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The evolution of brewing equipment.

During the past 15 years there has been a gradual evolution in coffee brewing equipment, both for the home and the foodservice industry. While some observers may call it a revolution, this writer prefers to call it an evolution because some of the changes, while quite significant, have come over a period of time.

Let's first look at the brewing equipment available for the home today. During the 1970's, the old fashioned percolator slowly disappeared from the American scene and was replaced by automatic drip coffee brewers. These brewers are in response to coffee drinkers interested in better brewing procedures and less work in preparing coffee, as well as in the clean-up after the coffee brewing has been completed. The automatic drip brewers certainly have accomplished all of this.

In the percolation method, coffee is kept percolating in the same water over a given amount of coffee grounds a number of times, giving an imperfect and uneven extraction. In the automatic drip method, water passes through the coffee grounds only one time, therefore only the best features of coffee are reflected in the final beverage.

There are many models of automatic drip brewers available today. Most of them do not have a water reservoir and simply require filling with cold water the number of ounces required to brew up to, in most cases, 10 six ounce cups of coffee. The device contains a fast heating element and when it is turned on, it quickly heats up the water, then drips it over the coffee. The brew is completed in anywhere from four to eight minutes. The cleanup is very simple and in most cases the devices require a paper filter, which is simply discarded and replaced with a fresh one. Some of the brewers have a permanent filter which requires just a quick rinse and you are ready to brew again.

Therefore, both the major objectives have been accomplished from this type of brewer, simplicity and little work for the person preparing the coffee and much better extraction and therefore, better flavor.

Some of these devices do have a permanent water reservoir of a half gallon of water and are activated by simply pouring the desired amount of cold water into the receptacle, which then displaces the preheated water that is at brewing temperatures, and the cycle begins. The negative for these type of machines is that they must be constantly on electric power to keep the amount of water in the reservoir heated to brewing temperature. The brewing cycle on these devices is less than four minutes.

There are even some drip brewers available where you can start with whole bean coffee. The device actually grinds the amount of coffee selected and brews it, depending on the amount of cups desired. One then merely has to dispose of the grounds. These machines, obviously because of the complexity of the technology, are the most expensive of this type.

Great progress also has been made for small coffee grinders for the home, particularly with the advent of specialty coffee stores all over the country. Many people prefer to purchase coffee whole bean and grind just before brewing. With harder and tougher metal alloys now available, these grinders produce a very consistent good grind and can be operated successfully for a number of years without any significant adjustment required. Obviously, this permits the coffee connoisseurs many options to be used in brewing coffee at home.

Finally, in the last four to five years, small home-type espresso brewers have become available, which are quite sophisticated and not only prepares espresso type beverages but also cappuccino and latte.

Therefore, with the new awakening in the coffee industry and also in our patrons, we have developed the type of equipment which makes coffee not only pleasurable to prepare at home, but also very easy to accomplish with excellent results.

In the foodservice industry, there have also been many changes in coffee brewing equipment. Again, they have answered two objectives, namely providing ease of preparation, less labor and better extraction for fine quality beverage.

The biggest enemy of brewed coffee is heat. That is to say, the longer brewed coffee is being constantly reheated to keep at a specific temperature, the more flavor disappears over a period of time. Most coffee people will agree that coffee left over active heat is not very good for drinking after 30 minutes in a half gallon brewers and 45 minutes in urns.

Nevertheless, one of the major brewing devices still being used very widely today is the half gallon automatic or pour over brewer. This device uses the drip method of brewing coffee, gives very fine extraction, is very easy to operate, and requires only the disposal of the filter with the spent coffee grounds. This machine is then ready to brew a second, third, and fourth time. However, most of these devices leave a glass decanter on active heat to keep the coffee at the proper drinking temperature and therefore coffee should not stand for too long otherwise the flavor will deteriorate.

An answer has come to us in the last 10 years in the form of a brewing devices which brew into an insulated thermos type container. By doing this, the coffee can be held without being over active heat for a number of hours, retaining the brews original flavor.

These devices are becoming much more widespread and all the manufacturers of half gallon automatic coffee brewers and pour over devices have perfected them. They are widely used and widely available in the market today. These insulated containers can be transported easily to stations around any given restaurant or institution and are readily available then for pouring additional cups of coffee wherever needed. The same development has also taken place in the large coffee urns.

Many devices are now available that brew into insulated containers that are removable from the brewing station and can be wheeled to remote places in a restaurant, hotel, or other type of institution. This is particularly practical for large banquet operations, hospitals, and restaurants catering to all types of large affairs.

Filter devices for urns, which formerly were cloth filters, have been totally replaced by paper filters. In the paper filter area, there have been improvements to take out all possible chemical substances so that filters now are totally natural and pure, without bleach or any other types of possible health damaging contents. This applies also to the filters for half gallon brewers.

During the last five years, we have also seen the emergence of totally automatic coffee brewers which start with whole bean coffee. The coffee is ground on demand to a specified amount, automatically brews and then disposes of the grounds, as well as sanitizes the brewing chambers. All that the operator needs to do is eventually dispose of the spent grounds. These devices are still in a relatively small percentage of operations, probably because they are quite expensive and the technology is not yet fully tested. But on the whole, they are an interesting new device which may eventually replace more of the traditional brewers with possibly lower cost factors and improved operations.

As in the home, in the foodservice industry new grinder technology has also made it possible for restaurants to purchase whole bean coffee, grind it before each brewing cycle, and merchandise this additional freshness to their patrons. Due to the advent of better metals, it is possible to maintain consistent grinds over a long period of time with possibly only one or two adjustments per year being necessary.

Also, as in the home but much more widely used are espresso machines, which are becoming very popular in many parts of the country. At this time, there are many models available and no specific brand has yet emerged as a leading provider of these types of devices. Obviously, over time there will be some shakeouts and some of these machines will emerge as the leading sellers in the industry. All of them brew espresso as well as cappuccino and latte and other variations of these types of beverages. They are expensive, and therefore the operators tend to be quite careful in selecting the type most useful for their operation.

Overall, the industry has done an excellent job in upgrading brewing equipment, both for the home and the foodservice industry. The trade is providing a variety of brewing equipment, answering almost every need that one could possibly have for preparing coffee or any coffee beverages. With this type of approach and the better merchandising that is being done by the industry, all of this can only combine to improve coffee consumption throughout the world.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Coffee Break
Author:Heuman, John
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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