Coffee has been consumed for hundreds of years, but the last few decades—even just the last few years—have seen a steep rise in the demand for premium coffee. Just look at the coffee-shop boom; according to Mintel data, coffee-shop sales hit $23.4 billion last year—up 41 percent over 2011—and Mintel predicts they will reach $28.7 billion by 2021.
But it’s not just coffee shops enjoying this surge in coffee popularity. Restaurant operators are, too, as a growing number of providers give them the ability to put a high-quality cup of Joe on their menus.
“It’s important to note, the basic cup of coffee isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago,” says Kevin Curtis, president and CEO of Wilbur Curtis, a coffee-brewer manufacturer. “Today’s consumers have a much more sophisticated palate, and traditional roasts have gotten better and better. So, no matter the coffee style that’s being served, fancy or simple, operators need to focus on making sure their coffee is hot, fresh, and delicious every time.”
Indeed, consumers’ coffee standards are higher than ever, and the proliferation of great coffee means the pressure is on for restaurants to meet expectations. Curtis adds that the quality of a restaurant’s coffee, in the customer’s eyes, reflects on the brand—for better or worse.
The good news is that quality coffee is easier than ever to attain. Curtis says serving great coffee comes down to the quality of the roast and the technology of the equipment it’s brewed in, held in, and served from. In particular, he says, equipment needs to brew coffee between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit so that it extracts the maximum flavor from the roast, and it needs to hold the coffee between 175 and 185 degrees to ensure it will be hot without being overcooked.
“You need equipment designed to accurately control the time, brewing temperature, and volume functions with digital precision so that you can get the best flavor out of the roast,” he says. “After that, holding coffee at the correct temperature is imperative to maintaining coffee freshness.”
Wilbur Curtis designed its Gemini IntelliFresh system to hold and maintain coffee’s ideal freshness and temperature throughout the dispensing cycle. The latest addition to the system, GemX IntelliFresh with FreshTrac technology, keeps coffee at a consistent temperature while maintaining its chemical structure by pulsing the product with “gentle heat.” Meanwhile, an LED alert system streamlines labor by letting operators track coffee freshness from across the room.
For those operators who prefer thermal servers, Curtis offers the ThermoPro with Thermal FreshTrac, which monitors freshness time and volume with an LED visual system. The monitoring system activates from the moment coffee is brewed and keeps constant track of coffee quality, alerting employees when it’s time for a new brew.
Curtis recommends that restaurant operators who are interested in an enhanced coffee program should stay on top of trends, educate and train their staff well, and, most importantly, have the right gear in place. That necessitates a responsive coffee partner.
“[Technology is] always changing, and new innovations are emerging all the time that help operations improve coffee quality or capitalize on new consumer trends,” he says. “Beyond simply selling products, a good manufacturer or roaster is going to be a big-picture thinker, a source of information and insights who can help an FSR look at their coffee program holistically and see it for what it is: a big driver of traffic, revenue, and profit.”