office coffee wars: share your stories

One of my favorite “ask the readers” posts ever was one five years ago about office coffee wars (or tea/milk/etc. wars). It produced some amazing stories, including these:

“LastJob had a coffee club. I was not a member. There was one coffee maker. There were coffee wars over caffeinated vs. decaf coffee. Regular coffee vs. flavored coffee. Regular caffeinated vs. flavored decaf. This was slightly mitigated when the company expanded to another floor of the building and we gained a second break room and a second coffee maker. One floor’s coffee maker was designated for decaf only, and the other for caffeinated. The flavored vs. regular battle waged on.

Two employees ended up getting disciplined (separately) for spending too much time each day ‘making coffee.’ They were in the kitchen for hours, cleaning the carafe, waiting for coffee to brew, organizing the containers of coffee, walking around polling people about what flavor of coffee to try next.”

*     *     *     *     *

“My company provides coffee machines on every floor but charges 20 cents per cup (except for ‘meeting coffee’ which is free). There are lists. People on every floor whose responsibility it is to refill coffee, sugar, and milk. Deputy people for this job. Monthly bills. Cash boxes on every floor where you are supposed to pay your bill. People who manage the cash boxes. Somebody in housekeeping whose responsibility is to manage cash logistics. Some other person in sales who hands out coffee, sugar, and milk (but needs a receipt for everything). Probably substitutes for these people too, I don’t know – you get the idea.

At some time someone made an official ‘proposal for improvement’ to eliminate the charge for coffee, the lists, the cash boxes and the whole system. Have a single person whose job it is to refill the coffee machines daily and be done with it. There was a short calculation how much time and effort could be saved. (A lot.)

That proposal has gone through the improvements committee (yes, that’s a thing), the sales people, the union, the CEO and back to the improvements committee. It is still under consideration after 18 months.”

*     *     *     *     *

“Ok so there is this guy at my work who is a contractor, he develops this particular bespoke computer system that my organisation uses. He is kind of an asshole, doesn’t come to team meetings, doesn’t really consider himself one of us. For the past couple of years he has planted his personal espresso machine in the shared kitchen. With its own coffee grinder and shit. He also brings his own milk in (the organisation provides milk). But he gets very angry if someone uses his gear. Once someone used his milk and he hung the bottle in a noose from a shelf with a big sign DO NOT USE THIS MILK.

Anywho one day he really lets rip at a new guy who used his coffee machine, really balls him out in front of everyone. He puts up a sign saying THIS EXPRESSO (sic) MACHINE IS A PRIVATE APPLIANGE, DO NOT USE. This really pisses me off. So I bring in my own espresso machine from home and plonk it on the counter next to his with a big sign YOU ARE MOST WELCOME TO USE THIS ESPRESSO MACHINE. I even provided some coffee. People use it and leave a donation and I buy more coffee, it’s a great system.

So he puts up a little hand written note on his sign THE OWNER JUST WANTS HIS WISHES TO BE RESPECTED AND FOR PERMISSION TO BE ASKED BEFORE USING THIS MACHINE. Haha, what a baby.”

It’s been five years, so I’m putting out a new call for more of these. In the comment section, please share your stories about office coffee wars that have you have participated in or witnessed. Water club and tea war stories are also welcome.

{ 947 comments… read them below }

  1. Wondermint*

    My first job never provided coffee. We asked and asked for a coffee machine to be provided and we would split the costs of coffee among ourselves. The CEO instead bought an electric kettle and a ton of tea.

    I should have left sooner.

    1. Blackbeard*

      I also worked, some years ago, for a company which did not provide coffee for free. There were vending machines for Nespresso pods, and employees bought coffee from these. That would not have annoyed me so much hadn’t the company been Nespresso.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Nespresso was Blackbeard’s employer. And rather than provide free Nespresso pods to the employees responsible for making (and selling and distributing, etc.) Nespresso, they charged their employees for their own product.

        2. Someone Else's Boss*

          I think the point is that this person worked for Nespresso, and that Nespresso was not supplying pods for free and was charging their employees for using pods that they, in fact, manufacture.

        3. A. Nonymouse*

          The aluminum pods are not exactly environment friendly, and they are quite expensive compared to pretty much any other way to make coffee.
          To each their own, but the Nespresso msking their employees pay for the product resonates with many rumours about Nestlé business practices.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        I work at Keurig. We get lots of free coffee. But we have to brew with all the test machines…..

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Me too. I hope all the machines have *at least* gone through safety testing, or it’s a worker’s comp claim waiting to happen.

            1. EngineeringFun*

              Haha! If it’s a bad brew you can just brew another but there are definitely bugs in the system.

              1. Kacihall*

                So it’s just a more figurative version of all the other Keurigs at companies? (After looking inside the reservoir of some at the last corporate job I worked, I cannot use a Keurig. Ever.)

                1. Kiwi*

                  I wrote in a while back about finding a cockroach in one while attending a seminar at another company. Literal bugs, no thank you.

      2. Lola*

        Yikes! I believe we have a winner! I tried my mom’s Nespresso machine over Christmas and was contemplating getting one for myself. Now I’m thinking twice. . . what an awful way to treat its employees!

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Nespresso is owned by Nestle, so if you’re looking at corporate behaviour as a whole, there’s a lot more than just this unfortunately.

          1. Badactorsineveryscene*

            Nestle is a horrible company

            Nestlé is the target of several boycotts.

            Since 1988 Nestlé has been the target of a boycott call by Baby Milk Action. The organisation says Nestlé contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world by aggressively marketing baby foods in breach of international marketing standards. Nestlé’s own report found 107 instances of non-compliance with its baby milk marketing policy in 2019.

            Nestlé has also received widespread criticism for its approach to sourcing its bottled water. In Canada, Nestlé faces boycotts from non-profit The Council of Canadians and indigenous rights organisation Lakota People’s Law Project for extracting water from watersheds that have seen droughts in recent years.

            Nestlé also took millions of gallons from a California creek network for a US water brand, leading the US Forest Service to state “the current water extraction is drying up surface water resources”.

            Conflicts between US communities and Nestlé over water extraction have also occurred in Maine, Michigan and Florida. The company’s US water operations are littered with court cases and lobbying.

            Nestlé subsidiary L’Oreal was also the target of a boycott call by Naturewatch, when we last checked in November 2020, which accused the company of ongoing testing on rabbits, mice and guinea pigs.

            The US Supreme Court has ruled food giants Nestlé USA and Cargill can’t be sued for child slavery on African farms from where they buy their cocoa. Six African men alleged that they were trafficked from Mali and forced to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The group say both companies perpetuated that slave trade to keep cocoa prices low. The court ruled 8-1 that the group had no standing because the abuse happened outside the US.

          2. Badactors*

            Nestle is a horrible company

            Nestlé is the target of several boycotts.

            Since 1988 Nestlé has been the target of a boycott call by Baby Milk Action. The organisation says Nestlé contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world by aggressively marketing baby foods in breach of international marketing standards. Nestlé’s own report found 107 instances of non-compliance with its baby milk marketing policy in 2019.

            Nestlé has also received widespread criticism for its approach to sourcing its bottled water. In Canada, Nestlé faces boycotts from non-profit The Council of Canadians and indigenous rights organisation Lakota People’s Law Project for extracting water from watersheds that have seen droughts in recent years.

            Nestlé also took millions of gallons from a California creek network for a US water brand, leading the US Forest Service to state “the current water extraction is drying up surface water resources”.

            Conflicts between US communities and Nestlé over water extraction have also occurred in Maine, Michigan and Florida. The company’s US water operations are littered with court cases and lobbying.

            Nestlé subsidiary L’Oreal was also the target of a boycott call by Naturewatch, when we last checked in November 2020, which accused the company of ongoing testing on rabbits, mice and guinea pigs.

            The US Supreme Court has ruled food giants Nestlé USA and Cargill can’t be sued for child slavery on African farms from where they buy their cocoa. Six African men alleged that they were trafficked from Mali and forced to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The group say both companies perpetuated that slave trade to keep cocoa prices low. The court ruled 8-1 that the group had no standing because the abuse happened outside the US.

        2. Middle Aged Lady*

          In my opinion, Nespresso does not get the coffee hot enough. Admittedly my one experience was in 2019 for a week at a relative’s house. Maybe they have improved this issue.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Signs you may be working for a money-grubbing, soulless corporation: it forces you to buy its products while working there.

      4. Love the tea*

        Yes! I know someone who worked at Nestle and I could not get over the fact that nespresso wasn’t free. As if one of the biggest companies in the whole world couldn’t afford to give their staff some free coffee when they make it. WILD!

      5. Bronze Betty*

        Decades ago, I worked a temp job for the summer for our local 7-Up plant, in the office. There were free dispensers for all 7-Up products throughout the office.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          Long ago I temped at Revlon, they have free makeup in all the bathrooms. It’s usually the lower priced brands but still… And it always seemed to be foundation and powder, things I didn’t usually wear. It was good I was only temping there.

      6. DanniellaBee*

        Wow! That’s really interesting. Nespresso seems like a company that would want to share and celebrate their own coffee as part of the culture.

        I currently am consulting for a major coffee company and they provide an abundance of coffee and ways to make it. It is just delightful as a perk and fits with the company culture.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Yeah, my gob is smacked. When I worked at Starbucks, I mostly gave away my pound of coffee/box of tea every week because that’s a lot to go through even when you’re not getting free drinks at work.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I work/live in Seattle and the HQ here does everything but hurl pounds of the stuff at our heads, they have so much around.

            1. Kate*

              I worked at Starbucks HQ in the 90s as a temp for a couple months, and there were bags set out to take home – I think it was a pound a week at the time.

      7. AlwhoisThatAl*

        I was installing software at a company that hired out drink vending machines. They had 1 ton bags of coffee, tea, chicken soup – all powdered and the factory ‘assembled’ by pouring the right amount into a plastic cup, then foil wrapping the stacks of cups so they could be inserted into the machines. Both the office and the factory had vending machines they had to pay for.
        People had kettles on their desks with their own tea bags and jars of coffee. The vending machines made almost no money at all. Plus of course some of the foil wrapped cups got “damaged” and found their way into peoples drawers, pour water from kettle into cup then pour cup into nice china cup, hey presto!

      1. Anne Wentworth*

        Yeah it makes me wonder if the CEO hates the smell of coffee as much as I do.

        Still, I would recognize that giving someone who asked for coffee tea instead is a recipe for resentment. Especially if they’re in the U.S., where most people don’t know about the existence of really good tea.

        1. Dovasary Balitang*

          Absolutely agree – giving a group of employees the opposite of what they were asking for is not a good look.

          I actually love the smell of coffee, I just can’t abide the taste.

            1. Wenike*

              Me three! But I also dislike tea (I’m sensitive to bitter flavors in general), so my caffeine comes with a hefty dose of sugar and fizz.

        2. Caffeinated in California*

          I love coffee, and I am a bit of a Tea Snob. But when I need caffeination I want coffee. When I want calm, tasty sipping, I want tea.

        3. Princess Sparklepony*

          On the other hand, I love the smell of coffee (as long as it’s fresh) but I hate the taste. I don’t understand how it can taste so bitter. But liver cooked with onions also smells really good and then feels disgusting in my mouth….

        4. Selina Luna*

          I’m someone who enjoys both coffee and tea, and who keeps a stock of both in my classroom, I often resent companies that not only have just one, but that also limit employees ability to make their own of the other.
          I will say that my favorite school staffroom had an off-brand k-cup coffee maker (you poured in the amount of water for each cup and it dispensed exactly what you poured in), along with the dirt-cheapest k-cups on the market and several reusable k-pod filter cups. You could bring in your own k-cups, you could bring in your own ground coffee, or you could just use it to dispense hot water. It was paradise, and it was relatively clean because the water vessel was literally opened and looked into with each coffee cup.

        5. BlondeSpiders*

          It works the other way, too. As a tea drinker, I side-eye anyone who would offer me coffee in lieu of tea, as if it was the same thing.

          Or worse, “here’s some tea bags. Use the coffeepot to heat your water.” NO THANKS Yecch.

      2. Singing in the rain*

        I would have too – I am a dedicated tea drinker. I’ve never tried coffee. I love the smell of it, but I just don’t see the need to drink it. My husband thinks I am really weird.

      3. EPLawyer*

        Getting a Keurig is actually how we solved the coffee/tea problem in our house. Hubby HATES appliances on the counter. So it drove him nuts we had a little Mr. Coffee for his one cup of coffee a day and my electric kettle for my tea throughout the day. So we bought a keurig. The water isn’t BOILED for my tea but its good enough. We just have marked reusable pods because we cannot mix his vile coffee one (truly he likes incredibly strong vile coffee that you cannot even reuse the container for anything because of the smell) with my lighter tea. Although I have actually done so and wound up with Teffee. I do not recommend.

      4. Lenora Rose*

        Tea drinker — who also drinks lattes and weird flavoured things but not straight coffee.

        I’d appreciate it, and I’d also absolutely understand why my coffee drinking peers would be furious at this.

      1. Berkeleyfarm*

        I used to work for a county and people are a little surprised to learn that we paid for our own coffee makers and break room supplies. (My dad worked for the state, and same.)

        The coffee and bottled water dispensers had “clubs” (e.g. if you used the ones in my area we would hit you up for the monthly bill) and our social committee ran bake sales for fridge/microwave/other expenses. (We also had ladies selling frozen home made tamales and lumpia. Very popular)

        1. Caffeinated in California*

          We also had ladies selling frozen home made tamales and lumpia.

          Oh, that sounds delicious!

          1. Sally*

            Not at work, but there was a woman who sold homemade churros on the platform of the 7 train in Manhattan. I always HAD to get some. If my office had churros and coffee, that would be heaven. We do have coffee though, so there’s not a lot to complain about in this thread.

            1. nobadcats*

              Churros! In my last neighborhood when I lived in Chicago, there was a guy who had a tamale and churro wagon. I was there at least two or three times a month.

              A friend told me about the time her family was in San Francisco at the piers, her brother got a little bag of churros, and before he could even get the first one to his mouth, seagulls swooped in and stole every last one out of his hands. I still laugh thinking of that.

    2. Steff*

      This is a coffee-adjacent story… hope it fits.
      I work at LargeInsuranceCompany. When I first started, I was a CSR in the call center with a very strict schedule. I had been there about a week, and was sitting in the break room eating my lunch when I looked up and literally saw a glass coffee pot JUMP OFF a coffee machine and shatter on the floor. It was empty and had sat on a hot burner too long, I guess. Every single person in the room immediately scatters like rabbits, and I am alone with broken glass everywhere wondering, what the hell?! My break was almost over, but I couldn’t just leave the glass there! I spent my last few minutes hunting cleaning supplies. Then I stopped by my supervisor’s office to explain the situation and let her know I would be late. She informed me that I should definitely clean it up but would still receive a tardy! Guess that’s why everyone else ran– they didn’t want to be penalized for the broken pot or being late cleaning it up. But she turned out to be a terrible supervisor and was fired a few months later. Moral of the story– hot glass breaks, so turn off the burner if the pot is low!

      1. nobadcats*

        Sweet fancy moses in a muffin tin! That’s scary! Someone could have lost an eye.

        Similar situation, at my current company, when we were still in the office in the Before Times, and I was also a contract player, they had this ginormous geriatric microwave that used to have a tempered glass turntable. The glass tray had been long gone by the time I arrived, and they’d been using a basic dinner plate. I took one look at it, saw how the glaze was cracked and crazed. Said to my boss, “Um, not to be an alarmist or anything, but a dinner plate, exposed to this much heat several times per day is going to explode. This is a danger to everyone.” She said, “Toss it, tell Lucinda to order a new glass plate for the microwave.”

        Lo and behold, a week later we got a totally new microwave. Win win!

    3. Required*

      I had a job for a judge and she had this ancient coffee machine in the office. She didn’t use it because she drank instant coffee, but she had the machine for others. It was like 20 years old and disgusting. After spending about 20 minutes trying to clean it and making no progress, I just bought a $20 Mr. Coffee machine (this was about 20 years ago) and everything was good. I bet Mr. Coffee (as the judge called the machine) stayed there until she retired.

      1. CallMeNil*

        In a similar, snack-related occurrence at my place, we had one person in our office who liked to toast bagels in the break room toaster. After the person set the toaster to “dark” and walked away a couple of times (resulting in the smoke alarms going off, the building being evacuated, and the fire department being summoned), Admin sent a memo on Monday announcing that, because of the immediate, inherent hazards associated with toaster use, the toaster would be disposed of ON FRIDAY. The office hero drew a cartoon of a toaster on the white board labeled “Toaster’s Last Stand”.

        The irony is that the culprit switched to overnuking popcorn and ready meals in the microwave, resulting in the same mayhem with the alarms, evacuations, and high-dime fire department visits on a regular basis. This was tolerated because the big bosses also liked popcorn and microwave meals.

        1. Tired but happy*

          I worked at a hospital where someone (before i worked there) became a legend by putting popcorn in the microwave, hitting TWENTY MINUTES instead of TWO MINUTES, got a call, and then.

          Well. Needless to say the fire department was involved and instead of the very reasonable request for people to, say, double check how long they’re microwaving their stuff or not leaving it unattended, the hospital banned ALL MICROWAVES IN BREAKROOMS.

          Did this stop microwaves in breakrooms?

          Apparently no. People just hid them. The cafeteria was locked after hours. There was only ONE MICROWAVE.

          But apparently this lasted for about 5 years before they relented.

    4. Ingemma*

      I work for a major international beer manufacturer and we have a free-to-use mega nespresso machine which IMO makes this even funnier

  2. IrishTeaDrinker*

    I just read the original post for the first time yesterday using the ‘Surprise Me’ tab!

    So I’m grabbing the popcorn and a mug of tea (I’m Irish, tea is like a religion over here and I, personally, don’t drink coffee)!

    1. NovaScotiaTeaDrinker*

      I’m with you – I’m a tea drinker too. Never got a taste for coffee.
      But husband says for a non-coffee-drinker, I make a really good pot of coffee!

    2. IrishinCanada*

      Having moved to Canada from Dublin in 2003, my proudest moment was when my teenage son held his own in the tea drinking stakes when my family visited over Christmas!

    3. Mom2ASD*

      Not a work story, but a university residence story – tea was a THING in my family (English background). Every day after school, tea happened. Any time there was an issue, tea happened. Tea was how we socialized, apart from meals. So I get to university and I continue to have tea in the afternoon after classes. Everyone in my 9 person dorm pod does the same, except for one person who never participates.

      After a couple of weeks, I am starting to dread tea time, and I found myself literally wondering what I had done to offend this person – why would they not have tea with me? Did I upset them? These thoughts finally percolate up to the conscious part of my mind, and I realize that I am taking their lack of tea-drinking personally!!!

      Once I separated out the TEA from the socialization, I realized the person always drank a pop with us.

      Taught me something about cultural expectations and questioning one’s perceptions, let me tell you!!

      1. Sally Forth*

        My husband’s office pod adjoined the pod in which the king was European and wouldn’t stop complaining about how bad Canadian coffee was. He bought an expensive Espresso machine (steam wand, not pods) and charged $2 a drink. However, he didn’t want other people to use his machine. This guy was just below VP level and was working as a barista!

        1. coffee*

          To be fair, untrained people using those machines can cause a surprising amount of damage. But I do laugh at the very true point that he was making himself a barista.

      2. Bryce*

        People can get hung up on food. I have some allergies, my mother has dietary issues that don’t overlap, we both keep kosher when possible but with different things we let slide, and it’s a headache to get people to understand “we’re just here for the social stuff and will take care of ourselves, don’t worry about it”.

    4. Frickityfrack*

      You’d like my office. We have about 87 kinds of tea and an electric kettle, along with multiple milk options for those who want it. There are 4 of us (and we’re American, so a lot of people think we’re weird). We also have a duo Keurig that can make a full pot of coffee or a single cup, but about half of our K cups are ALSO tea. Damn I love tea.

      1. Marketing Queen*

        When we were in an office, I had an entire large drawer at my desk dedicated to tea, since the tea options provided were very basic. Now that I’m fully remote, I can have whatever tea I want whenever I want, prepared properly with a kettle and all!

        1. Jammin'*

          Prior to hotdesking, my desk was part of a scavenger hunt where you had to count the number of teas I had on my desk. (It was more than 50; I was happy to share.)
          My work tea collection got killed after hotdesking was implemented. After that, I generally only kept 2-3 tins in the office. :(

      2. IrishTeaDrinker*

        OMG – that sounds amazing! :) I love tea and have never gotten a taste for coffee. Coffee has become pretty popular in Ireland over the last few decades but tea is still king! :)

    5. Stanley Cupcakes*

      Can confirm: I (Irish by descent) worked for a bunch of (actual) Irish diplomats and we had been working hard, planning for weeks for a visit from the Tanaiste to our capital, but the office kettle was on the fritz and it was remarkable how it affected everyone’s moods. Tensions & tempers ran hot, especially because the tea didn’t.

      When it finally refused to turn on at all, I had one delivered in two hours. The atmosphere in the Embassy was like night & day.

  3. PsychNurse*

    I read the second one (with lists and job rotations and people deputized to take care of the coffee responsibilities) and thought “Man my job could use a little of that.” We do have a Keurig-style coffee maker, and sometimes there are pods, sometimes not. I have vaguely wondered whether the machine has ever been cleaned. The coffee situation is neglected– maybe I need to start an elaborate roster of responsibilities.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I think at a minimum you need:

      – a person to clean the Keurig
      – a backup person to clean the Keurig
      – a person to supply the pods
      – a backup person to supply the pods
      – a person to manage the cash box
      – a backup person to manage the cash box

      In addition to the above bare minimum, I suggest you also recruit:

      – a person to supply different flavors of pods
      – a person to mediate the inevitable dispute between the pod suppliers

      (Joking, of course)

      1. EngineeringFun*

        PSA from a Keurig designer: Please clean your pod holder and funnel regularly. Especially if you’re brewing powder beverages. It’s just so gross. At least run a water brew once in a while!

        1. Le Sigh*

          This is part of why I don’t like using community Keurigs. People completely forget about this and … the results can be revolting. Ask me how I know.

          1. Keyboard Cowboy*

            Where’s the story (maybe from the last time we did AAM coffee stories?) about finding the unwelcome guest inside the office Keurig…?

            1. Nea*

              I remember that! La cucaracha blend!

              I used that story to avoid the work Keurig for ages, but they took away the communal coffee when the pandemic started.

                1. The New Wanderer*

                  I was working the front desk when one of our evening school students discovered this, after getting coffee with a little something extra from the giant industrial machine in the hallway. My job was making sure the hastily attached “out of order” sign didn’t fall off for the rest of the shift!

              1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

                I threw away my at-home Keurig after reading that story (I don’t drink coffee anyway, it was mostly for making cocoa or for guests) I am completely terrified of cockroaches. ~Shudders~

              2. GammaGirl1908*

                Unrelated, but my sister tells a very funny story about being in the cafeteria in college and seeing a cucaracha crawl across the grate of the beverage dispenser. She was horrified and pointed it out to a nearby student, who shrugged and went, “It’s probably meant as extra protein for us.”

          2. Paulina*

            I have memories of a clunky campus vending machine that did hot drinks, and the soup it served that tasted vaguely of coffee. So I don’t need to ask how you know.

        2. Artemesia*

          I avoid fountain drinks. I once worked in a greasy spoon and one day during down time, I decided to clean the fountain spouts — there were thick pads of bacterial sludge/mold in each one. I bet they had never been cleaned. Our drinks were running through this disgusting substance. I assume they are all like that.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Oh yeah. Cleaning those things is a bitch, and you basically need to scrub them with a toothbrush and bleach on the regular.

            One reason McDonalds is considered to have the best Coke ever is that daily cleaning of the soda fountains is mandatory.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Yikes be careful and ask before using bleach if you’re cleaning equipment in a restaurant. Some places use concentrated citric acid to clean those & ice makers. Food grade so if someone gets called away during rinse it’s safe to use.

              But bleach + citric acid is NOT safe.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                The cops in my city tried to make it a thing that the fast food place tried to poison them with shakes. Turns out someone didn’t finish the cleaning of the shake machine properly. No one was trying to poison them, just subpar closing routine.

              1. IrishMom*

                My daughter worked at Culver’s during High School and cleaning the pop machine was an evening duty.

        3. Sparky*

          I’ll roll in with my favorite office coffee story. My ex-husband worked at a place with a Keurig and one day someone finally decided to clean the pod holder and the funnel, which I guess was not part of the standard “cleaning of the Keurig” that happened. They found a cockroach wedged in it. My ex joked that they had all been drinking “La Cucaracha” blend for a while.

      2. Mill Miker*

        I was briefly in charge of emptying the work dishwasher/making the first pot of coffee for a while at one job (I was the first in), and I noticed the coffee pot had a good brown tint, and probably hadn’t been cleaned in a while. By the time I was asking for petty cash to run out and get a brush that actually fit in the pot, I realized it had probably never been cleaned.

        1. Gumby*

          I don’t drink coffee. But I was once really bored while at my parents’ house and the only one home so I cleaned their coffee pot. I am pretty sure they would just swish some water in the pot when it was empty and call it good and a brown tint had developed over the months/years. Anyway, I was informed that I had ruined the coffee. I *think* that they were kidding.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I once washed my dad’s coffee mug while he was on vacation. It took me a solid two hours to scrub it MOSTLY clean. He was legit pissed when he got back because now his coffee was going to taste wrong and it was gonna take him six months to get it seasoned (SEASONED like a damn cast iron pan!!) back to where it was supposed to be.

            1. Rara Avis*

              Same experience with my father-in-law — he had his daily cup and rinsed the mug. When we were living with them I put myself in charge of dishes (he was a lifelong farmer with traditional gender roles who had had a crash course in housekeeping when his wife got Parkinson’s), and was teased for months after for removing the seasoning. (He also drank a juice class of boxed wine after dinner each night and called it his “medicina” — I don’t think that glass ever got washed either.)

    2. Le Sigh*

      About 10 years ago, I just started bringing my own coffee-making supplies to work. I had worked for cheapskate employers with overly complicated coffee clubs that produced a lot of drama. I also worked for employers that did provide the coffee — but the coffee was never good. One place had a real fancy pants-looking machine but the provided pods were crappy and produced something that looked more like hot water with a sprinkle of coffee, with some of the grounds at the bottom for good measure. And if anyone decided they were going to make hazelnut or mocha vanilla or any of the other flavored coffees, it somehow polluted the next 5-6 batches. I drink a lot of coffee so it’s been worth it to just make my own.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        At my wife’s work, the company provided a coffeemaker and (my wife tells me) truly terrible coffee. Some enterprising coworkers decided to pool together and bring in a different, much better variety of coffee. Donations to the not-gross coffee fund were voluntary and nobody really kept track, as most people gave more than was necessary. All in all, it worked about as well as anyone could have asked for… except.

        Turns out the terrible coffee and coffeemaker were contracted out to a supplier, who did not AUTHORIZE third-party coffee in their machine. Could the employ just bring in a second machine? No, they could not, because the contract granted exclusive coffee-making rights to this supplier and they were locked in for at least the next two years.

        There were meetings hijacked to discuss the coffee issue. There were meetings scheduled to talk about nothing BUT the coffee issue. Truly ludicrous amount of time were wasted on the coffee conundrum. I’m talking hundreds of man-hours from people who are paid very nicely per hour, who were willing to go to the mattresses for their coffee.

        The issue was still ongoing when my wife was laid off. She avoided the issue by bringing her own in the mornings and then, during the day, going downstairs to the cafeteria where there was a TOTALLY FREE K-CUP MACHINE with a variety of flavors available for use for everyone in the building, including employees of her company :-P

        1. Le Sigh*

          “I’m talking hundreds of man-hours from people who are paid very nicely per hour, who were willing to go to the mattresses for their coffee.”

          I will be honest, I would probably be one of those people. I do not take kindly to having my coffee rights restricted. You can pry my personal french press from my cold, dead hands.

          1. Fishsticks*

            Yeah, I’d be bringing in my personal French press and electric kettle and just making my own coffee in my office.

          2. DataSci*

            Prior to when I started working remotely, I not only had a french press but my own grinder at the office. I’m a moderate coffee snob (I don’t insist on pour-over, but I do need beans to be ground immediately before brewing and roasted sometime in the past month) and all we had was a Keurig. I brought my first cup in from home, but I drink two cups a day….

        2. Giant Kitty*

          “Turns out the terrible coffee and coffeemaker were contracted out to a supplier, who did not AUTHORIZE third-party coffee in their machine.”

          Well that’s just too darn bad. Maybe they should be supplying decent coffee then.

      2. cncx*

        Yeah I went from a job with free coffee in a fancy machine to a coffee club with nespresso capsules. I think nespresso tastes burnt, I bought a box from the coffee club just to give me plausible deniability the days of great fatigue where I need caffeine more than I need not to drink burnt tasting coffee. I make a big thermos of pour over at home and that usually gets me through the morning. I actually really like the coffee I make at home.

        1. TrixM*

          Decent homemade fresh coffee is definitely better than that overoasted stale swill they put in those things. That’s why they mostly sell flavoured varieties – it covers up the meh taste of the actual coffee.

      3. tamarack etc.*

        I dunno, I’m all for a “whatever it is, it has to be lightweight in admin overhead” solution. If there’s a commercial-grade espresso machine and the company sells Lavazza pods for a small fee (at cost), I’ll use that. (One lab a few floors up has one – they have a bunch of Swiss and Italian researchers who brought that behemoth into the country, somehow. They have a honors-system list with a pencil for the supplies, and it seems to work fine.) Me, I have a little drip coffee setup for when I need it, but mostly use the Keurig machine in front of our director’s boardroom, I bring my own pods and milk/cream.

    3. Bee*

      We have a Keurig & the person whose job it is to keep the pods stocked is also someone who uses it a lot, so that’s not a problem, but I had to refill the tank sometime in my first few months of working here and it had almost certainly never been cleaned. I cleaned it myself, but I couldn’t really stomach using the machine after that, and I’m not sure anyone has cleaned it since.

      1. Lady Ann*

        I worked at a place with a Keurig a few jobs ago and everyone responded with bafflement when I asked about/suggested cleaning it. Apparently they didn’t realize that was a thing. Then someone cleaned it and saw how gross it was, and it became a regular thing after that.

      2. Shira VonDoom*


        I am definitely the person in any office who’s like, okay when’s the last time x was cleaned? well, I use it, so I’M CLEANING IT.

        this brought to you by the time I started a job at a small law firm, and in the first week cleaned the Keurig and the Brita pitcher. The former after noticing that the latter had GREEN AT THE BOTTOM, AND NO ONE APPARENTLY THOUGHT THIS WAS A PROBLEM.

        I mean, if they want me to use billable hours to clean, that’s on them, LOL

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          The only problem with this is people are reluctant to clean even once because it designates them as “the one who cleans X.”

          Ask me how I know, as the person who was asked to clean the office fridge “this one time.”

      3. Cheshire Cat*

        The last place I worked with a Keurig, they would break so often that cleaning them was almost unnecessary. They would break, on average, every two months.

        The one I had at home, I cleaned every week and demineralized every two weeks. It lasted…
        8 months at 2 cups a day.

        My mom’s Mr Coffee is over 20 years old with daily use.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My then-fiance got me a one-cup Sunbeam coffeemaker because I liked his so much. One of the 2 fell and cracked; the other is still in use at 25+ years old.

    4. Suze*

      I’m in my sixth year at my current job, and we just replaced our Keurig because the old one was acting up. Chatted with my colleague as he was setting up the machine and we mutually realized that the old one had likely never been cleaned, much less had its filter changed. Like, ever. We now have Keurig cleaning solution, and several replacement filters on hand for the new machine.

  4. GiantPanda*

    As to #2 I have an update:

    The proposal for improvement was rejected, but in the meantime there was a merger, and the other company has always provided free coffee for their employees.
    The cash system went away quietly, and coffee is free for everybody now!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Thank goodness!

      It occurs to me that 30c only takes a minute to earn in an office. If anyone has to spend more than one minute accounting for their 30c (counting out pennies, counting someone else’s pennies afterwards, writing on a list, etc) then the company has spent more than that 30c to recoup the 30c.

      The cost of any one of those meetings would probably have been greater than the cost of just buying the gd coffee for a year.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      That’s late stage capitalism for you! At least this one time, it worked for your benefit. You gotta figure chances were about even that the other company would look at your system and think “We should get in on that!”

    3. Zeus*

      Thanks for the update!

      It’s funny, reading your story I thought it sounded like the sort of bureaucracy we have in our government offices (non-US). If you’ve ever seen Yes, Minister, it feels a little like that sometimes working here! But knowing that it’s a private company also makes sense.

    4. coffee*

      I am so delighted by this update! I was wondering if it had been solved or if the meetings were still ongoing.

  5. Jane Bingley*

    I worked for a charity that focused on international development. We provided financial support to individuals and families while also providing vocational training and small business grants to help those we worked with become self-sufficient in the long run. Our advocacy work often centered on the appallingly low wages for work in many of the regions we supported.

    Our CEO refused to buy fair trade coffee. They said it was too expensive. No matter the fact that the coffee we bought was made by exploiting workers we were supporting! I worked there for six years and this argument happened at least once every couple of months, whenever the office supply of coffee was running low. Someone would take up the mantle and try to argue that we should buy coffee that was ethically made and that paid workers a fair wage. No way, no how.

    1. KatEnigma*

      I belong to one of those liberal left leaning religious denominations. Someone at the Diocese (roughly State level) decided that all the coffee bought for church use should be free trade coffee, and that some volunteer should be put in charge of trying to peddle this particular sponsored free trade coffee to the church members. Well, that second was a hard no. It was basically an MLM that thankfully died away. But do you think the church board wanted to even buy this free trade coffee for Sunday mornings, despite it being a mandate? You’d have thought they were being asked to personally make up the difference in the budget!

      1. Coverage Associate*

        I am Anglican Catholic. We in the continuum don’t fight about fair trade coffee, but we are just as resistant to change around coffee hour as to changes to the Prayer Book. My current pet peeve is that the coffee hour supplies are scattered around the kitchen. Sugar is in one cupboard. The little pitcher for cream in another. The napkins in a drawer. Considering we have a quarterly rotation for coffee hour, it’s a lot to pull out and put away. We should put everything together. I raised the idea to the junior warden. He liked the idea. But several living and dead kitchen ladies would haunt me if I tried to make the changes.

        I did buy a new tea kettle for the church when I noticed the old one was full of rust. We’ll see how that goes over.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Methodist, and two pastors ago the new guy came in and started cautiously feeling out how people would feel about hypothetically getting better coffee machines for coffee hour. He was clearly braced for an explosion and I think very relieved when the answer was “yes please!”

        2. KatEnigma*

          IF there is enough new blood in the church- and specifically in the Vestry- you can sometimes go in and make changes in the name of “reorganization” or “renovation” (with a can of paint) with just a little grumbling. The church I grew up in at least had all the kitchen drawers and cupboards labeled. My current church was ordered by the Diocese this year to do an inventory “for insurance purposes” because of hurricanes (hardly a new phenomenon to Houston… but no one had ever done an inventory!) and the newish Rector (right before Covid) took that as an excuse to do some purging and reorganizing.

          But yes a priest I knew had one of his canned sermons (for when he was asked to supply on short notice) all about how he learned in his first church to stay out of the kitchen if you want to have success in the church.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          German Lutheran here. We simultaneously take coffee very seriously, nearly as a eucharistic element, while consistently serving bad coffee. It is a mystery of faith.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            In fairness, the wine we use for actual eucharist is pretty bad, too. It is selected based on price and indestructability. I always say if you want good communion wine, go Episcopal.

            1. KatEnigma*

              Episopalians use fortified wine and then add water. Those in colder climates add less water in cold and flu season.

              And then there was the Priest I had who never added water… I wasn’t the only one who’d walk away from the communion rail sputtering.

              1. M*

                Episcopal seminarian here. Over here in the seminary and the congregations I’ve served we add a tiny splash of water to the port/fortified wine, enough to be symbolic but not enough to water it down. If it doesn’t burn when you swallow is it really the blood of Jesus?

                1. Working Grandma*

                  Yes, this. Lifetime Episcopalian here.

                  True story, my Dad was a recovering alcoholic for the last 35 years of his life, and was also a lay deacon. Which meant that he was often on “clean up” duty with the priest after communion. He so firmly believed in the transubstantiation of the elements (he was a reformed Catholic) that drinking the extra wine at the end of communion never bothered him. So burn or no burn to him it was definitely the real deal.

                2. KatEnigma*

                  My childhood priest always put a substantial amount of water into the wine.

                  But maybe that was because his predecessor was removed for acute alcoholism (in the mid 70’s, when it was almost impossible for a Vestry to convince a Bishop to remove the Rector) . *cough*

                  But I’ve been a cradle Episcopalian across several Dioceses as an adult. That Rector was the only one who has made me sputter.

                3. KatEnigma*

                  When I was a kid, if the assistant priest had a chalice and someone had miscalculated the amount of wine needed, he was known to whisper to the Ushers to please help him out.

            2. Gumby*

              Lutheran here as well and I recently discovered that we use cream sherry for communion when a visiting pastor remarked favorably on it (called it “the good stuff”). I don’t know how or why it was selected but I would not be surprised to discover that it is because the RC church appears to consider it non-suitable for communion; we’re kind of contrary like that. We are a smallish congregation so the need for it to stay good between Sundays probably also contributed.

              Can’t comment on the quality of lack thereof of the coffee we use. Despite not drinking it (or beer), I haven’t been excommunicated yet so… fingers crossed.

              1. Former junior deacon*

                Grew up UCC in a fairly conservative Congregationalist congregation…our “wine” was Welch’s grape juice. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

                1. OfOtherWorlds*

                  German E&R heritage UCCs, which are the majority of UCCs where I live, tend to offer the choice between wine and grape juice, in wee cuppies. Usually red wine and white grape juice, to make the nonalcoholic option obvious. The Hungarian Reformed UCC uses a common chalice of unmixed wine – rather like 18th century Anglicans.

          2. Mark the Herald*

            Oh wow is this the truth. As far as I can tell, we try to like, boil the Pelagian heresy out of the coffee before serving.

          3. Data Nerd*

            Same, and same! My husband, inexplicably, loves church coffee. I, PK, raised in the church we attend, frequently responsible for making the coffee, hate the stuff and will bring my own to coffee hour. I even make it the same way I make it at home, starting with a clean urn and all, and it just somehow transmogrifies into this undrinkable mess.
            Our office got a Keurig about 10 or so years ago. Best thing we ever did in terms of time management–senior staff clean it regularly (three-ish months, we’re a small office), everyone brings their own pods and senior staff leaves a communal supply, whoever notices that the water supply is out goes and refills it.

          4. Anon Supervisor*

            Oh the weak coffee from the carafe and bars in the Fellowship hall, how I miss thee (even though the coffee I drink now is strong enough to defeat the devil).

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              My brain is now saying “bars and punch in the Fellowship Hall” in Joel from MST3K’s voice.

          5. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

            I was part of an ecumenical campus ministry. We provided free coffee, but whoever killed the pot had to make the next batch. Everybody knew when I made it because I made “Lutheran strength coffee.”

        4. Alliesaurus*

          I think kitchen ladies are a fixture in almost any church. I’m a different denomination and moved around a lot as a kid, thus attending multiple churches, and they were always there at every single church!

          1. Frieda*

            In my congregation if you are a woman under about 40, any woman older than you is authorized to order you around with regards to all things kitchen, as though you were an untrustworthy, or perhaps dim, teenager.

            The *looks* I got, not to mention the exclamations of faux surprise multiplied by dozens of comments, when I set up the potluck table and didn’t put the meat first. My God! Was there no meat? What was happening?

            Despite that I kind of love it. I’m also now over 40 so my apprenticeship phase is complete.

            1. Former Kitchen Lady*

              At my church, if you were younger, period. I was still being ordered around at 44 by the 70-somethings, right up until I moved away. They weren’t shy about calling you out for whatever, either. I was drafted when I was still a kid, as mom was an OG helper and I rode with her, so I was always around when they needed a younger set of hands to move stuff or whatever. As I got older, I kept helping, and always was treated like the kid I started out as.

              Looking back though, there were about 10 ladies handling upwards of 150, sometimes more, people. They needed all the help they could get.

              1. KatEnigma*

                I was 5th generation in my parish. I moved away when I was 30, and the astonishment I’d get for things like, running for the church board, or when I went on a church trip (to Ireland- not some 3rd world nation) on my own…

                And yet, teaching Sunday School was okay, since they had me teach, by myself, a room of 10+ Kindergarteners when I was 12… It was a weird mix of totally inappropriate responsibility when I was young and not accepting that I was a full adult, when I was an adult.

                1. Living in a Shoe*

                  Not to derail too far, but one unfortunate evening during Vespers, no assistants were available in the nursery, and I was the lone person in charge of 21 youngsters aged 3 mos. to 4 yrs.

            2. WestsideStory*

              Haha, I RELATE! There are two ladies at my husband’s synagogue who oversee the oneg – that little repast of small cups of wine and challah offered to all after Friday night services. They also serve grape juice, tiny cups placed on a platter and participants can take one or the other.
              I was helping the night his family was sponsoring the oneg and I got yelled at for pouring too many glasses of wine!

              Well lady I am Catholic and Italian and not going to be inhospitable…it’s possible they thought they would run out but that’s the last time they are going to see me for a while.

          2. Former Kitchen Lady*

            Not coffee but lemonade-the kitchen ladies at the church I grew up in were all excellent cooks, but one had no idea how to properly make lemonade. Didn’t use lemons, sugar and water-they used many many kool-aid packets to make a full urn for the kids.

            I always made my own koolaid lemonade with 2/3 cup sugar per gallon instead of the 1 cup it called for. I don’t like it sweet. Mom pointed out one day (just to me; she wasn’t about to correct the other lady, even though mom was one of the original kitchen ladies) that the kitchen lady who always made church lemonade used approximately 2 cups per gallon, if not more.

            No WONDER the kids at Vacation Bible School were bouncing off the walls!

          3. MigraineMonth*

            We had a kitchen gentleman. He was always baking fresh rolls during the service and made fried tofu in 3 inches of canola oil.

            1. KatEnigma*

              We were having problems getting people to stay for coffee hour/fellowship. So my husband, about once a month, would make cinnamon rolls. The kitchen was in the basement, with stairways that led up to either side of the altar. The smell would drift up them… and we started to get more people to stay and talk to each other. It was like Cinnabon in a mall in the 90’s!

      1. Neurodivergent in Germany*

        Thank you guys!
        I love the church stories.
        United Methodist here. We certainly have kitchen ladies but they are aging rapidly and COVID precautions killed our coffee hour.
        I used to be allowed to make coffee, but can’t now with a needy toddler in tow.
        Thank you for the memories!

    2. Puzzled*

      Haha wow, this reminds me so much of somwhere I worked. It was family-run in the primary producers industry (beef cattle) and the nightly conversations over dinner (we lived on site) were ALWAYS how they weren’t getting enough money for their cattle, people didn’t value quality produce, the standard home shopper won’t pay a fair price etc. etc.

      Yet EVERY item of food purchased for the staff kitchen was bottom of the barrel home brand. Milk from the struggling dairy industry? Home brand watered down less than $1/litre UHT. Bread? Same. Veggies? frozen mystery cubes.

      They never saw the irony either.

    3. MJ*

      I’ve worked in the international aid sector too – it has to be the most hypocritical of all the charity sectors. My favourite example: an event with a musical act, where attendees complained afterwards that the act “wasn’t from the Global South.” All of the people at the event were white – not one had a person of colour on their senior staff.

      Or maybe the organisation that supported labour rights in the countries they worked in, but angrily opposed their own staff joining a union.

  6. howlieT*

    My first job out of university had a “milk club” you had to buy in to the milk club to use the milk in the communal staff kitchen fridge. If the milk in the communal fridge went down faster than expected? Passive aggressive notes started appearing on the fridge. No coffee or tea mind you, just milk. I learned to drink black coffee and just started keeping a jar on my desk until I left.

    My favourite era though has to be when I worked at the art school and we pioneered what we called “workshop coffee. We’d all take it in turns to provide the coffee and preparation methods and we’d make coffee for the whole team. So sometimes it was just my cafetiere, but a personal highlight was a moka pot balanced on a bench vice and heated up with a blow torch.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      Oh god I just remembered the milk club. And the sugar not being provided, but there also not being a sugar club, so you just had to fill your pockets with sugar packets in the canteen and scuttle out.

    2. Zephy*

      That second story is the most art-school thing I’ve ever heard, LMAO. No, of course you can’t just bring a box of Dunkin’ or whatever for the team, you’ve got to bring your own beans and coffee-making device of choice. I hope it was a small team at least, I can’t imagine making coffee for ten people with a moka pot(!) and a blow torch(!!)

    3. Helvetica*

      Oh, the milk wars! We also had a rota with careful notes of who brought milk and whose turn was next, with plenty of passive aggressive notes for those who did not buy the milk but partook it.

      1. mreasy*

        This reminds me of an AITA about a company where nobody could agree to share milk (or what kind to get if they did share) so their entire fridge was full of milks to the extent nothing else could fit.

          1. coffee*

            The update where they put their can of coke inside an empty butter container and could then keep their trojan horse drink in the fridge! It remains a favourite.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I worked for a 10,000 person company that provided free coffee, milk and juice in all breakrooms. We also had all-staff meetings every month, at which one of the newest employees stood up to request soy milk in every breakroom. Someone from the cafeteria explained that they’d tried that, but most had gone bad before it had been used. Employees were welcome to come to the cafeteria to get free soy milk.

        Then the new employee sent out an all-staff email accusing the company of having a racist free milk policy, because lactose intolerance was more common in people of Asian descent.

    4. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

      That is flashback to some friends who were chemistry majors that would not only brew coffee but would cook entire meals at the lab bench.

      1. PhyllisB*

        If you want to read about a complicated coffee ritual, read the book Lessons in Chemistry. I have never laughed so hard.

          1. linger*

            An audio adaptation was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 starting on 2 January 2023.
            First episode disappears from the archive today. Remove spaces from the URL below.
            https: // programmes/ m001gkcs

      2. Dr. KMnO4*

        O.o <- My horrified reaction to your friends.
        Cooking meals at the lab bench?
        NO. Just NO. Not even during my time in grad school, when I had no money.

        1. Flidais*

          Chemistry students, in my experience, 0ften roll for high Intelligence and low Wisdom. We had a lot of meals created and eaten in the labs.

          1. Really?*

            …and at my university, they made the booze for hall parties, which was used as part of the dilution for frozen Hawaiian Punch concentrate…

    5. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I am going to do that workshop coffee thing where I work, that sounds amazing (I am what is known in Australia as a “Melbourne coffee tragic”)

  7. The Prettiest Curse*

    This is about tea and not coffee. I’ve mentioned this before, but my very first office job back in the 90s had a tea trolley (staffed by a tea lady) that would go around all the offices twice a day and give out free tea. This would have been awesome if I was a tea drinker, but alas I am a coffee drinker and had to pay for (cheap) coffee from a machine. It was still a fun opportunity to take a break and chat, though!

    1. Phony Genius*

      Was it a tea company? My father worked for one. You could have all the free tea you wanted. Coffee? You had to get it from outside and pay for it.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Nope, just a regular office in the UK. A lot of offices here used to have tea trollies, but it seems like they’re dying out now due to cost cutting and more people drinking coffee.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          We have them at my school but it’s a recent development. During COVID they decided it was a bad idea to have people make their own stuff in the staffroom from one boiler spout, so tea trolleys were dispatched from the kitchens instead. Everyone liked it so much we kept it.

        2. whingedrinking*

          My father was at Oxford in the 70s, and apparently during one department meeting the older professors nearly rioted when they were told the tea lady was retiring.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Ha, I bet they did! The other thing I loved about the tea trolley is that tea ladies are absolutely the best source of gossip. I heard all the major news in that office from the tea lady long before it was officially announced.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Our school’s tea lady used to take it upon herself to shadow Ofsted inspectors and report back through the day to the head. This sounds too obvious, but she was very good at it.

    2. Aphra*

      Oh, I remember those days. In my first job, our trolley in the morning (I’m in the UK) also brought toast (you had to put your toast order in the day before but most toast lovers had a regular daily order) with the choice being white or brown bread, one or two slices, with tiny pats of butter or margarine and tiny pots of jam or marmalade at a small additional cost. Everything was served on proper plates with real cutlery, all of which was collected in the afternoon when the trolley came round again. Woe betide anyone hoarding plates, cups or cutlery! There was a massive uproar when we younger employees lobbied to be allowed to use our own mugs rather than the company-supplied cups and saucers. It was a genuine concern that the tea urn would empty too quickly if larger mugs were permitted, leading to a lengthy consultation period on the optimal mug size. Eventually, mugs were allowed but unfortunately, not long after, the trollies were replaced with hot drink vending machines where pretty much everything tasted of soup. Except the soup.

      In my second job for a similar organisation, the tea trolley also had delicious freshly baked scones and again, butter and jam all again served on proper China with proper cutlery. The afternoon trolley also had freshly baked biscuits (cookies) and cakes. Coffee wasn’t served from the trolley but you could get boiling water from the separate urn to make instant coffee. Decent filter coffee was available in the staff restaurant but that was quite a hike for most staff, being in a separate building. At that job (local government) we also had a bar in the staff restaurant where you could get an alcoholic drink with your lunch! I never partook but many did and there was a massive campaign to keep the bar when closure was proposed but ultimately, changing times led to its demise.

      1. Anne Wentworth*

        I’m so envious! A tea trolley bringing tea, toast, and cookies straight to my desk is my recurring workday fantasy. And scones too? Heaven.

      2. Lozi*

        Tea trolley!! This is so delightful. I think I would switch from coffee to tea if there was that kind of service!

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        You got the super-luxury model of the tea trolley! It would have been so great if ours had done toast.

      4. TechWorker*

        I already feel the biscuit supply is too tempting, if hot toast and scones (!!) were on offer I’d never stop eating lol

      5. higheredadmin*

        Gosh I miss the tea trolley. Also UK, and it was also replaced by a horrid coffee machine (the one where it was one packet for coffee and another packet into the machine to get “milk” that tasted of nothing.) The thing with our tea trolley is that once you placed your order on your first day, that was your order FOREVER. If you tried to ask for something different when the trolley came, you just got a very blank look and your usual request handed to you. I also found out that our office in Ireland had kept their tea person/trolley long after our London office phased it out. At a different job many years later I would always joke that they should do a gin trolley. About a year after I left a former colleague sent me photos of just that – they had set up a gin/drinks trolley on a Friday afternoon as a staff celebration. Genius!

  8. Miette*

    Not so much a war story as a funny one: Past Workplace finally switched to a Keurig after much begging by staff, and one of the k-cups that was provided was this peppermint tea that was so potent, when brewed, that it contaminated the entire machine with its flavor for DAYS. People kept audibly complaining about it the whole while (I don’t blame them it was awful), and the remaining cups were discarded. Fast forward a month and a new hire somehow finds the sole remaining mint tea cup–you would have thought someone committed a war crime (gnashing of teeth, rending of garments etc.). It was hilarious.

      1. Snell*

        But presumably, you’d take a full peppermint coffee then, right? Not someone else’s runoff flavoring your own brew with the peppermint flavor at 1/8 strength. Like how using a cup for water after it was used for OJ will make the water taste like OJ, but it’s a completely inadequate substitute for OJ.

        Also, the surprise itself can be a turn-off. Once, the barista made me a vanilla latte instead of the plain caffe latte that I ordered, and even though I do like vanilla as a flavor and sometimes treat myself with coffee drinks fussed up with flavored syrups and whatnot, I was so not expecting the extra flavoring and sweetness that I actually flinched back at the first sip and had no desire to finish it after.

    1. Anon Supervisor*

      I used to work part time at a grocery store where the making of Pumpkin Spice coffee in the staff coffee maker was strictly forbotten.

    2. DreddPirate*

      I’m on the flip side of this equation… I can only use the Keurig at my office right after it’s been cleaned. Otherwise the taste of coffee (ugh) contaminates my tea/cider/hot chocolate.

  9. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    For a while, we hosted multi-week-long business re-engineering meetings for different parts of the federal government. Our company normally provided unlimited coffee to all employees and visitors; it was just part of the general company overhead. But it could be argued that having a federal employee getting free coffee all day long for 15 days in a single month would go over the bribery limit.

    So in those conference facilities, we had to put an honor box in the kitchen nook so people could pay $1/day for access to coffee. No idea what happened to the money collected; it wouldn’t have been worth the CEO’s time to even come up with a plan of how to allocate $300/month revenue against a business with an annual turnover of $250 million.

    1. Kelly*

      I had forgotten about working for an engineering form that did the same thing! I was making $12/hr and they insisted on a cash box to pay $1/day to have coffee from the machine in the break room. We needed 7 VPs and various CEO/CFOs, but you couldn’t supply free coffee to the working and middle class employees?

    2. Taketombo*

      I’m a municipal employee. My ethics training specifically calls out that we can’t receive $50 in coffee from a vendor in a year. (I can’t receive $50 of anything, but coffee is cited again, and again, and AGAIN)

      If I – and other employees – could be bribed for $50, the government would be fucked.

      1. Jojo*

        We aren’t even allowed to drive any government employees to or from the airport because of the anti bribery issues we have to deal with.

        Once upon a time, we were allowed to share coffee with our government counterparts, but after watching a coworker go through the kitchens looking for coffee cups that people had left in the drainers for the coffee, I really wished they would have refused. There wasn’t even dish soup in some of those kitchens. I’m not sure what the rules are with giving government employees food poisoning are, but it’s probably not advised.

      2. Flidais*

        I don’t know, I’d be just a little bit inclined to favor the clients who kept me supplied with coffee over those that didn’t.

    3. Joy*

      This reminded me of how my federal government department would not pay for anything like coffee, pizza lunches, etc. EVER but one day when I was visiting a not-for-profit fully funded by my department, I noticed that they had coffee machines and CHOCOLATE in every boardroom and we were invited to have some. We were crammed into cubicles and “hot desk” areas and they all had their own closed door offices. I seriously considered applying for a job at the not-for-profit!

  10. Dr. Rebecca*

    Mine is short and bitter: I worked for the University of New Hampshire. Two top tier scientists embezzled a lot of funds, and the university “was unable to account for” more than that, with a total approximating 500k. Suddenly, department budgets were slashed to ribbons, and they stopped providing coffee, end of the semester pizza parties, copy paper. Yeah, *that’s* where the problem was; 50 bucks in pizza for graduating seniors. *slow sad head shake*

    1. cardigarden*

      Not coffee related, but I worked for a non-profit where the director used the supplies budget as his personal office redecorating line, and one day the newly hired CFO announced that we were so wasteful with the office supplies (to the tune of “you spent 800k last year!!”) that the org was no longer buying us pens.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I just saw a meme that said “Landlord avoids raising tenant’s rent by simply making coffee at home.” Seems like UNH could use that, sigh.

    3. Goldenrod*

      “Yeah, *that’s* where the problem was; 50 bucks in pizza for graduating seniors. *slow sad head shake*”

      Wow, that’s really closing the barn door after the cows have gone.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      Flashback to when I was a graduate student and we had to get a special dispensation from the dean to print final exams for a 100-level class because the department had exceeded its photocopying budget for the term. It’s not like we frivolously printed things!

      1. Artemesia*

        Everyplace I have ever worked people ‘frivolously’ copied things all the time. One prof xeroxed whole chapters of books for his classes; another made copies for some club events; real estate flyers, copies for the kids’ classroom, church events or Scout troops were commonly produced. Controlling personal copying so as not to blow out the budget is a perennial problem in organizations.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          My department’s photocopier budget was so absurdly close to our non-frivolous photocopier needs that no one who didn’t have tenure dared use it frivolously. The graduate student employees tended to use our personal library printing budgets for class handouts so we would still have enough at exam time.

          Unfortunately the tenured professors did whatever the hell they wanted and there was every term some new student employee who Did Not Know about the copier budget and printed some 60-page PDF they’d been assigned. And it’s not like the profs had issues at the end of term because none of them were printing their own exams for 300-student intro classes! They left that to the TAs.

          We had a saintly department admin who kept track of whether we were going to blow our quota, and went to bat for us when we had to beg for more to get finals printed.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I know that many teachers Xeroxed book chapters because the campus bookstore was ridiculously overcharging for the book, and they only intended to teach that one chapter, essay, etc.

          1. Emma*

            Right. When I was an undergrad the professors would gather together the odd chapters and book sections they’d want us to read and send all the scans to the university copy shop, who would produce a reader for the class. Then all the students would go into the copy shop and pay a fairly small amount for a printed copy of the reader.

            It was a good system, as it meant you didn’t wind up with huge waiting lists as 150 students all tried to get hold of one of the two copies of this random book that they all wanted exactly 6 pages of in the library, and the professors and tutors didn’t have to spend their lives photocopying.

            1. WestsideStory*

              One thing to remember: the university copy shop would also be in charge of obtaining the clearances of copyright to allow the chapters to be copied into a single course pack. Yes, sometimes there are fees involved. Look up Copyright Clearance Center and you’ll see the system that allows book authors to recoup a few cents here and there from these permissioned reproductions. Teachers who just photocopy chapters are technically infringing copyright; 90-95 percent of permissions to schools are granted free, but sometimes the publisher will ask a fee – the author gets their share.

        3. Former Kitchen Lady*

          During Covid shutdowns, my boss (at a government job, mind you!) worked up and printed all the school-at-home papers/homework/created-by-her study guides and assignment calendars for both her kids, the entire time they were doing remote school. Reams of paper and tons of ink; because THEIR stuff had to be printed in the good quality dark type. Work paperwork was printed at the pale, almost unreadable draft setting. To save money.

        4. Dr. Rebecca*

          Sorry, I’m so totally not sympathetic. Even if every prof copied and printed every book for their students (and they’re not; these days most people are scanning/digitizing) it’s still approximately a rounding error in the overall university budget. Cry me a freakin’ toner ink river.

        5. OfOtherWorlds*

          TBF the professor pirating book chapters for his students was saving them a fair bit of cash. Nowadays you could scan them and send them as a PDF attachment and everyone could look at them in class on their phones. But 20 years ago when I first attended college not everyone had a computer and smartphones were strictly for executives.

          1. WestsideStory*

            These days, those digital copies are also run through the permissions gamut and small fees paid to the publishers…which send a percentage to the authors per contract.

            I’m very against professors pirating content – academic publishers have a hard enough time with the copy pirates that most have entire departments devoted to takedowns. It’s a losing battle, unfortunately.
            20 years ago PDFs of textbooks were mainly restricted to vision- impaired students, who could access them through various devices. Students or their teachers would request them through the college printing office.

            1. WestsideStory*

              I see we are running off topic so I will hop off my hobbyhorse and make a cup of tea. (Sorry! )

    5. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

      Not a coffee story, but when I was in grad school, we had to pay $12.50 per class per term for a collection of articles relevant to each class we were taking-so two-three classes would cost $25-36. Yes, this was before the internet, but even now, it would debatable whether you could read these esoteric articles without a subscription. And this went on for quite awhile-years before I started and went on for three years later. And why did it end? Because we were never supposed to pay for them-they were always supposed to be free, but the department assistant charged us for them. She was found out three years later, but had taken some nice vacations, bought some nice clothes and put an addition on her house with all those years of taking our money. I guess it added up to be quite a lot!

    6. Distracted Librarian*

      In the state I worked in over a decade ago, there was a scandal about state legislators being taken on fancy trips by an industry group. As a result, the state legislature passed a law forbidding state employees from accepting more than $50/year in freebies from any vendor–which included pens, post-its, and other low-value swag–with a criminal penalty that included jail time. The best part? The legislators exempted themselves from the law.

    7. Kayem*

      That happened at OldJob University. Someone higher up was embezzling funds and siphoning it out of the library budget to cover. It was about $500k as well. Suddenly, there was a shortage of funds for the library and no one knew why. I was eavesdropping in on a conversation with a department head contacting a vendor asking about excessive charges, said vendor not knowing anything about said charges because their systems showed different amounts. Said dept head reported the fraud, only to be relieved of their job the next day (they were not the only one).

      Then the director informs everyone that the library had gone over budget, she was very disappointed in the staff, and now they had to cut unnecessary expenses like journal database subscriptions, staplers, computer lab printer paper, coffee, and the water fountains. Okay, so I can see how the subscriptions eats up a lot of the budget, but I doubt office coffee accounted for a significant part of that $500k unless the beans were gold plated.

    8. Owler*

      May I present you with this:
      “ “Our motivation for this gift was spurred by a specific event,” Michelle explains. “Many years ago, during a ‘lean’ time budget-wise, we attended a reception for graduating students and discovered that there was NO CAKE. There wasn’t money for cake!” Michelle stayed at the party to make sure nobody left, while Paul drove to the store in graduation-weekend traffic to get a cake. “Our community was able to celebrate with cake that day, and when the time came that we could make a gift to CCI, our personal goal was to make sure, to the extent we can, that no event goes without cake!”

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Yeah, even though I was barely making ends meet at the time, I bought the damned pizza myself. My students worked hard, we were having an end of the year party.

  11. Elle*

    The increased use of coffee pods in the workplace has probably resulted in a decrease of coffee drama. There is still an issue of angry emails from Office Managers asking people to throw out expired creamer and milk.

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      Yeah, a place I used to work had Keurigs that were regularly professionally serviced and supplied. It was beautiful – everyone made their own and there was no drama about decaf/flavored/who makes the pot.

      Someone floated the idea of airpots and I told him what drama usually ensued, especially that one or two people almost always ended up doing most of the making/cleaning because other people “didn’t know how” or thought it was beneath them.

      We kept the Keurigs.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        We had the industrial size airpots when I was a tech-adjacent admin. There were two unique (as far as I can tell) problems.

        The standard was that if you finished a pot you started a new one, which meant that people would shove the pot back into the machine, start the brew, and walk away. Not a problem except the person who then took the pot out and put it into the rack didn’t necessarily know what else they needed to do. So they’d leave the machine dripping. Someone else would come along and put a paper plate under the drip. Instead of pulling out the basket and dumping the expended grounds and paper filter into the compost.

        After a little hand-illustrated sign went on the machine to demonstrate the proper technique, people got better about pulling out the grounds. Sort of. In the corner of the counter, you’d see a stack of paper plate sandwiches, each with a discarded filter and grounds.

        I eventually tracked *that* habit down to the bin emptying schedule. The compost bins would fill up by mid-morning, as did the trash, and not get emptied until after lunch, and meanwhile there was all this coffee getting made. I’m not sure whether they were able to adjust the schedule on that because I was gone by then.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I’m pretty confident the decrease in drama and subsequent wasted time totally makes up for the increase in cost.

    3. t-vex*

      Every single person at my workplace has their own personal Keurig and sugar/creamer stash. No one ever argues. It’s glorious.

  12. eeb18*

    I once worked at a small organization (about 15 employees). We didn’t have a Keurig or any other kind of pod system, just an old-fashioned coffee pot. We had a rotation system so that in theory every employee would be responsible for making the first pot of coffee in the morning once every 15 weeks. The person who finished a pot of coffee was supposed to make a new pot.

    There were several problems with this relatively straightforward system:

    1) The higher-up people in the organization would skip out on making the coffee during their designated weeks, and the lower-rung people refused to do it for them, resulting in the executive director wandering out of her office at around 10, realizing there was no coffee, and flipping out.
    2) About half the people in the office didn’t drink coffee and had no idea how to make coffee, resulting in some truly terrible pots and some low-key shaming of the people who made them. Our operations manager made a job aid that she taped next to the coffee maker as well as an instructions video she emailed to the entire staff. When it was my week to make coffee, I remember being extraordinarily anxious over whether my coffee would be “good enough.”
    3) No one ever wanted to make the replacement pot, resulting in people pouring increasingly tiny amounts of coffee into their cups so that there would technically still be some coffee in the pot (like, a few drops), meaning it wasn’t their job to make a new pot. When someone realized that the pot was empty or functionally empty, there’d be an office-wide interrogation to figure out who had left it as such.

    I was very relieved when I went to a new organization that used a Keurig. The coffee was mediocre and not environmentally friendly, but I found the setup much less stressful!

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      As a non-coffee drinker, when I was asked to make it, I always prefaced it with “I DO NOT DRINK COFFEE, I AM TRYING MY BEST”

      1. Goldenrod*

        As a coffee drinker myself, I strongly feel that if you don’t drink coffee, you shouldn’t have to make it!

        1. Former Kitchen Lady*

          I make good coffee. Definitely a non drinker, but my dad drank it by the gallon when I was growing up, and if mom wasn’t around, it was my job to make dad’s coffee. My first husband also guzzled it, so I continued making it because I loved him; second husband also drank it, but the worse the marriage got, the less likely I was to make coffee for him. Current husband abhors it as much as I do. We don’t even own a coffee pot.

          1. Former Kitchen Lady*

            Shoot, submitted before my point! I don’t drink it, so I don’t make it at work. Sorry, not a clue how that fancy machine works. (Even a Mr Coffee lol)

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I do drink coffee but I haven’t got a clue how to make it in any other machine than the single-serve one I use at home. Especially giant 12-cup or larger type machines. What’s the ratio of coffee to water at that scale? I’ve had to google it the handful of times that’s been an issue.

      3. Kayem*

        My mom comes from a coffee culture background where it’s brewed strongly. I only like coffee in ice cream format, so while I never drank it, I did know how to make it thanks to my mom teaching me. Then I moved to a place where coffee was traditionally brewed very weakly because the point was to have a hot beverage always in hand when it’s twenty below out and there needed to be less caffeine per sip. The first time I made coffee for my office, I was accused of trying to kill everyone via caffeine-induced heart attack.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I suspect the non-coffee drinkers who had to make coffee might have been intentionally bad at it.

      1. Rocket Raccoon*

        I drink tea, my husband drinks coffee. We love each other and have tried in earnest to make a lovely cuppa for each other, but we suck at making each other’s drinks! Non coffee drinkers don’t need sabotage to be terrible at brewing it :)

      2. Sarah*

        This was me if my first real job 30 years ago. I didn’t drink coffee then (I was young) so I didn’t care what it tasted like. Now I feel bad for my old coworkers.

      3. Asenath*

        Not necessarily. I have never liked coffee and only drunk it once or twice, often enough to know I didn’t like it. You do not want me making coffee, because with the best will in the world, I will make a mess of it. I think the last time I let myself be talked into it, well before pods came it, it was I think some kind of instant coffee. I’d seen instant coffee made – my father loved the stuff. I stared at the scoop and pot, and pondered over how many scoops of coffee to put it. My father liked it strong, but he used a spoon. I think I tried to put in an amount halfway between what seemed to me a reasonable amount and what I suspected my father might have liked, had he been there. I don’t think anyone drank it.

        1. Dancing Daphne*

          Non coffee drinker. My dad taught me how to make coffee and he liked it strong although I didn’t know that. Think, normal person puts in 6 scoops, we put in 10 heaping scoops plus one for the pot. :-) People do not like my coffee. Even when I follow normal people’s “recipes”. lol

      4. Anne Wentworth*

        Why on earth would you say that? If we don’t drink it, we don’t need to know how to make it. You can’t expect us to know how to make a good pot out of the blue.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Because it would be a good strategy to stop being asked to do something they shouldn’t have been asked to do in the first place.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This only makes sense if it’s part of a junior facilities role or something. You restock paper into the copier, coffee into the drip machine, paper towels in the bathroom, etc.

        At a previous job it was the office manager’s job to keep track of all that, which made sense in the context of “keep the office running smoothly”. She was responsible for the weekly grocery delivery of milk, sugar, coffee pods (before they were ubiquitous, even) and soft drinks, as well as catering for meetings. She didn’t necessarily do the work, but she got it done.

      2. Lana Kane*

        When I was an admin, one of my responsibilities was making coffee in the morning. I didn’t drink coffee at the time (it became a late-in-life habit), but fortunately they bought coffee in single-portion sizes, so I just dumped it in and off it went. Otherwise they would have gotten brown sludge, probably.

    3. Here for the Insurance*

      Yeah, no. I don’t drink coffee, therefore I’m not making coffee. I have no problem with people who do drink it and I hope every cup is delicious. Just leave me out of it.

    4. Coverage Associate*

      More church coffee stories: about 18 months ago, I was assigned coffee hour, which usually means I bring snacks and help with cleanup, but don’t have to make the coffee. This is good, because I don’t drink brewed coffee, so I don’t know how to make it. I was promised instructions would be left, but I wasn’t set to rely on them, so I brought a whole coffee machine to church from home, because I had manufacturer’s directions with the machine. (My family bought it for when they visit.)

      As it turns out, the coffee was ready when I arrived at church.

      The coffee is decaf, and the bishop says it’s awful. I don’t know why we have to go through all these efforts absolutely every week for people to have it.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        For years, my church coffee hour had strong, weak, and decaf after many congregational arguments about what constitutes “good” coffee. The two strengths of caf never came back when we came back to the building after the covid shut down, and somehow we are getting by!

        Don’t get me started on the creamer, though.

        1. SarahKay*

          Not coffee, but strong and weak tea: my parents are part of a dancing group and at social get-togethers there are two large pots of tea:
          One pot has at least ten teabags in it, and comes out nearly strong enough to dissolve the teaspoons.
          The other has a single teabag, which is then removed after about two minutes, and comes out a very light golden-brown colour. If the colour could accurately be described as brown then it is Too Strong.

    5. Aereie*

      In one of my early jobs I was an office manager for a small office and was assigned the job of making coffee on a daily basis. My boss looked at me like I was an alien when I told her that sure, I could do it, but she’d have to show me because I had never made coffee before. I didn’t drink it, and even my parents had never drank it, so I literally had no idea how to even start! I guess I never got very good at it – after a few months they decided to buy a Keurig for the office and all I had to do was order the new pods.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Fascinated UK person here. From reading the comments, making the ‘person who finishes the pot’ responsible for brewing up the next one is common; I can’t make out why this though? Forgive the ignorance; my experience is with tea rounds, but if you’ve just helped yourself to coffee, then surely all drink making motivation is gone and you just want to go and enjoy your cup? It makes more sense for the next person who wants a drink to make enough for others. Is it really difficult to make a pot or something? If it’s not ready, is everyone going nah I’ll make do with water? It’s the same with press ganging the non drinkers, why would they take part in something they aren’t benefiting from?

      1. Alliesaurus*

        I think it’s because it can take a good 5-10 minutes or more for a full pot of coffee to brew, depending on how old or big it is (the last job I had with a coffee setup like this had a huge coffee machine that was older and super slow). So the idea is the person to take the last bit of coffee starts the next pot brewing so it’s ready whenever the next person comes along. Otherwise, that person has to set the pot to brew and either loiter around waiting for it to finish or go to their desk to do more work while waiting. It’s more convenient if it can just brew while no one immediately needs/wants any coffee.

        1. Alliesaurus*

          Submitted too soon! Anyway, all that to say, I’ve always seen it as a consideration thing for if someone wants to grab a quick coffee as they’re headed to a meeting/hopping on a call/etc.

        2. RecentlyRetired*

          And if you go back to your desk while it’s brewing, you might get distracted enough that when you remember you wanted coffee and got back to the kitchen, the pot is empty again.

      2. Emma*

        It’s the same as the kettle rule, really – at a previous office where people typically made a brew (tea or instant coffee) for their whole team in one go, the rule was that if you emptied the kettle, you refilled it and set it boiling. That way, when the next person came in, the water was still hot so they would just have to put it back on for a few seconds to reheat, rather than a full 5 minutes to boil from cold.

  13. jef*

    For YEARS everyone complained about how bad the coffee was, how it must be the machine, something is really wrong, etc. So I decided to make coffee one day and use double the amount of grounds the handy-dandy office instructions indicate (because I’m a rebel). Everyone loved the coffee! It wasn’t great, it was still the cheap stuff bought in bulk, but people were so excited. Except the one harridan who complained that it was too strong and HOW DARE WE. She is entitled to drink coffee weak enough you can see the bottom of the mug, but since it was communal coffee, we felt more people wanted the stronger coffee so that’s what we would make. She would get in earlier and earlier to try to make the coffee her way before anyone else could make it. For over 5 years. One day she couldn’t take it anymore and switched to bringing in her personal Keurig machine to make her coffee. Thankfully she has finally moved on and there is generally passable coffee each day.

      1. jef*

        It did! She did it all the time! She’d add ice cubes because also the temperature of the coffee was unacceptable. But she swore it was better if you used less grounds. I do not miss working with her because she was like this about work stuff too.

        1. lilsheba*

          Yeah one time at my old job someone put a note on the coffee machine complaining that using the whole bag of ground designed for one thermos of coffee was “too strong for our tummies” SMDH. Just add hot water! We are not going to make weak coffee that can’t be fixed when you can add water to strong coffee! Stupid.

        2. Caffeinated in California*

          IMO it’s always easier to make coffee weaker, but boiling it down just makes coffee taste bad, not stronger.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      OMG lady just add hot water!

      One of my former bosses liked coffee that dissolved the spoon on contact. We let her make it and just diluted ours a bit so we didn’t get ulcers.

      1. Kelly*

        I have that conversation with my mother whenever she visits. She says I’m using malicious incompetence by making the coffee strong (I hate weak coffee) because she hates strong coffee and can’t fathom just adding some hot water. I started refusing to make coffee for everyone after that drama.

        1. magc*

          It’s actually better to make coffee with the proper ration of ground coffee to water (2 tablespoons for every six ounces of water) because you’ll get more of the bitter-tasting chemicals if you use too much water. If you like weaker coffee (and I do), adding hot water to dilute coffee made with that ratio will result in a less bitter cup than if you’d poured the extra water through the grounds.

          (Or at least that’s what I read in an article in the Atlantic by Corby Kummer in the early 90’s, and since he followed up with a book about coffee published in 1995, I trust that it’s reasonably accurate.)

          1. Cobol*

            I really don’t mean this as snarky, but what you have found is the perfect way to make coffee for you. Nothing in this world that is based on taste has a right way

            1. GammaGirl1908*

              Amen. The proper ratio is proper **for your palate.** And a similar sentiment to people who get insulted when another person tastes their food and wants to add salt or pepper. The people who start sniffing about how they have “seasoned the food properly” have a complete lack of empathy.

            2. AngryOctopus*

              Whereas that is true, there is a huge amount of coffee science showing that the 2T per 6oz of water is ideal for hot coffee brewing because, as stated, it extracts the flavor compounds without bringing along the bitter compounds. From a chemical extraction point of view (which is what coffee brewing is at its core, chemical extraction), there IS an ideal way to make coffee. And this is for hot coffee–making cold brew is a whole different extraction equation!
              But that’s just some science nerdery and nobody says that people should not do what works for them.

              1. J*

                That’s simply not correct, because for that to be ‘ideal’, it presupposes that the bitter flavor compounds are unwanted. Which is entirely based on your personal flavor preferences. Plenty of people do enjoy a bitter flavor.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Oh the drama when half of the people make coffee with two packs of premeasured grounds vs one pack!

      1. La Triviata*

        At a previous office, the coffee came in pre-measured packets. One woman had … ideas. She decided that it would save money and provide better coffee if she added half a packet to an already used full packet of grounds, which made OK coffee. And the process could be repeated using a new packet plus the remaining half. The problem (you probably saw this coming) was when the remaining half packet was added to the full packet plus half packet that had already been used, which made terrible coffee. And, if repeated, filled up the coffee filter to the extent that it overflowed.

  14. Agoraphobic Ailurophile*

    Shortly before my former company went down in flames for committing billions of dollars in fraud, they removed everything from the break rooms, including coffee machines, in an effort at cost savings.

    I honestly don’t care what the total number of coffee machines, vending machines, and requisite supplies cost in total – there was no chance in hell it was going to make up for the 6 billion dollars that was missing. Not that we knew that was why they had taken it all away. It was very puzzling and bizarre!

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Every huge company that’s ever been in financial difficulties ALWAYS does stuff like this–nickel and diming for supplies, coffee, etc. It NEVER works.

      1. Former Kitchen Lady*

        When one of my old employers was being bought out, months before they told us about it, someone put a cap on what could be spent on supplies, I’m assuming the owner was trying to make the numbers better than they already were. We’d gone on for years using name brand white paper towels and toilet paper, and they even bought TISSUES for us! Never had another place that thought tissues weren’t a waste of money.

        Suddenly, we have brown rolls of dispenser paper towels, no tissues, and individually wrapped TP rolls. IIRC, the TP was branded ‘velvet soft’ or some such nonsense. It was NOT. One of my coworkers coined a term for it—John Wayne toilet paper. “It’s rough, it’s tough, and it don’t take no s**t off nobody!”

        I’ve heard that used since, but no one there had heard it before M came up with it in the early 00’s.

  15. Wednesday*

    Coffee is paid on the honor system, but it’s $1.70, which is a weird amount to always have exact change for. Why do you need exact change? Because someone was stealing from the cash box, so a hole was drilled in the countertop and now you have to feed your money through the small opening into a locked cabinet below. There’s nothing to prevent anyone from just taking cups of coffee, however, if they are inclined toward thievery.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I love the commitment of the build in lock-box.

      And when I use honor boxes, I am a fan of putting in a week’s worth of cash and then flouncing through the break room the rest of the week as if I’m flouting the rules.

    2. Opalized*

      Years ago, I worked at a small office (20 people at most) with a snack box that operated on the honor system. Take a candy bar, put in a few quarters. Someone started taking snacks and not paying, requiring the company to pay the difference. It wasn’t huge amounts but it was irritating and a little embarrassing when the Snack People came to collect. The company provided free drinks (soda, coffee) and once a week breakfast so I wouldn’t say it was stingy on the free food.

      We assumed it was someone forgetting. Nope. Turned out there was one person who did not actually want snacks but felt personally offended by the concept of the honor system and was going of his way to “make a statement” by taking snacks. People never fail to amaze me with their myopic pettiness.

  16. Zoe Karvounopsina*

    My previous place of employment underwent a complete office redesign. Everything was rearranged to be perfect, hybrid meeting rooms, special meeting pods, and…a new kitchen.

    The first problem was when the plans were displayed, we all looked at them, and someone pointed out that there was no kitchen in our off-shoot (down a flight of stairs, which would require multiple uses of ID cards). “Oh!” it was explained, “You will go upstairs to the kitchen! It will be a HUB FOR DISCUSSION!”

    “No,” said everyone downstairs. “WE WANT TEA AND COFFEE. We do not want to go up and downstairs carrying hot liquids!”

    There was a delay in agreeing the plans, and a final compromise was made to allow a sink, dishwasher, and ‘Hot Tap’. No microwave, though. We must go to THE HUB FOR DISCUSSION.

    The second problem was the Hot Tap. In theory, it dispensed boiling water, for the making of tea. (There was a separate coffeemaker). In practice…it was not warm enough. Someone gave feedback that the hot tap did not get water hot enough for tea in a previous kitchen in the building. They were informed that this was not the case: the Hot Tap was perfect. Debates were had over whether it should be pointed out that that kitchenette now had an Illicit Kettle, with the additional problem that the Illicit Kettle might be lost.

    Almost as soon as the new rooms were opened, and the Hot Tap was installed, it…stopped working. Illicit kettles were introduced. Illicit kettles were grudgingly tolerated. A sort of war started, where it went illicit kettle…hot tap…illicit kettle…short war over who hadn’t refilled the coffee maker…

    I have changed offices. They have a kettle. And no one attempts to use the kitchen as a HUB FOR DISCUSSION.

    1. the.kat*

      I also have an illicit kettle! I have been instructed to hide it in my office. (It lives in the drawer.)

    2. V*

      Oh god, my last management decided that having personal waste paper bins was making people miss out on DISCUSSION opportunities. So the only bins in the place were in the kitchen area or outside the bathroom.

      I bought a cute little waste paper bin so I could just run to the kitchens once a day instead of every damn time I had to blow my nose in allergy season, and within a week the cleaning staff had kindly started emptying it and leaving a trash bag in it for me.

      I do not need DISCUSSION when I have my hands full of SNEEZED IN TISSUES.

      1. Axolotl*

        Our office has relatively fancy coffee pod machines, but they are not for us. Only for clients.
        And visiting higher-ups.
        And the financial advisers who are on hybrid working schedule.
        Basically everyone apart from the lowly peons who have to come in every day. We are only allowed to use the instant coffee.

        1. Caffeinated in California*

          Wow! That’s… nasty. I would probably bring in my own cone and filters and make bespoke coffee just to make a point. IMO, instant coffee is uniformly nasty, and not fit for human consumption.

          1. Clisby*

            Eh, instant is better than anything you can get with a Keurig. Keurig = brown water. I even bought the reusable K-cups and filled them with Cafe Bustelo espresso blend – brown water.

          2. Dr. Doll*

            I’ll be over here holding my cuppa Taster’s Choice with my tentacles.

            There is this lovely instant Kona coffee, Mulvadi, that I used to get. Wish I could still find it.

            1. Kayem*

              My dad only drinks instant. For him, it’s more of a caffeine delivery device and he wants as little work as possible. Now and then, we buy him a jar of fancy instant coffee as a treat, but it’s still weird to me that those are harder to find. I can get every flavor, grind, and origin of coffee for my gourmet coffee-loving mom, but there’s rarely more than two options for dad.

              1. Former Kitchen Lady*

                Have you tried the little (insanely expensive) individual tubes of instant Starbucks? I bought some as a gift for someone several years ago, I’m assuming they were such a moneymaker they’re still around. I was told it was the best instant coffee they’d ever had.

                1. Kayem*

                  I haven’t seen those, but sometimes I get the little packets of instant Bustelo for baking because they’re always the right premeasured amounts for recipes.

                2. Giant Kitty*

                  I just discovered g7 3 in 1 Vietnamese instant coffee and it’s SOOOOO good. I like it better than brewed now!

    3. Low Sparrow*

      If someone I knew threw a fit about having to walk up and down a flight of stairs to get to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I would probably mock them for the rest of my life.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        You may enjoy walking up and down flights of stairs and fumbling for your ID card while carrying hot liquids however many times a day. We did not. And luckily, one of the people who did not was the departmental director.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I’m even on the same floor, but as far as possible from the kitchen where the hot water and coffee live. I brought in an electric kettle that lives on my desk, because I’m not going back and forth from the kitchen every hour when my office is freezing cold.

      2. Quietly Aggravated In the Elevator*

        I wouldn’t throw a fit, but I would be quietly aggravated. Plenty of people like me with invisible disabilities; the near-universal assumption that a flight of stairs is fine for everyone is annoying as all get out.

        1. Caffeinated in California*

          I would be very irritated at that. I do not do stairs with a hot beverage in my one usable hand.

      3. A Penguin!*

        Up and down stairs doesn’t sound like a huge deal. Multiple ID badging while carrying a hot beverage does. One hand for mug, one hand for badge, one hand for door handle… is too many hands.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I wish there were counters available next to anywhere that you need to swipe in! It’s so hard when you’re carrying things.

            1. RecentlyRetired*

              One of my coworkers set his coffee on the “shelf” next to the swipe in. As he grabbed for it there was a loud noise. He had pulled the FIRE ALARM!!! The entire building had to be evacuated. All equipment shut off as employees were leaving the building (including an automated 20 hour software test that was in it’s 15th hour).

        1. Caffeinated in California*

          I have hemiparesis. This leaves me one usable hand, and difficulty navigating stairs. So one hand for coffee, one hand for a badge, one hand for the stair rail would require three times the hands that I have available. No, thank you.

      4. Llellayena*

        Walk up and down a flight of stairs holding a hot, full beverage while juggling your ID badge and whatever else you might have carried and opening several doors along the way (as stated in the original post). I’d be complaining too, that’s a safety issue. I have a hard enough time not spilling water on myself opening a door while carrying a glass, especially if the doors are heavier. And don’t get me started on people with permanent (or temporary) disabilities who may have difficulties with the locked doors even unencumbered.

        1. SarahKay*

          It’s enough of a safety issue that it’s forbidden on my site. If for some reason you wish to take an uncovered mug from one floor to the other then you have to use the lift (elevator).
          Thankfully there are vending machines and water dispensers on both floors, because the lift is the slowest lift in the world! You can open the door to the stairwell, run upstairs, open the upstairs door out of the stairwell and have got a coffee from the vending machine in the time it takes to wait for the lift and go up one (one!) floor.

      5. The Rafters*

        I don’t drink coffee, but would absolutely have a fit over this. It can be a huge safety issue. In case of a fire, do you really want to have people navigating spills on their way down the stairs? I actually spoke to a director about putting his da#$ coffee down before leaving the floor during a full-building, true emergency evacuation. He refused. Several people, including me, later escalated the complaint. As far as I know, he never pulled that stunt again.

      6. Michelle Smith*

        And I probably would have filed a complaint with HR. I walk with a cane. Stairs are hard for me. Stairs with a cup of liquid of any temperature are nearly impossible. The company’s idea was not accessible and they should have made it easier for people.

        1. Caffeinated in California*

          100% agreed.

          I also walk with a cane. Someone mocking me for daring to complain about being required to carry hot beverages on stairs while having to negotiate badge readers and doors would get reported to HR. Ableism is not funny.

      7. Lalaluna*

        I think it was more of a spillage issue? I know I’d spill at least half my cup of tea bringing it down stairs….I have poor balance and shaky hands.

      8. Cobol*

        It’s not just disability. It’s adding a huge inconvenience. Waiting for your document to print in an office with one printer and 599 people needing to print all day (I assume my hypothetical example is from 1985) isn’t difficult, but it still deserves to be complained about until fixed.

      9. hellohello*

        I worked in an office with coffee a floor and multiple badge swipes away once, and not a single one of my shirts escaped that year un-stained. Even when I started bringing my own thermos instead of using the provided mugs, it would still slosh enough that opening the thermos would splash me a bit once I got back to my desk

      10. Galadriel's Garden*

        When I was on crutches hobbling around the office, a flight of stairs for coffee would have been a deal breaker for what was already a fraught, complicated process. Taking an elevator for one flight is a huge waste of time in a high rise, so…yeah, fits would have been thrown for what should be a pretty straightforward thing, have coffee available where people work.

    4. Reed*

      Oh good Lord do we work in the same place?

      Illicit kettle wars have gone guerrilla and one colleague keeps a travel kettle in their locker and sneaks it into the HUB FOR DISCUSSION to make drinkable tea in an elaborate process of hiding behind pillars to make sure the coast is clear before making a dash for the counter where the plugs are.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        Did they redecorate in yellow and orange, and with flourescent lights that made the backs of your eyes ache? In that case…hello.

        1. Polar Vortex*

          I definitely don’t have the kettle wars, but can I just ask why does every business think orange is the right color for offices? We too had the same upgrade.

          We also have coffee problems but it’s your garden variety of “nobody refills the pots”. (Plural because despite 4 pots, all will be empty.)

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Supposedly it helps stimulate your mind, increase energy, and make you more productive and problem-solve better. If you buy into the idea that colors can affect stuff like that.

            1. Anonforhere*

              Being surrounded by the right colors (+lighting) can absolutely improve mood, and thus cognition!

              … aaaand what constitutes “the right colors” varies WILDLY between specific individuals– *individuals*, not just neurotypes. And of course what helps in small amounts can easily turn horribly garish before it even spreads across an entire wall, too! Don’t paint the office neon, people, please.

          2. Caffeinated in California*

            Oh, god. I worked in one place where our “new” (open plan) office was painted in colors like golden yellow, orange and red. Where we worked. It actually made me irrationally angry if I had to look at the walls.

            They were trying to use “color psychology” to make us more productive. But red and burnt orange are not productive colors, they are angry colors. Lots of people were very irritable there. I wonder why…

            The coffee wasn’t terrible, at least.

            1. Giant Kitty*

              Gah, that sounds *hideous*! A flashback to the nightmare that being a child in the 1970s was for me, LOL. Even fast food places look awful decorated in those colors but an office? What were they thinking?!

    5. Music With Rocks In*

      While this sounds intensely frustrating, your writing reminds me of Hitchhiker’s Guide and I enjoyed it a great deal.

    6. Asenath*

      Oh, the illicit kettles! And, actually, the illicit toasters. We were all responsible adults. We know it’s a fire risk. We know if we blow a fuse Maintenance will fix it with a lot of pointed remarks about how often this is due to illicit appliances, and are we sure we have none, and the size of the area that was affected this time. But a lot of people had them, since a hike to the building cafeteria was too tedious every time you wanted hot water. They were carefully concealed, but just in case, warnings went around when the “surprise” fire safety inspections were held.

      1. Retiring Academic*

        Ah, memories! When I worked in China in the early 1980s, business people (I wasn’t an academic then) had to live in hotel rooms because there was no other type of accommodation permitted for us. In the hotel where I lived there was a small fridge in the rooms but no coffee or tea making facilities and kettles etc. were not allowed in case we set the place on fire or overloaded the electricity supply or something. I liked having breakfast in my room rather than facing the world in the cavernous dining room so I had a small, rather primitive electric coffee percolator and a toaster which I hid in a cupboard when not in use. No war really – the amiable housekeeping/spying staff knew perfectly well they were there but as long as I hid them they weren’t about to make a fuss.
        On an unrelated note, the manual coffee grinder (remember those?) which I used to make this coffee was given to me by a journalist who had previously been a student in China – many years later (when I was in the process of transforming into an academic) I discovered that my PhD supervisor had been its original owner and passed it on to the then student, later journalist!

      2. Ranon*

        I work for a company full of architects and engineers and was shocked to find out we have both a toaster and a toaster oven (which both survived through the recent office remodel so they’re definitely supposed to be there). Oddly I almost never see folks use them? Maybe they’re less interesting if they’re not illicit.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Honestly, the dream world some execs inhabit: apparently using your swipe card a minimum of four times to get a refill is going to foster industry shaking idea sessions in the kitchen.

    8. Opalized*

      So far this is my favorite. HUB FOR DISCUSSION. Are we having a discussion right now? Shh. Stop. We must walk upstairs to continue as it is best to do this in THE HUB FOR DISCUSSION.

  17. hellohello*

    At a former job, there had previously been an employee who brought in their own espresso machine for everyone to use. The machine left when they left that job though (naturally), and there was a sudden need to replace the machine with a new coffee solution. The CEO unilaterally decided to get a Keurig machine and there was what can only be called a full staff revolution. Nearly every meeting was filled with at least 10 minutes of grumbling and pointed comments about the new coffee system, and complaints about the lackluster coffee dominated conversation around the office.

    I’ll admit I definitely did some grumbling myself, though I like to think I at least kept it professional in meetings. In our defense, a significant part of the work we did at this company was focused on environmentalism, so switching to single use plastic cups for the coffee wasn’t a great look, on top of the switch from hand crafted espresso to the sad bean water that k-cups create being a real downgrade in quality.

    After about two months of near constant griping, upper management finally gave in and replaced the k-cups with a still not as good as an espresso machine but acceptable drip coffee maker and the revolt settled down.

    1. Caffeinated in California*

      Yeah, I find K-cup coffee to not be as good as even simple drip coffee. It often ends up weak with grounds in the bottom. This is even if it’s the same brand and blend as my drip coffee.

      1. Lady Ann*

        I read an article where someone did a bunch of testing and found that Keurig machines tend not to get the water hot enough to properly brew coffee.

  18. Dust Bunny*

    Once again, this makes me inexpressibly grateful for my sane coworkers. We have a normal coffeemaker and a Keurig. Our employer provides basic coffee, sugar, and powdered creamer. If you want anything else you bring it yourself and people leave it alone unless you tell them it’s for public use (I just bought a big box of pods of a flavored coffee that everyone seems to like). There is no insanity.

    1. Mockingjay*

      My company has two commercial Keurigs in the breakroom, hooked up to a water supply and serviced monthly. They provide several coffee pod selections (medium, dark, & decaf) and earl grey tea and hot chocolate pods. Full selection of creamers and sugars/sweeteners. People often bring in flavored pods to share. The two fridges are stocked with a plethora of sodas.

      I work remotely and when I do visit the main office for meetings, my first stop is the lovely, lovely breakroom, so I can caffeinate to my heart’s delight.

      Single-serve coffee makers pretty much eliminate fuss because everyone can have a cup they way they want.

      1. Rocket Raccoon*

        Sincere question about the pods: do the tea/hot chocolate/coffee not flavor each other? My husband has a french press for coffee but I refuse to use it for tea because the tea tastes coffee-ish.

        1. ThatGirl*

          No, because the hot water runs through the pod straight into your cup. There’s no cross-contamination. Whereas with a French press, the coffee oils are gonna linger faintly in the metal even after washing.

          1. spiriferida*

            In theory, sure: in practice, they cross-contaminate. My last office had a keurig for the coffee drinkers and I had to settle for microwaving water for tea because the keurig contaminated everything with Coffee Taste.

            1. LikesToSwear*


              I once worked in an office with a Keurig. I tried to use it a few times for hot chocolate or tea.

              Every. Single. Time. I would get coffee grounds in my drink. Despite me cleaning every single area I possibly could, and running several plain water cycles – before, during, and after cleaning.

              After 3-4 attempts, I never bothered again, and brought in a kettle instead.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          We banned hot chocolate pods from our home Keurig because the cocoa gums up the device nozzle and you have to run at least one, usually two cups worth of plain water through it to rinse it out, and I’m told the next cup of coffee still tastes vaguely mocha-y. (The taste isn’t the problem, it’s the dairy/sugar in the works that runs the risk of getting moldy if it isn’t cleaned properly, at least in our decision-making process.)

          1. Mockingjay*

            The commercial K’s have a lot more power to push through steam, due to the high volume of users it serves. (There aren’t many tea drinkers because tea isn’t great in a pod.) The hot chocolate pod doesn’t really seem to affect the coffee taste. Also, as I mentioned, the company machines are serviced each monthly, including a thorough cleaning.

            My home machine – I buy the powder packets of hot chocolate and use the Keurig to dispense hot water directly into my mug. It’s the perfect temp (hot, not boiling) and quantity (8 fl. oz.) that the packet calls for.

        3. Mama Llama*

          I find that they sometimes do. My co-worker likes a cinnamon flavored coffee. If I make a hot chocolate pod right after him, I get a little cinnamon flavor in my cocoa. I actually like that, though.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yeah, these threads are fascinating to me because I’ve never seen/heard coffee drama anyplace I’ve worked. I’ve had other drama — food missing, expired and forgotten food in a stinky fridge — but never coffee drama. The biggest drama in our kitchen now is the person in a different department who leaves their butter knife in the sink all day every day…like they use it out of the sink, and then just put it back; it’s never washed and put away. My Director is grossed out!

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Yes, but doesn’t really affect me (or her) in any way. I don’t use the knife and the sink isn’t blocked from use.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        A ex-colleague here once came into the lunch room while a bunch of us were in there eating, made tea, added milk and sugar, took a spoon out of the drawer and stirred her tea, then just dropped the tea covered spoon back in the cutlery drawer.

        Didn’t even rinse it. We all just gaped at her and she didn’t seem to notice.

        Soon after on another lunch break she told us in an aggrieved tone that “somehow” she had mice in her apartment.

    3. nm*

      My coworker brought a very fancy italian espresso maker into the office, and if you ask her if you can use it the answer always is “yes of course! do you need me to show you how it works?”

      1. Jammin'*

        Hi, nm. What’s wrong with that? Seems like she’s being helpful.
        But admittedly, I’m not a coffee drinker at all, so perhaps if you’ve used one espresso maker, you’ve used them all……

  19. KatEnigma*

    I don’t drink coffee. But I sat between coworkers who were providing a coffee maker for the department’s use, before the days of K cups and the like. Whoever finished the pot was responsible for making a new one. Which was respected. Except that one of the co-owners of the pot liked strong coffee and the other liked it weak. So all day long for weeks, I got to listen to them bicker about the strength of the coffee. It’s been a long time, so I don’t remember why I made a pot (desperation for them to please shut up about it?) but they both liked my pot of coffee- made using the instructions on the can, since I literally had never made coffee before, but it’s not rocket science, right? So then they begged me to make the coffee that I didn’t drink- rather than just using the 2 scoops like the instructions on the can said.

    So later, we got moved to a much larger department, where the coffee pot that was next to my work station was the supply for 100+ people, not just 4-5 people, and I was informed by a coworker who did the supplies for it (an equal, not higher up) that it was my job, because I’d been assigned that spot, to make sure the coffee pot was never empty. I was only in my early 20’s and this was the mid 1990’s, and I still gave a hard no on that one. Someone who had previously had that spot was then shocked and awed that I wasn’t making the coffee.

    And then there were the doughnut wars caused by the coffee wars… LOL Because the company had an exclusive contract with a vending machine company that supplied a coffee vending machine that no one was desperate enough to use, no one could make a profit from selling any food or drink. So they’d take “donations” for the coffee, and anything left over after paying for supplies was going toward free doughnuts on Fridays. I don’t know why they didn’t use the “club” model, but people who had never bought a cup of coffee or tea in their career would pile a plate with several doughnuts to take back to their desk… Which displeased the organizer and caused such infighting that management had to step in and ban doughnuts. Then they fought over which charity to donate the excess funds to.

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      At a previous employer the Estates Department…and only the Estates department, who were responsible for the Catering team…got a tray of donuts and pastries, and one of fresh fruit.

      I was told later that this technically qualified as a bribe, and I shouldn’t tell anyone outside the office about it. It would have been hard to talk, with my mouth full of fresh melon, and lemon donuts…

    2. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      “Free” Food makes people act weird. I worked at a company which had several partner companies under the same roof. One company had a contractor who would be the first one in line when any of the companies had donuts, and would take a half a dozen before anyone else got any. He was usually the first one in line any time any of the companies had food catered in, loading his plate as high as he could. He was astonished that he wasn’t going to be converted to a regular employee, and shocked when he was told it was because of his gluttony.

      1. Goldenrod*

        ““Free” Food makes people act weird.”

        YES, yes, a thousand times yes!! I can never get over how otherwise normal-acting professional people suddenly transform into starving wolf packs the second they get a whiff of free food. Like, calm down, you make a decent salary, why are you suddenly stampeding over to a buffet like it’s your last meal on earth??

      2. Llama Identity Thief*

        This is why I always try to be one of the last people whenever free food is available – I’m perfectly happy if I don’t get any, but I know I tend very heavily towards the “gluttinous” side, so I want others to get through the line before I bring destruction upon the foods you all hold dear.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        I have never seen more peoples’ Inner Wolf Creature rise to the surface than when free communal food is in the offing.

        Like, I work selling pizza, so pizza at work is no big deal, but when outside people visit the office they are ASTOUNDED to see a row of boxes and told to help themselves. You’d think they were gold bars, not pizza slices.

  20. SarahKay*

    Not really on-topic, but how can the previous discussion be five years ago?!? I remember it well, and if asked I would have said it was three years ago at the most. I know Covid kind of ate two years, but even so….

  21. Chocolate Teapot*

    A parsimonious former employer had a rule that external visitors could have coffee at meetings but not employees.

    When the company got pod coffee machines in the meeting rooms, that all changed!

    1. Helvetica*

      As a government employee (not in the US), my institution is one of the few where employees are allowed to have coffee for free because we have many external visitors and it would not make sense to keep track of coffee for external visitors/own employees.

  22. ABCYaBYE*

    This makes me chuckle every time I think of this. I used to work with someone who was VERY PARTICULAR about her coffee. We’d shared office space with another org previously and when we moved to a new location we started using a particular type of coffee that you can pick up at any grocery store (think mountain grown in a red package). Why? Because she also used it at home. We didn’t use the home coffee before we moved, so I hadn’t realized at the time how particular she was about said home brand. I brought in some other coffee a couple of times just because I happened to get something fun and different and thought it would be nice to share, again not realizing that it would create any sort of issue because coffee is coffee, right? I was in first, so I brewed the coffee and poured myself a cup. She threw A FIT when she came in because it was different coffee and any other coffee variation “gave me (her) the trots…”

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Along the lines of “very particular”: tradesmen seem to be pickier than I’d expected.

      During one of my on-the-jobsite stints, we were a “first/early start trade” and had an on-site trailer. I took to making sure that there was a pot of coffee in the morning, because selfish reasons. Within the week, negotiations set the price for the jobsite coffee club, and one of my duties (that I didn’t want to do, and everyone knew it) had been reassigned so that I could make a once a week run to the grocery store (across the street, so not a huge deal. Heck, they told me to take the company truck and do this on company time) so that coffee was available during the duration of the workweek. I didn’t have to do much other than that – it was very well self-policed, to an amazing degree (I think in 7 months I made the first pot of the day only, ever, and again, my coffee came out of that there pot!)

      The hilarity? The specificity of the list that was to be acquired with coffee club funds. It was always “this exact brand and grind”, “this package flavor of cream pods”, “this container of syrup flavor”, “these types of sweetener”. Funds were NEVER short, if you can believe it.

  23. Clefairy*

    When I was 20, I didn’t really have a taste for coffee yet- one day, my boss (who was a silly prankster) gave me a steaming cup of coffee that he made for me, with an audience of a few other staff members huddling behind him. I didn’t find this suspicious, and while I wasn’t really a coffee drinker, I accepted and took a sip- to my surprise, this was the BEST CUP OF COFFEE I had ever had, told him so, and continued to take several more long drags while he looked on in shock- apparently he dumped like 35 packets of sugar into the coffee, expecting me to have a reaction to how over-the-top sweet it was. Jokes on him, I grew up in a religion that didn’t allow coffee, couldn’t stand the stuff because I was very new to it and thought it was so bitter and weird, but absolutely LOVED anything sweet, so I unironically loved the sugary mess he presented me. He was shook, and I’m pretty sure his perception of me never recovered haha. Now I’m 15 years older and wiser, and actually enjoy coffee- but still prefer it on the sweet side. Maybe just not THAT sweet.

    1. Gracely*

      That reminds me of the time when I was five and my dad let me have coffee at a family reunion because I wanted to be grown up. I put at least 10 packets of sugar in one of those little Styrofoam cups of coffee. It was so good, and I was so proud that I liked coffee like a grown up. (My dad got in trouble for letting me have coffee–but he wisely did not tell my mom how much sugar I’d put in it.)

    2. History facts*

      In the early days of European tea culture, some wealthy families would go through something in the range of 1kg of sugar *a week*. They would put so much sugar in their tea there are records of people’s tea spoons standing straight up in their glass.

      So this is not just a you thing, you have some historical precedent! :)

      1. Clefairy*

        HAHAHAHAHA. I’m not a sugar fiend, I’m just an aristocrat hahahahah. Thanks for sharing, totally made my day!

      2. Lcsa99*

        Yeah, so apparently I am aristocratic as well! I kid you not – I will have a cup of tea with approximately 1/4 cup of sugar in it. Thankfully I don’t drink hot tea often (and no coffee).

    3. The New Wanderer*

      My dad, who drinks coffee black with a splash of syrup, refers to my typical coffee shop order as “candy coffee.” To be fair, I now think the specialty flavored coffees are a bit too sweet since I’ve become accustomed to making coffee at home. But I still like mine sweet too, and I’m far too particular to drink coffee from the office machine because I have a very specific recipe:

      12 oz strong coffee
      about 6 oz dairy or oat milk (cream is a last resort, but I’d rather go through caffeine withdrawal than use powdered ‘creamer’)
      1 tsp sugar (2-3 packets if I drink coffee at a restaurant)
      1-2 tsp hot chocolate mix

      1. Kayem*

        Once a year, I have a hankering for coffee, but the only way I can drink it is with a lot of milk, sugar, and cocoa mixed into it, then served chilled. I have been informed that this is, in fact, Coffee-Flavored Liquid Candy and not Real Coffee.

    4. Shira VonDoom*

      one of my fave ex-bfs liked to tease me about “would you like some coffee with your sugar?”

      I told him, just enough to flavor it. LOL

  24. BookLion*

    I use to work for a company where their big client was a major coffee household name. We had expresso machines and coffee pots everywhere with a bunch of the client’s coffee. It was so nice and considered a major perk, because we had nice ice coffee, lattes, mochas, whatever whenever we wanted.

    One day we come in and it is all gone. Everyone was upset and confused. Turns out the company lost the client, didn’t tell annoying except the account manager and huger ups, and has a meeting with a potential new coffee client that day, so the office manager got rid of everything.

    Multiple people barged into the conference room where the meeting was taking place to complain about how all the coffee was gone.
    My boss was in the meeting and we didn’t get that client.

    If you are going to take away the coffee at least tell people before doing it!

    1. MsM*

      Seems like a lack of quick thinking on your boss’s part, honestly. “See how passionate we are about good coffee? Let us put that to work for you!”

    2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      I remember having to hide all the sodas from one particular vendor, because a competitor was going to be onsite and would Take Exception.

  25. Meghan*

    Oh man, I finally have one! My old job was open 24/7 (it was a factory). The staff was split between the operators that were there at all hours and the rest of the staff who were just first shift folks (admin and management). The operators drank a ton of coffee because, you know, they work swing shifts.

    Well, cue the office manager who decided on a lark that they were going through too much coffee. I think she thought people were bringing it home? The coffee use to be stored up with the rest of the office supplies, but she hid the coffee so that anyone who wanted to get a new can (big, Folgers thing, nothing fancy), had to talk to her. If you ran out when she was gone, too bad.

    Now, I don’t drink coffee. But I am friendly with both the operators and admin side. One day, I found out where she hid the coffee (an unused cube drawer) and told the operators. Since they work nights, they would go in, grab the coffee they needed and leave.

    Admin lady never did figure out that people knew her hiding place.

  26. Niniel*

    At my first job there was only an old, sad coffee pot in a break room in another building. I used it occasionally, but the nature of my work didn’t allow for making a pot about 75% of the time.

    I was ECSTATIC to find that there is a Keurig at my new job!! The only problem is that the well water here damages it, so we have to bring in city water for it to function. A couple coworkers do that for us and there is no drama. The worst complaint we have is that some people leave their cups in the machine after they make their coffee. I find it annoying, but it’s a minor annoyance so I don’t make a big deal of it.

  27. Ashley*

    Not exactly a coffee war but a fun memory from when I taught in a public school in Japan:
    In a staff room for roughly 20 teachers there was a tiny 3 cup coffee maker. I didn’t notice at first that teachers used little espresso cups for regular coffee since no one drank much at a time. Then there was me who used a mug from my apartment I later found out was what my predecessor used as a soup bowl.
    This was a problem since (I would later learn ) we could only make coffee once a day. ( in Japan, rules are rules) Rather than try to clue me in, the school gave up and just bought a larger coffee maker and with their usual subtlety just showed me the new coffee maker in the kitchenette announcing ‘look, a new coffee maker, you might like this.’

    1. Goldenrod*

      “with their usual subtlety just showed me the new coffee maker in the kitchenette announcing ‘look, a new coffee maker, you might like this.’”

      Ha ha, that is so cute!

    2. Rekha3.14*

      I learned to drink black coffee in Japan! They’d serve it in the little 6oz mugs with saucers and I didn’t want to be impolite so I’d sip a little and leave it. Didn’t want to add milk or sugar and not drink it, either. Then eventually I was sipping more.. and more… I don’t recall ever making the coffee at the office, it was in a side room, so I have no idea how often it was actually made. I did love the tea, though! (Weird as it was to not be the newest employee and be served tea by someone older…)

      I still miss it (Japan) some days! (I was a JET 20 years ago now, in Aomori-ken).

  28. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    I joined a new company last year and the new company has an actual coffee machine vs. bulk brewed Tim Hortons coffee that tastes like gasoline (which was what my old job had). It isn’t the best coffee in the world but I thought it was a big step up. About one month in, a Team meeting somehow devolves into something like 30 minutes of complaining about the coffee! My poor boss tried to move the conversation on a few times, to no luck. It isn’t the most interesting story, but my take-away is that people will ALWAYS complain about the coffee.

    I did work somewhere where you had to chip in for coffee once – and it definitely seemed that the time and energy spent managing that system plus the extra complaints it generated far outweighed the cost savings to the company

  29. ThatGirl*

    I worked for a large F500 company two jobs back that when I started had the standard large carafe drip coffeemakers. At some point to cut costs someone decided they would switch to a packet-based system (similar to pods but Flavia) and make everyone buy their own packets at a minimal markup.

    I have no idea how much money that saved, but they had to buy whole new machines, and it was NOT popular at all, so it was only a matter of time before they begrudgingly switched back.

  30. Just Me Ramblin'*

    It wasn’t coffee, but it was soda. Someone, or several someones, kept trying to cool down their can of soda quickly by putting it in the break room freezer. There was just one small problem with this. It would freeze there, and soda does not do well when frozen. The can would then explode in the freezer.

    The freezer would look like a war zone. Frozen soda EVERYWHERE. Over frozen lunches, the walls, the door… And worst of all, they started doing it at least twice a week every week for several months.

    The head of one team got so upset by this, he’d go red-faced and rant for an hour. I thought one night we’d have to call an ambulance he was so upset. He even made several signs asking people not to put their sodas in the freezer. It was ignored.

    The soda explosions finally stopped when the managers got tired of the complaints and sent out an email banning drinks in the freezer.

    1. NameRequired*

      At what point does freezer soda change from ill-thought-out to actively malicious do we think?

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      Oh, dear…I was the person who used to do this. I’m sort of low level ADHD and I can walk around in a bit of a fog sometimes. How did I stop? Not by being a better, more aware, more considerate person…I switched to plastic bottles, which don’t explode as readily, and my workplace got a small fridge with a tiny freezer compartment that cools the drinks a lot faster, so I was less likely to forget them. However, I did always gamely clean up my own messes and apologize to the victims.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Hey, you considerately changed to plastic bottles. That’s an ADHD strategy, even if other people may tell you to change your brain instead.

    3. Jessica Ganschen*

      I have to admit, if I had done that sort of thing, I would be very deeply tempted to not admit it, but I also wouldn’t ever do it again!

    4. Girasol*

      That was the first thing I ever did in the first week in my first apartment as a real grownup. I fast-chilled some grape soda, forgot it, and had to explain to the landlady how the purple stains got on the ceiling. Some years later that I learned that you don’t leave a canned soda in a hot car either. Just as I was driving down the road, BLAM! It hit the back of my head. Doesn’t everyone have to do that once?

    5. Free Meerkats*

      When I was in the Navy on a carrier, liquid nitrogen (LN) was easier to get than ice; it was a byproduct of making LOX for the aircraft. We would regularly go get a dewar of it for freeze seals (where you use an ice plug in a pipe) and use it to cool sodas. If you drop a Coke into a bucket of LN, it chills in about 30 seconds. If you leave it there for a minute, you get a frozen Coke powered LN fountain.

    6. Gumby*

      I exploded a soda in the work freezer exactly once (and I cleaned it up myself). Now when I put a can in the freezer to cool off, I set an alarm on my phone for 20 minutes so that I don’t forget to take it out when I get caught up in work again.

    7. UrsulaD*

      My mom used to make my siblings cafe au lait (which in our language translates loosely to “excellent/peak coffee”) by taking a tiny grain or too of instant coffee, dissolving it in hot water and adding warm milk. They felt so fancy drinking a grown up drink!

  31. ghostlight*

    Straight out of college, I worked at a non-profit that USED to provide free coffee. It consisted of a single serve Keurig in the kitchen and just a stock of K-cups that they would bulk order. I guess after a couple years, management wanted to cut costs and got rid of providing the K-cups. So people could bring in their own K-cups and use the existing Keurig. Seemed pretty okay.

    Cut to: I, a lowly entry-level employee, am cleaning out a forgotten storage closet with another employee and we find a GOLD MINE: BOXES of K-cups hidden away behind old work swag and file boxes. I mean we are talking like 6 Costco-sized containers of Donut Shop. I guess rather than let people go through the remaining supply of K-cups, management cut everyone off cold-turkey and hid the remaining K-cups away. They were still good though, so we sneakily moved them to the kitchen to be enjoyed by everyone. People were mystified by where they came from, but also delighted. :)

    1. Nea*

      Forgotten work swag is THE BEST! I once found a set of business card holders filled with M&Ms and a card thanking people for attending a picnic a year earlier. Yummy, yummy M&Ms and I’m still using those card holders for little things.

  32. Jen*

    My office used a system on every floor where you used little packets, and I forget the actual brand name. The C-suite had been arguing amongst themselves forever about whether or not the machines should be replaced, since the general consensus was that the coffee was bad but really cheap, and they couldn’t seem to justify the expense of paying for us to drink something like Nespresso.

    Well, one quarter we got a shipment of packets with a ton of defective ones filled to the brim with air, which caused people to get sprayed with coffee or cocoa when they shoved them into the machines or just flat-out wouldn’t work. One of our C-suite executives got herself hosed down with hot chocolate right before a big meeting. A coworker found her and ran to get me, since we were around the same size and both favored a specific brand of dress. I ended up switching dresses with her and scurrying back to my office to hide. And after that incident all of the packet machines on every floor were *immediately* switched out for pods.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I don’t think that’s really a fair characterization of what happened based on what I just read.

        1. DisneyChannelThis*

          Someone much higher up in the hierarchy C suite executive, meaning the power imbalance is def in their favor, asked a lower level employee to take off the clothes they were wearing and put on the soaked in coffee outfit instead. How is that not ridiculous!? Even wearing a non coffee soaked dress that someone else was wearing 30 seconds ago is gross to me.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            It’s not stealing. And while I understand the power imbalance, it’s not like it was just as part of a regular day. It was right before a big meeting, which may have had a huge impact on the company.

            Further, Jen does not seem to harbor any ill will about lending her dress.

          2. Giant Kitty*

            It was an emergency situation. While I’d prefer to hide in an office in my underwear & coat than something wet & sticky with coffee or hot chocolate, I’d have no problem lending clothing to someone who had a serious wardrobe malfunction minutes before an important meeting, regardless of what level they occupied in the hierarchy.

      2. Mid*

        Probably borrowed, not stole. And I’d do the same for a coworker! My job doesn’t really have meetings or client contact, so if someone was sprayed with coffee before a meeting and we were similar enough sizes, I’d absolutely switch outfits quickly.

      3. Marni*

        I love your writing style, this is my favorite story in the whole thread so far. Hosed down with hot chocolate, lol.

  33. OKaye*

    My current office is in the midst of a Coffee Cold War of sorts, though I am (sort of) the culprit. I’ve been here a little over a year and we are on our third(!) coffee maker since I started, mostly due to misuse/negligence/lack of cleaning by the folks who use the coffee maker (we don’t have an assigned person whose job it is to clean the coffee maker; evidently, several years ago that task along with other basic tasks like emptying the dishwasher in the kitchen was rotated among staff members and when they stopped doing their assigned tasks, the former office manager just stopped assigning the tasks).

    The current coffee maker is about four months old. Just after the holidays, one of the senior staff members stopped by my office to let me know the coffee maker is “on its last legs”. I sat back in my chair, nodded, and remarked, “Well, let’s hope not, because we’re not buying another one.” (I’m in charge of approving office purchases.)

    Needless to say, it was cleaned and seemingly back to normal functioning the next day.

    Every time someone’s brought up needing a new coffee maker since, I continue to maintain that they better make this one last. We have a separate, single-serve coffee maker for clients, so if they think I’m going to flinch on this, they’ve got another think coming. These are highly educated people. They can either learn to take care of the shared office appliances, or they can learn to make their coffee at home.

  34. Rapunzel Rider*

    Yeah, no drama here. Those of us who drink coffee, have each gotten our own personal pots along the way to avoid the drama. There used to be a big pot in the break room but due to everyone needing different things, the pot never got finished. One of the bosses is a self-designated coffee snob and that coffee was never good enough, so she had her own; I prefer decaf and will drink it all day long but everyone else needed the energy and the pot would be dumped around noon, so I got my own; Someone else liked flavored coffee and mixing it, so they got their own. Eventually it got down so the Admin Assist was making a whole pot of coffee for maybe one person but she enjoyed doing it so kept it up for probably six months before COVID hit, she retired and now there is no more central pot. So now on any given day there are at least four coffee pots going on our floor.

    1. Tupac Coachella*

      At my first few “adult” jobs there was a communal pot, so I thought that was just how offices did coffee. When I started at my current job, I asked “what’s the coffee situation here?” and got looked at like I’d just asked the oddest question ever. I got a personal machine, and I’ll never look back. Someone did eventually bring in a Keurig that everyone can use (which I took advantage of briefly when my beloved coffeemaker called it quits), but having my own coffee setup that I can manage however I want is oddly comforting.

      1. Lady Ann*

        “What’s the coffee situation here?” seems like a very reasonable question to ask at a new job!

  35. Caramel & Cheddar*

    The only coffee wars I’ve experienced was the perennial question of whose responsibility it is to clean the coffee makers. Across multiple workplaces, it became very clear that most people will absolutely not pitch in to help do anything unless you explicitly assign it to them. At a previous workplace, that meant that the Keurig machines eventually got so scaly (we have hard water) that people stopped using them altogether instead of finding a way to descale them.

    1. Don't Drink it. Love the smell though!*

      I do not drink coffee. As such, I cannot make a decent cup of coffee. I’ve tried. My parents have tried to teach me. I think I understand the theory, but the reality simply does not work when I’m making coffee.
      So, you’d think I’d be saved from having to clean the coffee pot, right? Nope.
      Last year the only other person who worked in our office got a new job, and left soon after Christmas. I had taken time off, plus the office was closed for several days, so I came back to the office the day before a new person started to discover that not only was there mold in the coffee pot, there was mold growing on the grounds that had been left in the basket.
      I figured that would be mean to the new person, who probably drank coffee, so my responsibilities that day included scrubbing the whole darn thing several times, going out to buy white vinegar to run through the works (more than once, because mold), and then running several empty pots to clean out the vinegar residue.
      Since the former employee left a whole bunch of her stuff in the office, as I cleaned up the kitchen I boxed all of her stuff up for her. It was very tempting to pack the moldy grounds in her box, but I behaved. I did pack three of the half-empty water bottles she had left in various places in the office though…

    2. Caffeinated in California*

      At one university job the janitor cleaned the coffee pots at night. This was okay, unless someone let it burn in the morning. Plus, no one (else) ever cleaned the coffee maker. I’m picky, so I cleaned the coffee maker a couple times a week, plus made at least one pot a day.

      So many people there would not make coffee, even though they drank multiple cups a day. Probably the same people would never refill the ice trays, so we always ran out in the summer. I would end up filling three trays when I only needed one of two cubes. My office was closest to the break room, so it was convenient for me, but I still felt a bit ill used.

      When they moved us to a new building there was a Keurig, a bulk pot in the main kitchen, a coffee bar downstairs, and an ice maker in the fridge. This was good, since I was farther away and didn’t make coffee as much.

  36. Melody*

    Haha these are fantastic.

    My old office always had a drip coffee maker, but the office manager decided she and the accountant needed their own Keurig. They bought it with company money, but it was theirs.

    So the owner bought a Keurig for everyone else. Fine, problem solved. Except that he felt it was wasteful to only use the pods once. So he would brew his coffee and then brew a second cup with the same pod.

    Fine. Except.

    He would often forget to brew the second cup and just leave the old pod and the coffee sitting there for 30-90 minutes. So if you didn’t realize it he was coming back to brew more and threw out the used pod, he would get very annoyed that you had “wasted” it.

    1. lifebeforecorona*

      Actually, I can see his point, I bought a lot of different pods after Christmas when they were on sale. Some of them were really strong so I use them twice. Since it’s just me using my Keurig it’s fine. Then I tried another brand and I really like it but again very strong so now all my pods get used twice.

      1. Melody*

        I’ve always found the pods to be incredibly weak, but everyone likes their coffee differently.

        The main issue is that he would just forget about it, so no one could get coffee until he remembered again.

  37. Ground Control*

    I once worked at an office that had a coffee club based on the honor system. The person who managed the money and purchased the coffee was upset because too many people were drinking coffee without paying. Fair, but coffee should have been free and they were known around the office for being super intense in general. They made a note saying you had to pay for coffee before drinking it so a friend started paying in pennies as a joke/commentary on the ridiculousness of the situation. A few days later there was another (angrier) note saying PAYING IN PENNIES IS A HOSTILE ACT. Over a decade later I still think of this whenever I use a penny.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Completely off topic, but…when I was in college, I lived in a house with 6 other girls*. They decided to do a chore wheel and have a $2 penalty when someone forgot their chore that week. I never agreed to it because it was a bonkers set up. (The chores were buck wild weird things. And yes, it was a real wheel.) The only person they ever charged for forgetting their week’s chore was me. And since I had a job and a check book…well…one of them had to cash a $2 check.

      BTW: I was the only person who didn’t go home for breaks, so they left the house absolutely trashed when they left. I ended up cleaning during breaks so I could live without a mound of dirty dishes (ironically, not one of the chores on the wheel) or a filthy bathroom.

      *I do not recommend this set up.

      1. Ground Control*

        Maybe 50 cents a cup? And my friend maybe paid for a few cups? It’s been so long that I don’t remember the details, but it definitely wasn’t mountains of pennies. They didn’t even fill up the money can!

  38. Kaye*

    SCENE: the kitchenette. On the side is a mug with an inch or so of chocolatey sludge in the bottom. I am minding my own business and probably making myself a cup of tea.

    [Enter Manager A.]

    Manager A: What is this? Honestly, why can’t people rinse out their own mugs when they’re done?

    [Manager A rinses out the mug]

    Some time later, I am in the kitchen again, probably making more tea.

    [Enter Manager B]

    Manager B: Where’s my drink? I leave the room for five minutes and someone’s thrown it away!

    [I did not dob in Manager A. Manager B writes a snotty note about not throwing away other people’s drinks. Manager A sees this and apologises.]

    1. Melody*

      We had this problem with everything kitchen related.

      Our Manager A would see that someone had left food or dishes and then send out an all office email about how “your mother doesn’t work here” and to clean up after yourself.

      But a good chunk of the time people had been interrupted during their lunch break to take care of something. They hadn’t abandoned anything.

      1. My Cabbages!*

        We have a shared faculty lunch room at my work. I sometimes don’t have time to wash my dishes by hand before class, so I put them in the dishwasher. By the time I get back, some unknown person has always run and emptied the dishwasher–or possibly even taken the dishes out and washed them by hand– and put them on the counter.

        I am waiting for the passive-agressive notes to come…

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          We have a shared dishwasher, but because hardly anyone comes into the office, it rarely runs, and then when it does, everyone’s surprised there’s clean crockery in there.

          And somehow, it only seems to have run when I feel like I’ve been doing All The Dishwasher at home, and so I unload it feeling aggrieved.

  39. SpiderLadyCEO*

    At my previous workplace, I had been remote for two years and just joined the in-person staff. I had only been in person for one month, and thus hadn’t needed to make the coffee yet (and mostly didn’t drink it, because there was a nespresso machine downstairs.) But my desk was literally right next to the coffee machine, and I wanted to contribute, so when I arrived early one morning and the coffee hadn’t been made, I made a batch.

    There were two options for coffee to be made, a green bag and a brown bag. They both looked fine, they were the same roast, same brew, different brands. I picked at random, because I didn’t know which one was normally made. I brewed the coffee, I poured a cup, I sat down to work.

    Well, apparently I picked wrong because as people trickled into the office, whispers began going around. “Who made the coffee today?” “I don’t know but they must have made the green bag.”

    I do not know how my coworkers knew via taste which brand of coffee had been made, but they knew.

    I never made coffee in that office again. And I never copped up to being the one who made the green bag coffee.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh we might have used the same brand! Green bag was decaf, and it had a distinct (bad) taste.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        I do know this was not decaf. I did a careful analysis, and it really was just brand differences, not caf/decaf. But apparently the brand was Not Good! (I could not tell the difference at all. But by the time I got in, I was on my third cup of coffee, since I made my french press at home, then had the nespresso, then had office coffee. I stopped drinking coffee after this job, because my hands started shaking.)

    2. ggg*

      Our coffee was priced at 20 cents so people could just put in a dollar for the week. But of course there were still those people who paid in pennies.

      1. ggg*

        I do not know why that comment appeared here instead of where it should be.

        To make it relevant — if you hate the green bag coffee, throw it out!

  40. Emily*

    Because of appropriations law, the federal government generally can’t provide coffee or other food or beverages for employees. (With exceptions for some travel/conferences scenarios — and obviously for situations involving dining halls and uniformed service members.) Which does lead to scenarios where the amount of time spent on someone organizing coffee (or water) clubs, collecting money, etc., exceeded what it would it have taken to just do this centrally.

    But also, there is a delightful GAO decision on this topic that I would like to highlight:

    Use of Appropriated Funds for Coffee Makers, Cups, and Holders, 47 COMP. GEN. 657

    Highlight: This report discusses using appropriated funds to purchase coffee makers, cups, and holders, in the amount of $43.89. The letter presented to GAO stated that the office for which these items where purchased was not on a 100 percent audit and that the purchase of these items was not brought to the authorized certifying officer’s attention until after they had certified the Standard Form 1129, Reimbursement Voucher, which included the subvouchers. GAO found that the Government is under no obligation to furnish coffee to its employees, and the same rule must be applied to the purchase of equipment to be used in preparing refreshments. However, in view of the small amount involved and the fact that the District Director believed that the interests of the Government would be promoted through the use of the equipment, GAO does not feel required to further question the instant transaction.

    I appreciate that last sentence.

    1. JessicaTate*

      In a similar vein: One of my early jobs was at a massive state university, in the accounting and controls department (so, responsible for ethical use of finances and making sure others followed the rules), with a Director who took ethics very seriously.

      As with the Feds, I was informed on my first day, it would have been an abuse of the tax dollars of residents of the state of X for the department to provide coffee for staff.

      There was a detailed system for funding the department coffee. There was a “coffee club” for regular drinkers, who put in X amount per month; maybe more if you were also a cream drinker (it’s hard to remember). And someone in the club would buy the bulk supplies and generally took responsibility for cleaning. And then, if you were an ad hoc drinker, not in the club, there was a little “Donations Tin” for, like, fifty cents a cup or something.

      It was all on the honor system, but in my 1.5 years there, there was never drama. It was such a SANE workplace. Maybe because everyone was an accountant or controller, and teaching financial ethics to other departments, with a Director who always had the mantra, “Imagine what you do or say is going to be on the cover of the NY Times tomorrow.” Everyone just… followed the rules, maintained the system, and was respectful to one another. It was magical.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        As a tax payer, it just seems so off to me that my tax dollars funding normal things that an office SHOULD provide, like coffee, tea, water, and the occasional lunch, is considered “abuse of tax dollars”. It seems more like abuse of the little people who are payed with tax dollars, and it makes me very angry.

  41. sub rosa*

    Worked at a privately-owned, about-100-employee company. The breakroom was a huge atrium on the top floor, and featured a small semi-enclosed “kitchen” area with one coffee maker – a very nice one; it was a dual-purpose machine that could make both coffee and espresso.

    (This was before Keurigs were a thing; internal grinders were the state of the art at the time. Also before Sbux were on every corner.)

    There was a sort of war between the downstairs people and the upstairs people. Allegedly, the downstairs people would come up, take the last of the coffee (leaving a millimeter in the bottom for plausible deniability) and not make more, thus allowing the remaining dregs to burn black and stink up the whole top floor. (No, I don’t know who was actually doing it.)

    The upstairs people would moan about the downstairs people. The HR lady would scrub out the coffee pot (we won’t talk about the microwave!) and kvetch about it to anyone within earshot.

    Signs began to appear. At first, gentle reminders about being polite and making more. Then, more strident signs about how your mother doesn’t work here, etc. Emails went out about company property and being responsible and so on and so on.

    Finally things came to a head – the owner came in one weekend and removed the coffee maker entirely.

    It was great providence that a brand new coffee place had recently opened up a block away. Suddenly people were away from their desks in droves for 15 minutes at a stretch to “go get coffee.” I’m sure it impacted business dramatically, having people wandering out during working hours – but at least the building didn’t smell like burnt coffee anymore?

      1. sub rosa*

        LOL! Great point.

        Sadly it was a cute little indie shop that made the most amazing coffee, and I miss it. One of the few things about that job that I do miss, tbh.

  42. Green Tea*

    This makes me so appreciative of my office. We have two coffeemakers per floor, storage carafes so people can make different varieties, and a well-stocked abundance of tea and hot chocolate. We also have two fancy-as-hell coffeemakers on the main floor that do lattes, espressos, etc. near our meeting center and break room. All paid for by the org, who understands happy, well-caffeinated employees are productive employees.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      My company also has zero coffee drama because we are very spoiled. Each floor has a traditional espresso machine (that also conveniently dispenses hot water for tea) and a giant fancy automagical coffee machine that makes lattes, espresso, hot chocolate, you name it. They also provide cups and sweeteners/creamers, and a halfdozen types of tea, and dishwashers so people don’t have to hand-wash their stuff. There is a person on the facilities staff who takes care of the kitchens as a primary job duty, and the machines are all serviced regularly.

      This is honestly abnormal for my field. The coffee situation is normally much less formalized and also less fancy. But I suspect it actually comes out about even doing it this way vs letting all ~600 of us go all Lord of the Flies over coffee and at least this way everyone is content and the company is at peace re: caffeine.

    2. sb51*

      Mine is similar, though not identical in the details; the most drama we have is when the fancy-as-hell ones break down, but the anger is always levelled at the maker of the machine, not the company. People actually put on a fresh pot when they take the last cup, cleaning is handled by the cleaning staff on a regular basis, etc.

      A much improved situation from my previous employer, which was small enough that two drip makers in the sole breakroom (one regular, one decaf) was plenty, but I was the only member of technical staff who would actually brew a new pot — and coincidentally the only woman on technical staff. Sigh.

  43. LG*

    At a previous job, there were constant complaints about the coffee pot (whose job it was to make coffee, buy supplies, clean it, etc.). A Keurig machine was purchased and everyone was happy. Until the morning someone went to use it and found a cockroach in it. Back to the old coffee pot!

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      At Last Job? A mouse peed and pooped into the Bunn carafe overnight. I was SO GLAD never to have drank out of the coffee pot. ;)

    2. Meg*

      A coworker bought one for our workplace last summer. We live in a hot dry climate and in the summer, ants often come inside looking for water more than food. We had been seeing an ant or two in the kitchen every day before we got the Keurig. After we got it, we suddenly saw a lot more and looked inside the Keurig and they had nested in it. Like, there were eggs. Apparently the warmth and reservoir full of water was exactly what they had been looking for.

  44. Science KK*

    The most recent hire at my job was recommended by someone who used to work for my boss, so we had a lot more info on him than you normally would with a new hire. His old boss kept hyping up this fancy coffee setup he had.

    Turns out it’s a pour over set up with a temperature control kettle and hand coffee grinder. I was like well that’s nice, but my coworkers were just amazed! They even wrote out a coffee protocol (with authors and citations). Can’t complain though because he makes killer coffee and is overall a nice person.

    1. Dinwar*

      The protocol reminds me of something I did….I had to find SDSs for a bunch of stuff we use on jobsites. For some, sure, that makes sense–we use acids for preservatives, or bug spray and spray paint, etc. But the safety officer went totally overboard. Distilled water is…okay, sure, I get it. DRINKING water is too much. Did you know there’s an SDS for sand? For ink in pens? Because I do now! Eventually I got to the point where I was getting silly, and found SDSs for the most ridiculous things I could find–think cardboard, bricks, that sort of thing. One of them was coffee.

      A year later a coworker went to that safety officer’s office (we were in different cities) and saw the SDS for coffee sitting next to the coffee maker.

      1. Anonymous Scientist*

        I definitely did not just google “Coffee SDS”, find one, and print it out to be posted on the communal jokes board.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        I did MRO purchasing at my last job, and was required to get the SDS for everything I bought. Yep, pens, ink cartridges, highlighters, etc. All have an SDS!

  45. not neurotypical*

    Oooh, I have a good office coffee story!

    I worked my way through college by going to night school, so I was already in my late 20s and well-versed in office niceties by the time I started graduate school. As a TA, I had a shared office that happened to be just across the hall from an administrative office in which there was a coffee pot with a paper cup for leaving whatever nominal amount was requested per cup. When popping in for coffee, I often chatted–briefly and appropriately—with the two women who worked in that office, over time developing real feelings of friendliness. This was the late 1980s, and I was (in)famously the first openly lesbian student ever accepted into my program, and one of the two made it an (adorable) point to signal her support by frequently mentioning Melissa Etheridge favorably.

    One day, I really needed coffee but it wasn’t finished brewing. One of the two was out that day, so I sat in her chair to wait for it to finish. While waiting, my eye caught a list of classes, one of which I had no idea we offered to undergraduates and was right up my alley. When the other finished her call, I remarked that I was surprised and glad to see that we offered that course. She told me that the instructor had just abruptly quit and they were scrambling to find someone to teach it.

    Long story short: I became the instructor for that class far earlier in my career than graduate students are usually entrusted with their own courses, teaching that course (which involved inviting a variety of guest lecturers) brought me into conjunction with a host of scholars and activists with whom I went on to work (some of whom remain friends and comrades to this day), and I can truly say that the fact that the coffee wasn’t ready that day, in combination with the habit of common courtesy that led me to be in the position to have that conversation, changed the course of my life.

  46. Bird Lady*

    Can I tell a story about pizza wars? Because I want to tell a story about pizza wars.

    Because I worked in Development and that meant putting together fundraisers, which meant doing some limited catering, I was usually responsible for setting up staff lunches. Our manager liked to order pizza, because inevitably people brought leftovers home. We had a bunch of food allergies and dietary restrictions, but luckily there was a decent pizza place within a 5 minute drive that offered curbside pick-up and could accommodate all of the restrictions/ allergies.

    It wasn’t bad pizza, but it certainly was not gourmet pizza. It was okay. But like I said, close by and could accommodate vegan/ GF/ etc… Some people had very passionate opinions about the pizza and the sauces/sides we would order. So passionate that a group of us ate the perfectly acceptable org-purchased pizza, and another group would arrive at the staff lunch with their own food, sides, and specific brand of ranch dressing. They would leave their leftovers and plates for the staff who organized the lunch to clean it up. The pizza wars spilled over into all catered lunches no matter what was purchased.

    The pizza wars ended staff lunches.

    1. John*

      In the before times our office would have pizza every other Friday, and even asked for requests. After a while some people got too comfortable taking slices of pizza that they didn’t request, leaving people who did want specific toppings with their unwanted selection. Management got tired of the complaints so requests were no longer taken, every week we’d get the same standard stack of pizzas.

      I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a Hawaiian or chicken alfredo slice, but I still ate the free pizza without complaint.

    2. raida*

      We had a few excellent managers, when people would leave stuff for others to clean up they’d personally walk to the offending staff’s desk, tell them to fetch all the others that ate with them and come back.

      Then, walk them all into the kitchen, tell them to clean up. Clean it up now, clean it up well, wipe everything down, put the chairs under the table, empty and refill the dishwasher, that goes into recycling.

      And when they were done – “We don’t have cleaners here, you ever treat other staff like they’re ‘the help’ you’ll be responsible for keeping the kitchen clean.” no end date – it’ll just be part of their job.

  47. Triple Toe*

    I have a delightful coffee story – the company was small with very avid coffee drinkers. The company paid for great coffee, great equipment, and all the trimmings (think special grinders, bean scales, single origin beans). We bought an office Chemex and one of the engineers loved using it so much that most days at 10am and 2pm he’d brew coffee for anyone who wanted it. It was lovely (and I sure missed it during Covid)!

  48. Pink Candyfloss*

    It’s important to note that the Hot Chocolate contingent is a powerful, if niche subculture within many offices. Yet for some reason they are not mentioned here lol

    1. Tinkerbell*

      That’s because hot chocolate made in a machine primarily used for coffee always tastes tainted so we get used to keeping our heads down :-P

        1. Loredena*

          My husband bought that for me for Christmas a few years ago and I love it! Sadly I’m getting low on packets and they aren’t shipping international atm. (I assume related to the Royal Mail issue). Heartily recommend!

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      Our office has one of those machines that grinds the coffee per cup. You can choose between two kinds of coffee or hot chocolate. And yes, when we first got the machine we would run out of a (supposedly) week’s worth of hot chocolate within hours of filling it because there was basically a stampede.

  49. Warrior Princess Xena*

    Not a coffee war per se, but a funny story about how seriously our workplace takes caffienating their employees.

    Our firm provides coffee, water, some sodas, snacks etc. totally free to employees. The office manager is responsible for ordering things/keeping them stocked. The coffee maker is one of those large machines plugged directly into the wall that you can stock with beans and then it provides both drip & espresso, which are decent. The ‘latte’ is not, as it’s made with dry milk, but I digress.

    Well, one day this thing stopped working. Office manager called in maintenance but they were estimating that it wouldn’t be online until late afternoon/next business day. No problem – I expected some mild grumbling from coworkers and for it not to be a thing.

    Nope. The office OPENED A TAB with the coffee place downstairs. People were pretty good about not abusing it (it ended up being a little over ~1 drink each, and no one went incredibly overboard in fanciness). But I to this day cannot believe the lengths they went to to keep people caffeinated (or the uproar that must have resulted in the past for this to be a thing.)

    1. JanetM*

      Okay, this is the perfect lead-in for my two coffee stories.

      First story: when I moved departments at the state university, one of my earliest tasks at the new department was to write a memo to the Treasurer’s office justifying the purchase of a coffeemaker. Per university policy, coffee is considered an entertainment expense and is not typically approved below the vice-chancellor level. Note: We’re not talking about a fancy espresso machine; we’re talking about a standard Bunn drip maker with an extra heating plate. That was about 20 years ago, so I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it was in the range of $100.

      My first draft, which I intended to be humorous, was something like, “This is an office full of artists, techies, and geeks. Coffee is not entertainment; it is life support.” My new manager was, in fact, quite amused, but suggested I rewrite it in more formal language. My second draft was to the effect of, “This office provides training to faculty and staff from around campus. Providing coffee would be a courtesy greatly appreciated. We are asking only for the coffeemaker to be approved; we’ll provide all our own coffee and supplies.”

      Second story: Years later, after I transferred again, from that office to my current position, I got a phone call. “Janet, we’re out of coffee! Who’s responsible for buying it, where do we get it, and so on?”

      “Well,” I said, “usually J and T and I supply coffee that we purchase. Sometimes other folks will bring in a can or two. However, because I know how people get without their caffeine, you will find a can of emergency backup coffee in the lower right drawer of my old desk.”

      She was very amused by the idea of “emergency backup coffee.”

    2. theothermadeline*

      I don’t drink coffee or tea and was delighted at my new job when they immediately offered to stock the caffeinated v8 juice I like

    3. JessB*

      This is a great story! I’ve worked somewhere where they gave everyone a drink at the coffee place downstairs as a treat after our busy period, so we could take a walk away from our desks, chat with colleagues and enjoy something delicious, but that is next level!

  50. Dinwar*

    At a former office the coffee maker would go down constantly. It was a big, fancy thing that would make all sorts of drinks–if it was working that day. After the 3rd or 4th time of this happening, I got myself a cheap French press and some coffee and began making my own. We couldn’t have an electric kettle at our desks, but the break room had a microwave for heating water. I had a number of people ask where I got it, and a few half-jokingly say they were going to steal my coffee maker! If it means that much, spend the $20 at Walmart!

    At my current location I’m in charge of making the coffee, mostly because I get in first. I’ve gotten a few compliments. The secret? Use enough grounds. A good cup requires something like 30 grams of coffee grounds per 100 grams of water.

  51. Princess Peach*

    In my first office job, I was assigned the role of Designated Coffee Maker. It was a small branch office in a much larger building, and there were only five of us there. Along with two of my coworkers, I preferred tea. The other coworker liked to buy fancier coffee from the cafe in the building.

    That just left my boss. She was the only one in our little office who wanted coffee, but she was adamant that she’d reached a point in her career where free coffee should be available to her at all times with no effort on her part. I told her I’d never used a coffee machine before, and she made a big show of generously demonstrating how it worked.

    For months, I dutifully opened the office and made her coffee, five days a week. I was careful to always do it as she showed me – she’d been quite specific about wanting *this particular scoop* leveled off exactly when adding the grounds. After lunch, I dumped the mostly-full pot and made a fresh round. At the end of the day, I again dumped the mostly-full pot and washed it. Sure, it was a waste of time and money, but the company footed the coffee bill, and I got paid either way.

    Eventually, we hired a new person, and I overheard them ask where the coffee machine was. My boss gave this long-suffering sigh and melodramatically explained how I technically made the coffee, but it wasn’t very good. It was terribly weak, and I was too foolish to improve it. I mentally raged for a while, added this slight to my already long and very literal list of grievances against Boss, and never touched the damn coffee pot again. The new person took up making the coffee, and I ramped up my job search.

    1. ferrina*

      That’s appalling. You would have been well within your rights to “accidentally” put salt in the sugar bowl (if she takes sugar) or “accidentally” use decaf and/or flavored coffee.

      1. Katherine Boag*

        Don’t adulterate someone else’s food. You dont know what their health situation is and what could harm or kill them. Stopping making the coffee was perfect retaliation.

  52. Pam*

    I worked in a department store during summer breaks from college back in the late 80s. The break room had an old school coffee maker, powdered milk and a refrigerator from the 1970s. Coffee was 50 cents/cup to purchase more supplies. We begged for a microwave to heat up leftovers and were told there was no money for that. When the fridge finally died there was no money to replace that either. One day I found a paper someone left in the copy machine showing the coffee expenses vs amount paid. There was $15,000 sitting in the coffee account (you didn’t read that wrong). The person in charge of the coffee insisted it was to only buy coffee so it continued to grow. When she finally retired years later the new person took one look at the amount in the coffee fund, used the money to make a proper break room with a new fridge, microwave, toaster oven and replacement coffee maker and still had $10,000 left in the fund at which point she made coffee free to everyone.

      1. Pam*

        Yep, fifteen thousand. It had been accumulating for a very long time during a time when savings accounts were paying huge amounts of interest. It was pretty demoralizing to be honest.

    1. Caffeinated in California*

      50 cents a cup in the 1980s? The equivalent in today’s dollars is $1.80. That’s highway robbery for plain old generic drip grind. No wonder the coffee fund got so huge.

  53. Cease and D6*

    I work in an office in which people regularly come in from other countries for year-long stints and then leave. One of the visiting people this year decided that he couldn’t stand the thought of purchasing espresso from the building canteen every day (we only have a basic coffee machine and kettle in the office itself) and so he purchased an espresso machine himself and put it in the break room. Everyone can use it, and he maintains it himself. All good.

    But he’s going to leave in a few months. He’s not going to bring the machine with him. And when he’s gone, someone else is going to need to clean the machine. The permanent office staff are already jockeying to not have to be the person responsible for cleaning the espresso machine, and it’s still months away.

  54. AnonCoffeeDrinker*

    This is more of a milk war than coffee war. My office provides different milk options and was taking requests. I and a few others requested sugar free almond milk. We then got a lecture about how bad almond milk is for the environment… when the office is already providing it. The request was ignored and there are still no sugar free milk options.

    1. ferrina*

      The milk makes such a difference! I’m whole milk all the way, and I judge when someone tries to tell me skim milk is the same thing.

      If they were already providing almond milk, why does it make a difference to them if it’s sugar free? Sounds like someone was trying to get out of ordering just one more thing.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Seems to me that it would have made more sense to order unsweetened almond milk and let the others add their own sweetener.

        GRIN, at work I get kidded because I put the sugar in my cup before I pour the coffee in. Means I don’t need to stir it in.

    2. Owlet101*

      No sugar free options for milk? Why not? Diabetics like milk in their coffee too! And they are just as easy to get.

  55. Pink Candyfloss*

    I work for a global organization with multiple sites. In the US, we have the standard industrial coffee maker with a variety of packets you can use to make single servings, we have milk in the fridge and sugar + non-sugar sweeteners available in the kitchen area, along with paper cups & stirrers.

    In the EU office, they have a beautiful setup which included espresso machines, more milk & add on options, and stoneware cups that are washed by housekeeping every afternoon. (Though most people bring their own cups – in the US we cannot do that, as we are in open space/ABW without assigned seating, while our EU colleagues still have assigned desks where they can keep their mugs.)

    1. Dinwar*

      Oh, the no-personal-cups thing would NOT go well with me. I’ve had my office mug for 20 years, longer than I’ve been with my company! Open offices are horrible to begin with, but this would probably be the last straw for me.

      Got me in a bit of a discussion a few times. I work in an environmental firm–compliance and remediation–and there’s always a debate about whether it’s better for the environment to have a reusable mug (which takes more resources to make but lasts longer) or disposable paper ones (which take fewer resources to make but are used once). I did the math once, and found that to break even I had to use my cup four times a day for six months, something like that. It ended up being part of an environmental stewardship slideshow for my office!

      1. Niniel*

        I cannot math well, and I have a question about the 6-months-to-break-even part. Does that mean that if you use your reusable mug twice a day for years that it is better than single-serve paper mugs? I have had my travel mug for over 2 years, and I use it every day, many times twice a day. Am I offsetting my carbon footprint by now?

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Who knows. You’re using *resources* every time you wash it too. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      2. Nobody*

        It would not last for me either! My brought-from-home mug always reflects my personal level of happiness with the current job.
        Plain old mug with no sayings? I’m new, still feeling my way.
        Various mugs, ranging from cartoon characters to seasonal stuff? I’m comfortable showing my personality.
        Souvenir mug from prison tour? This place is on my last nerve. If I’m not actively interviewing, it’s because I’m waiting for (pension/retirement to vest; hubby to settle into his own new job; kid to pop out so I can get FMLA for maternity leave, etc)…
        This scale is, obviously, internal. Only my husband knows the meaning of the prison mug and that the job hunt is imminent when I reverently remove it from its place of honor in the back of the cupboard, carefully wrap it in fresh bubble wrap, and take it to work with me. Once it has left the cupboard at home, it does not come back home with me until it makes its return journey in the box of personal desk stuff on the last day at old job.
        Someday (very) soon it will once again be making an appearance. I can feel it.

        1. RecentlyRetired*

          Quite a while ago I bought a mug that I used a few times at home but it sat at the back of my cupboard for many years. I found it cleaning a couple months ago and promptly berated myself for not taking it to work in the weeks before I retired a few months ago.
          It has an office worker at a desk on it with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Both have the same balloon: “Quit your job”.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      You’ve reminded me of mug wars at my old job.

      In theory everyone had their own mug, and there were a few random supplier branded mugs for visitors, including people from other offices of the same firm. Only it wasn’t at all clear which the spare ones were, so visitors would take a plainish looking mug and keep their fingers crossed, but there would be simmering resentment and passive aggressive remarks in their general direction.

      I could not cope with not having my proper mug to drink from (I’m autistic) so I got several plain white mugs the right shape and decorated them with the appropriate paints. Very ugly, just my name all over. And eventually bought a six-pack of very generic mugs that were obviously for general use. This worked. But I took them all with me when I left…

      (further related story as a reply to this comment)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        During my toddler-wrangling career break, I inevitably ended up on a committee under my church’s umbrella. They had had a massive kitchen renovation involving replacing all the appliances and equipment. They had chosen mugs very popular with the weekly volunteers, which hold at my guess maybe 6-8oz and have tiny fiddly handles. These are used at all events.

        Well, 6oz doesn’t cut it when you’re wrangling a toddler. So when I spotted in a dollar store equivalent some big French style 12oz bowl mugs, I bought a couple. And after a couple of weeks I was sent back to buy every single remaining mug on the shelf. They are in constant use among the millennial church members who know which cupboard they live in. Some of the older members are a bit tight lipped about it still, but meanwhile one of them who is half Italian has supplied some proper espresso cups.

  56. St. Paul Ite*

    I worked in two different division of the same company. One had the nonsense listed in the post.

    The other provided keurig machines and the cleaning crew cleaned them nightly. The people who used them provided their own pods and they bought their own sugar or creamer and kept it at their desks with their pods.

    That keurig machine was also the cleanest machine I’ve ever seen.

    1. Clisby*

      That sounds great if you like Keurig coffee. I love the idea of a Keurig, and my husband gave me one for my birthday. It is impossible to make a strong-enough cup of coffee with that thing. I even tried using espresso-blend in a reusable cup – no dice. I wound up giving it away.

  57. Lynn*

    My office did the math that they could save a lot of money annually if they terminated coffee station service (was not anything fancy). It was a big office-wide announcement, there were gripes, and then the coffee machines disappeared, only to come back about a month later because the CMO had apparently missed the memo, and when he finally realized what had happened, yelled at the head of facilities for “the stupidest way to save a buck anyone ever did”

    1. Nea*

      It’s an attempt to remove racially tinged words from common language – we’ve had an official memo to remove any use of blacklist/whitelist and master -class, -link, -page, etc. (Using the s-word for controlled components had been banned several years ago.)

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I do seem to have a gift for that, don’t I?

      I’ll still be enjoying everyone else’s anecdotes!

  58. Cookies for Breakfast*

    At a former workplace, I was the assistant to the owner. My job was mostly admin, and my boss, while bad in many ways, prided himself on never asking me to get him food or make him drinks. That changed when guests he wanted to impress came to see him. On those days, my job switched from archiving and printing out mountains of stuff, to being polite to middle-aged men that treated me like the help (no exaggeration: the chairman of a well-known grocery store chain shook the hand of the two guys I shared an office with, but not mine).

    The kitchen, which was really a glorified cubicle at the back of the warehouse, had a coffee machine, a kettle, and a microwave. No hob. No fancy milk frother (they were not even a thing at the time). No cups that didn’t look like they’d just been salvaged from a scrap pile. The drinks we could feasibly make were water, tea, and black coffee. The company offered milk, and it was mostly used by people making tea or eating cereal, so no one minded having it cold.

    One day, the distinguished guest who came in was the owner of a company that supplies coffee to vending machines at motorway rest stops. He kept talking up his business as if was the most fundamental, life-saving kind of operation in the world and it took me all I had not to say “your coffee most probably tastes like rocket fuel, you imbecile”.

    Anyway. As he settled in the meeting room, I asked if I may offer him some water, tea or coffee. He looked at me and, without missing a beat, requested a single espresso with a shot of hot milk foam.

    I’d have loved to outsource the problem and go get him a coffee at the nearest Starbucks. My boss would have most definitely allowed it. However, the office was right in the middle of a desolate industrial area, and there were nothing but warehouses within a 15-minute walk radius.

    So, readers, I had to make it. Or, well, make the closest approximation of a macchiato the office equipment would allow. Which most definitely involved cold milk, and was served in a mug that had possibly seen better days in the ’90s. After the fact, I had to sit through a stern talking-to from my boss, who accused me of acting as if making our distinguished guest comfortable was beneath me. A fun time I still remember every time I walk past a vending machine carrying a certain brand.

  59. Lynn*

    My husband bought a nespresso for his office when he was moving into a supervisory-ish role to put in the breakroom and share. His team was then incredibly entitled about the machine and the free stock of pods he personally provided that when he took a new job, he took the machine with him on his last day. Don’t bite the hand that caffeinates you!

  60. ferrina*

    I worked at a small tech start up that had maybe 30-40 in-office employees? And somehow several of them had previously been baristas, and a couple of them had high standards (think coffee sommeliers). We had a pretty decent espresso machine to start with, and if you asked one of the baristas they would happily make you whatever you wanted- dry cappuccino, Cuban coffee, raspberry mochas, even seasonal drinks!

    1. Caffeinated in California*

      One of my roomies is a former barista. She also is a very early day person. When she’s home she makes me coffee in the morning. It beats a Keurig cuppa all hollow.

  61. Owlet101*

    My fiancé does not use the coffee machine at work. Neither does one of this coworkers that has an office close to his. Both of these offices are close to the industrial coffee machine. Both him and his coworker are the ones that clean it most often.

    There was also one time where my fiancé went into work and the hallway was covered in a HUGE PUDDLE OF COFFEE that he then helped clean up. Someone had set the machine to brew and when it was done set it to BREW AGAIN over a full pot.

    1. GrossCoffee*

      Someone did that once with one of those airpots. They brewed a full airpot of coffee over an already full airpot. I found the mess and ended up cleaning it up. The guy was confronted and never offered to help. I was so mad.

      1. Owlet101*

        My fiancé never found out who did it. I think it was one of the times where he was going into the office after his normal hours. So the culprit was long gone if I remember correctly.

        I would be so upset if I were in your shoes as well.

      2. raida*

        I had a similar thing happen twice where they didn’t offer to help:

        1) I told them to get into the kitchen and clean up the workplace hazard they’d created.
        Right now before you cause a slip and fall accident and have to explain your refusal to maintain a safe work environment, mate. Duh?
        they cleaned up

        2) (different person) Their boss when I went to tell them to go clean up the mess said “Oh Bob’s got a meeting in a minute, could you be a darl and just clean that up thanks?”
        “Are you in the meeting with Bob?”
        “Okay, great! You can clean it up, don’t worry I don’t think it’ll be dangerously hot anymore. Or go tell [my boss that’s definitely not going to agree the only girl on the floor is a cleaner] that I should clean it.”
        And I walked away, told my boss, he was ready to back me up. :]

  62. English Rose*

    I used to work with “Marge”. Marge played favourites big-time. She had her own cafetiere which made exactly four mugs. She had a locked stock of really expensive coffee beans which she would grind fresh each morning.

    Then out would come the crockery and the tray, and little individual milk jugs. And along the cubicle corridor she would sail, distributing a mug of coffee and a milk jug to the three people who happened to be in her good books that particular day. She would be utterly charming and gracious. Then the very next day she would cut those three people completely dead in a really aggressive way and turn the charm on to three others.

    You never knew where you stood with her and she was quite a powerful person in the organisation. And woe betide you if you refused a cup of coffee! Weirdness abounded.

  63. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    I have a complicated relationship with coffee and caffeine, but love both coffee and tea. I have figured out that I can have caffeinated tea and pop, but not caffeinated coffee. So, at LastJob, I asked for decaf, and the look of disgust the boss gave me was on par if I had kicked a puppy in front of him. I eventually ended up with my own office (for a hot minute) and bought a generic K-cup machine. I lost my office, so I gave up the K-cup machine because there was no guarantee that the machine would blow a fuse anywhere else in the building. (*deep sigh*)

    Current Job? I just brought the machine in, plunked it down, and declared that anyone in the office can have decaf with me- or bring their own K-cups if they want. I am unapologetically exploring the wide world of flavored coffees and will continue to do so in the future.

  64. Water Everywhere*

    My workplace used to charge people for coffee via payroll deduction for daily drinkers ($5/wk) or a per-cup cash payment for now-&-then drinkers. This astonished me when I started there as the company was financially comfortable, the office numbered only 10-12 people, and every other place I worked had free coffee for staff.

    My job includes payroll processing. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and most staff went to temporary WFH, I asked & received permission to stop the coffee deduction until people were regularly back in the office.

    I have never reinstated the deduction ;-)

    1. Water Everywhere*

      I should clarify that the pay-per-cup option also disappeared during the pandemic. Free coffee for all!

  65. LaLa*

    Years ago, I went to a job interview as a graphic designer for a small company. As I got the office tour, one or two employees only comments to me were along the lines of “finally, someone to make the coffee again”. Hello, red flag.

  66. Veryanon*

    My company offers free coffee (various flavors), tea, and hot cocoa at coffee stations around our office building. They even provide free sweeteners and creamer. We also have Starbucks products available for purchase in our cafeteria for those folks who want something more fancy.
    The facilities manager received so many complaints from people who didn’t like what was provided, wanted specialty teas/coffees, flavored creamers, etc., they sent out a survey to all the employees in our office building stating that while they couldn’t accommodate all special requests, they would do their best to identify and accommodate the most popular ones.
    I’m still pretty amazed that someone was complaining about free coffee/tea. I don’t like the tea they offer, so I just bring in my own. It’s really not that deep.

  67. Dan*

    Wow, reading these comments makes me appreciate my coffee privilege.

    I worked in a tech startup that celebrated a big funding round by buying a professional-grade espresso machine. Everyone loved it. The only funny thing was the note on the grinder forbidding anyone from adjusting the grind that had been painstakingly dialed in.

    That company was eventually acquired by a larger company that had an office in another state. When some of those employees came to our office for meetings and saw our sweet espresso setup, they then complained that they didn’t get a big fancy coffee machine too, so management got them something that was a step up from the Keurig they previously had (but wasn’t quite as nice as ours).

    The only downside for me was that I didn’t drink coffee regularly before working at that company, but I got hooked on good lattes. When the pandemic started I had to buy my own machine for home so I could get my daily fix.

  68. coffee club member*

    One of my former jobs was for the federal government so we were not provided coffee. Some employees started a coffee club where we would share coffee and creamer, and make a shared pot in the coffee maker someone had provided. All you had to do to join was bring in a bag of coffee or some creamer every once in awhile.

    One employee appointed himself the “barista” and would occasionally post letters to the coffee club about general needs, thanking us, and other messages.
    I remember one letter under the list of needs he wrote:
    “There have been complaints about the taste of the coffee recently. Please make sure to measure the grounds using our measuring spoon and have the recommended two tablespoons per cup of water”

    I asked around to the other members. Most people just kind of dumped in the coffee grounds to what looked like the correct amount. No one had complaints, except maybe the barista?

  69. Tiredpuppy*

    I once worked a temp job at a company that had very strange rules. You were prohibited from using the microwave or kitchen during certain hours (we had certain break hours that we could use it). They discouraged frequent bathroom breaks etc. They had an old school coffee pot and maker. Think the kind you see in diners, the glass carafe etc. If you left it on the hot plate with like an inch of coffee left it would burn. This happened often, but someone would usually catch it in time.

    Well there was that rule we weren’t really allowed to use the kitchen during certain hours, someone brewed coffee and left it with an inch of coffee in the carafe. It burned and BURNED BAD. The entire office reeked of burnt coffee. One of the more senior employees became enraged. He snatched it off the burner and paraded it around the office. He shoved it everyone’s faces and asked them if “THEY DID THIS?!” and then made us smell it. His reaction was weird and creepy. Thankfully my assignment as a temp ended and I was glad to move on.

  70. Cookies for Breakfast*

    A second story, not from my office but a friend’s.

    Friend once organises drinks and dinner after work, and invites one of his colleagues, who turns out to be the office assistant. As they joke around during the evening, she tells the rest of us that she has to be Friend’s favourite colleague, because she always makes sure to save some of the Good Coffee for his team, even though her boss would disapprove if they found out.

    Good Coffee?, I ask. Is there a Bad Coffee, then? And why would anyone have that, if Good Coffee was around?

    Turns out the fast-growing, cutting-edge, work-hard-play-hard, family-like tech company they work for only allows employees to get instant coffee, and has a secret stash of Nespresso capsules they save for clients only. The office assistant has to literally smuggle capsules of Good Coffee to her own colleagues. And the clients most likely think the company must be offering the same nice stuff to its employees, when in fact, they’re being cheap.

    My next question is how they haven’t yet organised any sort of uprising, because when it comes to coffee, I would riot for less.

    (oh, but they have an office alcohol cabinet! /sarcasm)

  71. CW*

    At my first job, I was part of a team of consultants working out of the client’s office. We were all fresh out of college and working ridiculously long hours (this was not a company that had heard of work-life balance). At one point during our project, the client installed a Very Fancy packet-based coffee machine, complete with ample supplies of every type of coffee packet. Of course, we took this as a challenge. What were the weirdest flavor combinations? How could you brew the strongest coffee? Who could drink the most cups in a day?

    Within two weeks, the packet supply was severely scaled back, and we all got a talking-to about appropriate use of the client’s resources.

    1. ferrina*

      Oof, this brings back memories. It was one of the summers between college semesters, and I was working 3 jobs. No car, and all the jobs were in different parts of the city. There were days when my first shift started at 6am and my last meeting ended at 11pm (and that’s not counting the hour on public transit to get to/from each location). Thankfully, one of the jobs was at a coffee shop. A perk of working there was that you could have as many drinks as you wanted, and you were allowed to bring home a bag of grounds or beans each week.

      Well…I was young and overworked and sleep deprived. I learned the exact distribution of caffeine and sugar so I could function on minimal sleep. (Sugar has immediate affect and sharp drop- caffeine has a delayed reaction). I think I got up to 10 espresso shots per day (5 standard drinks) of various sugar content, and when that wasn’t enough, I would snack on chocolate chips dipped in espresso grounds.

      1. MansplainerHater*

        I once had mono while working at a coffee shop. I too, got up to 10-12 cups a day. Would. not. recommend.

  72. lifebeforecorona*

    I worked at a truck stop and they had the best hot coffee I’ve ever had. Truckers like their coffee so there was always a fresh pot on the burner and it was the responsibility of everyone who worked there to make sure that fresh hot coffee was available 24 hours. The downside was I drank too much coffee because it was so good.
    Then I worked in a small office and the first person in liked to make coffee with a twist. They added cinnamon, nutmeg or whatever random flavouring they thought was nice. No one complained, people just poured out the first pot when she wasn’t looking and made regular coffee.

  73. KT*

    My first job had a Keurig with company supplied coffee so we had few low stakes coffee battles. But my first manager wasn’t a fan of Keurig coffee. She brought her own French press, coffee, and milk/sugar. She kept in her office so there wasn’t really any drama with it, other than small meetings like my weekly one-on-ones were quite often pushed back 5-10 minutes because she hadn’t left herself enough time to microwave water and make her coffee refills.

  74. Lavender*

    I used to hate the taste of coffee and would only drink it with copious amounts of milk. Then I started working at a job that didn’t really have a system for keeping inventory on coffee ingredients, which meant the milk in the fridge was often sour (if we had any at all). My solution was to teach myself to tolerate black coffee. Now I like it better that way, and I still drink black coffee every morning nearly a decade later, even though I work from home now and usually have milk on hand!

  75. Nea*

    I will never forget the coffee wars from a job I had a long time ago. In theory, there were two pots: caffeinated & decaf, both of which were filled with supplies provided for free. Which would be fine anywhere else only one team insisted on drinking their coffee double-strength.

    So what actually happened was this:
    – Someone makes two pots of “regular” – one regular caff and one decaf
    – Someone from that team comes in, pours out the regular, and makes a double-strength pot
    – Someone not from that team comes in, pours out the double strength, and makes another regular pot
    – Someone from that team comes in, pours out the second pot of regular strength, and makes a new pot of double strength…

    Lather, rinse, repeat all day long, pouring nearly full coffee pots down the drain until the company took it away entirely.

    (Yes, a normal company would simply put out a second pot, but this is the same place that promised me a vision plan benefit and on my first day handed me a coupon to Hour Eyes – with the comment that sometimes Lenscrafters had better sales!)

  76. Collie*

    Like many of us, I work at a library. We had a staff coffee machine but our staff kettle was in rough shape and needed replacing. Our Friends of the Library group are very generous folks and so I asked them to replace the kettle, which they did. I started drinking tea more regularly and all was well. For a few weeks.

    A coworker had a regular writing program during which she liked to offer tea to patrons. I figured this out after the kettle went missing from the staff room a number of times. I asked her about it and I don’t remember her exact response at the time, but she quickly became strangely territorial about the kettle. I explained that the kettle had been purchased for staff and that, while I thought it was fine to use it for programming, it ought to be returned to the staff break room after program use. I also added that I was confident the Friends would gladly purchase another for programming use if she only asked. She then started locking the kettle into a storage closet to which only she had a key.

    Somehow or another the kettle eventually returned to the staff room permanently but it was after months of petty arguing over it. We otherwise had what I felt was a great working relationship, including her inviting me to work on a special weekly digital project with her which I ultimately took over when she passed away unexpectedly a couple years later. I look back on the kettle saga with some fondness now, but at the time I was utterly baffled and frankly very irritated by the whole thing!

  77. The Eye of Argon*

    I have a coworker (Buzz) who used to make coffee at people. She’s one of those people who minds everyone’s business but her own, and it’s a small office so there aren’t many hiding places. She also drinks at least two pots a day at home and seems to think everyone else who drinks coffee does the same. When she started, she brought in a small, cheap single-cup coffee maker and her favorite sugar-free French Vanilla coffee creamer. I don’t know if it was the junky coffee maker or if she wasn’t putting enough coffee in, but the resulting coffee was both flavorless and bitter, and I A) don’t drink sweetened coffee B) hate artificial sweeteners and C) don’t like flavored coffee.

    If we were yawning, or looking bored, or (more often) she was bored or didn’t want to do her work, it was “let me make you a cup of coffee!” I could usually shake her off by repeating “no thanks” over and over and over, but sometimes she’d just traipse in with a cup ready made. A coworker would quietly just pour it out in the bathroom. One time I left it sitting on the desk and next day when she started said “I’m good, I still have the one you gave me yesterday.”

    Oddly enough, inflation saved us. She explained that the price of coffee had gone up so much that she wasn’t going to bring it in to work anymore so we were on our own. So yay for inflation, I guess? Sorta?

  78. La Triviata*

    As an example of just how important coffee is, the very first webcam EVER was set up in a lab in England so that the scientists could check and see if there was coffee.

    1. Somebody Call A Lawyer*

      This is the best factoid I’ve read since hearing that saying “forward” or “backward” makes your lips move in that direction. Thank you for sharing!

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        I’m sitting here mouthing the words “forward” and “backward” to myself in order to feel which way my lips go, so thanks for that :D

    2. GoryDetails*

      Yes! It has its own Wikipedia page:

      I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation at about the same time, and recall friends telling me about their own internal webcam – probably inspired by the Cambridge one, though they could have come up with it independently – at the Mill in Maynard, Massachusetts.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      A local business has a webcam trained on the corner where the hot dog vendor sets up so that you know if she’s there.

  79. Elevator Elevator*

    My company used to provide iced coffee in the summer. Each of the building’s eight kitchens would have pitchers in the fridge that were periodically refilled. I don’t remember what the supply was like relative to demand, but it must have been pretty balanced because I don’t remember it being particularly hard to get iced coffee even if it wasn’t always available. It was just a nice little background perk.

    Then one year they installed four cold brew kegerators (one per floor). They sent out an email announcing the new perk and letting us know who to contact when refills were needed. All hell broke loose. We tore through the supply and started inundating the facilities team with refill requests. Eventually another email went out telling us they weren’t taking refill requests anymore – they’d calculated expected demand based on how much of the iced coffee we’d been consuming, so they’d be supplying 80 cups of cold brew per floor per week.

    It felt like a social experiment to see how quickly the scarcity could make us turn on each other. Our limited refills happened on an irregular schedule, so you couldn’t ever be sure the cold brew hadn’t just been refilled. You had to try your luck and be disappointed every time. False reports of refills spread like wildfire.

    What really kicked it into a full on war: Every floor got the same amount of cold brew, but not every floor had the same number of people. My floor had about 120 people; the next floor up had about 220. We had a nonstop stream of raiders from other floors trying to see if they’d have better luck with our cold brew than their own, and there was a secondary supply issue because suddenly the freezers were always out of ice.

    After a few months of growing resentment for our coworkers on neighboring floors, my department was moved to an overflow building with way fewer people, and which made those 80 cups go a lot further. I can only assume that back in the main building, the cold brew wars continued right up until COVID sent everyone home.

    1. Serin*

      It felt like a social experiment to see how quickly the scarcity could make us turn on each other. Our limited refills happened on an irregular schedule, so you couldn’t ever be sure the cold brew hadn’t just been refilled. You had to try your luck and be disappointed every time. False reports of refills spread like wildfire.

      I have no mouth and I must drink coldbrew.

  80. Kathryn*

    I run a statistical consulting company and (pre-COVID; we’re remote now) provided Keurig and Nespresso machines and various pods for each. The staff (we’re all statisticians or engineers) started collecting data on how many pods were used for each and then established a rating system and collected ratings, and provided summary reports on coffee/tea/hot chocolate preferences complete with data visualizations. I loved it.

  81. Bunny Girl*

    I used to work for a graduate program that had the most uptight, fussy, and frankly insufferable faculty that I’ve ever met in my life. Full meltdowns over the tiniest things were common. We had regular conferences and I made the coffee. One conference I had brought in a different type of coffee from home just to mix things up because I don’t really drink coffee and didn’t want it to go to waste. Come to after the conference, my biggest problem child had a full on tantrum because she didn’t like the new coffee. She shoved the coffee cup in my face and was screaming and stomping her feet. Because I thought it was hilarious that a sixty year old woman was having a tantrum over coffee, I played dumb and just told her I wasn’t sure what happened because it was the same coffee and gently suggested there might be something wrong with her and she might want to get checked for COVID.

  82. Marsha*

    Important note: I absolutely love every person who was on my team–who I will now proceed to mock. This is not a story about bad or crazy employees, this is a story about how non-coffee people are completely baffled by coffee people sometimes.

    Anyway, at my old job, I supervised a small team. I do not drink coffee, but every other person on my team were fanatical coffee drinkers. Many years ago, when the team had different people on it, I had bought a coffee maker for the office–the one the team asked for. They had very serious opinions about coffee, so they took turns bringing in coffee for it. So long as they were properly caffeinated, all was right in our office.

    Then the coffee maker broke. I told them I would replace it wither whatever they wanted, within reason–since I didn’t drink coffee, I didn’t have any opinion on what to buy, and told them when they decided what they wanted, to let me know.

    Took them four weeks to decide on a new coffee setup for the office. During that time, this was basically the only topic of discussion (other than work) anyone engaged in. Did we want just coffee? Espresso? Pour over? French press? Were we going to grind our own beans? Debates were had, voices were raised, internet articles were passed around.

    Ultimately, we ended up with one of those electric kettles that heats water to a very specific temperature (apparently, different coffees and teas require different temperatures?!), a large French press, a small French press, and a grinder. The system sat right outside my office, so I got to endure the morning (and often mid-day) grinding and heating and pouring and pressing every day, which, thankfully, I found sort of amusing and a good chance to catch up with whoever was on coffee duty that day. The system lasted for several years until we moved into a space that had one of those Mars coffee systems ( that surprisingly they all kind of liked.

    I miss my old team, and I miss mocking them for their coffee obsession. Sigh.

    1. ferrina*

      I would like to verify: This is indeed the best set up.

      Fresh ground beans are the best. French press provides the lowest-maintenance:highest-quality ratio, not to mention the highest reliability. The water temperature is absolutely essential- too cold and it won’t unlock the flavor and will need to steep longer, and too hot will burn the beans and give the coffee an acrid taste.

      I will proudly accept your mockery for my coffee snobbery.

  83. GrossCoffee*

    I worked somewhere that somehow my dept got in charge of cleaning the coffee machines everyday. Which really just meant rinsing them out. Eventually I thought it would be a good idea do a deep clean of the air pots. OMG the color of water that drained out of those after cleaning them was horrific. Now I can’t bring myself to drink coffee in the office anymore. I try and bring it from home or do a quick starbucks run.

    I have also heard horror stories about roaches and mold in Keurig machines at companies. So its hard for me to use those. I had my own personal Keurig at work. The kind where you fill it with water each time you use it. I was in charge of cleaning it myself and did so regularly so that I would use.

  84. JMR*

    I work in a company that supplies coffee, tea, and snacks for workers. When COVID hit, due to the nature of our work, a lot of people still had to go on-site, but milk was no longer available because the supplier couldn’t provide it. (In retrospect, I have no idea why COVID meant we couldn’t have milk – it’s not like cows can transmit COVID – but I guess it made sense to us back in the time when we were sterilizing our mail.) We were just relieved to still have coffee, and like the troopers we are (heh), we powered through without milk or creamer. When things returned to sorta-normal in late 2021 and people started to come back on-site more regularly, there was a lot of grumbling about the lack of milk. People made polite requests to the admin team, but we were told the supplier still wasn’t able to provide milk, so we couldn’t have any, sorry. No reason was ever provided about why we couldn’t just find another supplier, or have someone on the admin team run down the street to Costco. This went on for close to a year – the suggestion box was stuffed with requests for milk, the admin team got weekly emails, and in the annual employee survey, a grassroots campaign was organized to encourage everyone to write about the milk situation, with the hopes that if enough people complained, the higher-ups would fix it. Still, the milk situation remain unresolved. One afternoon, a rogue individual managed to get permission from his supervisor to take the corporate card down to Costco himself. He purchased enough milk for a few weeks, and became a folk hero in the office. We still didn’t get milk regularly until the company’s original supplier started carrying it again, almost a year after people had mostly returned to the office. I know it’s such a minor thing, but I’m still somewhat salty about it, just because it would have taken so little effort for the company to find a solution.

  85. Let me be dark and twisty*

    My last job had a coffee club. You donated something like a quarter a cup or a dollar a day and the lead guy would use the donations to buy the fancy coffee and the fancy creamer. The coffee club included more than the folks in our office – folks across the whole agency would come in because this guy bought the best coffee and as long as they had their dollar or whatever, no one cared. But the coffee club had a weird rule that whoever was first into the office each morning had to make the first pot. Didn’t matter if you were in the coffee club or not. You still had to make the coffee.

    I was an early person so I was usually the first person into the office most days. I’m not a coffee person. I don’t drink it. I don’t know how to make it. So I never made the coffee. I’d been with the agency about 4 years at this point, but had moved into the office with the coffee pot that the coffee club owned maybe just a couple of months prior to this. Well, someone in the coffee club (not the lead guy who bought and organized everything) found out that I’m usually first into the office and had a tantrum. It took about two weeks of office politics before I finally gave in and made the coffee. But like I said, I don’t know how to make coffee.

    Day 1: they left the grounds from the last pot in the machine so I just added water and hit start. It was coffee-flavored water. They complained. Day 2: 10 scoops of coffee. It came out like mud. They complained and tried to make me do coffee training. Day 3: half a scoop of coffee. Very weak coffee. They complained. Day 4: “first body makes the first pot” rule was abolished.

    Also, the guy wasn’t buying the gourmet coffee he said he was. He was buying the Costco coffee and putting it into the fancy jars.

    1. ferrina*

      Bwahahaha! Love every part of this.

      I even approve of the guy faking the fancy coffee. Most folks that say they are ‘coffee snobs’ can’t actually taste the difference (I’m looking at you, person that asked for a dry skim cappuccino. You’re getting a latte, cuz skim milk just doesn’t have the density to hold the air needed for a proper dry cappuccino). There are a handful out there who genuinely can taste it, but like wine, just because a coffee is fancy doesn’t mean it’s good quality.

    2. Giant Kitty*

      I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was over 40, so I certainly didn’t know how to make it, and I would have balked at this too. Takes a lot of nerve to insist that people who don’t drink coffee and aren’t paying into the club should make the coffee for those that do/are.

  86. A Cube of One's Own*

    This makes me appreciative of our drama-free coffee setup. Shared kitchen with another department, office provides everyone’s preferred K-pods when they’re available. Those of us who are caffeine snobs supply our own.

  87. CheesePlease*

    We recently had signs put up in our breakroom / kitchen areas asking employees to PLEASE use the disposable cups WITH LIDS when making coffee, as there were TOO MANY STAINS on the carpet (<2 yrs old) from people carrying coffee back to their desk in open containers.

    I think they should have just gotten bigger (10oz) cups so there is room for creamer / milk etc instead of 8oz cups that are filled to the brim with the Keurig machine.

    1. SarahKay*

      On my new site we’re required to use lids on all drinks when moving around. Site gives everyone a lidded travel mug, and there are also disposable cups and lids available. However, I have a beloved “I <3 Spreadsheets" ceramic mug that I've used for many years and didn't want to give up (I do, indeed, love spreadsheets). In addition, I don't want to use disposables and don't really care for travel mugs.
      My minor rebellion was to buy a pack of six of the silicon suction-type mug covers and use them with my Spreadsheets mug. This has apparently started a trend and there's now discussions about giving everyone a goody-bag with a company branded (ceramic) mug and their own silicon mug cover.

  88. DTT*

    I worked in admin for a small film festival, our office was a very long skinny hallway-type layout with most desks out in the open. The kitchen was at one end. I worked right outside the kitchen. The person who loved coffee the most worked way at the other end of the office, and she would come to the kitchen to make coffee and then go back to her desk while it brewed. She knew *exactly* how long the machine took, and would come back to get the first cup, but if she found that a cup had already been poured she would totally lose it, screaming about how if you poured a cup before the brewing had been completed it made the rest of the coffee too weak to drink. She was convinced that there was a decreasing level of strength as the brewing went on, and it was optimized for a perfect complete pot. (The coffee machine had the mechanism that stopped the brewing if the carafe was removed to pour a cup, which I think implies that her theory was wrong). Sometimes she would dump out this subpar freshly brewed coffee if someone had stolen a preemptive cup and then hover around the machine while she made a new pot, all but hissing at people who came in looking for coffee.

    1. ecnaseener*

      She wasn’t wrong that the very beginning of the pot is extra strong, but by halfway through it should be fine.

    2. ferrina*

      Was she a supertaster? She’s not wrong about the impact, but it’s so subtle that most people would never notice.

      I think that the difference is in wet vs dry grounds. Grounds which are pre-wetted have lost some of the flavor (perhaps from the oils releasing scent molecules into the air instead of the coffee?). So when you stop the brewing, you’re leaving wet grounds to aerate, which is bad. When the brewing resumes, the subsequent coffee will be weaker.
      Again, the effect is incredibly subtle and most people could never tell.

  89. LadyByTheLake*

    I worked at a company known for its penny pinching. The CEO had read somewhere that when using regular cups and mugs the coffee at the bottom gets cold and is tossed. Therefore, to save on coffee, no mugs were provided and all employees were forbidden from using their own. Instead, small Dixie-cup-sized styrofoam cups were provided and had to be used for the coffee. Because the cups were so small, they spilled easily and could only be partially filled — so only a few sips fit in each cup. I have to believe that the amount of time wasted with people going back and forth to the coffee machine, or more often, leaving the building to go to the very busy Starbucks around the corner, dwarfed the savings in coffee.

  90. This Is More for Mortification Week*

    (Warning that this is not for the squeamish.)

    Not an office coffee story, but a coffee shop workers “coffee” story for which I am forever filled with mortification … One day back in the early ’90s when both the manager and a barista (me) at an award-winning, independent coffee store were bored (and extremely young and extremely dumb and extremely not certified on food-safe behavior), we decided to taste-test non-coffee espressos on the gleaming, high-end commercial espresso machine responsible for the caffeinated delights we usually made. Among the “espresso” shots we brewed in the portafilters were napkins, hand lotion, and … our hair. Yeah. So. Um. I guess the only saving grace is we only served them to ourselves? I don’t even know how to go about making amends for that (make a time machine to go back and tell someone to fire our asses?), but I apologize all the apologies in the known and unknown universes.

    1. This Is More for Mortification Week*

      And even more reason to be mortified: I failed to comprehend the “wars” part of the call for stories. :facepalm:

    2. Shira VonDoom*

      both appalling, AND sounds like the kind of thing I’d have done while young and bored working a service job (which is why it’s good the jobs I had when younger were all office jobs…there’s only so much trouble you can get into with office supplies…I hear. LOL)

  91. Kyrielle*

    No coffee in this one – but at one job, we had a water dispenser, and it could dispense cold or hot water – handy for lazily making tea. And I suppose for instant coffee, but we had a coffee machine, so the coffee drinkers mostly had that.

    One fine day someone complained to the office admin because the water was coming out way too slowly. And several days after that it was fixed…by replacing the filter…which apparently had never been on anyone’s task list, at all, in the several years it had been in use.

    I still shudder when I think about that.

  92. Super undercover*

    As a brand new state employee, I was going through my first legislative session and attending hearings all day for a variety of bills. Well, I didn’t realize that the little table of snacks were for the legislators. So my 25-year-old-self regularily goes behind all of the legislators, pours a cup of coffee, grabs a granola bar, and heads on over to my chair to watch them discuss politics. It was a level of bold I’ve never had since.

  93. Sandy Beach*

    Not a war, but a moment of profound ignorance on my part:
    I was doing a site visit at a small community center and they were telling me about a bike trail that would link the center to a nearby school. They explained the financing as “the school district put in a little, and we had $800,000 in iced tea money.” I was agog–how did their coffee kitty/jar people put a buck in when they poured a glass of tea make them $800,000? I really wanted to try that tea, since it must be fantastic. It was only later that I read their material and realized they were talking about a grant from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act (ISTEA)

    1. JessB*

      Oh wow! This is hilarious, especially coupled with the comment above from someone whose work has about $15,000 in the coffee kitty!
      That really made me laugh.

  94. John Yaya*

    I worked in an office with about 15 other contractors. There was a crusty old drip coffeemaker sitting on a sad little table, but no fridge to store creamer etc. The company provided really crappy coffee grounds.

    Whoever poured the last cup was responsible for making the next pot. Whoever was the last one there at the end of the day was responsible for cleaning the coffeemaker. The only sink to clean the coffeemaker in and get new water was in a different office on the other side of the building.

    One day the big boss (who worked at a different location) started charging for the crappy coffee – $1 per cup, with a little paper cup to put money in. We all decided that instead we’d take a morning break every day and walk to the Starbucks in the strip mall half a block away. It cost more than the company charged for a cup of coffee, but it was much better coffee and we didn’t have to make it or clean up. Our manager would go with us. Usually only one or two people remained in the office.

    These coffee runs took a while – 12 or more people making orders individually adds up. Then on the way back a couple people would inevitably want to stop at the donut shop, so we’d all stand there and wait while they did their thing. The amount of time we were out of the office got longer and longer to the point where the big boss made the manager yell at us for taking such a long break every day. It was the most sheepish yelling-at I’ve ever gotten.

    Everyone independently came up with the solution of getting coffee before coming into the office, but nobody adjusted their commute time so it took almost as much time each day, just at a different time.

    We were all being paid by the day, not by the hour, and everyone was at work the requisite number of hours to meet the threshold for a “day” (much longer than a full “day” usually) but the big boss just couldn’t wrap his mind around that.

  95. Alianne*

    No coffee wars in the tiny circulation office of the library where I worked in college, we had two options. One was Starbucks across the street, and one was the supervisor’s tiny, ancient, coffeemaker. It worked, but we had to act fast to keep the supervisor from using it, as he believed in coffee black as night and thick as tar, and also had no qualms about leaving the dregs in the pot to be mixed with the next brewing. People would bring in the little one-pot bags of ground coffee, their favorite blends or flavors. One time, I brought in a blend that had maple and bourbon as flavorings. It smelled amazing as it brewed. It in fact smelled so amazing that patrons were stopping by the desk asking if they could have some. I was not allowed to bring that blend in again, but brought it more than once to off-site parties with great success.

    1. ferrina*

      The supervisor’s coffee would have the same impact as Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread.

      You pour a cup of coffee, then you keep it next to you to remind yourself that no matter how tired you are, you’re not tired enough for that

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Back in my White Wolf LARPing days, I had friends who made that black tar-like coffee … using Water Joe, which was caffeinated water. They enjoyed demonstrating that if you poured it into a glass vessel and held it up to the fluorescent lights, you could not see any light through it. They called this concoction “Obtenebration Coffee” :-P

  96. Not Australian*

    Not coffee wars specifically, but still in ‘illicit kettle’ territory … having gone to work with a heavy cold [for reasons, don’t judge] I was trying to make myself a hot lemon drink. The only ‘legal’ way to do this was to queue up in the canteen and ask them for a cup of boiling water, which they (grudgingly) provided and then said “I don’t know what to charge you for this” to which my response was “Nothing, I hope.” The whole saga took a good ten or fifteen minutes, and when I returned to my office I was clearly frustrated by the whole process. I was then told about an ‘illicit kettle’ in someone’s cupboard, so the next time I needed a drink I went to this man and said “Look, I *know* you haven’t got a kettle, but just this once could I please have some boiling water for a hot lemon drink?” He confirmed that if I’d been asking for either tea or coffee he would have refused but he was willing to make an exception in this case, and he did. Luckily this was a Friday and by Monday I was feeling a great deal better, but the Kafka-esque quality of the whole thing has never left me: if you expect people to work through minor illnesses you should at least make it possible for them to do so. [We were also expected to go to ‘First Aid’ on another floor and ask someone for a tablet if we had a headache. These things were doled out individually as if they were dangerous drugs. No wonder we all ended up carrying our own in defiance of the rules.]

  97. Ihmmy*

    Approximately 1 million years ago at my first real professional job, during my welcome tour I got shown the communal coffee spot in the kitchen and was told I absolutely had to put in $0.25 when I got a cup. But I rarely carried cash, even then, so I’d just throw a loonie or twoonie in once a week depending on if I was drinking more or less coffee. But man the side eye I’d get sometimes for taking a coffee and not putting a coin in right then and there was outrageous

  98. Crouching Typer, Hidden Cups*

    I work at a youth detention center in the school. We are provided a water cooler, but they will not provide cups. We cannot bring in metal utensils to the facility, they do not provide plastic ones. T
    We have a kind-of coffee supply club to help with this. The basic rule is you bring in supplies, you may drink.

    Things took an interesting turn today when the person who bought the cups wanted me to keep them in my office, as “the people who use them aren’t contributing”.

    I find myself simultaneously bemused and eye-rolling.

    1. JanetM*

      Oh lord, this just made me remember: I worked in one office that provided coffee and, theoretically, tea. Coffee was brewed and could be grabbed at any time. However, the tea drinkers — including the ones in the other building — had to bring their used teabag to the office manager in order to receive a new one. (I am not a tea drinker, so I was spared that humiliation.)

  99. It is what it is*

    The old company used to provide professional coffee maker, regular and decaf coffee, sugar and Olson powdered creamer. You put your money in the box and get a coffee.

    Then some people didn’t pay, took sugar and creamer canisters to their desk and then coffee packet’s disappeared at an alarming rate. So it all went away.

    Soon our break room was overrun by coffee makers people brought in for their personal use. Outlets got overloaded multiple times a day and circuit breakers were tripped and office equipment would go down.

    Building maintenance sent out emails and put up signs about what was causing the problem, which people ignored. So, per the warning in the email and on the signs, they started confiscating coffee makers. So employees took them to their desks. Problem persisted.

    Building management sends out email that no electronic appliances (coffee makers etc.) are allowed at desks because of overloading circuits etc. regular sweeps will be made on each floor (random times of day and evening) and any appliances found will have cords cut.

    So the cords start getting cut and people are pissed because it shouldn’t apply to them for whatever reason. One guy not only had a coffee maker in his cubicle but also a microwave and a toaster oven, yep all cords were cut. After about two weeks people stopped bringing in coffee makers and other small appliances.

    The COMPANY sent out an email reminding people that it was against building and company policy and anyone found breaking policy would be fired for going against company policy. Reminding people there were several coffee places nearby, including 4 floors down, and that personal thermoses of coffee were permitted.

    The employee who replaced his coffee maker and toaster oven was fired. Everyone else complied, to my knowledge. Every new hire was warned by coworkers that indeed they would be fired if they didn’t comply.

    The company I work at now provides microwave and refrigerator but no vending machines of any, no coffee makers etc. No one minds because they’ve been that way since the day the company opened. We may keep a snack or two in our desk but that’s it. We do get coffee and pastries brought in once a month by the employer and it’s appreciated.

    If we want coffee/tea/ hot chocolate we either go to one of the local shops or we bring s thermos.

    1. Giant Kitty*

      I would quit instantly from any place that thought that destroying employees personal property was the solution to, well, anything.

  100. Silicon Valley Girl*

    Not really a coffee ‘war’ but before we went remote, there was free coffee at my office, & on my building’s floor, we had big coffee urns with regular & decaf. Then they added a fancy new espresso machine, but it was super finicky & kept needing to be serviced/repaired. We started a special Slack channel just for this machine to let each other know if it was up or down throughout the day.

  101. Jaid*

    Before Covid times, my unit used K-cups. But during Covid, only 3 of us came into the office and the machine was set aside for two years.

    Last year, it was cleaned and brought out again, but since only two of us drink hot liquids on the regular, we bought an electric kettle for my tea bags and her French press. Much easier to deal with, for sure.

  102. Old Intern*

    As an intern back in the 90s I was charged with coming in early and opening up the office. This included making the first pot of coffee. No problem – I am a big coffee drinker and made it just like we made it at home. No one commented or complained. All went well until one morning when an older gentleman who worked in admin saw me making the coffee. At home we put the grounds in the basket and then a dash of salt. Supposedly it cut down on the acidic taste. I had no clue that not everyone did it this way. OMG the fuss! He started complaining that I was trying to kill him, and it was my fault his blood pressure was going up. And he wouldn’t stop! Even after I promised not to do it again. It was really pretty awful and dramatic. Later my boss pulled me aside and said no, not everyone did it that way, and just ignore Bob he liked his drama. What an introduction to office theater!

    1. ferrina*

      Salt?! Never heard of this (worked as barista in several places across the country). Can’t imagine it having an impact on blood pressure though. Something to laugh about, not scream about.

      Not that you asked, but to cut down on acidity: 1) make sure the water is at the correct temperature (too hot will burn the beans, leading to an acrid brunt taste) 2) make sure the grounds are the correct consistency and packed to the correct density (too loose will make the hot water rush through and more likely to burn, too dense will have the water go too slow and turn into mud), 3) choose the right roast- lighter roasts are more likely to be citrusy (which will read as some people as acidic), which darker roasts tend to be more earthy and rich.

    2. JessB*

      I’ve heard that trick with salt to cut down on the bitterness in coffee too – but I don’t drink it, and never make it, so I’ve never tried it.
      Yikes, that escalated fast!

  103. Helvetica*

    At my first job, I was responsible for collecting the money from everyone in my department who wanted coffee and then paying the coffee supplier weekly, in cash. However, another more senior assistant called Mildred was in charge of the coffee supplies for the entire house, and therefore also for contacting the supplier, so I had to meet the supplier with her.
    Mildred told me that the supplier would only accept paper notes, no metal coins (we use the euro which has 1 and 2 euro coins, which are accepted easily in shops, etc). This was extra annoying as the amount of contribution per person was 2 euros, which most people did. Mildred told me in no uncertain terms that I had to change it all into paper notes beforehand, making me do extra work.
    After a few months, I was fed up, so the next time we met the supplier, I took my contribution in 1- and 2-euro coins, and asked the supplier if it was fine to pay him in coins. He agreed, no hesitation, no reluctance, no problem.
    After that, Mildred refused to contact the supplier on my behalf and said I have to do it myself and also pay him alone. I was fine with it but I still remember her pettiness over something so small.

  104. Jessica Fletcher*

    When Keurigs were fairly new, my brother and I bought our grandfather a cheaper version, so he wouldn’t have to boil instant coffee in a saucepan every morning and pour it into a mug, at the risk of burning himself. He used it for about a year before moving into assisted living. It wasn’t one of those fancy resort-type places, but they had free coffee everyday that suited Grandpa’s needs. He returned the machine to us.

    Neither of us drink coffee (the horror, I know!), so I took it into my then-employer. It was a tiny nonprofit with less than 15 on staff. They had a typical coffeemaker that only made one pot at a time, and people seemed to appreciate having another option.

    Not long after, a new Director was hired, and one manager in particular went overboard trying to suck up to her. At one of her first all-staff meetings, New Director mentioned that her daughter had offered to buy a Keurig for the office, but we already had one. Suck Up Manager gushed for *several minutes*, saying how generous that was and begging her to get one, because “that one we have isn’t even a real Keurig!” This from a woman who used it every day but never thanked me for donating an almost-new machine.

    Pretty low stakes, but it was the first of many strange happenings as the office descended further into a dysfunction spiral. I escaped a couple of years later, leaving the Not A Keurig behind. New Director ran the nonprofit into the ground. I sometimes wonder if Suck Up took the Not A Keurig home with her when the doors closed.

  105. Avarice*

    There may very well have been coffee wars in the places I have worked, but I didn’t know because I am a tea drinker. Early on in my career, most places had a tap for boiling water and I had no problem keeping a box of tea at my desk. The last two previous jobs did not even have a kitchen, so I bought an electric kettle for my desk. My current job (before going fully remote) only has a hot tap halfway to the other side of the building, which if I didn’t have severe arthritis and need a cane to walk, wouldn’t be that bad (think middle aged, gimpy woman spashed hot tea over herself as she ambles back to her desk). I was going to bring the electric kettle in, but then I was offered the ability to fully remote. Now, my proper kettle is wherever I want it to be.

  106. Anonymous for sanity*

    I worked for this guy –

    You may read it and think, of course, if you use the milk, you should replace the milk. But this was a 100+ person firm with incredibly stressful work conditions. Clients expected emails be returned in minutes. Higher ups wanted junior staff at their desk at all times. Keith was fond (and probably still is) of passive aggressive emails beseeching his staff to stay after 6 p.m. and not to worry – he would pay the electric bill.

    And there were three – 3! – office managers, two executive assistants and 2 personal assistants who weren’t tied to client work who could have been in charge of ordering enough milk. Or hell, use a delivery service. But the big boss was tied to his system from his old 5-person office and expected people to drop everything to run downstairs (this was a massive office complex, so it wasn’t a quick trip) to buy another quart or whatever of milk that wouldn’t last through the day.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Call me crazy, but it sounds easier to just have one of those assistants buy milk every day as a routine.

  107. Healthcare Manager*

    This happened in the one work place but across offices.

    Office 1: no money or budget for coffee. After complaints for years begrudgingly provided instant coffee and dairy milk. Said milk was labelled with ‘for coffees only, not cereal’.

    Office 2: pod machines.

    Yea, we weren’t happy once we went over for training one day and found this out.

    I’m now in an office with a fancy huge machine that you press a button and get all sorts, but I’m mainly WFH so it doesn’t matter anyway.

  108. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There was a person on a personal obsession to get everyone onto decaff (‘for their health!’) who wrote over and over to the executive board of the firm (over 30,000 employees) to demand that they cease and desist ordering caffeinated tea and coffee.

    This was an engineering firm and the free coffee and tea were practically required to run!

    Eventually they shut up but according to rumour it was because they tried to replace everything with decaff sneakingly and got caught breaking into a vending machine.

    (BTW please never sneak someone decaff. Some of us have allergies to that)

  109. The Nest*

    At my last job, coffee was provided, as well as coffee-adjacent items including milk. As it turns out, people also like to drink milk on its own. I don’t think this was ever a supply issue – the company stayed pretty on top of restocking. Apparently, however, this coffee-less milk consumption really bothered one person, because they filed a high-priority company-wide ticket in our internal ticketing system titled “INAPPROPRIATE USE OF MILK”. This delightful title is still a meme among me and my friends to this day.

  110. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Oh man. So, at the state agencies where I am at, the agency does not provide coffee but employees can set up coffee machines in the break room and lots of people form “coffee clubs” where everyone chips in for coffee that people in the club can make/drink. But at the FIRST state agency that I worked for there was a very nice upper management dude who would just bring in giant bags of coffee for everyone to use since he felt that coffee makes people happy and awake and awake people probably do better work. Nice, right? Except there was this sketchy admin named Elvira who was always on the hustle at work. She had a second coffee pot set up with a little station loaded with creamers and sugars (that she had stolen from her second job) and a cup with a sign requesting 75 cents per cup. For some reason some people went with the pay coffee, fine, whatever. But then one day that manager and I caught her STEALING THE BAGS OF FREE COFFEE AND POURING THE GROUNDS INTO THE TUPPERWARE OVER AT HER PAY COFFEE STATION.

    Oh, the scandal!

    The manager had me make, print, and attach giant novelty labels the size of the bags of coffee that he was bringing that read “Delicious Coffee, Free to All! NOT FOR RESALE” and made a point of going into the break room to make pleasant chitchat whenever he saw Elvira headed to her coffee station. It was hilarious.

    1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Oh! This was also the same job where I wound up having to use a trick that I picked up here at AAM! My fancy creamer kept getting stolen/used up entirely before I even had a chance to use it more than a few times, so I wound up pouring it into a plain glass bottle and labeling it “Breast milk–do not drink!”
      It is the BEST method for preventing creamer theft, y’all. Not only was my creamer NOT used, but I swear people actually went out of their way to not even touch it or put their food close to it if they could help it.

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        She was a constant source of amazing grifting stories! She had a second job at a convention center downtown, and she would steal snacks and sodas from there to bring to the office and sell from her desk. She even got a minifridge so the sodas would be cold. She sold everything for, like, 5 cents less than the vending machines. She was always quick to make herself the one to collect money for birthdays or condolence flowers and I NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY PEOPLE LET HER BE IN CHARGE OF THAT because she pretty obviously skimmed from the pot. She was a one person crime syndicate, lol.

  111. OrdinaryJoe*

    For some unknown reason, the person who is tasked with ordering supplies for off-site group meetings doesn’t like me. I’ve been pleasant, don’t make demands, who knows …

    First meeting, she sent an email out asking what supplies (drinks & snacks) people wanted. I’m low maintenance and really don’t care so just responded with a “No requests, thanks!”. For some reason, she only bought sparkling/ carbonated water. Next meeting, I requested just plain, still bottled water. Repeat of sparkling only, even though there are multiple other special requests for snacks and drinks that are honored …

    I repeat my request, even giving brand names as suggestions (we’re US based so just … plain, regular bottled water, basically) Rinse and repeat at Meeting #3. I give up and bring my own bottle at that point.

    She leaves after 5+ yrs and countless meetings. I find out from others that it was deliberate and she was doing it as some sort of bullying or daring me to complain so she could act innocent or something. I have no idea. I also found out it infuriated her that I never complained to anyone higher up and basically just ignored the water issue :-) So … score! LOL

  112. Rinse n Repeat*

    At my large big law law firm there is a Starbucks coffee machine in the central pantry on each floor and a pod coffee machine in each of the two smaller pantries on the floors. When the Starbucks machines were new, someone realized the machines could be hacked to make additional drinks besides the standard ones on the screen menu. The hacked machine became super popular, and slowly the person traveled to each of the 10+ floors the firm occupied to hack other machines. However, when one hacked machine needed to serviced, the hacking became known to the catering company that maintained the cafeteria and pantries. If the machine was hacked the service company said the service contract was invalid. This became known to all the employees, after at least a third of the machines were out of order permanently. After weeks of people complaining about out of service machines, management finally sent around a memo stating all the out of order machines were being fixed and the working hacked machines were being returned to original working order and if a machine was hacked again it would no longer be fixed and would be removed. People grumbled and complained for months about not having the additional drinks available from the hacked machines. These extremely well paid attorneys had available to them free Starbucks machines, free pod machines, and a free fancy coffee bar in the cafeteria. There was also two Starbucks stores in the lobby of the building you could go buy whatever drink you wanted and they complained constantly about not being able to hack a machine for a drink that honestly wasn’t even good because it was made the proper way!

  113. Marketing Queen*

    Not a coffee war, but a couple of us banded together to try and get the company to stop buying styrofoam cups (they would get thousands of them at a time, it was madness). We put up signs about how bad styrofoam is for humans, for the environment, etc. We had someone argue that they liked drinking the chemicals. SMH. Luckily we got a new coffee vendor whom I knew personally, so I was able to request non-toxic cups directly from them.

  114. Karo*

    Not so much a *horror* story so much as something that still amuses me. My workplace (usually open to the public) closed last winter for renovations and a new HVAC system. Without central heating in place, I started making a pot of loose-leaf tea in a tea press (like $15 purchased from Lidl) to keep at my desk to stay warm–it was visible due to the way my desk is positioned, and suddenly EVERYONE was a tea drinker. People were bringing me tea to put in the tea press. People were recommending their favorite tea shops where I could buy loose leaf. The construction workers taught me how to make a specific Chinese tea and would stop by to have a cup with me. One coworker made sure to come in early so she could catch me and have me make a pot of “vanilla pudding oolong.” (I still have it; it was very good.)

    All was well until my direct supervisor complained to the big boss that I “always seemed to be talking to someone” about tea. And that’s when my boss added himself to the rotation of people talking to me about tea and sharing the pot. It wasn’t even a huge pot! Like 4 cups at most! Who knew people bonded so hard over tea! Certainly not me, who is usually a coffee drinker.

  115. Avid Reader*

    Neither a coffee or tea drinker! In my office, there was a fellow who very carefully brewed his own coffee in either a French press or one of the those vintage hour shaped glass coffee things every afternoon. I could see him performing his coffee ritual from my desk. Then he would visit each of his friends to pour them their coffee. I. Did. Not. Get. It. It took so much time; it appeared to be almost religious to him. As I said, don’t drink coffee. Hope we can be friends.

  116. PassThePeasPlease*

    These stories are fascinating! I’ve only worked in offices that have huge, touchscreen enabled coffee makers that supposedly can make any number of fancy drinks (I’ve always been doubtful) and have maybe seen a handful of people making coffee with them in 5 years. Tea seems to be a more popular choice (maybe because everyone knows the fancy machine can’t mess up hot water?).

  117. FashionablyEvil*

    My team (about 35 people) was having an in-person retreat at our company headquarters. Most of those folks were from out of town, although a few worked at headquarters. Our VP asked the local office manager to have breakfast catered in, including coffee. Office manager (who happened to oversee all the admins for our entire division) INSISTED that she would bring the Keurig down and we could use existing coffee resources! No need to buy extra from the caterers!

    VP was irked and tried explaining that having 35 people make cups of coffee one at a time was way too time consuming and would Office Manager just order two catering boxes of coffee. Office manager RESISTED. VP timed how long it took to brew a cup of coffee in the Keurig, multiplied it by an average hourly rate, and informed Office Manager that she would not be wasting several hundred dollars to avoid purchasing two boxes of coffee. Office Manager relented. The Keurig was never mentioned at retreats again.

  118. Nopa T. Nope*

    I had a desk in a work-share before the pandemic. There was a Keurig machine, and there were complimentary K-cups. The policy was pretty much “please don’t use an unreasonable amount.”

    People would usually take their coffee and leave the used K-cup in the machine. Which could be gross, but it was used enough that nothing stayed in there too long. The space’s front desk employee always made sure the last one was cleared at closing time as part of their regular duties.

    One woman though decided that this was an affront to fairness and justice. She always remover her own used K-cup, and she felt it was unfair that she was forced to remove a used K-cup before she made her coffee as well as after. She taped up a sign behind the machine telling people that the only way the system would work fairly is for everyone to BE RESPONSIBLE and remember to clear their own used pod.

    I taped up a sign saying that the only way to ensure that everyone only had to remove one used pod was to NOT remove them when they finished making coffee. That way everyone would only be required to remove one K-cup, before they made their coffee. It was self-enforcing – if you want to use the machine, you have to clear a used pod. The first user of the day would get a break since the machine would have been cleared the night before, and the employee’s work with regard to clearing the machine would not change. I noted that her plan relied on the people being responsible (not a good bet) and that it would inevitably result in someone having to remove used pods both before and after they made coffee.

    The next day both signs were gone and nothing changed.

  119. Ms. Coffee*

    Worked at a small nonprofit, which provided an ancient Mr. Coffee machine and tub of Folgers for employees. I was pretty broke at the time and fine with the offerings. Unfortunately the nonprofit did not employ a regular cleaning service and nobody had been assigned the job of cleaning the kitchen. Most of us would clean up after ourselves and generally whoever had the last cup would dump out the pot and rinse it out before leaving.

    And then they hired Steve, who would drink like 2-3 pots of coffee a day himself but never clean anything up. I came upon old pots of coffee that sat out all weekend enough times that I got grossed out and started bringing in my own coffee or getting a cup from the Starbucks up the road. My officemate and a few other people we worked with started doing the same. As time went on, Steve was the only person using the Mr. Coffee, and the only person using the dishes and silverware in the kitchen. He did not clean up after himself.

    One day Steve poked his head into the office I shared with a colleague and said, “hey guys, the kitchen is getting pretty dirty. There’s a lot of dishes. And the coffee pot is gross!”

    My officemate (26F) and myself (23F) looked at Steve, and each other. “…Okay, we don’t use that coffee maker anymore.”

    It became apparent that Steve thought it was our job, as two youngish ladies, to keep the kitchen tidy. It was not.

    “Well,” said Steve, “It needs to be cleaned. It might be getting moldy.”

    My underpaid 23 year old self was generally not very outspoken but I looked that slob in the eye and said, “What are you saying, Steve?”

    “Well…uh…I mean…”

    “Steve, look around. Is your mom here? Or your wife? ….Nope. Don’t see them. Maybe you need to clean up after yourself like a big boy.”

    He scuttled away but did not clean up his mess. Instead he complained to the director that we needed to have the kitchen professionally cleaned. The director investigated and realized that nobody but Steve was using the moldy coffee maker, and sent out a pointed email about cleaning up after yourself.

    Then Steve was let go for other reasons a few months later. Good riddance to that guy!

    1. Here for the Insurance*

      I want to send a sympathy card to whoever had the bad luck to win Steve in the Romantic Pairing Sweepstakes.

      1. Ms. Coffee*

        He had a wife and some youngish kids but their arrangement was really odd. He lived several hours away from them “for work”. Even though no one was well paid at our nonprofit and his family lived in an area where he could’ve likely found a job that paid at least what he was making living hours away. Our theory was that his wife didn’t want him around either. Or that he was such a crappy employee that he’d run out of options in his hometown.

        I wonder if they remained married….

    2. ferrina*

      I’m not surprised he had other issues with his work- IME with people who expect others to clean up after them (when it’s not explicitly the other person’s job), that’s the tip of the issues iceberg.

      1. Ms. Coffee*

        He was a mess. After he left, we realized just how many things he screwed up. Also his office was (unsurprisingly) disgusting.

  120. Elle*

    Allison-can we add coffee management as a skill in our resumes? Can we detail how we’ve successfully tackled office coffee drama when asked about professional highlights and dealing with difficult people?

  121. Viki*

    Potentially not a club, but a group project?

    Myself and another young person let’s call him Brady, (ie we were born in the 1990s) are around 10-15 years younger than our peers (Director level).

    I was called out for always having fancy not coffee (matcha lattes from Starbucks) by Brady. So I, in my ever growing maturity, retaliated by making a spreadsheet of how many different cups of Tims Brady got a day. Eventually our peers realized what I was doing, and the excel became shared, with people logging in not just Tims but how many times Brady would take a sip of coffee in a meeting (we have a lot of meetings).

    Brady was very aware of this, and found it useful to track how much money he spent on coffee each week.

    Matt, Brady’s SVP awarded Brady at the end of the year, with a Tims gift card and thanked him for being a major funder for the Tims on Campus. He contributed about 23% of total sales for the year on a campus that hosts a little under three thousand people.

  122. too many dogs*

    I read these comments with both amusement and astonishment that coffee can cause so much drama. In my place of work we have a Keurig, and a variety of pods from which to choose. We have a piggy bank that people, using the honor system, put money into. No one is told that they have to chip in. I’m the one that buys the coffee, and there’s always enough money. I buy a variety of flavors; no one has complained. People bring their own milk or fancy creamers. Nobody steals them. The Keurig gets filled when needed by whoever’s using it. We also wash our own mugs/dishes/etc. No one is assigned to clean the kitchen; we just clean up after ourselves. I think I need to send my coworkers a giant Thank You.

    1. TomatoSoup*

      If you can establish a healthy process in a healthy work environment, it can just keep on going like that. I worked somewhere that the coffee making system worked beautifully, so I know it is possible too. My only complaint was that everyone just rinsed out the carafe and didn’t clean anything else on the machine (this was part of a larger weekly rotation), let alone with soap. Coffee is such an easy spot for existing disfunction to blossom.

    2. NeedRain47*

      You do!! Ive never heard of an office where there’s not at least one person who never contributes or cleans.

  123. Chilipepper Attitude*

    As someone who does not drink either coffee or tea, I feel like an alien observer. I feel like I’m in the episode of the original Star Trek where the folks of the first planet thought they would die if they did not get a plant/drug from the second planet. But really the second planet had gotten the first hooked on an opiate and what first planet thought was a terrible disease that was killing them, was just withdrawal from the opiate. Second planet had a very lucrative monopoly on the opiate.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I wish I had the monopoly on coffee and I’m def self-congratulatory that I’m not a caffeine addict!

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Oh, thank god. I was racking my brain, trying to picture Kirk, Spock, and Bones handling this scenario.

      2. ODM*

        Fun fact: the prop for the substance that everyone was addicted to was red lentils. (I may be addicted to lentils and am definitely addicted to coffee.)

  124. SBT*

    I once worked at a nonprofit where we had a board member who was incredibly particular about his coffee. He was on a number of boards around the city and state and was well-known for gifting each organization a very high-end Nespresso machine (y’all – these things run $1,000+) and the particular brand/coffee/pod/whatever it was that he liked. This ensured that whenever he had to come to the office for a meeting, he could have his usual made just how he liked it. This did require the office admins to learn how to use it because he did expect to be served his coffee when he came, but I think overall the office was happy with this tradeoff.

  125. BeeMused*

    I started working a job where a senior employee had done amazingly little work for two decades, so she had plenty of time to monitor other people. I was in grad school part time, and at first I wanted to beat traffic by coming in early and working on school stuff at my desk until the office officially opened. She complained about me using university resources for my personal stuff. So then I sat at a coffee shop and bought my first cup of the day there. She saw me coming in with my cup and without asking started making less coffee as she assumed I “could afford to buy” my own. I took a cup anyway, which meant that our manager, who usually arrived last in the morning, got nothing and the coffee control freak was confronted about it.

    Our student worker told me that before I started, the control freak used to send her to the campus grocery store to grind the coffee beans, but didn’t allow her to have any of the coffee. The admin eventually started ordering ground coffee.

  126. PoorPourOver*

    My startup moved from a WeWork-style coworking space into our own office. One of the growing pains was the loss of the free, industrial-sized coffee carafes. The boss was too stingy to buy a coffee machine, but finally deigned to buy us a $20 knockoff Chemex.

    The result? Every single morning, our entire staff would huddle around the tiny glass pour-over vessel like Dickensian orphans while someone completed the fiddly, loooong process of making enough coffee for over a dozen people. If you didn’t wait there, you wouldn’t get a cup. So much productivity lost.

  127. irene adler*

    In the early days of a certain growing biotech company, the C-suite folks consumed coffee from a large urn.
    Three separate reports of illness (dizziness, nausea, hallucinations) were reported over a two-year time. Some had to be hospitalized. A secretary to the founder suffered the most severe symptoms.
    Each time, the coffee urn had been laced with acrylamide powder. A colorless, odorless, but potent, neurotoxin. Gives coffee a funny taste.

    The founder, who was hospitalized, decided from then on to bring in his own coffee.

    I believe the lab tech who planted the acrylamide went to prison. Turned out, he had a long-standing grudge against the founder.

  128. Scooter*

    The company provided powdered coffee creamer, but people brought their own liquid creamers and stashed them in the communal fridge usually labeled with their names. I buy milk in a 52 ounce bottles at home. On Monday mornings, I would bring whatever bottle I had open at home to the office as I often I had cereal for lunch. I always labeled it with my name and the date. One time I got a call to HR because someone was offended my milk that I brought from home for my own personal use with my name on it also had lipstick on the bottle. Someone didn’t like using my milk that I may or may not have drunk straight from the bottle. Is this really the best use of the HR department’s time?

    1. ferrina*

      This is right up there with the spicy food lunch thief- “How dare you make unappealing the thing I am stealing from you!”

  129. TomatoSoup*

    I worked for city government agency and was told that we could not have a coffee machine in our kitchen area (there was no break room) because it might look like we were misusing taxpayer funds. The coffeemaker in question was a $20 Mr. Coffee and the kitchen space was in a very restricted area where members of the public were never allowed. Instead, someone brought in a french press and we all rotated bringing in a pound of coffee at a time. Both the press and coffee were hidden in what little storage space existed there.

    The manager who made that decision was later charged with running his political campaign from his government office on his government issued phone and computer, instead of doing his job. But, sure, a coffee machine purchased by employees looks bad.

  130. Here for the Insurance*

    The folks in our C-suite have one of those super fancy espresso machines, very steampunk looking with all the knobs and levers. And they drink the resulting coffee out of china cups that sit on china saucers. All very ooh-la-la. Nobody outside their suite would care, except:

    1) We’re pretty sure the setup and upkeep was/is paid for out of agency money, while they nickel and dime us over luxuries like paper; and
    2) They talk about how great it is in front of you but never offer you a cup. You’ll be in their suite for a meeting, sans beverage, and they come in sipping their fancy coffee and raving about how good it is, and it never occurs to them to offer you one. I don’t even drink coffee and would say no, but it’s just rude as hell.

  131. shmove shmon shmith shmy shmife*

    My personal coffee battlefield scar: in the 20some years since having a desk near the OldOldDotComJob breakroom where it was typical for someone to nearly finish a pot of flavored coffee, leaving just enough to fill the air with the smell of burning … I can’t have anything to do with hazelnut in any form. To me, it’s got that nauseating, dysfunctional, “constant risk of layoff” smell.

  132. NeedRain47*

    Oh geez. my favorite was the place that did supply coffee for us (free), but it was really, really bad. Whenever we’d complain about how bad it was the office manager would say “I’ve had worse!” Where did he have worse? Vietnam, when he was a soldier during the Vietnam war. It was probably government issue coffee. Somehow this was supposed to convince us that we did not deserve better quality coffee.

  133. avocadolime*

    My nonprofit provided free coffee. The silent war was over how to store the beans. The (terrible, not-well-liked) Executive Director kept pouring the beans into a clear glass jar because it looked nice that way. A staff member who had worked at a coffee shop kept pouring them back into the coffee bag, quietly insisting to everyone but the ED that sunlight ruins the beans. This went on for two weeks or so, until the ED quietly gave up.

  134. Empress Matilda*

    There was a short calculation how much time and effort could be saved. (A lot.) That proposal has gone through the improvements committee (yes, that’s a thing), the sales people, the union, the CEO and back to the improvements committee. It is still under consideration after 18 months.”

    Oh, I’ve been there! I’ve seen a manager fly to another city with a set of nearly-identical mottled grey carpet samples for everyone to vote on; a year-long discussion of whether or not to insert separator pages between print jobs; and countless meetings of All The Stakeholders which could have been a five minute phone call with two of them.

    Why yes, I do work in government! In case it wasn’t obvious…

    1. Giant Kitty*

      But providing coffee for employees is a waste of taxpayer dollars, amirite? The absolute absurdity….

  135. Magenta Sky*

    I worked at a plumbing store, where many of the customers were contractors. The store made a point of always having fresh coffee for customers, which seemed to go over well, especially with the contractors. The problem arose in that I don’t drink Toxic Bean Waste, and know *nothing* about the making of it, but the owner insisted I should take a turn making it every day.

    So I pulled out the part you put the coffee grounds in (in a drip coffeemaker), told him, I figure this is this size for a reason, so do I just fill it up level to the top?”

    I never had to make coffee.

  136. kbeers0su*

    Many years back I worked in a security-type role overnight. So I would sit with one other staff member at the front entrance to a building and make sure nothing weird or crazy happened, and that only folks who should be in the building were coming in. I was not a coffee drinker, but was new to all-night shifts, so I thought I would try making coffee in the ancient drip pot provided on-site. Not having a taste for coffee, I decided to buy a french vanilla flavored coffee, hoping that it would be less awful than other coffee I had tried. Not long after brewing my first pot, my coworker and I began to get a whiff of something from the front lobby. It genuinely smelled like someone had dumped an entire bottle of alcohol (cleaner or drinking alcohol- not clear). So we went on the hunt. Checked the lobby. Checked the trashcans in the lobby. Checked the entryway, the stairwell, all the elevators. We couldn’t find anything. When we finally settled down with the mystery unsolved I went to pour a cup of coffee only to find it reeked of vodka. We couldn’t find anything wrong with the pot, and it definitely had not been brewed with vodka instead of water as some weird prank. We never figured out why, but needless to say I can’t smell vanilla anything without also smelling vodka along with it.

  137. DD*

    We used to have a coffee station on each floor and cups of coffee were $0.25 deposited into a canister. Someone from facilities would refill the coffee stuff, collect the quarters and clean daily and the residents of that floor were responsible for making the pots of coffee. At some point management started sending out e-mails about how the amount collected wasn’t correlating with the amount of coffee being stocked. I’m sure due to a number of things – leftover coffee at the end of the day in the pot, people using large cups and still paying $0.25, people not paying because they didn’t have a quarter on them.

    After a number of these various warnings someone decides to start tracking each floor with coffee in and cash out. Of the 8 floors in the building the floor that had the biggest cash to coffee gap was the floor where most of the top executives sat (salaries of mid-six figures to seven figures). We didn’t get any more e-mails about coffee shortages, not long after that the coffee pot system was replaced with a single pod system you had to purchase prior to brewing which led to a variety of pop-up Keurigs all over the building in various offices and desks.

  138. Sabrina*

    Back when I worked at an engineering company I got permission to arrive at 7, because I liked to start early. Most everyone started at 8, but about 10 older guys also started at 7. There was one other women who arrived at 7:30.

    What I learned on day one of my new schedule is all the men who started at 7 would arrive, go sit in the breakroom, and wait for the women to show up and make coffee. The first morning I came in they all perked up and seemed visibly disappointed when I made my tea and went back to my desk. On day two they started mournfully talking about how much they wanted coffee while I was making my tea. On day three they whined how hard it was to wait for the admin to arrive make coffee, and if sure would be nice if it got made earlier. On day four one of them stood up and suggested I make coffee. I pointed out I don’t drink coffee. He pointed out the instructions were posted next to the machine. To which I said yep, you’d be just as good as I would be at following those, and left for my desk.

    I was there for 12 years, drinking tea and never touching the coffee maker.

      1. JessB*

        Agreed, I have to know!

        Also, wow, that would infuriate me – feigned helplessness is a silly choice for adults.

    1. BellyButton*

      OMG! This reminds me of when I walked into the breakroom to see an engineer staring at the microwave with un-popped bag of popcorn inside it. I couldn’t help myself I had to ask “what’s up?” He said he couldn’t figure out how to make popcorn. I reached over and hit the button labeled “popcorn” I said, “dude, there is literally a popcorn button.”

      This became a new saying in our office, if anyone didn’t know something obvious “there is literally a popcorn button” was the response. LOL

  139. Cubicle monkey manager*

    Not a war, but my floor started using the notepad meant for coffee orders, for coffee-themed poetry instead.

  140. Suddenly_Seymour*

    Non-profit visitors office with a Keurig available to staff and visitors, regularly refilled pods, accessories, creamer etc. with no incident. Generally, it was kept stocked by our interns, and the whole group commonly turned over within a year or so. I’m a big coffee drinker, but never cared much for instant coffee, so never used it myself. Took over managing the interns about a year into my tenure and asked how frequently they clean the coffee maker so that I could reflect it in the new schedule and training.

    Blank. Stares.

    The coffee maker had not been cleaned by any of them in at least a year. Checked the machine to find an ant trail leading directly out the front door right next to the table. I have not used a public coffeemaker since!

  141. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    The last time I drank coffee supplied by a workplace coffee machine was over a decade ago, I was finishing up a cup and there was a fly that I discovered and spit out. NEVER AGAIN, even though I’ve worked at several places since then, I’ve never had the coffee.

    At one place, the owner HATED the smell of coffee and prohibited coffee from being brewed on site. When we were undergoing a large system implementation, he relented and let the consultants bring in their own Keurig as long as they kept it in the project room. It was several years later he finally relented on allowing coffee to be brewed in other parts of the building according to my friends still there.

  142. Gotta Be Anonymous*

    Many, many years ago, the bank I worked for didn’t have coffee or a coffee maker. A few of my coworkers and I chipped in to buy one and a can of coffee. Breaks also weren’t really a thing at this place (I know). Our boss tended to schedule the bare minimum to work the floor (her bonuses hinged on labor cost) and was super annoyed that we started to take breaks to grab a cup of coffee. She would host events for upper management and clients and use our coffee maker – and OUR coffee – as part of the snack table. Those days, we couldn’t even have coffee. She was a jerk.

  143. victoree*

    This whole thread has been eye opening! I’ve worked in local government all my career and it never even occurred to me that an employer would/could/should provide coffee/coffee pots and all the drama around said coffee (to pay or not to pay? that is the question). We’ve always been expected to bring in our own coffee and different little offices have a coffee pot/ communal keurig where you bring in your own pods or share if you like. We get zero fancy things (bonuses, pizza parties, donuts, free coffee, raffles, etc.) since government doesn’t want to be seen as wasteful. I’d never considered this a positive, but it definitely has saved a lot of stress and drama in my working life.

  144. Coverage Associate*

    I work for a large law firm with offices around the country. During the worst of the pandemic, the office coffee machines were shut down. It was a congregating thing, not a touch points thing. Apparently the executives got quite a few complaints, but held their ground.

    I don’t drink the office coffee, so I didn’t care, but I did think 2 things were unfair about the policy. First, people were also forbidden from leaving and returning to the office in the same day at the stage of the pandemic, so you also couldn’t go out and buy coffee. Second, while the firm wide email did say people could bring in personal machines, apparently our building forbade this, so our local office was really stuck.

  145. Anonsy*

    Not coffee but within Beverage Wars theme:
    My tech office hosts regular votes on what we should have for our drinks – what brand and kinds of coffee, tea, carbonated beverages. My favorite highlight:

    One year Mountain Dew (neither Diet nor Regular) did not win the voting contest because Sales voted all the kinds of sparkling fancy waters in for the “Carbonated Beverages” section. Tech went on revolt until the company at least added in regular Mountain Dew after all the complaining. (No tech company wants an undercaffeinated tech team.) The company in the end shifted to having separate voting for fancy water and soda so there’d never be a Soda Revolt in Tech again. Of course just in case it happened again, the following year one person in tech created a bot to vote for Mountain Dew hundreds of times. They had to completely overall voting the following year to prevent that again.

  146. ICodeForFood*

    This was back in the 1990s, and is not so much coffee wars as coffee laughs. We had one of those coffee machines where there were places for 2 pots, so you could brew a new pot while another pot was kept hot. For tea drinkers, one of the pots usually held hot water.

    1. ICodeForFood*

      Oops… hit return by mistake!

      This was back in the 1990s, and is not so much coffee wars as coffee laughs. We had one of those coffee machines where there were places for 2 pots, so you could brew a new pot while another pot was kept hot. For tea drinkers, one of the pots usually held hot water.

      Anyway, some folks brought in flavored coffees, se we started labeling them with Post-It notes: Hazelnut, Regular, Decaf, whatever.

      My boss, a wonderful man who just passed away a few months ago (we stayed in touch), labelled the hot water. We were in the town of Piscataway, NJ… so of course, he labelled the water pot “Piscataway Piss.”

      We all laughed, and since he WAS management, there were no complaints from management!

  147. Janeric*

    I am not going to be the good guy in this story.

    My last job had an elaborate coffee culture: multiple coffee makers, a mini fridge with the preferred milk or milk equivalent for like 40 people (one of whom would always buy a full gallon of milk, no one shared). The sweetener situation was a combination of handfuls of the takeout Starbucks sweetener packets and sugar that people would bring in (and write pointed sticky notes about the use of). There were eight kinds of coffee in the cupboards and a LOT of styrofoam cups. There were also two microwaves.

    We weren’t allowed to store tea, or have an electric kettle — the solutions tea drinkers were given were to run hot water through an empty drip coffee maker or microwave our water for tea. (BLECK)

    So I bought a decent small electric kettle, plugged it into an empty outlet, and MADE TEA.

    It uh. Turned out that at least one reason that we weren’t allowed to have a kettle was that the circuit for the tea station was at capacity and I tripped the circuit breaker the second time someone used it. Our org rented the building and had to call in a handyman to flip the switch back. It was a whole to-do and I pretended to know nothing about the source of the kettle.

  148. Just Moi*

    Not me – but my dear late dad. He had just started work at a very large aviation company in the NW. His first day, being the born and raised midwesterner that he was, he goes in search of the coffee urn near his office. After a lifetime of instant coffee from a red can, he’s pretty delighted to find that they have those big commercial coffee pots. But, the carafe is empty. So he sets into finding the makings, emptying the filter basket, filling everything needed, and starting the pot brewing. He finishes up, turning to head back to his office trusting that he’ll return to find fresh brewed coffee in a few minutes. As he leaves the break room, a coworker who watched all this glances at his name badge and says ‘you’ve got a great future here Johnson.’ Turns out it was the CEO. 25 years later dad retired from there.

      1. Just Moi*

        Yep, my dad was a peach. He once got a performance review from the same company that complimented his ‘sticktoitiveness.’

  149. Momma Bear*

    One old job had a regular coffee pot…which once went unwashed so long it grew mold. I refused to use it.

    When our Keurigs were broken, the front office staff wisely brought in to go boxes from local vendors. Very nice of them, actually.

    IMO anyone who wants their own coffee maker for their own use needs to keep it in their office. Otherwise it’s easy to assume fair game.

  150. Rebecca*

    I worked at a bank that was taken over by a larger bank (after being shut down by the fed back in 2009, not just a regular takeover). New bank left the coffee equipment, but stopped providing coffee. So the employees would all chip in a couple bucks, and someone would buy coffee, cups, cream and sugar once a week. This worked fine, but the bank had always provided coffee for the customers. The manager would fill a large dispenser and leave it on a small table upstairs. In the grand scheme of things, it was no big deal and no one complained (at least to my knowledge).

    For whatever reason, new bank decided the customers could not have coffee. This was a local branch with a lot of elderly customers that REALLY liked the coffee. It caused a bunch of complaints. So the manager just put out coffee anyways, figuring the company wasn’t paying for it so it didn’t matter. Well, it did.

    The new bank would have employees in and out doing training on new systems and the like, and there were 2 specific folks that threw an absolute stink and forced the manager to remove the coffee in the lobby. Which led to customer complaints. But the new bank was adamant that customers not be provided coffee.

    It became a game of hiding the coffee. I worked in the department that oversaw security, so the guards would see if those 2 new bank employees arrived and quickly hide the coffee. I was included on the emails: “so-and-so should arrive today around 11AM, BOLO and remove the coffee.” It became a game. They’d hide it in weird places.

    It culminated in the longtime, beloved branch manager being placed on a PIP for providing customers coffee. In retrospect, they were just trying to get people to quit. But in 2009, good luck finding a job in banking. The poor manager had to have checkins with her new bosses that were about nothing more than providing a pot of coffee for the customers, who loudly and constantly complained when there wasn’t coffee.

    I no longer work in banking. I’m glad I switched fields.

  151. Her name was Lola, she was an intern*

    On my first day as an intern at my previous workplace, my email inbox was filled with a thread called Regarding Coffee – dozens of messages arguing over empty coffee carafes, who needed to make the coffee, shaming those who didn’t make coffee, etc.

    In the kitchen, my mentor showed me how to make coffee, a two-step process (i.e. VERY EASY). That afternoon, while I was making a fresh pot, someone ran up, held their phone out, snapped a photo and scurried away. A couple minutes later, they emailed my photo to the entire department with the caption, “SEE? EVEN THE INTERN KNOWS HOW TO MAKE COFFEE.” I was in my 30s at the time, which made it feel even more ridiculous and condescending.

    The thread eventually calmed down, but the wars continued, and I got so tired of making coffee multiple times a day that I brought my own french press in. Every few years, someone would revive the thread and we’d relive it all over again.

  152. High Score!*

    First job out of college as an engineer only female in the team, my manager showed me the coffee machine…
    Me: it’s ok, I don’t drink coffee.
    Him: Uh, here’s how to make it, proceeds to show me
    Me: Alright, whatever..
    * Next meeting *
    Him: bring us some coffee.
    Me: *Uses a third the suggested amount and delivers coffee stumbling and spilling it as I went.*
    After meeting I receive remedial coffee training.
    Me: This coffee maker is so confusing.
    Next time I’m asked to make it, I throw in double the amount and let it brew into the decaf pot pretending I didn’t know the difference.
    Eventually they stopped asking. Kudos to all the men in my life who demonstrated malicious incompetence.

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      Yeah I like coffee and might have tried that.

      There was a lot of coffee drama at my old church (I was for a while in charge of coffee hour/hospitality and ended up being the procurement person). A lot of the drama was that people “didn’t know how” to use the big industrial pots so were always leaning on other volunteers “to come in and make coffee” for their event. And those who did know how had a bad habit of borrowing equipment and not returning it.

      I attached instructions to the big pots and they were constantly being removed. Either someone was empire building (wasn’t me, I had a full time office job and was not interested in coming in to make coffee for your 10 am Thursday thing) or someone really had a thing for aesthetics and no consideration for others. Given the tenor of the general drama level I really suspect the latter.

  153. Interviewer*

    We used to have a CEO who called himself a coffee snob. We had about 20 offices across the country, and he was the reason our company paid exorbitant amounts of money for a certain brand of coffee in every breakroom – like 2-3 times more than many other brands. One year we had a bit of a budget crunch, so in an effort to save money, our local office manager identified a few different coffee blends to replace the expensive one, and held a blind taste test for all coffee drinkers in our office. She invited the CEO, who was eager to participate.

    Turns out his preferred brand is awfully bitter when compared to other brands, and the winner of blind tastings is never the expensive one. As expected, the CEO immediately sussed out the expensive one and voted for it, but another blend won in a landslide.

    He tried to make a fuss, and then finally begrudgingly accepted the results – but just for our office. His own location continued using the expensive one until it was discontinued by the maker about a year later. At that point he organized a blind tasting in his office to find the new coffee – but all voting options offered to the employees were from that same maker.

    He left the company a few years ago, and shortly afterwards, that brand of coffee disappeared from every remaining location.

  154. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

    I’ve seen a lot of stories about coffeemakers not cleaned enough, but in my office the issue was coffeemakers being cleaned too much! Apparently years ago, long before my tenure, someone said something about the coffee machines never being cleaned, so the company asked our night cleaning staff (who are lovely and do a great job!) to clean them. They complied and since then have cleaned them every. single. night. by running some sort of cleaning chemical through all the hoses and scrubbing out the pots. The result is coffee that tastes significantly of cleaning chemicals all the time. When I finally asked about the chemical flavor and heard this story I asked why we don’t just request that they only clean the machines once a week or once a month, and was told that since they’re doing what we asked it would be rude to complain and I would get used to the taste. Reader, I did not get used to the taste because I stopped drinking that coffee.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      “Drink chemical residue to avoid being rude to employees that get paid for their bespoke as-needed services” is a new level of wtf.

  155. Goose*

    I used to work front of house at a restaurant/coffee bar. While I wasn’t the barista, I was back up and was allowed to make drinks for customers. I didn’t drink coffee (still don’t) but learned to make a drinkable espresso.

    Back of house would always request double or triple red eyes. Management made it clear I wasn’t supposed to give them more than one coffee per shift, and certainly no more than one shot of espresso. Eff that. The best part of that job was the food the chefs would sneak me. They knew I would give them as many shots as they wanted (they didn’t care what the coffee tasted like) in exchange for mac and cheese (guys… this mac and cheese) and other treats at the end of the night and they didn’t yell when I had to sit someone five minutes from close because management was watching.

  156. Ranon*

    This is so minor it hardly qualifies as controversy but it makes me laugh. My company is a design focused company that recently completed a remodel so everything is very fancy and very designed. We have two colors of mugs. Someone has decided that only the blue mugs live on the remodeled floors. However, the only espresso machine is on a non remodeled floor and has white mugs. The blue mugs are next to the drip coffee and tea. So every day the mugs in the dishwasher get mixed and then I guess facilities unmixes them when they put them away. It’s very silly.

    1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      At my old tech campus there were occasional cup shortages, and people kept being found to have stacks of cups in their offices. So an email would go out periodically, asking people to stop hoarding cups, please, because it’s expensive to buy more. This resulted in good behavior for a while, but then a resumption of the habits.

      I eventually asked one of my engineering buddies with a cup stack what the deal was. “Oh,” he said, “I mean to take them back, but it’s a little bit of a hike back to the cafeteria and sometimes I don’t have time for that.” He’d assumed that he had to return the cups to the specific origin rather than the nearest dishwasher. He was surprised and delighted when I pointed out that the cleaning staff moves them between buildings/kitchens as needed, and the important part was to drop them at a legit collection point.

      I kept having that conversation with people, and finally I asked Facilities to please drop the information that Facilities will load balance the dishes into the next email. That seemed to improve matters substantially.

  157. EPLawyer*

    It’s Super Bowl Week and this is coffee related. Some reporter asked HC Andy Reid how he likes his coffee. Reid said “I don’t drink coffee.” Reporter: How do you get up and get going in the morning then? Reid: I just get up, I got a lot of energy for a chubby guy.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      An odd question (and possibly offensive) from the reporter since it’s fairly well known that Andy Reid’s religion is one that forbids coffee. IDK, it might be like asking a known muslim how they like their bacon and eggs?

  158. Llama Identity Thief*

    I have never felt so lucky to get wired for 8 hours off of half of a Coke Zero than I have reading these stories.

  159. Just a Worker Bee*

    I work on the facilities and support side of a design company in a very expensive city, so the fancy coffee situation is top tier. Working in an office full of creative people with high expectations, they had fresh roasted, local coffee delivered to the office on a monthly basis. 12oz bags that cost on average $18-$25 each.

    I came into the role in Year 3 of the Coffee Wars that have only ended due to personel turnover. My first day of training by my manager, I was told it was my job to get the coffee brewed in the morning; he recommended I do this first before most employees arrived because people had strong opinions on how the coffee should be brewed. In the large kitchen, I saw the machines of war:
    -2 designer drip coffee machines
    -Espresso machine with milk frother
    -Nespresso machine also with milk frother
    -3 different kinds of pour-over cones, all requiring their own special paper filters (yes, I mean exactly what I said, each had their own, you COULD NOT swap them out)
    -6 different kinds of milk – 3 dairy, 3 non-dairy
    -5 different kinds of sweetener, including local honey that was delivered
    – $300 burr coffee grinder
    – Regular Mr. Coffee grinder
    -A programable electric kettle

    All this for an office of 50 people.

    Luckily, I only had to brew the drip coffeee and make sure that the supplies for everything else were topped up, organized, and clean. Unluckily for me, the drip coffee was in the heart of the conflict. The $300 burr grinder was covered in passive-aggressive Sharpie notations on where the grind should be set, graffiti that included smiley faces, frowny faces, “right”, and “wrong”, “here” and “NOT here” with arrows pointing to the “correct” setting, each having been scribbled out and reapplied. The only bit of graffiti that was unmolested was a note on the top: “NO STARBUCKS”. They turned their noses up at Starbucks (that was what the Mr. Coffee grinder was for, so the 1 designer who ONLY drank Starbucks could have his Starbucks).

    Within a week into the role I was cornered by one side of the Coffee Wars. The coffee was already made, he poured himself a cup, looked at the contents and made a face, “this is pretty weak, don’t you think?” And proceeded to dump it down the sink in front of me. He cranked the burr grinder to the finest setting, where much of the graffti was, gave it a little tap, and said “I’ll be back on ten for this coffee” implying I was to remake an entire pot. I did not, just walked away. Less than an hour later, I met a member of the other side of the faction when he came up to my desk, “a word of advice” are his first words to me in the morning, “leave the grinder to [this setting]”. The setting being that was equally marked up.

    It went like this for 1.5 years. Constantly. Advice turned to orders turned to arriving just after me to watch me make the coffee with an empty mug in hand. To save my sanity and try to make both sides happy, I brewed 1 pot each to the opposing sides’ liking and labelled them as such. For the most part it worked and things simmered down to just passive-aggressive advice again until turnover brought some new people in and the Coffee War ended in a whimper.

  160. Happy Little Cog*

    I once had a job where I was in charge of the kitchen. When telling our second in command that I don’t drink coffee, she told me that I was not in charge of the coffee stuff, that the Coffee Club was. (Sounds like there had been some drama in the past from previous kitchen people being forced to clean up after Coffee Club.) I was only to wipe the counter under the maker and set the box of fancy creamers on the shelf when unloading groceries.
    But the coffee kiosk had already taken hold in our area, meaning that workers were buying coffee on their way to work, and Coffee Club participation was going in fits and spurts. The pot went moldy a few too many times, and Second-in-Command literally pulled the plug. No more free coffee if you can’t be bothered to wash the pot.
    In a weird parallel, I was writing a story set in a British office, and needed something to drum up drama. I did some research (read:Google) and ended up falling down a rabbit hole about the dreaded Tea Round. Problem solved, drama acquired, lol.

  161. Whatajoke*

    One job required us all to come back to the office “post Covid” but refused to provide coffee/milk/sugar “due to Covid.” Yeah, not sure saving money counts as a Covid precaution, I left soon after.

    1. NeedRain47*

      If you were still required to wear masks, it makes sense not to supply you with things that you’d have to take them off to consume. (all of the times when my employer would supply food/drinks were cancelled or changed to “take it with you and eat it someplace else” for quite some time.)

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I strongly disagree. In a standard 8 hour workday, people are going to need something to drink at their desks. If they were worried about COVID, they shouldn’t have forced people to come back to the office. I’m not going to dehydrate myself just because I’m working in the office and I’m not going to take the elevator down to the first floor (I work on 18) and go stand out on the street (there are no benches and it’s Manhattan so no I can’t sit in a car) to take a sip of coffee or water.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Whatajoke didn’t say what the set up was – I brew my coffee and take it back to my office, no mask required.

  162. Caffeinated in California*

    One startup I worked at had an office coffee pool. They bought bog standard, medium grind, cheap coffee. My supervisor did not like it. Neither did I. We had our own coffee machine in our area, that my boss brought in, and we bought good french roast.

  163. Arabica only*

    Not an “office” coffee war per se, but I worked at an org that supported small coffee farmers. Our World Coffee Head Honcho would sometimes travel with us to different locations to talk to the farmers. He would bring in his suitcase his own mini coffee grinder, mini French press and beans because he could not fathom the idea of drinking random hotel coffee. No, he would not share his coffee with anyone. He would bring just the exact amount he needed for himself and make it in front of you at breakfast while you were having the (sometimes actually pretty good) hotel coffee. Classy.

  164. Accidentally Stoner Tea*

    I’m a tiny bit of a tea snob and have a few brands I really like, one specifically sold at a hippie organic kind of store where, in our state, you can also buy weed. You can see where this is going. My coworker was cutting back on energy drinks and coffee so I offered him some blueberry hibiscus tea I know has no caffeine. He really liked it, so I told him about the little hippie shop I got it from. The bag has a very specific black and blue pattern and the logo is very hard to miss. As far as hand-blended tea goes, it’s relatively inexpensive. He has a few days off and comes back with a huge bag of tea, telling me how surprised he was at how expensive it is and that he had to show ID to buy it. The bag was black and blue but not the same label. I thought that was weird but thought nothing of it because I was in the middle of handling something with a vendor. He made tea and it smelled a little off but I was busy and didn’t think about it again until I couldn’t find him for an hour. Neither could our coworker. We work in an alt industry so think tattoos at work, a boss who tells us stories about following the Dead and Phish. This would have been a very different issue if we worked in a bank. We find him in the back room eating a very old and stale box of saltines and having a very animated conversation with the mop. My other coworker laughs and guides him back to his desk and I got a look at that tea and yeah, it was pretty much 100% weed with a little dash of shrooms in it. The dude was on a TRIP. That explains why it was so expensive. Boss comes in and goes “yeah, that happens sometimes” and drives him home. The dude sobers up and apologizes and laughs about it, as one does. I have my suspicions but the POUND of shroom weed tea disappeared and our boss has been very chill on weekends and I think I know why.

  165. H.Regalis*

    My old job had a drinks club where you paid in every month (you could pay in cash or check, or have it automatically deducted from your paycheck), and they would buy coffee, tea, soda, and milk, cream, non-dairy creamer, and so on; and we also had an arrangement with a small company that provided basically an honor-system vending machine. If you didn’t want to pay in every month for drinks, there was a basic on top of the fridge (the soda had its own minifridge in the break room) where you could throw $2 for your one-off drink. The coordinator was always a lead worker/manager, and once a month or so they would go to Costco and come back with literally a pallet full of drinks. Honestly, it was pretty great.

  166. Tiny clay insects*

    Not about a club, per se, but still beverage-related ridiculousness:

    I love tea. I am a university lecturer. I am typically drinking tea while lecturing, sometimes from a travel mug, but sometimes with a cute little cup and pot that I carry over to the classroom from my nearby office. I don’t talk about tea in class or anything, to be clear, I just sip it while teaching.

    Anyone who has taught at a university is surely aware of the ludicrousness of student evaluation comments (and they are often especially bad if you’re, say, a woman teaching in a STEM field, as I am). I’ve gotten my share of ignorant comments over the years, but the strangest was one that simply said, in a large, angry scrawl:


    1. JessB*

      Wow, that is a shocking comment! What could it even mean, who could have a problem with how much tea you drink in a lecture??? That’s so bizarre.

  167. PotteryYarn*

    Our company provides free coffee, tea, soda, sparkling water, and bottled water to all employees. We have two locations relatively near to each other—Site 1 and Site 2. I work at the Site 1 but sometimes visit Site 2 for meetings. I became aware that they have a much better selection of beverages at the Site 2, so I have been known to grab 3-4 of my favorites and put them in my bag to take back with me to Site 1 and sometimes grab something for other colleagues too upon request. I don’t think anyone really cares, but I enjoy the thrill of sneaking “contraband” back to the office with me.

    1. IT Manager*

      I discovered that our European offices have beautiful branded bound notebooks in their supply closets (while we have plain paper pads) so my carry on bag home was nothing but notebooks. Just a little inter-office transfer!

      They also had fresh fruit and a weekly masseuse but alas, those do not fit in a carry on!

  168. Chaotic Cynic*

    Not a coffee war perhaps but here’s mine:
    My job provides K-cups and single servings of sugar and half/half. There’s also a posted list by the coffee maker with a list of wishes from people (flavored coffee, sugar substitutes, etc.) Almost always there’s a requests for just plain milk, and it was always by one person. (Small office staff and this was the only vocal person who voiced his issue about no milk, so we all knew who it was).

    A few months back I had returned from maternity leave and had to pump breast milk at least twice a day. (You know exactly where this is going).

    One day I’m sitting at my desk and the office manager approaches me and says “I just wanted to let you know, before I tell HR, that I witnessed Bob open your breast milk bag in the fridge and pour some into his coffee”.

    I can laugh about it now but like WTF Bob?

    1. Bess*

      As someone who struggled to BF, I would be outraged at this waste of very hard-earned baby food. Every single oz. I was able to pump was very hard won and meant giving up essentially all breaks, all leisure time, pumping while driving, etc. I would have had a meltdown with HR.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Same. My heart just dropped about the loss of that “liquid gold.” I kept mine in a small cooler at my desk because I didn’t want to forget it or have anyone mess with it.

    2. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      I’m not one for absolute rules (as a general rule), but I feel comfortable banning all consumption of any and all fluids produced in one’s coworkers’ bodies.

  169. potted cactus*

    I used to work at a senior center, and free coffee was provided daily. We only provided decaf coffee, but never told the seniors that. they all assumed it was regular coffee.

    There was also a donation box next to the free coffee maker, and donations were requested. Initially, it was locked to the counter. Somehow, it disappeared. Then, it was bolted to the counter. Still disappeared. Eventually, the donation box was attached to an iron stand. Yup, someone got it off the stand.

  170. TPD Specialist*

    Oh, how I wish I had taken a picture of the ice machine petition! The real estate company for our complex provides machines that generate filtered water and ice (which I’m sure our company is charged for). Since the pandemic, a large majority of the 2nd floor people WFH, and two small departments have been moved to the 3rd floor. The 3rd floor newbies asked that the 2nd floor ice/water machine be moved to the 3rd floor (there’s already one up here). They were apparently told “no” by the real estate company, so they pinned a petition to the bulletin board to have the machine brought to the 3rd floor. One actual person’s name, then an entry that said “EVERYONE ON THE 3RD FLOOR!”

    The machine remains on the 2nd floor, and the petition has been taken down, but that was good for a laugh!

    1. irene adler*

      Here at my small company, we did just that due to all the issues over the coffee pot: who would make coffee, when would it be prepared, who got stuck with drinking the dregs, etc.

      We switched to Keurig.
      Now the complaints are that the coffee is too weak to drink. Most select the 6-ounce option to make a stronger cup. Then they complain that the volume is too small.

      There is no pleasing some people.

    2. spcepickle*

      My office provided coffee but everyone complained about how much work it was – so they got a keurig. Our coffee expenses tripled and there were at least 3 months of meetings about it.

  171. Oats*

    Many years ago I worked as an intern at a notoriously cheap local tech company. There was free coffee for employees but the story I was told is that they used to charge for it, but a star engineer had quit in the middle of a critical project he was leading and had cited the cheapness of not offering free coffee as one of his reasons for leaving.
    So they had free coffee but it was the cheapest coffee they could find, and the VP would scold anyone for dumping out old coffee and making a new pot even if the coffee was hours old, because “it was still drinkable”.
    The coffee truly was bad, and I had heard a tip that a pinch of Keen’s dried mustard powder in a pot of cheap coffee improved the flavour significantly. I told this to the technician I shared my cubicle with once when he was complaining about the coffee. He was a kind of mentor to me and gave me my love for “rocking the boat” at work when needed. So the next day he brought in some mustard powder to try, but he brought it in a little baggy and labelled it “Joe’s unrefined cocaine”, and put it in the cabinet with the coffee. We all agreed it improved the coffee but that baggie disappeared in a couple of days. We always wondered if the VP took it because he didn’t find the joke funny, or if someone else took it not realizing it was a joke, and had an unpleasant surprise.

  172. Beth*

    In my previous job at Very Small Firm (2 people when I started, 5 when I left), I was the one who brought in my own espresso machine — because I couldn’t afford to buy Starbucks every day, and by buying my own machine, I could afford espresso every day. I also brought in my own packed lunch and my own sodas (bought in bulk or on sale).

    I was quite willing to share the machine, but the other coffee drinkers eyed it with suspicion. It was Way Too Complicated. They didn’t want to deal with it. Instead, they all bought Starbucks on the way in. Every day. One of them also bought lunch at Starbuck’s at the same time as they got their coffee; others bought lunch at Whole Foods or other places. Every day.

    When I left, my espresso machine left with me, and I’m sure it was not missed. But the best part of the joke is this:

    You know that old chestnut about daily lattes as an example of weak financial skills/short-term costs adding up/the importance of holistic budgeting/etc.?

    This was a financial management firm.

  173. BellyButton*

    “That proposal has gone through the improvements committee (yes, that’s a thing), the sales people, the union, the CEO and back to the improvements committee. It is still under consideration after 18 months.”

    This gold, Jerry! Gold I tell you!

  174. CoffeeSnob*

    I consider myself very fortunate to have always had a desk or office where I could set up my own kettle and brew whole-leaf tea or pour-over coffee (because I’m a snob) at my leisure. The thought of being stuck drinking communal coffee, or, worse, having to maintain a communal coffee pot, makes me want to give up caffeine.

  175. Alliesaurus*

    Years ago, I worked in the creative department of a medium-sized organization. We were in a weird old building with a strange layout, where it was really roundabout/out of the way for anyone in my area of the offices to walk to the kitchen for (not terrible but certainly not excellent) coffee. Our graphic designer’s office had a little alcove in the back of it that she decided to turn into a coffee area with her personal espresso machine. Someone else decided to bring a Keurig. Someone else donated a mini fridge. Someone else donated milk and syrups. A donation cash jar was set up.

    Soon word spread. Coworkers from other departments started popping in for the excellent coffee that was less of a maze to get to than the office kitchen. People were making multiple cups of coffee a day and socializing in the designer’s office. Productivity started going downhill because, you know, people were socializing/making coffee instead of working. Particularly the designer because her office had now become a second break room, but she was too nice to ever say anything to anyone.

    My boss ended up shutting down the whole communal coffee thing, although the designer still decided to keep it available for our immediate team’s use. But we were not allowed to hang around in her office more than it took to just make a cup of coffee. (She also let a few specific coworkers from other departments use it, but it was all much more “hush hush” after that. Which turned into the amusing setup of people poking their heads in and asking about coffee in a tone/manner that I imagine was akin to one obtaining access to a speakeasy during Prohibition.)

  176. AMY*

    My office just went through some coffee drama.

    New General Manager started and wanted to gift the office with a coffee maker. She asked if we wanted a Keurig or traditional coffee pot. Of course, the office was split about 50/50 on that. And it was intense! Think telling people to get with the times, insulting whole generations, insulting peoples taste, environmental studies of using the pods etc.

    GM decided on the Keurig. She bought it and supplied the coffee pods.

    Then a group of disgruntled workers chipped in for a traditional coffee pot and wanted their coffee provided as well.

    Then there were the tea drinkers, split between those that were fine with using tea pods in the Keurig and those that liked to use the good old kettle. Tea bags had never been supplied before but since the coffee and tea pods were supplied they also asked for teabags!

    The only thing everyone agreed on was asking for the office to supply the milk, cream and sugar. And honey, for that one person.

    Recently found out all this was not an approved petty cash expense and the GM was paying for it all out of pocket!

    1. AMY*

      Just to add: GM has resigned. Not sure if related to any of the coffee drama/expenses. I doubt it, and I hope not. She was awesome in every way.

  177. Semi-retired admin*

    When I first started a long term job (think 20-some years ago), the “policy” was that everyone would take turns providing and making the coffee. Since I’m a coffee drinker, I inevitably fell into the habit of making it every morning. People stopped contributing, so I was supplying most of the coffee too (lowest paid person in the building). One morning I came in to a crisis that needed my immediate attention. No fewer than 5 people (all male FWIW) were standing around the coffee maker with their empty mugs in hand waiting for me to make the coffee. I decided that I needed to make it clear that one does not need ovaries to make coffee. I announced that I would no longer use the office coffee, I would be bringing mine from home from there on out. When Keurigs came out, they solved every coffee issue. The company purchased one for the break room and everyone could bring their own pods.

  178. Shira VonDoom*

    I was partially responsible for an old job getting a second coffee maker, so we had 2 total, LOL

    I got in the office at 9am. someone in billing came in at 8am. no problem, except that she would make the weakest coffee you’ve ever seen. it was pale as heck. but I try not to be a jerk, so I’d just wait till that pot was empty (actually empty, I wouldn’t dump it out unless there was maybe a teeny bit on the bottom, way less than a cup), and then I’d make it how I like it (can stand a fork in it, LOL).

    turns out, I was not the only person in the office who likes strong coffee, and after a while, folks would come up and ask if I’d made coffee yet, and base getting a cup on that. again…*I* made zero fuss about this. I just waited, and then made coffee how I find it drinkable.

    anyway, apparently SOMEONE got huffy enough behind the scenes that a different strength of the SAME coffee was being made (probably the morning person, even though I said literally nothing to her about it, it was that kind of office), that the boss bought a second machine

    I have no regrets, tbh, LOL

  179. Catabouda*

    At former work they made a huge vat of coffee every day in one of those stand up contraptions like you’d use to have coffee for people at an event. It was mostly empty by the end of the day. There were two guys who both drank tons of it.

    It was a person’s job to clean / prep it for the next morning. When she was going to clean it she announced over the loudspeaker that she was dumping the coffee out for the day. Those two guys would come running and grab every last drop they could.

    As a raised by an Irish mom tea drinker, I could never understand how 9 hour old coffee would still be that appealing to them.

  180. Anonymous drone*

    Just last week, Coworker A said she might decide to bring in her own coffeemaker, purely so that she could deny Coworker B the use of it. I think she was joking, but I wouldn’t put it past her.

  181. Bagworm*

    Not a coffee war but an interesting conversation.

    My work recently posted a couple of survey questions on Teams to get feedback on what kind of hot beverages we would like stocked in our breakroom. During the conversation on that chat, someone referenced one of my co-workers “Bob”. Another co-worker quickly corrected them that “Bob” now goes by “Gina”. This led to an apology, then forgiveness, then a conversation about how to handle mistakes with names and pronouns. I work in an organization with more transgender folks than average (I believe) so it was an interesting diversion.

  182. JustMe*

    The scene: my department is combined with a few other departments in a new office. This means that we all move into one big new office.

    My department had a Keurig. This made sense for us because not many staff members drank coffee (so it didn’t make sense to have a full pot every day) and also because we could offer coffee to guests for meetings. When we moved into our new office, my colleague asked the new office manager where would be the best place for us to put our Keurig, since we were happy to share with the rest of the office. He informed us bluntly that it would not be publicly displayed. Period. She was surprised and asked why. He said that due to the environmental impact of the K-cups, it would send the wrong message to have the Keurig in a centrally located position where people could see it.

    My colleague and I just shrugged it off–we thought we would just put it in my office and that would be that. But my boss decided to make it her cause celebre because, “He isn’t your boss and he doesn’t own the Keurig, he can’t tell us where to put it!” I’ll also add that she doesn’t drink coffee–it was just the principle of the thing. This turned into a long, heated email exchange with the office manager, which ended in a stalemate. However, a manager from another department has been regularly visiting my office to let me know how much he *really wants* a Nescafe but is afraid to get one due to the reaction it may elicit from the office manager.

    Right now, the Keurig sits in a box under my desk, and we secretly bring it out for certain events when we know the office manager will not be there. Office manager, for his part, bought a used coffee maker from a diner that was going out of business and for a few weeks would VERY POINTEDLY let everyone know when the coffee was on.

    1. JustMe*

      sorry, my department combines with a few others to make one new division. Like, the department of Llama training and the department of Orca training are combined in the newly formed Division of Animal Husbandry in a larger organization.

  183. The OG Sleepless*

    The only things I’ve really witnessed was the previous office manager, a dotty older lady about whom I have many stories. She organized a “coffee kitty” system that was sort of loosely adhered to. I didn’t drink coffee so I wasn’t really involved, I would just see occasional emails about how not everybody was contributing to the coffee kitty. Occasionally she would walk around the office (about 25 people split between 2 shifts, so a small group) and confront them about the coffee kitty. Every single time I would remind her that I didn’t drink coffee and I had nothing to do with it. Rinse and repeat every few weeks for a few years.

  184. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

    The boss at Terrible Oldjob (same one who kept “forgetting” to come back to the office in time to do payroll on Fridays) did not formally write me up for making a pot of coffee she personally did not like but strongly hinted that she would consider doing so if I did it again. Something something waste of office supplies something something. I started getting my coffee from the Jack in the Box on the same parking lot and letting her make her own.

  185. Twisted Lion*

    I caused a minor riot at the non-profit I worked at when my boss told me to order plain half & half vs flavored creamers for our office supplied coffee. People complained about me, said I was heartless and demanded to know why I didn’t know how to order proper creamer.

    I pointed them to my boss who after a half a day of crabby emails told me to go ahead and buy the vanilla only until the end of time.

    1. Caffeinated in California*

      LOL. My reply to the whiners would have been “Buy your own. I drink my coffee black.”

  186. Tau*

    Overall I haven’t had much in the way of coffee war stories. The closest I’ve come is probably this, which avoided becoming a war because nobody really fought back very strongly:

    So at my last job we had a very, very fancy coffee machine that looked like it had come straight from a coffee shop. It had the milk frother attachment that meant that if you knew how to use it, you could make cappucino. This was very popular!

    One of my coworkers was from Italy. His reaction to people making themselves cappucino in the afternoon was horror. Cappucino, he told us with great emphasis, was a morning drink. Drinking it after 11am was not done. Were we all barbarians (this part was not said out loud but strongly implied).

    People continued to drink cappucino in the afternoon. He continued disapproving. If you went to make yourself a cup you needed to attempt to hide it from him, otherwise you would be subjected to Looks of Censure or (if unlucky) told how you were doing it wrong and did not understand correct coffee behaviour.

    He was otherwise a great employee and took a team lead position. His subordinates rapidly stopped drinking cappucino after 11am.

    The funniest thing, though, was when we had a visitor who was also from Italy. At this point (especially because we’d had another Italian coworker who’d been very quiet about cappucino schedules) I’d decided that this was just that guy’s pet peeve. And yet, I happened to be walking behind them when they were chatting about life in Germany and managed to overhear this…

    Cappucino Restriction Proponent: …and have you seen how they drink cappucino?!
    Visitor: I know! They drink it in the afternoon! It’s just wrong!

    I think my coworker had never felt so understood in all his time working in the company.

  187. NoCoffeeForMe*

    I worked at a small company (40-ish people) run by a husband and wife team. There were two standard drip coffee makers in the break room. At least once a week, one of them got left on and any remaining coffee dried up in the bottom of the pot. This ALWAYS generated either a scathing email or an “all-hands” meeting about how this was a pain to clean up, how we were going to burn the place down, how it wasn’t that hard to turn off the coffeemakers; the scolding was always the same, and it went on and on. (I don’t even drink coffee, but that did not spare me from the emails or the meetings.) In the last “coffee scolding” meeting I went to, I made three suggestions: 1-Put the coffeemakers on a timer that would turn them off at the end of the day. 2-Buy coffeemakers that brew into a carafe so there’s no hot plate to be left on. 3-Buy a Keurig so there’s no hot plate to be left on. I even had a spare one that I offered to bring and donate to the cause. All three suggestions were WRONG ideas for one reason on another. That’s when I realized the owner really didn’t want to solve the problem, and I quit going to the scoldings. Good grief.

  188. MansplainerHater*

    My 200+ person office had a machine with pods, an industrial pot setup with decaf and regular, and a Starbucks in the basement cafeteria. A guy who worked in my row lived a half-mile from the office and came in every day a half-hour late because he went to a Starbucks several miles in the opposite direction of work. Grr.

  189. GelieFish*

    In college, I got a job in admissions. One of the first things I was told is don’t wash the coffee pot. I guess the director said it ruined the taste.

  190. stargazer*

    Our office has been only occasionally occupied since March 2020. Somewhere along the way, we lost or gave up our external cleaning service. The trash has to be taken to a locked room only accessible from the outside of the building. We are on the top floor. Even IF an employee happens to be in the office, and even IF they are sufficiently motivated to take the communal trash out themselves….. the key to the trash room has been missing for months.

    There are tea leaves in the trash that are sentient now.

  191. Bookworm*