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With profit margins on cups of coffee typically coming in at around 90 per cent, and out-of-home sales of the drink rising substantially year on year, here is a sure-fire winner for any catering establishment. However with increasing numbers of places to enjoy a coffee, you must ensure that you meet customers’ expectations or face losing your clientele to the competition. David Cooper, founder of specialist coffee wholesaler Cooper’s Coffee, advises on the largest financial outlay you are going to make to come up with the perfect brew: the coffee machine

Traditional espresso machines

Evocative of original café culture, traditional espresso machines have an edge in outlets seeking continental authenticity and panache. The size of machine depends on how many ‘group brewing heads’ it has. The most common by far is a 2 group, which will allow you to make four coffees at once. For smaller sites, a 1 group may be sufficient or, for a busy restaurant, a 3 or 4 group is needed.

Dalla Corte 3 group Evolution Series and DC II GCS grinderDalla Corte 3 group Evolution Series and DC II GCS grinder

Prices start from around £1000 for a 1 group machine rising to around £6500 for a top-of-the-range, 4 group machine. On average, you can expect to pay around £3000 for a decent machine – a cost that may appear excessive as an initial outlay, especially when you take into consideration that you also need to buy a grinder, knock-out box and various other accessories. However, when you look at the average lifespan of a traditional machine (seven years plus), coupled with their reliability and long-term service agreements (most coffee distributors should offer extended warranties of up to four years), this type of machine is a very worthwhile investment for any establishment serious about serving good coffee.

Look out for the following features:

  • Automatic group head temperature control – even a variation of one degree centigrade can affect the quality of a cup of coffee
  • Separate brewing units – the facility to switch brewing units off independently can help minimise power consumption and reduce energy bills
  • Automatic grinder control – ensures consistent grind quality and coffee standard
  • Electronic monitoring, which allows you to get real-time performance data and adjust the settings of your machine from anywhere in the world – this not only helps reduce maintenance costs but also puts an end to long service down times.

Barista training

A conspicuous problem with using traditional espresso machines is the care and skill needed by staff to ensure that customers get a well-made drink with adequate strength, aroma and body. Establishment owners can be put off by this, but the ‘skill’ issue can be easily rectified with a little investment in barista training.

Making coffee is not rocket science but there are a few fundamental rules that apply and it is very important that staff receive the right training before they go anywhere near a coffee machine and grinder. Barista training should cover topics such as production of coffee, freshness, grinders, espresso coffee machines, milk techniques and cleaning and maintenance procedures. Most machine suppliers will offer free barista training so there really is no excuse for lack of skill. Once mastered, a coffee can be made extremely quickly – a skilled barista is capable of producing 100s if not 1000s of cups per day.

The first espresso machine was developed in 1903 by Luigi Bezerra using steam rather than water, which modern machines use. The water espresso machine was developed in Italy in 1948 by Achille Gaggia.

CofeeBean-to-cup systems

For high-volume catering environments,where resource, space and speed is an issue, a good quality, bean-to-cup system may be a better option than a traditional espresso machine – the former being designed to automatically grind and brew espresso shots using coffee beans and fresh milk to produce a variety of different drink selections including latte, cappuccino, espresso and black and white coffee.

The quality of coffee produced generally has less crema and taste than that made with a traditional system, however bean-to-cup systems do produce a consistent product. Another advantage of these machines is that they require little staff training and operators can perform other tasks while the drink is being produced. Conversely, a shortcoming of bean-to-cup systems is that as they are designed for specific volumes and, as such, need a lot more service maintenance than traditional systems, 24/7 service back up is crucial and periodic service will need to be carried out regularly.

The cost of bean-to-cup systems can vary from under £1000 to well over £10,000 so it is important you make the right choice. High-volume bean-to-cup coffee machines command a premium price, so the benefit of reduced staff training has to be outweighed by the extra equipment cost.

Filter and bulk brew systems

Coffee cups

Filter coffee is ideal for when there is a high demand for coffee over a short space of time such as at weddings.

Bulk brew systems are large-scale filter systems ideal for banqueting facilities, hotels and sporting events. There are hundreds of different systems to choose from depending on how many litres of coffee need to be served and in what time.

If made using a quality origin coffee, the flavour of filter coffee can rival that of an espresso-based drink. The key is to serve it fresh – within 30 minutes of making – otherwise deterioration in quality can cause wastage. The average cup price is between 6 and 8p but with wastage this could rise to 20p.

Akey advantage of serving fresh filter coffee, apart from the taste factor, is that you can easily change your offering on a weekly or daily basis, thereby broadening your customers’ choice. This set up can allow you to offer Fairtrade coffee alongside two or three single estate origins.


“Good coffee needs good water,” insists David Baldry of Brita water filter systems. “After all, most cups of coffee are 98 per cent water. Yet even water of the highest quality can contain a high level of carbonate hardness in certain areas of the country. This level of carbonate hardness can have a number of consequences, not only adversely affecting the aroma and flavour of coffee, but also shortening the life of the machinery. The perfect water for coffee has balanced levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, an adequate level of total hardness and a certain (low) level of carbonate hardness.”
Visit for further info.


Which milk is best for foaming?

Milk foams when whipping causes protein to connect to the air inside the milk. Fat hinders the protein from binding with the air, therefore, the higher the fat content, the more difficult it becomes to create foam. Fully skimmed milk produces the most foam, however whole milk produces a richer flavour and is often the preferred choice.

Why won’t my milk foam?

It is important to use fresh milk that has been stored in a cool place away from sunlight as the fat in the milk breaks down after a period of time and the fat particles are more evenly dispensed throughout the milk. This obstructs the binding of air to the protein.


Cold milk has a higher density than warm milk. Foam is created best when the milk is cold. The flavour of milk differs with different temperatures; temperatures over 70°C break down the foam, so to achieve the best flavour it is recommended to steam the milk to between 60°C and 70°C.

David CooperDavid Cooper is the founder and managing director of coffee wholesaler Cooper’s Coffee and espresso machine importer, Dalla Corte Imports UK. He was the first ever UK-qualified World Barista Championships (WBC) Judge in an elite group of only 56 worldwide. In 2008 he joined forces with espresso machine manufacturer De’Longhi to create Caffé Raro – a blend combining two of the world’s rarest coffee beans, Kopi Luwak and Jamaican Blue Mountain and costing a mere £50 a cup.


Barista Training Course certificateThe origins of coffee are unclear, however legend has it that in around 500AD an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi found his goats dancing joyously around a shrub with bright red cherries. Kaldi soon determined that it was the cherries on the shrub that were causing the peculiar euphoria and after trying the cherries himself, he learned of their powerful effect. Kaldi shared his find with monks at a local monastery who immediately started exploiting the effects of the ‘cherries’ to stay awake during extended hours of prayer. The phenomenon soon became international as the brothers distributed the nuggets of caffeine to other monasteries around the world.

Where is coffee grown?

Coffee is grown in a region known as the bean belt, which can be found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Ethiopia, India and Indonesia are the main producers of coffee with Brazil being the largest – the country produces 30 per cent of the world’s coffee and drinks 30 per cent of what it produces.

Types of coffee

There are more than 50 species of coffee, but generally only two are used: Arabica
and Robusta.

Arabica (Coffea Arabica) is grown at altitudes of 3000ft.  Arabica has fresh, citrus floral notes and is seen as the more premium of the two species.It also has half the caffeine and counts for 70 per cent of the total production. It is mainly used for espresso-based coffee.

Robusta (Coffea Canephora) is grown at altitudes below 3000ft and has a robust, earthy flavour. It is mainly used in instant coffee.

Beans from different parts of the world also exhibit characteristic flavours, which can be recognised by experts. Beans from Kenya, for example, have a lemony acidity while Brazilian beans are generally nutty and those from Java have a unique smokey flavour. The two main methods of extraction of the coffee bean also determine the flavour with ‘wet’ processing producing a cleaner flavour coupled with greater acidity and the ‘dry’ method leading to coffees having a heavier body.

Gwilym DaviesUK wins World Barista Championship

In April, after a nail-biting final in Atlanta, USA, an independent barista running coffee carts in two East London street markets became the World Barista Champion 2009.

Along the way, Champion Gwilym Davies had beaten off stiff competition from 52 countries with his impressive espressos, cappuccinos and signature drinks.

Boiling Coffee rangeCertified success for ethical coffee

As consumers’ awareness about the welfare and environmental impact of their buying decisions increases, many establishments are offering customers as many ethically sourced options as they can. “There are a number of different certifications that apply to coffee and that will be recognised by customers as a guarantee of a coffee’s good ethical standing,” says Ian Balmforth of specialist coffee roaster Bolling Coffee. “Our research shows that these certifications are well-regarded by customers and really add value.”

Organic coffee

Organic coffee beans are grown in 40 countries. The leading producer is Mexico, followed by Peru and Ethiopia. Organic coffee is frequently associated with shade grown and fairtrade coffees.


FairtradeThe Fairtrade mark is your independent guarantee that producers in developing countries receive a fair deal. This is the only independent consumer label that guarantees international fairtrade standards have been met. The certified coffee is only produced in cooperatives that can be grouped to employ many thousands of people. With the fluctuations of the commodity market, prices of coffee can alter rapidly, however Fairtrade coffee has a fixed price so assuring social benefits.

FEDECOCAGUA coffees in their central quality labFEDECOCAGUA coffees in their central quality lab

Rainforest Alliance

This American-based organisation combines the principles of Fairtrade and Organic production. On Rainforest Alliance-certified farms, workers are treated fairly, soil and water quality are not compromised, waste is managed efficiently, chemical use is dramatically reduced and relations with surrounding communities are strong. Careful plantation management and shade grown plantations enable wild life to thrive and environmental sustainability to be maintained.

Soil Association Organic StandardSoil Association

Coffee that has been certified by a third-party agency. Grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or similar chemicals.

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