So, you have decided to start a coffee shop! Congratulations! First of all, do yourself a favor and do not buy any used equipment unless it is from a factory-authorized outlet. I am only referring to anything with a motor or compressor. Used sinks, tables, counters, etc are fine as long as they are in decent shape. All other refurbished equipment, should be purchased through a reputable retailer.
We have a stringent inspection and repair process in place, at Whole Latte Love, to ensure that you won’t be buying someone else’s headache.
You should purchase different types of equipment based on the size of your café. When choosing equipment, you’ll want to base your decision on your drink volume. I owned four cafes for over ten years and would like to offer my candid advice on the equipment selection process.
This is the core of the whole business; do not skimp on it. However, having said that going overboard isn’t necessary either. Two-group machines are adequate for many moderately sized coffee shops. Three or four group machines are nice to have if you get a big rush or people during peak periods. With a busy coffee shop you’ll want a three-group machine one person to pull shots and another to steam milk. Most often, you do not need more than one person pulling shots and making the espresso drinks anyway. Two of the four stores I owned had two-group machines and they were producing about 25 cups an hour at peak times. You’ll have no problem keeping up with a two-group espresso machine, as long as you’re doing fewer than 50 drinks an hour. In my experience using a four-group machine is only needed if you’re expecting to do a 100 cups or more an hour.
There are two basic types of espresso machines: semi-automatic and super automatic units. Most commercial semi-automatic machines are programed to always dispense the same amount of water when pulling espresso shots. My choice is always the semi-automatic because you can program the shots to shut off at 25 to 28 seconds, or whatever you choose but still be able to do it manually. The semi-automatic, require manual shut off by the operator. A super automatic machine will grind the beans, tamp, pull the shot, shut it off and even discard the used grounds. I would recommend for a small café that’s doing about a 100 drinks or so a day, that you look at a semi automatic two group espresso machine.
The boiler capacity should be large enough for a big rush, 9-14 liters should be sufficient. With a smaller boiler you could run out of steam or hot water in a rush. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen!
Buy a machine based on availability to get parts and service. Do not buy based on price alone. Features will not mean anything if you cannot get quality service on your machine. We offer technical support and service here, at Whole Latte Love. That was one of the hardest things as an owner, to have your equipment go down and have no one there to help you with service.
The coffee your espresso machine produces is only as good as the water that goes into it. Having top quality beverages is critical to any business serving high-end coffee. As far as water softeners, go, the choice to get a water softener system is going to depend on how hard the water is where you are located. You’ll need a filtering system wherever you are. Adding a softener and filtering system will also increase the life of your espresso machine.
You will need one grinder for decaf and another for regular espresso. There are several manufacturers and models out there to choose from. I would choose a grinder based on the ease of training your staff. We have both doser and doserless grinders, available.
The doser grinder will grind espresso into a hoper and dose out of the hopper. This is good when you have a rush of people in line and you need to pull a lot of shots quickly. When it’s slow you should only grind your espresso to order. Most commercial grinders will work for either a small or busy café. Here is a link to a doser grinder I would recommend.
The doserless grinder will dose directly into the portafilter. Although this is, an easier process, in a rush you’ll have a hard time keeping up with the customers needs. These machines are programmable and dose one shot at a time. The doserless grinder is great when training employees on how to pull shots.
In the set of blogs I’ll be talking about other commercial equipment needed to start up a small to mid-size Café.
Let me know if you need help with choosing a commercial espresso machine or grinder.