When you're planning an event, serving coffee is probably one of the lowest priority things on your to do list. Inevitably, it does enter your mind, and you realize that the giant coffee machine that they have sitting at the venue you've chosen is just a little different from your Keurig at home. There are buttons, error codes, and the filters are bigger than your head.
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we get when people are preparing coffee for a larger event.
How much coffee to prepare
So you have 100 people coming. Just how much coffee do you need to make? There is no perfect answer to this, but here are a few factors to consider as you decide how much to make.
Time of day
Morning meetings and events will require a higher amount of coffee. If you are having a morning meeting, you should plan that everyone will have a cup. Generally that will even out with people who don't drink coffee and those who decide to have multiple cups.
Evening events are trickier. Although coffee with dessert is a thing, many people are sensitive to caffeine. A good rule of thumb is to plan for about 50% of your guests to drink coffee. One important factor with evening coffee is the age of the attendees. We did an evening event that was targeted to high school and college age students, and by the end of the night we estimated that 80% of the attendees drank coffee. Contrast this with events we've done where the audience is mainly over 50, and consumption can be as low as 25%.
Free versus paid
The numbers we provided above were assuming that the coffee was being served for free. It is important to note that although people will buy coffee if available, you can expect a dramatic drop in the amount consumed. I would revise the above estimates to about half. So for a morning meeting, instead of expecting 100% of people to drink a cup, expect about 50%, and so on.
Type of coffee
Not to toot our own horn, but we like to say there's a bit of a "Kitty Town" factor in coffee for events. When people serve our coffee, they might serve up to 50% more than expected. If you serve our coffee, or even another high end specialty coffee, expect to serve more than if you serve a generic brand.
How to brew with different machines
There are so many different kinds of coffee machines, so we definitely can't go through them all. Try to remember to ask the venue for specific instructions on how to turn the machine on, start brewing, and clean. Here are some tips on how to brew.
These are the hardest machines to get just right. Make sure you know how big it is before trying to brew. For these brewers, I like to use a coffee to water ratio of 1:20, so that's 1oz of coffee per 20oz of water. When in doubt, I always add just a little more coffee to these machines. It's easier to add hot water to dilute it later than to try to make it stronger. Keep in mind, brewing a batch can take over an hour, so it's hard to recover if you mess up a batch. If you do it properly, the coffee tends to taste good!
These are most common for any venue that normally has very high volume events. These machines are fast. The main thing to look for with these is that the servers (the "pot" the coffee goes into) can vary a lot in size. Most are 1.5 gallons, but they can be down to one gallon, or up to two gallons. The coffee to water ratio is about 1:25 oz. So for a 1.5 gallon brewer, you'll probably want to use around 8oz of coffee.
These are pretty straightforward. Like the satellite servers, just make sure you know how big the airpots are so you can use the proper coffee to water ratio. If your airpot is 64oz (half a gallon) you probably want to use about 2.5 oz of coffee. For a half gallon you can also use 3/4 cup of ground coffee if you don't have a food scale.
Coffee Pot Style
These brewers typically have pots that are 64 oz, or 12-cup pots. Use 2.5oz of coffee, or about 3/4 cup of ground coffee to brew one pot.
Coffee bar checklist
Personally, I drink my coffee black and rather enjoy it that way. So for me, remembering what to bring is a little more challenging. Here's a basic checklist for your coffee bar:
- Alternative cream - Increasingly people are looking for alternatives to dairy creamers, so while not required, it's something to consider if you want to be sensitive to your guests
- Sugar substitute - You can provide all of the major options, but most often if you just provide one alternative that'll do the trick. Anyone who cares enough probably carries some of their preferred sweetener in their purse.
- Cup sleeves (if applicable)
- Lids - Not always necessary, but think about the type of event and what kinds of activities you're doing. If people are moving around at all, a lid is definitely recommended.
- Beverage napkins
- Signs - If you're providing more than one type of coffee (such as decaf or a flavor) don't forget to get some signs to tell people what you're offering!
- Flavor - While definitely not a requirement, it is a nice way to spruce up a coffee bar to make it seem a bit more upscale. You can get flavoring syrups at most grocery stores, typically in the coffee aisle.
Now you are well equipped to make the coffee at your next event a success! Just don't forget to bring enough Kitty Town Coffee to brew :-)