NCN Blog Entry: What’s Your Coffee Culture?

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Coffee for Small Spaces

Coffee for Large Spaces


Coffee for Small Spaces


From an Ask-NCN Discussion

Jenny Camhi, Leichtag Foundation, 1/4/16
Here is a very deep question for the New Year: We want to invest in a good espresso/coffee system for our Hub space. We don’t have an extremely high level of traffic, so we can use a system that just makes one cup of coffee at a time. We want this to be a system that helps “activate” the space…our goal is two fold: 1) make a great cup of coffee and 2) bring people into the kitchen to create positive collisions.

Advice?? Thanks!

Chelsea Boos, Community Programmer, Arts Habitat Edmonton, 1/5/16
here are some of the tastiest and sociable coffee methods.

David Gise, Managine Director @ Centre for Social Innovation NYC, 1/5/16
In our experience its not the machine that determines whether the cup of coffee is “great” but the coffee itself. Perhaps you can align yourself with a coffee company (provider) that aligns with your organizational values and then have them come in to do a tasting with your community.

We use a local social enterprise here in NYC (COFFEED) and they’ve done a lot to reinforce that we live our values, have helped bring our community together through tastings and sponsorship of food at various programs/events and have even been a great referral engine for new members.

Most coffee providers will also provide a machine at no (low cost) and service them for free. Analogous to a getting a free printer so you have to pay for the ink. It obviously will depend on your traffic though.

Shelby Fox, Director/Operations Manager @ Knight Nonprofit Center, 1/6/16
Our vending machine company provided a Keurig and then had a coffee and tea “pod” dispenser like a vending machine where people could buy coffee pods and then use the Keurig for free. However most people ended up brining in their own pods and not buying them so the company ended up removing it however I think that also had to do with placement on our part that it wasn’t used as intended. But the Keurig is GREAT! Then you could just go and get some coffee pods then it is a one cup at a time process and people can get what they want. If it is semi high traffic of mostly visitors I would suggest going the vendor route however if it is mostly everyday tenants you are trying to encourage to get together then you could buy the machine and provide sweetener etc and maybe take turns purchasing the coffee or depending on your budget buy it for a while and see if it is being utilized correctly. I have not done it yet but want to set up a “coffee and collaboration corner” somewhere in my building to encourage this also. Let me know what you decide!

Jimmy Martin, Facilities Director @ Chicago Literacy Alliance, 1/6/16
The Literacenter employs a single-use machine from Mars called the Barista. It’s the largest unit they offer, but they have smaller versions. You can buy them or you can go through a vending company who will then service them as needed. They use single packets, similar to Kuerig, but these are recyclable through Mars. You can usually get the Flavia packets through a vendor cheaper than buying them online, also.

The coffee is good for what it is and the machines work quite well as long as the packets are emptied regularly. We haven’t had an issue we couldn’t resolve on our own or with a little phone support. The only issues we’ve had have been user error related, as most things usually are.

The Flavia packets are approximately $0.50 a pop, but you as the facility operator never have to worry about cleanup or preparation other than having the packets available for your members. Plus, the machine looks great wherever it is.


Alexis Paza, Community Catalyzer @ Tides, 1/6/16
If a center is looking at single-serving coffee machines, I’d strongly recommend searching for an alternative to “K-Cups”, like the Mars version from Literacenter highlighted below. Keurig, owned by Green Mountain and maker of K-Cups, has committed to making a fully recyclable K-Cup by 2020, but for now 13 billion+ end up in a landfill every year. Even if each user does the work of breaking down each cup (grounds, plastic, and foil) after use, most communities in the US do not have recycling facilities to handle the kind of plastic currently used for the cups (plastic #7).

Both the Atlantic and Mother Jones have done some great write-ups on K-Cups, if interested.

Robert Zeidler, President @ The Cotton Factory, 1/6/16
A good friend of mine has created a very successful coffee roasting company over the last 5 years. ( One thing he emphasises is that the grinder is just as important as the actual coffee machine. You should read his comments and think about your choice of grinder (

I would also ask you to think twice before buying any system that generated the volume of non-recyclable plastic that the Keurig system does. There are other one cup options. If you are in any way concerned about the environment, you will be shocked at the volume of waste these coffee systems generate.

Shelby Bradbury@ Sierra Health Foundation, 1/8/16
We hire a local coffee vending company, for example:

There are currently 18 organizations (80 +/- individuals) of various sizes at our center. The committee that organizes the day to day happenings arranged a system of payment by dividing up each month of the year to be paid by one large group or several smaller groups. These supplies are to be used only by the tenants and any meetings must be supplied separately by the hosting organization.

The monthly delivery is coffee, tea, sugar/sweeteners, creamers and filters for two break rooms. Each break room was equipped with a coffee maker and air pots to dispense.

This system has worked very well for the 7 years that we have been here. The monthly totals are $375-475 depending on how much they use each month.




Coffee for Large Spaces


From an Ask-NCN Discussion

Nada Zohdy, Open GovHub, 6/7/2016
I’m emailing to ask about something that probably dictates most of our work lives: coffee.
I’m curious to know what kind of coffee machines/makers you all use, particularly machine in large shared spaces?
Our 20,000 sq ft center has 160 desks plus lots of visitors coming in an out on a regular basis, so the machine gets lots of use.
We currently have a Peet’s ‘bean to cup’ brewing machine that grinds coffee beans for each cup and offers coffee, espresso, cappucino, hot chocolate, etc. But it seems not a week goes by when we don’t have some kind of functioning error.
As you can imagine, coffee machine dysfunction can be a major source of tenant dissatisfaction!
Does anyone have any recommendations for a machine with a variety of coffee drink options that can withstand frequent use with minimal dysfunction and maintenance (and hopefully isn’t too costly)??

James Thomson, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives @ New Path Foundation, 6/7/16
Here at our common roof locations we just use commercial grade coffee makers with carafes; they are supplied by a local company who maintains them and drops off supplies (i.e. coffee pouches and filters). We purchase cream, milk, sugar, stir sticks, etc. The cost for this is billed back to the tenants who have agreed to share equally; those not wishing to be a part of this pay on a per use basis. Everyone shares in the responsibility of making coffee as the need arises…our reception staff usually get the first pot of the morning and then staff from the tenant organizations make additional pots throughout the day. We chose to stay away from the more fancier machines that make a variety of drink options over concerns regarding upkeep, maintenance, etc.

Jimmy Martin, 6/7/16
Our space is similar in size to yours, and we’ve had some success with the Mars Barista. This unit uses Flavia packets which make it similar to a Keurig, but with the option to recycle the packets. We choose this option, but the cost and effort adds up. The machine itself is very dependable, and maintenance is simply removing a jammed packet every now and then when someone doesn’t empty the used packet bin when prompted. We’ve had two units for over a year and have experienced very few issues.

Pros – lots of options, very little work to maintain, looks great, very impressive

Cons – brewed cups are small, so people brew double to compensate (increasing expense), lots of work and some cost to recycle packets, sometimes confuses/intimidates new users (not immediately intuitive)

We’re currently considering a move, however, to a different brewer that uses simple, fully biodegradable coffee pods. We’re looking to improve the coffee flavor/cup size and reduce cost.

Rebecca Landau, Property Manager @ Urban Land Conservancy, 6/8/16
In my previous office, we had a large, impressive Starbucks machine, but the coffee was ridiculously expensive and the machine seemed to breakdown frequently. We also had to purchase filter paper for it. Ultimately we went to a Keurig machine which was piped directly to the water source. We ordered the coffee from Amazon and it was shipped for free to the office. There is a company that has figured out a way to recycle the pods. You order a bin (which you pay for) and then when it is full your ship it in for free.

This turned out to be much more inexpensive, and there was no coffee wasted. You can of course, also brew tea, chai, and hot chocolate in the machine.

Last updated byNonprofit Centers Network