Next to water, coffee and tea might be some of the most popular beverages that should be on every menu. As the cornerstone to your beverage listing, these hot beverages are a perennial favorite with customers. But when it comes to hot beverage equipment, how do you know what type of coffee maker is best for your needs? In this buying guide, we'll go over different types of commercial coffee makers, including buying considerations like voltage requirements, accessories, and much more.
Not to be confused with a 'pourover' method of coffee brewing, commercial pourover coffee brewers are portable coffee makers that enable you to move them around in the front or back of house, as needed, unlike inline coffee brewers. What inline brewers lack in portability, they make up for in efficiency. With inline coffee brewers, your coffee maker is connected directly to your water source which means less responsibility for you to monitor water levels for regular brewing needs.
When it comes to purchasing hot beverage equipment for your restaurant, catering operation, café or convenience store, a "one-size-fits-all" approach simply won't work. Anticipate how much coffee you'll need, and also consider the requirements of your physical space. That will help you decide on what type of beverage equipment will work best for you!
Automatic Coffee Brewers
A fixture in many restaurants, diners and more, these drip coffee brewers are prized for their ease-of-use. Utilizing a coffee basket equipped with disposable coffee filters, these coffee brewers resemble your at-home variety of coffee maker. Great for high-volume foodservice operations, these coffee makers can been equipped with anywhere from 1 to 5 additional warmers for larger batch brews.
Satellite Coffee Brewers
Great for restaurants that experience high volumes of customers in the morning, or offer all-day breakfast, a satellite coffee brewer is ideal for keeping your operation running smoothly. Brewing into large containers (shuttles) sized anywhere from ½ gallon to 2 gallons, making large batches of coffee for eager customers is easier with coffee makers equipped with shuttles.
Automatic, High Volume Coffee Urns
These high volume, high capacity coffee urns are great for cafeterias, institutions cruise ships and more. Hooked up to your water supply, these large coffee brewers can brew and hold coffee for hundreds of people, all from one machine.
Great for caterers and other large events, coffee urns make the perfect amount of delicious coffee. These are ideal for business meetings and other gatherings that require an attractive, self-service option for dispensing coffee. Many urns also utilize a 120 volt outlet, which makes it easy to use in different settings.
Airpot Coffee Brewers
Great for self-serve coffee stations, these brewers make coffee directly into an airpot for added versatility. With airpots, you can easily brew different varieties of coffee, including decaf variations, on a rolling schedule so your self-serve station is always ready to go.
Single-Cup Coffee Brewers
Single-cup, or capsule, coffee brewers are a great solution for restaurants that want to provide after-dinner coffee service without investing in an automatic brewer that could result in a lot of poor-tasting or wasted product. Brew just what you need—not too much, not too little—for an excellent cup of coffee each and every time.
Hot Chocolate/Cappuccino Dispensers
Great for cafeterias, grocery stores, convenience stores and more, these large, user-friendly machines require little oversight from you. Using powdered mixes to deliver delicious, consistent hot beverages each and every time, these dispensers work well in self-service coffee areas.
Percolators brew coffee by continually boiling water through coffee grounds until the desired strength is achieved. And on some models of percolators, you can brew large batches of tea by replacing coffee grounds with tea bags.
From voltage requirements, to brewing capacities and even digital control options, you may find there are some features you'll require, some that you want and some that you won't even miss. Read on to learn more.
The worst-case scenario when purchasing new beverage equipment is to realize that it won't work in your space when it comes time to install! Though you'll experience faster recovery times with a 240 volt unit versus a 120 volt unit, you may find that you lack the necessary hardware to install a unit with those requirements. 208 and 240 volt units might require a different outlet formation, and you could potentially face requiring the services of a technician to hardwire the outlet to accommodate different amperages and phases. When reviewing voltage requirements, please note that voltages separate by a forward slash must be hooked up to both voltages (for example, 120/208V), while those separate by a hyphen (120/208 -- 240V) can run on either of the hyphen-separated voltages.
Like most things in a commercial kitchen, bigger doesn't always mean better. Before purchasing your hot beverage equipment, first consider your unique needs. A restaurant offering coffee only for a lunch or dinner service may benefit from a single-cup brewer, otherwise too much coffee may be brewed at a time, resulting in coffee sitting on a warmer for hours and developing that unpleasant, 'burnt' taste.
If you anticipate serving high volumes of coffee, tea and other hot beverages during a busy breakfast service, for example, look for a coffee brewer that enables you to brew into large 1-2 gallon coffee urns. Or maybe you're a coffee shop that specializes in unique varietals of coffee, at which point purchasing a coffee maker that brews into airpots will give you the flexibility to showcase different coffee regions at your self-serve coffee bar. Whatever your needs, consider what is not only most efficient, but the best way to serve a good cup of coffee that keeps customers wanting more.
Digital Control Options
Programmable, digital control options can be a real life-saver if you have different staff members brewing coffee each day. With pre-programmed recipes, you'll ensure that your coffee tastes consistently delicious
Hot Water Dispenser
For added versatility, look for brewers that include a hot water dispenser for making teas quickly and easily on the fly. Hot water faucets also come in handy when customers order an Americano, or if they find your drip coffee a bit too strong, use some hot water to dilute their beverage.
Good coffee starts with fresh beans. Serve the tastiest cup of coffee by grinding your own beans in-house. Some automatic coffee brewers feature a bean hopper to grind beans within the same unit, otherwise be sure to pick up a separate coffee grinder. The fragrance of freshly-ground coffee alone will convince you that there's a difference—and once you go to freshly-ground coffee you won't go back.
One coffee pot, or decanter, simply won't tackle the needs of your operation. Purchase additional coffee pots to keep brewing all day long without trouble. Also be sure to opt for a few orange decanters, which usually signify a decaf brew that some customers will request.
One of the best ways to ensure a great cup of coffee each and every time is keeping your water filter up to date. The quality of your water has a big impact on the taste of your brew, and a water filter works by removing those harmful contaminants naturally found in our water. Plus, water filters also reduce scale and other buildup from accumulating in your machine, so it'll run better, for longer! Water filters need to be changed regularly, and while the frequency is dependent on your location, you'll find that a good rule of thumb is to change a filter every 3-6 months.
These one-time use coffee filters make it easy to brew up batches of coffee on the fly. For those with busy breakfast services, try portioning out coffee in individual filters and store in a large food storage container. This way you've got perfectly proportioned coffee prepped and ready to go for quick brewing anytime.
Following a regular cleaning schedule will not only make your beverages taste better, but it'll also help your equipment last longer (and reduce your service calls). Reduce the risk of bacteria growth by instructing staff to clean removable components like carafes, filter baskets and more with warm, soapy water. Be sure to wipe down exterior surfaces with a clean, damp cloth daily as well. Soapy water is key, because a simple rinse won't be enough to kill bacteria that already enjoys moist environments!
And though we discussed the importance of a water filter, we'll mention it again because it's that important. Water filters remove harmful contaminants and scale buildup that could accumulate in the inner tubing of your equipment.