What is a ‘pour & serve’ coffee machine and how does it work?
‘Pour & serve’ coffee machines are used to make drip brewed or filtered coffee. They are often in the shape of a ‘C’ with the water being supplied from an integral tank. The water from the tank is ‘instantly’ boiled and fed through a spray head and in to a filterpan containing a paper filter and the coffee grounds. The coffee then falls through a hole in the filterpan and in to a jug below.
The type of coffee produced
These machines make filtered coffee as opposed to espresso which is made by passing a small amount of nearly boiling water through the coffee grounds under pressure. High street coffee shops such as Costa & Starbucks almost always serve espresso. Even if you buy an americano or a latte it is just an espresso with added water or milk.
The differences between home & commercial machines
Commercial machines are produced with higher quality components including, but not always, a stainless steel casing and more powerful ‘instant’ boilers which heat the water up faster. Good makes should be modular in design allowing easy replacement of failed parts such as hot plates & heaters, float switches, control boards etc.
The volume of coffee produced
This is usually expressed in ‘throughput per hour’ and given in litres. However this is only a theoretical maximum not a basis for reality.
Have you ever seen the eBay adverts saying that a machine can make 144 cups per hour? Let’s break that down. If you take a 1.7 litre 12 ‘cup’ jug then a ‘cup’ can be expressed as 142ml. If it takes 5 minutes to make 1 jug of coffee then 60 mins / 5 mins = 12 jugs per hour. 12 jugs per hour x 12 cups per jug = 144 cups per hour.
However, 142 ml is really small for a cup of coffee. Costa use the following sizes:
Primo - 340 ml
Medio - 450 ml
Massimo - 560 ml
And Starbucks use the following sizes:
Short – 240 ml
Tall – 350 ml
Grande – 470 ml
Venti – 770ml
If your machine has a water tank then you will have to be continually filling it up making sure it does not run out of water. The calculation above also does not take in to account the time taken to remove the used filter paper / coffee grounds and put a new one in the filterpan. You cannot do this if hot water is pouring out of the sprayhead. You have also got to serve the coffee you have brewed to free up the jug for a new batch. Unless of course you have 12 jugs spare but then again you may not have 12 hotplates!
In reality if we take a cup to be 240ml (my mugs at home are this size – I measured them) and the time taken to brew, serve, fill up & change the paper / coffee to be about 10 minutes per jug you will probably get 40-50 cups per hour from one of these machines at a push. If you need more get two machines or even a bulk brewer.
Types of machines
Pour & serve coffee machines can be split up in to different types. These include:
Water tank / jug filled – you have to fill them up manually but you can move them and put them anywhere.
Hose connected / auto-fill – The water tank is connected to a supply and is automatically filled.
Thermal carafe types – does not have hotplates to keep the coffee warm. The coffee is brewed straight in to a vacuum jug and can be kept warm with out being ‘stewed’ for several hours.
Airpot types – a variation on the above but a much larger vacuum flask is used. Once full this flask can be moved to a meeting room or serving table. Air pressure dispenses the coffee upon depression of a leaver.
Factors to take in to consideration when buying a new machine
Price – always important but not as much as many people think. If your machine does not work in the way that you want it to then the price is almost an irrelevance.
Size - What are the overall dimensions of the machine? Will it fit in the space you have in mind? Can you easilly open the lid to fill the water?
Warranty – If it is a new machine does it come with a manufacturer’s warranty? Ask the seller. If not why not? At the very least your purchase will be covered by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 whereby an item needs to be of ‘satisfactory quality’. If the machine brakes down after a short period of use the seller is responsible not the manufacturer
Is it the latest model – just because it is a ‘new’ machine does not mean it is the latest model. It could have never been used and still in it’s original box but have been stuck in a store room for 15 years. Go on to the manufacturer’s website and look at the latest models. If the ‘new’ machine you are buying is not the same ask the seller why this would be. When did the models change?
Availability of spare parts – you machine will not last forever. Things may get broken or lost. Make sure you have found the manufacturer’s website and know where to get spares from.
Availability of filters, jugs & filter pans – these are the most needed items. Filter papers you will be using all of the time. Jugs break and filterpans have a habit of going missing. Do you know where to get replacements from? Ask your seller if not.
UK representation of company for questions etc. – There are countless manufacturers of pour & serve coffee machines. Some better known than others. If they are of any repute they will have a UK outlet that you can phone for assistance. If you do not know this information ask your seller.
Factors to take in to consideration when buying a used machine
Who makes it - Seems obvious however some machines are badged by big manufacturers. For example there are a lot of Kenco badged Bravilor machines out there. They do not say Bravilor anywhere on the machine, even the jugs are un-branded. However ask your seller for a photo of the manufacturers plate and look at the part number. If it says 'MND2-021' for example it is a Bravilor Mondo 2.
How old is it - This is a biggie and not the same as how much has it been used. I have seen many Bravilor machines for sale on eBay that are upwards of 17 years old. The problem arises when you think you are buying a machine that is 3/4 years old when in reality it is much much older. Your seller may not realise the age of the machine but as a guideline to Bravilor machines see below:
Post 2010 - These are the silver faced machines you see on the Bravilor website and their current range
1996 - 2010 - These have curved moulded black plastic fronts
Pre 1996 - These are square faced machines and have a sticker on the top front face saying 'Novo' or 'Mondo' etc.
How much has it been used - Is the seller of the machine the previous owner? If they are have they had it from new? They should be able to tell you the use that it has had prevuiously. Some eBay sellers acquire used machines from leasing companies or through business to business auction websites. If they have I would suggest that they are less likely to be able to give you an accurate account of the machines usage. More use equals more worn out parts equals a shorter life when you get it. This is a fundimental truth to any mechanical product and no amount of 'care' can negate this fact.
Warrenty - Unlike new machines used machines rarely come with a warrenty. What is the price difference between the used machine you are looking at and a new one? If your used machine breaks down after 3 months will the saving have been worth it? What about the reputation of your establishment and your uspet customers? Don't forget though even if a seller of a machine puts 'no returns' this does not exempt them from the Sale of Goods Act 1979 whereby an item has to be of 'satisfactory quality'. If your used machine breaks down after a couple of weeks they may still be liable.
Does it come with instructions - Although most are easy to operate and fairly intuative there may be valuable information in the instructions that you need to have. How often should they be de-scaled. How much salicylic acid (Renegite) should be used? In my opinion anybody selling a used macghine on eBay should make the effort and search Google for instructions. They are more often than not quite easy to find.
Is everything there - Original jugs, filterpan, original box, instructions, scoops, funnels etc. The less stuff there is that is original the greater the likleyhood of the machine being an older model.
What to look out for -
Have you ever noticed that few, if any, used machines have a close up photo taken of the hotplates. That is beacuse this is one of the first signs of heavy use / age. These machines rarely come with an anti-drip mechanism so when you have just brewed a pot, hot coffee can drip on to the hot plate and wear the paint away if the jug is not present. Worn paint on the hotplates will not affect the functionality of the machine. They are just an outward sign of heavy continued use / age.
If your machine does not come with a filterpan you will know from the photo however is the plug fuse holder still there? Moulded plugs have a removable red / black fuse holder that can go walkies. You cannot get your machine PAT tested with this cover missing. You also cannot buy these covers at B&Q / Homebase. They also come in slightly different sizes. The quickest and cheapest thing to do is to have a new plug fitted.
Other things that go missing are removable grilles / meshes to water tanks. The absence of these will not stop your machine working however it only takes a member of staff to drop a paperclip or teabag in to the water tank and you could be looking at an expensive reapir.