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FE&SEditorial Archives2003 — October — E&S Spotlight

Coffee Stations & Pantries Perking Up
Coffee Stations & Pantries

Equipment packages for coffee preparation and service vary considerably from operation to operation, depending on the style of service, concept identity and volume of customers served.

The self-serve breakfast bar at Holiday Inn Express locations includes NSF-certified airpots used for coffee holding and service, proprietary condiment holders and insulated pitchers for milk as well as other signature breakfast drinks.

From a "caffeine oasis" providing a day-starting first cup of coffee, to a site offering a relaxing mid-day hot beverage break or a fresh-brewed premium conclusion to a memorable meal, coffee lovers count on operators to employ E&S that produces coffee drinks of high quality and proper temperature. As customers have become increasingly more sophisticated in their choices of different coffee-based beverages, operators' selection of the products needed for coffee service has come to encompass pieces appropriate for different styles of preparation, and both classic and high-tech methods of brewing, holding and serving coffee.

"Any restaurant or foodservice that is dedicated to serving good coffee will never allow the product to sit on a burner to keep it hot - coffee burns and turns rancid very quickly," explained Robert Crew, general manager at restaurant W.A. Frost, which is located in a beautiful, historically landmarked, turn-of-the-century apartment building in St. Paul, Minn. This notable venue has been serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch to Twin Cities residents since the mid-'70s, and has been voted the "most romantic" local dining location by the area press year after year. Coffee menu offerings at W.A. Frost are extensive and include regular brewed drinks, gourmet varieties served in individual glass press pots, deluxe espresso beverages and specialty alcoholic coffee drinks, which change seasonally. All of these beverages are brewed in three locations at W.A. Frost, in the two bars on-site and at the kitchen's coffee service station.

The bars both contain regular coffee brewers configured to release their contents directly into 11/2-liter insulated carafes, which are designed to retain coffee flavor and temperature, as well as to double as service pots. The two bars also contain Italian-manufactured espresso machines used to prepare specialty coffee beverages. Ceramic service cups are generally stored on top of the machines, which serve to warm these containers with radiant heat. Hot water nozzles on espresso machines are also used to warm service glasses, which frequently include brandy snifters containing different types of alcohol that are added to coffee. "Regular maintenance is important to the consistent operation of espresso machines, which, otherwise, can clog or make coffee that doesn't taste fresh," Crew emphasized. "That's why every night here after closing, brew baskets in our machines are replaced by baskets with no holes that contain special cleansers. Then, the systems are backwashed until hot water runs clear from the machines."

Equipment found behind the counter in the work area at Joe's coffee house includes a rack-type dishwasher, a coffee grinder, a small three-compartment sink, coffee holding urns, a small ice machine, an undercounter refrigerator and a dual coffee brewer.

The coffee service station, located just off the main kitchen at W.A. Frost, is conveniently accessed via a separate entrance for wait staff, who are responsible for coffee service at the restaurant. The service station is equipped with a dual coffee brewer system for regular and decaffeinated coffees, each of which is capable of brewing five liters of coffee into spigotted holding urns from which staff fill the insulated carafes used for tableside coffee service. Other equipment found in the well-organized service station includes a coffee grinder, which automatically grinds and replenishes the prescribed amount to fill baskets in the dual brewer; undercounter refrigeration used to hold milk and cream; an ice machine and soda service fountain; and storage shelving that holds the glass mugs provided in the bar and on the patio for coffee, as well as the china cups and saucers used in the restaurant's four dining rooms. The service station also stores the two-cup French press pots that are filled for service with pre-ground gourmet beans and hot water from a brewer's spigot.

"The press-pot service allows a 'white tablecloth' restaurant such as ours to offer customers coffee brewed from specialty beans, such as our organic Peruvian or Sumatra Blue Lintong offerings," commented Crew. "These days, coffee connoisseurs profess to savor the subtleties of different coffee blends the same way wine lovers study the bouquets of various wines."

Guests at any of the 1,400 Holiday Inn Express hotels around the world can now start their mornings with free coffee and other breakfast items at the chain's new signature self-serve Express Start breakfast bar. "Our goal was to raise standards for breakfast bar service in this segment of our industry," noted Ned Barker, vice president of food and beverage for parent company Six Continents Hotels. "'Free' should not mean lower quality or lax food safety standards," he added. With this goal in mind, Holiday Inn Express became the first hotel chain to work with an equipment manufacturer, engineering and re-engineering equipment, to earn NSF certification on its whole breakfast bar E&S package, including coffee serving equipment.

Key Coffee Station & Pantry E&S
  • Coffee brewers
  • Holding urns
  • Insulated pitcher carafes
  • Espresso machines
  • Coffee grinders
  • Undercounter refrigerators
  • Ice machines
  • Storage shelves and racks
  • French-style press pots
  • Airpots
  • Condiment holders
  • Ceramic coffee cups
  • Glass coffee mugs
  • Disposable paper cups
  • Dishwasher
  • Small three-compartment sink

The coffee brewers that support coffee service at the Express Start breakfast bars are located in back-of-the-house areas at the hotels. Brewer configurations are dependent on the size and volume needed by an individual hotel site but, generally, two coffee brewers are installed in a hotel's foodservice production area. These brewers are built to dispense coffee directly into specially designed airpots, which are then transported directly to the display breakfast bar area, ready for customer self-service, which is proving to be a big time saver, according to Barker. "Our airpots are designed to hold three liters of coffee, rather than the standard two liters, so three airpots represent 50% more coffee available for customers at a breakfast bar. This conserves space, which is always at a premium in the service area," he pointed out. "Some types of airpots can be difficult to clean properly, but the ones that we had manufactured for the Express Start breakfast bar were designed to be easy to clean and sanitize — hence, their NSF approval."

Proprietary condiment holders and display racks for coffee service are part of a package supplied by the company responsible for the signature-brand coffees served at the Express Start bars. Milk for coffee service is stored in stainless-steel insulated coolers that are put out adjacent to airpots on the display breakfast bars. "Our equipment makes a major contribution to our ability to serve and showcase our signature coffee and other breakfast bar items properly, such as our extremely popular cinnamon rolls," Barker remarked.

The coffee service pantry at W.A. Frost is equipped with dual coffee brewers, a coffee grinder, an ice holding cabinet, undercounter refrigerators, thermal carafes for coffee service, two-cup French press pots and containers of pre-ground gourmet coffees for press-pot service.

Located in the corner ground-floor storefront of a small apartment building in New York City's Greenwich Village, the stand-alone, independently owned coffee shop, Joe's, became an instant hit in the neighborhood when it opened this past July.

"I was not fully aware of the tremendous amount of power required to operate coffee brewers and espresso machines," said John Rubenstein, Joe's proprietor. "As a result, we had to rewire this older building completely to avoid any electrical power problems."

The backbone of coffee service at Joe's is an Italian-manufactured, two-nozzle-group espresso machine. "Our espresso machine represents the biggest equipment dollar investment at Joe's, and I researched the available equipment extensively before purchasing this particular machine. Durability, capacity, consistent temperature control, a quick recovery time and quality of the brewed beverages were all important factors we considered," related Rubenstein. "The two-group nozzle configuration allows two baristas to prepare coffee beverages during high-volume sales periods. Although espresso coffee machines are available with fully automatic controls, we chose a semiautomatic control configuration to give our baristas more control over coffee preparation and retain a bit of the 'artistry' involved," he commented. "The bean grinders that we use for the espresso machine also allow us to make some fine adjustments to accommodate weather conditions, such as high humidity, which can affect the consistency of the grind."

Italian-manufactured espresso coffee machines at W.A. Frost are located in the two bar areas. Coffee cups and mugs are stored on top of the machine that serves to warm them with radiant heat.

Regular coffee preparation at Joe's is accomplished with a 11/2-gal.-capacity brewer that drips directly into state-of-the-art vacuum-sealed insulated carafes. "The vacuum seal on our coffee carafes helps to ensure both proper temperature retention and the freshness of coffee flavors, and our units do a really good job," commented Rubenstein.

Coffee-related equipment installed in the work area at Joe's also includes both single- and double-door refrigeration units that hold dairy products and juices. A small dishwasher here utilizes heat for sanitizing, rather than chemicals, to keep all foreign flavors out of coffee preparation and holding equipment, and the area's small, three-compartment sink is just large enough to accommodate the store's carafes. "We chose compact equipment partially because of space limitations, but also to provide an efficient workstation where staff need only reach and swivel to prepare coffee beverages for customers," explained Rubenstein. "However, we made a mistake in choosing our compact ice machine," he continued. "The equipment is capable of making 60 lbs. of ice a day, but it turned out that we needed twice that much this summer for our iced coffee drinks. For two weeks, I had to spend over $20 a day buying ice at a market, until I worked out a barter system with the bar around the corner. They provide us with buckets of ice every day in exchange for coffee drinks for all their employees. I'm planning to upgrade to a larger ice machine before the next summer season, which we'll have to install in a back room."

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