If you are running or looking to run a catering establishment and intend to serve hot drinks to your customers you will have to consider the best way of achieving this objective.
There are three choices open to you. These are to make the drinks by hand in the cup, use a drinks machine in the kitchen and bring it out to the customer or have a self serve system so that the customer can select and dispense the hot drink themselves.
For the busy caterer a traditional espresso machine is probably out of the question due to the time needed to prepare the drink and the training needed to operate the machine successfully. A fully automatic bean to cup machine with milk frothing is an option for some establishments, but here we will take a look at the instant drinks dispenser.
The instant drinks dispenser does have some advantages over the bean to cup system in as much as the initial cost of the machine is usually less and the running and servicing costs are lower too.
Typically an instant drinks dispenser contains two or three canisters inside the machine which are filled with instant soluble ingredients which are mixed and sometimes whipped into a variety of delicious hot drinks. All the caterer needs to do is make the selection and ensure a suitably sized cup is in place to receive the drink. Most modern drinks dispensers can now offer different drink sizes so the customer can choose between a small, medium or large drink.
Delicious hot drinks such as cappuccino, coffee au lait, mocha, hot chocolate, latte as well as white and black coffee can all be made at the touch of a single button. Most machines now have a hot water dispense button so that beverages such as tea and herbal infusions can be made from appropriate tea bags. It should be noted however that most hot drink dispensers are not geared up to produce large amounts of hot water, so it you intend to sell lots of tea then you would be better advised to purchase a dedicated hot water boiler to work along-side the hot drinks dispenser.
Most hot beverages can be made from just three instant ingredients. By keeping the canisters in the machine topped up with instant coffee, chocolate mix and cappuccino topping a wide variety of hot beverages can be served all day long with the minimum of fuss.
The cost of hot drink dispensers vary mainly according to how hard they are expected to work. The more expensive machines can cope with serving up to 1000 drink an hour at peak times, have full audit facilities and self cleaning cycles. Smaller machines are readily available for less demanding catering situations and this is generally reflected in the price you are expected to pay.
As with all types of drinks machines, it always pays to choose top quality ingredients for use in the machine, so don't go for the cheapest coffee, whitener and chocolate. In the long run the prospect of repeat business by serving the best quality drinks usually pays dividends.