A restaurant kitchen is often a relatively hectic place with customers’ orders coming in, food going out and service workers hustling to keep patrons happy. Thus, when you think of coffee in relation to the restaurant industry, what comes to mind is probably a machine–or machines–capable of servicing a large number of customers, while at the same time providing the quality of coffee they’ve become accustomed to over the years.
So, let’s find out exactly what kinds of coffee machines can help restaurants provide their customers with the best–and most plentiful–coffee in the business.

Commercial Coffee Makers

First and foremost, let’s focus on commercial-oriented coffee machines meant to handle a potentially large influx of customers. These machines come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can assist your restaurant in brewing enough coffee to meet even the highest demand.
What do you need to take into account before buying one of these machines? It’s important to consider:

  • The number of customers you’d like to serve.
  • Space requirements.
  • Brewing frequency.
  • Budget.

Many of these commercial products can run, on average, around $200 to $600. Top-tier makers can cost $1,000 or more.

Pour-Over Machines vs. Plumbed Machines

Your options include:

  • A pour-over model, into which you pour water from the top just like you would with traditional drip machines.
  • An automatic plumbed model that’s hooked into your water line, saving you the hassle of pouring the water yourself. Some plumbed models have options for pour-over capability.

Pour-over models are easily relocated to a different restaurant or to another area within a restaurant. These models are great for those looking to save space, especially if you look for a machine with a warmer (in which to place a reserve coffee pot) located on top rather than off to the side. Automatic commercial-oriented machines can be hooked into your water system through a nearby water line and offer restaurant workers the opportunity to serve more people per hour.

What’s the Brew Capacity?

Smaller models can brew around four gallons per hour, while larger machines are capable of brewing as many as 15 gallons per hour. So, how many people will this coffee serve?
A machine that brews four gallons of coffee per hour will turn out approximately eight pots of coffee per hour. Depending on whether you serve eight-ounce or six-ounce cups, you can serve 16 or 20 people per gallon of coffee (with each person having one cup). So, with these commercial machines that can make four gallons per hour, you’ll likely be able to serve between 64 and 80 people per hour. (Note: Using a five-ounce cup, you’ll get approximately 100 cups of coffee per hour).
Slightly larger brewers that can brew up to six gallons in 60 minutes make approximately 120 cups of coffee per hour using a six-ounce cup. Commercial coffee machines also come in a number of even larger sizes, with some serving up to 15 gallons per hour (making a whopping 300 cups of coffee per hour!). These models include more warming stations and coffee pots to accommodate such a large brew capacity.
Obviously, not every customer will be drinking coffee; and not every coffee drinker will have just one cup. That’s why it’s important to take stock of your specific set of needs when looking for the perfect machine (or machines) that will serve all of your customers without any lag. Whatever volume of customers is unique to your setting, you’ll be able to find a perfect coffee maker solution.

Coffee Urns

Regular coffee urns (essentially tall pots with handles near the top and a spout near the bottom) and more restaurant-oriented variations (which tend to look like widened, box-like coffee dispensers) can both brew coffee quickly and efficiently for very large numbers of thirsty customers. These machines tend to make approximately 10 to 20 gallons per hour, depending upon the specific machine. Going off of a six-ounce coffee cup, you’ll be able to serve 200 to 400 cups per hour!
Regular coffee urns normally range in price from $30 to $150, with some models priced a bit higher. In contrast, commercial-oriented, box-like versions made for restaurant use can cost around $2,000.

Coffee Vending Machines

For shops, diners and other establishments, coffee vending machines can offer an additional way to make money. Freestanding vending machines are those you normally see in hospitals and big businesses, while tabletop vending machines work in a similar fashion but take up much less space and fit easily in a kitchen or on a counter. With each, customers input coins or bills or use credit or debit cards to pay for a wide variety of drinks, such as:

  • Coffee.
  • Cappuccino,
  • Espresso.
  • Tea.
  • Hot chocolate.

Several purchasing and rental options are available to you. You can purchase a coffee vending machine outright (which may cost several thousand dollars) and keep it stocked yourself, or you can use a vendor who supplies you with the machine, repairs and restocks it and, in many cases, shares some of the profits with you. You can also go the franchising route if you have multiple service locations and can be your own boss, bringing in money in addition to the profits from your shop or restaurant.

Coffee Delivery Services

Yes, even restaurants sometimes need coffee delivery! There are many moving parts to the restaurant business, so why not hand over the coffee reigns to someone else? Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Caribou Coffee, Green Mountain Coffee and even some small coffee companies will deliver top-notch products right to your restaurant on a schedule that works for you.
These delivery services eliminate the need to go out and buy coffee and related products, and in some cases they also free you from maintaining your coffee makers. Small shops or restaurants may just want coffee delivered and nothing else. For larger restaurants that go through an array of coffee products each day, there are usually programs that provide coffee delivery in addition to machines, installation and servicing, maintenance, coffee supplies and much more.

Espresso Makers

Espresso makers offer a quickly made cafe product for savvy customers looking to drink a brew with a strong kick. Prices range from $50 for a very basic machine up to a whopping $3,000 (or even more!) for a top-of-the-line espresso maker. Those in smaller venues can often be served by smaller, lower-cost models; more commercial-oriented–and more expensive–espresso machines are meant to handle medium to large facilities.

What Doesn’t Work?

Here’s a short list of what probably won’t work for your restaurant, as these products won’t be able to meet the demand:

  • Automatic drip coffee makers: Great for a home or small office setting, but probably not for your bustling restaurant.
  • Pod coffee makers: Single-serving machines won’t get the job done.