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Office coffee isn’t always the greatest. Although it’s much better than 10 years ago in many places, it’s still not amazing in most offices. Here are 14 things you can do to improve the taste of your coffee in the office but also at home.
Turn your gut-wrenching cup of mud into a delightful brew that makes you want to go work with one of the following tips.
- Brew a fresh pot
- Get a grinder
- Fresh beans
- Measure your coffee
- Ditch the pad/cup coffee maker
- Clean the coffee maker
- Add hot chocolate powder
- Use a real cup
- Use better water
- Upgrade the creamer
- Make you own
- Cold brew
- Bring your own
Get more information about better office coffee below.
- 1 1. Brew a fresh pot
- 2 2. Get a grinder
- 3 3. Fresh beans
- 4 4. Right amount of coffee
- 5 5. Ditch the cup/pad coffee maker
- 6 6. Clean everything
- 7 7. Salt
- 8 8. Add instant hot chocolate powder
- 9 9. Use a real cup
- 10 10. Use better water
- 11 11. Upgrade the creamer
- 12 12. Make your own
- 13 13. Cold brew
- 14 14. Bring your own
- 15 Conclusion
1. Brew a fresh pot
If your office has a coffee maker that brews whole pots at a time, that’s a recipe for disastrous tasting coffee. That’s because these posts will stay on the hot plate for hours until they’re finished.
Keeping coffee hot is one of the worst things you can do to it. Continued heat applied to coffee develops certain acids and oxidizes other compounds which creates a sour taste.
So, an easy way to improve the coffee is to brew a fresh pot regularly. This is not a big time investment and makes a big difference in taste.
If the coffee has to be kept hot because the pot isn’t finished yet, just make smaller batches.
2. Get a grinder
Got a coffee machine that doesn’t do whole beans? There is an opportunity for a big improvement there. While many office coffee machines have been upgraded to take whole beans and do everything, not all the offices and machines are quite there yet.
In that case, you can really upgrade the taste of your coffee by getting a separate grinder for whole beans. If you’re just making coffee for yourself, a hand grinder is fine. But, unless you want big arms and have 20 minutes to do a workout during the day, an electric grinder is going to be a much better bet for an office.
A decent burr grinder with adjustable grind size is going to improve your coffee dramatically if you’re using ground coffee now. Just grind enough coffee for the day and preferable just enough for the batch of coffee that’s about to be brewed.
With a grinder it’s important to get the right grind size. Take a while to set up the grinder to the correct size. What the correct size is, depends on the brewing method. For machine drip coffee, medium-fine is the best place to start.
3. Fresh beans
With a grinder, it’s necessary to switch to whole beans. Otherwise the grinder is pretty useless.
Ground coffee goes stale pretty quickly. Whole beans do too although slightly less quick. Coffee beans taste their best up to 1 month after roasting but after that the taste goes downhill fast.
Office managers tend to buy in bulk to save money and to make sure there is enough caffeine to keep productivity up. The cubicle cattle might actually strike if there is no coffee in the morning. But buying a lot of coffee means some beans will get old in the cupboard and it won’t taste too great after a while.
Ideally you want to be buying smaller batches of freshly roasted beans so you always have fresh ones. There are two ways to go about this;
- There are subscription services that deliver fresh coffee regularly. Fresh beans will be delivered weekly/monthly and usually you can choose different blends.
- Find a good local coffee shop that roasts their own beans and try to make a deal with them. This way you can have really fresh beans since they’ll be roasted especially for you.
Of course there are tons of different beans, roasts and blends available. But, your local coffee shop or coffee subscription service is going to be able to help you make the right choice.
4. Right amount of coffee
Getting the right amount of coffee grounds for the amount of water is very important for the final result.
Recommended ratios of coffee to water for drip coffee can range from 1:11 to 1:18. Most baristas recommend a 1:17 ratio as ideal. So that’s a good place to start.
To get the ratio exactly right it’s best to weigh both the coffee and water. That’s not going to happen in most offices. So how can you get this right?
Well, in the end the exact ratio is just a guideline to get good tasting coffee. Just make the end result leading. You probably have a scoop that’s used to measure the amount of coffee you put in the machine. Keep the amount of water the same and start varying the amount of scoops to see what you like.
It’ll take some experimenting to get it right but a simple rule of thumb you can start off with: If the coffee is sour, use a bit less grounds and if it’s bitter, use more grounds.
5. Ditch the cup/pad coffee maker
The coffee machine that works with pads or cups was an upgrade over a normal coffee machine for a while but has been surpassed by modern machines that take whole beans and do everything else.
If you like the coffee that comes out of this type of machine, great, but in that case you wouldn’t be reading this article.
If you’re looking for an upgrade after this type of machine, there are better options available. As said, a machine that takes whole beans and grinds those at demand is going to be much better. They’re usually more expensive to buy and run as well though.
If you’ve got a machine that takes pads, you can double up on the pads to get better coffee. Manufacturers often cheap out on the amount of coffee in a single pad to make it seem cheaper. With cups this is more difficult.
For machines that use cups, there are reusable cups available that you can fill with your own coffee. Filling those cups with freshly ground coffee is a great way to make the best of those machines.
6. Clean everything
What’s the last time the coffee machine was cleaned? It might be quite a while ago. A dirty machine can definitely give a bad taste to the final result.
All the removable parts should be cleaned daily. The water reservoir of many coffee machines is actually pretty germ-ridden. However, the reservoir is usually pretty easy to take out and clean. The reservoir, filter tray and lid (if removable) should be cleaned daily with the other dishes. Don’t forget to clean the pot as well since it’s an often overlooked part to clean.
Cleaning the rest of the machine has to be done on a regular basis although not as often. To find the cleaning procedure/schedule for your specific coffee maker, you’ll have to dig up the manual. Very often it involves running the machine with a few cups of straight vinegar or sometimes a vinegar solution.
If your coffee is too bitter, there is a very simple trick to make it taste better. Just add a pinch of salt to the coffee grounds. About half a gram of salt per cup of coffee is a good place to start. If you put it in the grounds it’s easier to get the right dose and it dissolves during the brewing so it’s mixed in really well.
You could also add a bit of salt to your cup after it’s brewed but you have to be really careful. Just half a gram of salt for a cup of coffee is enough. Without a very precise scale, it’s difficult to get that right. It’s easy to overdo it and make the coffee taste salty.
If you’re willing to experiment a little and possibly ruin a cup of coffee, just see how much salt your coffee needs to lose the bitterness without starting to taste salty. A good way to make the salt a bit easier to dose is to make a water/salt solution. Adding some of the salty water is easier to dose than straight salt and it’s easier to mix as well.
8. Add instant hot chocolate powder
This feels like cheating but hey, if it works, it works. Adding some hot chocolate powder to bad coffee will make it taste much better. Yeah, chocolate milk tastes better than bad coffee, shocker..
If you keep the amount of hot chocolate powder relatively low, it’ll still taste mostly like coffee, just balanced out by the sweetness and round taste. You can choose to mix it into the coffee after you brew it but it’s also an option to make a bit of hot chocolate first and mix it in with the coffee. The latter option makes it much easier to mix into the coffee and dose.
If you want milk in your coffee, warm up the milk first, then mix in the powder. After that you can add some to your coffee.
9. Use a real cup
Coffee in a Styrofoam, paper or plastic cup might be easy and it’s what office coffee often comes in. It’s not so good for the taste though. In general you really want to avoid drinking from plastic, even if it’s BPA free. Especially when the beverage is hot.
Even food safe plastic can leach chemicals into the contents. Some are worse than others but overall it’s not good for your health. With a hot beverage, this gets even worse. The heat and liquid makes the process of chemicals dissolving much faster. That means putting hot coffee in a plastic cup is a bad idea for your health but also for the taste.
Chemicals often have a taste so that will influence the taste in a bad way. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it while other times you get an overt plastic taste.
There’s a really easy solution. Get your own cup and use that for your coffee. Ceramic or glass doesn’t matter, just get what you like as long as it fits in the coffee machine. It’s better for the environment as well.
10. Use better water
Coffee is mostly water. So if your water has a taste, that will also get into your coffee. So while using tap water might be safe, especially because you heat it up, it might have a negative effect on the taste of the coffee.
In an office, you’ll probably have a water cooler. In the water cooler there is often a bottle of filtered water. This is going to be your best bet for water. It will likely create a slightly smoother tasting coffee than with tap water.
Is it going to be huge difference in taste? Probably not but it can be that last edge to get your coffee to taste better.
11. Upgrade the creamer
Still using powdered coffee creamer? It’s time to upgrade. Powdered coffee creamer is easy to use but, It’s not that good for taste though. It’s really easy to get a better-tasting option so that’s a big taste improvement for little effort.
As long as there is a fridge in the office, you can bring a carton of fresh milk or cream. If you want a dairy-free option there are plenty of alt-milks available as well. Macadamia milk and oat milk work pretty well in coffee. Heavy cream is going to be closer than milk in mouthfeel to powdered coffee creamer but it is much higher in calories of course.
For an even better result you can warm up the milk or cream in the microwave for a few seconds. It doesn’t have to be boiling, just close to the temperature of the coffee you’re going to put it in.
12. Make your own
The best way to get good coffee is to make your own in the office with your own equipment. There are travel sized coffee grinders and brewers that are easily stored in a drawer. You only have to take them to the office once and you can brew your own forever.
A good grinder and Aeropress for example can provide you with much better coffee than the average office coffee machine ever will. Most coffee machines have the option to give you hot water so you don’t need to bring your own kettle.
You could disturb some other people with your grinding. However, if you do this in the kitchen it’s not going to be a problem. And even with a hand grinder, it’s only going to take you two minutes to grind enough for your coffee for the day.
The only problem is that your colleagues are going to be jealous and you might have to make more than just coffee for yourself to keep everyone happy.
13. Cold brew
Cold brew coffee has become a very popular drink because of its flavor profile. Cold brew has a very smooth taste without any bitterness but with a delightful acidity without being sour.
If your cold brew is sour, something might have gone wrong. Read here what the reasons for that could be.
It’s really easy to make cold brew. All you need is a container that’s large enough to hold all the liquid and a fridge it fits in. If you’ve got a special cold brew maker, that’s the easiest but otherwise, a sieve will work to get the grounds out of the cold brew after steeping.
In the fridge, it takes 24 hours to fully steep cold brew. So you do have to make cold brew the day before. But this is only a problem for one day a week. Prepare the cold brew on Monday morning and you can drink it from Tuesday morning. You could make a double batch on Thursday morning and keep it in the fridge until Monday. It will still be good to drink.
You probably don’t have a scale in the office so make sure to check out this post. It tells you exactly how to make good cold brew without a scale.
You could even heat up cold brew if you want a hot beverage. Find out in this post how to do heat up your cold brew properly.
14. Bring your own
None of the above tips are working? Just go to the coffee shop around the corner and buy a cup of coffee there or bring it from home. Maybe your office’s coffee situation isn’t going to change anytime soon. Instead of making enemies by wanting to change things (costing money), just take care of your own needs.
Making your own at the office would still be a better option but it’s not practical everywhere.
There are a ton of things you can do to improve the taste of the coffee in your office. Not all of the tips above are going to be suitable or possible in your specific situation. Maybe your type of coffee maker doesn’t allow changing things or you’re not in a situation to change anything. Even if that’s the case, I think there are still some tips you can implement to get a better brew during work hours.