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To Decaf or Not to Decaf, That is the Question

To Decaf or Not to Decaf, That is the Question

One of the questions you’ll have to deal with when you open a café or drive through is what coffees to brew for drip.  How many single origins will you need?  Do you brew a house blend every day?  And do you brew decaf?

Let’s deal with the last question first.  This has an easy answer—No!  Don’t brew decaf.  Why?  Because in most situations you’ll never sell enough of it before it gets tepid, and you’ll end up pouring most of it down the drain.  Think about it this way—every time you throw coffee out, you’re throwing money out.

Your first consideration when brewing coffee for drip is can you sell it before it gets cold and old?  I recommend that you never (with a few exceptions) keep an airpot of coffee for longer than 2 hours before rebrewing.  There are a few reasons for this, the most important one is that the coffee will not stay hot indefinitely.  There are places, like hotels and restaurants, which keep their drip coffee on a heater, but this does the flavor of your coffee no favors, so avoid that if possible.

One other reason is that the longer the coffee sits, the less awesome it tastes.

With decaf, in all my years of brewing it, we rarely went through an entire airpot before we threw it out.  This is painful, as it is money down the drain.  But we reasoned that this was surely worth the trouble to make sure every customer is happy, right?.  First of all, you don’t have to make every customer happy.  Figure out what you want to do (which, if you’re a for-profit business, has to be what you can make money doing), and focus on the customers who want that thing.  There are not enough customers out there who want decaf drip coffee to ever make it worth your while.

So, what can you do instead?  Well, I recommend having a decaf espresso grinder, as enough people do order decaf lattes that it’s worth the trouble having a 2nd grinder just for decaf.  This, then, makes the remedy of decaf drip simple--make decaf americanos for anyone ordering decaf drip coffee.  You will end up with your decaf customers raving about your coffee, because finally they are getting a hot, fresh, and flavorful cup of decaf coffee. 

The benefit of this approach is that you’re making a product as it’s ordered, so there is very little waste.  What you give up in speed (i.e. not having the drip coffee ready to be pumped into a cup), you more than make up for in less waste and more freshness.

And this approach has the added benefit of you having a 2nd espresso grinder on hand in case your regular espresso grinder goes down for some reason (see our blog on redundant equipment for more information about this).  You simply switch the coffee that’s in the grinder, and you’re back in business (though without decaf until you get the first grinder back up and running).

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To Decaf or Not to Decaf, That is the Question

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