Designing for Coffee Lovers

by Ashley Lapin Olian

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity,” humorist Dave Barry once declared to his millions of fans. Those words may resonate with you as an aficionado, but they definitely should resonate as a kitchen and bath professional. It’s this industry’s job to provide alternatives to crowded cafes for making and enjoying coffee in client homes. And an aromatic, potentially very profitable job it can be!


According to the National Coffee Association, the percentage of Americans drinking coffee on a daily basis is 62%, up five percent from 2016. While all age groups increased, “younger consumers appear to be leading the charge,” NCA’s president shared in an industry report. Caffeinated, discerning millennials are buying homes at this point, and they’re apparently also buying gallons of specialty beverages – i.e., the type a pod machine isn’t likely to brew, he further commented.

For the first time, in fact, more than half of all coffee consumed daily is gourmet. While these younger buyers are currently more likely to drink coffee at a cafe than at home, the association says, a mortgage combined with a strategic pitch can certainly inspire a coffee bar add-on to a kitchen or master suite project. Currently, NCA reports, the 65-plus set is most likely to indulge exclusively in the house. They represent a buying opportunity, too.


Debbie Schaeffer, third-generation owner of Lawrence, NJ-based Mrs. G TV & Appliances, recalls, “Miele introduced the world’s first fully automatic built-in coffee maker in 1998.” Many competitors have introduced their own models since then, she adds, since they all want to provide a full line of products. “The built-in coffee maker is considered a luxury appliance, and is very popular for those shopping in that space.” Cappuccinos and lattes are important features to buyers, she says, noting, “Brands have differentiated themselves by the way the milk is dispensed. Once demonstrated, the consumer can choose the product that best suits their needs.”

One of the challenges for buyers historically has been maintaining these machines (or explaining how to do so to a housekeeper), but there’s good news on that front, Schaeffer explains: “The new generations of coffee makers have become much easier to use and easier to maintain. In the past, cleaning the units required reading a list of directions. Now it’s a push of a button.” It is still important to explain to buyers that maintenance is required to keep these sophisticated machines in peak condition.

Despite their popularity, prices haven’t really dropped, the retailer shares. However, there are alternatives. One is a built-in machine with fewer bells and whistles. Another is a quality countertop model. One you might consider for less custom projects is a coffee maker built into another appliance altogether. “We are loving the Keurig Refrigerator from GE. It not only makes coffee, but provides consumers with hot water to make tea, soups and oatmeal. It is also smart. At Mrs. G, we demonstrate the compatibility with Google Home by stating a request, ‘Okay Google, ask Geneva Home to make hot water.’ Within four minutes, the hot water at the GE Café Black Slate refrigerator is ready for the Keurig cup. Now that is cool!”

You don’t need to buy a fridge to get high-tech features for coffee making. “Smart appliances are being introduced by many manufacturers for all appliances, including coffee makers,” Schaeffer notes. “Bosch’s Home Connect app lets you order coffee from anywhere in your home, craft the perfect cup and provide everything you need to be a coffee brew master, all by using your smartphone or tablet,” she declares. At pre-KBIS press time, Bosch was the only smart brewer in her showroom. She was looking forward to seeing what new appliances were being offered at the show.

What about plumbed vs. non-plumbed? “The obvious pro of plumbed is that you never have to fill the coffee maker with water. Finding yourself with a desperate need of coffee and the coffee maker is empty can make anyone cranky in the morning,” Schaeffer muses. The convenience for the caffeine junky is obvious. “[The] con of a plumbed coffee maker is that it requires a water line. This can be an added expense to the install, or the location doesn’t have the ability for a water line to be installed.” The client’s water source may also be less than desirable. “If you would not drink your water from the sink, then don’t fill the coffee with it. Depending on where you live, a water filter may be required. Hard water makes a better cup of coffee, however proper maintenance and descaling are necessary.” These are all factors to consider when specifying these appliances.

A coffee bar at home with a built-in coffee maker is also likely to generate demand for another appliance or two, Schaeffer points out. “It usually includes a beverage center to keep milk and cream cold. A warming drawer for cups is also popular.”


Luxury kitchens often include a coffee bar, the appliance retailer says. But these aren’t the only spaces where they live in a luxury home. “Dedicated coffee-making areas are very popular with our high-end clients,” relates Old Greenwich, CT-based Chuck Wheelock of Wheelock Design. “Sometimes these cafes are located between bedroom suites. We also installed one in an outside kitchen,” he recalls. Most often, they’re designed as “a kind of cafe out of the main cooking area.”

“Our clients typically request a special area in their home for a beverage center, which includes their preferred coffee maker,” says Jennifer Fordham Blanco with Poggenpohl. “The coffee setups are mainly located in the kitchen,” she adds, but “some clients also like these to be in entertainment areas or near a master bedroom in a hospitality bar.”

Coffee setups are popular with Austin, TX-based Luis Jauregui’s Jauregui Architecture Interiors Construction clients, too. “We install built-in coffee machines in about 50% of our homes. They are pricey, but people love them.” In the projects the Texan architect designs, the coffee makers “usually go in dirty [prep] kitchens, or hidden nooks by the pantry where other appliances go.” He’ll also put them in butler’s pantries on occasion.


“Poggenpohl clients mostly request built-in coffee makers from Miele, Sub-Zero/Wolf and Gaggenau,” Blanco notes. “When we plan a area for coffee systems, we customize the drawers to store utensils, coffee, tea, etc. for easy access.”

That special area could be a self-contained modular cabinet introduced by the German brand in 2017 called +Stage. “This allows the client to have their appliances in one area that can be open for use, then closed for a clean look,” Blanco continues. Configured for a coffee bar, its placement will be determined by the client’s wants, needs and plans. “Some planning considerations are plumbing so that the coffee unit has fresh water at all times, possibly refrigerator drawers nearby for milk, cream, storage for coffee mugs and utensils used when making beverages, and storage for the coffee.”

Wheelock’s coffee bars are also very well-equipped: “We have specified a few Scanomat TopBrewer [dispensing] units and other high-end coffee makers like Moccamaster and Ratio Eight [both countertop models], and occasionally commercial machines. A small under-counter refrigerator is always nearby.” An installed compact sink and waste bin in the area make cleanup easier, he notes.

Jauregui includes a secondary sink near his coffee makers, too, he says, “in lieu of the typical veggie sink.”

To keep the coffee area tidy and organized, “Pocket doors and pullouts are functional and neat-looking,” Wheelock comments.


Overall demand for coffee setups in clients’ homes is increasing with new options, Wheelock observes. “We foresee more coffee making in the future, as more people learn how much better it can be than Dunkin’ Donuts and pod-made beverages.” ▪

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work and the New Bathroom Idea Book (Taunton Press), and a design journalist, NKBA Chapter presenter and industry consultant. Her website is She was recently named one of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ 50 top innovators.

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