Coffee Service Tools and Equipment Buying Guide
Coffee: a great way to start the day and the perfect pairing with dessert at the end of a delicious meal.
For some, coffee is the most important meal of the day and a love of coffee runs deep with connoisseurs. From specialty coffee shops to restaurants to caterers, businesses will want to invest in equipment that gives customers the quality coffee they are looking for and expect.
Whether you brew a few cups a day, or a couple hundred a day, the right tools and equipment will assist you in providing an excellent coffee service.
It all starts with the coffee beans. Choose fresh roasted, good quality beans and grind them as close to the order as possible. Oxidation can begin quite quickly after the beans are grounded and can affect the flavour of the final product. It’s why most producers vacuum seal any pre-ground coffee in order to protect its flavour as long as possible.
Most businesses that grind fresh coffee opt for burr grinders. Burr grinders crush the beans and produce a consistent grind size that's suitable for espresso. A blade grinder, while slightly more budget friendly, roughly chops the beans and lacks the consistency needed for espresso.
Types of Commercial Coffee Brewers
The coffee maker you choose should meet the demands of the business at the busiest times of day. It needs to be an adequate size and speedy enough to keep up. Smaller operations can find ones that do not require built-in plumbing. Purchase the machine, some coffee filters, a spare carafe or two and you are ready to roll.
Pourover Coffee Machines
Pourover coffee machines are a specific type of drip coffee maker, where heated water is “dripped” over the coffee grounds and collected into a decanter below. Pourover coffee brewers are convenient, easy to operate and don’t require plumbing directly into a water line. Water is poured into the unit each time a batch of coffee is brewed.
These units give operators the ability to be installed where required instead of being stuck where a water supply line is available. However, pourover coffee machines are limited in their batch size as it depends on the tank volume.
Brews directly into decanters, thermal servers or airpots.
Automatic Coffee Brewers
Another type of drip coffee maker, automatic coffee machines are convenient, easy to operate with the added convenience of being plumbed directly into water lines. These coffee machines automatically refill the water for fast brewing between batches with less attention from employees. Some units also have a pourover option as well.
These units can restrict operators as they can only be installed with available water supply lines, however, pairing units with insulated serving carafes can still provide a “portable” coffee service.
Automatic coffee brewers, because they are directly attached to the water lines typically can brew more cups per hour than pourover units.
Brew directly into decanters, thermal servers or airpots.
Satellite Coffee Brewers
Satellite coffee brewers are designed to brew directly into insulated serving units that can be moved to create “satellite” coffee stations where required. Perfect for high volume service like events, hotels and diners. Insulated serving carafes and containers keep the coffee warm while cutting down trips back to the brewer that may not be conveniently located for busy serving staff.
Satellite coffee brewers are a drip style coffee maker and plumbed directly into water lines. Some units have two or more brew heads, allowing multiple containers to be filled simultaneously.
Using a single satellite coffee brewer with multiple serving decanters can reduce the need to buy an additional brewer.
Commercial Coffee Brewer Features
Both pourover and automatic coffee machines that brew into decanters – the glass coffee pot with stainless steel bottom and handle for easy pouring cup after cup - have at least one warmer. Warmers are a necessary feature to keep coffee warm after brewing. Some units have 2, 3 or more warmers, giving operations that can keep multiple decanters warm to stay ahead of coffee needs.
Number of warmers and their configuration will depend on your available space and the coffee needs during a busy morning service. Remember, you shouldn’t keep brewed coffee on a warmer for any longer than 30 minutes or the quality of your cup of joe will suffer.
The physical dimensions of a coffee brewer need to be considered. Do you want a unit that tucks up against the wall? Can your pourover unit fit under the shelf above your counter and your staff still access to pour in the water? There are slim, low profile, vertical and horizontal units available to fit your counter set up.
Commercial coffee machines are rated by how much coffee they can brew in an hour – gallons or cups per hour. It’s best to understand the number of coffee servings you need during your busiest hour to determine the right unit for your establishment. Typically you want a unit that can brew slightly more servings than you need to ensure you stay ahead of demand.
Ensure that you know what your average serving of coffee actually is. If your mugs or cups are 8 oz and the unit is rated at 60 x 8 oz cups per hour, that’s great, however, if your mugs or to-go cups are 10 oz that same unit will only brew 48 x 10 oz cups per hour. Either choose a until with higher capacity or add a few extra insulated serving carafes to get ahead of the morning rush using the same unit.
Hot Water Faucet
Many coffee machines have a built-in hot water faucet. Convenient for creating additional hot beverages typically expected in addition to a selection of coffee.
Alternately, you can have a dedicated hot water tower. Either directly plumbed into a water line or with a pour in tank, near boiling water is always ready and available for tea and hot chocolate or prewarming insulated servers.
Commercial Coffee Urns
Coffee urns, also called coffee percolators, brew coffee by cycling water over coffee grounds. The water goes over the grounds repeatedly, increasing in temperature until near boiling. This method produces a strong, richly brewed coffee. Coffee urns have the added benefits of keeping the brewed coffee warm for long periods of time and the ability to dispense directly from the urn.
Urns a perfect choice for operators who need an all-in-one portable coffee brewer option and are a popular choice for caterers, hotel events and breakfast stations.
Output of a coffee urn is limited by its total volume capacity and an entire brew cycle needs to be completed, the urn emptied and then restarted for the next batch. Multiple urns might be required depending on your coffee needs. Beware, coffee urns vary in how they measure cups of coffee. An urn that says it will brew 100 cups of coffee may be referring to 100 x 5 oz cups of coffee. If the mugs or cups available have a higher volume than 5 oz, you will not get 100 servings from that coffee urn.
A decanter, also called a coffee carafe or coffee pot, means the coffee must be poured by hand. Their portability and size make it simple for serving staff to take the coffee to the customer.
Coffee machines can brew directly into glass or stainless steel decanters. Glass being the preferred material as waitstaff can see the amount of coffee left in the pot.
If coffee needs to stay hot for periods of time, to keep ahead of morning rush or to prepare for a 250 seat wedding service, insulated carafes are a good option. Small (light) enough for serving staff to transport directly to the table.
Insulated carafes can be made of plastic or stainless steel, they can be tall and thin or short and squat.
Carafe lids can be simple pour or can have a Tilt and Pour or push button which keeps the contents completely sealed until dispensed and therefore keeps coffee hot longer.
Some deluxe models, made of stainless steel, have Brew Thru Lids that can be replaced with a pouring lid to take the carafe directly from the brewer to the table.
To maximize the length of time contents stay hot, consider prewarming insulated carafes with hot water.
Thermal servers are tall cylindrical insulated containers that provide a self-service coffee dispensing system. Thermal servers keep freshly brewed coffee hot and accessible for hours. These servers can be paired with compatible coffee machines to directly brew into the server.
Gauge at the front lets staff and customers to see how much coffee is left.
Remember to put thermal servers on a base to elevate the unit so a coffee mug or cup can be placed under the dispensing spout.
Airpots, as the name implies, are air insulated as well being under pressure. Serving staff or guests use either a push pump or lever action to dispense the contents. This portable coffee decanter is a great choice for buffets, catered events and coffee stations and can hold the coffee hot for many hours.
Paired with a coffee machine designed to brew directly into airpots, coffee service is simplified without compromising the quality of each cup of java.
Coffee Service Tools
Not everyone wants a simple cup of black coffee. These tools, tableware and supplies can take your coffee service to the next level.
Sugar Pourers and Sugar Packet Holders
White, brown, demerara, stevia, honey or agave, however your customers sweeten their cups, we have the containers your need. Sugar pourers can be placed on each table at the start of service or used at coffee stations. Packet holders allow a variety of sweeteners to be delivered to tables in one container. Honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses can be placed in squeeze bottles or in condiment jars that have an accompanying spoon.
Creamers and Insulated Creamers
Table service or buffet, having cream, milk and milk alternatives are essential for customers to customize their cup of coffee. From capacities meant for a single serving to large insulated versions, from stainless steel to ceramic in a variety of shapes, you are sure to find the right creamer for your business.
Condiment Holders and Organizers
Staying organized during a busy morning rush means having all of the extras your customers request close at hand. Using a condiment holder keeps countertops neat and tidy. Consider condiment caddies to take all of those coffee extras to the table in one go.
Coffee Brewer Cleaners
Every piece of equipment in a commercial kitchen needs some care and attention to keep it operating at optimum levels and coffee brewers are no different. Oils and bits of coffee grounds can buildup inside machines which over time will affect the flavour and aroma of your fresh brew.
Always refer to your coffee brewer manufacturer instructions for cleaning procedures and follow the package instructions on the cleaning product you are using.
Coffee Brewer Cleaning Tools
Specially designed brushes are the only way to get into all the nooks and crannies of coffee brewers, servers and urns.
Paper coffee filters keep coffee grounds out of your freshly brewed pot of coffee and therefore out of your customers cup. Available in a variety of sizes (and shapes) to fit different commercial coffee machines.
An ounce of prevention can be the difference between a good cup of coffee and a great cup of coffee. Water is a key ingredient and using a water filter for your coffee brewers reduces scale buildup, prevents corrosion and reduces sediments for the best water quality. An added benefit is maximizing the life of your coffee equipment.
Coffee is not just an essential part of breakfast anymore, it’s a part of our lives. Whether we’re meeting with friends, enjoying a cup over dessert after a delicious meal, or sitting back with a good book, it’s a warm (or cold) comfortable part of our day to day lives. Brighten a coffee enthusiasts’ day with a great quality beverage every time.
Written by Breanne Baker