Choosing the Right Commercial Coffee Accessories
Having the right commercial coffee maker is one thing, but the right accessories to go along with it are just as critical to offer smooth coffee service to your guests. The right supplies can ensure you can handle the volume of orders you receive, and can make the difference between a great tasting cup of coffee and one that tastes like it was dipped from a creek. This buyer’s guide is designed to educate novice coffee makers on what to look for when shopping for accessories for a successful coffee program.
Coffee filters are a necessity with most types of brewers. Decanter brewers, airpot brewers, and satellite brewers will all require their use. Filters are made mainly with crepe paper and high-quality heavyweight paper, allowing the brewed coffee to flow freely and keeping grounds put.
For a filter to be compatible with a particular brewer, it needs to be the right size and shape. Common filters are cone or basket shaped. Urn brewers and other high-volume equipment will require different filters than decanter brewers, so be sure you select the right ones for your equipment. If a filter is not strong enough, it will tear or rupture, allowing coffee grounds to settle in the pot, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when choosing filters.
Coffee Warming Plates
A coffee warming plate serves two functions: keeping coffee hot and ready to serve, and holding the pot while coffee is being brewed into it. These are ideal for any foodservice operation that provides table service and keeps ready-to-serve coffee available at all times. Most plates are made from durable steel, so they’re easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth.
These plates should only be relied on to warm coffee for 30 minutes or less. After that time, the brew tends to develop a burnt, bitter taste. These should not be relied on where coffee will not be served within that time frame. In those situations, consider one of the thermal carafes detailed below.
While most decanter brewers have built-in warming plates, additional units can be used to hold coffee at server stations and free up the brewer burner for a fresh pot. These plates are available in one-, two-, and three-burner models. Side-by-side units are easy to access, while back-to-back step-up plates can conserve a little space on the countertop and fit nicely in line with your brewer.
Replacement decanters are available in a number of styles. Identical replacement models can be purchased for most of the popular brands, while some manufacturers offer drip-proof and fast-pour varieties. Those with stainless steel bases are more durable than all-glass varieties. Most standard decanters come in a 64-ounce capacity, and a black or orange rim indicates whether the coffee is regular or decaffeinated, respectively.
Thermal carafes are a common-sense alternative for keeping coffee hot and fresh for up to two hours. They’ll keep the coffee at a hot serving temperature, maintaining freshness and preventing the burnt taste that can develop when coffee is left on a warmer. Like the decanter, these are typically designed for use by wait staff in full-service restaurants, although some chains are known to leave a fresh carafe on the table to let customers help themselves.
Similar to thermal carafes, airpots keep coffee fresh for up to two hours, but are designed with self-serve applications in mind. They range in capacity from 2 to 4 liters, and they dispense coffee into a cup with the press of a lever or a button. They’re insulated, sometimes with glass, and come in mainly stainless steel or black designs.
Airpot and decanter racks are designed to hold dispensing equipment securely, and are usually set up in serving lines and coffee stations. They include drip trays for easy cleanup, and often feature compartments for creamers and sugar. Signage areas provide a place for coffee descriptions. Airpot racks are available in sizes large enough to accommodate six containers, and most are made with carbon-steel wire construction, which resists corrosion and provides easy cleaning.
Airpot covers are built to accommodate push-button or lever-top airpots. They are used in upscale spaces to create a uniform appearance, especially on banquet lines where they can be used to match chrome chafing dishes. Their bodies are mainly made out of chrome, and the handles and trim can be made in brass or chrome.
Good specialty cups are necessary to provide customers with an authentic experience where drinks will be served at the table. They come individually or in sets, and are available for many types of drinks. Espresso cups, also known as demitasse cups, hold between 2 and 3 ounces for serving single and double shots. Cappuccino cups are regularly 5 ounces, allowing for an even ratio between espresso and steamed milk, while latte cups are usually larger. Café au lait cups are broader and shorter than regular coffee mugs, and larger than cappuccino and espresso cups. They often have no handles, making them look like a small bowl.