Price Matters

Thumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpg  Drip Coffee is the lowest cost option for office coffee at $0.03 – 0.24 per cup, but because it is only made “by the pot” much of it can be wasted and add considerably to cost. This kind of office coffee is black coffee only and generally purchased in bulk.  Erosion cost for drip coffee is moderate because it depends on the quality of ground coffee packs you stock at the office.  Unknown or no named brands of low quality coffee are safe.  But high-end name brand ground coffee packs can work their way out of the office because they will work just fine in traditional coffee makers at home.

Thumbs down cartoon.jpg  Pre-ground Single-Cup brew packages cost from $0.45 – 1.75 per cup for various flavors of regular black coffee.  Adding a milk package to the regular black coffee for a latte-type beverage essentially doubles the cost which can then range from $0.90 – 3.50 per cup.  Single-cup brewing has a much lower level of coffee waste as compared to drip brewing since each cup is made on demand, one cup at a time.  However erosion in single-cup packages is very high given so many people can take them home to use in their similar home brewers.
Thumbs up cartoon.jpg  Liquid Concentrate single-cup coffee is economical and costs from $0.18 – 0.80 per cup. Milk concentrate, which can be used to make a type of latte or cappuccino, essentially doubles the price per cup.  These machines are generally used for high volume locations like cafeterias, but if you have a large number of employees it may be feasible.  However if the volume is not very high, then it is likely the coffee concentrate will expire before used and be wasted.  Erosion in liquid concentrate is very low as the dispensers are not home brew devices and the coffee concentrate is sold only by the carton.
Thumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpg  Bean-To-Cup coffee generally falls into the $0.45 – 0.90 per cup range, which includes a large variety of coffee recipes like black coffee, cappuccinos, flavored lattes and espresso.  This type of machine is the closest you’ll get to an authentic café quality coffee since each cup is brewed fresh at the time of dispensing.  Erosion in bean-to-cup brewers is very low given the products that go into the machine are ingredients to make a variety of coffees and not end product used to brew a cup. 



Quality Matters

Thumbs up cartoon.jpg  Drip Coffee brands can make for a really good cup of coffee, but during the brewing process paper or fabric filters of any kind absorb natural oils and fats that are part of the coffee bean.  The oils and fats are a significant part of the flavor, aroma and nutrition of the coffee.  By filtering those out much of the richness of the coffee can be lost. 

Additionally, all pre-ground coffee begins to lose its freshness relatively quickly even if vacuum sealed. This is a natural process of the bean once ground so to get the freshest taste keep beans whole as long as you can.

Thumbs up cartoon.jpg  Pre-Ground Single-Cup brewer systems are very similar to that of drip coffee since, within each coffee package, hot water passes across pre-ground coffee and then through a paper filter into a cup.  For this reason, and similar to the quality concerns of Drip Coffee, much of the flavor in the coffee will be filtered out in the brewing process so maintaining fresh packages will be important.  Regardless, you may not find single-cup quality to be much different from that of a drip brewer system.
Thumbs up cartoon.jpg  Liquid Concentrate Single-Cup coffee dispensers have improved substantially over the past few years.  Household and premium brand roasters offer a liquid concentrate.   The liquid is pre-brewed coffee that is reduced to a concentrate and the mixed again with water when dispensing.  The concentrate is generally made using the drip brewing process.  As a result, much of the natural fats and oils in the bean are absorbed by filters in that process, which impacts the flavor and richness of the coffee.   

Thumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpg Bean-to-Cup brewers grind whole beans at the time of brewing to produce the freshest cup of coffee.  But not all bean-to-cup brewers are created equal.  Some machines simply drop those freshly ground beans onto a paper filter and brew basic black coffee.  Brewing it through the paper filter affects the flavor as much as any other brewer that uses a paper filter.  Other machines use stainless steel filter screens. Using steel screens rather than paper filters allows all of the fats and oils that are natural parts of the coffee bean to make their way into the cup.  The additional natural ingredients make for a far richer and more robust cup of coffee.  The filter, which either enhances or inhibits the brewing process, is the most important machine component to making great coffee. 



Common Service Options

Thumbs up cartoon.jpg  The first option is that your office coffee service provider will provide your office with the equipment at no cost, but that comes with your commitment to purchase all supplies from that provider exclusively.  In most coffee service situations it is difficult for the service provider to determine if, in fact, that agreement is being honored and, as a result, it is often abused.  The exclusive agreement for supplies is to partially help cover the cost of the equipment that is provided to you at no cost.  And while the supplies may be slightly more expensive than what your office may be able to purchase at a warehouse club, understand that the arrangement is to eliminate your office from having to purchase expensive coffee equipment that you’ll later have to maintain within your organization.

Ordering supplies on an “as needed” basis ensures you only have on hand what you really need.  But it does require more of an effort by someone within the organization to monitor supply levels to be sure you don’t run out of anything.  Allowing a provider to maintain those supplies for you is much more convenient and easier to maintain internally.  However someone does still need to be assigned to ensure those providers are not overstocking you to meet month-end quotas.  You can end up paying for stock that expires before it is used.  This is not a problem with trusted providers, but if you’re bringing on a new provider be sure to keep an eye on this for at least the first 6 months, and then quarterly thereafter.


Thumbs down cartoon.jpg  The second option is that your coffee service provider will charge your office for the equipment, similar to a monthly or annual lease payment.  However this option too typcially comes with the requirement of you to purchase all supplies from that provider exclusively.  While the equipment charges vary considerably by provider, the fee level is based on the sophistication of the equipment being used.  Equipment fees for drip coffee or airpot brewers are generally less expensive than single cup brewers or bean-to-cup brewers.  Be sure to include the equipment cost in your selection process as it will increase your cost per cup.

Hereto, if you are ordering supplies on an “as needed” basis it is important to have someone within the organization assigned to monitor the use and delivery of supplies.  This will help ensure products have proper expiration dates and that your organization is not overstocked to meet provider monthly quotas. 

Thumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpg  The final common service option is the Full-Service option and primarly found in Bean-to-Cup coffee service.  The machines used for bean-to-cup service are more sophisticated, but very reliable.  They are generally not “set it and forget it” machines.   They need to be filled, cleaned and maintained regularly. 

A full-service plan means your service provider will stop by your location on a regular basis and handle the filling, cleaning and maintaining for you.  You will never have to touch the machine or even turn it off.  This service alleviates anyone in your office from a regular coffee responsibility.  

Coffee service providers who offer bean-to-cup, full service options generally price their coffee service by-the cup.  (See Pricing section.)  There is no additional charge for the full-service becuase it is part of the per-cup cost, and yet still less expensive than most single-cup services.



Environmental Impact

Thumbs up cartoon.jpg  At the end of the brewing process Drip Coffee brewers contribute very little to the landfills. Ground coffee is a natural product that contributes positively to the environment. In fact you may have someone in your office that would like to use the old grounds in their garden. You also have filters to dispose of, which are typically made of paper and have very little impact on the environment. You can request environmentally-friendly filters from your coffee service provider, which are made from all natural products and are unbleached.  They are rated to be more biodegradable.
Thumbs down cartoon.jpgThumbs down cartoon.jpgThumbs down cartoon.jpgDisposal of Pre-Ground Single-Cup Coffee packaging waste is one of the largest concerns in the coffee industry today.  This primarily relates to those that come in an individual plastic cup or plastic bag.   The two largest providers of single-cup coffee, Keurig and Flavia, state that they combine to add more than 11 billion plastic cups and pouches to the landfills each year.  These are enough packages to wrap around the world nearly 13 times.  Today most of the material that is used to make the cups and pouches is recyclable, however the package needs to be separated from the coffee and filter before recycling and, as a result, only about 5% of those packages get recycled.  Single-cup brewers that use pods - ground coffee in a simple filter pouch – are more environmentally friendly, but still require the disposal of the plastic or foil outer packaging for each individual pod.
Thumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpg  Liquid Concentrate Single-Cup Coffee dispensers are very ecologically efficient with having to dispose of a 2 liter paper carton and thin plastic bag per 270 cups of coffee.  This type of office coffee is one of the most environmentally friendly on the market today, and can be provided one-cup-at-a-time.
Thumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpgThumbs up cartoon.jpg  Bean-to-Cup Coffee machines that use steel filters have nothing to dispose of into a landfill and are the most environmentally friendly brewers.  Since these machines contain ingredients used to make various coffee recipes, and not individual pouches or packs, the only bi-product of each beverage made is ground coffee.  As each individual cup is brewed there is nothing to dispose of.  Everything ends up in the cup.  Even bean-to-cup brewers that drop fresh grounds onto filter paper for brewing only have the filter paper to dispose of and nothing else.