Commercial Coffee Makers: Decanter Brewers Buyers' Guide

Which Decanter Coffee Maker Do You Need?

If you want to build a successful foodservice business, providing fresh, hot coffee is a sure way to win many customers’ loyalty. Several types of commercial coffee makers are available, but the most common of them is the decanter brewer, which brews directly into a glass decanter. Operation of these devices is simple, and they don’t require a lot of counter space.

Decanter coffee brewers are available in two categories: automatic and pour-over. Automatic units are more typically found in high-volume establishments because they don’t take as much labor and can brew quickly. However, installing one does require plumbing, since they draw directly from your water supply. Pour-over models, similar to those found in most American homes, don’t require that extra water line, but do require more operator effort, since they are manually filled.

Automatic Decanter Brewers

As noted, an automatic coffee maker requires a direct connection to your water supply. Water is pumped into the brewer automatically when the operator begins the brewing process, eliminating the need for manual filling. This type of decanter brewer is simple to operate and produces from a few dozen to nearly 130 cups of coffee an hour, making it a good fit for high-volume establishments that serve a lot of coffee.

In locations where water pressure is an issue, there are automatic coffee brewers designed to work under those circumstances. Some automatic models can be operated as a pour-over brewer when a direct source is not available or the supply is inconsistent.

Pour-Over Coffee Brewers

Pour-over coffee brewers are a great solution for businesses that need a decanter brewer, but do not have a direct water line to hook it to, where doing so would be impractical, or where the brewer must remain mobile. To operate these units, fresh water from an external source must be poured into the reservoir for each batch.

Though they are rated to brew up to 60 cups of coffee per hour, that maximum may require perfect operating conditions and considerable operator effort. That’s because these brewers require the user to pour cold water into the top of the brewer, without the convenience of having that filling done automatically. Pour-over decanter brewers are available with one, two, or three warmers, and occupy approximately 2 to 5 square feet of counter space.

No matter which type you choose, for the highest-quality coffee, never let a decanter sit on the burner for more than 20 to 30 minutes. After that time, the heat will begin to noticeably degrade the coffee’s quality. If you need to hold your java for longer than that, thermal servers are capable of holding coffee for up to two hours.

Specialty Options

  • Many digital brewers can adjust automatically to different water pressures and water hardness conditions, preventing those factors from having an adverse effect on your coffee’s quality.
  • Digital brewers with LCD displays and programmable controls allow the setting of brew levels and tank temperatures, giving the operator close control over each part of the process.
  • Pre-infusion saturates the coffee grounds before the introduction of water at full force, correcting inconsistencies that could occur with the grind of the coffee, such as air pockets or fissures.
  • Pulsation turns the sprayhead on and off in a cycle, ensuring that the grounds get extracted to the optimal flavor.
  • Bypass brewing allows some of the brewing water to bypass the grounds, diluting the coffee for a customized flavor.

Electrical Requirements

Standard models of these units are available with and without a power cord. Units with a power cord, sometimes called “plug-and-play” models, can be connected to an outlet for their power supply. Those without a power cord will need to be wired directly into the electrical supply by a qualified electrician.

The tanks in these units are comparable to a hot water heater – if usage is low, the recovery time to bring temperatures back up for brewing is shorter. Higher voltage machines can achieve faster temperature recovery, so if you’ll be producing high volumes of coffee every day, consider choosing a more powerful 208/240-volt model. Just be sure that your facility has the resources to operate the equipment.

Care & Maintenance

Coffee brewers require a water inlet, water heating unit, drip or spray head, and a filter. The water spray head should be cleaned daily, and water filters should be changed regularly. Broken parts should be checked for and replaced, should the need arise. Coffee brewers can last up to 25 years when cared for properly.

Temperature drops, constant dripping, and inconsistent fill levels indicate lime build-up on the heating elements or valves that control water flow. Lime is a crusty, white film that is the result of hard water leaving behind mineral deposits, which can lead to inefficiency in coffee brewers. Brewers should be thoroughly cleaned and delimed at least every three months. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for deliming your coffee maker, which will likely include the following steps.

  1. Unplug the brewer and let it cool down.
  2. Remove the sprayhead by turning it with the fingertips and setting it aside.
  3. Insert all but two inches of a deliming spring into the sprayhead tube. Slide the tool in and out five or six times to loosen lime deposits. This may require some twisting and pushing to get the tube cleaned thoroughly.
  4. Check the holes of the sprayhead. If they are plugged with mineral deposits or white flakes, they can be cleared using a toothpick.
  5. Clean the sprayhead with a cloth and mild detergent. Rinse it thoroughly with water and reinstall it.
  6. Plug in the brewer and allow the water in the tank to reheat before using it again.