Product Knowledge Guide: Coffee Brewers

Advanced automatic coffee centers have created a new market segment that makes it easy to serve barista-quality specialty coffee beverages at restaurants, bars, offices, high-end shops, and catering and hospitality venues.

iStock 000020526233 LargeCoffee brewers are generally categorized by brew volume or the vessel the beverage is brewed into. For example, decanter types brew into glass decanters, thermal coffee brewers brew into large servers, and satellite or shuttle brewers brew into non-thermally insulated servers.

Some operations that want to provide specialty coffee or don’t have enough volume for a batch brewer will opt for a single-cup machine. This is a misnomer, since this type of brewer produces between 6 to 20 ounces of coffee at one time. The single-cup capsule brewer can be used in convenience stores, small to mid-size hotels, and in quick-service, casual and fine-dining restaurants. These brewers allow the customer to pick from a variety of straight coffees or flavored coffees, and by pressing a single button and choosing portion size, the brewer will brew 1 cup of coffee in 30 to 50 seconds.

Operators can use capsule units as a pourover or plumb them in to brew coffee, tea or hot chocolate. A key selling point for these units is that they can reduce waste. For example, with decanter brewers, if the coffee is not consumed within 20 to 30 minutes, it will go bad sitting on the warmer, thus leading to staff discarding the leftover coffee to brew a fresh batch. The discarded coffee beverage, spent grounds, labor and energy used to make the pot of coffee represents a loss to the foodservice operators. When needed, single-cup brewers make only one cup at a time, eliminating the above mentioned waste and promoting freshness.

Decanter/airpot brewers, the largest category of commercial coffee brewers, brew in a 64-ounce decanter and/or a 2.2 liter airpot. The design of these units makes them suitable for more rugged commercial use, such as coffee shops, small to mid-size hotels, convenience stores and small to mid-size restaurants. Usually each location will have one brewer and a multitude of decanters and/or airpots. Volume represents the main consideration with these brewers, which produce approximately 10 decanters/airpots per hour, with each decanter producing 5 12-ounce servings.

Operators can also choose to plumb in these units or to use them as pourover brewers. These units include hot water faucets for tea or hot chocolate and provide extra warmers for additional decanters. A digital control system allows the operator to dial in a unique brew process that maximizes the flavor of the coffee. These units are suitable for use in 120V or 230V operations with only a power cord change. Available options include an in-line water filter and a remote warmer stand for additional decanters. Some models offer a feature that automatically turns down the water temperature after three hours of non-usage.

Shuttle brewers brew into 1.5-gallon containers or shuttles. These units also are built for rugged commercial use and geared for specialty coffee shops, mid to large restaurants, mid to large hotels, convenience stores, catering facilities, and college and university cafeterias.

As with decanter brewers, volume is the main consideration for shuttle brewers. A standard twin shuttle brewer can produce approximately 10 shuttles per hour, or approximately 160 12-ounce cups per hour. With optional heating elements, productivity boosts up to 20 shuttles per hour or 320 12-ounce cups per hour.

Standard features include two 1.5-gallon vacuum-insulated stainless steel shuttles. A hot water faucet produces tea and hot chocolate. This brewer type also includes a digital control system. A brew basket lock prevents the operator from pulling the brew basket out during the brew process. Options include larger heating elements for faster recovery and controls to automatically turn down water temperature after three hours of non-usage.

Urns brew volumes of three gallons and up. These units are found in locations where large volumes of coffee are needed, including universities, large hotels, convention halls, prisons, stadiums, large restaurants and airports. These are the largest volume brewers and can brew up to 460 12-ounce cups per hour. By connecting these coffee urns to hot water, productivity can be boosted to 853 12-ounce cups per hour.

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