Coffee has been a hot topic on the listserv lately, with people swapping tips about what machines they use and debating about whether the key to great coffee is in the equipment or in the freshness of the beans. In most for-profit coworking models, free, all-you-can-drink coffee is included in your membership fee. Coffee helps to animate the space, and gives people a reason to get away from their desks Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, argues that to encourage innovation and ideas, people need to have the opportunity to “collide” with one another, to interact. In a shared space, the common coffee pot, helps to provide an opportunity for partners to interact – because let’s face it, coffee is a necessity in the working world.
As I’ve visited nonprofit centers across North America, there are four kinds of coffee cultures I’ve observed. Even little things can speak volumes about what goes on behind the scenes.
Black Coffee: In these centers, you’ll find a single pot of black coffee. Maybe it’s a Bunn commercial coffee pot, or maybe it’s a 12 Cup Mr. Coffee machine. Usually the first person in the building makes the first pot, and other people fill it for the day.
What it Says: You value frugality and simplicity while respecting people’s time. People feel empowered to refill the coffee pot, without searching for the landlord to explain the bells and whistles. People can get in and out without delaying their day.
The Keurig Machine: Everyone loves the freedom of the Keurig Machine or similar options (Keurig pods are common but they aren’t recyclable). The landlord can stock a variety of pods or you can bring your own in.
What it Says: You embrace individuality and encourage choices, and you’re willing to pay a little bit more for the experience. People pause a little longer in the kitchen as their cup brews, and linger a bit more in the common areas.
Full-Service: Some spaces I’ve been in have a small café or coffee shop as one of their tenants, so all of the work to maintain the coffee experience is outsourced. Others encourage you to be your own barista, stocking a variety of flavored syrups and milks.
What it Says: You value connection, and taking your time to build bonds, as you slow down with your cup of coffee. If you’re waiting on a barista or you’re blending your drink to perfection, there’s more time to speak to the people around you, and a longer window to collide with someone else.
BYOE – Bring Your Own Everything: In this scenario nothing is provided by the landlord, but individuals take charge. Someone brings in their own coffee pot from home, while other bring in cups and coffee beans. Sometimes this is a shared experience, while other times everyone is simply looking out for their own caffeination needs.
What it Says: This scenario can go two ways. If the community is banding together to create a shared experience, it says that the people in the space have an understanding of teamwork built into their DNA. Together, they can solve any problem, big or small. If everyone is looking out for themselves, and you’ve ended up with 34 different coffee makers in the space, then it says that your space supports rugged individualism. In this context, working together may be a little hard for this group.
What’s your coffee culture and what does it say about your space?