If you joined me for a day in my life, the first thing we’d do together is have a cup of coffee. My love of coffee goes beyond the needed jolt of caffeine to get the day rolling. The act of grounding the beans, taking in the aroma, and brewing a cup is a hallowed ritual and a well-practiced art. A good home coffee bar design will make all the difference in your morning routine, but more on that later. After brewing a large pot of drip coffee at home, I’ll make my way to my Austin interior design studio and put on the moka pot. If I have client site visits on the agenda, I’ll research a new coffee shop to try en route. I’ve even gone as far as studying the subject and roasting my own beans!
The Christmas after my first child was born brought many changes to our family life. My husband and I were living in New York City, and I decided to quit my job to take some time with our newborn son and start my own interior design business. I was nervous, as the city is not an inexpensive place to live, and we began to cut back on our spending. We were feeling strapped for gifts, so we decided to roast our own coffee beans in our tiny Manhattan apartment. We ordered burlap bags of green coffee beans and began roasting in our hand-crank popcorn popper, leaving the windows open to let out the steam. Even though it was 25 degrees and snowing, our little apartment began to feel like a cozy corner coffee shop. We made stickers of our son Albert’s face and dubbed our creation “Bertie’s Beans.” We were so proud! And, I must say they brewed a pretty good cup of coffee.
Learning About Coffee: The First Cup
I didn’t jump into this roasting project completely blind. While doing my undergraduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin, my sister signed me up for a community class on coffee as a gift. I had just started drinking coffee a few years prior. She knew how much I loved it and how eager I was to learn more ways to brew my morning cup of joe. The class was taught in the evenings by a local business owner who imported, roasted, and sold beans and was utterly immersed in all things coffee. We learned how to roast beans and brew the perfect cup, as well as how coffee was grown and some of the complex history of its long-standing role in society and culture. I was fascinated! You have to remember, this was in the very early ‘90s before Starbucks and the coffee culture craze had made its way from the West Coast. A few coffee houses were sprinkled around Austin, but nothing like what it is now. It all felt very cutting-edge!
One of my favorite tidbits I picked up is that espresso actually has less caffeine than regular drip coffee. Caffeine is water-soluble, so the drip process hits the beans slowly and pulls out more caffeine in the brew. When making espresso, water shoots through the beans faster, forcing out more flavors and oils but leaving the slower-dissolving caffeine behind. Unknowing espresso drinkers get riled up about this. They don’t want to be told their expensive latte has less caffeine than a regular gas station drip!
My course led me further into the history of coffee, and I ended up writing an essay for another class on how much coffee houses actually contributed to the French Revolution!
A Caffeinated History: Coffee-fueled Mornings (and Revolutions)
Coffee starts our mornings before work, but it also fueled the mornings of historic revolutionaries. Under many monarchs, coffee was regulated or criminalized, like alcohol or drugs. Many leaders actually discouraged coffee drinking and proposed booze as a healthier alternative. Frederick the Great of Germany banned coffee, saying, “It is despicable to see how extensive the consumption of coffee is…if this is limited a bit, people will have to get used to beer again…This is much healthier than coffee.” Why the backlash from the ruling class? The answer was simple. Folks become complacent when they drink alcohol and indignant when they drink coffee. Leaders noticed that bar patrons would sing and feel jolly, whereas their coffee house counterparts would remain sober and engage in political conversations.
Parisian cafes played an important role in the French Revolution in several ways. Not only did they provide the stimulant to keep political debates going long into the night, but cafes were a spot where different classes would mix. For the first time, lower-class citizens got to see how the other half lived. Pair that with caffeine-charged anger, and dissent was born! Coffee houses also served as a spot to meet and coordinate revolutionary initiatives. For example, Café de Foy hosted the call to arms for the storming of the Bastille. Cafes would go on to house many meetings of the minds, from the Lost Generation of writers in France to me and my classmates writing our college papers on them.
The Sanctity of a Good Home Coffee Bar Design
When you can’t make it to the coffee shop, you can take refuge in the sanctity of a good home coffee bar design. After all, what is more delightful to a coffee drinker than having an entire corner of their kitchen devoted to the ritual, addiction, and elegant experience that is coffee making and drinking? When I say coffee, I’m including any stimulant ritual in the kitchen — tea, espresso, mushroom coffee, turmeric lattes, etc.
I design coffee bars with the history and client’s personal ritual in mind. They can be elaborate or simple but always sacred. Here are a few of my considerations.
- Where do you want to make your coffee? Does it make sense to include it in the kitchen, tuck it away in the butler’s pantry, or place it as close to the bedside as possible?
- What is your stimulant ritual? Are you brewing a pot of joe or crafting your signature latte?
- Your ritual will determine the equipment and space you need, as well as any built-in appliances like an espresso machine.
- Keep everything you need at arm’s length. There’s no need to be running around in the morning, especially before coffee.
- Display your ritual proudly. Use this space to add personal style and showcase collections of mugs or tools.
- Make it double as a wet or wine bar. Because who said we can’t have a nighttime ritual as well?
Now, when are we meeting for a cup of coffee?
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.