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Back in the day when young families routinely entertained dinner parties of twenty to thirty people, a coffee urn was practically de rigueur. Nearly every suburban housewife owned one – usually a West Bend or Hamilton Beach in Avocado, Harvest Gold or Burnt Orange to match her kitchen appliances.
These days, you’ll seldom see a coffee urn in someone’s kitchen, but they’re a requirement for caterers and for venues that serve coffee to crowds on a regular basis, such as churches and community centers.
Coffee urns are also available for rent at party rental centers. Since few people today have a regular use for a coffee urn, renting one for an event is usually a much more economical option than buying one(we have a list of some of the best coffee urn at the end of this article).
What You Need to Know About Coffee Urns
Coffee urns come in several different sizes. Smaller urns meant for household use will brew about 30 cups of coffee at a time. Those designed for use at larger functions by caterers can make as many as 100 cups of coffee. If you’re planning to serve coffee at an event, choose an urn large enough to brew at least 1 ½ cups of coffee per attendee. Many people will have more than one cup, but others won’t drink coffee at all. If you’re serving a large crowd, consider renting two urns – one for coffee and one to serve hot water for those who prefer tea or decaf coffee.
Most coffee urns require that you make a minimum number of cups in order for the brewer to function properly. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out the minimum and be sure to follow it.
Brewing Coffee in a Coffee Urn
Of course, the best way to brew coffee in a coffee urn is to follow the instructions given by the manufacturer of the unit. If you’re renting the urn or using one in a community, however, it’s quite possible that the instructions have been lost and you’re on your own. If that’s the case, these instructions will ensure that your coffee is excellent.
Open the lid of the coffee urn and lift out the filter basket and the center pole. You may have to twist the pole slightly to unlock it from the base.
Most coffee urns will have markings on the inside to indicate the water level for different amounts of coffee. For the best tasting coffee, use spring water or filtered water. Fill the coffee urn with water to the desired level.
Replace the center pole in the coffee urn, twisting it to lock it into place if necessary. Fit a paper coffee filter into the filter basket and slide it onto the pole.
Measure ground coffee into the filter basket. For best results, use freshly ground coffee ground for percolator brewing, or choose a coffee that is already ground for use in a coffee urn or percolator. For 25 cups of coffee – the usual minimum for a small coffee urn – use two cups of coffee. Add another 1/3 cup of coffee for each additional five cups of coffee.
If there’s a filter basket cover, replace it. It ensures that the water is distributed evenly over the coffee grounds.
Replace the lid of the coffee urn and twist it to lock it into place.
The standard brewing time for coffee in a percolator is about 40 seconds for each cup of coffee brewed. If you’re brewing 30 cups of coffee, allow about 20 minutes for the urn to finish brewing. For 25 cups of coffee, plan on starting the brewing about 16 minutes before you’re ready to start serving. Most coffee urns have an indicator light to let you know when the brewing is finished. The time estimations are strictly for your own time planning.
Unplug the coffee maker after the coffee is finished brewing and serve the coffee immediately. If the coffee urn will be out for a while so that guests can continue to serve themselves coffee, remove the filter basket when it’s safe to do so – about 30 minutes after the brewing is finished should be enough time to allow the basket assemble to cool enough to handle safely. Removing the coffee basket and used grounds will help prevent the burned, bitter taste that coffee sometimes acquires when it sits for a long while.