5 Tips for Making and Serving Coffee to a Crowd

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joann Pai)

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, there is one thing that can be easy to overlook when putting out the dessert spread: the coffee. After that big meal, a small cup of hot joe really hits the spot — especially with some pie. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Don’t brew your coffee ahead of time.

We love to take advantage of just as many make-ahead moments as possible on Thanksgiving, but coffee should not be one of them. When made too far ahead of time and left to sit in a warm pot, the flavor isn’t as strong and has a tendency to become bitter over time.

Instead, get a pot going right after dinner, so it can brew while you clear the table and get the desserts ready.

2. If make-ahead is a must, make a concentrate.

But if a make-ahead option is a must for you, make a coffee concentrate rather than your regular pot of coffee. Yes, this is the same kind of concentrate you’d use for iced coffee, but it can also be used for the hot stuff too. Once the concentrate is made (no more than a day or two before Thanksgiving), all that’s left to do before serving is boil water.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Skip the pour over.

Pour over and Aeropress are great when making your mug of coffee in the morning, but they’re not going to cut it when you’ve got a crowd on Thanksgiving. If you don’t have a coffee maker that’s an ideal size for serving a crowd, there’s no need to go out and buy one. Make or buy a coffee concentrate instead, then boil some water in your electric kettle or on the stovetop before dessert.

4. Use a carafe to keep the coffee warm.

Perhaps your coffee maker has a metal carafe instead of the traditional glass pot (if so, you’re already one step ahead!). Unlike the glass pot, which slowly loses heat, bringing the coffee to the table in a metal carafe ensures it will stay warm all through dessert and beyond. So when your guests go back for a second cup, the coffee’s still hot.

5. Don’t forget the mix-ins.

Let the ever-growing options of milk (mylk?), creamers, and sweeteners serve as your reminder that not everyone takes their coffee the same as you. When you serve coffee, don’t forget to have the proper additions handy. And if want to make dessert even more festive, this can also include a bottle of whiskey, Kahlúa, or other liqueurs.