From lunch rooms and parent-teacher conferences to assemblies and large-scale school events, coffee drinkers need to be served in kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school and college settings. What products are available to make this happen, no matter the event, size of your school, or educational level?
Let’s take a look at some of the coffee products that lend themselves to each unique situation at your institution.

Pod Coffee Makers

Gaining rapidly in popularity, pod coffee makers place simplicity and superior taste at the top of the list. All you need to do is open the pod machine and inset a single-serve cup, close the machine, choose your brew size (and, sometimes, other settings such as brew temperature and auto off) and brew your steaming hot coffee.
Using a pod coffee maker takes the measuring, grinding, most of the cleaning and overall hassle out of providing a morning brew for teaching and/or office staff. These machines normally run between $50 and $300 depending upon the specific brand, model and features. If you’re a small school, pod coffee makers can work wonders.
For larger institutions looking to serve more employees, students and visitors, these single-serve machines might not work as well as you’ll only be able to brew one cup of coffee at a time. In addition, these machines usually end up costing more in the long run as single-serve cups are more expensive than traditional drip coffee brands; in addition you’ll need to shop for coffee more often as pods take up more space than cans of ground coffee.

Automatic Drip Coffee Makers

Traditional automatic drip coffee makers (those prevalent in homes, offices and seemingly everywhere else) can work quite well for those looking to save money and and prepare coffee for more than just one person at a time. You open the top, pour in water, insert a filter, add your favorite coffee and push a button to begin brewing. These models require a little more hands-on attention than pod coffee makers. A teacher or a member of the office staff will need to brew a morning pot and repeat the process as more coffee is needed. A bit of cleaning involved, too, and you’ll be purchasing filters and coffee.
Lower-end models can run around $40, and can make perfectly good-tasting cups of coffee; higher-end models with a few more features can cost approximately $200. Models may include options such as:

  • Interactive displays.
  • An automatic timer.
  • Thermal carafe.
  • Adjustable brew strength.
  • Automatic shutoff.
  • Adjustable temperature

Larger models usually brew 10 to 12 cups at a time. If you have approximately 15 or fewer employees, these traditional drip coffee makers get the job done, though they can work in larger facilities, too. It just depends upon how many people drink coffee at your school, how much coffee they drink and other similar factors, all of which will help you figure out what type of coffee maker you need. In addition, you can always buy more than one machine in order to meet higher demand or look to commercial pour-over coffee makers (like those you’d see in restaurants) with multiple carafes and warmers (explained below).

Coffee Urns

Coffee urns (tall pots stretched with handles near the top and a spout near the bottom) can brew many cups of coffee for large school events such as assemblies, plays, concerts and beyond. They normally range in price from $30 to $150, and come in a number of sizes including 30-cup, 40-cup, 50-cup, 60-cup and 80-cup brewing capacities (and beyond).
Many coffee urns make between 10 to 20 gallons per hour, and with one of these models your school function will be able to serve 200 to 400 people per hour, assuming that everyone has one six-ounce cup. Of course, not everyone drinks coffee and some will drink more than one cup; thus, there will be some trial and error before you get the perfect brew cycle going: not too much left over and not running out too soon.

Coffee Vending Machines

Freestanding coffee vending machines are the models often found in hospitals and on street corners that dispense food or drinks after you input cash or a credit or debit card. Tabletop vending machine are similar but take up far less space and can easily fit in a kitchen or small lunch room.
Are these vending machines good choices for schools? It depends. If you’re a small facility that teaches elementary students, these machines aren’t going to work well as potential customers need to be slightly older. However, for larger institutions that serve college students, these vending machines can be good options.
If you choose to purchase and operate a vending machine yourself, you may need to put down thousands of dollars initially. A better option for many educational institutions is to go through a supplier/vendor who will place the machine, restock products and make repairs when necessary. And, a vendor may offer a small percentage of the profits from their machines (normally between five percent and 15 percent) to a school as an incentive to entice school officials to work with them.

Coffee Delivery Services

Many big-name coffee companies like Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, Boca Java, Peet’s Coffee and Tea and Green Mountain Coffee, along with some smaller coffees brands, will deliver their products directly to your school on an agreed-upon schedule that works for the size of your school, coffee requirements and budget. Delivery services have several benefits:

  • Time saved by not having to buy your own coffee.
  • A steady supply of coffee and, many times, related supplies.
  • In many cases, freedom from maintenance responsibilities.

You can opt for coffee-only shipments (great for smaller schools) or go with a full-service plan, which can involve coffee shipments, new machines, installations and repairs and beyond (great for medium to large schools). Prices per shipment can vary, but the cost of delivered coffee typically ranges from $50 to $125 per year for each employee. Equipment can cost extra, from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, but some companies will waive the product fee, whether through promotions or a rental period.

Commercial-Oriented Coffee Products

Commercial coffee machines (including pour-over and plumbed machines, which are connected directly to a water line) can be a good fit for colleges and on-campus food services that serve a multitude of customers. These models can include multiple warmers and coffee pots, and can allow for rapid brewing. It’s good to note that many of these products can cost hundreds of dollars ($200 to $600, on average) with a few of the top-tier machines topping $1,000.

Espresso Machines

Interested in adding something a bit different to your morning routine? Espresso machines can quickly make strong cafe drinks, making you feel like you’ve just ordered from your local coffee shop. Varieties include steam machines (steam pushes hot water through the coffee grounds), manual stovetop models and electric pump versions (which can be partially manual or completely automatic).
Prices range from $50 for a basic machine up to $3,000 for a top-notch espresso maker. Obviously, if you’re on a budget, you’ll be looking at the lower-end models. Super automatic machines can work well for schools with fewer than 10 employees, while commercial espresso machines are meant to handle medium to large facilities.