The Perfect Brew for Your Coffee and TeaThe right device leads to happy customers
By Michelle D. Williams
Brewing coffee is easy enough, but does yours taste perfect every time? Does the flavor profile of your Ethiopian Harar beans shine through? Are you able to brew enough to keep your customers’ cups full all day? And is your method cost-effective?
Having the right brewing equipment for your retail environment makes all the difference when it comes to quality, quantity, speed and convenience.
WHAT A DRIP
These days, commercial drip brewers feature easy-to-use digital controls for fine-tuning water temperature, infusion time, output volume, brew cycle and other parameters. Most manufacturers offer the basics needed for good drip coffee, and some have added bells and whistles. One thing to note with drip brewers is that some of the coffee’s oils get trapped in the filter during the brewing process, which some say produces a less flavorful cup. Others argue that less oil in the cup means a smoother brew.
For high-volume serving environments, BUNN’s new Titan Dual satellite coffee brewer can crank out 34.3 gallons per hour. Part of BUNN’s BrewWISE line, the brewer features the BrewMETER interface, which allows operators to set taste profiles using pre-infusion, pulse brew, variable bypass and digital temperature control. The system is ideal for convention centers, large catered events, theaters, large hotels, banquet facilities, casinos and colleges.
BUNN’s SmartWAVE, on the other hand, is a fitting choice for smaller spaces. At 17 inches high, the low-profile brewer fits under any standard cabinet. The SmartWAVE enhances water turbulence to optimize contact between water and coffee. The system also features BrewMETER options and can brew up to 3.9 gallons per hour. A slide-out booster tray enables brewing into a 1.9-liter carafe.
Ryan Marks, general manager at Ruta Maya Coffee House in Austin, Texas, uses an earlier-model BUNN dual satellite brewer that features two 1.5-gallon, stainless-steel canisters. The dual system allows Marks to brew one light batch and one dark batch of coffee at a time. If he were upgrading, Marks says he would switch to an airpot system because he thinks that coffee kept in airpots stays fresher longer.
Fetco recently introduced a line of environmentally friendly equipment. None of Fetco’s brewing devices contain mercury, lead or fiberglass; all of its fittings are made with stainless steel; and its insulation contains no harmful materials. The recently released ECO EXTRACTOR line of brewers features an “eco” mode that helps save energy by reducing the tank temperature by 30 degrees after one hour of idle time. Fetco brewers are available in single or dual models, and dispensers come in .5-gallon, one-gallon, 1.5-gallon and two-gallon sizes—customizable for any volume requirements, from small cafés to hotels and cruise ships.
Wilbur Curtis also offers a comprehensive line of commercial coffee-brewing systems. The Curtis Milano is the company’s latest model, featuring conical, vacuum-insulated servers with stainless-steel casings for optimum heat retention. Servers can hold 1.5 gallons of coffee and feature internal timers for maintaining quality. Available in single or twin brewing models, this system is an efficient digital brewer for coffeehouses and cafés.
Another new entry on the market is Boyd Coffee Company’s Coffee Profiler. This coffee-brewing system is the first to score more than a 90 percent uniformity of extraction rating by the SCAA—its 91.3 rating eclipsed the previous highest score of 85.6. Because of this high score, the SCAA will automatically grant Golden Cup Award certification to any purveyor using The Coffee Profiler.
The Coffee Profiler features a small footprint but can brew up to 250 different coffee profiles (or recipes) into a variety of containers, making the system appropriate for both low- and high-volume businesses. Available only to Boyd Coffee Company customers, The Coffee Profiler is preprogrammed by a Boyd technician to ensure precision in all aspects of the brewing process, including water contact time, temperature, formula, volume, dilution and bypass. The brewer automatically adjusts temperature settings according to your elevation, and it monitors water usage, letting the user know when to change water conditioners.
THE VIRTUES OF COLD
Cold-brewed coffee produces a rich, intense flavor profile that works well for iced coffee. Also, because only about 15 percent of the oils and acids come through, the coffee is smoother and sweeter than coffee brewed using hot water.
Filtron Coffee Systems has been perfecting the art of cold-brewed coffee for more than 70 years. The Filtron Pro cold-water coffee brewer makes up to 10 pounds of coffee at a time to produce approximately six gallons of coffee concentrate. Most retailers use the concentrate to make iced coffees or blended-ice coffee drinks, but it can be used for hot coffee as well.
Ideal for restaurants, coffeehouses, roasters and caterers, the Filtron system is cost-effective and easy to use—all you need is ground coffee and cool water. Just place your grounds into a paper or cotton pre-filter, which rests on top of another 100-percent wool filter at the bottom of the brewing bowl. Pour water over the coffee and allow it to sit for 24 hours at room temperature, then drain the concentrate into decanters. Coffee can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Some retailers use the smaller, one-pound version of the Filtron brewer to make small batches of specific coffee concentrates or to sample a new roast. Small batches also can be brewed using large glass jars and a double-filtering process after the coffee has brewed for about 12 hours.
A PRESSING MATTERr
“The best-tasting coffee is absolutely French press,” says Tony Castillo, owner of Lava Java in Austin. “But most people don’t want to wait five or six minutes.” Castillo will make a cup of French press coffee if a customer requests it, but because most demand quick service, his café’s daily brew is basic drip coffee made with an American Metal Ware brewer.
So why is French press coffee so good?
• You can use freshly roasted, freshly ground beans.
• You can set the water temperature between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the ideal temperature to extract the flavor from the ground beans. Drip coffeemakers don’t brew this hot.
• All of the coffee is submerged in the water, creating optimal surface area contact. With drip coffeemakers, the water passes through the grounds quickly and doesn’t pick up all of the oils.
• French press gives you total control over brew time.
• With French press brewing, there is no paper filter to soak up the oils and flavor of the coffee.
And the French press is a good margin tool for high-end cafés and restaurants because they can charge more per cup—customers tend to place a higher perceived value on French press coffee than drip coffee.
Bodum’s latest model, the PRESSO French Press, is targeted toward commercial settings, with stainless-steel, wire mesh casing protecting the glass beaker from bumps. In addition, an integrated stainless-steel coffee filter makes disposing of grounds and cleaning the carafe quick and convenient. The press body is made of heat-resistant, ultra-light borosilicate glass, which holds up to hundreds of cycles in the dishwasher. The PRESSO is available in 12-ounce, 17-ounce and 34-ounce sizes.
AIRPOTS AND CARAFES
Thermal and vacuum-insulated airpots and carafes maintain coffee flavor and temperature for longer periods of time, making them good options for self service or environments where fewer cups of brewed coffee are served per hour. A glass-lined thermal airpot holds heat and maintains flavor for the longest—up to eight hours. While stainless-steel-lined servers are much more durable than glass-lined devices, beverages can cool faster and eventually absorb a metallic taste. Stainless steel might be the best choice for high-volume situations where the airpots are being swapped out frequently.
Update International is the largest importer of airpots and servers. The company offers a range of standard options, with stainless-steel or glass linings and either a lever or a push top. Update International also sells a three-gallon iced tea dispenser made of stainless steel. Operators simply fill the ice core tube in the center to maintain cold iced tea without the worry that the ice cubes will dilute the tea as they melt.
Zojirushi also offers a range of thermal airpots and carafes. The company’s latest Thermal Gravity Pot beverage dispenser features either a glass or stainless-steel lining and comes with a detachable serving base. Gravity dispensing minimizes oxidation and helps preserve the flavor of the beverage. The 2.5-liter dispensers also feature a sturdy, fold-down handle with a name-tag holder for labeling the brews, a detachable sight gauge, a removable drip tray and a Brew-Thru lid with a mesh filter that enables users to brew directly into the storage vessel.
Service Ideas produces an extensive selection of insulated servers, ice-tube pitchers, airpots, and tea urns in varying heat retention times and sizes. Equipment features plastic, stainless steel and glass components for unique styles to help you set the mood in your retail environment, from the casual café counter to the upscale restaurant. The company’s Eco-Air Build Your Own Airpots allow users to mix and match their choice of shell, liner and lid to create a customized airpot.
TEA TIME—AND TEMPERATURE
For brewing high-end specialty teas, precise water temperature is paramount. White, green, oolong and black teas, as well as herbal infusions, all require different water temperatures for the best results. Many teahouses, restaurants and cafés are choosing Zojirushi electric boilers and warmers because of the temperature control, and all Zojirushi boilers are designed for use in restaurants or cafés that serve tea throughout the day.
With a five-liter capacity, Zojirushi’s Panorama Window Micom Electric Dispensing Pot brings water to a preset temperature and keeps it there for as long as the device is plugged in. The panorama window has three keep-warm settings—175, 195 and 208 degrees—making an exact water temperature readily available at all times for brewing any type of tea.
Tomomi Yoshida, manager of Roji Tea Lounge in Syracuse, N.Y., uses a five-gallon Bunn Hot Water Machine for brewing her teas in individual teapots. She says the dispenser is a good size for her shop, which brews anywhere from 50 to 80 hot teas per day. Her team also uses the water for cooking, washing and other kitchen tasks. Capable of dispensing up to 18 gallons per hour, the device also allows for preset water temperature. Another maker of hot water dispensers is Fetco, which offers five-, 10-, 15- and 25-gallon models.
When steeping high-end teas, shops also must make technical considerations. Some tea leaves need to steep for up to five minutes, while others should never steep for longer than a minute or so. Having control over brew time is key.
Bodum makes a tea press that is ideal for restaurants, teahouses and hotels, serving single pots of loose-leaf brewed tea. But at about $40 each, these nifty little devices might not be great for high-volume tea retailers.
Lava Java owner Castillo is excited about the Smart Tea Maker. The shop offers a range of specialty loose-leaf teas, and Castillo says the new Smart contraptions are a great way to brew and serve them. Tea can be brewed right in the hard, clear plastic pots, allowing servers—or the tea drinker—to monitor brew time. Placing the pot of brewed tea on top of a cup triggers a mechanism on the bottom of the pot, which allows the brewed tea to drip down into the cup. Each pot holds approximately three cups. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Castillo says. “It’s cost-effective, and you’re definitely going to get a more quality product by brewing this way—you can even let it drip over ice for iced tea.”
For high-volume brewing of hot and iced tea, most coffee-brewing system manufacturers offer devices for tea that make use of the same technologies.
YOUR BOTTOM LINE
When evaluating what type of brewer will be most cost-effective for your retail environment, consider these parameters in relation to the amount of coffee or tea you sell each day:
• Brew volume per hour
• Energy-efficient features
• Durability of materials
• Ability to keep beverages fresh
• Temperature retention
• Ease of use and cleaning
Once you’re sure you’ve got the best brewer for your setting and understand how to use it most effectively, maybe brewing coffee and tea will be as easy as throwing some grounds (or leaves) in and flipping a switch—or maybe even just pushing a press.