In the battle to keep today's employees happy and on the job, companies are turning to the hottest new employee perk: gourmet coffee.

The National Coffee Association reports that 161 million men and women over the age of 18 -- 79% of the adult population -- are daily or occasional coffee drinkers. And with 39% of adult coffee drinkers consuming coffee outside the home, the office has become a coffee-drinking hot spot.

The combination of a continuing rise in coffee consumption and an overall shift in the workplace -- what used to be "9 to 5" is now "24/7" -- has many companies using coffee as the fuel to keep their businesses moving.

Companies like Oracle, Cisco Systems, E*Trade and eBay have signed on with ARAMARK, a world leader in managed services, to provide refreshment services as an employee benefit. Product offerings range from gourmet coffees to cappuccinos and espressos -- free of charge.

New business for ARAMARK's coffee service is up 40% over last year. The company has seen significant growth in technology corridors across the country -- New York (Silicon Alley), 153%; Princeton (N.J.) Corridor, 134%; Virginia, 129%; Boston, 102%; and Atlanta, 77%.

While new technology companies are being credited with the surge in coffee consumption on the job, legacy companies, as well, are part of the boom in the $31 billion refreshment services industry.

In addition, the surge of upscale Java houses has created interest in coffee as a social beverage -- a trend that is making its mark on the workplace.

At Impact Innovations, located in suburban Atlanta, employees can take a break and serve themselves in a coffee bar that was modeled after "Central Perk" -- the coffee shop on the hit television show "Friends." Complete with a pool table, the coffee bar offers a place for employees to enjoy gourmet coffees such as Flavia and Caribou.

"Just like the kitchen is center of activity in a home, the break room is fast becoming the center of activity in the office. It's where people come together to collaborate," explained Richard Wyckoff, ARAMARK Refreshment Services President. "When we partner with our clients to make refreshments part of a more comfortable workplace, the result is happier, more productive employees. We're not just selling coffee, we're providing employee satisfaction."

ARAMARK is a $7 billion world leader in providing managed services -- food services and facilities management, uniform and career apparel, and child care and early education programs. Headquartered in Philadelphia, ARAMARK has more than 150,000 employees serving 15 million people at 500,000 locations in 15 countries every day.