It’s holiday time again – Easter and Passover are big gathering times. Now that you’re the official “coffee geek” in your family, they probably asked you to brew coffee before, during or after dinner.
You’d love to brew coffee for everyone, but that crowd is huge! How can I really show off that great new single origin microlot coffee for all of those people?
You don’t have to be a professional barista with thousands of dollars of equipment to brew for a crowd. In fact, with a little pre-planning, you can probably serve 20-30 with the gear you have right now.
Before we get into the actual process, here’s a quick outline of some essential gear you’re going to need to accomplish this feat:
With that list in mind, here we go:
Even if you love the Aeropress or a nell drip, you’re probably not going to be able to brew enough coffee fast enough for a crowd of 20-30 people. Same goes for a small pour over like a Hario V60.
Your best bet is to chose something that makes a fair amount of coffee with each batch. Chemex is my favorite. A french press is another great option as long as the press you’re using makes at least 2 or 3 servings (16-24 oz) at a time.
Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll need at least two of whatever brewing method you use. If you need to mix and match that’s fine. Pull out your Chemex as well as your french press. If you need to beg, borrow or steal a second Chemex from a friend do it! (ok – maybe not steal).
“A watched pot never boils” is never more true than when you have a group of thirsty people waiting on coffee. This will be your most difficult hurdle to overcome and may require a small investment on your part.
Stovetop is not an option. Especially electric or gas ranges. They’re nowhere near fast enough.
Open pots are not an option either Boiling water in an open pot on the stove cools to about 180 degrees at an alarming rate. You need something enclosed to hold in the heat.
Your best bet is a good electric kettle. Fortunately, you can find one from your local Target or other appliance store for less than $50. Nothing fancy, no variable temperature, cordless or anything like that. Just a basic kettle that has some size to it. Mine is a Black and Decker 1.7 liter kettle and works great.
Unless you’re an incurable introvert who would rather spend the entire time with your brewing equipment, set some proper expectations for the big day. Don’t let people think they’ll be drinking craft brewed coffee all day. Your coffee is an event in itself. It’s an entire course in the meal. Treat it as such.
Claim some space and set up your gear. I like to make sure my setup flows from left to right. It’s especially important to keep all your gear within arms reach. You don’t want to be running down the hall for the grinder while you’re trying to brew.
Like any good chef, you’re going to need to start prep work a little bit before the course needs to be served. For a party of 20-30 people, I would have my first kettle of water boiling 30-45 minutes before the first cup of coffee needs to be served.
Throughout the process, you need to make sure that electric kettle stays full and heating all the time. Even if you don’t use all of the water in the kettle, refill it and start some more water boiling while you’re brewing.
If you’re using a Chemex brewer or another pour-over, once the water boils, pour it off into the pouring kettle that you’ll use to brew the coffee. Then top off the electric kettle and get it boiling once again. Your electric kettle should never be sitting idle.
You’re going to want at least 3-4 pre-measured servings that you can just dump in the grinder quickly. You can keep them in paper cups, in ramekins, in zip-loc baggies, whatever. Unless, of course, your coffee setup includes something über cool like the Esatto.
Start brewing in one of your brewing methods. When it’s about half way done, start the second brewing method. Throughout the entire process, alternate these two as much as you can. (Is that kettle heating water?)
As soon as you finish brewing, pour the coffee into your thermal holding container. Brew until all of your holding containers are completely full, then brew one more in each brew method that you have.
That last brew that you did is likely not in a thermal carafe. It’s going to get cold faster than the first brew you did. Get rid of it first. Then serve using the carafes or airpots.
Once everyone has had their first round of coffee, go ahead and brew a second round. Fill up the carafes or airpots once again, and then brew one more Chemex or French Press. That should be enough to keep the majority of people enjoying your coffee and still have enough for a second round.
When all of the carafes are full, everyone’s enjoying their coffee, fill up that electric kettle one more time and let it boil. Just in case grandpa needs something to stay awake during the game.
Make a mental note to call your local café and offer your services.