Create the Perfect Coffee Station

Tips for the serious home barista
By Ellen Sturm Niz
August 25, 2010

For those who love it, coffee is serious business—a morning ritual, an afternoon pick-me-up, a perfect dessert pairing. Whether you just enjoy a solid cup of joe, consider yourself a bean connoisseur or enjoy the art of perfecting the perfect brew, coffee-making is becoming an event in the kitchen.

“High-end coffee stations are the in-demand request of the moment,” said Mick Ricereto of Interior + Product Design, a frequent SieMatic showroom designer. At the SieMatic showroom in the company’s home city of Bielefeld, Germany, for example, a coffee station is a top attraction among the displays.

The heart of the display in Bielefeld is the Miele 60-cm (24-in.) capsule-style espresso machine with a warming drawer underneath for cups. “The capsule system is easier than beans in a showroom but many customers like it at home, too,” said Ricereto. “The large pullouts underneath have all the items needed to make a great cup of coffee, trays for bringing to table, [storage for] cookies and snacks, plus extra cup and glass storage below. Just adjacent is a waste can and a refrigerator. The countertop itself is extra-deep, with the coffee maker set back a bit. This allows plenty of counter space to prepare everything.” 

“We are going to put more of these coffee-station displays into showrooms [in the United States],” said Ricereto. A similar coffee-station display has already been installed in SieMatic’s Dania Beach, FL, showroom. “The concept is the same but the units are ‘demi-tall’ cabinets instead of a countertop area,” said Ricereto. When the drawers are open, all of the interesting options for holding sugar packets and utensils are revealed. A pull-out counter surface is typically in the top drawer.

Create the Perfect Coffee Station

Want to create the perfect coffee station in your own home or for a client? Check out the advice from our coffee experts, Guy Pasquini and Jocelyn Okubo. Pasquini is president of Pasquini Espresso Co., which offers both home machines for the home coffee connoisseur as well as imported commercial machines to restaurants and businesses. Okubo is a coffee-maker aficionado who has worked with Jura-Capresso Jura-Capresso, DeLonghi and Cuisanart to create instructional DVDs and “demystify the mystique of grinding, tamping and brewing.” 

1. Choose your machine. “The first decision you have to make is whether you want a pod machine or a cup experience,” said Okubo. “With a pod machine, you can pick some flavors and clean-up is all internal, but there are drawbacks because you are limited to how old the beans are, how long ago they were browned—the flavor profiles are what they give you. Plus, you can’t buy the pods just anywhere.” 

“If you choose a cup experience, there are fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual machines,” she explained. A fully automatic machine has a grinder; tamps, brews and disposes of grounds internally; and has an automatic frothing system. In a semi-automatic machine, you grind the beans externally and then the machine does everything else. With a manual machine, you grind separately, pack them into a mesh net, tamp it out, latch it in and brew. Then you release those grounds and dispose of them yourself. 

Once you decide what type of machine you want, and whether you want to make espresso, cappuccino, lattes or regular coffee, you can begin shopping by brand, which is largely an aesthetic decision. “The guts are all similar, just the outside design is different,” said Okubo. “The machines are all so beautiful now, so sleek.” 

2. Plan surrounding cabinetry. “From a design perspective, all coffee machines need to be accessible,” said Okubo. “I recommend setting the machines on a pull-out shelf so you can access the front, top and back and easily get to water tanks for cleaning and to change filters and fill with beans and water. Machines weigh a lot, so you’re not going to want to move them.” 

“Espresso machines in the kitchen often conflict with cabinet height,” said Pasquini. “Even the newer kitchens that do have higher cabinet space find espresso machines to be a bit cumbersome. One needs to design a space that will accommodate a pour-over model or a plumb-in model.” 

Okubo built her home kitchen around her espresso machine and suggested others do just that. “Make sure you have enough flexibility with head space to upgrade later if you want to,” she added. 

3. Determine water access. All coffee machines will need a water source. “Pour-over models should have access to good water, such as an under-counter filtration system supplying a water spout, or bottled water nearby,” said Pasquini. “Plumb-in models must have an under-counter filtration system built in.” Some machines also have filtration systems built in. 

Being near a sink is also ideal. “All the machines that siphon in milk, those pieces with milk have to be removed and soaked every day so they don’t get clogged and have the deposits of milk go sour in the machine,” said Okubo. “Overflow water through the heating mechanism can also flow out into a sink.” While any size or depth sink will work, overflow water can get mucky and dark. “In a white sink you’re constantly scrubbing it out,” she said. “Stainless is better for disposal.” A trashcan should also be conveniently located.

4. Consider electrical needs. A nearby power source is necessary, not just for the coffee machine, but also for any accessories, such as cup warmers or milk coolers. While all are regular voltage, there must be enough outlets and adequate load on the circuit. “Electrical should be considered,” said Pasquini. “No one wants to be re-setting breakers.” 

“Hiding cords is also an important design consideration,” said Okubo. “Have a drop space where cords can fall, drill holes for cords to feed through, or locate the power source inside a cabinet.” 

Venting is not an issue, however. “The machines are hot internally, not externally,” said Okubo. “My TV runs hotter.” 

5. Provide ample counter space. “You will need space for a ‘knock box’ [for used grounds] and a way to clean ground coffee,” said Pasquini. “Non-porous surfaces are better, or coat a porous surface,” said Okubo. “My machine is on a Corian shelf so I can scrub it.” 

You should also have room to set up any coffee-making suppliers, such as a milk pitcher and sugar bowl, and space to fill cups. You may want to include space for vacuum-sealed canisters to store beans. Don’t store beans in the freezer or refrigerator, warned Okubo. “It will make them dry out, and if you put frozen beans in a grinder, the beans will sweat when they come back to room temperature, putting moisture into the grinder, which isn’t good for it.” 

6. Add luxurious touches. To make the coffee station extra special, keep cups stored in a cup warmer, suggested Okubo. “When you make a pressure-brewer coffee, the coffee separates, and if the cup is cold the crema dies right off,” she said. “You want it to stay warm so the crema stays tall and long. It really makes a difference in the richness of the taste and makes the flavor last longer.”

Another luxury Okubo recommended is a milk cooler, such as the Jura Cool Control, which connects directly to the coffee machine’s automatic frothing system to provide the cold milk necessary for lattes and cappuccinos. “Another great luxury is an iSi whipper,” said Okubo. “It makes it easy to add whipped cream to your coffee. You can even mix in Kahlua or other liqueurs with the cream for a special treat.”

[1] Capresso’s new Jura Impressa J6 automatic coffee center has a small footprint and a design that is attractive on all sides, making it a perfect showpiece for a kitchen island. Also new to Jura’s product line are a cup-warming unit and a mini refrigerator for storing and chilling milk, both of which are countertop-size for use right next to the automatic coffee center. 

Jura Capresso coffee maker 

[2] Miele offers whole-bean systems and Nespresso capsule systems, as well as storage drawers and warming drawers for cups and plates.

Miele coffee station 

[3] The Pasquini Moka Chrome grinder features high-temperature carbon steel grinding mills, a fully adjustable coffee doser and a built in tamper.

Pasquini grinder

[4] SieMatic is adding coffee stations featuring Miele espresso machines to many of its showrooms as a result of client demand. The station in the Dania Beach, FL, showroom features warming and storage drawers, while the Bielefeld, Germany, showroom provides ample counter space in addition to storage. 

Siematic coffee station
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