How Many Cups of Coffee Per Person for Large Groups? 

As the meeting coordinator for your company, you need to know how much coffee is required to fuel your staff. This way, you can allocate the budget for that amount and ensure that no one is short-changed their coffee during the meeting. How many cups of coffee will each person in a large group need?

If everyone in a large group consumes only one cup of coffee apiece and the coffee is served in 6.4-ounce cups, then a gallon of coffee will allow you to fill the cups of 20 people. If you had 40 people attending, you’d need two gallons of coffee, and for 100 people, it’d be five gallons.

The information in this article will come in handy not only for meeting coordinators but event planners who host large parties or brunches where coffee and tea are served. Make sure you keep reading!

Breaking It Down – How Much Coffee Should You Serve Per Person to a Large Group?

Being put in charge of coffee service can be a stressful job. It’s not like you’re serving water or an alcoholic beverage where you can pour the drink straight into cups or glasses. You have to take the time to brew all that coffee, so you must get your quantities right.

For a large group, you’re going to need coffee by the gallon. On average, a gallon will have 128 ounces of coffee. 

Although eight-ounce servings are the standard cup size in the United States, it’s normal for coffee to be served in six-ounce mugs or cups. To be fairer, 6.4 ounces may be better.

Taking that 128 ounces and dividing it into 6.4-ounce servings equals 20. That means you can produce 20 cups of coffee per gallon. That’s enough for 20 people. 

Then it’s all about doing more math to determine how much coffee you’ll have to make to accommodate the size of your group.

Let’s say your group has 40 people. You’d need two gallons of coffee. Multiplying 128 by 2 gives us 256. If you divide 256 by 6.4, you get 40.

Maybe you’re making coffee for a big conference that will have 100 attendees. You would need upwards of 5 gallons of coffee. 

Now, the above math is assuming that each attendee will drink only one cup of coffee, as we mentioned in the intro. 

Graphic showing how much coffee you would need to make for 20, 40 and 100 people. If each person only drinks 1 6 ounce coffee, you would need to make 1 gallon of coffee for 20 people, 2 gallons for 40 people, and 5 gallons for 100 people.

You might recall that the average American consumes at least three cups of coffee per day.

If your event attendees drank all three of their daily cups at your meeting or party, then the math is different. You’d take the 20 cups you get out of 128 ounces in a gallon and then divide it by 3. 

Now, one gallon doesn’t get you enough coffee for 20 people. You’ll have coffee for roughly six people. The exact math when you divide 128 by 3 is 6.666. 

How Long Does It Take to Brew a Gallon of Coffee?

Okay, so now that you’ve crunched the numbers, it’s time to determine the logistics of brewing that much coffee. 

To keep this example simple, we’ll assume that your meeting or party has only 20 people who will drink one cup of coffee each. Thus, you only need to brew one gallon or 128 ounces of coffee.

To speed things up, you’re going to want to use a 12-cup coffeemaker. Many of your favorite coffee machine brands produce 12-cup coffeemakers, including Bunn, Ninja, Mr. Coffee, Black & Decker, and Braun.

In a 12-cup coffee machine, you’d add somewhere between ¾ and 1 ½ cups of ground coffee, which is approximately 12 to 24 tablespoons. Brewing this much coffee will produce 12 servings of six ounces apiece.

Since you’re pouring your coffee into 6.4-ounce mugs, you can expect that a 12-cup coffeemaker would produce even less coffee. We’ll say that per brewing cycle, you get 10 servings of 6.4-ounce coffee. 

With a 12 cup coffee pot, 
you get 10 servings of 6.4-ounce coffee 
per brewing cycle 

You’d need to brew coffee in your 12-cup coffeemaker at least twice to produce the 20 cups you require.

Since a 12-cup coffee machine is such a complex beast, it takes a while to brew all 12 cups at once. You’re waiting about 12 minutes for the 12 cups to finish.

Although you’re only brewing up to 10 cups of coffee at once, since they’re a little bigger than the six-ounce average, we’d assume your coffee machine still needs 12 minutes to brew all 10 cups of coffee.

Thus, for 20 cups of coffee, you’d need to run the coffeemaker for at least 24 minutes. Preparing coffee for such a big party is not going to be quick, that’s for sure!  

How Much Does a Gallon of Coffee Cost? 

Whether this much coffee is coming out of your own pocket or you’re buying it on the company dime, you need to budget for what you’ll spend. 

The price of a gallon of coffee varies depending on where you source your beans, but it often costs around $100 for a gallon. Yes, that’s right, $100!

You’d spend $200 for two gallons of coffee and up to $500 for five gallons. That’s quite a costly cup of coffee, we’ve got to say. 

The Factors That Affect How Much Coffee You May Serve

The math from earlier is perfect, but life is often anything but. Even if you have 100 people coming to your event, they may drink fewer or more than one cup of coffee, which can throw all your calculations out of balance.

Here are some factors to accommodate as you get brewing. 

The Coffee Drinking Habits of Your Attendees

What kind of event are we talking about here and who is coming? If it’s a family reunion or an informal gathering, then you may have attendees of all ages. This is good, as kids and adolescents will not drink coffee. You can exclude them from the headcount and brew less coffee.

For business meetings, you can expect that most attendees will drink coffee. That said, it doesn’t hurt to ask the attendees before the meeting what they like or if they have any allergies.

If you know you’re going to have a room full of coffee drinkers, the question becomes just how much do they love coffee? 

Some people will be fine sipping on one cup of coffee throughout the meeting. They’re more focused on business and are drinking coffee to keep their minds focused or maybe even out of a sense of social decorum. 

Others, as we touched on before, will rely on your meeting to fuel them up for the day. These people may drink two, three, and sometimes even four cups of coffee. 

If your business meeting will have a lot of big coffee drinkers, then a gallon of coffee is not going to be able to fill 20 people’s cups. You will need several gallons, which drives up the price of refreshments for the group. 

The Cup Sizes Served

Throughout this whole article, we’ve referred to coffee served in 6.4-ounce cups. As we noted earlier, this quantity is smaller than the standard cup size, which is eight ounces. 

You can always upsize the amount of coffee you serve if your company has rather deep pockets (or you do), as more gallons of coffee is going to get costly in a hurry.

The Timing of Your Meeting or Event

Did you know that the time of your meeting can play a major role in how much coffee the attendees will consume? 

A business meeting that’s bright and early in the morning will inspire more coffee drinking. The attendees likely didn’t have much time at home that morning to get ready, so they skipped brewing coffee or stopping by their favorite café drive-through. 

To wake themselves up, they’ll be reliant on the coffee at your event.

Later in the morning, most people have already had their daily dose of caffeine. At a party, meeting, or other function, attendees may drink coffee late in the morning because it’s there or as a courtesy. One cup ought to do it for most people.

In the afternoon, especially as you get further from lunch hour, coffee consumption spikes again. By around two or three o’clock, the energy from lunch has faded and most people are in a slump. A cup or two of coffee could be just what they need to put some pep in their step. 

For events or meetings in the evening, you might want to reconsider serving coffee at all. Most people won’t drink coffee hours before they plan to sleep because they’re afraid they’ll be so wired that they’ll toss and turn all night. 

The Duration of the Coffee Service 

Coffee service at a meeting is sort of like an open bar at a wedding. Even though someone might not usually drink that much, since the option is there, they decide to take advantage of it.

If your coffee service only runs for an hour, then that limits how much coffee people can drink, especially compared to a coffee service that’s open all day.

Final Thoughts

Are you brewing coffee for a large group? Expect to buy your coffee grounds by the gallon, which can cost $100 in some instances. 

You can get about 20 cups of coffee per person if each cup is 6.4 ounces but remember that people will drink more coffee early in the morning and later in the afternoon.

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to buy more coffee grounds than you think you’ll need. Whatever doesn’t get used during the meeting will certainly be brewed and drunk by the rest of your office staff later! 

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