African American businessman

Chief among the amenities that belong in any office, law or otherwise, is coffee. Oh sure, you should have tea, water, and soda, but coffee is the king of non-alcoholic beverage consumption. It also gives everyone something besides each other and their phones to stare at during long meetings.

Offering coffee is basic client service, but how you serve coffee says a lot about your firm.

Most Convenient: Keurig or Nespresso

The easiest way to serve coffee is to just get a Keurig K-Cup System. K-Cups are single-serving plastic coffee pods. Because they do not make a mess, they are perfect for an office, especially one that does not have a sink for washing.

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On the downside, K-Cups are fairly expensive (about 50¢ per cup) for coffee that is impressive by gas station standards, but not particularly impressive by any other standards. Running coffee through plastic is inelegant, at best. One other disadvantage is the time it takes to brew one cup at a time. It can take fifteen minutes or more to provision the conference room for a deposition. Plus, the only thing to do with all those K-Cups is to throw them away, because you cannot recycle them.

Nobody will be impressed if you serve coffee from a K-Cup, but on the plus side, nobody will be disappointed, either. There is a reason why you see them in so many offices, these days.

If you like the simplicity of single-serving plastic coffee pods, but your clientele might appreciate something a bit more refined than plain old coffee, you could get a Nespresso machine, instead. It has the same advantages and disadvantages as a K-Cup System, but having espresso on hand is likely to make visiting your office far more memorable. Of course, unless most of your clients are European, you should probably have regular coffee on hand, too.

Most Delicious: Pourover, French Press, or Aeropress

Pods are convenient, but they are also expensive and forgettable. If you want to make a more cost-effective cup of coffee, and also give your visitors something they might pay for at a good coffee shop, consider one of these options:

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  • Pourover. Get a great-looking Chemex or similar pourover coffee maker for oustanding coffee and easy cleanup at a fraction of the cost of a K-Cup System.
  • French Press. Like pourover, a french press is pretty simple, and it is classic. Get a good-looking press pot so you can leave it (or several of them) on the table for refills.
  • Aeropress. The Aeropress is quick, easy, and clean, even if it is not as elegant as a Chemex or french press pot.

Each of these methods requires a bit more hardware: a good electric kettle. You can also experiment with beans, and grind your own on the spot, if you prefer. This gives you a lot more flexibility in the coffee you serve.

They also require a bit more cleanup. You can effectively clean an Aeropress with a dishcloth or paper towel, but you will want a sink nearby for cleaning a Chemex or french press.

If you are going to use one of these methods, you might as well do your brewing in the room with your guests. You can talk while you make the coffee, and your guests will appreciate the extra effort — although some may worry they are putting you to too much trouble. But once you get the hang of it, none of them will be disappointed with the coffee you serve, and some may even tell their friends about the great coffee they got at their lawyer’s office.

Most Coffee: Technivorm Moccamaster

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If you drink coffee by the gallon, you can still get good coffee from something like the Technivorm Moccamaster, which works sort of like an automated pourover brewer. That means you still get good coffee, just a lot more of it. Even if you like pourover or an Aeropress for yourself, a big coffee maker might be nice to have for days full of meetings, so you can get down to business instead of standing around making coffee.

Most Ostentatious: La Marzocco GS/3

If you really want to make an impression, nothing I’ve mentioned so far really does the trick. That takes something like the La Marzocco GS/3, the Ferrari of espresso machines. If you really want to show off your love of coffee — along with your ability to spend money — a gleaming, $6,700 La Marzocco GS/3 in your waiting area is the only way to go.

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It might even pay for itself, if you send your receptionist to barista school and offer free wi-fi. Your clients will probably bring their friends to hang out in your waiting area and drink cappuccino.

No Matter What: Better Beans

Regardless what you use to brew your coffee, the coffee itself is far more important. Get a good burr grinder and experiment with different kinds of beans. You really can’t go wrong with Intelligentsia beans, but it is a lot more fun to explore your local roasters. Get in the habit of picking up a bag of beans whenever you visit a new coffee shop, until you learn what you like best.

Oh, and no flavored coffee. If you don’t like the taste of coffee, don’t drink it.

Originally published 2014-01-02. Last updated 2017-02-03.