Pod people – tweaking office coffee
August 3rd, 2010
03:00 PM ET
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As much I appreciate some righteous bean at home in the morning and after a restaurant meal, I'm pretty cavalier about office coffee. Perhaps it's that I'm so super-glued to my desk that even a stroll to the break room seems positively exotic, but I've never been someone prone to making a 'Bux run part of her workday.

It's more maintenance* than anything, so I've made my peace with pod coffee - Flavia, Senseo, Keurig, whatever's on offer in the automatic hot beverage delivery system - but I've developed a little ritual to sate my inner food fusspot. I make a "Faux-mericano," which entails poking a button to draw a strong, espresso-esque shot of the darkest blend on hand, top with hot tap water (huzzah, how it foams!) and add a dash of half-and-half.

Voila! I've fooled myself into thinking I've got a jumpin' little java treat on my hands. We do what we can to pass the time, and I'm hardly the only bargain basement barista out there.

Over the years, I've polled colleagues on the topic and it turns out a sizable segment dolls up their drink in some way. One added ice, cream and a slew of sugar packets. Another pulled two strong shots, then poured in skim milk, holding his other hand next to the cup until the liquid's color matched his skin. Still another dropped an espresso shot into a cup poured at standard strength and chugged it straight, no milk or sugar. She was...perky.

Yes, in an ideal world, we'd all take a leisurely mid-afternoon lope to La Petite Cafe Fetishista for shade-grown Kona, brewed in a Clover coffee rig that costs more than cars I've owned and topped with latte art renditions of Vermeer portraits, but then we'd miss the daily grind of our private ritual.

Do you futz with the Flavia? Sussed out a Senseo tweak? Let us know in the comments below and we'll share our favorites.

*Yes, I have tried repeatedly to ditch caffeine. It's not humane to the people around me.

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Filed under: Coffee • Sip


soundoff (308 Responses)
  1. jozaluna

    If I absolutely have to drink the office coffee I will use a hot chocolate packet as the creamer. It takes the edge off.

    August 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  2. Tyler

    We have gone through plenty of coffee changes at my workplace in the last year. For some reason, whenever we run out of coffee, someone always buys a different brand (some better than others). Also due to budget constraints, they stopped buying little liquid creamers – now they only offer powdered creamer (ick). As a result, two coworkers and I are on a rotational coffee creamer schedule (each of us buys a flavored creamer, usually hazelnut, on a weekly basis). That way, we still enjoy liquid creamer, and save a little too. (And we have a cool tongue-in-cheek name – "The Cream Team." As for my coffee, three sugars (real sugar) and enough creamer until it floats to the top. Stir, enjoy. Second cup mid morning.

    August 9, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  3. That's What's Up

    I pour black coffee into an available cup, let it cool for 3-4 minutes and then I drink it. It's a very complicated system but I almost have it down

    August 9, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  4. Margo Zargo

    Black coffee with some dried, crushed red peppers, the same peppers that some people sprinkle on pizza, is my favorite, and if I make it for other people I put whipped cream on top. I discovered this wonderful concoction when I was in Budapest, and it's great!

    August 9, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  5. Brat

    I'm easy. Just give me something with caffeine and some kind of lightener. If I drank coffee all day I'd be fussier, but since I only drink it in the mornings I could give a darn. Just wake me up.

    August 8, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  6. Amy

    Our work has a fantastic coffee machine that is hooked right into the water line and prepackaged filters with Foldgers coffee. You drop the filter in, hit the "start" button, and here comes the coffee. It doesn't matter who makes it, how they like it...the coffee is the same every time. I love that people can't mess with the coffee and make it strong or weak according to their taste.

    I also do love to mix in a packet of hot cocoa. I do that in the winters for an occasional afternoon mocha treat.

    August 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  7. John

    My cure for bad office coffee is to add a packet of instant hot chocolate to my cup and then fill with coffee.

    August 8, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  8. frankcanadain

    You poor Yanks. Cuban coffee is the way to go. That is, if you like your coffee black–no sugar, no cream. Cuban is a great tasting coffee that bitter Starbucks can't offer.

    August 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  9. purist

    Straight black coffee from a french press is the only way to drink caffine.

    August 7, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  10. BB

    I use two Green Mountain pods and mix in a Nestle hot chocolate mix, to make my "poor man's mocha".

    August 7, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  11. M

    I am working at an office that has a Flavia Fusion 400 coffee maker. There is a large drawer cabinet filled with a variety of flavors of coffee, including 2 step cappuccinos, hot chocolates, teas, candy bar mixes and a variety of espressos and coffees. I bring my own half and half to add. I love that machine. It's an adult version of being in a candy store.

    August 7, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  12. steve

    I use NutriCafe in all my coffee makers. Great coffee, no burn smooth and they say it is healthier for you to boot! I haven't been sick in a while and it is the only thing I have done differently. Great brew!

    August 6, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  13. SherriM77

    a big glass, ice, coffee, a squirt or two of good melted chocolate and almond milk stir and drink, yummy

    August 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  14. Audrey

    Okay so tell me if this is odd...one of my coworkers puts salt in her coffee. She will put like 5 or 6 of those small packets of salt in a small cup of very strong black coffee and nothing else. She says it cuts the bitterness out...

    I've never seen anybody do that before and I think its just disgusting and very odd but maybe I'm wrong..maybe more people do it and I'm just not aware of it.

    August 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • M

      It may sound odd, but I will try it sometime. I can't swallow black coffee and I drink a lot of calories since I "take a little coffee with my half and half".

      August 7, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  15. Sarah

    Swiss Miss or Ovaltine all the way! Although I recently quit drinking coffee (I'm not sure how I've made it so long honestly-7 weeks 3 days now). I used to also grind my own coffee and would add a few balls of allspice, a bit of cinnamon stick and a couple nutmeg sprigs to the beans then grind it all up together. Then just a dash of cream and a bit of sugar and you're ready to go! This is such a cozy drink.

    I've now opted for what I call the "Poor Man's Chai". Brew a cup of strong black tea (I prefer Tetley's), add two spoons of sugar and about half a spoon of cinnamon. Once nice and dark, pour over a tall glass of ice and fill with skim milk. I have yet to try it hot, as it's summer and I keep pouring it over ice, but it's delicious!

    I'll most likely end up drinking the "Blue Collar Coffee" once it gets cold again. I can't imagine a winter without it!

    August 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  16. kelly

    I put carnation instant breakfast in mine. you get flavor and vitamins =)

    August 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  17. JMcCain

    I would put Obama's birth certificate in my coffee....if you could prove it exists and present it to me! But you can't!

    August 4, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  18. Alliekat

    1 packet of hot chocolate to my coffee please! And yes, with marshmellows! Make it steamy hot and add half n half and Im nice to everyone for the rest of the day. :-D

    August 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  19. kazz

    whiskey!

    August 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  20. coffee addict

    A teaspoon of Godiva liqueur or amaretto cream liqueur will make just about any cup of generic "office coffee" palatable. Just don't get caught with it ;)

    August 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  21. david

    I'm not sure why it hasn't been mentioned yet, but cardamom is a very popular spice to add to coffee in the mideast. in fact, turkish coffee might be brewed with up to 40% cardamom and other spices (although somebody did mention garam masala, which typically contains cardamom, cinnamon, clove, etc) Turkish requires a very fine grind and some time so it's not as easy to do. For a quick turkish flavor, adding fresh ground cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and honey to a drip brew does season it quite nicely. I've heard you can add the spices to the pre-brewed grounds, but I've never tried it like that. If you add ground spices post brew, just don't drink it to the bottom.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  22. Fran

    My husband used to put 2 sugar-free malted milk balls in the cup, then fill it with hot coffee.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • Alliekat

      Thats histerical and the best addition Ive read yet!

      August 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  23. RMayr

    I add a packet of Swiss Miss on cold days. Another favorite of mine for hot days is dissolving a tablespoon of instant coffee in a little bit of very hot water and then fill it up with ice cold vanilla Soy Milk.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  24. tedd

    Now i don't feel too strongly about ditching coffee.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  25. RMayr

    I add a packet of Swiss Miss on cold days. Another favorite of mine for hot days is dissolving a tablespoon of instant coffee in a little bit of very hot water and then fill it up with ice cold Silk vanilla Soy Milk.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  26. NacLady

    We have a local Coffee Shop, that roasts it's own beans – it's been here since the mid 90's and their coffee is AMAZING. But I can't afford to run there every morning and get me Grande Dark Chocolate Mocha or their signature Chocolate Java Shake...I CAN purchase their whole Beans, and brew a pot in the morning in my Grind-n-brew Cuisinart we got for christmas...and they have LOTS of different roasts, so I can choose to mix-n-match, kind of make my own blend. But at heart, I'm a coffee snob – I will NOT drink starbucks, dunkin doughnuts, or anything else. I've even gotten so bad as to buy my mother coffee from Java Jacks, so that when we visit, I have my REAL coffee.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  27. Bailey

    I brew a single cup of French Vanilla flavored coffee and add a spoonful of hot coco mix, a dash of creamer, and a packet of sugar. Tastes somewhere between a mocha and a cappuccino.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  28. Patrick

    A few of us coffee fiends in the office got fed up with the mediocre coffee provided by the company. We pooled together and purchased a good grinder and take turns bringing in whole beans from our favorite roasters. The sound of the grinder has become our cue to gather for a great cup of coffee. It even promotes a little cross-departmental networking.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  29. Terry

    I like a dark, extra bold coffee, but with a tinge of smooth sweetness. So, I use my Keurig to give me that bold coffee, then I stir a White Swizzle sugar stick (Rock Candy on a 5" wooden stirrer) in my cup... gives a much smoother sweetness than the standard processed sugars and provides a much purer form of sugar without the impurities normally found. Swizzle sticks are sometimes hard to find... I eventually found mine at Scandinavian Spice. Using swizzle sticks as stirrers in bourbon or Irish Whiskey also works great for those of us who like our whiskey straight but without a bit of the edge.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • David

      Sugar is sugar.

      August 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
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