I'll probably open up a can of worms with this discussion but here we go...We do not seek out restaurants as wholesale accounts for a number of reasons. We have recently opened our first retail coffee shop after being in the wholesale business for the past 5 years and with the increased visibility we have had restaurants come to us looking to change their coffee programs over to use our coffee. They are impressed with the coffee we serve in the shop and they want to serve coffee of this quality in their restaurants. The problem with this is they don't want to brew coffee with the standards we are using. I've talked to a number of restauranteurs and it seems like they all use about half the dose we use for brewing the same amount of coffee. We always brew within the SCAA guidelines with all of our methods and are getting great results in the shop. We use 235 grams per gallon for auto-drip. I know probably the easiest solution would be to not deal with these accounts but is their any way that anyone has found to get great results with less coffee. One of the accounts that we may gain is a 100 pound a week account. This would be a big account for us but we don't feel like it will be worth it if they do a bad job of serving our product. Thanks for the help.
235 grams = approximately 8.4 ounces.
I have read in multiple places that the dose for 1/2 gallon product (such as made in a Bunn type drip coffee maker) is 4 ounces. This is pretty close - 4 oz vs. 4.2 oz.
Every food service type package of coffee I have seen is approximately 2oz of coffee for the same size pot.
We use a major brand of coffee that is prepackaged in 2oz food service packages. I would love to grind fresh, but our low volume does not justify the grinding of whole beans - the coffee would go stale before it was used. At least the sealed packaging of the food service package does not allow air in.
Perhaps there is something about the grind, but if I used 2 packages (4oz) of coffee to make a 1/2 gallon pot, the coffee would be undrinkable.
I have long wondered about this "discrepancy" and have not been able to reconcile the difference in the amout of coffee to be used for each pot.
"the oldest guy at the party"
Thanks for the input Ron. I've seen the same thing but have never needed to give it much thought. I'm thinking the grind is the only thing it could be but it seems like changing the grind to compensate can only do so much. Can you really brew a quality cup of coffee with half the dose just by changing the grind? Why would the SCAA recommend such a high dose if you can achieve the same results by grinding finer?
As the experts on this forum would say (and I agree 100%), give it the taste test.
Make multiple pots of coffee using varying amounts of coffee (without changing the grind) and see what tastes "good" to you.
At some point I would also change the grind fineness fairly radically and repeat the test.
Maybe it has something to do with the way the "big companies" roast their coffee?
"the oldest guy at the party"
They could probably get away with 210 grams.
That is around 55g/litre
If you can ensure they grind fresh, would that be good enough?
Alternatively, if they are not advertising that they are selling your coffee, perhaps it would be worth the account?
To be fair, there are few people who use a bulk brewer and brew to standard and still get a good cup. There are plenty of factors to control. The filter coffee quality at my shop has dropped because the coffee pits due to the way the way the bar slants backwards. I've propped it up but there are plenty of other things that can go wrong: are they cleaning the shower plate and descaling and changing the water filters?
Perhaps it'd be worth a site survey? Invite them to be part of the quality assurance program?
I'm not sure, but they'll certainly have different needs from an espresso bar
Seems there are a few issues here.
First, as a roaster you have the ability (and in my opinion, responsibility) to set the rules required for a vendor to sell your product. If they are unwilling to brew your coffee within the guidelines you set and you feel they are misrepresenting your brand, perhaps they are not the right account for you. I would be very clear in communicating brewing guidelines, would take the time to initially train their staff, and follow up occasionally on site to give guidance as needed. If they are under-dosing for cost savings, even after clearly defining your required standards, I would personally close the account.
Second, what are the brewing standards you require? It sounds like you already adhere to the SCAA Golden Cup guidelines which specify 3.25 to 4.25 ounces of coffee per 64 ounces of water. Your dose of 235grams/gallon works out to 4.15 ounces of coffee / half gallon, within the guideline. Note that grind is also very important. It is very common to dose within the Golden Cup guidelines and grind too coarse leading to a weak and under-extracted cup of coffee. This is where education and quality control checks come in.
Lastly, If you approach follow up check-ins & trainings with the mindset of helping your vendor to achieve the best results (i.e. the best tasting coffee possible for their customers) they will likely look forward to these visits as you are providing a value to their business. If they win, you win.
I'm always amazed at the disconnect with some customers - they drink your coffee and love it, not realizing that it takes more than just using the same beans to get the same result. Fixing that disconnect is important.
That said, one thing that I didn't really understand until very, very recently is that weak does not necessarily mean overextracted. If you look at the SCAA's brewing control charts, there are points on the 45g/L batch curves that fall within the desired "18-22% solubles yield" range. Since many of my customers use less than 3oz coffee per half gallon I've drank quite a bit of coffee like this.
As an example: I measured a batch recently at 2.8 oz/half gallon that came in at 0.97% solubles concentration and 21% solubles yield. The flavor was as you'd expect - weak yet reasonably well extracted. Not to my preference, but drinkable.
Your customer should understand how these inputs affect their results. If they like the flavor of your coffees but would prefer to serve them at a lower strength than you're accustomed to, they can probably achieve something close with a lower throw and finer grind. If they would like their results to match yours, then their recipe needs to match as well.
Many coffee brewers have a bypass valve and it is there for a reason. I had a client who's customers really weren't coffee drinkers and absolutely HATED our coffee at our recommended dose and secretly brewed someone else's coffee when we weren't looking. The thing that solved the issue was by setting the recipe to use the bypass correctly. We ended up using 33% bypass, which is another way of saying the coffee was diluted by half. At a 3 gallon batch size 2 gallons were run through the grounds and a gallon of bypass. This was done with a 12oz throw. But 12 is the right number for 2 gallons. At this point they liked the coffee and thought we were great because we took their concerns seriously instead of telling them their taste was wrong. As you might gather, with them brewing 3 gallon batches they bought a lot of coffee.
I'm not sure there is any way of manipulating a customer to brew what you want them to brew. If I were in your position I'd have an straight up honest talk with them and include them in the process of creating the program. Being able to turn around and say "I'm not going to sell to you anymore," is a great idea but it really doesn't fly in the real world where so many Chefs, GM's, Baristas, Wait Staff, etc, move from place to place so often. Once you get a reputation as a prima donna vendor it ends up being hard to shake. Very few roasters have the gravitas to pull off something like that so if you're not Stumptown or Intelligencia, or a very few others, you have to approach the situation with a little more subtlety. A situation like that is perfect for setting up an experience where you help craft a coffee program that suits both them and you. The end product might not end up being what you would serve at your shop but I seriously doubt that they want to brew bad coffee for their customers either. You both actually have the same agenda and pointing that out and using it as a foundation for your conversations with them will go a long way. Also remember that their, and their customer's, coffee pallates aren't as sophisticated as yours and they will very likely have different reactions to the same coffees as you and you can't dismiss their opinions/experiences lightly whether the SCAA guidelines agree with you or not. It could also be the case that your coffee tastes Fantastic to them in YOUR cafe but it could easily taste far too strong to them in THEIR cafe. The sense and memory associations are different in both places and you can't expect them to shift all of a sudden if their coffee program was significantly different in the past. If they are quality driven in their business like you are in yours then you should be able to have this conversation with them pretty easily. I wish you the best of luck!!
Thanks guys for you thoughtful replies. In the six months since the original post we have sold a good bit of coffee several restaurant accounts in our area. In the original post I was mainly referring to three new restaurant accounts that we picked up in the same neighborhood as our shop.
One of these accounts in widely regarded as and regularly awarded the best restaurant in town. They are very quality focused in everything they do. They have started brewing with our standards and are brewing pretty damn good coffee. We regularly get new people in the shop because they have had a good cup at this restaurant. Which I think speaks very highly for restaurant coffee since, unfortunately, coffee at a restaurant (even the best restaurants) is usually something you get through rather than seek out. They advertise our coffee on the menu and even make an awesome coffee ice cream with our coffee that they have attached our name to. Pretty cool.
The other two restaurants in the neighborhood serving our coffee are good, though not as fanatical about quality as the first. I finally talked them into brewing a gallon with 6 ounces rather than 4 but they still won't brew with our recommended parameters. They don't advertise our coffee on their menu. I've had our coffee at their restaurants and it's not that bad. Not as good as the first restaurant I mentioned and very different from the coffee we serve at out shop. But a fine cup of coffee still. They of course use a much finer grind to achieve good results with a much lower dose. Their chef and customers like the coffee much better than the stuff they were serving previously (Illy) Their waitstaff will tell a customer who asks that they serve our coffee and we have actually had some of their customers come into the shop looking for the coffee they had at dinner.
So, in the end it has worked out fine. All of these restaurants who are now using our coffee are, at the very least, using a fresher, more carefully crafted product. We still won't seek out restaurants as accounts. But I believe that in these instances the decision to work together has worked out for us and for them.