Hello there,

On to assignment three. My assignment was hot beverages and their containers. I did five interviews, and then staked out a coffee shop to see what I could notice. I also had drinks at two separate coffee shops. I did interviews with strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Strangers had shorter interviews because I was nervous about talking to them. It was easier to delve deeper with friends and take up more of their time.

While it's a good idea to have a set of questions before an interview, I didn't do that. I wanted to focus on listening and following up on things. I worked on asking why people experienced what they did. I worked on delving deeper. I did consistently ask what they liked and what they disliked about drinking hot beverages. Each interview lead to insights for the next interview, and by being nimble, I could incorporate this.

For people I knew decently, I recorded the interview, but for strangers I just sat down and asked questions and took notes. I got a few pictures of drinking cups. I didn't want people to feel intimidated, which sometimes equipment can do in other experiences I've had. So maybe I should have taken more pictures than I did. I instead focused on being observant and taking notes.

Also, apologies about the inconsistent spacing between bullet points. As far as I can tell, the way I formatted them is the same, yet in the final post some have spacing between points and others don't. I don't know why. I also very possibly put too much info from the interviews.

Troy has around 6 years of barista experience at Caribou coffee and now works at the corporate office in Caribou Coffee for about 2 years. He lives in my apartment building, and we've only had brief conversations previously.

  • Due to automatic machines at their locations, Caribou employees aren't developing a passion for the art of coffee making. One manager taught Troy this and then customers went out of their way for him to make them coffee
  • The corporate office is having difficulty finding the right kind of disposable cups. They have three needs:inexpensive, good for the environment, and good performance. One of the needs is almost always compromised on.
  • Troy gets free coffee at work and enjoys using his regular mug. However, it usually cools down before he can drink all of it.
  • He has a thermos bottle that keeps heat really well, but isn't great for daily use.
  • He has a travel mug he enjoys using. It is in the style of a paper cup but is made out of ceramic. It's double walled and dishwasher safe. However, Troy doesn't have a dishwasher and finds it hard to clean.
  • The person in charge of sourcing travel mugs works very hard to sell things that can't be found at target or wallmart. The focus is on high quality products.
  • Troy thinks that the stores should have some sort of ceramic mug for in store customers. There would be issues with clean up. However, this would encourage customers to stay longer.
  • The milk pitcher baristas use has labels for the amount of milk needed in each drink, but they come off easily.
  • Tall thermoses with small openings can be difficult to get the drink exactly right. They take more time because they need more stirring.
  • They use real chocolate in their drinks from Ghirardelli's, they use the heat of the things added to melt it.
  • Ideally, the drink mixes from the way it was poured and therefore does not need to be stirred.
  • Separate out the foam from the rest in the pouring process, using a large spatula to block the foam.
  • In the automatic machines, having the right number of beans in the grinder can be an issue. If there are too few, the amount of beans ground will be off. If it's kept full it works well.
  • Timing is really important to keep coffee from being burned, and the super automatic machines make the importance of timing difficult to realize.
  • Troy uses a travel mug every day and is happy with it, he got it from his workplace when he started there. I noticed the mug was machine washable. Troy had difficulty cleaning it because he doesn't have a dishwasher and his hand doesn't fit inside.
  • Seasonal drinks are a great way to get people to get excited about coffee and to sell other items for a fall/winter theme. Seasonal drinks are great for sales and people will indulge more often if they know it's limited. Some seasonal drinks are too expensive to make and still profit and become discontinued, which makes people upset.

Troy needs a way to keep his coffee warm at work because it cools off to quickly in his favorite mug.
Troy needs a way to instill the pride in the art of coffee in new employees because the automatic machines make it harder to know what makes a good cup of coffee.
Caribou needs a way to have to-go cups that match their values of quality and environmentally friendly while being inexpensive because there are not cups currently on the market which do that.

Troy's Mugs
troy's mugs

U of M undergrad student who gets coffee or hot chocolate about twice a day. I've known her for about half a year, we're pretty good friends.

  • Hot chocolate at night, mocha in the morning. She likes the flavor of these the best.
  • She will go Caribou or Starbucks, because these taste the best.
  • She rarely makes hot beverages at home, because its hard to make it taste as good.
  • She usually uses a travel mug, because it keeps the heat in better.
  • She doesn't like cardboard cups because they don't keep in the heat.
  • Travel mugs keep in the heat for up to 3 hours.
  • Target or Walmart mugs aren't as good as the ones she gets in coffee shops.
  • Cleaning travel mugs are a hassle to clean. Many aren't dishwasher safe, and it's hard to get around the nooks and crannies in the cap. Sometimes the rubber seal will make it hard to clean around. Sliding tops are hard to clean. The snap open tops are easier to clean.
  • The cups are also hard to clean because they are tall and skinny.
  • She a perfectionist with cleaning, but she trusts the dishwasher to get things clean. Travel mugs are often not dishwasher safe.
  • She has about 5 travel mugs, and will forget them in the car or her hands will be full and she won't be able to take it. Then the coffee with dry and be harder to clean later. Sometimes the chocolate will dry on the bottom of the mug.
  • Likes simple travel mugs, with a double layer, often metal with a rubber insulating grip. She likes if it has a cute design.
  • She drinks coffee usually during the school year and the winter when she has breaks more often.
  • The quality of drinks at coffeeshops is much better. She enjoys seasonal drinks like a salted mocha, but they are more expensive so she usually has a plain mocha.

Liz needs a way to get her travel mugs clean easily and not forget them in her car because she leaves them in her car where the coffee dries and the travel mugs are usually not dishwasher safe.

Liz Mug
Liz Mug

U of M grad student who makes his own coffee every day, but will also get coffee from Starbucks regularly. We've known each other for quite a few years.

  • Usually has coffee on hand. He likes a french press, but would want an "insulated french press that doesn't look dopey"

  • Has a thermos that keeps stuff warm for about a day and is a bit too small.

  • Reheating is difficult without a microwave and the coffee usually burns if reheated in the pan.

  • Follows rules from the french press. Boil water, course grind the coffee, stir it with something wooden or plastic. It can sit as long as you want, but the strength usually plateaus after a while.

  • Coffee in the grad student lounge is too expensive, so goes to starbucks.

  • The to-go cups are difficult to drink out of, so he takes off the cap to drink it. The caps will also leak.

  • Recently they got travel mugs, but the top isn't very secure. It will fall off and Chelsea (Andrew's wife) will spill coffee on herself. They aren't satisfied with the top designs because they will get crusty from dried coffee and are very hard to clean. You have to take it it apart to clean it.

  • The travel mug is hard to clean because it's hard to fit your hand in the mug. It's slim to fit in car cup holder.

  • Like thin porcelain cups, thicker are clumsier but less durable. The heat doesn't stay, but often the cup is small enough to drink it before it cools.

  • The hot drink usually cools after an hour and a half if being drunk while studying. Andrew considered this just part of the experience.

  • The thermos they have is difficult to drink from. It has a little pour spout, but that is a place for leaks, and you can't drink out of it. He would wish for just a solid lid.

  • The thermos is hard to clean, and he has to soak it. He will rely on the acidity of coffee.

  • The coffee stains the cup as well, which is hard to clean out.

Andrew needs a way to keep his coffee warm when made in the french press because it will cool off in the press, while he is drinking it, and the thermos can be problematic for other reasons.

thermos cap
travel mug
unsatisfactory lid

Student at Cafe Royal. Someone I didn't know.

  • Drinks hot drinks 3 times a week, usually at home. Makes tea with peppermint, sugar, and milk.

  • Enjoys solid containers such as ceramic mugs.

  • Tea will cool off, will need to reheat it several times in the microwave.

  • Usually drinks to relax, and lets the drink sit for a few hours

  • Wife uses travel mugs, but Chris cleans them. Has sponge with handle and soaks in hot water. Only frustration if they say "Dishwasher safe" but then turn out to be ruined by the washing in the dishwasher.

  • Chris only goes to coffee shops if he really wants coffee or a place to study that's not very distracting. Goes once a month or less.

  • Doesn't like paper cups in coffee shops, because they smell differently and affect the taste of the drink. The ceramic cups have a neutral smell. They also physically feel more solid and keep the drink warmer.

  • He prefers to have easy access to stir sticks so he can re-stir the drink after it settles. He also likes to have easy access to water to drink as well.

Conclusion: Chris needs a way to keep his tea warm in a regular ceramic mug because it usually cools off while he is drinking it an needs to be reheated.

Random stranger at a coffee shop
Student and part time pre-school teacher.

  • Usually gets coffee a few times a week and drinks chai tea lattes, which are difficult to make at home.

  • Coffee shops are convenient due to the fact that she is on campus.

  • She prefers ceramic mugs because they feel "more at home". To-go cups are wasteful and spill easily despite the lid. She will often get coffee all over her hands from to-go cups.

  • She never buys travel mugs because she considers them not worth the hassle and expense.

  • Usually her drink cools down too fast in a to-go cup and she needs to reheat it by microwave. It stays hotter in a ceramic cup than in a paper to-go cup, so she doesn't need to reheat it as often.

  • She particularly likes to warm up with hot drinks in the fall and winter.

Conclusion: Keesha needs a way to keep her drink warm while on the go because to-go cups cool off too quickly but travel mugs are less convenient and cost too much.

A food sciences student who drinks several hot drinks a day.

  • Anna most often makes hot drinks at home and goes to a coffee shop a few times a week.

  • At home, she uses plain coffee mugs. They usually cool down too fast and need to be reheated or she will pour in more hot coffee.

  • She doesn't like the foam to-go mugs because the foam will melt in the microwave. The insulation is better, but the cardboard is better for reheating.

  • She doesn't have any issues with spilling.

  • She has a reusable travel mug, but it's not dishwasher safe. The travel mugs that are good at containing heat are rarely dishwasher safe.

  • She cares about the environment and considers coffee to be wasteful, because of the grounds and the filter.

  • She tries to recycle her coffee cups, but often she ends up throwing them away.

  • Her travel mug is too large, and so she avoids using it not to waste coffee. She will also forget to bring it and it's a hassle to clean. She likes the convenience of to-go cups and not having to clean up.

  • She enjoys the experience of hot drinks, the ambiance and social aspects. She collects tea cups which she describes as "dainty, pretty, crafted, one of a kind, and unique." she enjoys using the cup proper to the drink, such as a tiny one for espresso, and so on.

Conclusion: Anna needs a way to have the convenience of a to-go cup with the experience of other kinds of mugs because she doesn't want to clean up or remember a travel mug but still appreciates the aesthetic aspects of coffee drinking.

Cafe Royal Observations:

I went to a coffee shop nearby to observe both the people drinking and the baristas.

  • The biggest thing I noticed was they seemed to not have good solutions for foam. The barista often used a flat spatula to scoop milk foam onto a drink or to scoop foam off. The coffee seemed to produce foam.
  • Many people had paper cups even if they were staying at the coffee shop. Since the coffee shop had plenty of sizes, it seemed like people wanted the opportunity to take their coffee with them if they didn't finish it while they were there. About half the people used ceramic cups. After about an hour new "large" glass mugs were brought for people drinking in store.
  • One man who brought a travel mug fiddled with the lid twice. It seemed like he wanted to check if it was secure. The drink was also very full, and he had to drink a little before he could get the lid on securely.
  • The coffee shop had punch cards which lead to a free drink. They also had a makeshift filing system where customers left their cards if they were regulars. It was pretty expansive.
  • The barista's didn't seem to have a good place to rest if there weren't any customers. They seemed to read/look at their phones and lean on counters.
  • Occasionally the barista would have to double check on a detail of the order and ask the customer again.
  • The drinks were very full and several customers, including myself needed to be very cautious about this to prevent spills.
  • They had decaf and other related drinks for kids.
  • One barista mentioned that customers came out of their way for the lattes he made.

I also watched Andrew's wife Chelsea make coffee.

  • She boiled water in a kettle on the stove

  • She then ground coffee

  • She put the coffee in the french press and poured the water over it, stirred with a wooden spoon

  • She said there wasn't an ideal time, but it brewed for about 5 minutes

  • She pressed it down

  • They poured it in cups and drank it right away

  • There was some poured in a thermos

  • There was left over without a good place or use

  • The whole process went smoothly

Caribou 1
I got tea at caribou. I found that the plastic cup was rather unpleasant to drink out of for tea. Since tea is also a smell based experience, the lid blocked the smell and therefore the tea didn't taste as good.

Cafe Royal
I got at chai tea late. I story-boarded my experience.

First I ordered my drink.
Order drink

Then I took a careful slurp, because the drink was really full.
careful slurp

Then I awkwardly shuffled my drink over to the table.
awkward shuffle.jpg

I went on to enjoy my drink. I usually drink it fast enough that I don't have any issues with it cooling off too fast.

I then had to figure out where the cup was supposed to go. It was near the exit, which made sense I suppose.
where does it go.jpg

At home
Tea as usual. I have a mug with a little slot which stops the teabag from getting in the water. I will also wrap the line around the mug handle. I usually just drink the tea with the bag in it.
my mug
tea handle


I aggregated some of the top concerns I saw from the interviews.

Andrew, Troy, Chris, Keesha, and Anna all need a way to keep their coffee warm longer because it cools off before they finish drinking it.

Andrew, Troy, Anna, and Liz all need a way to keep their travel mugs cleaner because the shape and lids on travel mugs makes them hard to clean and many aren't dishwasher safe.

Troy, Keesha, and Anna all need a way to have the convince of a to-go cup without the environmental impact because current solutions aren't environmentally friendly enough at a reasonable price and performance.


You put an awesome amount of work into your interviews! Halfway through your post, I was just thinking "If only she had taken the time to interview people at local coffee shops instead of only her friends", but obviously I was being too quick to judge. You got such a fantastic range of people and experiences, I am sure you will have a fascinating brainstorming session with that much data. I really liked your little cartoon also, very cute ^^

The main critique I have is to work on image quality. Several of the images are grainy and/or out of focus and a few (such as the very last one) could benefit greatly from some enhanced contrast. If you have access to photoshop, adjusting the contrast and running it through a de-noising filter would work wonders for your next post.

That said, this is still one of the most thorough best designed entries I have ever seen. I love the color scheme!

I'm am absolutely impressed with the amount of time and work you put into the research. The amount of data will be invaluable in the future. Starting with some design points. You mentioned you weren't sure about the bullet points. Looking at the code, it looks like the lists you made with the spacing had a break after each point, (looks like
), and the early ones with no spacing didn't. I don't know if you added this or if it was done automatically, but in the future you can add that or delete that right after the depending on your preference. Also, personally I thought the white wording on the purple background was a little jarring, but Austin mentioned he liked it, so it is probably just a personal preference.

Next, don't apologize for content issues you think you may have in your post. You can fix them if they bug you a lot, or just leave them, but you don't have to put what you think is negative into the readers head, they'll let you know if they think you should change it.

I enjoyed reading about your interviews. You collected a lot of data, and asked the right questions of the right people. It was cool how you went beyond just sticking to your topic as well, looking at baristas and habits. Very well done post.

You have a lot of good interview notes here, I found Troy's art of making coffee concept really unique, I think some highly specialized places could pull of making a business revolving around hand made coffees. It would certainly make for a much more unique and personal experience.

Wow very impressive blog post. Not only were you able to discern an incredible amount of detail from each interviewee but your observational skills particularly at royal cafe were astonishing. Watching people check the lids of coffee cups because they inherently don't trust the cups tells you a lot about how we view coffee cups and how unreliable they are. Not only did you get great information on problems of hot beverage containers but in addition the storyboard and caribou coffee observations you made tells a lot about how coffee shops can improve the overall costumer and employee interaction within the store. With your sort of observational skills I think coffee shops could learn a lot more about how to improve the quality of their service.

Improvements on the blog post
You had a lot of information to post about and organize, but I'm curious as to how many of your questions led to stories. Perhaps a quote here and there would help us connect back with the people you interviewed. Stories are also a great way of gathering indirect data, if you ask people what is wrong versus tell me a story you might catch more problems than that person even realized they had because they're so used to it. For that reason it would've been nice to know which problems were directly spoken to you and which you inferred from stories and experiences. To be fair you have a lot of information anyways so realistically it's not big concern, but it may be something to keep in mind for the future.

Seriously fantastic work!

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This page contains a single entry by kami0085 published on November 10, 2013 11:41 AM.

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