If you have a communal coffee carafe at work, you will undoubtedly have encountered the situation where someone poured the last cup of coffee and didn’t make a new pot.
With a standard coffeepot or carafe, there’s no possibility of getting “just one more cup” out of an empty container—it’s just empty.
But! There’s one thing that always seems like you can get one last use out of it, no matter what: a toothpaste tube.
The main issue: since it’s so easy to pour coffee out of the coffeepot, it’s easy to pour the last coffee and then walk away (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1: A coffee carafe, like one you’d see in an office or at a hotel breakfast, can be operated by pressing the lever at (a), dispensing coffee out of the spout at (b).
To fix this, we simply need to make it more difficult to extract the last few cups of coffee. It if became progressively more difficult to get coffee from the communal container, then people could recognize that they were taking the very of it, and would (hopefully) be more likely to start a new pot of coffee.
The proposed container (Figure 2) is essentially a huge toothpaste tube in a support frame.
Fig. 2: Instead of a traditional carafe or coffeepot, coffee can be placed into a squeezable toothpaste-tube-like bag that fits into a support frame. To dispense coffee, simply squeeze the bag!
Figure 3 shows the progression of the tube from a full state (left) to a nearly-empty state (right).
Fig. 3: Top row: illustration with a transparent liquid. Bottom row: extremely unappealing illustration with coffee. A full coffee container (leftmost column) would look similar to a 2-liter soda bottle. As coffee is squeezed out of the tube, the dispenser would gradually come to resemble the rightmost column.
Don’t buy another regular coffee container for your workplace—this new dispenser is the way of the future.
PROS: Prevents you from being shocked and dismayed at your coworkers’ refusal to make more coffee.
CONS: The “squeeze to dispense” method will probably spray nearly-boiling coffee across the room on a regular basis.
Bonus Figure A: In the initial concept for this idea, the carafe lever would become more difficult to operate as the liquid level lowered, but the “toothpaste tube” idea was only metaphorical.