Operators serving high-end coffee should consider systems that combine a precision coffee grinder and brewer. These units have dual coffee bean hoppers to brew two types of coffee into a decanter or airpot.
If volume is high, greater electrical capability becomes necessary to heat water quickly. 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 and may require 30 or more amps. The higher-voltage machines will allow coffee brewers to recover faster than lower-voltage machines.
Allotted space for brewing should be considered. While pour-over brewers occupy about 2 square feet, larger urns take up 5 square feet.
Some operators may require dispensing from a closed container, such as an airpot or thermal server. Larger in size, thermal serving dispensers hold up to 1½ gallons of coffee and measure 9 or 18 inches wide.
Digital brewers will allow operators to fine-tune the coffee flavor by adjusting the brew strength by use of pre-infusion, pulsation and bypass as well as the varying temperature and volume settings. Features will vary,
depending on the unit.
Modular coffee brewers include a unit that grinds beans and an option to add side refrigeration for storing milk to produce cappuccinos, lattes and other espresso beverages. Flavor stations also are another add-on with some models.
All types of coffee brewers require some type of water inlet, a water-heating unit, a drip or spray head, and a filter. For operations that don’t have access to a water line, such as mobile carts and catering operations, some manufacturers offer airpot and decanter brewers directly fed by 3- and 5-gallon plastic water bottles. Operators can choose to fit other units with a flow jet pump that feeds water from the same bottles by use of a pressure pump and connections.
The most critical element is 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 provide the appropriate filters for scale, taste and odor control. Water conditions must be addressed 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.
Like electrical capabilities, it is easy to underestimate the necessary water pressure. Automatic brewers are generally hooked up to a ¼-inch water line. Any brewer that is 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 coffee brewer may need to be relocated to an area that provides a greater or stronger water capacity.
Most technology for these units has been focused on the brewing process. Pulse brew, bypass and pre-infusion capabilities can help operators produce and maintain a particular coffee profile. For chains with many locations, this new technology ensures consistency.
Brewers with digitally looped heat control may keep coffee fresh for hours at a time. Units with USB ports allow users to program recipes. A self-diagnostics capability on some brewers checks for mineral buildup. Touch-screen operation is offered with some brewers. More efficient heating elements are available, in addition to units designed with better heat holding capability within the cavity.
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.
High-capacity brewing units and urns that can hold coffee longer without deterioration can provide variety without a lot of waste and ensure freshness over time. Thermal carafes help hold coffee fresh for about an hour. Some have built-in timers for more control. Otherwise, holding times need to be manually marked. Glass carafes only hold coffee for about 18 minutes.
Lower-volume operations can go with single brewing or instant draw with coffee concentrate and hot water. Another option is a one-cup brewing unit, which takes more time but is preferable for low-volume operations because it enables restaurants to offer variety and freshness without a huge investment.
Some brewers are not designed for front counter use. Big brewers are best located on back counters, out of customers’ view. It’s important that the whole coffee station be well thought out, and brewing is just part of the equation. Milk, cream and other toppings need to be considered. The setup should be properly designed to flow correctly. Operators need to think about how cups are flowing into the station, serving, trash disposal, water connections and the grinder/brewer.