Serving 100% Kona Coffee To Guests
Now that the holidays are again upon us and the world has mostly returned to normal, it is time to start thinking about holiday gatherings and a refresher in the etiquette of serving coffee to guests with a few “pro” tips to take your hosting to the next level.
There are many situations where one might serve coffee to guests, so let’s take a peek at each and see what insights we can add. Remember also that in the modern day United States, coffee etiquette can vary by age, location, and family, so please use this as a general guide and not the law.
- Always start with really good beans.
- Fresh grind the beans you are about to use.
- Use a ratio of 16:1 water to grounds. (15:1 if you like it a little stronger)
- Use high-quality filtered water.
If it is a sit-down breakfast, the American custom is to have a carafe of coffee ready when guests come to the table. Many people like to sip coffee before they do anything else. Thus, a large carafe of coffee on the table with a small pitcher of milk and a bowl of sugar is normal.
Notice we said carafe and not a pot of Mr. Coffee sitting on the kitchen counter. A proper coffee carafe will keep the coffee inside hot without letting it cook on the coffee maker. It is also more elegant to have guests be able to access their coffee while seated and can refill their cups as needed.
In the United States, if guests want a second cup (or even a third) they are welcome to help themselves to the carafe. As a host, knowing when the carafe is getting low and having a replacement brewing while also asking if anyone needs a refill is kind.
We should not judge our guest’s coffee habits; some may request non-dairy creamer or a shot of baileys and the graceful host tries to provide what he/she can. However, the host setting the standard is also acceptable and you are not required to offer anything but what you are serving.
Post-meal, ask if anyone needs another cup before you start to clean up the table.
Matching cups on the table is aesthetically pleasing, but many like mismatched cups in more informal situations (especially if people are scattered around the room). This will also help everyone remember whose cup is whose.
Pro Tip: Super hosts know well in advance of the event if anyone in their group has an allergy or food restrictions.
At lunchtime, coffee is usually served post-meal. If you are having a “big” lunch, allow a little “settle” time after eating and keep dessert to a very small cookie or chocolate served with the coffee. If it is a “light” lunch, going with a custard or dairy-based dessert is a nice choice. Here, we want to bring out the Dark Roast.
While I find that espresso is the perfect after-lunch-with-dessert option, many may not be used to this. Serving the dessert first, and then right behind it, a tray with a 2oz shot of espresso for each guest and warm cream/milk and a bowl of sugar can be set in the center of the table. From there, each guest can reach for their serving.
It is also polite to inquire if any of your guests do not drink coffee. Have some tea available as well. Remember that tea drinkers are still valid human beings and should be treated as such.
If espresso is not your thing, a little showmanship, maybe doing a Chemex Pour Over while you casually chat about other topics is fascinating for guests to watch. Pour directly from the Chemex carafe into your guest’s cup.
It is nice to have a small tray and your guest would place the cup or cup/saucer on the tray. Pour the coffee. Then offer that tray to the guest. They should reach for the cup/saucer with both hands and then set the cup in front of themselves. If you need a review on proper Chemex technique, click here.
There is a lot of similarity between lunch and dinner, although in the case of dinner there may be more alcohol and heavier foods consumed. The best hosts inquire or give options. Post meal you might say, “Ok, I have coffee, regular or decaf, lemon tea, water, or brandy.” Or ask, “Would anyone like anything hot to drink?” You as host and hopefully your partner have everything laid out and ready and you can be short order cooks for a few minutes getting everyone what they requested.
In the most formal situation, coffee is the last thing served, not with the dessert but after. In the United States, it is more common to get coffee with dessert.
Here again, as thoughtful and well-informed consumers of coffee, darker roast (less caffeine) and smaller cup (less caffeine and less liquid in a full belly) is the order of the day. You may be surprised how elegant it feels to serve small espresso cups with your beautiful dessert. Enough caffeine to aid digestion, get home without falling asleep in the back of the Uber, and yet not enough to keep you up all night.
I love to use my large French press in this situation. I prepare it, time it for 4 minutes, press it, and pour our small cups.
Easy cleanup and great coffee in a fun and unique way.
If you are enjoying really animated conversation and it seems like the party is not winding down, but ramping up, you may also choose to serve coffee cocktails.
Pro Tip: It is really fun to have a tray of “Coffee condiments” like Bailey’s, whip cream, steamed milk, chocolate, spice mix, milk, ice cream, vanilla extract, oat milk, butter, etc., laid out so that guests can customize their drink as they like.
It often happens that friends may call and say “we are in the neighborhood” and swing by at 2:30PM to say “hi”.
While you frantically clean the laundry off the floor and wipe down the counters and shove everything in the guest room to appear as the cleanest person in the universe, the thought crosses your mind…what will I serve them?
If you can get a tray of strawberries, some sour cream, and a little brown sugar, paired with great coffee, it is an elegant “stop by and say hi” offering.
Also serving an Affogato instead of regular coffee serves both purposes of coffee and dessert with fewer dishes to clean.
Remember, in the end, really good coffee well prepared wins the day, but as a host you want to offer connection, caring, sharing the experience, spending time together and comfort. Serve the good stuff, serve it well, but more than anything else be gracious and kind and you will be the hostess with the “mostus”!
About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), a part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.
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