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There’s a way to brew coffee for every mood and occasion. For instance, you might choose robust espresso for your morning latte, smooth cold brew to energize you after lunch and a barista made hand-pour to savor at brunch.
Yet there’s another method that might not be as trendy but it transcends occasions and serves multitudes — drip brewing. Drip is the time-honored way of serving high quality coffee quickly to large numbers of customers throughout the day — but notably at breakfast. And in the hands of forward-thinking operators, drip is more than just a solution for volume service; it’s also a platform for exploring new coffee origins, roasts and flavor profiles.
A drip brewer — a device that heats and pours water in a controlled fashion over ground coffee held in a filter — is a practical way to produce coffee in batches. It is well suited for serving thirsty crowds, giving refills and filling takeout orders. What’s more, today’s automatic drip equipment can be programmed to make consistently good coffee without a trained barista. And with breakfast foods on the menu all day in many restaurants, drip makes it easy to continually pour the quintessential breakfast beverage.
Indeed, coffee is a must for most foodservice operators. In fact, it’s second only to tap or ice water in daily beverage incidence, according to the BUZZ 2016 report by the Chicago-based research firm Datassential. And it’s trending upward. Since 2012, brewed coffee has grown by two percent to 48 percent daily incidence, BUZZ 2016 reports.
At Beatrix, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant with an in-house coffee bar in Chicago, drip coffee is an important part of a menu that includes specialty drinks, like the Honey & Cinnamon Latte and Matcha Iced Latte as well as cold brew and nitro coffee.
“We sell a lot of lattes and cappuccinos here, but most of our guests order a cup of drip coffee,” says John Economos, general manager of Beatrix. “It’s something you can’t go wrong with. And it’s a big part of the dining room and coffee bar experience.”
The basics and beyond
In fact, every day Beatrix features house drip coffees from two local roasters. One is a custom blend with a mild but flavorful profile. The other is darker and more robust, but balanced in character. “They are both Chicago roasters, but people may prefer one to the other,” says Economos. “We believe it is important to give them a choice.”
In addition, Beatrix recently introduced single-origin coffees from Costa Rica and El Salvador made with a single cup brewer. Coffee lovers enjoy sampling distinctive beans from recognized production areas that are seldom served in restaurants. “When we build the program up a little more, we’ll switch in other roasters,” says Economos. “There are so many options.”
For Sheetz Inc., a 24-hour convenience store chain based in Altoona, Pennsylvania, with more than 500 locations, self-service drip coffee is one of the twin pillars of the coffee program, along with barista-made specialty coffee drinks. The company offers a light-to-dark progression of roasts, including a single-origin Sumatra, and multiple creamer and flavoring options.
Essential for all dayparts
Hot drip coffee sales naturally peak in the morning at Sheetz stores, “but you definitely see other spikes throughout the day,” says Matt Gray, Sheetz Coffee Concepts Manager. “Generally, whenever people are in your location, a certain percentage are going to drink coffee.”
Good drip coffee is essential for a concept that menus breakfast foods all day. “It’s a question of what you drink with eggs,” says Gray. “Certain foods require coffee to go along with them.”
Best practices for coffee at Sheetz include grinding beans in the store, rotating drip coffee after short periods to keep it fresh and using a ratio of ground coffee to water so ample “that many restaurants would flinch at it,” Gray says.
At 24 Diner, a chef-driven restaurant open around the clock in Austin, serving locally roasted drip coffee with free refills “is part of our culture and our way of projecting warmth and comfort,” says general manager Joshua Graves.
The restaurant serves about 1,000 drip coffee customers each week — in addition to doing a strong trade in espresso, Toddy cold brew and French press coffee. “We sell coffee constantly,” says Graves.
“Maybe you’ve spent the whole night dancing, so you have coffee before you drive home,” adds Graves. “And there is something beautiful about getting your coffee refilled a couple of times while you are having a business meeting or just enjoying the food and ambience.”