Someday, I'll get a job where I'm not responsible for the coffee....
October 21, 2009 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I have to make coffee for 25 people tomorrow morning here at my brand new job, using their big industrial coffee machine. I don't drink coffee. All we have at home is a French Press. HELP!

I'm aware this sounds dumb, but I really know nothing about coffee, and the one consistent thing I hear from people here about my predecessor is what GREAT coffee she made.

I'll be using this machine. I've more or less figured out how it works. Tonight I'm going to pick up new filters for this, plus some decent (Green Mountain, Newman's Own) supermarket coffee (I'm restricted to purchasing at the place we have a corporate account).

But -- then what? How much water do I use for how much grounds? Is there some special trick to making sure the coffee is neither too strong nor too weak? (If I have to make coffee at home for guests it normally comes out too strong.)

What is the secret to making really great industrial coffee?
posted by anastasiav to Food & Drink (22 answers total)
How much water do I use for how much grounds?

Water in = Water out. How much coffee do you want? Use that much water. As for coffee, just follow the directions on the packet.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:11 PM on October 21, 2009

Have you checked the Bunn web page? There's a section on coffee basics, and step by step pdf manuals (with pictures!) for all their models.
posted by zamboni at 2:11 PM on October 21, 2009

Some models like this are set up so you don't add water; but this one looks like you may. General rule of thumb for me: better too strong than too weak.
posted by bunny hugger at 2:16 PM on October 21, 2009

Coffee makers like this are usually connected to a water source and calibrated to use enough water for a 12-cup carafe. I usually use one big, heaping tablespoon (or a scooper if there's one around) per three cups of coffee.
posted by lunalaguna at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2009

We have a machine very much like that at work. Ours came with a plastic pitcher that we fill to the top with water and pour into the machine, and we have individual coffee packets that equal a full pot each. However, before we got our big fancy industrial machine, I used to put 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 8 oz in the filter, and I made enough for 8 servings. I always got compliments on my coffee.
posted by katillathehun at 2:20 PM on October 21, 2009

Best answer: I've worked at a bunch of places with that, or very similar Bunn machines. No sweat.

We have a 1/4 cup measure that I fill slightly heaping twice to make a pot so, uh, a bit more than a half cup of coffee. Cold fresh water. You'll want to make sure to have an empty pot waiting below the basket when you pour water from the other pot into the top because coffee starts coming out nearly instantly. If you are very, very fast you can dump the water and still move the pot under before the coffee comes out but I wouldn't advise that on your first day.

I would advise, if you can, to get whatever coffee they are already used to - if they've been drinking Folgers and loving it then the Newman's you buy is going to throw them off.

Don't let the coffee sit on the heaters too long an hour for a fullish pot is the end of OK, less coffee will burn faster, obviously.

I'd also recommend Urnex to make the pots look sparkling clean in a way that elbow grease can not.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:21 PM on October 21, 2009

If you follow the "recipe" on the coffee, you should be fine.
Strong coffee is easier to fix than weak coffee. I work with engineers and they shudder when I make coffee that's too weak.
Make sure you have a carafe (or at least a spare mug) on the burner under the basket before pouring the water in the tank. Usually it starts brewing as soon as you put water in.
The biggest problem around our office is that the person that takes the last (or near to last) cup forgets to turn off the burner. So what's left boils off, leaving coffee "tar" in the bottom of the carafe. In the worst case, the empty carafe overheats and cracks.
Other than that, just use good coffee and bottled water, and that's about as good as it's going to get!
posted by Joannalaine at 2:27 PM on October 21, 2009

Best answer: The biggest things that influence strength are the type of coffee and the amount of time that the water spends next to the grounds. Assuming you're using pre-ground coffee (or ground at the store) then if your coffee is too strong or weak adjust by adding more or less grounds. (more grounds = stronger coffee)
posted by bitdamaged at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2009

I've heard also that you can use an additional filter to increase the strength of coffee, but I have a friend who's an expert in the field and he just recommends more grounds.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:30 PM on October 21, 2009

Yeah, using an additional filter only decreases the amount of water that actually makes it into the pot, and what's left will taste like paper. The key to good coffee is your water/grounds ratio, and the coffee you're using will probably have a recommended amount mentioned on the bag.
posted by katillathehun at 2:34 PM on October 21, 2009

Best answer: Googling coffee grounds water ratio brought up a bunch of what look like pretty good results.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2009

Many coffee providers sell coffee in packets that make 1 full pot. That's the easiest. says 1/4 of a cup for a medium brew!!! (emphasis theirs)
1 tsp per cup. 12 teaspoons = 1/4 cup.

They call it a 12 cup pot, but most people use mugs, so the pot will really serve 6 - 8 coffee drinkers.

Back when I was able to drink milk, I was appreciative of fresh whole milk, not the industrial cream in bitty plastic containers. You'll also need sugar, and usually no-calorie sweetener. Splenda or the newer stevia(truvia, etc) are least toxic.
posted by theora55 at 2:47 PM on October 21, 2009

Maybe this isn't possible, but could you somehow contact your predecessor through email and send a flattering note saying you hear she makes great coffee on that machine, and you want to know her secrets to keeping everyone happy?
posted by slow graffiti at 3:23 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

A coffee maker this size will already be calibrated to add the correct amount of water. To meet standards for most health departments, they need back flow restrictions and all sorts of nonsense. Most types of coffee are one "scoop" or tablespoon per cup marking on the carafe. Most carafes are twelve. If it doesn't say, remember that one cup of coffee is four ounces.
posted by itsonreserve at 3:42 PM on October 21, 2009

Yeah, nthing those who say err on the side of making it strong. You yourself might not like it strong, but a goodly number of us regular caffeine junkies like it strong enough to stand a spoon in.
posted by LN at 4:27 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: DO NOT MAKE IT WEAK! Those huge machines end up sitting on the heat and generally don't regulate temprature which means that most of your coffee will taste same-y same. Unless it's weak. Make it strong!

Also, pro-tip: If it's really cheap coffee (Pre-ground, no name stuff) a few teaspoons of cinnamon will perk it up. Not much.
posted by GilloD at 5:07 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone.

A coffee maker this size will already be calibrated to add the correct amount of water. To meet standards for most health departments, they need back flow restrictions and all sorts of nonsense.

Its not hooked up to a water supply, and clearly not designed to take one. You pour water in the top.
posted by anastasiav at 5:29 PM on October 21, 2009

Best answer: We have this same coffee maker at work. We use these pre-made Folgers packets that we get from Staples.

nthing to make sure that there is a pot under the drip before you pour water in the top. There will be boiling water ready to go out of the machine immediately, you're essentially adding the water for the next pot. If this machine has been sitting for a bit (like over a week-end), some water may have evaporated, so there's a chance the first pot will be smaller & stronger than later pots. You can adjust this by waiting until it's done brewing, and then adding a little more water if the level in the brewed pot is too low. The attached picture shows about the the level the pot should fill too, to the point where the handle starts.
posted by saffry at 6:03 PM on October 21, 2009

I do not understand why someone who does not drink coffee would be entrusted to make the stuff. Do they know you don't drink the devil's brew? To me, if they know that and still want you to make the coffee, then they don't care so much about taste.

I would follow the recipe on the can of coffee and then add a big heaping tablespoon full for extra flavor.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:10 PM on October 21, 2009

My secret to good coffee is a Chinese spoon. If you have one of those, use it as a coffee scoop. One scoop to each 2 cups of water plus one for the pot. The water measure is marked on the side of the carafe and those carafes are 12 cups, so, to do a full pot, use 7 heaping Chinese spoons of coffee. Failing a porcelain spoon, use a tablespoon.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:19 PM on October 21, 2009

There will be instructions with pre-ground coffee on how much coffee to use per cup and the number of cups will be graduated on the pot. If you make the coffee weaker/stronger than people generally want they will tell you and won't make a big deal out of it. If you follow the instructions on the coffee it is very unlikely anyone will think anything of it. One should not have huge expectation of drip coffee that comes out of a Bunn.
posted by nanojath at 7:16 PM on October 21, 2009

Best answer: Make it weak.

Then make it strong.

Then make it weak again.

Someone else will make it from then on.

I always thought it was absurd to ask a non-coffee drinker to make coffee in the office.

However, if you really want to make the coffee,

1. Put a filter in the basket.

2. Put 1/4 cup of coffee in the filter.

3. Put the filter basket into the machine.

4. Fill the coffee carafe with water, all the way up to the bottom of the neck.

5. Pour it into the machine.

6. Turn the machine on.

7. Turn the warmer under the coffee pot on.

8. When the brewing is complete, move the fresh pot to one of the warming burners and turn it on.

9. Empty the grounds and filter from the basket.

10. Repeat. If it is part of your job to always make sure there is coffee, always make sure there is an "old pot" on the warmer and a "new pot" brewing. When there is enough room in the two pots, pour the coffee from one pot into the other and start a new pot with the empty one.
posted by Doohickie at 9:38 PM on October 21, 2009

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