Don't Forget the Coffee Bar at your Next Event

When you're planning an event, the coffee you'll serve is probably not high on your to do list. Inevitably, it will enter your mind, and you will 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 100% of your attendees 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 and won't have any past the afternoon. 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 average attendee is 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

If you're using a high quality specialty coffee, you can expect that more people will be inclined to drink it. When we serve our coffee at events, we serve an average of 50% more than what you "should" expect to serve. If you go with a lower end coffee, people won't be as inclined to go for seconds, and they won't want to recommend it to friends.

What Coffee to Use

This will vary a bit depending on your crowd, but typically we recommend sticking with the basics. Our best crowd pleaser is the Brazil Full City + (medium roast). This has just enough flavor for dark roast lovers, but is still very smooth for anyone who doesn't want it too smokey. 

The Colombian Supremo Vienna (dark roast) is a very flavorful, full-bodied coffee that will have a familiar taste to most coffee lovers. 

If your event is in the evening or if many of the attendees are over 35, you may want to consider offering decaf coffee as well. 

Finally, you can dress up your coffee bar by offering a flavored coffee

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 them. Here are some tips on how to brew.

Percolator

Percolator Coffee Maker

These are the hardest machines to get just right. Typically, every batch will take over an hour to brew, so that probably won't leave a lot of room for error. 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. I always recommend adding more than you think you need as it's easier to add hot water to dilute it later than to try to make it stronger.  

Satellite Coffee Maker

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. 

Airpot Brewer

Airpot Coffee Maker

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 or about 3/4 cup of ground coffee.

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:

  • Cream - Make sure you keep it refrigerated or in an insulated container unless you're using shelf-stable single serve packs
  • Alternative cream - Increasingly people are looking for alternatives to dairy creamers, so while not required, it's something to consider
  • Sugar
  • Sugar substitute - You can provide all of the major options, but most often if you just provide one alternative that'll do the trick. 
  • Stirrers
  • Cups
  • Cup sleeves 
  • 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!
  • Flavoring syrups - While 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 of our coffee to brew!