Choosing the Best Coffee Maker for Your Business

Commercial Coffee Maker Buyer's Guide

Finding the best commercial coffee maker for your foodservice establishment, whether it’s a small neighborhood diner or a conference center that serves thousands of meals a day, is a matter of understanding your individual needs. Although the goal is always to provide fresh, hot, and consistently delicious coffee to your patrons day in and day out, you will have to decide which style of brewer will best suit your restaurant's needs. Here is an overview of the main types of commercial coffee makers available and their respective strengths.

Decanter Brewer

Decanter brewers are the classic coffee maker, and they're still the most popular. Sometimes called a drip brewer, they brew by spraying hot water over a bed of grounds, where it infuses to become coffee before dripping into a glass or metal decanter. Decanter brewers are common in settings that serve a steady stream of coffee drinkers, most often in places like diners and casual family restaurants that offer table service. Coffee stays properly warmed by the heated plates on which the decanters are kept.

There are two main varieties of decanter brewer: automatic and pour-over. Automatic brewers are connected directly into your building’s water source, so operation is quick and simple, while pour-over brewers require the operator to manually fill the water reservoir for each batch. For an in-depth look on choosing between these types, see our Decanter Brewers Buyers' Guide.

Thermal Servers and Airpot Brewers

These coffee makers brew just like a decanter brewer, but they dispense coffee directly into a thermal server or airpot. These have an advantage when coffee won't be served immediately. Airpots and servers can keep coffee hot and fresh-tasting for up to two hours, whereas coffee held on a decanter warmer will begin to develop a bitter taste after about 30 minutes.

Thermal servers and airpots are valued when coffee will be set up for self-service. This type is often found in buffet lines, quick-service restaurants, continental breakfast stations, and cafés that offer a ‘bottomless’ cup.


Satellite brewers work just like the previous two types, except they dispense coffee into large insulated servers that are designed to be carried to another location where they can be set up to dispense coffee into cups or serving vessels.

Because these are designed to handle high volumes, you’ll commonly find them in dual-brewer varieties. This provides an easy way to serve coffee in locations with a high-demand for it, like big events and conference centers. Because they keep coffee warm with insulation, satellite brewers can have an advantage over decanter brewers, as they use additional heat that can have a negative effect on the taste of the drink.


The pod coffee maker trend that has taken the home market by storm has found its place in the foodservice world. These machines brew one serving of coffee at a time from individual ‘pods,’ or cups of grounds. These are the best coffee makers in venues that serve just a few cups of coffee a day, or those that want to have a few specialty varieties on the menu that don’t justify being brewed in large batches. They’re also great in hospitality settings like hotels, where they can be put into guest rooms. These are available in both automatic plumbed and pour-over versions that need to be manually filled.

Coffee from Concentrate

For places that serve extremely high volumes of coffee, a coffee concentrate machine can be a practical choice. Unlike traditional machines, these provide coffee by combining hot water with bag-in-box concentrated liquid and can produce a cup of coffee almost instantly, making back-to-back serving quick and efficient. Since most of these machines can be set up for self-service, they are popular options for convenience stores.

Specialty Options

Some commercial coffee machines are available with specialty options that increase versatility, consistency, and taste. Understanding these specialty options will help you decide if your restaurant can benefit from a brewer that offers one.

  • Look for a coffee maker with a hot water faucet if you want the ability to make hot chocolate, tea, and oatmeal.
  • Digital functions allow customers to customize brewing start times, batch size, brew strength, and other settings, helping to achieve consistent results.
  • Advanced features like pulse brew and pre-infusion are designed to fine tune the release of water to achieve an optimal extraction, getting the richest, fullest flavor from the coffee.
  • Built-in grinders let you easily brew from freshly ground beans for the best-tasting coffee.