10 Not-So-Secret Tips for Brewing Better Office Coffee

One of the best things about a nice, hot cup of coffee in the morning is the ritual of brewing it. However, in the rush of getting settled into your office workspace in the morning or during a quick afternoon break, it’s easy to rush the process and screw something up. 

We get it: The world of coffee brewing can be complex – grind size, brew time, water temperature. There are many factors that can affect how your drink tastes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Office coffee doesn’t need to be bad!

These days, there’s no excuse for coffee to taste like crap, even if it’s brewed in a break room. You just have to take matters into your own hands. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 easy tips for taking your office coffee from sludge to spectacular. 

So, you want to make better, more delicious, and more aromatic coffee to jump-start your day at the office? Let’s begin!

1. Always Buy Fresh, Whole Bean Coffee

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Without question, coffee is best when used within days of being roasted. Ideally, always buy your coffee beans as close to their roasting date as possible. 

This enables you to get every ounce of flavor and aroma from the coffee beans. Otherwise, coffee becomes bitter and loses its natural sweetness when it’s exposed to the air after roasting, which causes an increase in the amount of tannin.

As a general rule, this means buying from a local roaster (or roasting your own) rather than a supermarket. Buying locally is also the surest way to get the absolute freshest beans. 

Beans roasted in your city will almost always be fresher and therefore more flavorful than national brands. Most local roasters team with office distributors to help streamline the process of delivering their product. Give your favorite roaster a call and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Still not sure about it? Here’s our previous article about 5 Staggering Reasons To Shop Locally

2. Store Your Coffee Carefully

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To keep the coffee you buy fresh for longer, make sure you’re storing it properly. Again, the idea is to limit the amount of contact with the air so that the coffee remains sweet. 

While a vacuum-sealed container with a one-way valve is recommended by many, a standard Mason jar will suffice for most people. Airtight ceramic or metal containers designed for food are also a great way to store your coffee and keep it fresh. 

Flavor experts strongly recommend against ever freezing/refrigerating coffee, because roasted beans are porous and readily take up moisture and food odors. Any water will quickly deteriorate the coffee’s flavor. Optimally, buy a 5- to 7-day supply of fresh beans at a time and keep at room temperature.

If your office currently keeps coffee in the refrigerator or freezer, it’s time to move the coffee to an airtight container that’s room temperature. This will keep both air and water from destroying the coffee’s delicate flavors.

3. Start With A Clean Coffee Maker

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Office coffee makers often go neglected, being cleaned only rarely. If your office’s coffee maker is covered in coffee stains and dirt, you should clean the machine before you even start brewing. 

Regardless of whether your office has a cheap drip pot or a very expensive espresso machine, cleaning off old coffee oils and grime will significantly improve the taste of future brews! 

They all need to be cleaned so that previous coffee does not influence the taste of your cup. Make sure you rinse thoroughly. For storage containers, you can use soap and water or vinegar solution. But make sure you are actually getting the oils, the build-up and other contaminants out.

4. Grind The Beans Immediately Before Brewing

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If your office is currently using pre-ground coffee, switching to whole bean coffee and grinding it in the office will drastically improve the office coffee. Again, each time coffee is brewed, it should be made with freshly ground beans. Grinding coffee fresh releases volatile aromatics and flavor compounds. 

The main reason that store-bought and kiosk-bought coffee is so awful is that it’s been ground days, even weeks or months ahead of time! That increases the contact between the air and the coffee, making it taste bad.

Coffee loses quality almost immediately upon grinding, hence, the best-tasting brews are made from beans ground just before brewing. A great grinder is one of the most important tools in brewing coffee. Coffee connoisseurs prefer to grind with inexpensive burr mills, but affordable electric grinders will do a serviceable job as well.

5. Grind At The Correct Size And Coarseness

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The particle size of ground coffee determines how quickly flavors are extracted from the beans, with smaller particles extracting faster than bigger particles. When you brew coffee, you want all of your grounds to be about the same size, so all of the particles brew at the same rate. Being able to control the exact size of your ground coffee gives you a lot more control over the brewing process.

Different brewing methods require different grind sizes to make great coffee. But how do you know if you’re using the right size? There are two really easy ways to tell: TIME and TASTE.

With pour-over recipes, aim for the coffee to be brewed in about three and a half minutes. If the coffee brews too quickly, it means the grind was too coarse. If it brews too slowly, it means the grind is too fine. Additionally, if coffee tastes too acidic and sour it usually means the grind is too coarse, and if it tastes too bitter, it means the grind is too fine. 

Generally speaking, espresso requires a fine grind, pour-overs and AeroPress require a medium grind, and French Presses require a coarse grind. Adjusting your grind setting to time and taste will bring you one step closer to delicious office coffee. 

Here are the instructions to achieve each level of grinding:

  • Coarse ground – 5-10 seconds approx.- use for percolators and cold brew options
  • Medium ground – 10 seconds approx.- French press and drip coffee (electric or manual)
  • Fine ground – 15 seconds approx.- vacuum method of making coffee
  • Extra-fine – 20-25 seconds approx.- espresso makers

6. Good Office Coffee Needs Good Water

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The quality of the water you use is another often overlooked aspect of brewing coffee at the workplace. Nothing can ruin a pot of coffee more surely than tap water with chlorine or off-flavors. 

Coffee experts claim that the chlorine and other water additives will contaminate your coffee, leading to an under-extracted, weak coffee. Coffee brewing water should be clean and fresh by taste, smell and look. Serious coffee lovers use bottled spring water or activated charcoal/carbon filters on their taps.

7. Brew At The Right Temperature

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The temperature plays a factor in your coffee results. A water temperature that is too high, will extract the bitter-tasting compounds found in coffee beans. Other temperature influences are heating, boiling, or leaving in the keep warm function for too long.

In order to extract the best flavors out of your coffee, the water you use to brew also has to be at the optimal temperature: between 195 – 205 degrees F. While the temperature not only affects the speed of the extraction (cooler water brews coffee more slowly than hotter water), it also affects what gets extracted. 

This means that the amount of time you brew your coffee can influence the taste of your cup of coffee. Too long or short will result in either a bitter taste or a very weak tasting pot of coffee. Your brewing time depends on your coffee to water ratio.

All of these factors play a role in ruining your perfect cup of coffee. Brewing right in that sweet spot will bring out the sweetness and complexities of our coffees without extracting the unnecessary bitter flavors.

8. Avoid Cheap Filters

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Using bargain-priced paper coffee filters can be a recipe for disaster. Not only does it yield inferior coffee, but it can also alter the flavor of future brews!

However, choosing the right coffee filter can actually be quite confusing. Between bleached, unbleached, metal, paper, and sizes, things can quickly spiral into a complete mess. 

Remember, bleached and unbleached filters have little effect on the taste of your coffee. What can impact flavor is the overall quality of the filter you do purchase. When selecting a filter, don’t try and save a few cents. That few cents can make all the difference in the taste of your coffee.

When selecting a filter, make sure you not only select the proper size for your brewing method of choice but also make sure you pick the correct thickness as well. Thinner filters will allow the water to pass through it much more quickly, and this will negatively affect the brewing process.

The thicker the filter, the more expensive it will be. Coffee experts even suggest looking for “oxygen-bleached” or “dioxin-free” paper filters. 

9. Pre-infuse Your Grounds

Scientifically speaking, pre-infusing coffee means introducing just enough water to saturate the grounds. Typically, manual pour-over cones call for a preinfusion or the so-called “bloom”. This preps the coffee by pouring hot water over the grounds to help release any remaining carbon dioxide gas left over from the roasting process. 

However, most automatic coffee makers SKIP this crucial step. They don’t properly prepare the coffee grounds for full extraction. Skipping this step will allow the carbon dioxide to repel water during part of the brewing process, effectively making the brew weaker.

To pre-infuse your coffee, insert a filter into the hopper and add your coffee grounds. Then use a kettle to preheat roughly 50 milliliters or quarter-cup of water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Then slowly pour the heated water over the grounds, making sure to thoroughly wet all of them. Let this sit for approximately 45 seconds before starting the coffee maker. Doing this will improve the overall quality of the extraction for most drip-brew techniques.

10. Experiment!

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Coffee brewing can get technical – and the better you want your coffee to be, the more technical you should get. However, part of the fun of brewing coffee is experimenting with different brewing methods and different coffees! 

You may regularly brew your coffee with your office coffee drip pot and love the taste, but have you tried brewing with an AeroPress or a French Press? Maybe you’re a big fan your usual Cafe Americano, but have you tried brewing a Mochaccino? What about using a few extra grams of coffee for your afternoon cup and tasting the difference? 

There are a ton of ways to experiment with coffee, and each one of them will give you a little more insight into how you enjoy your office coffee, and how you can make it better. Try different coffee to water ratios, grind sizes, water temperatures, try brewing over ice. Remember that every part of the brewing process is variable so the possibilities are endless.

Finally, make sure to read over some of our previous coffee guides for extra tips such as Best Coffee Styles For Ultimate Productivity At Work; Factors That Characterize Great Coffee; and 5 Office Coffee Machines Perfect For Your Office.

Final Words

Offices are all about productivity, and productivity is all about coffee, which basically means knowing the tips above makes a lot of sense. These tips will provide you with a solid foundation to build on as you strive for the perfect cup of coffee.

At the end of the day, everyone has their opinion on their office’s coffee. What we have given you are only the common elements of making the perfect cup of coffee. The perfect cup will depend on your personal preferences and your personal additives.

Achieving the perfect cup of office coffee is not difficult. It may take a little work, but the effort is worth it. You will have the perfect cup of coffee every working day, or so we hope!

Make sure to share this article with anyone you think could use it!

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This article was brought to you by Office Libations, your San Francisco Bay Area office coffee, keg delivery, and snack service. Delivering top local brands and kegs of cold brew coffee, kombucha, beer, and wine.

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