The Barista Effect

A warm delicious alternative to hating everybody every morning forever.

I’m sitting here with a warm cup of coffee, the steam wafting from the top with it’s smooth, rich scent. What makes this one better than 583 other cups of coffee the average person is going to drink this year? Well it’s not the beans (though they are important). It didn’t come from the latest hipster coffee shop made by a guy in a striped t-shirt with more beard than brain. It’s certainly not “extra hot, extra wet”. It’s because I made it myself.

There’s a cognative bias called the Ikea effect which states that consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. This holds true for coffee too, but only if you really feel like you created it. At a previous job we had great coffee beans sourced from a local producer who roasted them by hand in a small roastery. Unfortunately the beans went straight into an automatic machine where the employee simply had to press Americano and out came a coffee. There was no joy in the process. Getting a coffee at work shouldn’t feel like a chore. I remember putting my mug under the big machine (a bit of a metaphor for startups turning into corporations) and standing there waiting 2 minutes for the coffee to be brewed. There was no joy in the process. I mean the coffee itself tasted good but it might as well have been Maxwell House.

In my current office, we have an espresso machine (actually cheaper than the automated machine at the previous company). You have to grind your own beans into a portafilter, tamp it and choose how long to run the water through. It requires very minimal training but the process feels creative. I have choices. My colleagues each have their own coffee making ritual, some make latte art, others simple espresso. It feels personal and like you are part of something bigger. All of this adds up to making employees feel happier.

If you are running a company or in charge of buying the next office coffee machine, make it a manual one. Your employees will thank you for it.