Coffee brewers are generally categorized by brew volume or the vessel into which the beverage is brewed. 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.
Purchasing the appropriate coffee brewer and accessories can be critical to a foodservice operator’s success.
First, operators must identify which type of coffee maker they require. In the case of a la carte coffee service, operators often use pour-over units. These units are suitable for lower-capacity requirements per machine. Pour overs also do not require a water line. Higher-capacity outlets often use satellite systems, which have the ability to shuttle coffee to multiple locations using one brewer.
Operators should size how much coffee production the design requires, taking into account the size of the cup they will give guests, the number of people the facility will serve and the time in which the service will take place. Some brewers will allow for brewing into different-size dispensers for added flexibility.
The most critical element is the water quality as the biggest problem with coffee brewers is lime scale. It is important to be familiar with the water quality of the foodservice outlet and address it with either a filter or scale prohibitor. This not only will help minimize lime scale buildup but it will also extend the service life of the unit.
When specifying coffee brewers, pay attention to voltage and amps. Choosing a power option when multiple types are available can be a critical decision. One of the most common mistakes in specifying coffee brewers is underestimating the unit’s electrical requirements. The tank of these systems can be compared with a hot water heater. If the usage rate is low, the recovery time to bring temperatures back up will be shorter. Higher-volume operations will require more electrical capacity to heat water quickly. Higher-voltage options, particularly three-phase, offer better, faster recovery. Larger systems may require an upgraded electrical system. Units producing 64 ounces at a time or less can get by with 110 volts, but most commercial brewers will need 208, 220 or 240 volts.
Like electrical capabilities, operators often underestimate the importance of water pressure. Automatic brewers generally connect to a ¼-inch water line. Any brewer plumbed into a facility requires a certain amount of water pressure to adequately feed the unit. This is often measured in a static condition, which will not provide an accurate reading. To accurately determine the water pressure, it needs to be read during a dynamic phase or when water is running through the machine to properly measure the flow rate. In some cases, the water feed line may need adjusting or the foodservice operator may need to relocate the coffee brewer to an area that provides a greater or stronger water capacity.
If the foodservice operator uses the unit in the front of house or aesthetics are important, specify a coffee brewer that has a color finish, rather than the standard stainless steel.
Most technological developments for these units focus on the brewing process. Pulse brew, bypass and preinfusion capabilities can help operators produce a particular coffee profile and maintain it. For chains with many locations, this new technology ensures consistency.
Some improvements have made these units more energy efficient. When idle for an extended period, some brewers will automatically go into sleep mode. During this period, the heating element allows the temperature to drop, which helps conserve energy. Newer coffee brewer designs hold heat in the cavity better and provide more efficient heating elements. Brewers with digitally looped heat control are also designed to keep coffee fresh for hours at a time.