pods
Comparative Monthly Cost: £900 (90 cups of coffee per day, 20 days per month)
Verdict: Pricey, so only suits very small offices who want a premium solution.
Thermal Pot Filtered Ground Coffee
You’ve seen them in US based TV and cinema; glass pots of coffee pre-brewed and kept warm for as long as required. The filtered coffee experience doesn’t have to be as 1970’s as you remember, and some of the more sleek and modern looking solutions using the tried and tested way of brewing coffee have allowed it to make somewhat of a comeback!

Ideally suited to catering for a large number of coffee drinkers, this kind of solution is perfect for meetings and conferences; they can brew and keep warm between 10 – 50 cups of coffee at once depending on the size of the machine and thermal pot itself.
Unlike instant coffee, bean to cup and pod machines it’s no good for an ad hoc cup or two due to the time and effort of setting this up; and unless someone takes ownership of ensuring it is emptied, cleaned and refilled each time it is heading towards empty, you often end up with an office stalemate where everybody waits for someone else to finish it and make a fresh pot, therefore everyone goes thirsty!
Cost wise it is similar is cost per cup as a Bean to Cup Machine, so realistically in the region of 15 pence worth of ground coffee is used per cup.
Positives of thermal pot filter coffee:
• Freshly filtered, hot coffee which is kept warm for when you need it
• Great for making a large number of cups in one go
• Perfect for meetings, conferences and working lunches
Negatives of thermal pot filter coffee:
• Not suitable for making small rounds of drinks unless already made up
• Time consuming to clean and brew a full fresh pot
• Can lead to office politics as staff members shy away from doing their fair share
Comparative Monthly Cost : £270 (90 cups of coffee per day, 20 days per month)
Verdict: Suits businesses where one person makes large batches of coffee at one time, and also those who hold frequent meetings and conferences. Some companies make good use of these when paired with instant coffee to use on an ad hoc basis.
As you can see there is no right or wrong answer, but as a final note on each-
• High Quality Instant can be a great solution for most companies, especially those with multiple brew stations but without the ‘Wow Factor’ of a coffee machine. Can also be used in conjunction with a machine.
• Bean to Cup machines are a more expensive but premium looking solution for those with one central brew making area – providing you are less likely to want lots of cups around the same time.
• Pod Machines are a good solution for very small offices or use in small meeting rooms
• Thermal Pot Machines are great for companies who hold large meetings and conferences where a lot of cups are required at the same time.
For more information specific to what we at Quokka can do for you, head to:
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