Brewing Up a Good Time: How to Brew Coffee for a Party

You may have your coffee pouring skills maximized for your perfect hand-dripped coffee each morning, but that probably won’t do when you’re brewing coffee for a party. Unless you want to spend your evening playing barista, you’ll want to invest some time and thought into the best way to make and serve coffee for a crowd. These dos and don’ts can ensure that even the fussiest coffee drinkers sing the praises of your brewing skills.

Siphon Brewers for Fancy Parties

Putting on an elegant dinner party and want to brew coffee to match the fancy mood? You can’t go wrong with a tabletop siphon brewer. Most tabletop brewers make 5-6 cups of coffee at a go, so they’re a good choice for small dinner parties or holiday breakfasts. The brewing process is a show in itself, adding to the drama and elegance of your event. Doing sit-down dinner for a larger event? Plan on one tabletop brewer per table. Check out our Siphon How-To Guide and our selection of siphon brewers.

Other Option: Brew coffee at the table using a Chemex coffee maker or the elegantly simple Eva Solo Café Solo.

Keep Coffee Warm for a Buffet in a Thermal Air Pot or Carafe

Thermal carafes let you brew coffee ahead of time and keep it warm with little loss of flavor. Eva Solo makes an elegant pump vacuum jug that holds 1.8 liters of hot coffee and looks great on your buffet table. It keeps coffee hot for up to two hours – but who expects coffee to last that long at a party?

Need to serve more than 10-15 people? Most party rental places will rent air pots, those thermal pump top carafes that you find at buffets, for less than $10 apiece. Brew several different kinds of coffee and serve each in a different carafe.

Espresso for a Party

Espresso typically requires a lot more attention than a pot of coffee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t serve espresso at a party. You’ll just need an espresso machine that can handle pulling back-to-back shots. Your best bets are espresso machines with heat exchangers or double boiler espresso machines, which have the superior temperature stability you need to brew shots of espresso back-to-back. If you’re lucky enough to own a superautomatic espresso machine, like the Gaggia Accademia, you can set up coffee service, and let your guests push the buttons to create their own espresso and lattes.

Beware Urn Burn

For decades, the ubiquitous coffee urn has been the go-to choice when serving coffee to a crowd. Coffee urns are designed to make 25-100 cups of coffee at a time and keep the coffee hot for hours. You can guess what happens to coffee made under those conditions. If you’re brewing for a large crowd – say, more than 30 people – it may be your best option. If that’s the case, there are a few things you can do to optimize your coffee’s flavor.

  • Make sure the coffee urn and all of its parts are immaculately clean.
  • Use coffee ground for percolators.
  • Measure about 1/3 cup of coffee for each five cups of coffee, plus 1/3 cup of coffee “for the pot.”
  • Plan on about 40 seconds per cup for brewing time. That’s about 16 minutes for 25 cups, 33 minutes for 50 cups and about an hour for 100 cups.
  • Watch the indicator light. As soon as it shows the coffee is ready, turn off the coffee urn and unplug it.
  • As soon as you can safely do so, remove the filter basket and used coffee grinds to prevent bitterness.

No matter what brewing method you choose, these tips will guarantee the best flavor for your coffee.

  • Always use freshly roasted coffee.
  • Grind your coffee just before brewing if possible. If that’s not possible, order the right grind from one of our roasters as close to the party date as possible.
  • Use spring water or filtered water for the best taste.
  • Make the coffee as close to serving time as possible.

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