The following information is provided
courtesy of The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association.
Understanding Beverage Equipment
Hot beverages offer
some of the best profit margins in catering with ingredient cost
a few pence and selling price usually in excess of £1. That
margin allows caterers to invest in high performance beverage
equipment, since a quality drink allows for a premium selling
price. Yet while the end product is a cup of coffee, there are
different ways of making it. What caterers have to do is
understand what the different beverage system are for and which
is right for the business. These are different types of coffee
The most simple of coffee
making systems yet still capable of delivering excellent freshly
brewed coffee. Despite their low cost and simplicity, cafetieres
are seen in very smart hotels and restaurants.
It is possible to get them in
polycarbonate (a plastic), but heat-resistant glass is the more
common construction material with a brass or chromed cage. The
size of a cafetiere is given in the number of cups it can
deliver, usually from three to eight.
Because different quantities of
coffee will be ordered according to the customers sat around the
table, it is important to carry a wide range of cafetiere sizes.
A three-cup size will normally be enough for one or two
customers and likely to be the most popular order size, but
should a party of four order coffee a six or eight-cup size will
The one word of caution is that
the detergents used in commercial dishwashers may be unsuitable
for a cafetiere and hand washing will be needed. A supplier will
advise on washing prior to purchase.
Pour and serve
This is the familiar
balloon-shaped glass jug unit, usually two jugs to a unit, one
being filled underneath the unit by hot water run through coffee
grounds held in a filter while the other glass jug is held warm
on the top of the machine from a heat pad. This system is
inexpensive and provides a good cup of coffee, providing the
coffee is not allowed to stew on the heat-pad for too long. One
hour is considered the maximum time to hold coffee in this
manner. Pour and serve systems are ideal for catering operations
such as pubs, cafes and small restaurants where demand is
steady, but not huge.
These work on freeze-dried
ingredients, often a similar type to coffee granules seen on
supermarket shelves. They are very convenient and can be cheap
for the smaller machines, making them suitable for low-demand
coffee needs such as cafes or pubs. The bigger automatic soluble
machines are very fast, delivering a cup of coffee from
one-button touch, making them popular with fast-food chains,
airports and motorway service areas.
These are usually
semi-automatic or fully automatic. The semi-automatic machines
need dispense staff to be well-trained on machine operation to
provide coffee with the best flavour and the trademark creamy
topping on espresso (called the crema), but manufacturers often
offer training packages with the sale of a machine. Fully
automatic machines require less operator skill, but staff still
need proper training. The two main advantages of automatic
espresso machines are that they deliver quality with consistency
These are aimed at any catering
operation which has the need for a large volume of coffee to be
available in a very short time. Typically, this would be a hotel
for breakfast service, refreshment periods during conference
breaks or for after-dinner coffee in banqueting, but bulk
brewers can also be very useful for staff restaurants, roadside
catering, universities and hospitals. They are plumbed-in
systems which will both brew the coffee, usually from fresh
coffee grounds, and hold it in an internal tank so it can be
dispensed for service to customers through traditional table-top
coffee pots or into airpots or vacuum jugs.
Tea making and water boilers
An on-demand supply of very hot
water is essential for every catering operation and while tea
making may be the main function of a hot water boiler, they have
many more uses in a catering environment, from hot beverages
other than tea, to chefs needing a quick source of very hot
water. It is essential to get the right capacity of hot-water
output which meets both the current need and future needs after
growth of the business. The best way to do this is to talk to
manufacturers. They will look at the nature of the business,
assess water boiler needs and recommend a size of machine which
is neither too small or too large. The advice will be free.
machines cover a wide range of hot drink dispensers and looking
after them can range from basic hygiene principles to strict
hygiene routines depending on the type of machine.
after water boilers, which are mostly used for tea making, but
have a much wider application in the kitchen and for hotels and
restaurants, primarily concerns water treatment to deal with
limescale build-up on heating elements, the holding tank, inflow
and dispense pipework.
be done through a water treatment system, which is essential in
hard water areas and recommended in soft water areas. Beyond
water treatment control, water boilers need little maintenance
beyond a quick check during a regular maintenance programme.
Pour and serve coffee machines, usually the balloon jug
underneath a percolating filter of fresh coffee are also fairly
maintenance free apart from the hard water issue which means
regular de-scaling is essential.
careful looking after beverage machines becomes more important
is with coffee machines that produces espresso and the
fresh-ground coffee variant drinks that come from an espresso
machines work under high pressure and have internal pipework
through which water and coffee flows. They can also have
internal milk holding and frothing systems which bring both
hygiene and maintenance issues.
traditional image of a coffee barista shows used dispense heads
being banged to release used coffee grounds into a disposal bin,
slapping new coffee heads into place on the machine and
generally treating the coffee machine as part of the rough and
tumble theatre of good coffee production.
is very important for front of house coffee sales, but too much
robust use of expensive espresso machines might please the
barista and the customer in the short term. But add
significantly to maintenance and replacement costs not just in
the long term but in the medium term.
As with any
equipment that uses mains water within internal pipework, all
plumbed in coffee machine should have a water treatment system
fitted. The type of water treatment should meet the challenges
of the local water. A specialist water treatment company will
advise on the correct type of system for the local water.
systems have a facility for steam heating milk for the
production of milk-based coffee drinks such as latte and
cappuccino. This is often a steam wand on the side of the
machine into which a jug of milk can be placed to both heat and
Milk is a
prime breeding ground for harmful bacteria and coffee machines
with a milk steam wand should have the steam wand cleaned and
sanitised at least every six hours. Some semi-automatic machines
have a refrigerated milk system within the unit. These need
rigorous care and it is essential to follow the manufacturer
guidance on how to keep the unit clean and safe.
machine has a steam wand cleaning cycle this should be used
according to manufacturers instructions. Many espresso machines
now have a self-cleaning cycle which can work from a button
touch and takes just a few minutes.
Fit a water treatment system
Thoroughly clean where milk has been
Keep the drip tray clean
Clean machines daily
Train staff to make good coffee
Rough handle dispense
spills to attract pests
hard tap water in unplumbed machines
untrained adjustments to machines
Leave spilt ingredients in soluble machines
Wash cafetieres in a dishwasher