Which commercial brewer is right for my operation?

With all the differing brewer options today, how does a restaurateur decide which model is best suited for their business?  Beyond the more basic considerations of brewer dimensions and orientation (low profile, side profile, etc.), brewer capacity (single carafe to multiple gallons, single or dual), and dispenser type (glass carafe, airport or thermal server), several other considerations which should not to be overlooked are water source reliability, digital vs. analog controls and brewer redundancy.

Water source reliability

Most commercial coffee brewers in use today are classified as ‘automatic’ or designed to automatically fill the internal water tank. With proper filtration, this style brewer will provide years of continuous use without the need to worry about adding water whenever it’s time to brew another pot. However there is rationale, especially amongst foodservice operators, for utilizing brewers with ‘pourover,’ or manual fill, capabilities. This type brewer allows for continuous use even when faced with a water supply disruption or boil water alerts.

Digital vs. analog controls

Digital brewers incorporate a control board or programmable ‘brain’ which allows the operator to control multiple functions such as:

  • water temperature
  • water volume
  • brew & sleep routines
  • extraction levels
  • drip out time
  • running diagnostics
  • enabling cleaning and energy-saving activities
  • setting display messages

A primary benefit is that these control boards generally offer considerably more flexibility in setting multiple brew recipes — namely the ability to customize pre-wetting or pre-infusion, as well as water pulsing activities and extraction strength.  In larger brewers where bypass water is incorporated into the brew routine, digital brewers also allow the operator to set differing water volume and flow rates between sprayhead and bypass water.

Of course, technology comes at a price, as digital brewers generally command a premium over analog systems. Additionally digital replacement parts are considerably more expensive than their mechanical counterparts. Notwithstanding, with electronic component warranties typically at 2-3 years, the additional cost is a reasonable tradeoff for increased control over the finished beverage.

Brewer redundancy

When deciding whether a high-capacity dual brewer is more appropriate than multiple single brewers, operators must consider that oftentimes dual brewers share internal components rendering the entire brewer unusable should a key component fail or the brewer require service. While generally more expensive, having a second brewer provides coverage and keeps your coffee or tea flowing should one brewer fail.