Perfect Cup: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Coffee Program

Tips for Putting Your Commercial Coffee Maker to Use

Whether you’re starting a coffee program in a gas station, diner, or casual restaurant, or incorporating coffee into a hotel’s continental breakfast program, there is some basic equipment you’ll need before the first cup is poured. From the time you turn on your commercial coffee maker until your customer drinks the coffee, there are several steps that must be taken to ensure a satisfying cup of joe.

From basic drip coffee makers to elaborate hot beverage merchandisers, it’s never been easier to provide good coffee in places besides specialty coffee shops. So even if your coffee service will be limited to the classic one-burner Bunn coffee maker, you can easily impress your guests and make them drive from miles around to get their preferred cup.


Before beginning the brewing process, a huge consideration will be whether you’ll be grinding your own beans or using beans that are already ground. Most experts believe freshly ground beans are critical because coffee begins to go stale immediately following the grinding process. If you choose to grind your own beans, there are many grinders on the market to fill this need. Blade grinders will get the job done in a fairly economical manner, but a finer grind for espresso-based drinks will probably require a burr grinder in order to get the right consistency and flavor extraction.


How you brew your coffee after it is ground is another significant decision that must be made. Percolators and some urns use the percolating technique to produce cups to even gallons of coffee at a time. While this is an efficient way of producing large amounts of coffee for high volume applications, the quality of the product may not be ideal, in that the coffee is recirculated through the grounds during the process, which may over extract and add acidity to the brew.

Drip coffee makers help eliminate the extra acid by dripping pure water over coffee grounds. This method may not get the coffee quite as hot as its percolating counterpart, but it doesn’t require the recirculation that can be problematic.

There are some models that are specially designed to keep up with the potentially high volume of convenience stores and restaurants. These high volume coffee systems can produce coffee from fresh grounds or liquid concentrate and generate gallons of coffee in just minutes. High-quality specialty coffees can be created with espresso machines. Even those with limited barista skills can operate some of these superautomatic units that require little more than the push of a button to pull a perfect shot.


Once you’ve crafted a fantastic brew, the next step will be to determine how you’ll deliver it to your guests. Some units will allow you to dispense coffee directly into cups, but you may also need the ability to serve your patrons at tables or counters. Glass and stainless steel decanters and thermal carafes provide a consistent and dependable way to do this. Decanters are lightweight and easy to pour. Thermal carafes can keep coffee at desirable temperatures for extended periods without affecting the integrity of the coffee within. Airpots come in 84-, 102-, and 128-ounce sizes and have lever-action or push-button lids. They are generally made of stainless steel and have glass insulation.


If you’re looking to set up a coffee bar in a convenience store or cafeteria, an attractive hot drink machine can help dispense and even produce hot specialties like cappuccino, hot cocoa, tea, and cider. These handy merchandisers are stylish and use vibrant, bold graphics to add visual appeal. Some units have the capability to dispense up to six different varieties of hot beverages, and some have the ability to serve chilled or iced drinks simultaneously. You may also merchandise your coffee with airpot racks or accessory holders that bear colorful graphics as well as organize condiments, cups, and lids.


While many connoisseurs will argue that coffee should only be taken black, so as not to mask the natural flavors and aromas, the abundance of specialty coffees indicate that a vast market exists of customers who want to customize their coffee drinking experience. From sugar and cream dispensers to flavored syrups that pump from bottles, the sky is the limit on the concoctions people can create with a good coffee base. With these options comes the necessity for storage and accessibility at your coffee station.


If you’re offering limited coffee service, you may find that a beverage cart will provide the surface and storage area you need while keeping costs to a minimum. They’ll accommodate countertop brewers, urns, airpots, and many necessary accessories like whipped cream dispensers and bottles of flavoring.

These units are particularly useful in hotel continental breakfast rooms and for event halls, where patrons may be served coffee or serve themselves from multiple locations in a large room.


Nothing quite says coffee like a classic white coffee mug filled to the brim with deep, black coffee. Some espresso machines come with a rack on top to keep your espresso cups at the perfect serving temperature. Today’s market, however, requires that businesses offer coffee on the go. Disposable, insulated cups and lids can become cumbersome, so it’s important to include a cup and lid dispenser to keep your coffee station neat and organized. The use of disposable cups will also help eliminate the need for extra dishwashing equipment and labor.

Start a Coffee Business