To properly design a coffee station, operators need to think about how cups flow into the space, serving of beverages, disposal of trash, water connections and the grinder/brewer.
Coffee station space is typically at a premium. While pour-over brewers occupy about 2 square feet, larger urns take up 5 square feet. For higher-end coffee stations, consider a system that combines a precision coffee grinder and brewer. These sophisticated units provide dual coffee bean hoppers to brew two types of coffee into a decanter or air pot.
Some operators may require dispensing from a closed container, such as an air pot 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 fine-tune the coffee flavor, adjusting the brew strength by use of preinfusion, pulsation and bypass as well as the varying temperature and volume settings. Modular coffee brewers include a unit that grinds beans with the option to add side refrigeration.
Assess the electrical capability to make sure the unit can properly heat the water quickly. The higher-voltage machines will allow coffee brewers to recover faster than lower-voltage machines. 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.
All types of coffee brewers require some type of water inlet, water heating unit, 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, air pot and decanter brewers are directly fed by 3- and 5-gallon plastic water bottles. Others can be fitted with a flow jet pump that feeds water from the same bottles by use of a pressure pump and connections for the units.
The most critical element with brewers and espresso machines is the water quality as the biggest problem with these units is lime scale. It is important to provide the appropriate filters for scale, taste and odor control. Address water conditions with either a filter or scale prohibitor. This not only will help minimize lime scale buildup, but it will also extend the unit’s service life.
Any brewer plumbed into a facility requires a certain amount of water pressure. This is often measured in a static condition, which will not provide an accurate reading. To determine the appropriate 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.
Pulse brew, bypass and preinfusion capabilities can help operators produce a particular coffee profile and maintain it. Brewers with digitally looped heat control are designed to keep coffee fresh for hours at a time. Units with USB ports allow users to preprogram recipes. A self-diagnostics capability on so brewers checks for mineral buildup. Touch-screen operation is offered with some brewers. 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. 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 the one-cup brewing units, which have enabled restaurants to offer variety and freshness without a huge investment.
Operators offering flavored coffee will require at least two grinders so as not to taint traditional coffee.