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I'm helping organize a big 24-hour event and as a big coffee drinker, I got put in charge of the coffee. We are expecting 300 people to each drink 3 cups of coffee over the whole event so up to 900 cups of coffee in 24 hours!! Since this is outside the realm of what I normally do at home with a french press so I thought I better check that I'm not making any horrible mistakes.

One of our big concerns is that this event will likely have quite a few somewhat-discerning coffee drinkers. We also need to be able to brew coffee in the middle of the night when any local coffee shop has closed.

Years ago, I remember helping out with a percolator at a big event and that seems like the best approach this time. I've seen it done more recently and after some research it seems like the common approach. I also found a local rental location that will rent us a few for our event that each have a capacity of 100 cups.

Is there a better approach? If a percolator is the right approach, what beans/grounds will produce the best flavor? How many lbs/kgs of coffee will likely be needed?

  • That's a serious party. Can you maybe rent coffee machines instead? Especially the ones that run on capsules -- might be the easies in terms of speed and effort of production a single cup on demand. – Ivan Kapitonov Oct 8 '15 at 3:57
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    As for the amount of beans -- ask at your rental location about the specifications of these monsters, if you decide to go with percolators. Sound like you need 9 fills, whatever one fill is. – Ivan Kapitonov Oct 8 '15 at 4:02
  • Please post how the event went after! – Josef Engelfrost Oct 29 '15 at 16:11
  • The event went really well. It ended up being only 500-600 cups of coffee during the event. I ended up using 3x 100 cup percolators. Each percolator came with instructions and it ended up being 6-1/2 cups per batch of 100 which was slightly less than 2 lbs. From another site, I found that rinsing with vinegar was really important before brewing with new coffee. The biggest hassle ended up being filling up 100 cup percolators from the sink and then keeping them clean. Overall positive reviews! Thanks for all the help. – lswim Oct 29 '15 at 16:19
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Your problem depends more on the shape of the data than the raw quantities. 900 cups in 24 hours is one cup every 40 seconds or so, which isn't so bad, however I doubt that's the distribution of actual orders!

I'm going to assume all of your 300 guests want to have a cup of coffee during a one-hour period. This works out as 5 coffees a minute, or one every 12 seconds.

I'm ignoring factors of manpower, cost etc., and focussing on coffee preparation only :-)

You can get 12-cup french press pots very easily, and probably larger ones. Assuming each one takes ~6 minutes to cycle (prepare, brew for 4 mins, serve, rinse), meaning you can serve 2 people a minute with one pot. 3 pots would allow you to serve 6 people a minute (amortised) and serve 300 people in an hour. A few more pots would make it very comfortable. Assuming you're grinding the coffee fresh, you'll get a far superior brew from this than perk coffee that's been sitting there for 20 minutes.

So serving people fast enough shouldn't be too hard, but boiling water fast enough might be, and for that you just need an urn, with which you can keep a large enough supply of boiling water to just fill up and go.

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