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.

18 Comments

  1. Nice job!

    If you serve high quality coffee.. how do you “show” it to your potential clientele? Client comes in and sits in front lobby… If your fancy coffee maker is in the kitchen, how do you present the new client with the specialness of your quality coffee?

    Is it appropriate to put your fancy coffee in the lobby and have them serve it themselves?

    • Sam Glover says:

      Expecting random visitors to operate your coffee-making equipment is a pretty high bar, I think, unless you opt for a K-Cup System.

      But if you serve pourover or use the Aeropress, I would definitely make the coffee in the lobby (whether you do it or have your staff take care of it), while you talk about coffee. It might be a nice way to break the ice with first-time visitors, and catch up with people you already know.

      If you really wanted to get fancy, you could even make up a small menu that you hand to visitors when they arrive (to include non-coffee beverages).

      And if you have room for a dishwasher, serve in proper cups, not paper.

      • That is a fantastic idea. I am going to execute.

        • Jim in San Diego says:

          To All Posters: It is so refreshing to read a “comments” column that is so positive, funny, and truly human. You all are obviously well-mannered, helpful people who want a discourse with others like yourself. So many of the “comments” on the net are mean, hurtful, nasty, and useless. Thank you for this bit of fresh air.

  2. Bill Bean says:

    Very helpful post for the New Year. let’s get the important stuff right at the very beginning. I’m going to have to look in to the Moccamaster.

  3. Jonathan Stevens says:

    Great post for changing things up here! We recently installed a coffee lounge at our firm and the clients are loving it! First impressions are everything! Spot on post here bout some of the small details that can make you stand out from the competition.

  4. Sam, you and I are on the same wavelength with coffee. Aeropress, French Press, Chemex, v60, Kalita Wave… all amazing choices. And the electric kettle and burr grinder are clutch. Fun post.

  5. static says:

    I fail to understand how virtual lawyers can serve their virtual clients virtual coffee in their virtual waiting room? Is this another secret Cloud or scanner post? And what does this have to do with the iPad?!?
    I think you’re just screwing with me and trying to hurt my feelings because I still use Chock Full o’ Nutz.

  6. joe says:

    One word – Jura – great taste and single-cup convenience. Pricey, but worth it and you can use less expensive whole bean coffee.

  7. Surely Jura is the most lawyerly of all coffee-maker brands.

  8. I’m going to have to go for espresso coffee every time for a few reasons. First – it’s fast to make with the right equipment. The stove top options and the french press all require time which, if your receptionist is in charge of coffee, is time that they are not spending at reception…. Second – it tastes the best (caveat here is that it slightly depends who’s making it). Even a fully automatic espresso machine will, in my view, beat most of the other options here.

    If you’re lucky enough to have a full time hospitality person and an easily opened cheque book – then the glitzy Marzocco looks pretty good to me….

  9. John Howard says:

    Thanks for the information. I think that my office drinks the most coffee of any office. They love the stuff. They work really hard, which is why they might be drinking so much coffee. I think that I’m going to share this around the office and see what people have to think about it.

  10. Mark says:

    I have both. If I have an older European client, I serve them espresso in a real espresso cup and the are very impressed and almost could care less if I’m a good lawyer!!!!

  11. Personally I’m a big fan of the French press. You can brew a strong, flavorful cup. And if you spend a little extra money, a good looking press can actually make a fancy adornment during meetings. Refills are also convenient. One drawback might be the sediment that can make its way into the cup. I’ve found this can be reduced with a press that features a double screen. Love this post — it illustrates the real questions that keep attorneys up at night!

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