Beverage Centers Are Heating Up in the Home

Our interest in the making and drinking of coffee has exploded in recent history, so it's only natural that the hot beverage center is a growing design trend in our homes. Since Starbucks went public in 1991, it has grown to over 9,000 locations worldwide.

Tea is perhaps the most widely consumed prepared beverage in the world, with the exception of the U.S., and chai tea lattes and imaginative blends of spices are changing the culture of tea.

Designers need to recognize the opportunity that this love affair with hot beverages provides to us.

Surveying the Client

Many of our clients want the experience of a coffee house and the convenience of making the hot beverage of their choice at home. Add to that the ability to create custom drinks for guests, or to experiment with recipes and techniques in their quest for the perfect cup of coffee or tea, and you have the reason for this trend toward the hot beverage center. In order to plan appropriately, we first need to survey our clients regarding their needs and preferences.

A few of the appropriate questions to ask include:

  • Who will use the hot beverage center? How tall is each user? Are those people right handed or left handed?
  • What is the preferred location?
  • How often would the beverage center be used?
  • Which beverages will be made: coffee, espresso, steamed milk, tea, hot chocolate, other?
  • What equipment will be used and stored here: drip coffee maker, French press, electric or stove-top espresso machine, built-in hot beverage appliance, coffee grinder, ground coffee, electric or stove-top tea kettle, loose tea, tea filters, tea bags, thermos, cups, spoons, flavor syrup, honey, spices, sugar and non-sugar sweetener?
  • What water source will be used: main sink, direct line into beverage brewer, instant hot water?
  • What source for milk, chilling and ice will be used: main refrigerator, point of use, drawers, undercounter beverage center?
  • Will this hot beverage center be combined with cold beverage storage service?
  • Additional storage needs: biscuits and cookies, linens, tea/coffee service?

As with any inventory of client information, you will be guided by the conversation and expand or abbreviate the questions as needed. It sometimes helps to examine current storage of the items being discussed, and frequently favorable items should be measured to be sure that the storage planned is sufficient to house them.

Choosing a System

Once you have determined that a built-in coffee appliance is appropriate, the next step is to select one that best meets your client's needs, budget and space. After the barrage of coffee appliances at K/BIS, our office found that there is a huge variety in the product offered, from Kuppersbusch, Dacor and Miele coffee systems to built-in coffee makers from Everbrew and Brewmatic, and Brew Express.

While each model has its own unique features and benefits, we have found that most coffee systems differ from a coffeemaker in that the user can customize the beverage of choice. Coffee systems generally have an integrated coffee bean grinder or individual coffee capsules, as well as the ability to steam or froth milk and dispense hot water. Most also offer a self-clean feature and the technology to assist in customizing the brew.

Keep in mind that coffee systems typically brew one to two cups at a time, and coffee is typically ground fresh for each cup. If your client plans to serve a crowd of guests together at the same time, the coffee system may need to be supplemented by a standard drip coffeemaker.

There are differences between coffee systems. Some store a variety of coffee blends in capsules, while others have a large container for one pound of coffee. For tea or hot chocolate, water may be instantly hot or the system may require time to heat the water for use. As for water supply, some have the option of a direct connection to the home's plumbing, while others have the option of a five-liter reservoir that is filled manually.

If your client likes the convenience of a coffee system but doesn't have the taste or need for the bells and whistles of specialty coffee brews, many built-in coffeemakers have a direct water line. Everbrew and Brewmatic can be installed below a wall cabinet to free-up counter space, and Brew Express offers a countertop model that recesses into the wall between studs.

As for tea services, an appliance to boil the water and a separate pot to keep it warm while the tea steeps are the main components. While the hot beverage center provides the hot water, true tea drinkers maintain the culture and ceremony. Again, your client's needs and preferences will guide you.

Putting It All Together

A designer can create a hot beverage center anywhere in the home with a small appliance or built-in system. One current client is interested in a coffee system, but she is having trouble deciding where it should go; it could be located just off the kitchen proper, near the breakfast nook and family room, or in a butler's pantry leading to the dining room. It also makes sense at the bar in the family room, which is large enough to easily house the coffee system plus a full-size refrigerator.

Opportunities for a coffee center can also be found in the master suite or an exercise area. A benefit of a coffee system with a reservoir tank is that it can be installed anywhere, without the need to tie into the existing water supply.

In some spaces, the hot beverage storage and preparation area can be combined with cold drinks to create a complete beverage center. Janice Pattee of Janice Pattee Design in Indianapolis created the tall stacked beverage center shown above at left, incorporating an under-counter refrigerator with a coffee system in the center, and storage for mugs, coffee and tea, and sugar above. Vertical bottle storage for wine or water was placed to the side. Like any auxiliary appliance, this beverage center is placed just out of the primary kitchen work area so family members and guests can help themselves to a beverage without interrupting the cook.

One advantage of a total beverage center is the convenience of cold storage for milk and cream for the coffee or tea, or the possibility of an iced drink if an ice maker is included.

Whatever the complexity of a beverage center, there is no question that the coffee system appliance trend is sure to stimulate our design efforts and please our universal craving for that perfect cup of coffee.