Making coffee for yourself in the morning is pretty simple. You may finish preparing a cup without even thinking because it’s already a muscle memory. But serving coffee at parties? That’s another story.
If you like to share your love for coffee, you’re probably looking for a way to serve it at your next shindig. But let’s be honest: any coffee that’s been sitting for an hour on the warmer of a coffee machine isn’t good. If you want to build a reputation for being a good host that serves tasty coffee, serving cups of dark sludge isn’t going to get you far.
To help you serve coffee that your guests would love, here’s a guide to help:
Buy fresh and good beans.
Just because you’re serving a lot of people doesn’t mean you must skimp. Snobbism among coffee drinkers can be common, like that of wine drinkers, so if you want to please your guests, it’s best to serve great-tasting coffee beans beyond the mass-marketed commercial brands.
There are two major beans sold on the market: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are more common and more widely produced, as it offers a wider range of flavors. By all means, get 100% pure Arabica beans, as most coffee drinkers prefer it.
Coffee is best-tasting when used within days of being roasted. Buying beans from a local roaster is the surest way to get the freshest beans. As much as possible, avoid buying bulk coffee from supermarket display bins, as bright light and oxygen can bust out the flavor for roasted beans. If possible, grind your own coffee because coffee starts loosing quality almost immediately after grinding.
Use good water.
Nothing can ruin a pot of coffee more easily than tap water with off-flavors like chlorine. For best results, use mineral water, bottled spring water, or tap water filtered with activated charcoal or carbon. Distilled or softened water makes terrible coffee because minerals in water are essential.
Choose a brewing method that works for a crowd.
You may have your own coffee pouring skills maximized for your coffee each morning, but it probably won’t work when you’re brewing coffee for a party. Unless you’re willing to play barista for the rest of your event, you may want to look into the most efficient way to make and serve coffee for a crowd:
1. French press
Most likely, you already own a standard French press, so it’s great to use it for your party. If you don’t have one, try buying one – you’ll get the most of it. A French press is a relatively hands-off coffee maker. You can start a batch, step away for a few minutes, pour, rinse, and repeat. While the coffee is brewing, you can set the tables, continue cooking or do other entertaining tasks. Plus, French press coffee offers a well-rounded taste – full-bodied and enjoyable for all. You can’t go wrong with it.
2. Classic drip brewer
If you don’t have lots of time to spend preparing coffee, but you need a big batch of decent quality brew, a high-end drip brewer will serve you well. With a drip brewer, you have all the control. You can determine pouring speed, grind size, and other variables. This means you can dial in the flavor despite serving a larger batch. The catch is, you have to scale pour-over brewing properly, and this isn’t as easy as the other methods. This may not be for you if you’re a newbie to this technique and process.
3. Coffee urn
For many years, the ubiquitous coffee urn has been the go-to choice when serving coffee for lots of people. Coffee urns are designed to brew 25-100 cups of coffee at a time and keep it hot for hours. If you have more than 30 people at your party, the coffee urn may be your best option. This may not be ideal for a specialty coffee lover, but you can do a few things to optimize your coffee’s flavor:
- Use coffee ground for percolators.
- Measure 1/3 cup of coffee for every five cups of coffee, plus 1/3 cup for the pot.
- Allow for 40 seconds per cup for brewing time.
- As soon as the indicator light signals that the coffee is ready, turn it off and unplug it to avoid burning the coffee.
- As soon as it’s safe, remove the filter basket and use coffee grinds to prevent the coffee from becoming bitter.
4. Cold brewing
Now, hot coffee isn’t your only option for serving coffee to a crowd. Cold brewing before the party is a great way to get the hard part out of the way. An easy way to serve coffee for warmer weather events is to make a batch of cold brews in advance. Once you have prepared the coffee and let it sit, all you need to do is to take it out of the fridge and serve. Generally, cold brewing offers less acidity and bitterness and a unique and smooth flavor profile.
Keep your coffee warm.
If lots of people are coming and you don’t want to run back a lot to the kitchen to serve coffee, you may want to invest in a good quality thermos. This way, you can brew the coffee and store it safely until it’s ready to serve. A sealed thermos keeps the coffee fresher for longer than cooking it over the burner of a coffee maker. You may also want to use thermal carafes so you can brew coffee ahead of time while keeping it warm.
Always serve proper coffee additions.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re usually a black coffee drinker, you may forget that other people enjoy their coffee with cream and sugar. It’s always good to have some sugar, cream, or even a non-dairy creamer option on hand. Non-sugar sweeteners like stevia are also a welcome addition for those who are looking for healthy alternatives.
You can also provide liqueurs or syrups for an indulgent treat. Butterscotch liqueur, chocolate liqueur, and Irish cream are great choices. For syrups, you can offer caramel, vanilla, chocolate, and the like. Add pouring spouts to your bottles to make it easier to pour small amounts and to make the presentation more attractive.
Make a coffee bar.
Set up a table or a kitchen countertop as a coffee bar for your party. Put it in a place that’s away from heavy traffic.
You may also want to have regular and decaf coffee and label them properly when serving coffee. Serve your coffee along with mugs or cups and with the additions. Make everything easy to access. You may also want to serve your cookies, crackers or donuts on the coffee bar so guests can easily pair their cup of joes with something filling. It’s best to serve your other drinks on another table or the other side of the party to avoid foot traffic.
For more tips and concepts, you may also check out our Ideas for Serving Coffee and Donuts at Your Party.