Photography, James Stokes

How to create a home coffee bar

Thoughtfully designed coffee bars are turning our kitchens into café-worthy spaces.

Morning sex or a cup of coffee? Apparently, 53 percent of us would rather the latter. Hotel chain Le Méridien asked that question a number of years ago when doing the groundwork for expanding its in-house barista service. Thankfully, we don’t live in the sad, sad world where we have to choose. That said, our lust for coffee is inspiring many to transform entire corners of their kitchens and create the ultimate café experience at home. It’s a move that elevates the ritualistic role that the brew plays in our everyday lives.

It makes sense. Coffee is, after all, comfort incarnate. We learned that from the hotel survey. But as it’s something that is often shared, our enjoyment of it satisfies our need for connection and structure and also reflects our love of ritual and bonding over food and drink.

And coffee is fascinating, says James Hoffmann, World Barista Champion and YouTube creator who serves coffee-themed tutorials, reviews and deep dives to his 1.9 million subscribers. It’s coffee’s history, and the fact that it is universally enjoyed, that initially piqued the English expert’s curiosity. “I loved the idea that coffee had entwined itself into every culture on earth in a slightly different way,” he says. “The way Italians drink coffee is different to how the French drink coffee or how the Canadians drink coffee. Coffee has a different place in society [in every culture]. It’s kind of bizarre: This is the roasted, smashed-up seeds of a tropical bush, and we’ve just made it a normal part of our lives.”

A man sitting at a counter with a cup of coffee
James Hoffman

Our coffee habits also provide an essential organizing structure to modern life, Alison Fletcher points out. The owner of Canadian kitchenware retail chain Cookery believes the pandemic inspired us to recreate the café experience at home.

“If your home was kind of transactional to you before – it was where you slept, where you ate, where you put your children to bed – I think the pandemic forced us to take a look at that and create more comfort zones, love zones and relief zones.” During the lockdowns, our homes had to become everything, she explains, because there was no neighbourhood bar and there was no morning coffee shop.

Our evolving habits are reflected in the variety of coffee beverages we’re whipping up at home. For that morning cup of joe, you might still want that drip-coffee option, but for your mid-afternoon fix and evening affogato, an espresso machine and frother are required. A well-equipped home café also needs a coffee grinder, a proper pour-over coffee maker and perhaps a classic French press. Plus a chic kettle, pretty mugs, tampers and cream-and-sugar sets. The list goes on.

And when you factor in that expanding menu of high-quality drinks we’re making – from drips to lattes with elaborate foam art – suddenly, the conversation about redesigning your kitchen to include a coffee bar moves off the back burner. Scan the recent-work Insta feeds of many interior designers and you’ll see a range of purpose-built coffee spaces in homes both humble and high-end. There are the simple on-counter stations as well as floor-to-ceiling pantries that have been custom-curated for coffee lovers and credenzas set up as mini cafés to rival the likes of Café de Flore, all with room for workhouse grinders, high-style accessories and more. Many of these spaces, like beautiful bar carts styled for the fabulous and caffeinated, also do double duty, morphing into at-home cocktail and wine bars for the work-from-home crowd.

A home coffee bar with dark green panelling

Almost every one of Ontario-based interior designer Lisa Stevens’ residential client projects includes a coffee bar. After all, she says, “design should really start with what matters most to us. And, for some people, that’s very passionately coffee.”

Stevens’ own home includes coffee stations in the kitchen and her design studio. They are complete with an espresso machine, refrigerator, small sink, accessories and stylish bone china mugs. For anyone considering fashioning a coffee bar at home, the designer advocates for that small fridge – space for the many milk options – and plumbing, or at least a water source as nearby as possible. Pocket doors also come in handy if you need to hide away your morning coffee mess when guests (or clients) stop by unexpectedly.

It’s obvious that thoughtfully curated coffee stations are intimately intertwined in our lives. “Everybody’s different, and everybody’s coffee routines and rituals are different,” says Cookery’s Fletcher. They’re also integral to many of our relationships, she adds. “My partner brings me coffee every day. It’s like I’m getting a little birthday cake every morning. It’s how he shows me love. He’s the coffee bringer. He is the morning hot-joe, love bringer.” Take that, Le Méridien. Here’s to a world where your aromatic morning coffee always comes with a shot of hot, steaming love – no either/or decisions required.

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