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Cafe 98 coffee brewing system: good, better, best.

Cafe 98 coffee brewing system: good, better , best

In May, 1989, I wrote an article in this magazine called "Equipment and Gourmet Coffee In Institutional Sales." In it, I mentioned a thermal serving unit that really impressed me. It was extremely attractive and had a couple of features I hadn't seen before. The thermos had a serving platform at the bottom, and coffee was dispersed by gravity rather than air. It also had a sight gauge on the front of it so you could check the amount of coffee in the thermos by looking at it rather than picking up the thermos.

At the time, the thermos came from New enterprises in St. Charles, Missouri. Joe Webster at Newco was kind enough to send me a thermos to use for my article since I don't profile equipment that I haven't used. At the time, I didn't ask them who was distributing the thermos or any other particulars, I was just thankful to get my hands on one. i wrote the article and kept the thermos.

We used this thermos at our office, and our sales manager, Preston Hickman, showed it to a few of our customers. The response was overwhelming favorable. It was so favorable that, after a few months of getting bombarded by customer requests to stock the thermos, we decided to order a few cases. We called Newco and found out that a company up in Vancouver, B.C. had complete distribution rights in North America for this thermal server, and we couldn't buy them from Newco.

I only mention this because, almost exactly a year later, I opened a letter from Russ Lumsden, president of Cafe 98 Industries in Vancouver, B.C., and there was a picture of the thermal serever that had so impressed me. The thermal server had become part of a sophisticated, technologically advanced brewing system called "Cafe 98."

I asked Russ to send me a unit to use, which he did, and I have to tell you that I was impressed just by the overall look of it. The unit had to be plumbed so I took it over to some friends' coffeehouse, we brewed coffee, and they were also impressed. Cafe 98 took a good idea bout brewing fresh coffee directly into the thermal server, made it better by improving on an already excellent thermal serving unit, and, by adding electronic circuitry and other design modifications to the brewer, made one of the best overall coffee brewing systems I have ever had the pleasure to use.

Russ Lumsden and I spoke at great length about this new brewing system developed by him and Don Patel. (Don is a former serviceman who designed this machine for servicemen; all of the internal components are easily accessible.) Don talked me through the installation of the machine and also told me how to remove the internal, electronic circuitboard. (It is really easy to do too!) The information contained in this article is a condensed version of our conversations.

Electronic Circuitry means Easier Repairs

The electronic circuitry of the Cafe 98 system makes the machine easier to repair in the event that something goes wrong. The "brain" of the machine is a circuit board, replace it, and you are back steel panel on the front of the machine. If something happens to the flow of water or temperature control, for example, all you do is remove the stainless steel panel, undo a couple of bolts, pull out a couple of wires, pop out the circuit board, replace it and you are back in business. It's very simple from a service standpoint, far simpler than a conventional coffee brewer. Anybody can do it, I did it with nothing more than my three thumbs and a trusty screwdriver. The point is that roasters or OCS companies don't have to have a large inventory of different parts which they now have to have with conventional coffee brewers, and the cost of a replacement circuit board is about the cost of a thermostat in a conventional brewer.

Electronic Circuitry means better Control

The Cafe 98 brewing system uses electronic circuitry to control water temperature and water flow. While conventional coffee brewers use some electronic circuitry, they don't use it as extensively as the Cafe 98 system. A Cafe 98 brewer is able to maintain both water level and water temperature in the tank much more accurately than conventional, plumbed brewers.

The electronic circuit board and sensors have overcome the problem of having less than a full cycle of water for each brew. This means, when you come into the office on Monday morning, you don't have to replace the water that evaporated over the weekend. The Cafe 98 system has sensors inside the tank that always keep the water level constant. As soon as the sensor loses contact with the water, it immediately calls for more. There is never any loss of water due to evaporation, the water evaporates but it constantly replaced.

This consistent water level can be especially important if the coffee brewing unit is in a location where water pressure may vary, say for instance in a high-rise office building. Water pressure can drop at these high rise offices during peak usage times, and this can affect the water level in a plumbed coffee brewer. Many coffee brewing units use a timer to draw water into the unit. Periodically, they draw water in for a specific length of time. A coffee unit tht uses a timer to draw water into it for a certain length of time will get less water when the water pressure is low. The Cafe 98 system does not depend on a timer, it depends on sensors, and these sensors keep the water level constant with no deviation.

In addition to keeping the water level constant, the Cafe 98's electronic circuitry control water temperature more closely than brewers with conventional, mechanical thermostats. Mechanical thermostats have a variance of anywhere between 8 and 12[degrees] depending on the model. With a Cafe 98 system, the variance is no more than 1[degree]; as soon as the temperature drops by 1[degree], the electronic circuitry senses the temperature change and brings it back up to an ideal brewing temperature.

When the machine is first set up, you set the temperature of the water in the holding tank and, because of the electronic circuitry, the temperature of the water is able to be kept higher than in conventional coffee brewers. The temperature will depend on the elevation of the location where the brewer is located because the higher the elevation, the lower the boiling point of water. At a location that is at sea level,

boiling is about 212 [degrees]. The Cafe 98 system can be set at 208 to 210 [degrees] in the holding tank and, when the brew cycle is activated, from the time the water goes from the tank and hits the coffee grounds, the water temperature is at about 202 or 203 [degrees]. (The name Cafe 98 comes from the centigrade reading of the fahrenheit equivalent of 208 or 209 [degrees]. Centigrade boiling point is 100 [degrees].)

Flow Through Lid on the Thermos

The thermos that I thought needed no improvement has been improved; coffee can now be brewed through the lid. On top of the lid is a small insert with a top that can be screwed off. Down inside this little compartment is a small ball that looks like a ping-pong ball. The ball floats as the coffee is brewed through the lid and, after the carafe is full, the ball goes back into its original position, over the hole leading into the thermos, keeping the heat in and the air out.

Other Features

There is a hot water spigot on the machine that maintains water at a temperature of about 200 [degrees]F, that can be used to prepare tea, soup, or hot chocolate.

The machine has an automatic brew button. If you've just brewed a thermos of coffee and the temperature of the water has not recovered enough to be at ideal brewing temperature, go ahead and load the coffee into the basket and hit the button, the electronic circuit board will go ahead and brew the coffee when the water is hot enough.

When the brew cycle is complete, the machine lets out an audible beep to tell you the coffee is ready.

Reports from the Field

I mentioned earlier that I took the machine to some friends to use in their coffeehouse so it could be field tested under everyday conditions. Following are some of the features they noticed about the Cafe 98 system:

-- The brewer does not sit flat on the counter, it sits somewhat up on little "feet." This slight elevation makes it very easy to wipe up any spills underneath the brewer.

-- There is absolutely no guess-work in placing the thermos under the brewer. It has small rubber stoppers that will not allow you to place the thermos anywhere but where it should go.

-- The sight gauge on the thermos allows you to see how much coffee is left and, because the thermos dispenses the coffee with gravity rather than air, you can get every single drop out of it. Most air pots seem to leave some coffee in the thermos.

-- The thermos has a swivel base so it can swivel around in whatever direction it needs to.

-- There are replacement vacuum liners and other replacement parts readily available for the thermoses.

-- The literature states that the coffee brews in 4 1/2 minutes, but we found it to take 5 1/2 minutes. You have to remember, though, that we loaded the brew basket with about 3 1/2 ounces of coffee for each brew.

I would suggest that, if you care enough about your coffee quality to pay the slightly higher cost for this system (it does cost more than a conventional, plumbed unit), you buy the stainless steel brew basket that is available as an option. A plastic brew basket comes as standard equipment with the Cafe 98 system, and the handle on the brew basket felt somewhat wobbly to me. Since most people i know empty their coffee grounds by whacking the basket on the side of the trash can I wasn't really sure of the plastic basket's longevity.

The Cafe 98 system can't brew a half batch of coffee without taking off the front panel and adjusting a control on the electronic circuit board. In an office, this wouldn't be important but, since I think this system would do great in a coffeehouse, I think a half batch brew sequence might be an improvement. My friends who helped me test this brewing system pointed out that many of their customers come in and want their thermos from home filled up, and this wasn't very easy to do. Instead of being able to fill the customer's thermos directly from the Cafe 98 thermal server, they had to do it cup by cip. Ted Chupa, sales manager of Cafe 98 Industries, does tell me that they are now designing a thermal dispenser that will accommodate large take-out cups and will have the ability to dispense into another thermos, but this dispenser will not be available until early 1991.

In Conclusion

The bottom line about this coffee brewer is that it makes just about the best cup of coffee I have ever had from a commercial machine. The brewer is attractive and state of the art (Russ Lumsden told me that the Cafe 98 patent that has been pending with the U.S. Patent Office has now been approved); the thermal serving units are the nicest I have ever seen; and, in addition to being pretty to look at, the Cafe 98 system does its job. I think this system is going to be imitated in the years to come; imitated but not duplicated. Good job guys, my hat goes off to you.

For more information about the Cafe 98 system, contact Stuart Daw in St. Petersburg, FL (Tel: (813) 573-0101, Fax (813) 873-0549) or Ted Chupa in Vancouver, B.C. (Tel: (604) 879-0616, Fax: (604) 879-9422).
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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